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Priest resigns then marries gay partner

29 July 2016

rosie larsen

Tying the knot: the Revd Clive Larsen (left) with John during the service of blessing at his former church, St Agnes’s, North Reddish

Tying the knot: the Revd Clive Larsen (left) with John during the service of blessing at his former church, St Agnes’s, North Reddish

A CHURCH of England priest married his gay partner three days after his resignation, after being warned that he would face disciplinary proceedings if he married while still in post.

The Revd Clive Larsen, who was Priest-in-Charge at St Agnes’s, Reddish North, and St Mary’s, Heaton Reddish, married his long-term partner, John, in a civil ceremony on Monday. He formally stepped down as Priest-in-Charge three days earlier, on Friday, after 11 years in the parish.

Mr Larsen said on Tuesday that he had decided to resign because of an “unrelated personal matter”, but, as soon as he had announced this, his congregation urged him to take the opportunity to marry John, his partner of 13 years.

“Even though we had talked about it, it was never possible, but now, suddenly I had tendered my resignation the impossible became possible,” he said. “I’m a spontaneous person; so I decided, let’s do it.”

But word of his intentions soon reached his diocesan, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker. Mr Larsen said that he was told by his Archdeacon that Dr Walker would open a clergy discipline measure case against him if he married while still in post.

Mr Larsen then decided to hold a service of blessing at St Agnes’s on Saturday, before a civil wedding on Monday. He explained that he had no animosity towards Dr Walker, who had always been “supportive” and “a lovely guy to work with”.

“I don’t have any criticism of him, but I recognise that the bishops who support LGBT inclusion are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“I have never used my personal life to make an issue as far as campaigning is concerned. I knew fully what the Church’s teaching was, and I did not want to cause any trouble for myself, the Church, or the Bishop.”

The service of blessing, which was attended by more than 100 people, including many from Mr Larsen’s congregation, was conducted by the Revd Colin Coward, the former director of Changing Attitude, a pro-LGBT Anglican campaign group.

Mr Coward said on Monday that the episode had been very difficult for Mr Larsen, a long-term friend and former trustee of Changing Attitude. “There is huge sadness and incomprehension on my part that David has chosen to act in this way. He is the most supportive bishop that I have known.”

Mr Larsen had to resign before his wedding, Mr Coward said, because, as a Priest-in-Charge, he could have lost his job, unlike other clerics who have publicly entered into same-sex marriages while being incumbents, such as the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain (News, 27 June, 2014).

“It’s because the Bishop can get rid of Clive and force his resignation in a way people haven’t been able to do with Andrew,” he said.

Dr Walker was unavailable for comment this week, but a statement from the diocese of Manchester said: “The Revd Clive Larsen tendered his resignation from his post in Reddish in Manchester diocese some time ago. That resignation was effective from 22 July. Clive does not have permission to officiate as a priest in the diocese, nor has he sought to apply for it.

“We can confirm that Clive has been made aware of the House of Bishops’ pastoral guidelines in relation to same-sex marriage.”

Mr Larsen said that, while he had never sought to publicise his relationship with John, he had also not hidden it, and, over time, his parish and diocesan superiors all became aware of it, without ever questioning or criticising the fact that John lived with him in the vicarage.

When asked if he would continue to worship within the C of E, Mr Larsen said that he planned to “take myself elsewhere” for now, and focus his personal ministry on offering welcome and inclusion to those who had also left the Church.

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