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N.Y. Episcopal Priest to Marry Gay Partner

The priest heading an Episcopal parish in Bath, N.Y., has decided to marry his longtime gay partner, according to a recent announcement.

The Very Rev. J. Brad Benson, rector of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, plans to get married this summer in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

“After twenty years of loving relationship, my partner Carl Johengen and I have decided that it is time that we were legally married,” he wrote in the church’s most recent newsletter.

The St. Thomas rector explained that he has begun to see the word “marriage” in purely legal terms and has come to realize that he and his partner “need” the legal rights and responsibilities afforded in a marriage.

“No one questions the rights and responsibilities of a married couple; simply saying, ‘I’m his wife’ or ‘I’m her husband’ opens many legal doors,” he stated.

Benson was one of hundreds of clergy and lay leaders from across New York State who signed a petition in 2008 urging the state legislature to legalize marriage for gays and lesbians. The same-sex marriage measure was defeated by a wide margin in December.

After seeking legal marriage in another state, the gay couple will then seek the church’s blessing through a liturgy which will be attended and presided by three bishops – Rochester Bishop Prince Singh, retired Bishop Jack McKelvey, and Maine Bishop Stephen Lane.

The announcement comes as more dioceses within The Episcopal Church have permitted clergy to wed homosexual couples despite the call by leaders in the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which The Episcopal Church is the U.S. arm, to practice gracious restraint in regards to the blessing of gay and lesbian couples.

Last summer, The Episcopal Church approved a resolution allowing “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal” to “provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church.”

The resolution also noted the need to consider providing theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships. The Episcopal Church does not permit its “Order of Marriage” to be used in the marriage of same-sex couples.

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by Lillian Kwon

April 19, 2010

www.christianpost.com

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Anglican Leader: Irish Church lost all credibility

LONDON – The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility because of its mishandling of abuse by priests, the leader of the Anglican church said in remarks released Saturday.  A leading Catholic archbishop said he was “stunned” by the comments.

The remarks released Saturday marked the first time Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has spoken publicly on the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church. The comments come ahead of a planned visit to England and Scotland by Pope Benedict XVI later this year.

“I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it’s quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now,” Williams told the BBC. “And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility — that’s not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland, I think.”

The interview with Williams, recorded March 26, is to be aired Monday on the BBC’s “Start the Week” program as part of a general discussion of religion to mark Easter. But its publication ahead of the interview caught Catholic leaders off guard.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he had “rarely felt personally so discouraged” as when he heard Williams’ opinions.

“I have been more than forthright in addressing the failures of the Catholic Church in Ireland. I still shudder when I think of the harm that was caused to abused children. I recognize that their church failed them,” a statement, posted on the archdiocese’s Web site, said. “Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend and do not deserve it.”

Martin also noted that that Anglican leaders in Ireland — including the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Dublin John Neill and Bishop Richard Clarke — had distanced themselves from Williams’ statements, with Clarke describing them as careless.

Martin later said that Williams had called him to express regret for the “difficulties which may have been created” by the interview, but it wasn’t clear if that constituted an apology or whether Williams still stood by his remarks.

Calls to Williams’ office seeking comment on his interview and the call to Martin were not immediately returned.

The Catholic church has been on the defensive over accusations that leaders protected child abusers for decades in many countries, and Williams’ criticisms are likely to strain already testy relations between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion — which estimate 1.1 billion and 80 million adherents respectively.

Although both the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury have stressed the importance of healing the Reformation-era rift that split the churches in the 16th century, relations hit a low point last year when the Vatican invited conservative Anglicans to join the Catholic Church.

How many will take up the offer is still unknown, although in the interview Williams said he didn’t think the issue “is going to be a big deal.”

“I think there’ll be a few people who will take advantage of it — and they’ll take advantage of it because they believe they ought to be in communion with the bishop of Rome. And I can only say fine, God bless them.”

The strained relations come at an awkward time for both churches, which are under considerable internal pressure.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by sex abuse scandals in countries such as the United States, Germany and Ireland, where Cardinal Sean Brady faces calls for his resignation following allegations that he played a role in helping to cover up activities of pedophile priests.

The pope himself has come under fire, with critics accusing Benedict — who as a Vatican cardinal directed the Holy See’s policy on handling abuse cases — was part of a culture of secrecy intended to protect church hierarchy.

The Anglican Church, meanwhile, still faces bruising internal debates — or even a potential split — over what rights to extend to homosexuals and women within the church.

The pope’s planned first official visit to Britain in November already has generated controversy and promises of protests after Benedict’s criticism of British rules designed to protect gays and women in the workplace, which have raised fears at the Vatican that the Catholic Church could eventually be prosecuted for refusing to hire gays or transsexuals.

Both Williams and Benedict are due to meet during the visit to Britain, but the archbishop seemed curt when describing how he would greet the pope at Lambeth Palace, his official residence just south of the River Thames.

Williams said the pontiff would be welcomed as “as a valued partner, and that’s about it.”

In the interview, Williams said Christian institutions, faced with the choice of self-protection or revealing potentially damaging secrets, have decided to keep quiet to preserve their credibility.

“We’ve learned that that is damaging, it’s wrong, it’s dishonest and it requires that very hard recognition … which ought to be natural for the Christian church based as it is on repentance and honesty,” he said.

Source:  Associated Press

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