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Rector backs civil partnership

A church rector has given his support to a former vicar who plans to form a civil partnership with a man 40 years his junior.

Colin Coward, 65, will have a celebratory Communion service at the church where he worships, St John the Baptist in Devizes, Wiltshire, after entering into the civil partnership with a 25-year-old Nigerian fashion designer called Bobby.

Mr Coward, a former vicar in Wandsworth, south London, is now director of Changing Attitude, which supports lesbians and gays in the Anglican communion.

He said today: "My goal is for everyone within the Church to feel comfortable with our situation because at the moment the majority of gay Christians keep civil partnerships low profile.

"It is a taboo subject but the Church is now under huge pressure to change its stance and that pressure will only increase in the future.

"I hope this will inspire others and set a visible example to the Church that we are not afraid."

Mr Coward met Bobby at a Christian conference in Togo, West Africa in 2007 and the pair, who live together in the Wiltshire village of Marston, became betrothed last year.

Because Bobby is a foreign national, the couple need permission from the UK Borders Agency to contract a civil partnership. Its decision is awaited.

Bobby is currently on a visitor's visa, but once the partnership is contracted, he will acquire indefinite leave to remain.

The Rev Canon Paul Richardson, rector of the church, said: "I am delighted that Colin and Bobby are contemplating a civil partnership. I'm sure that will be a huge joy and benefit to them both."

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