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The Church of England, in a remarkably progressive move, will finally bless same-sex marriages… would be an incredible thing to have said in 2003. But it’s 20 years later, and this weak attempt at cultural relevancy by a religious denomination struggling to be taken seriously shouldn’t be praised as anything more than a PR campaign.

As if to hammer home to longtime members that the church is still built on bigotry, the bishops reiterated that they would not perform or allow same-sex marriages in their institutions.

What’s the difference, you may wonder? Basically, bishops would be allowed to pray for God’s blessings on a gay couple after they got married (somewhere else).

The policy shift, endorsed by bishops [last] week and outlined in a report released Friday, was seen by some as a mark of progress. But the report made clear that the blessings are not mandated and would be voluntary for clergy.

The apology, also contained in the report, said: “For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry. The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this we repent.”

It continued, “We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.”

The “apology” may be the worst thing about all of this. They’re saying sorry for rejecting and excluding gay couples… while saying in the exact same document that they still believe marriage equality is a problem. They’re apologizing for the homophobia they still have!

Even the religious leader of the church, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said in a news conference that he wouldn’t personally be blessing any gay couples while asking for praise for the church’s “spirit of generosity.”

When the church does something generous, maybe the rest of us will consider it.

It was only a few years ago that the same church declared that the only people who should be having sex are heterosexual married people. Which means even the blessings only go so far. Gay couples are finally welcome to have a loving partnership in the eyes of Church of England bishops who volunteer to say so… but that love can’t extend to the bedroom. Which means the church is really just blessing platonic friendships.

It might be funny if this was a joke, but the idea that gay couples will benefit from a sprinkling of Magic Jesus Dust by the same people who reject their marriages and consider them sinners if they consummate their love is absurd. People who promote this move as proof that the church can change are lying to themselves.

Five years ago, we learned that only 2% of British people under the age of 24 belonged to the Church of England while an astonishing 70% had no religious affiliation at all. If this move is meant to entice young people back to the Anglican Church, it’s pathetic. George Santos has earned more trust than these bishops. Young people are well aware that if they care about civil rights and basic decency, there are far better moral authorities outside the walls of the Church of England.

Bear in mind that society’s rejection of the CoE doesn’t mean they lack power. The Church of England runs about a quarter of state schools and gets 26 seats in the House of Lords.

You have to wonder who they’re now performing for. Young people have almost all left the church. The gay couples who remain are masochists. I might understand how older people appreciate tradition and have no desire to change this part of their life, but they’re complicit in this bigotry. They have plenty of options if they want religious tradition minus the hate.

Ultimately, the Church of England spent several years coming up with a solution that offers nothing of value to anyone but the most devout and self-hating people. If this is the best the church can do, it should be a sign to everyone remaining in it that they’re better off leaving the fold entirely.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.