Gay priests should defy rules and marry, says key bishop
Homosexual clergy should follow their conscience and defy the Church of England's restrictions on same-sex marriage, a prominent bishop said last night as the first ceremonies take place in the UK today.
The Bishop of Buckingham, Rev Alan Wilson, said priests should be "creative" to get around restrictions on blessings for same-sex couples and that gay clergy who wish to marry should do so in defiance of the official line.
He also claimed that several serving bishops were in gay partnerships, and urged them to publicly acknowledge their status for the sake of "honesty and truthfulness" and consider marrying.
Joined by an alliance of seven retired bishops, he condemned the church's position on gay marriage as "morally outrageous" and said it made him "ashamed".
His outspoken intervention comes as the church braces for rebellion from some gay priests, as well as pressure from overseas not to soften its stance or risk breaking up an 80 million-strong global church.
British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the introduction of gay marriages, saying they would make British society stronger and were a tribute to "the sort of country we are".
From today, same-sex couples can marry in England and Wales in a radical departure from the centuries-old understanding of marriage.
The change marks a major rupture between the definitions of marriage accepted by the state and the church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev Justin Welby, made clear he accepts the law has changed but insisted his opposition had not changed.
Yet other bishops openly welcomed the change in the law. The Bishop of Salisbury, Rev Nicholas Holtam, congratulated those marrying today and said it marked a "new reality".
Bishop Wilson and the seven retired bishops went further, joining an alliance of Christian and Jewish leaders marking the change as a cause to "rejoice".