The first Church of England vicar in a same-sex marriage is leaving his parish and claims “institutional homophobia” in the church means he is blacklisted from getting another job.
Andrew Foreshew-Cain, 53, a member of the General Synod, resigned from his London parish on Sunday, telling parishioners it was a “relief” because his ministry, and that of other gay and lesbian clergy, was “barely tolerated rather than fully accepted and celebrated”.
The vicar of St Mary with All Souls, Kilburn, and St James in West Hampstead is moving to Manchester where his husband, Stephen, whom he married in 2015, is now working.
“In the normal course of things I would look for a job in the area,” he told the Guardian. “But I am on a blacklist. I can’t carry on being a priest because the institutional homophobia of the church makes it impossible.
“I am sure lots of parishes would give me a job quite happily, but it is finding a bishop who would be willing to take the risk of licensing me to that parish. I am far too prominent.”
The Church of England bans clergy from gay marriage, but it has been tolerant of him in his current post.
Foreshew-Cain said the church’s stance was not only harmful to LGBT people but also “profoundly damaging” to the Christian community in the UK because of the message it sent to the wider community outside the church.
In a letter to parishioners, he explained: “When we married I was told that if I left here then an active ministry officially in the Church of England would be over, and that is likely to be the case.” He said the current leadership, “whilst willing to allow me to continue here, is unwilling to license me to a ministry elsewhere.”
He wrote of the “constant pressure” of working “for an institutionally homophobic organisation that blindly denies that its policies and practices are deliberately and harmfully discriminatory and wrong”.
He added: “I am looking forward to no longer feeling that a significant part of me is unwelcome and rejected by the organisation that I work for and have served faithfully for nearly 30 years.”
He is now looking forward to renovating the couple’s new home in the Peak District, which is, “with delicious irony”, he said, an old vicarage.
“I will carry on going to church. I will find a Christian community where I can worship and be part of and contribute and be welcome. I am not giving up on being a Christian. I am having my ability to function as a priest denied,” Foreshew-Cain said.
He said he knew of between 20 and 25 clergy in same-sex marriages, but most operated beneath the radar or had quietly converted their civil partnerships to marriage.
A spokesperson for the diocese of London said: “Fr Andrew Foreshew-Cain is currently a member of the clergy in the diocese of London. We understand that he has plans to move to Manchester for personal reasons but the diocese has not received his resignation at this time.”