Conservative Anglicans are calling for a senior clergyman who entered into a same-sex marriage to be stripped of his office – warning that the Church of England could split if no action is taken.
Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a hospital chaplain from Southwell, Notts, was married to Laurence Cunnington in a “very joyous, very happy” ceremony in front of family and friends on Saturday.
Liberal Anglicans described the ceremony as “wonderful” and expressed hopes that it would lead to the Church accepting gay marriage.
But conservative Anglicans say a lack of disciplinary action could split the Church.
The House of Bishops issued a statement only last month saying clergy cannot enter same-sex marriages as it undermines traditional teaching. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said last week that accepting gay marriage could be “catastrophic” for Christians in Africa.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and a member of the General Synod, said it was “extraordinarily disappointing” that a clergyman “would defy the Church’s teaching, but more importantly defy God’s teaching as clearly set out in the Bible”.
“The Church structure should discipline him for openly defying and testing the authority of the leaders of the Church in this way,” she said.
She said the Church could not “procrastinate” on the issue that has caused a serious split in the US and caused a widening divide between liberal Anglicans and more conservative dioceses in Africa.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury should set out a clear stand and the bishops should set out a clear stand – for the good of the people, the good of the Church and the good of the nation – what marriage is: between one man and one woman,” Mrs Williams said.
Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of the Anglican group Reform, said the marriage was contrary to the guidance issued by the House of Bishops and Canon Pemberton’s bishop should now act. “I think we’re now looking for something that says, if you want to do this, you cannot remain active as a priest,” he said.
Revd Thomas said the issue could split the Church. “If you look at what’s happened in the US, this has the potential to do the same here,” he said.
Canon Pemberton, who works for the Diocese of Lincoln, wrote to its bishop, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, in advance of the wedding to inform him of his plans.
Lambeth Palace referred a request for comment to the Lincoln diocese, to Southwell & Nottinghamshire diocese, and pointed to guidance issued by the House of Bishops.