The Rev. Martin Wray (pictured in the gold tights) was just having a grand old time at a “tarts and vicars” party — where he dressed in drag with “shiny gold tights, a little black dress, pink high heels, a pink necklace and a long black wig” — when a photo of him at the party had some members of his congregation complaining that he cast a dark shadow over his church in Tyneside, in northeast England. Wray, who is 59 and has a civil partnership with boyfriend Lee Lovely, insists the reaction had little to do with his attendance at the event, and everything to do with homophobia.
Wray has quit following the stupid cross-dressing scandal, relays the Telegraph.
[…] his family and friends said that he had been called a “pervert” and threatened with violence. His sister said she suspected that his some of his “elderly and very old-fashioned” parishioners had used the pictures as a smokescreen to attack him for his sexuality.
The vicar, 59, had revealed his homosexuality to his flock when he announced that he was entering a civil partnership with his partner Lee Lovely, 34 – a divorced father of one – 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.”
And all because he attended a party that was in fact a fundraiser, in part, for his church where he’s served five of his last 20 years as a vicar.
Disquiet burst into the open last August, when the Rev. Wray was invited to attend a tarts and vicars party being thrown at the Steamboat pub, close to the River Tyne, choosing to go in drag. The evening itself raised several hundred pounds, to be shared equally between the Arts4Wellbeing charity, which provides art workshops for local people with mental health problems, and St Lawrence’s church. Regulars at the pub cheered and applauded both the vicar’s outfit and his daring sense of humour.
But the reaction was very different when the photograph of Rev. Wray in his unconventional outfit appeared in the local newspaper. One worshipper said: “Having his photograph taken was something he should not have allowed to happen, associating St Lawrence’s as it did with the event. It was a mistake and he has since admitted it was a mistake.” The same person added, without elaborating: “That incident was just a trigger. We had other concerns.” A complaint was made to the local diocese and the parish refused to accept the money, while the Rev Wray went on sick leave.
This week, he quit. “I have taken early retirement following advice from my doctor,” he says. “I have apologised to people in the church, but people can say one thing to you and think something different. Perhaps the problem was of my own making. Perhaps I should have been wiser and not taken part in the event. But that’s what life is about. Sometimes it takes you down a different route.”