Gay clergy to appeal to Anglican bishops for 'full equality in the Church'

Gay rights campaigners protest in the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury during the Anglican Primates meeting earlier this year.Toby Melville/Reuters

A Church of England clergyman who married his gay partner is to publish an open letter signed by at least 12 married clergy couples calling on bishops to relax the rules against gay marriage.

The Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who married his partner Stephen last year and who was also elected to the General Synod, the Church's governing body, on a liberal pro-gay ticket, is still finalising the text of the letter which he hopes will ultimately help the Church move towards full equality for LGBT people.

Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain (R) and partner

He told Christian Today that about half the signatories are happy to be named because they have already gone public about their marriages. There will be a second category of "anonymous" signatories from gay clergy who might have told their bishops they are married but whose bishops are keeping this information private.

He also said that there are believed to be many more clergy who have converted civil partnerships to gay marriages.

The Church's leaders have stated that gay clergy should not marry.

Foreshew-Cain is drawing up the letter in response to two years of "shared conversations" in the Church, where groups have been meeting from across dioceses to discuss the issue and how to resolve the Church's deep divisions. The bishops are expected to publish a document suggesting ways forward after their meeting later this autumn.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is also expected to call another primates' meeting next year to follow-up on the meeting at Canterbury earlier this year when "consequences" were imposed on The Episcopal Church in the US for moving forward on gay marriage. 

Foreshew-Cain told Christian Today: "We want to support the bishops in coming up with a proposal that will move the Church on in its response to gay and lesbian people and their marriages. Clearly the Church needs to respond. There is a wide consensus that the Church cannot continue its current behaviour towards the gay and lesbian community. I would suggest that most of the Church's attitude about homosexuality is ill-informed, cruel and hypocritical. I would suggest that the bishops themselves know it needs to change. 

"Long term, the goal is full equality in the Church. At the moment, we recognise some people find that difficult. We would look for a more mixed economy so that parishes that wish to honour and celebrate gay and lesbian marriages can continue to do so."

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