The Church of England faced a wave of online backlash after it said it would not allow same-sex couples to marry in its churches.
On Wednesday, the church said it would welcome same-sex couples to receive blessings for their civil marriage or partnership first the first time. The decision comes after six years of debate and consultation to establish its beliefs on sexuality.
“Under the proposals, same-sex couples would still not be able to get married in a Church of England church,” the statement read.
“The formal teaching of the Church of England as set out in the canons and authorized liturgies — that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman for life — would not change.”
Although they will not be able to marry under the new plan, the church will also offer same-sex couples services for prayers of dedication and Thanksgiving.
The Bishops of the Church of England will also issue an apology to the LGBTQI+ community later in the week for the “rejection, exclusion, and hostility” they encountered in churches and how it has affected their lives.
Shortly after the Church of England announced its “historic plans,” outraged individuals and advocacy groups took to Twitter to voice their disappointment and frustrations over the church’s refusal to support same-sex marriages.
“It’s sad that Church of England bishops have refused to back a change in teaching to allow priests to marry same-sex couples. Kind of runs against the whole spirit of Christianity,” one person wrote.
Another person suggested the church adopt a new perspective before it loses worshippers. “Shame on @ChurchOfEnglandwho still choose to discriminate against same-sex couples who simply want to get married in the Anglican Church,” the individual tweeted.
“No wonder your congregations, along with other prejudicial religions are dwindling. Change your ways or you’ll be irrelevant. #GayMarriage.”
In the statement released on Wednesday, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church, acknowledged that the new proposals could receive mixed reactions.
“This response reflects the diversity of views in the Church of England on questions of sexuality, relationships, and marriage – I rejoice in that diversity, and I welcome this way of reflecting it in the life of our church,” Welby said.
“I am under no illusions that what we are proposing today will appear to go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others, but it is my hope that what we have agreed will be received in a spirit of generosity, seeking the common good.”
The proposals are expected to be outlined in a report to the church’s legislative body, the General Synod, which is scheduled to meet next month in London.