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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July, 2005, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Gay couples 'will not be blessed'
Gay German couple cut their wedding cake
Germany introduced similar equality legislation in 2001
The Church of England has said its priests will not offer church services or blessings to gay couples who have new civil partnership ceremonies.

Bishops have also warned if clergy take part in such ceremonies themselves, they will have to remain chaste.

The bishops insist that heterosexual marriage remains what they call the "proper context" for sexual activity.

The first registrations for civil partnerships will be able to take place on 21 December 2005.

I think what the Church is doing is failing to respond to an opportunity to celebrate and affirm love, fidelity and commitment
Reverend Paul Collier

The Reverend Paul Collier, an openly gay Church of England vicar, has been with his male partner for six years and plans to register for a civil partnership.

He told BBC News 24 gay relationships contained the qualities the Church of England was supposed to support.

"I think what the Church is doing is failing to respond to an opportunity to celebrate and affirm love, fidelity and commitment, which are all important gospel values and in that sense, sadly the church is looking a bit ridiculous."

Mr Collier added: "Every now and again we get a kick in the teeth from the hierarchy of the Church which says we refuse to acknowledge or value you as lesbian and gay priests."

'Faithful intimacy'

In a statement, the House of Bishops, said: "Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively."

Marriage was "a creation ordinance, a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace", it said.

For Christians, marriage - that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman - remains the proper context for sexual activity
House of Bishops statement

"Marriage, defined as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society."

The statement said the Act left "entirely open the nature of the commitment that members of a couple choose to make to each other when forming a civil partnership".

It said not all those registering for a civil partnership would be living within the teachings of the church and therefore "it would not be right to produce an authorised public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships".

It continued: "The House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.

"For Christians, marriage - that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman - remains the proper context for sexual activity," the statement added.

The House of Bishops said gay clergy intending to enter civil partnerships would first be expected to consult with their Bishop and also offer assurances that they would remain chaste.


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