C of E couple marry at Dutch church

22 January 2016

DUTCH CHURCH, LONDON

Celebrated: John Cunningham and John Johnston are married at the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, last week

Celebrated: John Cunningham and John Johnston are married at the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, last week

THE Dutch Church in London has hosted its first same-sex marriage.

Two members of the Church of England, John Cunningham, a care-home manager, and John Johnston, an Egyptologist, were married in the Dutch Church, in Austin Friars, in the City on Thursday of last week.

They have been together for 31 years, and had entered a civil partnership on 14 January 2006.

The Minister at Austin Friars, the Revd Joost Röselaers, who officiated at the ceremony, said that the couple had been "very moved" to take part in a largely traditional service, with a eucharist, hymns such as "Praise, my soul, the King of heaven", and "some aspects" of Anglican liturgy.

The couple had first visited the church for a funeral, Mr Röselaers said, and had "felt very welcome" since. On their wedding day, the church tweeted that the Dutch Ambassador to the UK and his wife were among the "special guests".

The Guardian columnist Canon Giles Fraser was also present. Referring to the Primates’ gathering in Canterbury last week, he tweeted: "As the Anglican top brass argues in Canterbury, I’m at John and John’s wedding in London. Love will defeat fear."

Writing in The Guardian the next day, Canon Fraser said that the ceremony was a "proper marriage, something the current C of E hierarchy has banned priests like me from undertaking".

He suggested that it had been possible for the Dutch Church because of a "little-known historical loophole", in that King Edward VI had granted a royal charter to Protestant refugees in London (mostly Dutch and French) in 1550 to practise their rites and ceremonies in their own "Stranger Church", Austin Friars.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage on 1 April 2001.

Mr Röselaers, who moved to London from Amsterdam in 2013, with his wife and young children, said that he had been attracted to the Dutch Church for its "history, liberal atmosphere, and very kind congregation", but had been "saddened" by the issue of homosexuality in the UK.

"You would think that the Church remains faithful to her core values of freedom and love, and not to doctrine that was invented by people," he said. "Churches are not always the best ambassador for Christianity."

The Church would benefit from concentrating more on refugees, Christians in the Middle East, and poverty, he suggested.

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