(Members of the London Gay Men’s Choir perform in front of the Houses of Parliament in central London July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning)

Church of England priests will not be allowed to bless gay and lesbian weddings, or marry someone of the same sex themselves, according to new guidelines issued by the church, which is struggling to heal divides over homosexuality.

Same-sex marriage becomes legal in England next month, posing a dilemma for the Church of England, which is the mother church of the world’s 80 million Anglicans and maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman.

England and Wales legalized secular same-sex civil partnerships in 2005. A church working group suggested last year that clergy allow gay and lesbian couples to mark and celebrate marriages held under the new legislation, as well as civil partnerships, in a religious service.

But following meetings last week, the church’s bishops released guidelines at the weekend that ruled out any kind of blessing for gay marriages. Instead, they said, clergy could offer an informal prayer at their discretion and at the request of the couple.