Priest abandons Church of England in gay wedding protest

A former Ludlow priest today revealed he is turning his back on the Church of England so he can lead the weddings of gay and mixed-religion couples.

Mark Townsend

A former Ludlow priest today revealed he is turning his back on the Church of England so he can lead the weddings of gay and mixed-religion couples.

Mark Townsend, from Leominster, said he had grown tired of the “creakiness and backwardness” of the church so he will join the Open Episcopal Church.

He wants to be able to express his pagan-leaning beliefs in the new role and a druid chief and goddess priestess have been invited to his induction at 3pm on June 18 at the Lion Ballroom, Leominster.

The ceremony will be led by the Right Reverend Jonathan Blake, best known for conducting a wedding on Channel Four’s Big Brother’s show.

Mr Townsend, 43, who preached at Ludlow’s St Laurence’s Church in the 1990s, said: “I still see myself as a progressive Christian priest but I’m aware this decision and the induction will raise a few eyebrows.

“But I’ll be able to be myself finally and do things like gay ceremonies, unusual baptisms and marriages between Christians and Buddhists. I still love the Church of England but I got tired of the creakiness and backwardness of it all.

“I am very much a radical, but the Open Episcopal Church is very similar in structure and tradition to the Church of England. What it will do is to continue my very eclectic ethos and serve people who are right on margins of our society.”

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Comments for: "Priest abandons Church of England in gay wedding protest"


Not natural.How long will it be before it is made compulsory to be homosexual.


Hi John

I am a gay man. I had no choice in choosing my sexuality at any stage in my life. I KNOW that Jesus accepts everyone. By the way homosexuality exists in nature in the animal kingdom as well as the human one. It is, therefore, natural. Of course it will never be compulsory to be homosexual. No-one can force someone to be gay just as much as any one can force some one to be heterosexual.


Of course it's natural, you silly man.


You never know John, it could also be contageous..

Sarah A

Oh, do grow up.

I know that isn't a particularly constructive thing to say, but neither was your comment.


Sounds like a true Christian to me. I only wish there were more like him. Congratulations!


I am a lesbian. I've never had any interest in men. I've tried dating them but it would be like you, John Jones, dating a man: uncomfortable. I was born a gay woman, and I'll die one. This is how I was made.


Good on you Mark - excellent news


I am so pleased I left the Church of England when I did (if this is a true and accurate report that is!) I became a Methodist just over a year ago


Well done Mark!

May your spiritual path go from strength to strength.

Much love xx

Father Aidan+

Wow! "Burning at the stake? a beheading?" Really?

I do not always agree with Father Mark's perspectives or moral values; but I do know that Fr Mark would never ever treat someone in such an unchristian manner as to even suggest such hatred and degradation toward others. and for that matter, neither would our Lord Jesus Christ- who died for love. In fact, one might say, Christ died for having dinner and hanging out with the wrong group of people- tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners!

There seems to be two polar extremes in Christianity today- the ultra liberal who seeks to jettison all of traditional Christian beliefs and values; and the ultra conservative fundamentalists who show only hate, degradation, judgmentalism, condescension, and self-righteousness.

I'd much prefer the friendship of someone like Father Mark, with whom I could have an open and honest discussion of our common ground and even strong debate about our differences; than the friendship with someone who manifests hate, disrespect, and judgement.

Christ taught that we should judge ourselves first. Pull the gigantic beam out of our own eye before pointing out the speck of dust in someone else.

If we are to err, let it be on the side of mercy; not the executioners axe!

R Suppards

I don't agree with homosexual marriages but all this just amplifies my belief that religion - no matter what flavour - is nothing but the purest form of fascism. "Do it our way or be eternally damned." "Do it our way or be cast aside from the rest." "Do it our way or face the fires of Hell." What tosh! No wonder all religious houses are struggling with membership. In these enlightened times, people can see religion for what it is - an empty farce, a paper tiger, an unsubstantiated fairy tale.

Nikki Hatch

Father Aidan - what a balanced and open-hearted response. So refreshing after having read some of the replies here. x

eva land

[Christ died for having dinner and hanging out with the wrong group of people- tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners!]

[Father Aidan – what a balanced and open-hearted response. So refreshing after having read some of the replies here. x]

These two statements are a contradiction, prostitutes are victims and who's to say who is a sinner? (and a bit unfair on the inland revenue!)

I'm not so sure about homosexuality existing in the animal world as sex is an instinct but is also used for dominence, power and survival of the fittest.

We are more sophistiated than other animals relying on instinctive behaviour but the church is a form of control and elitism as were older pagan beliefs.


PJ and Mm. To be a homosexual is NOT natural, if it was natural, you would not be here. Think about it.


Sure, Homosexuality isn't natural, it's a choice.

Just like Hetrosexuality.

I remember the day I chose to be Hetrosexual.

It was a Thursday. And I think it was raining. Mr Noseybonk was on the TV. I should have been doing my revision but no, I thought, I'm going to be Hetrosexual.

Perhaps others, including John, would like to reminisce on the moment they chose to be Hetrosexual.


Sexuality isn't a matter of choice - it's just the way people are.

Bigotry, on the other hand, is very much a choice. Sadly we have too many people who like to hate others simply because of their religious choices, the colour of their skin or their sexuality.

Sadly, there's even a so-called political party for such narrow-minded people.

Now that sort of blind, mindless prejudice is certainly not natural...!


What rubbish.

Your qualification for something being 'natural' or 'unnatural' is based entirely on its ability to aid in reproduction.

Following your flawed reasoning, people who are born without the ability (or indeed the desire) to have children are unnatural.


*poof* and all gays disappeared in a puff of logic. Oh wait no, they are still here.... explain that "unnatural" thing again?

If it was natural, you would not be here... hrm... I think we need a science band-aid on aisle WTF.

twisting my melon

I don't know enough about homsexuality to comment but i always thought that a priest was the Catholic version of a Vicar..


Not strictly true I don't think. I've heard the phrase priest used often in reference to High Church Anglicanism.

After the Reformation there was probably a bit of a reluctance to use the term, but I was surprised to learn the other week that there are even a group of Anglican clergymen who believe in the transubstantiation, which was one of the principal issue of schism between the Catholic and Anligcan churches.

It takes all sorts...

eva land

Nothing can really be abnormal or unnatural unless there are rules there to say so, John and who makes the rules?

If a man or woman are infertile they can choose to try and use modern treatments to achieve parenthood.

If a man or woman have cancer they can try to defeat it with medical help.

If a couple are gay and they would like to be parents they can make that choice and the obstacles that they have to overcome means that they are likely to be more informed and positive role models than many others who have children.

What's natural about people dressing up in flowing robes and dictating to other people that an interesting story and a so called, all powerful but non existent person entitles them to make rules.

People have a choice whether to believe or accept those rules fortunately.

It is sad that the fear of no longer existing ourselves is used as a lever to play on people's fear of death.

Not existing before we were born wasn't so bad was it?


Nistagmus, Yes I remember it well, It was when I realized at an early age in school,during the 1950s that boys and girls were different, I fancied what a girl had but could not understand how two men could do it. so at that time I must have been hetrosexul.No sex education in our day, like the animals it comes naturally to you. And it did throughout my teen years.(I still cant understand why men go togeather.) Homosexuals were about in our day but they kept it to themselves and did not show it off like now.


No, that's you remembering when you *realised* you were heterosexual. I want you to reminisce on when you *chose* to be heterosexual.

You know, because sexuality is a choice, isn't it ?

However, I'm glad to hear your recollection of trying to understand how two men could do it. I hope you didn't spend too much energy on the subject. Here's hoping you've worked it out by now.

eva land

Why don't you keep your bigoted views to yourself then John?

Don't forget BTW that we defeated the Nazis thanks to a brilliant homosexual,and wonderful kind man, Alan Turing who had managed to break the enigma code. He was then punished after the war by ignorance and bigotry and finally committed suicide.

a weirdo


Remember that the de-facto standard bible under most Christians "The King James Bible" Was translated by a Gay king,

Ann Tether

All I can say is that I am glad I know Mark, his views to me are far more Christian than the established Church preaches. Where in the gospels does Jesus declare gay people to be sinners.... I think he said ' let him who is without sin cast the first stone'.

I blame St Paul for most of the bigotry who for some reason many Christians take his teachings as truth... I don't.

Nick Farrell

I think that standing up for what you believe in makes him a true example of what being a Christian should be.

He believes that he can help more people by sacrificing something that others would find comfortable.

I am not gay, but I left the Church because I was fed up with it being hijacked by people who seemed to think that Jesus was a right wing moralist from the American mid-west. Sadly the Anglicans are trying to appease these types at the expense of rationality.

While they are busy casting stones, they are missing the fact that Jesus says the only people who have that right have committed no sin.