A gay priest in the Diocese of Monmouth and his long-term partner of 22 years became the official foster parents two weeks ago of a 15 year old teenager who has suffered severe learning difficulties and behavioural problems which make the child difficult to place. Both men have been known and helpful to the child – when his mother could not cope – for over ten years. Having been trained, both men have worked with social services to give respite care to the boy, taking him into their home for long periods to relieve the strain on his mother. He said social services were looking for a suitable placement with a family, and if one was found, then the boy would no longer stay with him and his partner. “This isn’t an issue of me being a priest….it highlights how there are no placements available for someone with his (the boy’s) level of challenging behaviour.”
The priest gave up parish ministry five years ago to look after his elderly mother, who now lives with them. His partner works to support the extended family. The couple have been the constant people in the boy’s life, and have now taken responsibility for him. “Our boy is wonderful, but he is 15 going on six, and we are told that, with his level of difficulty, it is very unlikely that anyone else with the appropriate skills will be found to care for him.”
“There are hundreds of children waiting for care, whose families have no one to help them. I don’t want to sound bitter and nasty, and I value the ministry of bishops; but all this about not being a family is such a nonsense. We have built this house around my mother, and the reality is that we have a wonderful life, full of friends and family. For me, after loving God, the imperative is loving your neighbour.”
The priest intended the story to be a constructive contribution to what he considered an ill-informed debate on the Adoption and Children Bill in the House of Lords two weeks ago. Bishops had voiced strong reservations about same-sex couples’ being granted the right to adopt, the Bishop of Chelmsford describing the “pick and mix” family as “a clear rejection” of Judaeo-Christian views.
The priest told BBC Wales News Online “In an ideal world, I agree that a mother and father are the best – that not to say that I agree with their (the fundamentalists’) philosophy about gay people.” Asked whether his bishop, Dr Rowan Williams has been supportive, the priest added: “Dr Williams has shown neither support nor disdain for me personally, and has always acted with the finest pastoral concerns.”
The priest met Dr Williams on Saturday when his offer to surrender his permission to conduct services was accepted. Dr Williams said: “He came to me before these allegations came out in the newspapers. He has surrendered his permission to take church services.”
Church traditionalists opposed to homosexuality have been angered by the news, arguing children should be raised in heterosexual, two-parent families. The conservative evangelical group Reform has said Dr Williams is “validating” the gay movement in defiance of Church policy. “Social services have been irresponsible,” said Church Society chair George Curry. “The Bible tells us same-sex relationships are always sinful and wrong “. “Ideally, what you want to do is find an environment where this child and any child can be looked after by heterosexual parents. “Any Christian leader who hears of a clergyman in sexually active same-sex relationship must be disciplined. We cannot have our leaders endorsing immorality.”
The archbishop’s representative on the Church in Wales child protection panel, Dr Heather Payne, said Mr Curry was “trying to make a hostage to fortune out of Dr Williams”. “[Many] foster children have major problems … and are children in distress. “What we are looking for is people able to help support them, build their resilience and deal with any challenging behaviour. “It is simply inadequate to focus on one aspect of somebody’s behaviour and say ‘that qualifies you or doesn’t – that is not the way foster carers are approved.”