Amid the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2014, a panicked Church of England hastily implemented a ban on clergy entering gay unions themselves.
However, the rule has never made clear what should actually happen to gay priests who do flout the ban, and their treatment has been widely disparate – from little action to harsh punishment. According to Christian Today, Rev Paul Collier of St Hugh’s in the Diocese of Southwark became the latest to flout the ban by converting his civil partnership to a marriage.
The outlet reports that the priest has been disciplined by the Bishop of Woolwich Michael Ipgrave for daring to tie the knot – but will be allowed to keep his job. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark said the priest had been “disciplined in confidence” by the Bishop. They told the outlet the Bishop was “in formal contact with him and acted strictly in accordance with the pastoral guidance issued by the House of Bishops in 2014 on these matters.” Both the Bishop and Rev Collier both declined to elaborate on what the punishment was, but the priest told Christian Today: “My personal reading of the situation is I am unlikely to obtain any other positions within the Church of England.”
Hospital chaplain Jeremy Pemberton was stripped of his Permission to Officiate two years ago for tying the knot with his same-sex partner, preventing him from taking up an NHS job. But London vicar Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, who also tied the knot with his partner, faced little punishment and was even elected to the Church’s governing body, the General Synod. More recently, Manchester priest Clive Larsen, 60, opted to resign in order to marry his same-sex partner, rather than face punishment.