A gay Anglican clergyman in England is facing opposition from his parishioners because he plans to hold a service in his local church to bless his civil partnership, reports The Telegraph.
Although Anglican clergy are banned from marrying same-sex partners, lesbian and gay Anglican priests are permitted to enter civil partnerships and can also become bishops if they claim to be celibate.
The Reverend Dominic McClean, the Rector of 13 parishes in Leicestershire, invited parishioners to the service in St Peter’s Church in Market Bosworth this weekend to mark his civil union with his partner, Tony Hodges.
The service was approved by the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Reverend Tim Stevens, who led the Church of England’s opposition in the House of Lords to the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
According to McClean, the service is designed to be neither a blessing nor a wedding but a service of thanksgiving and dedication:
“This sort of service has been taking place in the Church of England for some years now. We’ve had an awful lot of support about this from across the benefice.
I think there are one or two people who have not been comfortable with the fact of having a priest who is gay and there are some people that find it difficult and I can understand that.”
However, Aubrey Chalmers, a member of the Parochial Church Council in one of McClean’s parishes, has written in protest to Bishop Stevens and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, describing the service as “deeply divisive and repugnant to many people”:
“A person’s private life is entirely their own affair, provided it doesn’t cause any harm or injure other people nobody is going to interfere.
Here we have what is effectively a high profile demonstration where the parish priest is able to use his own church for his own gay wedding in all but name and has upset a lot of people. Now the Bishop of Leicester, who was very vocal in the House of Lords in his opposition to gay marriage, has given his consent.”
Chalmers added that several parishioners have pledged to sever their links with the church and that at least one church warden is planning to resign in protest of a “gay wedding in all but name” in the Church of England.