A dozen Church of England clergymen will soon reveal that they are married to same-sex partners.
The ministers are expected to sign an open letter which declares their marriages. In that letter, they will also call for a change in church policy to be enacted at the next Synod in February allowing them to officially bless gay weddings. Of the 12 signatories, six have already announced their marriages.
Gay couples in England and Wales became legally able to marry in 2013 when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was passed. However, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop of York John Sentamu declared that gay members of the Church of England clergy could not marry, nor would they allow gay marriages to be conducted.
The open letter is a clear demonstration that some of the clergy have defied this edict. Andrew Foreshew-Cain, one of the first to publicly do so, told The Guardian that gay marriages were “legal, celebrated and widely accepted in society”. However the Church of England treats them “as if they are somehow dirty” and “refuses to acknowledge the marriages of those who wish to make lifelong faithful commitments”.
Many Christians support gay marriage, he said, and “parishes and communities that wish to celebrate and support lesbian and gay couples should be able to do so”. The Church should accept the tolerant attitude of many of its members and “the element of fear and hypocrisy around our marriages has to end” he insisted.
Gay marriage has been a contentious issue for Church of England members ever since it was legalised and last month it was a key topic of discussion at the General Synod in York.