Anglican preacher quits CofE over gay marriage

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A gifted lay Anglican is to quit the Church of England, having chosen marriage over his ministry.

Jeremy Timm has been told he can no longer carry on as a licensed reader if he goes ahead with his plan to marry his partner Mike Brown next month.

Mr Timm, a reader in Hull, told Christian Today that he had received an ultimatum from the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.

He said that he is not prepared to sacrifice his marriage to Mr Brown. The couple entered a civil partnership in 2009 and this is being converted towards the end of September.

Mr Timm will after the marriage ceremony leave the Church of England and make his spiritual home in a dispersed Christian community, Contemplative Fire, which he has already joined. This is an "acknowledged community" of the Church of England and the visitor is Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes. "I will journey on the faith path with that community," he said.

He will be badly missed in the Hull area. As a reader, Mr Timm works unpaid for the Church, which is suffering a shortage of priests, but his departure will not be the first time he has put responsibility and devotion to family before himself.

He has always known he was gay. He became a Christian through the conservative evangelical Christian Union at Leicester University and afterwards was accepted for ordination training at Cranmer Hall, Durham. He completed the four years and worked with CMS in Hong Kong for a further two, but was never ordained because his father wanted him to join the family flour milling business, where he remained his entire working life.

After completing an MA in theology he was urged to return to ministry as a reader and was licensed to officiate, allowing him to preach and take services except the sacramental such as Holy Communion.

Now retired, and speaking to Christian Today on his 60th birthday, he said: "The overwhelming feeling is of sadness. I am like a stick of rock, with the Church of England written through me. The Church has been a part of my spiritual journey all my life. I feel very sad at the prospect of moving on, although that is tinged with the excitement of new possibilities. I have a real sadness for some of the people I've been working with. All are in the premier division in the saints and angels league."

He said the secular landscape for LGBT people was unrecognisable now compared to his youth and childhood, when homosexuality was decriminalised. "It has transformed completely, transformed in an inclusive, healthy, supportive, non-discriminatory, equality way. The Church has just not kept abreast of these changes at all. Of course this disappoints me."

Once a year, he lectures law students at Hull university and always asks at the end if the students think it right that the Church of England, as the national church, should be exempt from equality legislation. No prophetic gift is needed to anticipate the response from the student body.

As the new coordinator of Changing Attitude, where he wrote a blog describing his feelings about the conflict between his desire to marry and the Church, Mr Timm will now continue to work towards a time when gender identity and relationship status are not a bar to a full and rich life within the Church and its ministry.

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