The First Test Case?
You’ve got to love Andrew Cain. He’s good value.
ON St Valentine’s Day last Friday, the Revd Andrew Cain got engaged to his partner, Stephen Foreshew.
The following day, he saw the House of Bishops statement (reproduced in full below), which repeated the ban on blessings in church for same-sex unions, and ruled out same-sex marriage for clergy or for anyone seeking to be ordained.
Mr Cain’s marriage plans remain unchanged, he said on Tuesday. “I have always believed in equal marriage; so it would seem very odd, as someone who supports it, not to take advantage of it.
“I am aware of clergy wanting to get married who now feel unable to do so, and have been very upset about that. They are saying ‘Why should I now stay in the Church?” And I am saying ‘You have to stay, and you have to get married, because it is our equal right to do so; and if we believe in it, then we should do it.'”
The statement from the Bishops reads: “Getting married to someone of the same sex would . . . clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be honoured as a matter of integrity.
“The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same-sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition, it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage.”
The statement ends with a warning that, although “the C of E has a long tradition of tolerating conscientious dissent and of seeking to avoid drawing lines too firmly”, the Bishops expected their clergy to honour the vow of obedience made at ordination.
In the hours that followed its publication, gay clergy expressed hurt and anger. The Revd Rachel Mann, Priest-in-Charge of St Nicholas’s, Burnage, in Manchester, wrote: “I actually cried when I read the statement: wept. I am an emotional person, but I was surprised.”
On Tuesday, Mr Cain, Vicar of St Mary with All Souls’, Kilburn, and St James’s, West Hampstead, said the statement had come as a shock, especially after the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address at the General Synod on Wednesday. Archbishop Welby had spoken of the search for “good disagreement”, in the facilitated conversations on sexuality recommended in the Pilling Report and elsewhere.
“Many thought we might have finally reached a place where we could have a proper conversation about gay clergy in the Church,” Mr Cain said. “This [statement] has killed the conversation dead. . . It is such a shock and such a disappointment, because all bishops know good and faithful gay and lesbian clergy and lay people.”
Mr Cain and his partner have been together for 14 years. They had their relationship blessed by a priest, eight years ago, in a garden. “We have always been very open about our relationship,” he said. “Before all this blew up, I emailed our PCC and said we had got engaged, and the response has been delighted.”
When asked whether he expected gay clergy to be disciplined for going ahead with same-sex marriages, he said: “They will have done something which is a legal right, so do bishops really want to be seen to be taking action against clergy who are taking up a legal right; and wanting to live faithfully with their parnters for life?” His own bishop had, to date, been “very supportive of gay clergy, and created a safe environment for us”, he said.