Two Camden vicars to defy Church of England ban on blessing same-sex marriages

Thursday, 20th March 2014

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Published: 19 March, 2014
By ALICE HUTTON

BANNING marriage blessings for gay couples could be “illegal” and we will fight for equality. 

This is the message from two Camden vicars who have vowed to defy a Church of England ban on blessing gay marriages and open their churches to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples, ahead of the first same-sex weddings in the UK next week. 

In what could become a test case, the Rev Anne Stevens, of St Pancras New Church, in Euston, and Father Andrew Cain, of St James’s in West Hampstead and St Mary’s in Kilburn, will campaign for the law to be changed.

Blessing services will be offered at St Pancras church, with prayers and thanksgiving at St James’s, when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes in on March 29. 

Under the act there is a “quadruple lock” that prevents the marriages or blessing the marriages of gay couples in the Church of England. 

More Camden churches are expected to follow their lead with a letter signed by local clergy due to be released next week. 

Father Cain, 50, caused a stir among the ministry recently when he announced his engagement to his partner of 14 years, Stephen Foreshaw, 40.

The clergyman, who registered his intention to marry at Camden Town Hall on Tuesday, told the New Journal that he had been called in to see the Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton, last week to “justify” his engagement.

“I don’t really want to be the public face but I have been made so angry and upset that I believe it is a matter of justice to stand up and say: ‘This is wrong.’”

Rev Stevens, 52, said: “It is not a recognisable form of ministry to condemn people. This is meant as a positive gesture not as an act of rebellion. This decision effectively forces priests to discriminate between gay and straight couples, which may in itself be  an illegal action. 

“Realistically we will need some test cases to clarify the true extent of the law, and that’s what I’m prepared to go through if it will help clarify the situation.”

A spokeswoman of the Diocese of London said: “The House of Bishops’ pastoral guidance has been issued to all dioceses throughout the Church of England and makes its position on same-sex marriage very clear.”

l For information on blessing services for gay married couples at St Pancras call  020 7388 1461 or email vicar@stpancraschurch.org

For St James’ church call 020 7372 6441.

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