Bishop Pete Broadbent, fresh from his fence-sitting over the Lambeth Conference and GAFCON, seems to have put this experience to good use. According to a blog post by Ruth Gledhill (see also her article in tomorrow’s The Times, thanks to John Richardson for the link), he has been left in charge of the Diocese of London while his boss, Bishop Richard Chartres, is on holiday. Among the responsibilities delegated to Broadbent was the poisoned chalice of dealing with Rev Martin Dudley who, in May, performed a high profile “gay wedding” of two Anglican priests, of which Ruth has now acquired some pictures (to see them clearly, click on the small versions in her post). And Broadbent seems to have used his skill to find a middle way through this situation, to avoid a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” choice.
This seems to be what happened: Dudley was persuaded to write in July a letter to Bishop Chartres, initially confidential, about the gay wedding ceremony. In this he wrote at length in support of his own position, but also the following:
I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media. I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service, …
and then referring to the directive from the Bishop which he had disobeyed:
I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships.
Now an uncharitable bishop might have considered this letter very far from an adequate response to the situation. Indeed, as Ruth notes,
Dudley is careful not to apologise for anything, in particular the service itself.
Chartres demanded Dudley’s permission to publish the letter, threatening further action if permission was not given. Broadbent, however, has shown extreme charity in calling it “the Rector’s full and frank apology”. He also writes:
Bishop Richard has considered the matter and has decided to accept the Rector’s apology in full. The matter is therefore now closed.
So, in Ruth’s words, Dudley
is to escape any form of discipline or reprimand.
And Broadbent has shown some episcopal wisdom, some Anglican compromise, and some Nelsonian turning of the blind eye to the actual contents of the letter, in allowing this senior priest to flout episcopal authority as well as God’s standards, refuse to apologise properly, and go unpunished. Perhaps by doing this he has avoided a damaging split in the diocese, which unlike the rest of the Church of England is experiencing consistent church growth. But is this God’s wisdom in such a situation?