Welsh priest to ‘marry’ partner
From Wales on Sunday, 15.05.05:
A GAY vicar is poised to become the first clergyman in Wales to “marry” his boyfriend in a civil ceremony.
The Reverend Martin Reynolds and his lifelong lover Chris Iles are to follow in the footsteps of rock superstar Elton John and his partner David Furnish who will tie the knot when gay “weddings” are legalised later this year.
Martin, 52, and his 47-year-old partner will take their vows in the back garden of their Newport home next summer.
The couple, who have a 17-year-old foster son, have welcomed the change in the law but say they would love their relationship to be recognised in the eyes of God.
Last night, the former Cardiff Prison chaplain said: “There have been two great moments in my life. When I fell in love with God and when I fell in love with Chris. They are part of the same story. A story of love.
“I know my sexuality is in contrast to what is said in the Bible. But there has never been a doubt in my mind that what is said in the Bible is open to interpretation.
“Civil partnerships are a wonderful step forward. But it is sad that the only place where such blessings cannot take place are religious buildings. There is something deeply sad about that.”
Full gay marriages are not permitted in Britain. But after December 5, homosexual couples will be able to have civil partnerships recognised by law, allowing them some of the same tax and inheritance benefits enjoyed under marriage.
“We had originally hoped the change in the law would have come into force by next month – the month Chris and I celebrate our 25th anniversary,” said Martin, who was born in Caerphilly.
“But we will be having a ceremony and a blessing in our garden next summer. The blessing will be done by a series of clergy and will involve one retired bishop. I don’t know who will give me away. My 82-year-old mother might be too old!”
Martin spoke of his wedding bells as he encouraged childless couples across Wales to adopt or foster children in desperate need of a family.
The couple’s world changed 13 years ago when they took in Paul, a four-year-old boy with severe learning difficulties, through the Dr Barnardo’s charity.
Three years ago, the pair officially fostered Paul through Cardiff County Council, and they are now looking forward to putting the 17-year-old through college.
Paul, who will be 18 next June, will play a key role at the wedding ceremony.
Martin first met Chris through his uncle 25 years ago.
Although the pair now live in Stow Hill, Newport, they once lived together in the vicarage through his 13-year post as the vicar of Pontyclun and Talygarn, covering both St Paul’s and St Anne’s churches.
Martin is now retired, but he still conducts weddings on a freelance basis.
“I have never been one to hide my sexuality. It is not a bar on you becoming an Anglican vicar. The members of my congregation who knew didn’t mind and the ones that did mind never said anything,” he said.
“Chris and I lived together in the vicarage but I never forced my sexuality on anyone. It wasn’t relevant. What mattered was being a good parish priest. I was devoted to serving God.”
Martin says he knows scores of Welsh gay pensioners who are waiting to form civil partnerships, but hopes celebrities like Elton John don’t steal the march on the issue.
“I think famous people can be a problem. It’s gay people who are in their 60s and 70s that matter,” he said.
“Some celebrities are eccentric and a social change of this calibre needs to be distanced from that, but that’s not wishing Elton and his partner every good wish.
“Gay people are divided about the use of the word marriage. But it is not a problem for me. The Government has made it clear that civil partnerships are the first step for gay people.
“Although we look forward to the same legal parity straight couples enjoy, there is no doubt in my mind that civil partnerships will be equal in value to ‘normal’ marriages.”
Pontyclun parishioner Sylvia Russell last night wished Martin and Chris all the luck in the world.
Retired Sunday school teacher Mrs Russell, 64, whose son picked Martin as his best man at his wedding seven years ago, said: “I am sure everyone connected with St Paul’s will support him. He is a good vicar and everyone around here is fond of him. It’s good news.”
Locals at the Brunel Arms in Pontyclun also raised a glass of good cheer. One local said: “Each to their own.”