The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York on Tuesday released a statement in response to news that two Anglican clergymen who exchanged vows in May in a version of a marriage ceremony. The archbishops voiced “very great concern” and referred to previous Anglican teachings against sexually-active same-sex unions.
The same-sex ceremony, which used formal rites, took place at St. Bartholomew the Great Church in London in May. It was conducted for Reverend Peter Cowell and Reverend Dr. David Lord, who were already civil partners. According to BBC News, the couple reportedly exchanged vows and rings in front of hundreds of guests.
The ceremony was criticized as blasphemous, not in keeping with the regulations of the Anglican Church and for adding to the controversy over homosexuality within the global Anglican Communion.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the two highest-ranking clergymen in the Church of England, said in their Tuesday statement “We have heard the reports of the recent service in St. Bartholomew the Great with very great concern. We cannot comment on the specific circumstances because they are the subject of an investigation launched by the Bishop of London.”
“Those clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it."
The archbishops said the “various reference points for the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality,” such as the 1987 Synod motion, the 1991 Bishops' Statement “Issues in Human Sexuality,” and the House of Bishops' 2005 statement on civil partnerships, “are well known and remain current.”
The 2005 statement said entering a domestic partnership is “not intrinsically incompatible” with Anglican holy orders, provided partners affirm the standards set out in the 1991 statement “Issues in Human Sexuality.” That earlier statement said clergy “cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships.”