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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Gay priest's sadness over Bishop row
Openly gay Church of England priest Christopher Wardale gives his thoughts on the resignation of bishop-elect Dr Jeffrey John following a row over his sexuality.

My name is Christopher Wardale. I am 57 years old. I am a priest in the Church of England. I am Vicar of Holy Trinity Darlington.

I am gay and am now in the 20th year of a loving and stable same-sex relationship.

I am deeply saddened by the resignation of Jeffrey John as the next bishop of Reading.

It has become clear from the public wranglings of the past month that the Church of England, of which I have been a member all my life, is more concerned with power struggles than the ministry of faithful priests.

The long-term damage to the Church of England will be immense and will cause untold internal divisions for years to come.

Canon Jeffrey John
Canon Jeffrey John declined to take up his new post
It has become clear that the members of one particular faction of the Church feel that they have won a power struggle which they will now use to increase their influence over many issues.

I am certain that the Jeffrey John row is not about the gay issue, per se, but about the nature of authority in the Church.

In the name of a bland unity the Church has sacrificed principles of honour and credibility.

It is also clear that the Church's reputation in society has plummeted. I am deeply saddened.

I have been a priest for nearly 25 years.

I made no secret of my sexuality when I was pointed towards ordination.

I have never trumpeted my sexuality but neither have I ever lied about it, nor about my long, stable and deeply loving relationship with Malcolm Macourt, a now retired academic.

In the name of a bland unity the Church has sacrificed principles of honour and credibility
Christopher Wardale
Like me, my partner is a life long member of the Anglican Church.

My work as a priest in the parish situation has never been questioned, nor my integrity as a priest.

In my present parish, where I have been for over 11 years, my ministry is to an inner urban area, to schools and colleges, to young and old, to those who live in the area and those who work in the area.

I am welcomed to work with the Local Authority in Education matters. I am chaplain to the local theatre, the local branch of the Royal British Legion, and the local Hospice.

I train curates, I tutor students. I am welcomed and affirmed in my ministry.

In the wider Church life has not been so easy.

'Stabbed in the back'

Sometimes I have found myself being praised in public but stabbed in the back by some church leaders.

When I came to Darlington in 1992 the only group who would not invite my partner and I to social gatherings were the local CofE clergy (in case my partner upset the clergy wives!).

One neighbouring Vicar even refused me into his house saying I was the Antichrist.

But that was 11 years ago - and now we are made very welcome throughout.

As the world grows in understanding and affirmation of the breadth and variety of loving, stable relationships, which bring joy and happiness, I am deeply saddened that the Church should move to evermore entrenched positions over the gay issue.

One neighbouring Vicar even refused me into his house saying I was the Antichrist
Christopher Wardale
The Church of England has been seriously debating this issue for 24 years (starting with the Yates Report in 1979) - what more is there to say?

There are gay people, there are gay people living in loving stable relationships, there are gay priests.

I am proud to be one of them.

I am proud to be able to bring my God given skills, and the strength from my relationship to the service of God and his people in this part of His Kingdom.

I am deeply saddened that I am seen, with my brother and sister gay and lesbian priests, as 'an issue' and not as a person.


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