A gay priest posed a major challenge to the Church of England’s stance against same-sex marriage over the weekend, flouting tradition and marrying his partner.
Canon Jeremy Pemberton, 58, a hospital chaplain, wedded Laurence Cunnington Saturday at a ceremony that included friends and family.
“I love this man and I want to be married to him,” Pemberton told the Daily Mail. “That’s what I want. It is the same as anyone who wants to get married.”
While the divorced father of five has the legal right to marry in England, he does not have church approval and could face disciplinary charges.
It is believed that he’s the first gay clergy member to get married in Britain.
The Church of England’s official regulations state that marriage is limited to one man and one woman, as traditionally held by many, if not most, Christian denominations. In addition to not entering into a gay marriage themselves, faith leaders are also not allowed to officiate or bless same-sex nuptials.
In a letter addressing rules earlier this year, the church made its stance clear.
“As our statement of 27th January indicated, we are not all in agreement about every aspect of the Church’s response, it read. “However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.”
It’s currently unclear what could happen as a result of Pemberton’s actions, though some are warning that a failure to discipline him could make the Church of England look weak — or that it will create division.
“There’s no doubt that there is pressure within some parts of the church for the Church to change its mind on sexuality,” the Rev. Preb Rod Thomas, a staffer at Reform, a U.K. Christian organization, told the Telegraph. “If there is not clear discipline then it is the equivalent to saying ‘we really didn’t mean what we said.’ It will precipitate a crisis.”
Gay marriage supporters, though, are happy with Pemberton’s move and hope that the church opts to affirm his matrimony.
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