Discarding his dog collar for shiny gold tights, a little black dress, pink high heels, a pink necklace and a long black wig, the Reverend Martin Wray received a warm welcome at the charity event near his church in South Shields, Tyneside. But the reaction when his picture was published in a local newspaper was less enthusiastic, and some parishioners complained to his superiors that he had brought the church into disrepute. Now, after bitter accusations that elements of the Rev Wray's congregation were being "homophobic", the 59-year-old has quit.

The vicar, 59, had revealed his homosexuality to his flock when he announced that he was entering a civil partnership at their local registry office last May. The ceremony came three years after the father-of-one's wife Carole died after a prolonged illness.

Janet Bridges, Rev. Wray's sister, said: "My brother has been subjected to a witch-hunt for being gay. When he announced to his congregation at a service one Sunday that he was getting a civil partnership everyone stood up and applauded. But a lot of people in that church are elderly and very old-fashioned. When his picture appeared in the paper dressed like that some people used it as an excuse because they didn't like the fact he is gay. He started receiving threatening abuse. Martin played me one message left on his phone which threatened violence against him and called him a pervert."

One correspondent to a local paper described Father Martin as "honest, kind and caring". Supporters said he had been "penalised for having a sense of humour" and labelled his critics "hypocrites", while one comment on an internet discussion forum said: "Keep up the good work Martin, and ignore those stupid people intent on causing you grief."

Stuart Bain, the archdeacon of Sunderland, said Rev. Wray had not brought his parish into disrepute and said both he and the Bishop of Jarrow, the Rt Rev. Bryant, had offered him pastoral support and advice but denied homophobia had lain behind the controversy.

"We have not found this to be the case and it is something that the congregation would vehemently refute. They have been deeply hurt by this accusation," he said.

COMMENT: It is that last quote from the archdeacon that disappoints me most. It is a particularly nasty and regular habit of diocesan hierarchies to not only defend haters in church congregations but to claim that those who lead hate campaigns against priests have been "deeply hurt" by the victim of their unchristian behaviour. I have experienced such ecclesiastic pragmatism myself and the sense of betrayal caused me far more emotional suffering than anything the actual hate campaign threw at me. I honestly still lie awake at night trying to work out why those in the Church who had responsibility for my pastoral care could be so cynical and uncaring towards me. But then I was incredibly naive. Until I became a priest in the Church of England I had this silly belief that telling the truth was more important than how much money was placed in the collection plate on a Sunday morning.



  1. I think a number of people have been guilty of naively thinking that being truthful is the right thing to do! I was naive enough to think that it was better to be truthful about my sexuality and my partner when meeting with the DDO regarding my being put forward for ordination. many people in church leadership, including the DDO had identified a clear call, but on hearing about my sexuality were unable to take my application further. I guess I should be thankful I got out quick after Rev. Martin’s experience! How can the church choose to deny people of their calling because they don’t fit into their image of a vicar…isn’t that all that Rev. Martin is guilty of?

  2. Yes. And it depresses me greatly that they have bullied the poor bloke into feeling guilty about his charitable and fun act of compassion.

    The regulars at the pub where the event took place cheered when he entered. When they did that they saw God coming down to be with them where they were. The Church is stupid to turn its back on such mission opportunities. They happen so rarely nowadays.

  3. THEY have been “deeply hurt”???

    Spare me.

    Now, is it possible to be accused of hate, when you’re innocent of same? Yes. [FYI: Been there, done that.]

    …but it IS a charge to reach out TO, not AT, the one(s) who incorrectly believe you hate them—NOT whine that YOU are the victim! >:-/

  4. Pathetic, just simply pathetic. If homophobes do not like the word, they can stop the conduct.


  5. Please back up any allegations with a media source or be more circumspect. It’s me who will be served with a libel writ if we are not careful.

  6. Any potential employer who sees this kind of vulgarity and anti-Catholicism on your blog is likely to avoid you like the plague, if only to protect himself.

  7. Oh look, it’s “I’m Making a COURAGEOUS Stand for Morality!” Anonymous.

    Which of your two faces looks at the screen when typing, Anon?

  8. Well, vulgarity isn’t very Anglican but anti-catholicism’s pretty much built into your DNA, isn’t it?
    I mean, the Orthodox are at least as anti-gay and dress just as weirdly but you never mention them.
    And I’m an atheist, so I don’t have dog in this fight.

  9. I do, but rarely. The reason being that I riff of the media. Anyway, there are far more anti-Anglican posts than anti-catholic posts and I have far more respect for catholics than atheists like you, Rhode Island Troll, who just can’t stop visiting Christian blogs. I’m sure you have a handy reason for you compulsion but we all know it’s because you want to be one of us.

  10. No, I’d prefer to hang around Hitchens and Dawkins and others who have done real good in the world and haven’t claimed to be in contact with invisible aliens.
    And you are so bitchy, you anglicans. Are you that upset at shrinking away to nothing (in the US Episcopalians are about to shrink to under 2 million for the first time since the Coolidge administration and there’s no sign of ending the decline for ANY Mainline Protestant church anytime soon.
    There are about as many ex-Catholics as Catholics; there will be more in ten years.
    The fastest growing group among those under 30? None of the above.

  11. No, I’d prefer to hang around Hitchens and Dawkins and others who have done real good in the world and haven’t claimed to be in contact with invisible aliens.

    Well, fuck off then. You are just boring us.