The Church of England has ruled that gay couples who marry in civil ceremonies will not be able to have their unions blessed in Church.
Same sex civil ceremonies, which will be allowed from December, will give gay couples some of the tax and inheritance benefits allowed by marriage.
But clergy have been told not to offer blessings to couples who go through civil partnership ceremonies. And gay clergy who wed in civil ceremonies have been warned they must remain chaste.
Is the Church of England right not to bless gay partnerships? Are you and your partner going to have a civil partnership ceremony? Would you want your partnership to be blessed in Church?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:
I'm not Christian, but gay marriage is important because of the legal rights it offers the couple. However, the Church is its own institution. If it does not believe in homosexual unity, then why should they have to change?
James K, London
Peter, Nottingham: you are quite mistaken in your comments. The New Testament also refers to homosexual behaviour, Romans 1 v27 for example. But more generally marriage is always referred to as between a man and a woman.
Yes, they need to move with the times, it is an issue of human rights.
Phillip Wedgwood Brand., London
The Church of England has every right to its beliefs, but shouldn't it be clear on them? Either homosexuality is tolerated by their teachings or it is not. To allow gay clergy but not gay unions is a perfect example of the hypocrisy of the Church.
Marriage is a legal contract, what has it got to do with the Church? Too much emphasis is put on what the Church thinks of this. There are more hypocrites who get married in Church than true believers but I don't see the Church complaining about their lies.
J Wright, Newcastle upon Tyne
If the Church can't accept same sex marriage then how can it bless same sex unions? This would be non sensical. Civil marriage, however, should be available to anyone regardless of orientation.
Nick, London, UK
Though I detest all religions I do not think they should go against their principles and bless gay marriages. After all, organised religion is not a consensus way of life - you either follow it or you don't. I do believe that gay couples should be allowed to have the same legal status and protection as heterosexual marriages.
Danny, Kendal, England
In this day and time, the Church should bless ANY kind of committed relationship. In a world where egocentric people seem to be everywhere, two people that want to enter that special bond, should have any church's blessing!
Alex K, London, UK
I was brought up a Christian, went to a Church school and believed in God and Christ all my life. I feel deeply sad that the teachings of Christ do not seem to be the main interest of those involved with the Church. Christ cared about people; He reached out to the type of people that were shunned by religious traditionalists. I feel very strongly that we must do likewise. God created everyone, not just heterosexuals. Are we suggesting He got it wrong?
Kathryn, Oxford, UK
The Church should not bless same sex unions. The Bible clearly is against the act of homosexuality, there is no two ways about it. The Church will be seen as selling out to please fashionable opinion, and if it was to do that, it would probably lose even more worshippers to other churches which are consistent in their values.
Huw Morgan, Cardiff, UK
If the church can bless a car for safety and protection, a dog for health and pleasure and a candle for light and enlightenment, why cannot it not bless two humans for mutual support and pleasure in a relationship?
Ralph Monteiro, PA, USA
If the rules of my fishing club preclude the use of hand grenades for catching fish no one would expect me to welcome some into the club that used dynamite. Likewise why should the Church of England change its rules merely to satisfy the feelings of a group of people who do not abide by its rules?
Barry P, Havant England
Interestingly I don't know of any other religion which is so constantly attacked over its core beliefs as Christianity. If you are Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish or of any other religion then you live your daily life by your holy book and other people tolerate your lifestyle choices concerning marriage, among other things. I think it is the very fact that Christian leaders have tried to adapt to secular society which has made them so vulnerable to this type of criticism. Admiration goes to those who stand by their beliefs and live by their professed code.
Jane Webster, London
Why is there a belief that the whole country should have a say in this, when the majority of those who have something to say about it don't even go to church or even believe in the Christian faith? Christianity is not a democracy and has to stand by the words of the Bible. If it doesn't, then it is not Christianity anymore, but something else!
The church is a made up institution. Marriage is a made up institution. If both are still useful in this day and age let them be useful to everyone who wants to get married and not just those with a particular body shape.
Luke E. Sparks, London
The church has to promote and adhere to biblical teaching - that means standing by biblical principles, even if people do not like it. We are to love homosexual people, treat them with dignity and respect and show them the love of Christ. God is a God of love, but he is also a God whose laws cannot change. Remember the oft quoted rule "love the sinner, hate the sin".
Iain, Macclesfield, UK
I have been photographing weddings for over twenty years and came to realise very early on that the Church of England is a business. With most venues more interested in the young (or old) couple's cheque than any interest in their faith. Most of the weddings I attend now happen in church because it's generally prettier than a registry office and for no other reason. All religions are intolerant none more so than the Church of England. Love thy fellow man, unless he's somehow different in anyway.
Why do gay people bother with the Church of England? It's hypocritical, homophobic and misogynistic. Find another one, set up your own, get married and honeymoon in a more enlightened country. Anyway, you really don't need priests and churches to be blessed by your god.
Nestor, Luton, UK
I am getting married soon to my partner of nearly 5 years, whether in a church, a street, a garage or a shed. My family (who are also Catholic) are extremely supportive and recognise our relationship whole-heartedly. At the end of the day I don't care where I get married, as long as I have the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts!
Alex Wells, Surrey
As a minister within the CofE, I am delighted that the Church is at last supporting biblical truth. The CofE is an exclusive Church of believers in the risen Jesus. Those that believe in Jesus as their saviour and friend find that God's word is very specific about homosexuality. The Church cannot by definition 'bless' sin, but it can support repentance and change of lifestyle.
Mike Hall, Kingham
Speaking as a lesbian I wouldn't want to have the 'blessing' of what I see as an intolerant and hypocritical religion anyway. Rights under the law are far more important to me.
The Church as a sacred institution is not open to the sort of change that characterises other institutions established by Man. As a Roman Catholic I'm firmly behind the Church of England's resolve not to bestow blessings on homosexual couples.
Benjamin Tarachi, Jos, Nigeria.
I think it's about time modern Christians realise that they don't need to worship in a formalised institution to be good Christians. So a gay couple who are religious won't have their union recognised by an outdated institution? Big deal. Churches have to move with the times if they want to keep their members.
Ryan D, London
Christianity is a religion. You either believe in its tenets (that marriage is a union between man and woman) or you don't. If you don't, accept that the Church will never agree and move on.
Justin Miller, Southampton UK
The only thing that matters is that these unions are finally recognised by the law and that gay people can benefit from greater equality, which many take for granted. Whether the Church blesses these unions is irrelevant.
I was raised Roman Catholic and I'm gay. I've abandoned my Church due to the fact that according to religious teachings, I'm unnatural, abhorrent and immoral. My partner and I have been happily married for two years and the Church has never had any place in our relationship.
While am I 100% pro-gay marriage and almost anti-religion, I do believe that to discriminate against the Church for standing by their views would be as bad as discriminating against gay people for standing by theirs. An equal society cannot exist without tolerance for others, even if it conflicts with our own views.
Anna Raven, Brighton
My two best friends are lesbians and love each other very much. They are planning to have a civil ceremony and would like to have this recognised in the eyes of the Church and the law as they feel they are the same as any other couple. The Church can be very hypocritical as the Bible says God loves everyone regardless of who they are.
Ordinarily I would agree with the argument not to allow blessings or marriages of same sex couples to be held within a Church. However, after recent events in the world, my opinion has changed somewhat. There is so much hate in this world, we should as Christians be rejoicing when a couple want to share their love with friends and family - no matter what gender they may be.
As long as same-sex unions are recognised by the state in all matters relating to law and inheritance - as heterosexual marriages are - then that is a result that should be celebrated. I cannot understand why a gay couple would want their union to be blessed by an institution that is so vehemently against what they are and what they believe.
The Church of England, every other Christian denomination, and just about every other religion in the world teaches that homosexuality is wrong and that marriage is between a man and a woman. This issue is a civil matter in which religion cannot participate.
Mike, Ivybridge, UK
A gay friend of mine put it perfectly, if God does not want me to be gay then why does he give me the gift of love and the gift of my partner? He is Christian and strongly believes in God but his church will not accept him because of his sexuality. He complies with every other moral and religious stance but his sexuality. If all men are equal then God should love him and his partner just as much as anyone else.
Although I'd like to, I haven't been to church for years because I'd have to mix with narrow minds. The Bible is over 2000 years old - we now live in the year 2005. Jesus didn't judge - why do so many so-called Christians?
Connel Shaw, London
The Church's view on homosexuality comes from a single passage in Leviticus. Leviticus also says that anyone who wears a shirt made from two types of thread (ie cotton and wool) should die. He says that it's ok to have slaves as long as they're heathens from another land and that you shouldn't sacrifice your daughter to Moloch (although apparently sacrificing to other evil gods is ok). The writings of a man living in Palestine 4000 years ago are not really a sensible guide for life in the 21st Century.
People seem to be happy to have the Church's help (such as the Salvation Army) as and when they need it, but are very critical when they don't. The fact is the Bible says homosexuality is wrong. I, as a Christian, am very tolerant towards homosexuals and think they should be allowed relationships but not a Church marriage. The whole term of marriage was coined by the Church as a unity between a man and a woman. I have no problem with civil ceremony partnerships though.
Lianne, Cannock, UK
The Church is absolutely right. Civil partnerships for same sex couples are a step in the right direction towards a liberal, equal society. No doubt about that. The Church, however, lives according to the Bible and must not therefore bless any homosexual or extra-marital heterosexual unions.
Dean Gargano, London
The Church of England says that the Bible is infallible. The Bible bluntly says that homosexuality is wrong. How, therefore, does the Church accept civil partnerships? It is hypocrisy. As for 'blessing' these partnerships, it has made the right decision. Could the Church ever imagine that God would bless something which he is wholly against and the Bible says he abhors? It would be a cheek for them to do this and I am glad that they have made the right decision.
Catherine, Suffolk, UK
If we are to have a community of equals, no section of today's society should be discriminated against. As long as people love their partner they should be able to marry. Gay people cannot help that they care for the same sex, no matter how much you want to believe differently.
Eddie Espie, Cookstown, N Ireland
Thank goodness there is still a modicum of morality and righteousness left in the Church of England. If people wish to flout God's laws and commandments that's their prerogative, but the Church shouldn't feel obligated to go along with secular, pagan and atheistic standards.
Peter Scadding, Nailsea, UK
Civil unions for gay couples and all the benefits that come with that like tax cuts are okay, and should be encouraged. But it would be wrong to bless such unions in church as it goes against the very basic teachings in the Bible.
Charles, Southampton, UK
Who really wants to get married in a church anyway? If we can't be accepted by the Church hierarchy then why bother? I'm happy enough that we get the same tax, inheritance and benefits as married heterosexuals. We're just people, with jobs, kids, hopes and dreams - we're not asking for much just a little bit of acceptance would be nice!
Leanne, Tyne & Wear
Who cares what the Church thinks? We are a secular society now, the Church is irrelevant to how most people live their lives.
E Welthorpe, UK
I'm a gay man and would love to get married to my partner. But religion overall has killed my dream! He was brought up a Roman Catholic and thinks that due to religion and tradition a marriage should be between a man and a woman. So when the C of E says they will not perform ceremonies in church, it is ludicrous. Why can gay couples not be treated the same as any other couple? I would rather not get married in a church if that is the attitude the C of E are going to have.
Chris Enright, Darlington
Never mind same sex 'unions' - the Church should be performing gay marriages.
Christian Leopold Shea, Hollywood, California, USA
The Bible is actually pretty clear in what it has to say about homosexuality and the Church should stick to it. People don't have to be part of the Church if they don't agree with its values. To expect the Church to change just for a minority makes a mockery of what it has always been.
Quite frankly I don't care. The main aim of getting recognition for same-sex couples was for its validity in the eyes of the law. The Church is a dinosaur with no backbone and, as it stands now, has no place in modern society.