London Gay Wedding – Things hot up in the Deanery

Remember the Rev Martin Dudley and his BCP gay wedding? Now a group of clergy and layity on the Deanery Synod have issued a statement suggesting that the Rev Dudley’s actions have stretched the bounds of fellowship and mutual accountability that should exist amongst neighbouring clergy and chuches.

On 31 May 2008 at The Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great the Revd Dr Martin Dudley conducted a service of blessing for the Revd Peter Cowell and the Revd Dr David Lord, subsequent to their civil partnership ceremony.  We are grateful that the Bishop of London has called for an investigation, but given that our Deanery Synod meets on Thursday 16th October 2008 for fellowship and prayer we want to explain the degree to which that fellowship has been fractured.

We do not presume to have any authority over Dr Dudley or his church, but given this service took place within the Deanery and that the Deanery Synod meets with an assumption of shared fellowship, we feel the need, with great sadness, to make clear that our fellowship with Dr Dudley has been broken by his recent actions.  In particular, we cannot recognise him as a teacher of the same gospel as ours.

Our worry is not procedural but pastoral and doctrinal; our concern is not about whether the service was a blessing or a marriage, nor where it broke current Church rules.  By holding the service, and in his subsequent explanations and statements, Dr Dudley has clearly and publicly communicated that for him homosexual sexual acts are holy and to be celebrated.

The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures (Canon A5) and the Bible consistently affirms that heterosexual marriage is the only context in which to celebrate sexual activity.  Biblical passages, such as 1 Corinthians 6v9-11, not only call homosexual practice unrighteous, but also make it clear that there are implications for people’s salvation in teaching the opposite.  Homosexual practice is included in a list of practices that, without repentance, would prevent someone inheriting the kingdom of God.  The list is not homophobic (it includes heterosexual adultery), nor does it elevate homosexuality above any other act the Bible condemns (for example, it includes drunkenness and greed).

All of us who sign this statement are sinners and celebrating any of our sins would have just the same serious consequences.  Forgiveness is freely available in the gospel of Jesus Christ to all those who repent of their sins and seek to live a transformed life.  People who feel same-sex attraction have a full, honoured and loved place in our churches but we, and they, believe the gospel call of Jesus Christ includes a call to repent of all sinful acts.

We regret that such a statement has been necessary in our local Deanery but we note that the issue here is the exact same one that has been fracturing fellowship across the global Anglican Communion.  If this Synod, representing the Church of England in the City of London, remains silent about what took place, churches in the diocese and across the nation will conclude either that we see nothing wrong or that we approve of what took place.

We’re now waiting for the report from the Bishop on the matter. For those who follow these things, it’s been well over the 28 days that the new disciplinary measures stipulate for an initial report and response in a matter of clergy discipline (the new law is found here and a helpful diagram is downloadable from here). Remember, Richard Chartres wrote to Martin Dudley saying:

St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.

That was on the 18th of June. Let’s say Martin Dudley had a week to respond before the Bishop instructed the Archdeacon to begin his enquiry. That would take us to at the latest to the end of July for a response from the Archdeacon, but it’s now almost three months gone since then. What do we think is going on in London? When will the Bishop tell us how he has decided to handle Dudley?

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