Weekly Sunday services will no longer be compulsory for Anglican churches after a vote by the Church of England’s ruling body.
The General Synod voted to end the law – dating back to 1603 – which required priests to hold a Sunday service in every church they looked after.
The change was proposed by the Bishop of Willesden, who called the law ‘out of date’.
Some clergy in rural parishes have been left looking after as many as 20 churches. Previously, they had to get permission from a bishop to not hold a Sunday service in each church.
The Bishop of Willesden, the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent, said: ‘You’re meant to get a dispensation from the bishop; this just changes the rules to make it easier for people to do what they’re already doing. It stops the bureaucracy.’
He added, ‘This was just one (amendment) where we said, “Out of date, doesn’t work, we’re operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let’s find a way of making it work.”’
The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, said although it was ‘wonderful’ to have ‘that one day where everyone can concentrate’, the Church had to be realistic about people’s day to day lives.
‘Times are changing – it is not just about a shortage of clergy but also the fact that people work on a Sunday,’ she said.
‘There is no use in crying over spilt milk. We need to find creative ways to worship.’ She added that at her churches ‘Thursday is the new Sunday’.
Meanwhile, the General Synod has also introduced six ‘pastoral principles’ relating to LGBT issues.
It claimed the Church had been ‘found wanting in its welcome and treatment of LGBTI+ people’.
The ‘pastoral principles’ aim to encourage churches to see ‘difference as a gift rather than a problem’, and build ‘trust’ and ‘generosity’.
The principles encourage people to acknowledge their ‘prejudice’, make churches places of welcome, conduct theological discussions with respect, ‘cast out’ fear, extend courtesy and kindness to all and refuse to exploit power over others.
The document added that adopting the six principles ‘could be transformative for the Church’ but would ‘require a change of culture in terms of the quality of our relationships’.