Gay marriage: Church in Wales vicar Andrew Morton resigns over issue

Some members of the Anglican communion, including elements of the Church in Wales, have become more homophobic, claims a vicar who has resigned over the issue of gay marriage.

The Reverend Andrew Morton, vicar of Llangybi, Monmouthshire, is the first in Wales to step down over the issue.

He says he would have been willing to carry out such ceremonies.

The Church in Wales said it a "matter of regret" for clergy to resign over an issue yet to be resolved by the church.

It follows a UK government consultation on whether to allow gay couples in Wales and England to marry.

Civil partnerships, introduced in 2005, already give gay couples similar legal rights to married couples.

But the government wants them to be legally allowed to make vows and declare they are married before the next general election, due in 2015.

Mr Morton, who has been a vicar for 33 years, says many of his colleagues privately agree with his stance, and that homophobia is endemic in some respects.

"First of all I felt that the church's position on same sex relationships, never mind same sex marriages, was increasingly judgemental and not really inclusive in the way that I felt that it should be," he told BBC Wales.

"I feel a greater degree of homophobia in the church than I've felt for a long time. Maybe it's just my personal perception but it certainly seems to be more prevalent in some quarters of the church.

"I felt that in order to offer an authentic critique of the church as an institution, the most honourable thing was to do it from the outside rather than from the inside which was what prompted the resignation."

'Very forgiving'

He said that he came across people who in the "guise of what they feel to be religious conviction, came up with some extraordinarily homophobic statements".

However, he said it was not true of the majority of the church, which was "very forgiving and very loving".

The Church in Wales said: "We regret the resignation of any of our clergy over an issue that has not been resolved by the church.

"We are trying to move forward gently in a way that takes everyone along with us and that calls for time and patience."

The Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales said in a statement it abided by the Christian doctrine of marriage as the union between one man and one woman freely entered into for life.

"We acknowledge that whilst issues of human sexuality are not resolved, there are couples living in other lifelong committed relationships who deserve the welcome, pastoral care and support of the church and we are committed to further listening, prayerful reflection and discernment regarding same-sex relationships," it said.

Canon Andrew Knight, vicar of Sketty in Swansea, who opposes gay marriage, said the Christian community had sympathy with gay people but it "cannot celebrate something which is not seen as being good".

"The difficulty when you get a gay partnership is two-fold really. On the one hand that is not something which is ever applauded by scripture," he said.

"The Bible speaks about people of the same gender coming together always to say that is not part of God's plan, and it does it in both Old Testament and New, and [there are] a number of writers saying that, so it's not just one odd comment in a backwards corner which could be misunderstood."

Reacting to the UK government consultation, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has said the law should not be used as a tool to bring about social changes such as gay marriage.

He warned that the law may turn out to be ahead of majority opinion in this case.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites