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Gay clergy who married partners face disciplinary action

CoI canon expecting ministers who wed same-sex partners to be disciplined

By Nevin Farrell

Published 05/09/2016

Fierce debate: Canon Ian Ellis
Fierce debate: Canon Ian Ellis

An influential figure in the Church of Ireland last night said he expects 14 Anglican clergy members who have married their gay partners to now face disciplinary procedures.

Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, was reacting to a controversy which has gripped the Church of England.

It emerged yesterday that 14 Church of England clergy have defied the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and married their gay partners. The gay and lesbian clergy revealed their status in a letter to a newspaper calling for parishes to be allowed to decide for themselves whether to celebrate same-sex marriages.

The Church of England has no official liturgy for blessings of gay marriage and the Church forbids clergy from marrying same-sex partners and from conducting gay weddings.

The latest revelation in The Sunday Times comes after the Bishop of Grantham became the first in the Church of England to declare that he is gay and in a celibate relationship.

The new disclosures are expected to ignite a fierce debate in the Anglican Church and members on this side of the Irish Sea are closely watching developments.

Canon Ellis said: "If clergy or bishops disregard the teaching and discipline of the Church, I don't think they should be surprised if the Church follows its disciplinary procedures.

"That is what I would expect in the Church of Ireland, and it is what I would expect in the Church of England.

"However, I do believe that Church members who are not clergy and who conscientiously decide to enter into a same-sex civil marriage should have the Church's teaching explained to them, but should still be assured of their place in the Church as parishioners, even though their decision is against Church teaching."

Canon Ellis said he disagreed with the idea that the same commitments in personal life should be required of both clergy and other members of the Church.

"I believe that those who are involved in ordained or commissioned ministry do need to follow the Church's teaching and discipline in a more rigorous way than the person in the pew, because ministers have to teach the Christian faith and have to minister to all members of the Church," he said.

"For those reasons they are called in a special way to embody in their own lives the fullness of Church teaching and discipline.

"There is, of course, a diversity of views within the Church of Ireland, the Church of England and the wider Church on the subject of same-sex relationships. Nonetheless, each Church must uphold its own teaching as best it can."

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