British Vicar To Marry Nigerian Gay

Reverend Colin Coward and his Nigerian Bobby Egbele.

•Reverend Colin Coward and his Nigerian Bobby Egbele.

A  65-year-old vicar has stunned church bosses by announcing plans to ‘marry’ his  25-year-old Nigerian male model boyfriend, the Daily Mail of London reported today.

•Reverend Colin Coward and his Nigerian Bobby Egbele.

Gay Reverend Colin Coward, a priest at St John the Baptist church in Devizes,  Wiltshire, is entering into a civil partnership with his boyfriend Bobby Egbele. But the marriage has caused a stir among Christians because the couple plan to  receive a ‘blessing’ service in church after tying the knot.

Reverend Colin Coward fell in love with Nigerian model Bobby Egbele after they  met at a Christian conference in Togo in 2007. The pair plan to tie the knot in  October

Rev Coward has also refused to confirm that he will remain celibate following  the union, which is a requirement the Church of England asks of its ordained gay

clergy. Today, Rev Coward, who lives with Bobby in Marston, near Devizes, revealed that  he hopes his union sets a ‘visible example’ to other gay people within the  church.

He said: ‘My goal is for everyone within the church to feel comfortable with the situation because at the moment the majority of gay Christians marry secretly.

‘It is a taboo subject but the church is now under huge pressure to change its  stance and that pressure will only increase in the future.  More…Catholic    charity faces closure after losing appeal over gay adoption  ‘Clearly the blessing is going to be quite a sensitive issue. I know that many   people will see it and view it with horror.

‘But we are both deeply committed Christians so it would be unthinkable for me  not to do it in church and not to do it with the congregation and with all of  our friends.

‘I hope my wedding will inspire others and set a visible example to the church  that we are not afraid.’

Reverend Coward realised he was gay as a teenager and was ordained as a priest  in 1976 after giving up his job as an architect.

He came out openly as a gay vicar in 1991 before setting up the international  gay and lesbian campaign group Changing Attitudes in 1995.

Rev Coward plans to refuse the request that he remain celibate Rev Coward met  Bobby in 2007 at a Christian conference in Togo, West Africa, and the pair fell  in love before getting engaged earlier this year.

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Fashion designer and model Bobby, whose full name is Bobby Ikekhuame Egbele,  grew up in Nigeria and runs an online clothing shop Bobafrique, where he models  the clothes.

The pair are set to marry on October 9 at the Register Office in Devizes before

having a service at St John the Baptist church.

However, the ceremony will be a Communion Eucharist service rather then a

blessing, which is forbidden for homosexual couples.

Rev Coward said: ‘Churches are not supposed to bless civil partnerships. It can  bless almost anything else animals, bombs, battleships, armies going to war but  gay couples? No.

‘So our church blessing has to be carefully-worded in so far as it does not use  the word blessing in the context of the two of us in relationship.’

Rev Coward’s boss, the Right Reverend Stephen David Conway, who is the Bishop of   Ramsbury, is also expected to ask him to remain celibate – a request he plans to  refuse.

Under Church of England laws sex is only permitted for married couples and  same-sex civil partnerships are not officially regarded as marriage. Rev Coward said: ‘I have big doubts whether he will ask me that because it’s a   very intrusive question. It’s a ridiculous situation and a real mess. ‘What we’re allowed to do, as a gay couple, is what this is all about and  certainly those in ordained ministry are not supposed to be sexually active. ‘But in practice, some bishops absolutely will give their approval knowing that  a couple is in a civil partnership and that they are sharing the same bed, and  will encourage them to do that.’

A spokesman for the Diocese of Salisbury confirmed they have permitted the  service to go ahead but described it as ‘separate’ from the civil ceremony.   He said: ‘A Eucharistic service celebrating friendship is what has been  sanctioned in this case. This is entirely separate from any civil partnership  ceremony.’

Tony Green, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, believes the  uncertain situation is a ‘typically Anglican fudge’. He said: ‘The Bishops of the Church of England clearly did not want to be seen  denying their priests something which is a legal right.

‘Yet at the same time they had to uphold the official teaching of the Church of  England concerning gay priests needing to be celibate.

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