Church of England split on proposal to drop 'husband and wife' from US congregation's marriage services

Canterbury Cathedral: West Front, Nave and Central Tower | Wikimedia Commons/Hans Musil

Members of the Church of England are reportedly divided on the issue of removing the terms "husband" and "wife" from the marriage services in The Episcopal Church.

According to The Telegraph, The Episcopal Church has proposed a measure to change its marriage service by replacing the phrase "the union of husband and wife" with "the union of two people." A section that refers to the "procreation of children" as the purpose of marriage would be replaced with the phrase "for the gift of children" in an effort to accommodate same-sex couples who are planning to adopt.

Couples are still allowed to use the terms "husband" and "wife" when making their vows, but they also have the option to use the gender-neutral term "spouse."

In October, the Church of England's Secretary General William Nye reportedly expressed his disapproval for the proposal.

A letter from Nye has indicated that he had threatened to sever links with the Episcopal Church if it makes changes to the marriage service.

However, The Episcopal Church's proposal has gained the support of more than 300 members of the Anglican Church, including Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckingham.

Liberal members of the Anglican church stated in a letter to the U.S. Church that they were "grateful" for the proposal, adding that "a gender-neutral approach will enable us to become a loving and inclusive Church for all."

In his letter, Nye had warned that implementing the proposal would add to the growing "pressure to dissociate" the Church of England from the U.S. Church, arguing that conservative members would see the move as "completely unacceptable."

He suggested that the new service should only be conducted on a "trial status" to avoid "irrevocably redefining marriage."

Nye further contended that the changes "constitute a clear divergence from the understanding of marriage held throughout the history of the Christian Church."

Jayne Ozanne, a campaigner for LGBT rights in the church, raised questions about Nye's letter, noting that it had not been discussed by the Archbishops' Council.

"It would be strange if it were sent with the knowledge and support of the Archbishops given their firm commitment to 'radical Christian inclusion' and their understanding of the need to be pastorally sensitive to the LGBT community, neither of which area mentioned in the letter," Ozanne said, as reported by The Telegraph.

The Church of England sparked controversy last year after its general synod had voted to "take note" of a report that encouraged "welcome and support" for LGBT individuals, but declined to affirm same-sex marriage.

After the vote, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that there is a need for a "radical new Christian inclusion in the Church."

A 2016 survey has found that 45 percent of Anglicans were in favor of same-sex marriage, while 37 percent are opposed.