THE consequences for clergy who defy the guidance on same-sex
marriage are unlikely to become clear until a test case is brought.
Were the issue deemed to be a doctrinal one, proceedings could not
be brought under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), but the
Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure would be invoked instead.
The maximum penalty for a first offence under this Measure is a
rebuke. Since a priest is unlikely to enter a gay marriage more
than once, he or she might have relatively little to fear.
On Tuesday, the Revd Dr Will Adam, Vicar of St Paul's, Winchmore
Hill, in north London, who edits the Ecclesiastical Law
Journal, said that it could be argued that clergy had to
comply with the prohibition on same-sex marriage because they had
sworn the oath of canonical obedience.
If defiance was deemed to be a doctrinal offence, the case would
have to be taken up by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved.
"It's a panel who are, or have been, very senior judges or diocesan
bishops. So it's pretty big. Would a bishop be brave enough to
bring such a case?" He said that it had met only twice since it was
A case could be brought under the CDM, Mr Adam suggested, if the
offence was defined as sexual misconduct. The House of Bishops was
on "pretty safe ground" with regard to equality legislation, he
believed, given the exemptions that applied to religious
Speaking to the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 this
week, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said: "I would
strongly suggest, and all the Bishops would prefer to have,
conversations with people initially if they are contemplating going
On Tuesday, the Priest-in-Charge of St John's with St Andrew's,
Waterloo, in London, Canon Giles Goddard, described the guidance as
"mainly bluster. . . I don't think we view this statement as having
any authority, either pastorally - we're not prepared to
cross-examine people before baptising their children - or
"So, yes, clergy will certainly get married: why on earth should
we not, and what message is it sending if we don't? And we will
certainly offer services in church: how could we respond pastorally
without doing that?"
He warned that attempts to impose the standard would "hurt the
clergy and damage the Church, but I'm sure some conservative
bishops will try. The more progressive bishops will, I hope,
quietly ignore it."