While trying not to incarnate “behaviour that many see akin to racism,” some Church of England bishops are meeting with gay clergy and encouraging them not to marry when marriage equality arrives in the UK but to remain in “quiet” civil unions.
The Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said on Tuesday that speaking publicly about his plans to marry his partner of 14 years ( News, 21 February) had resulted in an “uncomfortable” meeting with his bishop, the Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, on Wednesday last week.
“It was very uncomfortable for both of us,” he said. “He was with HR, and I was with a union rep. That would not be normal for a meeting between a bishop and a priest. I could not honestly say it was particularly pastoral. It was awkward.”
During the meeting, Bishop Wheatley had “expressed discomfort that I was being so public in my opposition to the bishops, and I made it clear this is something I feel very strongly about. He suggested that perhaps I would consider having a civil partnership, and I said my partner and I had deliberately not done that because we believe in marriage, and now it is possible for us to marry, we will marry.”
When asked about the consequences of the marriage, and the potential for disciplinary action to be taken, the Bishop had said that the Church was in “unchartered territory”. It had been made “very clear” to Mr Cain “that they would prefer it if the marriage was as private as possible”.