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christianAn openly gay priest who defied the Church of England rules by continuing to officiate at a church in Sussex has been stopped preaching by diocese officials.

Reverend David Page was asked by St Thomas the Martyr in Winchelsea to continue preaching even though he had refused to disclose the nature of his gay relationship to church officials. However, after seeking official permission to preach a second time, Mr Page has now been asked to stop.

Mr Page believes the church is being homophobic, but the Diocese of Chichester said strict rules governed who officiated, saying that Mr Page did not have the necessary permissions to preach and the matter was now the subject of internal disciplinary proceedings.

The Church of England currently allows for the ordination of gay priests as long as they are celibate.

Mr Page said: “The Winchelsea community are up in arms about this, seeing it as, in essence, a homophobic act.”

He said in 2008 the Bishop of Lewes, the Right Reverend Wallace Benn, had refused him permission to minister at St Thomas the Martyr because he refused to answer questions about his relationship with his civil partner.

The church’s parochial church council (PCC) invited him to preach and lead worship despite an appeal against the decision being ignored.

The Rector of Winchelsea , the Reverend Howard Cocks said while preaching on Sunday: “Permission… was refused on the grounds that he is in a civil partnership and was not prepared to discuss the nature of their relationship, finding the questioning intrusive.

“Both he and myself have been cited under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 – David for exercising ministry and me for permitting it.”

As Mr Cocks is due to retire, the parish again applied for permission for Mr Page to preach at the church.

In a statement The Diocese of Chichester said that Mr Page had been ministering even though he had not been granted a Bishop’s licence or Permission to Officiate: “This is a requirement of canon law and may not be disregarded.”

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