LONDON (AFP) — The two most senior Anglican clerics have apologized after the Church of England issued guidance saying only married heterosexual couples should have sex.
The Church of England’s new guidelines for the faithful were issued last week to address changes in UK legislation allowing civil partnerships and marriages for both gay and heterosexual couples.
It said its teachings have long defined “sexual intercourse as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.”
“Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings,” the Church of England said.
Civil partnerships should be no more than “sexually abstinent friendships,” it added.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is the most senior cleric in the Anglican communion, and his number two, Archbishop of York John Sentamu, apologized for the guidance.
“We as archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologize and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardized trust,” they said in a joint statement.
“We are very sorry and recognize the division and hurt this has caused.”
The Church of England has been struggling with the acceptance of gay rights after centuries of repression that continued until just decades ago.
Heterosexual couples have been able to opt for a civil partnership rather than marriage since January 1.
The Church of England allows clergy to be in same-sex partnerships provided they are sexually abstinent.
It began a “Living in Love and Faith” review in 2017 aimed at merging the difference between traditional Church teaching and modern life.
The two clerics said were “committed” to completing the review.
“This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England,” they said.
© Agence France-Presse