The Archbishop of York has welcomed the Church of England's decision to offer blessings to same-sex couples in civil partnerships and marriages.

The Church’s general synod voted in favour of offering the blessings after a marathon near-eight hour debate across two days ended on Thursday.

In a joint statement, Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said it had been a “long road to get us to this point”.

They said: “For the first time, the Church of England will publicly, unreservedly and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.

“The Church continues to have deep differences on these questions which go to the heart of our human identity.

“As Archbishops, we are committed to respecting the conscience of those for whom this goes too far and to ensure that they have all the reassurances they need in order to maintain the unity of the church as this conversation continues.

“We hope that today’s thoughtful, prayerful debate marks a new beginning for the Church as we seek a way forward, listening to each other and most of all to God.

“Above all we continue to pray, as Jesus himself prayed, for the unity of his church and that we would love one another.”

Mr Cottrell said he would “gladly” give blessings.

He said: “If I’m asked to take such a service, then yes, I would gladly do that.”

Asked if he looks forward to it, he said: “Yeah, I’ve got gay friends, like many of us have, and if that’s what they wanted, and it was appropriate, then of course I would.

“But in due course. We’ve still got a bit more work to do. And actually a lot of that work will be about giving the reassurances to those who are troubled that we can still hold together and walk together as one church.”

The position on gay marriage will not change and same-sex couples will still be unable to marry in church.

Mr Cottrell said the conversation around gay marriage in the Church of England will continue.

He said: “We can’t and don’t want to stop debate. And so I’ve no doubt the debate will continue in one way or another.

“But today we’ve made a clear decision about maintaining holy matrimony as between one man and one woman, and issuing or commending these prayers of love and faith. So that’s what we’re doing today. But yes, the conversation will continue, I’m sure.”

The Church of England motion also included an acknowledgement of a “failure” to welcome LGBTQI+ people and a repentance for the harm they have and continue to experience in the church.

Approval of the motion allows same-sex couples to go to Anglican churches after a legal marriage ceremony for services including prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and God’s blessing.