Another gay Anglican priest marries long-term partner

Another gay Anglican vicar has married his long-term male partner, defying the Church of England's ban on clergy entering same-sex marriages.

Rev Paul Collier has kept his position as priest of St Hugh's in the Diocese of Southwark after he converted his civil partnership to a marriage in early June with a celebratory service in London.

Rev Paul Collier married his long term partner, converting their civil partnership to a marriage.Twitter / Giles Fraser

Collier admitted his marriage put him at odds with the House of Bishops, the body which issued guidance banning clergy from entering gay marriages. He told Christian Today that he had heard from his bishop, and said he had been dealt with "in accordance with the House of Bishops' pastoral statement on same-sex marriage".

He declined to elaborate but said: "My personal reading of the situation is I am unlikely to obtain any other positions within the Church of England." But he said he would continue to serve as a priest at his current church.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Southwark confirmed Collier's wedding had taken place and said the Bishop of Woolwich had been "in formal contact with him and acted strictly in accordance with the pastoral guidance issued by the House of Bishops in 2014 on these matters."

Bishops have little power to prevent gay clergy from marrying nor to sack them if they do. A panel of three senior bishops has been set up to advise other bishops on how to apply the guidance when clergy dissent. The usual format is an informal letter of rebuke and no further action, meaning more and more clergy are choosing to marry their same-sex partners.

The Southwark spokesman refused to say whether Collier would face any admonition, as other priests who have married their gay partners have done. "He disciplined the priest in confidence so we don't know what happened and even if we did we couldn't say," he told Christian Today.

A Church of England statement added: "The pastoral relationship between a bishop and a priest under his or her pastoral care is a relationship of confidentiality."

Guidance from bishops in February 2014 said getting married to someone of the same sex would "clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England". The guidance went on: "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."

But a number of clergy have entered same-sex marriages despite the prohibition. Andrew Foreshew-Cain was one of the first to flout the ban when he married his long-term partner Stephen Foreshew in 2014. Others to have done so include Jeremy Pemberton who lost his licence to preach following his marriage to Laurence Cunnington, also in 2014.

Most recently a priest in the Diocese of Manchester resigned in order to avoid punishment before marrying his partner. Rev Clive Larsen, 60, quit his post as parish priest in July and celebrated his wedding the next day. It is believed at least four Church of England priests have now rebelled against the ban and entered same-sex marriages.

The House of Bishops will meet in the autumn to discuss the Church's next steps after its ruling synod discussed teaching and practice on sexuality in private talks last month.