A GAY priest who officiated without permission in the diocese of
Chichester after refusing to answer questions about his relatonship
with his civil partner has been granted permission to officiate
(PTO), in an "agreeable conclusion" to proceedings under the Clergy
A complaint against the Revd David Page, a retired cleric, was
brought to the Acting Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd Mark
Sowerby, in June (
News, 13 July). Mr Page had, over a protracted period,
exercised his ministry in the parish of Winchelsea without holding
PTO. The Rector of Winchelsea and Icklesham at that time, Canon
Howard Cocks, was also reported for consenting to this.
In July, Mr Page said that he had applied for PTO from the
Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, in 2008, but had been
denied it after he refused to discuss whether or not his civil
partnership was a celibate one. He applied for PTO again in April,
in expectation of Canon Cocks's retirement, after deciding "very
reluctantly" to confirm that his relationship was consistent with
the teaching set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.
The diocese of Chichester confirmed on Monday that Bishop
Sowerby had granted Mr Page PTO in an "agreeable conclusion" to
proceedings, after both clergy admitted to "misconduct".
"Whilst there is no suggestion whatsoever that David Page or
Howard Cocks have ever behaved inappropriately with children or
vulnerable adults, the Church relies upon the upholding of its
disciplines relating to PTO in order to fulfil its obligations in
respect of safeguard-ing," it said.
Mr Page said on Tuesday that "no additional questions" were
asked about his civil partnership, and that "no extra assurances
were asked for." Nevertheless, "part of the pain of the whole
incident for me is the humiliation of having to make any
declaration at all about the nature of our civil partnership." He
had felt compelled to do so "because loyalty to the needs of the
congregation required it". His "only comfort" was that "the angry
reaction in Winchelsea and wider afield to the idea that any such
thing should happen to partnered gay clergy means fewer bishops
will ask questions and demand direct assurances in future."
When the news emerged that Mr Page and Canon Cocks were subject
to disciplinary proceedings, parishioners in Winchelsea wrote to
Bishop Sowerby to complain.
Canon Cocks, now retired, has been told that he can apply to the
Bishop of London for PTO, and that the diocese of Chichester will
provide a reference for this.