London (AFP) - Bishops in the Church of England issued new guidance on Saturday warning clergy they should not bless couples in same-sex marriages, after the idea was recommended in an internal report last year.
The House of Bishops was clarifying the Church's response to new legislation allowing gay marriage in England and Wales, which will see the first ceremonies take place in March.
"Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways," said the guidance, drawn up at a meeting on Thursday.
The same-sex marriage law bans the established Churches of England and Wales -- which believe marriage can only take place between a man and a woman -- from conducting ceremonies.
But a report last year on the Church's policy on sexuality, commissioned by the House of Bishops, said that in some circumstances a priest "should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service", without any obligation to do so.
In their guidance, the bishops also said that people in a same-sex marriage should not be ordained as bishops, priests and deacons, nor should those in the ministry enter gay marriage.
Gay men and lesbians are welcomed into the church, but the bishops said: "The House is not willing for those who are in a same-sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry.
"In addition, it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage."
The new law is largely a symbolic change, as civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal in Britain since 2005, giving them identical rights and responsibilities to heterosexual couples in a civil marriage.