It is in the news that the Church of England is conducting standalone services to bless the weddings of same-sex couples. These are described as trials/experimental.

I know nothing about how such things are done in the theological world, but I know a little about how clinical trials are prepared in the biomedical world. When doing clinical trials in the UK for example there is a whole convoluted procedure that one must go through, some of the important points that must be documented and approved before the trial is authorised:

  • What is the objective of the study
  • What data will be collected
  • How that data will meet the objective of the study
  • What magnitude of effect is expected
  • How likely the study is to demonstrate the effect given the true magnitude of effect

Is this sort of information published about this sort of study? Do we know precisely what question they are trying to answer, how the trial will do that and what the chance of getting a conclusive result is given various underlying realities?

  • 1
    Interesting question, but can you explain the connection between the Church of England/Anglicanism to the link you provided which says: "The Clinical Trials Toolkit is designed to help understand the requirements of the UK Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations, which together with its amendments, are referred to as the Clinical Trial Regulations within this Toolkit."
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:38
  • 1
    @Lesley I have edited it a little bit to try and explain that this is an example of the documentation that would be required for a trial in other contexts. This illustrates why I may expect that such documentation exists for this study.
    – User65535
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:44
  • Thanks for the explanation and the edit.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:47
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    If the 'blessing' is being 'tried out' then how will we know if the recipients have been blessed or (presumably) not blessed . . . . . I hesitate to say 'cursed' but the word 'trial' surely brings up that possibility, if nobody knows what the outcome is going to be from this 'experiment' and if nobody is telling us the breadth of the possible parameters of the procedure.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 19:42

1 Answer 1


The most natural way to understand experimental or trial blessings of same-sex weddings is, as OP assumes, to investigate how effective they are. Do couples who are blessed in this way experience God's favour to an extent not experienced by those not blessed this way? What measurable effect does such a blessing convey?

OP puts forward ideas on how that might be achieved.

However, this is not at all what the Church means by experimental blessings.

Services in the Church of England folow forms authorised either by the UK Parliament (the Book of Common Prayer) or the General Synod of the Church of England.

However, there is an exception under Canon B5. This allows the House of Bishops to authorise a service for a temporary period before presenting it to General Synod for approval to be made permanent. Or, if it proves unpopular or inappropriate to not make it permanent. Such services are called experimental or trial services.

These same-sex blessing serices have been temporarily authorised under Canon B5. That is why they ae called trial or experimental services. But what is on trial is not actually the effectiveness of the blessings, in how they may influence God to bless the couple. It is only the form of blessing is on trial to see how popular it is, or whether people want changes to it.

In reality, they have only been brought in in this way because there would not be the necessary majorities to introduce them permanently.

So the Church is not planning any study into the actual effectiveness of blessings, or indeed prayer generally.

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    If they were forced to state the objective (and given enough time to think about it), they'd probably say something like "getting more people into heaven". Of course, collecting data will be difficult. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 19:43

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