‘Gay wedding’ vicar in line for Stonewall award

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A Church of England priest who has expressed regret for performing a “gay wedding” for two fellow clergy is one of the nominees for Stonewall’s Hero of the Year award.

The gay equality organisation will hold its third annual awards next month at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

It emerged yesterday that Rev Martin Dudley has written to the Bishop of London and said he “can now appreciate that the service held at St Bartholomew the Great on 31 May 2008 was inconsistent with the terms of the Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops issued in 2005.”

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, said:

“It does look rather more like a courtesy than an apology, and if the Church of England conducted some of its debates about these issues in a similar tone, those debates might be more fruitful.”

Rev Dudley said in his letter:

“I had not appreciated that the event would have been attended by so many nor that it would have attracted the publicity and notoriety which it did.

“I share your abhorrence of homophobia in all its forms.

“I am profoundly uneasy with much of the content of the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement which anecdotal evidence suggests is being widely, though discreetly, disregarded in this Diocese and elsewhere.

“Nonetheless, I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships.”

The House of Bishops decided in 2005 that Church of England clergy may enter into civil partnerships as long as they remain celibate but said “clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership.”

Reverend Peter Cowell and Reverend David Lord exchanged vows in a “blessing ceremony” at St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London in May.

Rev Dudley is one of two clergymen nominated for Hero of the Year, an award chosen by Stonewall supporters.

A favourite to win is the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.

He is a figure of controversy for some in the Anglican communion, but an inspirational voice to millions of others.

His election as an openly gay man in 2003 caused divisions within the Church that have deepened over the years.

Anglican leaders have sought a compromise with traditionalists over the acceptance of gay priests and the blessings of same-sex relationships, while Bishop Robinson has been a clear and consistent voice for gay people.

In an interview with PinkNews.co.uk earlier this year he revealed that he received death threats ahead of his civil partnership ceremony in New Hampshire in June and that at times he wears a bulletproof vest.

Also nominated are:

Natalie Gamble – prominent in the campaign to secure equal legal recognition for same-sex families and an end to discrimination against lesbians in fertility treatment; spoke publicly of her own positive experience as a lesbian mum.

Brian Paddick – Formerly Britain’s most senior gay police officer, Brian Paddick turned his talent and outspokenness to the political arena with his nomination as the Liberal Democrat’s candidate to be Mayor of London.

Rose Troche – writer and director of smash hit US TV show The L Word, groundbreaking in its portrayal of lesbian lives and relationships. The show aired its fifth season in 2008 and remains hugely popular. She also directed the seminal Go Fish.

The other award voted for by Stonewall supporters is Bigot of the Year, won last year by an Anglican clergyman, the Bishop of Hereford.

An employment tribunal found he had discriminated against a youth worker because he was gay.

This year the nominations are led by a fundamentalist Christian politician, Iris Robinson MP.

Just weeks after suggesting that gay people could be ‘cured’, describing homosexuality as ‘disgusting’, ‘loathsome’ and ‘an abomination’, in June the Unionist MP went on to say: ‘There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality, than sexually abusing innocent children.’

Also in the hall of shame this year are landowner the 18th Earl of Devon, unlawfully refused to permit civil partnership celebrations as well as weddings at Powderham Castle, his ancestral seat.

Heinz’s decision to give in to a small number of orchestrated complaints and withdraw their light-hearted Deli Mayo TV ad following claims that a so-called ‘gay kiss’ between two men would confuse and damage children earns them a nomination.

Lillian Ladele, an Islington registrar who refused to perform civil partnerships because of her disgust at same-sex unions, and Bishop of Motherwell, who claimed gay people use the Holocaust to get sympathy, round off the Bigot nominations.

Actor Richard Wilson, best-known for his iconic Victor Meldrew character in One Foot In The Grave, will follow in the footsteps of Sir Ian McKellen when he hosts this year’s Stonewall Awards at the Victoria and Albert Museum on November 6th.

Sponsored by Barclays, the awards celebrate people who have had a positive impact on the lives of British lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Nominees for Entertainer of the Year include Simon Amstell from Never Mind the Buzzcocks, singer Sam Sparro, Maestro winner Sue Perkins, and Queen of Shops host Mary Portas.

thelondonpaper columnist Joshua Hunt, Daily Mirror agony aunt Miriam Stoppard, and Julie Bindel from The Guardian are among the nominees for the Journalist of the Year award.

Tickets for the awards ceremony and reception are still available from the Stonewall website.

Politician of the Year nominees include Justice Minister Maria Eagle, Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile and Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The winners will be chosen by a judging panel which includes artist Maggi Hambling, MP Diane Abbott, TV executive Dawn Airey and Coronation Street’s Antony Cotton.