Gay priest flaunts Church of England same-sex marriage ban

Published 14 April 2014  |  

A Church of England clergyman has defied his church's ban on same-sex marriage, marrying his partner in a ceremony in front of friends and family on Saturday.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a senior hospital chaplain in the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said in the Mail on Sunday that the ceremony was "very joyous, very happy".

Asked how he expected to feel after the ceremony, Canon Pemberton said: "We will feel married."

But many others in the Church of England feel that this is an affront to the Church of England's authority, with the potential to become a crisis if no action is taken.

In February, the House of Bishops issued guidelines forbidding bishops, clergy and laity in the Church of England from entering into same-sex marriage.

In their ruling, the House of Bishops state: "It would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church's teaching in their lives."

Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of the Reform evangelical group, said in the Daily Telegraph that the situation required a quick resolution involving stripping Canon Pemberton of his office.

"If there is not clear discipline then it is the equivalent to saying 'we really didn't mean what we said'.

"It will precipitate a crisis," Rev Thomas suggested, referring to how a similar situation in the US resulted in a traditionalist splinter group breaking away from the more liberal Episcopal Church.

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern and a member of the Church of England General Synod, said in the Independent that Canon Pemberton's decision to ignore the House of Bishops' ban was "extraordinarily disappointing".

His actions not only "defy the Church's teaching, but more importantly defy God's teaching as clearly set out in the Bible", she said.

"The Church structure should discipline him for openly defying and testing the authority of the leaders of the Church in this way," she said as she warned against any plans for the Church to "procrastinate" on the issue.

Positive voices also emerged, with Reverend Colin Coward, a friend of Canon Pemberton and director of the pro-LGBT Anglican campaign group Changing Attitude, saying in The Telegraph: "I'm really, really happy for Jeremy and his partner that they are finally able to get married after a long time of being together as a couple.

"I hope the bishops find a way to affirm and bless their relationship rather than taking action against them."

It has emerged that the Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend Christopher Lowson, had been made aware of Canon Pemberton's plans prior to the ceremony.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, the bishop said he had been written to in advance and that a subsequent meeting had been held in which he "explained the guidelines of the House of Bishops".

Canon Pemberton, who has five children from a previous marriage, signed a letter in 2012 along with several other Church of England ministers, calling for the Church to accept same-sex marriage, and saying that until it does, homosexual members of the congregation wishing to marry should seek out other churches.

Canon Pemberton was quoted in the Huffington Post speaking shortly after the wedding: "Thank you to all well-wishers. Nay-Sayers: we can talk another time maybe?

"Signing off for now - my husband gets my time."

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