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The Church of England has stated that sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, and that sex in gay or straight civil partnerships “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings.”

Bishops have issued pastoral guidance in response to the recent introduction to mixed-sex civil partnerships, which says: “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 church “seeks to uphold that standard” in its approach to civil partnerships, and “to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships” within such partnerships.

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

The affirmation of traditional teaching at a time when the church is undergoing a major review of sexuality and marriage will delight conservatives.

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