Service with gay clergy may have broken canon law

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The Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent communion with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) clergy was so secret that the Bishop of London did not even know about it, despite it being held within his diocese, The Times claims.

The communion that was revealed to have taken place on the 29th November 2007 was with 80 LGBT priests, monks and nuns by the Clergy Consultation support group.

Canon law states that only a bishop can authorise services that take place in his diocese.

Despite the service taking place near the Tower of London, a spokesman for the Bishop of London said that he wasn’t aware it was taking place. The consequences of “intruding” into another’s diocese include removal from office.

The Times reports that Lambeth Palace “at first implied that it was acceptable to bypass the bishop because the invitation had come from an independent group rather than a parish.”

When the newspaper asked how canon law permits services without a bishop’s blessing, Lambeth Palace refered them to Canon C8, paragrah 2 (a): “… a church may allow a minister, concerning whom they are satisfied either by actual personal knowledge or by good and sufficient evidence that he is of good life and standing and otherwise qualified under this Canon, to minister within their church or chapel for a period of not more than seven days within three months without reference to the bishop.”

Although there is some dispute that the person of “good life and standing” includes external bishops.

The Rev Colin Coward, a gay priest at the gathering, told The Times: “The consultation has always met in confidentiality of venue and time to preserve the safety of those who come.”

The Rev Bertrand Olivier, vicar of All Hallows and a former convenor of Clergy Consultation, said: “It’s nothing to do with the Bishop. Why would the Bishop need to be told?”

The previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, told The Times via Blackberry: “I am sure that Rowan was acting for the very best of reasons viz. To show that he cares for all and wishes to hold minorities in the church. What would I have done? I would not have agreed to a private Eucharist; after all, the Eucharist! By definition, is open to all Christians.

“I am surprised to hear that the Bishop of London’s permission was not sought. Check your facts. If that is so then it is a failure of courtesy but it could be a staff member’s fault! “.

During the service he performed lectionary readings for the day, A Day of Intercession and Thanksgiving for the Missionary Work of the Church. The readings were Daniel 6.12-end and Luke 21.20-28.

The Bishop of London could now report Dr Williams to the Archbishop of York who could convene a special tribunal to investigate the communion.