First gay clergy marriage for the Church of England

A serving Church of England priest has married his same-sex partner in open defiance of the church’s ban on clergy entering into same-sex marriages. On 12 April 2014, the Rev. Canon  Jeremy Pemberton the deputy senior chaplain of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust married Laurence Cunnington under a new law introduced by the government of Prime Minister David Cameron that came into force last month creating gay marriage.

Speaking to the Daily Mail after the private service held at an undisclosed site, Canon Pemberton (58), a divorced father for five, said he had informed the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Lowson of his intention to marry Mr. Cunnington (51) prior to the service. He noted the bishop had explained to him the church’s rules banning its clergy from entering into same-sex marriage, but declined to offer further details of their conversation. Bishop Lowson told the Daily Mail’s Jonathan Petre he had met with Canon Pemberton before the service but declined to state what action he would take to discipline the cleric.

Canon Pemberton’s defiance of church rules makes him liable for discipline under the Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM), which could offer a range of sanctions from reproof to dismissal from the priesthood.  Other clergy, gay activists have reported, are likely to join Canon Pemberton among the ranks of clergy who have entered into same-sex marriages.

The Church of England permits clergy to enter into civil same-sex partnerships if they promise to remain celibate, but in guidelines released in February, forbids its clergy from contracting sex marriages for themselves, or celebrating them for others.

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