Gay vicar in appeal to Williams after bishop blocks job

Daily Telegraph (England), Mar. 31, 2003
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

An openly homosexual vicar has appealed to the new Archbishop of Canterbury after his diocesan bishop blocked his attempt to move jobs.

The Rev Christopher Wardale urged Dr Rowan Williams to introduce fair employment conditions for gay clergy after a clash with the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull.

His case, which he has outlined in a letter to Dr Williams, is highlighted in a new BBC documentary series, which starts this evening. In a personal reply, Dr Williams told Mr Wardale that he was looking at all the issues involved.

Mr Wardale’s situation will dismay gay rights campaigners, who expect Dr Williams, a liberal on the issue, to relax the Church’s restrictions on practising homosexual clergy.

But evangelicals have warned that the Church will split if the new Archbishop, who has admitted ordaining at least one practising homosexual, softens the hard-line stance of his predecessor, Dr George Carey.

Mr Wardale, 57, the vicar of Holy Trinity, Darlington, has lived openly with his partner, Malcolm Macourt, an academic at Northumbria University, since he was the vicar of Boldon Colliery, near Sunderland, in the 1980s.

His move to Darlington in 1992 initially caused a fuss, but he said that he and his partner were soon accepted by the whole congregation. After 10 years in the parish, he was offered another post in January. But Bishop Turnbull telephoned him to say that he had intervened and the offer for the post had been withdrawn.

The Bishop explained in the three-part documentary, The Power and the Glory, that he was applying current guidelines, which he felt prevented him from granting Mr Wardale a licence to operate anywhere else in the diocese.

The House of Bishops 1991 document Issues in Human Sexuality said that while some active homosexual relationships could be acceptable for lay people, they could never be for clergy.

Mr Wardale, who said that his relationship was acceptable to those who had offered him the new post, added that he was “sad and disappointed” that Bishop Turnbull had intervened without consulting him.

Lambeth Palace said last night that Dr Williams had no comment, but in the BBC documentary he said that he did not intend to impose his private views on the Church.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 31, 2003.
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