Fourteen gay priests reveal they have married to defy the Church of England

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Fourteen Church of England clergy members have revealed that they secretly married their same-sex partners in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The revelation was made in an open letter published today.

Fourteen gay priests reveal they have married to defy the Church of England

Some of the signatories were already open about being in same-sex relationships, but others came out in the letter.

The open letter called for “diversity” in the church, the same week it was revealed that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was already aware that a bishop is in a same-sex relationship.

Nicholas Chamberlain, the Bishop of Grantham, came out after a paper threatened to out him.

The letter says: “We encourage you to be bold … to what you know to be increasingly the direction of travel, not just in our church but in many churches in this country.”

Going on, it calls for the Church to “move away from the harm and hurt that has so often been done in the name of the church”.

“We will be praying for the College of Bishops as it meets this month. We appreciate the time may not yet be right for a change in the church’s official understanding of marriage, but it is time to respect that a diversity of theology within the church now exists and many in our parishes have already made the move.”

“We hope for an outcome that will enable those who wish to do so to celebrate publicly where we see God at work in the lives of our congregations without fear and in openness.”

Reverend Colin Coward of Changing Attitude added that ten serving bishops are also in same-sex relationships or are gay or bisexual.

One of the first clergy to marry his same-sex partner, Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who married his husband in 2014, warned that gay members of the Church will not back down on the issue.

He told the Times: “We are now going to keep pushing for the next and the next and the next [step] until we get full equality in the church. We are not going away.”

A ruling two years ago from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, banned clergy from entering same-sex marriages.

They said those who do so will be disciplined, and cannot be ordained.

While the Church of England is permanently exempt from same-sex marriage legislation in England and Wales, many have pushed for blessing ceremonies to be allowed to take place in its churches.

Mr Foreshew-Cain hopes that the issue will be discussed at the next General Synod in February.
While he said he hoped many would have their unions blessed in the Church, he warned that many have already turned their backs.

“The church has been so vile to gays and lesbians for so long that most of my gay and lesbian friends want nothing to do with the church. Why go back to an institution which is constantly abusing you?” he added.

Under proposed changes, priests would be able to individually choose whether the perform the blessing ceremonies.

“We acknowledge in our letter that we don’t think the church as a whole is ready for a change in the doctrine of marriage, but that it must be permissible for parishes who wish to celebrate with couples who have got married or have civil partnership to do so,” says Foreshew-Cain.

The number of signatories is also expected to increase, as organisers plan to ask the 70 clergy members and lay people already in civil partnerships whether they have married.

Earlier this year, a gay priest quit the Church of England in order to be able to marry his partner.

Chief executive of Christian Concern, Andrea Williams, who is known for being anti-gay, said: “They [the signatories] are trying to undermine the authority of the teaching of the church.”