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Bishop of London to investigate ‘gay blessing’ service


An investigation has been launched by the bishop of London into a ceremony in which two gay Anglican clerics in a civil partnership exchanged rings and vows and used a version of a Church of England marriage service.

"Services of public blessing for civil partnerships are not authorised in the Church of England," said Bishop Richard Chartres after it emerged on 15 June that the service had taken place in a London church on 31 May.

The two clerics, hospital chaplain, Peter Cowell, and New Zealand hospital doctor, David Lord, had already entered into a civil partnership before the church ceremony took place.

Bishop Chartres said he would be asking the archdeacon of London to investigate what took place at the church of St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London.

Lord, who was ordained a priest in December, has since surrendered his clergy licence to minister because "he felt it appropriate", according to a statement released through the Anglican church in New Zealand, where he is now believed to be living and where it is expected he will be joined by Cowell.

The rector of St Bartholomew, the Rev. Martin Dudley, who conducted the service, described it as a blessing, although he acknowledged in an interview with BBC radio that it had involved the exchange of rings, vows, hymns, a Eucharist and a version of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer marriage service.

Some traditionalists have said they view the timing of the ceremony as a deliberate provocation in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world that opens in Canterbury in July. The worldwide Anglican Communion is deeply divided about the issue of homosexuality.

The archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi has urged the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to act in the face of a "blasphemous" ceremony.

"What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the gospel to us," Orombi was quoted as saying by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, said that the ceremony was a wedding in all but name and was modelled on the marriage service. It clearly flouted church rules and would exacerbate division, he asserted.

The Rev. Paul Dawson of the evangelical group Reform told Ecumenical News International that unless the bishops acted swiftly and clearly the floodgates of in-discipline would be opened. The choice was between being faithful to the teaching of the Bible or in acquiescing in the promotion of the liberal sexual agenda, he said.

The vicar of Putney, the Rev. Giles Fraser, president of the Inclusive Church, a group that supports blessings of civil partnerships, said, however, "It’s amazing this church cannot celebrate what little love there is in this world. It was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives and they have been turned into outcasts."