The Church of England’s general synod has voted in favour of offering blessings to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and marriages.
A marathon near-eight hour debate across two days ended in a vote for the proposals on Thursday at a meeting of what is known as the church’s parliament.
A packed room at Church House in Westminster remained relatively silent when the result of the vote was announced.
Immediately before the vote a minute of silence was observed followed by a prayer said by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
The position on gay marriage will not change and same-sex couples will still be unable to marry in church.
The motion also included an acknowledgement of a “failure” to welcome LGBTQI+ people and a repentance for the harm they have and continue to experience in the church.
In a vote broken down by houses, the House of Bishops voted 36 for and four against with two abstentions.
The House of Clergy voted 111 in favour, 85 against and three abstentions, while the House of Laity saw 103 votes for, 92 against and five abstentions.
While the blessings have been welcomed by some as progress on what has long been a divisive issue, others have said they do not go far enough.
Speaking last month, Mr Welby said he “joyfully” welcomed the blessings proposals but added that he will not personally carry them out due to his “pastoral responsibility for the whole communion”.
Beginning the lengthy debate on Wednesday, Mr Welby admitted there is “very painful” disagreement on the matter within the church but urged those gathered before him to “vote with their spirit-inspired consciences”.
The result was described as a “moment of hope for the Church” by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, while Mr Welby issued a joint statement with the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, to say it had been a “long road to get us to this point”.
The archbishops added: “For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.
“The church continues to have deep differences on these questions which go to the heart of our human identity.
“As Archbishops, we are committed to respecting the conscience of those for whom this goes too far and to ensure that they have all the reassurances they need in order to maintain the unity of the church as this conversation continues.”
Approval of the motion allows same-sex couples to go to Anglican churches after a legal marriage ceremony for services including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and God’s blessing.
The blessings will not come into effect immediately as the bishops need to issue new pastoral guidance, something that is expected to happen by the July synod.
The Church of England said comments made at synod will now “guide the bishops as they refine” draft texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith, and prepare the pastoral guidance in the coming months before the prayers are formally commended for use in churches.
There has been no legislative change in the church and the decision for clergy to offer blessings is a voluntary one.
The motion did not have to be put before the synod, but bishops said they wanted to get as many views as possible on the matter.
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