THE Revd Richard Haggis always regarded his civil partnership
with Ricardo Gonçalves as an "interim measure". He planned to
convert the partnership to a marriage as soon as it was legal to do
so (Wednesday of last week), but a delay in renewing Mr Gonçalves's
passport necessitated a five-day wait.
Even so, staff at the register office in Oxford admitted to
being new to their duties, reliant to some extent on a crib
"I'm pretty certain what we have is the right thing," Mr Haggis
said on Tuesday. "I do know a thing or two about marriage
It is knowledge gained through years of ministry as a clergyman
in parish ministry. Ordained priest in 1986, he was, until 2006,
assistant curate of Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, in Chelsea. Today,
he is without an appointment in the C of E, and has "absolutely
nothing to lose", he says, in speaking openly.
"I don't believe in civil partnerships as anything but an
interim measure, and marriage is allowed, so that is the thing to
have, not sitting tight in a bunker and waiting for things to be
all right," he said.
He was referring to the current House of Bishops guidelines for
the clergy, which state that they should not enter a same-sex
marriage. It is guidance that, some feel, prevents other clergy who
are planning to convert their civil partnerships to marriage from
The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, said on Monday that
those he knew of "don't feel safe telling their bishops. . . Many
of my gay friends feel far more vulnerable than in the past. . .
The most vulnerable - ordinands and chaplains - are being actively
An exception is Canon Jeremy Davies, who retired in 2012, but
has permission to officiate in the diocese of Salisbury. He
converted his civil partnership to marriage on the day when it
became legal to do so.
He said on Wednesday that having held the "traditional view of
the Church of England", he had come to believe, while preparing
other couples for marriage, that the Church suffered from a
"preoccupation with sex" and an "inability to get its theology of
human relationships right". Marriage was "first and foremost about
developing a relationship and long-lasting, enduring
Mr Haggis believes that his struggle to find employment in the
Church is entirely attributable to his decision to write an article
for The Guardian in 2005, in which he criticised the
Bishops' stance on same-sex relationships among the clergy:
specifically, the questions to be asked of those entering civil
partnerships. He has suffered a "very long period of depression",
but has found solace in celebrating at Fairacres Convent, in
Although he regards his civil partnership in 2007 as the main
celebration - "there was dressing up and rings and cake" - marriage
is, he believes, "very important - a fundamental bit of civil
rights". A keen genealogist, he has traced the marriage
certificates of his famly back to 1839, and can now add his own to
the archive. "I felt not only that I was part of history, but that
finally I belonged in it," he said.
Scottish warning. The Scottish Episcopal
Church's clergy have been warned by its College of Bishops that to
solemnise a same-sex marriage will be a criminal offence. The
Bishops also said that the Church "cannot give official sanction"
to informal blessings of same-sex marriages of civil partnerships,
and that bishops would expect to be consulted by clergy before any
such blessing were carried out.
It is the "expectation" of the Bishops that clergy and lay
leaders will not enter into a same-sex marriage, and those who
confound this expectation "will put themselves in a position
outwith the SEC's doctrinal understanding of marriage". The same
applies to candidates for ordination or Readership, who have been
told that, if they enter or plan to enter into such a marriage,
they will be "unable to promise obedience to the Canons". They,
too, must consult the bishop.
The guidance was issued last week in the expectation that the
first same-sex weddings in Scotland will take place on 31 December.
The Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Act came into force
on Tuesday, and couples who gave notice of their intention to marry
will be able to do so after 15 days. Those already in a civil
partnership were able to convert it to marriage from Tuesday. The
first couple to do so were Douglas Pretsell and Peter Gloster, who
did so at the British Consulate in Melbourne, Australia, early on
Changing Attitude Scotland expressed sadness last week at the
"threatening tone" of the statement from the Bishops. The Provost
of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth,
wrote on his blog that it had "seriously disrupted the peace and
unity of the Church". He has said that couples who convert their
civil partnership can bring the marriage certificate to the
cathedral, where it can be "laid on the altar at a Eucharist in
The guidance notes that the Church is "currently in a period of
Question of the week: Should sanctions be imposed on
clergy who marry a same-sex partner? Vote here