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Anglican leaders attack 'gay marriage' priests

The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed "very great concern" last night about a recent "gay marriage" between two priests which threatens to destabilise the Anglican Church ahead of its 10-yearly conference.

News of last month's ceremony – in which Peter Cowell and Dr David Lord exchanged rings and vows at St Bartholomew the Great Church in London – emerged at the weekend after what some Church figures believe was a deliberately timed leak by one side of an increasingly heated argument over homosexuality in advance of next month's Lambeth conference.

Amid jostling between conservatives and liberals, The Independent has learnt that one of the "grooms", Mr Lord, a New Zealander, is set to return there this summer, and his partner is considering following him, leading some Anglicans to point out that they will not be practising their ministries in the UK. One source described the ceremony as a "hit and run".

In a joint statement, Dr Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: "Clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others [but they are] not at liberty simply to disregard it."