The vicar who conducted a wedding-style ceremony for two gay clergy in his London church this summer has admitted he was wrong.
An official letter of regret from Revd Dudley was written in July but was only made public yesterday. The Bishop of London says the matter is consequently closed.
In his letter, Revd Dudley acknowledges that he was wrong to conduct the service and promises not to do so again until official Anglican teaching on homosexuality “is rescinded or amended”.
He also writes: “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.”
Religion Correspondent at The Times, Ruth Gledhill, said: “It would be pushing it too far to call it an apology”.
She points out that as a result of the service Revd Dudley has been nominated by homosexual lobby group Stonewall for its Hero of the Year awards.
Revd Martin Dudley presided at a service for Revd Peter Cowell and Revd David Lord, which closely followed the traditional Anglican marriage service and involved an exchange of rings.
Some suggested that the service was ‘deliberately’ timed to raise the stakes in the debate over homosexuality, a prominent issue at two major Anglican conferences over the summer.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York jointly expressed concern at the move, and said that clergy were not free to “disregard” the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.
The letter of apology is dated 21 July, but apparently Revd Dudley has only now been persuaded to allow its release.
It was widely thought that Revd Dudley’s actions would prompt a reprimand from the Bishop of London, who said the service “should not have taken place”.
Following the incident in June, traditional Anglicans called for action to be taken.
Revd David Banting, vicar of St Peter’s, Harold Wood, said: “It is very difficult to exercise discipline in the Church of England because things have gone such a long way down this sort of track. But yes, I would expect there to be consequences.”
The controversial ceremony came just a month before the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Anglican leaders which only occurs every 10 years. Canon Chris Sugden of conservative breakaway group, Gafcon, said: “The timing appears deliberate.”
Revd Dudley’s letter in full (from The Times)
21 July 2008The Lord Bishop of LondonThe Old DeaneryLondon
PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
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.