The Church of England has affirmed that sex belongs only within the context of a heterosexual marriage between one man and one woman.
In a pastoral statement from the House of Bishops, the bishops clearly explain that “sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.”
Franklin Graham, who is preparing for a series of evangelistic outreaches throughout the U.K. beginning in late May, applauded the church’s Biblical stance on the issue.
“I appreciate the church taking this strong stand with the Word of God, which is truth,” he posted on Facebook.
The church’s move comes after the British Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that heterosexual couples can opt to enter into a civil partnership rather than a marriage. These couples have similar rights as married couples, including marriage allowance tax relief, inheritance tax exemption and joint parental responsibility for children. Although decided a year and a half ago, the mandate just took effect in December.
“For Christians, marriage—that is, the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows—remains the proper context for sexual activity,” the bishops state in their pastoral guidance.
If couples choose to engage in civil partnerships, the church expects their relationships to be no more than “sexually abstinent friendships.”
While the pastoral statement primarily addresses the issue of sex within civil partnerships vs. marriage relationships, it also solidifies the church’s position on same-sex marriage.
“The introduction of same-sex marriage, through the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, has not changed the church’s teaching on marriage or same-sex relationships,” it reads. “Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman making a public commitment to each other, is central to the stability and health of human society.”
The Church of England has been mired in conflict about how to address LGBTQ issues for decades. So much so that the church launched a large study on human sexuality in 2018, known as “Living in Love and Faith.” The results of the study are scheduled to be published later this year.