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After Marriage, Gay Church of England Priest Barred From Conducting Services

Jeremy Davies
Jeremy Davies

Actually, Jeremy Davies has been barred in one diocese but not another, underscoring the Church of England's mixed messages on same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues.

A Church of England clergyman has been barred from officiating any church services in one diocese after marrying his male partner, in a case that underscores the denomination's "convolutions over homosexuality," London's Guardian reports.

Jeremy Davies was denied permission to conduct services in the Winchester diocese, while he is still allowed to do so in the nearly diocese of Salisbury. Davies retired as a priest in 2011 but continues to conduct services occasionally.

Davies entered into a civil partnership with opera singer Simon McEnery 10 years ago, and last year they married, the Guardian notes. They have been together 28 years. The Church of England, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, officially bars clergy members from entering into same-sex marriages but allows them to have civil partnerships, which were established by the U.K. as a pre-marriage equality measure. The U.S. branch of the communion, the Episcopal Church, has no such ban.

When Davies received notice of the Winchester decision two days ago, he reacted with "resignation and a sense that this was not entirely unexpected," he told the Guardian. The differing decisions of two dioceses, however, underscore that the church needs to develop a "coherent theological position on human relationships and sexuality," he said.

Davies and McEnery considered challenging the Winchester diocese's decision in court but ultimately decided against it. In November another Church of England priest, Jeremy Pemberton, lost the suit he filed after losing his job as a hospital chaplain because he married his male partner.

Pemberton, who was the first Church of England priest to enter into a same-sex marriage, said the church violated the U.K.'s Equality Act. But an employment tribunal ruled, "The claimant would never have been in this position had he not defied the doctrine of the church. The claimant knowingly entered into that marriage and knew what the potential consequences could be for him."

Yet another Church of England clergy member, London vicar Andrew Foreshew-Cain, was reprimanded after marrying his male partner last year but has continued to serve two congregations that make a point of being LGBT-friendly. He also recently won election to the church's synod, its governing body.

In light of the Anglican Communion's divisions over LGBT issues -- many member churches in developing countries are deeply opposed to LGBT equality -- the communion's head, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has called all leaders of national churches to a meeting in January. There, he plans to propose a much looser organization for the communion, win which member churches would not have to agree on all matters of doctrine.

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