The Free Church of England has not changed its position on same-sex marriage, its leaders say, after reports surfaced that a recently deceased clergyman was in a civil partnership.
On 23 August 2023 the Rev. Michael Blades, the incumbent minister at St Francis Free Church of England Church in Shoreham by Sea passed away at his home. Ordained in April 2014 by the Rt. Rev. Paul Hunt, the Bishop of the Southern Diocese of the FCE, Mr Blades was a second career clergyman who led the congregation until his death.
Funeral notices sent by his friends on social media asked for prayers for his “partner James of many years together”. Other notices also included the name of James his partner, prompting consternation in some quarters the FCE had relaxed its ban on same-sex marriage and had created an exception for Mr. Blades in its teaching on human sexuality.
Bishop Hunt told Anglican.Ink this was not the case. He wrote: “The posting of the Revd Gerald Kirsch is rather misleading. The Revd Michael Blades’ partner was not as you would understand in the modern sense. In fact Michael had made a vow of celibacy and James was his long term companion only.”
No change in the church’s position on gay marriage was made, the FCE noted.