The Church of England said Saturday that two gay priests may have broken its rules, after a newspaper report that they exchanged vows and rings in Britain's first ever church "wedding" ceremony.
The Sunday Telegraph said clerics Peter Cowell and David Lord "married" at one of England's oldest churches -- Saint Bartholomew the Great in London -- last month, using one of the church's most traditional wedding rites.
AdvertisementThe couple had registered their legal civil partnership status before the ceremony.
The Church of England does not allow same-sex ceremonies in church, although some blessings have been carried out.
A Church of England spokesman told AFP they had "no reason" to believe that the ceremony did not take place but added: "What we seem to have here is a fairly serious breach of the rules by an individual or groups of individuals."
News of the ceremony could not come at a worse time for the worldwide Anglican communion, which risks a damaging split because of member churches' diverging attitudes towards homosexuality, particularly amongst clergy.
Conservative churches, mainly in Africa, have been odds with their more liberal, Western counterparts since the ordination of an openly gay US priest, Gene Robinson, as a bishop in 2003.
That led to a moratorium on further ordination of gay clergy but the subject is expected to be divisive issue at the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in the coming weeks.
The Sunday Telegraph quoted the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Henry Orombi, as saying that the ceremony, performed by a vicar using the marriage liturgy with readings, hymns and a Eucharist, was "blasphemous".
He called on Williams to take decisive action if the Anglican communion is not to "disintegrate".
"What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us," he told the newspaper.
The Church of England spokesman said he hoped the news would not affect relations between member churches, stressing: "The Church of England has not changed its rules (on the subject) at any stage."
The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in whose diocese the ceremony took place, was unavailable for comment, his spokesman told AFP.