A clergyman has accused his own denomination of “homophobia” after a gay couple were denied the right to marry in several Uttoxeter churches.
Last week, the Advertiser revealed that Thomas Clark and Lee Tams were “angry and upset” at being denied a church wedding in town.
Subway supervisor Mr Clark said “sexuality should not be an issue” after five churches turned the couple down.
Two were Church of England – a denomination whose national policy does not allow its holy buildings to host same-sex weddings.
Now retired Church of England priest Robert Ellis has described that policy as “homophobia wrapped up in bad theology”.
He said: “The Church of England is in a complete mess on this issue and there are priests up and down the country who are willing to operate creatively within the present ridiculous restrictions that the Church of England has imposed on itself.
“In fact, I do not know why the gay community even bothers with us.
“The present stance is basically homophobia wrapped up in bad theology, which in some areas has led to an intrinsically homophobic institution where a lot of people are hiding behind arcane ideas.
“To my children it is a total nonsense and like many of their generation they see the church as toxic.
“Getting a major historic institution to change is never easy but, for many of us, it is about putting our heads above the parapet and being counted so that change will come.
“After all, rules are there to protect us – not inhibit us.
“Change will come – but sadly not quickly enough to help Lee Tams and Thomas Clark.”
Uttoxeter couple Mr Clark, 25, and Mr Tams, 28, have now decided to tie the knot at Burton Register Office in May and hold their reception at Bradley House Club, Uttoxeter.
But Rev Ellis, from Marchington, has offered to hold a religious ceremony after the couple make their legal vows.
He said: “There are many clergy like myself who would feel excited and privileged to work with a couple on devising a religious wedding ceremony following the legal registration of their marriage in the local registry office.
“I have done this on dozens of occasions in various locations such as hotels, restaurants, homes and other wedding venues.
“I’ve always found it very moving and significant and the ceremony usually includes the traditional elements of a welcome and introduction, consent, vows, blessing and exchange of rings, prayers, music and a request for God’s blessing on the couple.
“God is not confined to a church building and there are many lovely venues available for such wedding ceremonies.”
The former General Synod member also had a personal message for Mr Clark and 28-year-old Imperial Laundry worker Mr Tams, who live in New Road.
He said: “Lee and Thomas, please forgive our stupidity and timidity.
“We’re getting there but in the meanwhile many of we clergy are more than happy to help on what has to be one of the most significant and important days of your lives.
“Congratulations and hopefully without being patronising, God bless you both.”
A spokesperson of the Church of England’s Lichfield Diocese said: “The traditional teaching of the church is that marriage is a life-long union between and man and a woman and the diocese is committed to that teaching.
“At the same time, following the Church of England’s General Synod in February, there was a call for a ‘radical new Christian inclusion’ of gay and lesbian people in the church.
“We are working with LGBT clergy and lay people to look at what that means for churches across our diocese and are committed to building an inclusive and faithful church that loves and serves all its communities”.
Mr Clark said: “We are so grateful for the minister’s offer and his thoughts about all of this.
“I hope we can have a blessing from him if the offer is still open.”