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The Church of England has stated that only married heterosexual couples should be having sex.

In response to the recent introduction of opposite-sex civil partnerships, the House of Bishops have issued updated pastoral guidance which claims that all Christians in gay or straight civil partnerships should remain sexually abstinent.

“For Christians, marriage – that is, the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity,” the guidance says.

“In its approach to civil partnerships the Church seeks to uphold that standard, to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships and to minister sensitively and pastorally to those Christians who conscientiously decide to order their lives differently.”

The guidance adds: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.”

Civil partnerships were introduced for same-sex couples in 2005, with same-sex marriage legalised in 2013. Following a Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that opposite-sex couples should also have the right to a civil partnership, the law was changed.

The Guardian reports that Reverand Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church of England’s director of mission and public affairs, said: “Civil partnership is not the same as marriage, which is founded on the taking of solemn public vows and is recognised in the church’s teaching as the only proper context for sexual relationships.

“So, as with same-sex civil partnerships, there is no formal service or blessing but clergy will, as always, be encouraged to respond pastorally to couples wishing to formalise their relationship in this way.”

The Church of England is currently embarking on a large study of human sexuality called Living In Love And Faith, which is expected to be completed later this year.