Published: 00:01, 15 April 2017
A retired Eastry vicar who will marry a man 54 years his junior this month has defended himself after being compared to Judas.
Rev Philip Clements, 78, says he repressed his sexuality throughout his career because of the church’s stance on homosexuality.
Now, as he prepares to marry his partner of two years, Florin Marin, 24, he is calling on the Church of England to change its policy on same-sex marriage.
In a letter to the editor of KentOnline's sister paper, the East Kent Mercury, Reg Scarborough of Delfside, Sandwich, commented on Mr Clement’s views and understanding of the Bible.
He said the story was, “an interesting parallel, rather appropriately, leading up to Easter, between Judas Iscariot, who was with Jesus for the three years of his earthly ministry and yet misunderstood him so much”.
He said: “We now have the ex-vicar of Eastry, who has spent even more time in Christian service without understanding the Bible or Christianity, now trying to force the Church into his views about marrying gay clergy.
“I cannot see why the Church should also take any notice of him, especially as he can these days get a (secular) civil ceremony.”
"Judas did a terrible thing. I’ve never betrayed Jesus and I would never encourage people to do that" - Philip Clements
Mr Scarborough believes a church ceremony is for committed Christians and “not for some unholy parody”.
He continued: “If he wishes to have the civil ceremony and go his own way, that is a matter for his own conscience, but he should stop trying to force other committed Christians to deny their faith.”
Mr Clements has responded to his comments, labelling them “over the top”.
He said: “I think it’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’m still a Christian, and loyal and faithful to Jesus and his teaching.
“Jesus taught us to love our neighbours and not to judge. Jesus never once commented on this particular topic.
“It was certainly around in his time. The Romans knew about it and the Greeks before them.
“Judas did a terrible thing. I’ve never betrayed Jesus and I would never encourage people to do that.
“I’m just asking people to think seriously about this topic and to try and understand the position of people like ourselves.
“I know that evangelical fundamentalists will say that this sort of thing.
“I think the Church needs to move on to understand life for many in the 21st century.”
Mr Clements, who grew up in Deal and attended Dover Grammar for Boys school, said he has experienced very few negative responses regarding his sexuality.
He said: “I’ve only had one baptist put her head down and walk past me but she might have done that anyway.
“My friends have accepted it and have sent us messages of support and good wishes for our new life in Romania.
“Those who feel negative about it, we haven’t heard from them.
“I’m sad when people are offended and when they misunderstand, but it isn’t my problem.”
Mr Clements and Mr Marin moved to Romania on Wednesday.
They will return to England to marry at Ramsgate Registry Office on Tuesday, April 25.