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UK: Vicar who performed 'wedding' ceremony for two gay clergy expresses regret

LONDON: Vicar who performed 'wedding' ceremony for two gay clergy expresses regret

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
The Times
October 23, 2008

The London vicar who performed a "gay wedding" for two homosexual clergy in his church in the City is to escape without any sanction or reprimand, The Times has learnt.

The Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, launched an investigation after the Rev Martin Dudley presided at a Prayer Book-style service of blessing for the Rev Peter Cowell, a London hospital chaplain and priest at Westminster Abbey, and the Rev David Lord, a priest from New Zealand.

In the service, comparable to a traditional wedding, the couple exchanged rings and vows at the historic church of St Bartholomew the Great.

After protests from evangelicals that Mr Dudley had flouted Church of England guidelines that prohibit such ceremonies, Bishop Chartres asked one of his archdeacons to investigate and there was speculation that Mr Dudley's future might be at risk.

But The Times has learnt that both sides have agreed to put the incident behind them after Mr Dudley issued a "letter of regret" to the Bishop and pledged not to do it again.

In his letter, dated July 21 but not released publicly until now, Mr Dudley said that he now realises that the service on May 31 was "inconsistent" with the position taken by Church of England bishops on the issue of same-sex blessing services, set out in a document published in 2005.

Mr Dudley said he accepts that he should have afforded these guidelines "far greater weight".

He said: "I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media."

"I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service, even though it was made by another incumbent of your Diocese, who is a colleague, neighbour and friend of us both, nor should I have adopted uncritically the Order of Service prepared by the him and his partner.

"I had not appreciated that the event would have been attended by so many nor that it would have attracted the publicity and notoriety which it did."

As a result of the service Mr Dudley is one of the nominees for "Hero of the Year" at the gay lobby group Stonewall's annual awards, being presented at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London next month. The US Episcopal Church's Bishop Gene Robinson, whose consecration in 2003 precipitated the crisis over gays in the Anglican Church, is another nominee and is flying over specially for the event.

Stonewall defended Mr Dudley and said that they did not regard his letter of regret as a climbdown.

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive, said: "As far as we are concerned he committed a Christian act in celebrating a very long-term relationship and he certainly did not break ecclesiastical law.

"This looks more like a courtesy than a climb-down. Perhaps if there was a little more courtesy around this debate it would be more fruitful."


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