Page last updated at 19:39 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 20:39 UK

Bishop blocks gay church blessing

A gay couple's church blessing has been blocked because the ceremony "looked too much like a wedding".

Paul Sewell, 41, and Andy Nicholson, 42 from Metheringham had planned a civil ceremony and then wanted a blessing in their local church in Dunston.

But the service was cancelled after a small service of friendship prayers grew to a 150-guest celebration.

The Bishop of Lincoln, The Right Reverend John Saxbee, said a parish church was not an appropriate venue.

Civil ceremony

The bishop said: "The assumption behind those prayers is that they are just that - prayers. They are not a wedding or a blessing, they are prayers.

"Therefore they would take place in the context where probably just with family or a couple of friends being there in somebody's house or in my chapel or somewhere - not usually in a parish church with 150 people present."

The couple had planned a civil partnership ceremony at Lincoln Register Office on 21 June.

They had asked the Rev Charles Sowden, who is standing in at St Peter's Church in Dunston, near Metheringham, to bless their union.

But after taking advice, Mr Sowden wrote to the couple saying it would be inappropriate for him to perform the ceremony.

Mr Sewell and Mr Nicholson said they had now cancelled the celebration because they could not have the blessing.

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