Gay BCP Wedding – No Action to be Taken

Ruth Gledhill is reporting that no action is to be taken over the gay wedding at St Bartholomews earlier this month. She writes:

the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, the Rev Martin Dudley, is to escape any form of discipline or reprimand for the Prayer Book-style ‘wedding’ service he conducted for two gay priests, the Rev Peter Cowell and the Rev David Lord. Mr Dudley has reached an agreement with the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres that the matter shall now be laid to rest after the errant cleric sent a ‘letter of regret’ in which he pledges not to do it again and admits he was wrong.

This is the letter that Martin Dudley wrote:

21 July 2008
The Lord Bishop of London
The Old Deanery
London

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL

Dear Bishop,

As the result of a conference with my solicitor and with my counsel, Chancellor Mark Hill, I am able to respond fully to your letter of 18 June.

I can now appreciate that the service held at St Bartholomew the Great on 31 May 2008 was inconsistent with the terms of the Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops issued in 2005. Whilst the precise status of this pastoral document within the Church of England generally and the Diocese of London in particular may be a matter of differing interpretations, I ought to have afforded it far greater weight. I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media. I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service, even though it was made by another incumbent of your Diocese, who is a colleague, neighbour and friend of us both nor should I have adopted uncritically the Order of Service prepared by the him and his partner. I had not appreciated that the event would have been attended by so many nor that it would have attracted the publicity and notoriety which it did.

I share your abhorrence of homophobia in all its forms. I am profoundly uneasy with much of the content of the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement which anecdotal evidence suggests is being widely, though discretely, disregarded in this Diocese and elsewhere. Nonetheless, I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships. I am writing to you in confidence but seek your guidance on such steps as may be necessary and appropriate to make public my regret and my undertaking, mindful that your initial letter to me was widely disseminated.

Yours sincerely

etc

Ruth has a very clear understanding of what this letter is and isn’t:

It would be pushing it too far to call it an apology

Too right.

As Ruth reports, the Bishop of London pressed Dudley to be allowed to release the letter, and this gives us some understanding of how far the disciplinary process went. It appears that this letter, dated the 18th of July, constitutes Martin Dudley’s formal written answer to the fact that the Bishop recognised what Dudley did as a proper disciplinary matter. That seems to be the correct time frame as I wrote a few days ago:

or 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.

So it appears that the Bishop demanded publication of the letter in order to avoid imposing a penalty upon Dudley.

I’m going to reflect on the content of Dudley’s letter this evening before I comment on it in depth.

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