An Anglican vicar who became the first in Britain to marry his same-sex partner has announced he is quitting as a minister in the “institutionally homophobic” Church of England.
Father Andrew Foreshew-Cain, a member of the ruling General Synod, is leaving his church in north London to move to the Peak District with husband Stephen, but will not seek another parish as he said he was told he wouldn’t be given one.
“I’m resigning my parishes and won’t be a licenced minister anymore and, because I’m married to Stephen, it was made clear to me that I wouldn’t get a licence for a new church," he told The Independent.
“In the normal run of things, I’d be looking for a parish up north but I can’t have one because of the institutional homophobia of the Church of England.”
At 53, Father Foreshew-Cain agreed he was young to retire but said it had become “wearisome” to constantly fight prejudice.
Officially, the Church forbids same-sex marriage for its clergy, but his was “tolerated” in his north London parish in a way he said it would not be in many parts of the country.
Having worked in the Church for 30 years – 27 of them as a priest – he said his overriding feeling now was one of “relief” as he waits to conduct his final service at St Mary and All Souls in West Hampstead in July.
“The Church of England is an organisation which is primarily institutionally homophobic, which has policies and statements which are harmful to LGBTI people, and I’m looking forward to not being responsible to an organisation which treats gay and lesbian people quite as badly as it does," he said.
He stressed he still had his faith and would carry on going to church. He hopes to remain a campaigning voice for greater equality in the Church.
“There is a kind of pressure in being paid by an organisation which just treats you so badly, and you just have to keep on taking it because that’s how you make a living," he said.
“I don’t know any of my gay and lesbian friends who intend to stay in the Church until the end of their working lives.
"Most of us are supposed to go on until we’re 68, but all of the gay clergy seem to want to take early retirement … I think it’s wearisome, actually, to be constantly the focus for other people’s nastiness.”
Father Foreshew-Cain said he had been told he can’t be a “true Christian” and be married to a man by a senior cleric.
But he stressed that, in contrast to some senior Anglicans, his own congregation had been “wonderful” and very supportive.
“The problem lies in a small sub-section of the Church which is profoundly nasty and homophobic and in a leadership which is institutionally homophobic and refuses to accept that it is," he said.
He said that while there has undoubtedly been real progress in his three decades working for the Church, there remained some way to go before true equality was achieved.
“I don’t expect to be able to see all marriages being celebrated in Church of England parishes for a long time yet. Although I do think there will be thanksgiving services and celebrations for gay marriages, I don’t think it will be full equality.”
Father Foreshew-Cain said his final message for the Church would be that there are risks associated with failing to move with the times.
“It has to truly be the Church of England and not just the church for the minority of people within it, and that means welcoming LGBTI people – or it will eventually become an irrelevance.”