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Archbishop of York 'emotional' as he welcomes blessings for same-sex couples

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA
The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell became emotional when speaking about proposed new prayers of blessing for same-sex couples.

It came as a formal apology was issued by the Church of England for the “shameful” times LGBTQI+ people have been “rejected or excluded”.

The Bishops of the Church of England have penned a letter admitting LGBTQI+ people have been “failed” at times but they should be and are “welcome and valued”.

The church this week said it will bless same-sex civil marriages for the first time – though its position on gay marriage will not change and same-sex couples will still be unable to marry at church.

Mr Cottrell said he believes the new blessings put “the Church of England in a better place”.

York Press: The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA
York Press: The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA

He told a press conference at Lambeth Palace Library ahead of the Church General Synod next month: “I’m really pleased it’s changing, I’m really pleased it’s changing for my gay friends. I’m really pleased. And no it’s not enough for some, and I’m really sorry it’s not enough.

“I wasn’t expecting to get emotional but I am because I think it puts the Church of England in a better place and I really hope that we can hold together our unity. I cry out for those who will hate what we’re doing and say, ‘we want to hold you together in this’.

“This is the fullest pastoral provision we can offer at the moment without changing legislation and that would take years anyway. Years and years. We can offer this soon and I thank God for it and I hope it will be well received in our church and in our world.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “joyfully” welcomed proposals to bless same-sex married couples but said he will not personally carry them out due to his “pastoral responsibility for the whole communion”.

Asked if he will offer blessings, Mr Cottrell said: “Yes, I will. I mean, I completely support and understand Archbishop Justin’s position, but his position is different to mine.”

A pastoral letter, published on Friday, says: “We want to apologise for the ways in which the Church of England has treated LGBTQI+ people – both those who worship in our churches and those who do not.

“For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry. The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this we repent.

“As we have listened, we have been told time and time again how we have failed LGBTQI+ people. We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.

“We affirm, publicly and unequivocally, that LGBTQI+ people are welcome and valued: we are all children of God.”

York Press: The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA
York Press: The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell speaks during a Church of England press conference at Lambeth Palace Library. Picture: PA

Mr Welby, speaking on the decision on same-sex marriage, said it was a bid to “seek the common good” but admitted it will “go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others”.

The plans, to be outlined in a report to the General Synod, will allow same-sex couples to attend church for services including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and God’s blessing following a legal marriage ceremony.

The synod will be asked to discuss the proposals in detail during its meeting from February 6 to 9, with the main debate on the proposals set for February 8.