Anglican minister urges prayers for four-year-old Prince George to be gay

Prince George (above) arrives for his first day of school in London in September 2017.
Prince George (above) arrives for his first day of school in London in September 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (NYTIMES) - A prominent Anglican cleric and gay rights campaigner known for contentious gestures has urged believers to pray for Prince George - age four, and third in line to the throne - to find the love "of a fine young gentleman" when he grows up so as to advance the cause of same-sex marriage in church.

Coming just days after Prince Harry - George's uncle, and fifth in line - announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, a divorced American actress, the suggestion by the Very Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth seemed to illuminate once more the role of royal romance in Britain's imagination and conversation, especially when it collides with tradition.

Prince Harry and Markle have said they will marry in May at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, west of London.

But it is only since 2002 that the Church of England has permitted church marriages for divorced people, "in exceptional circumstances" at the discretion of parish priests.

The church teaching is that marriage is for life.

While same-sex marriage is permitted by law in most of Britain, the Church of England says on its website, "it remains the case that it is not legally possible for same-sex couples to marry" in its churches.

Holdsworth, the provost of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, belongs to the Scottish Episcopal Church, a separate province of the Anglican Communion that voted in June to let its priests solemnise same-sex marriages.

In his campaign to expand on that change, Holdsworth wrote in a blog post on Thursday that believers could "pray in the privacy of their hearts (or in public if they dare) for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, when he grows up, of a fine young gentleman".

Prince George is the elder child of Prince William and the former Catherine Middleton, now called the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

"A royal wedding might sort things out remarkably easily, though we might have to wait 25 years for that to happen," Holdsworth wrote. "Who knows whether that might be sooner than things might work out by other means."

His latest comments drew the outrage of more traditional clerics.

The Reverend Gavin Ashenden, a former royal chaplain, called the comments unchristian.

"It is an unkind and destabilising prayer," Ashenden said. "It is the theological equivalent of the curse of the wicked fairy in one of the fairy tales."

There was no immediate comment from the royal family.