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Church of England rejects same-sex marriage, says union is between "one man and one woman for life"

The Church of England on Wednesday outlined proposals that would refuse same-sex marriages in its churches, continuing to teach that marriage is between "one man and one woman for life," it said in a statement. The decision came after five years of debate.

While the Bishops of the Church of England are set to issue a formal apology later this week to "LGBTQI+ people for the 'rejection, exclusion and hostility' they have faced in churches and the impact this has had on their lives," read the statement, the centuries-old institution will still not allow same-sex couples to be married in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013.

A demonstrator holds a placard as they protest outside Church House
A demonstrator holds a placard as they protest outside Church House, the venue of the Church of England's General Synod, in London on February 15, 2017. DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Instead, the Church will offer a service that would include "prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God's blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership." The use of the prayers would be voluntary for clergy, which the church says will reflect its "theological diversity."

This is the first time blessings would be allowed in the Church for same-sex, civil marriages.

"Both personally and on behalf of my fellow bishops I would like to express our deep sorrow and grief at the way LGBTQI+ people and those they love have been treated by the Church which, most of all, ought to recognise everyone as precious and created in the image of God," said Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York.

"We are deeply sorry and ashamed and want to take this opportunity to begin again in the spirit of repentance which our faith teaches us."

Jayne Ozanne, a British LGBTQ+ activist, said the Church's decision was "utterly despicable," and called Cottrell's apology "hollow."

"I cannot believe that five years of pain and trauma has got us to here," said Ozanne on Twitter.

"We have had countless apologies over the years but no action to stop the harmful discrimination. It's insulting to all who trusted the process." 

The General Synod will discuss the proposals during the Feb. 6–9 meeting, with the main debate on the proposals to take place on Feb. 8.

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