Archbishop chastises vicar for blessing lesbian couple

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The Archbishop of Wales has reprimanded a vicar for blessing a lesbian couple’s civil partnership in his church.

The Church of Wales said in a statement that Archbishop Barry Morgan “is dealing with the matter.”

Rev Jim Cotter conducted the ceremony at St Hywyn’s church in Aberdaron on July 12th. The parish is in the diocese of Bangor, which is currently without a bishop.

A spokesman said:

“The Church in Wales does not and has not authorised public services for the blessing of same-sex unions and therefore has no liturgy for such partnerships.

“The Church in Wales regards marriage as the lifelong union between a man and a woman and this is what is conveyed in its liturgy and recognised in law.

“The Church in Wales does, however, affirm the value of committed friendships between people of the same sex and clergy are encouraged to minister sensitively and pastorally to gay and lesbian people.”

Rev Cotter said that he has been carrying out private blessings for lesbian and gay couples for 30 years and the service at St Hywyn’s had been approved by the local church council.

“If two people love each other and show a life-long intent and seriousness, then of course I am going to respond pastorally in whatever way I can,” he said.

“There wasn’t any fuss. It was a day of great delight and healing. The question of blessing gay civil partnerships in church is a grey area. There was a bit of a to-do about it – it’s the kind of thing that’s a bit unusual and a bit controversial.”

In May Rev Peter Cowell and Rev David Lord, two Church of England priests, exchanged vows in a “blessing ceremony” at St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London.

The ceremony angered Anglican leaders.

The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, said that Rev Martin Dudley may have broken church guidelines barring the blessing of civil partnerships when he officiated at the service.

A civil partnership ceremony cannot legally be conducted in church although it is legally permissible for a blessing ceremony to take place.

Archbishop Morgan has liberal views on gay priests and the blessing of gay relationships and has said he is hopeful there can be resolution among the worldwide Communion on the issues.

Earlier this month leaders of the Anglican Church in Wales played down suggestions that a prominent gay man could be selected as the next Bishop of Bangor.

While the names under consideration are secret, a spokeswoman for the Church said that the electoral college would be advised by the bishops in Wales to respect the “moratorium on the consecration of bishops in same-sex partnerships.”

The ban on new gay bishops was requested by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at the Lambeth Conference in August.

The revelation that respected theologian Dr Jeffrey John was being considered for the Bishop of Bangor vacancy outraged traditionalists.

Dr John was forced to step down as Bishop of Reading in 2003 by the Archbishop of Canterbury after conservative Anglicans objected to the fact that he was in a gay relationship.

He is now Dean of St Albans.

He entered into a civil partnership with another Anglican clergyman, the Reverend Grant Holmes, in October 2006.

Under House of Bishops guidelines, clerics are allowed to enter into a civil partnership as long as they are not engaging in sexual relations.

Dr Morgan has previously expressed support for gay people.

“For people who are gay and lesbian, we can give the impression that we are more harsh in our dealings with them than with any other group of people,” he said in an interview with the Western Mail in August.

“That must impair our mission, and leave them feeling rejected.

“It’s all going to take time. My hope is that people will realise that on these moral issues, as on many moral issues, there is no one Anglican solution.

“On marriage and divorce, there are those who believe that there ought not to be re-marriage of divorced people in church; others believe that ought to be possible.

“There is a willingness there to live and let live in a way there doesn’t seem to be over the issue of same-sex relationships.”