Gay vicar forced to postpone civil partnership
A gay vicar who hopes to tie the knot with his Nigerian fiance has postponed the ceremony because the Home Office has not yet approved his residency in the UK.
Rev Coward, 65, a priest at St John the Baptist church in Devizes, Wiltshire, hopes to have a civil partnership with his boyfriend of three years, 25-year-old Bobby Egbele.
Mr Egbele, a fashion designer, has not yet won permission to stay in the country.
The couple announced their plans for a civil partnership in August and the ceremony was due to take place next week on October 9th.
Correspondence sent to Mr Egbele from the UK Border Agency indicates that his application has been successful but the pair say it will be too difficult to re-organise the ceremony in such a short time, even if the approval arrives today.
Rev Coward told the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: “There is no way we could get it organised in under a fortnight. This has been a very difficult period for both of us.
“We will now need to consult with friends and decide what we are going to do. We will certainly go through with the civil partnership, but we don’t know when.”
Rev Coward and Mr Egbele sought help from their MP, Claire Perry. She contacted the UK Border Agency on their behalf and threatened to write to home secretary Theresa May.
The Home Office does not comment on individual cases.
The pair plan to have a “carefully-worded” blessing in church, which to keep in line with Church of England laws, must not actually mention them as a gay couple.
Instead, the couple will have a Communion Eucharist service which blesses “friendship”.
Rev Coward also plans to reject requests for him to stay celibate. Church of England law accepts gay priests, including those in civil partnerships, so long as they do not have sex.