The Church of England will provide no more resistance to gay marriage among churchgoers, the Archbishop of Canterbury revealed last night.
Gay marriage becomes legal tomorrow and thousands of ceremonies are planned across the country from one minute past midnight onwards.
Changing the law has caused bitter divisions within the church.
Last month, bishops attempted to ban clergy from marrying same-sex partners, provoking a backlash among Christian supporters of the change.
However, in a shift in tone, Archbishop Justin Welby tells the Guardian today: ‘I think the Church has reacted by fully accepting that it’s the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being.’
In defiance of the bishops, at least seven clergy couples were already planning to marry their partners, and some clergy are offering to bless same-sex marriages.
Globally, the Anglican Church remains deeply split on the issue and Archbishop Welby is trying to prevent the divide from spreading to the UK.
Some conservative evangelical congregations are threatening to leave the Church of England if it compromises its opposition to gay sex by blessing civil partnerships.
Archbishop Welby hopes to tactfully approach the problem via a series of ‘structured conversations’ between opponents and supporters of the move.
The Reverend Andrew Cain, from north London, has also announced his intention to marry his partner.