Admiral of Morality: London priest: Why I blessed my friends' civil partnership

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

London priest: Why I blessed my friends' civil partnership

The rector of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London, in the eye of storm over gay 'marriage,' explains why he decided he must bless a gay relationship

Today, the New Statesman has posted a full comment by Rev. Martin Dudley, titled, "Why I blessed gay clergymen's relationship."

On May 31 in a ceremony at his London parish St Bartholomew-the-Great, Rev. Dudley blessed the civil partnership of two friends and fellow priests, Peter Cowell of England and David Lord of New Zealand.

The church, is one of the oldest in Britain, dating back to 1123. The blessing followed the 1662 Prayer Book rite for the solemnization of marriage, which with a few changes, is used in marriage ceremonies around the English-speaking world.

In Great Britain, same sex couples may enter into civil partnerships, giving participants rights and responsibilities identical to civil marriage. But neither the Church of England nor the Diocese of London have officially adopted ceremonies blessing them.

Needless to say the event has set off quite a bit of discussion, debate, and repercussions.

One of the civilly partnered men, the Rev. Dr. Lord of New Zealand, has apparently resigned his license as an Anglican minister.

The Bishop of London calls all involved "reckless and self-indulgent" and is instituting "an investigation."

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, earlier today issued a rather unusual joint response to the blessing: they listen to the reports of the recent service with "great concern"; they cannot say more due to the bishop of London's "investigation"; clerics are free to "disgaree with the Church's teaching" but cannot disregard it.

In his defense, Rev. Dudley tells the Guardian of London, "I am surprised and disappointed by the fuss. It was a joyful, godly occasion. Why turn it into a controversy? It was not a rally or a demonstration.

"Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."

Here is part of what Rev. Dudley says in the New Statesman today:

"For today’s Church of England it is as if the 1970s never existed; the lessons have been forgotten. There has been a retreat from exploring the depths, pushing the boundaries to the point where words strain, crack and sometimes break as we struggle to express in a suffering world the foolishness of God and the all-embracing love found in Jesus Christ.

There has been a return to uncritical fundamentalist use of biblical “proof texts”, ripping verses from their theological and literary contexts. There has been a flight to the safety of rigid law and inflexible dogma and a consequent desire to unchurch those who will not conform.

So on a day late in 2007 when my friend and colleague Peter Cowell asked me to bless the civil partnership that he was to contract with David Lord in May this year I was ready to answer “yes”. I did so not to provoke the so-called traditionalists and to deliberately disregard the guidelines published by the English House of Bishops, not to defy the Bishop of London, whose sagacity I respect, or Archbishop Rowan, who I have known and admired for 25 years, but because to respond in any other way would have been a negation of everything I believe, of everything that makes me who I am, as a man and as a priest."

Read it all at The New Statesman.

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