The Church of England officially apologized Friday for its discrimination and rejection of LGBT+ people, many of whom are church-goers. File Photo by e X p o s e/Shutterstock
LONDON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The Church of England apologized Friday for its treatment LGBT+ people, but made clear it intends to stand by its ban on same-sex marriages in its churches.
In a formal letter, the church's bishops apologized for the way the institution had rejected or excluded LGBT+ people saying, "We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong."
The bishops said they affirmed, publicly and unequivocally, that LGBT+ people are welcome and valued.
"For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry,'' the letter said.
''The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this we repent. As we have listened, we have been told time and time again how we have failed LGBTQI+ people.''
Still, the church has no plans to reverse its ban on allowing same-sex weddings to be conducted in its churches.
The church said it would instead bless the civil marriages of gay couples and published a draft set of prayers on Friday to be used for official church service blessings of the partnerships.
The prayers put forward by the church's bishops come two days after the church vetoed moves to allow same-sex couples to marry in its churches. The decision follows six years of deliberation on this issue initiated after same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in 2013.
The draft texts, titled "Prayers of Love and Faith," will be considered by the General Synod -- the church's national law-making body -- when it gathers in London next month, along with other proposals. The assembly's members will not, however, be allowed to vote on whether to permit same-sex marriages in church.
If approved, services incorporating the prayers could begin within months.
The news prompted angry reactions from LGBT+ supporters and some members of the General Synod.
Assembly member Jayne Ozanne, a prominent LGBT+ campaigner, said in a tweet that the bishops' decision was "utterly despicable".
She said: "I cannot believe that five years of pain and trauma has got us here. We have had countless apologies over the years but no action to stop the harmful discrimination."
The issue of the church's treatment of LGBTQ people has been a hotly contested issue for many years in the country where the Church of England is the established church.
It is also an increasingly divisive issue for the church. At least three bishops have broken ranks and now support allowing same-sex marriages in church.