By Colin Coward, Changing Attitude
On Saturday 12 April 2014 Canon Jeremy Pemberton and Laurence Cunnington married. The Church of England now has its first married gay priest, the first of many who will follow his example in the weeks and months and years to come.
Jeremy has confronted one diocesan bishop with a challenge, a bishop who is warmly affirming of Jeremy’s ministry and relationship. Jeremy confronts the House of Bishops with the reality that many partnered lesbian and gay clergy lived in committed relationships and wish to marry (with the drama and media attention surrounding Saturday’s wedding). Other gay priests have already announced their intention to marry.
[...] A new era has arrived. Many Anglicans had already decided to ignore the Pastoral Guidance and marry their same sex partner and/or bless same-sex relationships. The Guidance has now been formally transgressed.
Archbishop Justin Welby’s warnings about the implications for Anglicans in Africa have been set aside as unproven. Archbishop Justin prioritised the protection of one set of people who are under threat by Moslems at the expense of another group, LGBTI African Christians, a group also numbered in the millions across Africa.
The level of risk for the House of Bishops is now significantly increased.
The House risks looking impotent if it fails to act against married gay priests in accordance with the Pastoral Guidance.
The House risks the wrath of those who believe the bishops may fail to uphold the doctrines of the Church about gender, sexuality and marriage.
The majority of UK citizens think the Church of England is prejudiced by refusing to celebrate the ministry of lay and ordained LGBTI people and refusing to affirm and celebrate loving, faithful same-sex relationships.
The House of Bishops will come under intense pressure at the General Synod meeting in July. There will be calls for a debate, a Private Members motion will probably be tabled and there will be pressure inside and outside the Synod chamber and in fringe meetings.
The Church of England enters a new era. If the House is pushed into taking punitive action against Jeremy (unlikely since he is a hospital chaplain) or any other gay or lesbian priest who marries, it risks alienating those members of the Church of England, General Synod and the House of Bishops who welcome and affirm LGBTI ministry and relationships and celebrate the gifts of partnered lesbian and gay clergy.