In a letter accompanying the rite, Bishop Michael Ingham distinguished between the blessing of gays and lesbians, and marriage, which in the church is a sacrament for heterosexual couples. "This is not a marriage ceremony, but a blessing of permanent and faithful commitments between persons of the same sex in order that they may have the support and encouragement of the church in their lives together under God."
CONCERNING THE RITE
Blessing is a common feature of Christian worship. For centuries the church has blessed people, places and things. Every prayer of blessing is thanksgiving for creation and redemption offered in petition for the fulfillment of God's purpose in the world.
All human relationships have the potential to be agents of God's purpose. Regardless of the specific characteristics of the relationship, the act of blessing does not make the relationship more holy but rather, in giving thanks to God and invoking God's holy name, releases the relationship to realize its full potential as an expression of God's love and peace.
The act of blessing recognizes the pre-existent reality of the relationship; confers the community's authority upon the recipients to conduct themselves as formal and public participants in such a relationship; establishes a communal context of responsibility, accountability and privilege; and petitions God to endow the partners with all such grace and strength necessary to fulfill the vows and commitments being made.
This Rite of Blessing is a public service of the church and is celebrated before God in the body of the church and in the presence of friends, family and the congregation. Friends and family members are encouraged to participate in the Rite where indicated.
All matters relating to the conduct of the Rite shall be in accordance with the liturgical policy and practice of the diocese. It is desirable that the order of service be incorporated into the Eucharist wherever possible.
GUIDELINES FOR ADMISSION
In order to request this Rite of Blessing each member of the couple must:
a) be free to enter into such a covenant. That is, they must not be in an existing covenantal relationship, including marriage.
b) Enter the rite with an understanding that the relationship is to be exclusive of any other partners and have the expectation of permanence.
c) Satisfy the requirements of any previous relationship. This involves appropriate support of dependants from any previous relationship and the appropriate dissolution and meeting of obligations that arise from the same.
GATHERING OF THE COMMUNITY
As the community gathers, a hymn, anthem, or canticle may be sung. Instrumental music may also be played. The presider welcomes the community.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.
After the greeting the presider may continue as follows:
Holy and Eternal One, in the quiet night you have called us each by our own name.
In our very heart you have named us beloved.
You surprise us by your grace.
We are the fruit of your boundless love.
On our exodus way you nourish and free us.
You give us companions for our journey.
You set us apart, shaped by our love, yet call us into the midst of your people,
Where we will be your word of blessing.
Here follows one of the following collects.
Let us pray,
Blessed are you, O Holy One, for you are pleased to dwell among us and to fill our lives with your presence. May N. and N. who seek your blessing upon their covenant be filled with your love. May their life together be to us a sign of your promised reign of justice and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Searching and saving God, whose unfailing love alone can satisfy our longing, in your mercy you befriend those who wander in loneliness and shame, those oppressed because of difference, those who do not know the value of their unique and sacred gift. By your Holy Spirit you awaken in them the dignity of human being and the responsibility of embodied love, as perfected by Jesus Christ, who loved and gave himself for us, showing us the way to intimacy with you and with one another. We offer praise and thanks to you, our Creator, Redeemer, and Life-giver, for your love endures for ever. Amen.
Blessed are you, loving God, for you awaken our desire for companionship and our hope for community with you and with one another. In your mercy you call us out of solitary darkness and redeem us to love you with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Renew in us a sense of true belonging and call us to love our neighbour as ourselves. We pray that the covenant of faithfulness and love we celebrate today will reflect your unending faithfulness and great love for the world. May N. and N. so love one another that they may be a blessing to you and all whom they encounter. We ask these things in thanksgiving and praise to you, our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, one God now and for ever. Amen.