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Canon in gay marriage barred by Bishop of Winchester

17 December 2015

ian pearson

Civil ceremony: Canon Jeremy Davies (left) and Simon McEnery

Civil ceremony: Canon Jeremy Davies (left) and Simon McEnery

A FORMER Residentiary Canon of Salisbury Cathedral, Canon Jeremy Davies, has been refused permission to officiate (PTO) in the diocese of Winchester, a year after converting his civil partnership to marriage.

Canon Davies sought PTO in the diocese in June, after being invited to conduct an increasing number of services there. Five months later, the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, declined to grant it.

“Due to the Church of England’s position on same sex marriage, as set out in the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance, Canon Jeremy Davies has been informed that his application has been unsuccessful,” a statement from the diocese read.

Ordained in 1971, Canon Davies was Canon Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral for 26 years until his retirement in 2011. He was granted PTO in Salisbury diocese in 2013 and retains it. He converted his civil partnership, to Simon McEnery, his partner of 30 years, last year, on the day when it became possible to do so (News, 19 December 2014).

Before being refused PTO, Canon Davies had already taken more than six services in Winchester Cathedral “with no objections” and officiated several times at St Stephen’s, Bournemouth. On Tuesday, he reflected that he might have been “naïve” at the time of his application. He understands that the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, wrote Bishop Dakin a “positive letter of commendation”.

There was “absolutely no theological underpinning” behind Bishop Dakin’s letter, he said.

“The law of the land gives people in my situation the possibility of getting married. The Bishops — it seems a bit like sour grapes — barricaded themselves behind canon law. . . What they don’t do is look at both the positive and negatives of the Book of Common Prayer provision for marriage.”

Quoting the marriage service (“to have and to hold. . .”), he said that this section did not refer to sex or childrearing. “It is about mutual society, help, and comfort.” Two men or women “in a loving relationship” could say this, and “consolidate and recognise the spiritual value as well as the practical outworking of our relationship”.

The Bishops’ guidance was “extremely skewed”, he said, “and does not represent an appropriate theology of human relationships and sex and sexuality. That is badly needed in the Church of England.”

He said that he was not, as others were, “outraged”. He recognised that Bishop Dakin represented “a particular point of view” in the Church. “The Church, like other faith traditions, is on the move, on a journey, as it tries to work out an appropriate ethic on this matter.

“The Bishops and I will disagree on this matter, but they need to put forward arguments. Just slapping down a priest who has tried to fulfil his ministry as faithfully as he can because he disagrees and has taken that disagreemnt to the point of forming a formal marriage with the person he has lived with for 30 years is, I think, unwarranted. The arguments are polarised enough without me trying to vilify those with whom I disagree.”

On a blog this week, the Revd Dr Ian Paul, Associate Minister of St Nicholas’s, Nottingham, wrote that “if the action here involves hypocrisy, then the fault lies not with Tim Dakin in Winchester, but with liberal Nick Holtam in Salisbury.”

Dishonesty had “mostly been on the part of liberal bishops saying one thing but doing another. . . For the most part, whatever else their faults, evangelicals have been consistent in opposition to same-sex sexual relationships in speech and action.” A varied, “piecemeal approach” was leading to “anarchy”.


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