One of the gay priests who caused controversy over the weekend for marrying his partner, also a member of the clergy in what was in effect the first gay marriage in a British church has resigned. The Bishop of London is to investigate the incident.
Rev Dr David Lord an Anglican priest based in New Zealand said it “felt it appropriate to lay down his clergy license” last night.
The Reverend Peter Cowell and the Rev Dr David Lord exchanged vows in what is legally a “blessing ceremony” at St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London in May.
A civil partnership ceremony can not by its very nature can not take place in a religious institution although it is legally permissible for a blessing ceremony to take place in one. Indeed., the Liberal Judaism movement has offered services within Synagogues for some time.
In this instance a full Church of England ceremony has taken place although technically gay clergy may only “marry” if they provide reassurance that they will abstain from sex.
The Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, said such services are not authorised in the Church of England. He has asked the archdeacon of London to investigate.
The Rev Martin Dudley, who officiated at the service told the Guardian: “I am surprised and disappointed by the fuss. It was a joyful, godly occasion. Why turn it into a controversy? It was not a rally or a demonstration.
“Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about.”
He said that he had written to the Bishop of London for the official view on such services two years ago. The bishop replied saying he would be grateful for such services not to take place.
The ceremony is in effect no different to the blessing that Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall received from the Archbishop of Canterbury after they held a civil ceremony at Windsor’s Guildhall.
Mr Dudley added: “It just seems to me to be utter hypocrisy to deny the fact that there are significant numbers of gay men and women within the church and significant numbers of gay clergy.
“It seems to me that Jesus would have been sitting in the congregation.”
The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Henry Orombi is highly critical of the Church leadership’s approach to homosexuality. He told the Sunday Telegraph: “The leadership tried to deny that this would happen, but now the truth is out.
“Our respect for the Church of England will erode unless we see a return to traditional teaching.”
Mr Dudley who conducted the service said: “You can’t allow the cultural and theological prejudices of the Bishop of Uganda for example, to govern how we are going to go forward in a very diverse community where the law and society accepts homosexual relationships in civil partnerships.”
Andrea Williams, a campaigner from Christian Concern for Our Nation told the Press Association: “It’s the role of the church to show that marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. The church should set the standard that God has given for marriage and not reflect the direction in which society is going.
“When the Civil Partnership Act was passed the Government stated quite clearly that this was not marriage but a civil partnership.
“In this we see two men trying to stretch what people said the law was intended to mean.”