This brilliantly argued letter was
submitted to the GUARDIAN yesterday:
As a Church of England priest of 40 years' parish experience, I found your editorial (Bluster in bad faith, 28 February) most important. For too long our denomination has been struggling to release men and women from the shackles of medieval thinking.
Many parish clergy rejoiced at the advent of civil partnerships. We organised a public discussion in church on "how to celebrate a civil partnership in church". The majority of those attending voted in favour of offering a proper service of celebration, with bells, organ, flowers etc. The church council used this information to design a parish policy welcoming to church any who had been through a civil partnership, and offering them a proper Christian celebration. We obtained suitable liturgical material from a senior bishop. Our diocesan bishop agreed in principle with our policy, but refused to permit anything to be done in our church building – OK outside!
I have been asked to bless ships at Appledore shipyard, lifeboats, the new bridge over the river Torridge, school buildings, cars, trains, private homes, homes for the elderly and handicapped, undertakers' offices, local and county councils, a church toilet, pilgrims, new babies, gardens, a shoe shop, the dying, pets (parrots, horses, cats, dogs and stick insects), countless wedding couples, oranges at Christmas and primroses at Easter. All this I did happily, thinking God, through the C of E, was blessing people and their concerns with his non-judgmental love. So why is the C of E leadership seeming to be so unwilling to allow clergy to bless civil partnerships – men and women who want God's blessing on their commitments?
Rev David Chance (retired)
COMMENT: MadPriest, a Church of England clergyman, can confirm that he is not expected to enquire about the manner of life of stick insects before blessing them as long as they are truly repentant. However, he is slightly worried that he may be hauled up before The Inquisition for once blessing a UNISEX toilet on church premises.