Thinking Anglicans

Hereford case: Thursday report

Today, Thursday, John Reaney gave evidence to the tribunal, see this report from the Press Association Bishop ‘embarrassed’ gay job applicant:

…At the meeting on July 19, Bishop Priddis wanted to ask Mr Reaney, who currently works for the Weston Spirit charity, the reasons why he had left his youth worker post in the Diocese of Chester in 2002 after 16 months.

Mr Reaney told the tribunal today he resigned after being asked to choose between his partner and his job.

Around four months prior to the meeting with Bishop Priddis, Mr Reaney said this five-year relationship had come to an end.

During a two-hour meeting at The Palace in Hereford, which was also attended by John Chapman, the chairman of the Hereford Diocesan Board of Education, Mr Reaney claims the Bishop first asked him about his relationship history.

“I said I was not in a sexual relationship and was not looking for one and that I was able to exercise self control,” said Mr Reaney.

“The Bishop put it to me that this situation could change. I made it very clear to the Bishop that I was not seeking a relationship and would adhere to his wishes if I were under his authority.

“I would communicate with him if I was struggling. He asked me ’what would you do if you met someone?’

“I told that if I felt a relationship might develop in the future, I would discuss it with him.

“However, I reiterated to him that I was not in a sexual relationship and I did intend to remain that way and I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post.”

He added: “When the Bishop asked me if I thought it was appropriate for a Youth Officer to have such a homosexual relationship, I turned to the Bishop and said ’before we go any further what is your stance?’

“His words to me were ’whilst many of our colleagues are becoming more liberal on the issue, I find myself becoming more conservative.’

“At this point my heart sank. That was the turning point in the conversation for me.”

Mr Reaney said he was left “very embarrassed and extremely upset” following the meeting…

BBC Bishop ‘upset’ gay lay applicant

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Caliban
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Caliban

That a bishop would treat anybody in this way frankly beggars belief. I’m ashamed that +Priddis went to my college. He certainly didn’t learn his manners (or his morals, I suspect) here.

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest
Leonardo Ricardo

I wonder if HRH Prince Charles would/could be hired by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, without Archbishop Rowan “stepping in?”

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

This is of course just one of the depositions to be made. If it turns out to be an accurate picture of events, it illustrates perfectly why church conservatives who claim to make a distinction between homosexual orientation (ok, if celibate) and homosexual practice (not ok) are, at best, attempting to deceive themselves as well as us about their real attitudes. Mr. Reaney’s account has him telling the Bishop of Hereford that he was gay, but celibate. The Bishop’s reply was: “That could change.” When Mr. Reaney attempted to give assurances that he would remain celibate while in the Bishop’s… Read more »

Neil
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Neil

This account is very moving, and rather than comment, I think the appropriate response is prayer. For both sides. I guess the Bishop will have had no idea of the pain and hurt he has caused and will tomorrow hear the words ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ with a new heart and penitence.

Etheldreda17
Guest

This case for me highlights the problems the Church of England and other Anglican churches are facing. Surely Christians want to give good examples of behaviour in relationships of whatever sexuality. The trouble is at present to challenge certain aspects of gay living incurs the wrath of a rather vocal pro gay lobby. And at the same time it doesn’t seem possible for Bishops to point to good loving gay relationships and affirm them, as good examples. Where will this go?

Craig Nelson
Guest

Now that I have discovered this rather fantastical story is in fact real (still struggling over that) I am, I have to admit, reeling from the revelations from the ET.

The words that come to mind are (in no particular order) ‘bad faith’, ‘bigotry’ and a conclusion that old time religion – sadly but inevitably – leads to old time bigotry.

The applicant was subjected to gross discrimination (whether lawful or not remains to be seen) but from what we have heard so far I am utterly appalled.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“Mr Reaney said he was left “very embarrassed and extremely upset” following the meeting…” He is not the one who should have left the meeting “very embarrassed and extremely upset.” It is the Bishop who should be embarrassed for arrogantly judging Mr. Reaney’s promise and word to be inadequate. Does the Bishop think that any promise of celibacy so given by a gay man would be abandoned on a whim? Does that reflect the Bishop’s lurid imagination? A lesbian priest friend of mine once remarked that if gays and lesbians had as many sexual encounters as straight people imagined we… Read more »

Bob in SWpa
Guest
Bob in SWpa

Does the Good Bishop ask his married straight employees, “Could you be swayed to leave your wife or commit adultery?” Liberal or conservative it’s wrong. Are you going to sin today??? Like the HRH getting a job pun in above post.

Bill Carroll
Guest

Should any person give this kind of assurances to a bishop or other ecclesiatical authority? I myself would refuse, even if it meant I didn’t get a job that I wanted. But I’m a straight man married to a woman, so I don’t have to. In any interview I’ve ever had, including pre-ordination interviews, I was very careful to keep my integrity, because once you give it away, it’s very difficult to get back. Are there any circumstances where it would be permissible to promise celibacy? The bishop’s questions would violate the canons in TEC as I read them, but… Read more »

Dennis
Guest

Neil, even though you are talking about an evangelical you are still able to hold out hope that he will realize the hurt and pain he has caused.

Wow. You are truly an optimist.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“Mr. Reaney’s account has him telling the Bishop of Hereford that he was gay, but celibate. The Bishop’s reply was: “That could change.””

The Bishops respons was: I don’t believe you!

Josh Thomas
Guest

Whatever country we live in, we are all Nigerians.

Fred Baines
Guest
Fred Baines

It is clear that Bishop Priddis believes active homosexual relationships are sinful, and that John Reaney doesn’t. It seems from John’s testimony, that the Bishop simply didn’t believe that he could remain celibate, but only the Bishop can tell us whether or not he did or didn’t believe that. Maybe the Bishop didn’t want an employee teaching that what the Bishop believed was sinful, wasn’t sinful.

Pluralist
Guest

The more you read the case, the worse it gets. The guy is clearly kowtowing to the demands made by this institution (but doubtful in law for a lay appointment) and in front of his inquisitor, and this inquisitor on a whim of becoming more conservative pulls the rug from under his feet. And then appoints no one else, so it looks like discrimination was the means to make a last minute decision to save some money. As the grounds stack up against this bishop, I hope he gets taken to the cleaners and then he might have a thought… Read more »

harvard man
Guest
harvard man

Seems the bishop overstepped here, if this is an accurate account (and there are always two sides, so let’s see what comes in further discovery). Church agreement on appropriateness of a clergy or staff member living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage is clear from the last Lambeth, but clearly challenged in many TEC and COE parishes. Regardless, it’s an area of open contest, so it seems not inappropriate to have it be a consideration. However, once committed to remaining celibate as this candidate did, seems inappropriate to disqualify. Sexuality is not the issue here, actions and lifestyle are.… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Its not simply up to the Church, though. Its a question of how the law is interpreted and how far the Church’s exemption from the regulations that all other institutions have to abide by should be viewed.

Personally,. if this is their game, then I think its about time all exemptions were done away with. why should religionists have any special status, in any case? This isn’t a theocracy.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Charlotte The new SORs (goods and services regulations) are distinct from these employment regulations which have came into existence in 2003. (SORS have not yet taken effect.) Both sets of regulations have religious exemptions, though slightly differently worded. Although there have been hardly any previous cases under these employment regs involving church bodies, there have been plenty of cases generally and so employment tribunals already have quite a lot of experience in dealing with claims like this one against secular employers. The outcome of the case is going to be highly significant for the CofE no matter what this tribunal… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Thanks for the correction, Simon. Looking in from the other side of the pond, as I do, I often don’t get things right. I should remember that the next time Ruth Gledhill shows her lack of familiarity with the American situation, and forgive her her trespasses.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

First they say I’m not a homophobe!

Then they say It’s in the Bible!

Then they say Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin!

Then they say Lambeth 1998 1.10 is the Teaching of the Church!

Then they say It’s not about orientation, it’s about lifestyle!

Then they say Heteromarriage or Mandatory celibacy!

Then they say The choice is yours!

Then they say (to JJ) Celibate? but you have spoken against it!

Then they say (to JR) Celibate? I don’t believe you will!

Then they say …

David H.
Guest

Charlotte wrote: “…it illustrates perfectly why church conservatives who claim to make a distinction between homosexual orientation (ok, if celibate) and homosexual practice (not ok) are, at best, attempting to deceive themselves as well as us about their real attitudes.”

Charlotte is exceedingly generous to believe that they’re “attempting to deceive themselves as well.” I mean really, did we need anything other than the Jeffrey John affair to illustrate how hypocritical this supposed orientation vs. practice dichotomy is for the “conservatives” ?

David Gould
Guest
David Gould

If I were a Gay priest in the Diocese of Hereford and especially if I were in a relationship, I would be very afraid at the stupidity of the Bishop, and for this reason: Gay organisations that ‘out’ people do so to expose hypocrisy, something Jesus did by the way. Such groups have every right to now name and shame and by so doing say to the Bishop ‘what are you going to do’? There are so many gay priests and bishops and most are happy to be quiet and discreet. The actions of the Bishop of Hereford means that… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

David H., I honestly do think that many traditional conservatives really are trying to deceive themselves as well as us about the real character of their motivations and feelings. People on the liberal sides of these questions do it, too. It’s called “sin.” We all do it.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

If +++Cantuar truly believes in creating a “safe place”, then now is the time for more gay clergy to come out. Recent General Synod was a step in the right direction. I’m not sure I hold with serial outing, unless hypocrisy is involved; one’s public declaration of sexuality is a very personal matter. During an uplifting 3 hour devotion at St Alban’s Abbey yesterday, Good Friday, presided by Marilyn McCord Adams (Episcopalian Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford) and Jeffrey John, it struck me as being so unfair that the Dean’s private life should be public knowledge (same with Gene… Read more »

rockingrector
Guest

This is just the sort of discrimination that used to be routinely flung at women nationwide in interviews – “but suppose you have a baby? We can’t possibly employ you!” It was found to be discriminatory in law and woe betide anyone who dares to mention anything like that in interviews today, church or non-church. Perhaps the Bishop has unknowingly advanced the cause of gays and lesbians and we will soon find that even the Church may not discriminate by asking questions in interviews about anyone’s sexual habits.

Clive
Guest
Clive

Is the sub judice convention known to the above contributors?

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

I can find only one thing wrong with this candidate: namely, that he resigned from his previous post after being asked (quite rightly) to choose between his partner and his job. This is not a resigning issue, as in any church post the choice is clear, and in fact he should not have needed to be asked.

I agree that the presumption of unchastity is unfair – though possibly it is motivated by the lack of unequivocal condemnation from the Christian homosexual community of extramarital sex, promiscuity, pornography etc..

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“This is just the sort of discrimination that used to be ‘but suppose you have a baby? We can’t possibly employ you!’ “ Yes indeed. Way back in 1966, a Duke University classmate of mine who had majored in chemistry was being interviewed by medical schools she had applied to. One of them asked if she had a special boyfriend. ‘Not at present,’ she said. Then she was asked, ‘Are you dating?’ Yes, she said. ‘Are you on the pill? We can’t risk admitting a girl who would get pregnant on us.’ She did not finish the application process there.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Christopher, I happily speak out against pornography, because it’s abusive. Also against random promiscuity, because I believe it’s potentially damaging. But extra marital sex? Do you really want me to condemn my parents, my siblings and my partner’s children, all who live faithful relationships? Sorry!! But even those of us lgbt people with more conservative views on sexual ethics won’t be able to condemn sex outside marriage until you straight conservatives give up your double standard that allows you faithful and sexually fulfilling relationships while denying marriage to us. Let’s get this straight – sex in itself is not wrong.… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The forced dilemma, leave your partner or resign from your church work, is false, false, false. It posits an innate contradiction between committed love – or at least the openness to having that happen which all ethical human pairbonding relationships involve; and a vocation to service in church life (or in society?), even as a lay believer. Maybe this a priori dilemma hides from us a deep enactment of power held, and power denied? Then: What a fine display of a powerful/privileged bishop, already safely in the only possible folds of being straight and married, high-mindedly denying the ethical merits… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Clive and everyone, here’s the Wikipedia entry for _sub judice_. “In law, sub judice, Latin for “under judgment,” means that a particular case or matter is currently under trial or being considered by a judge or court. The term may be used synonymously with “the present case” or “the case at bar” by some lawyers. “In England and Wales, New Zealand, Australia and Canada it is generally considered inappropriate to publicly comment on cases sub judice and can even be an offence in itself, leading to contempt of court proceedings. This is particularly true in criminal cases, where publically discussing… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest
Leonardo Ricardo

“Implying that all others with a belief unlike yours are hard hearted is hardly befitting a ‘thinking anglican’, and certainly no way to engage another Christian.” Harvard

Thanks for sharing. I’ll pass on your observation to the Bishop Hereford…he’s a remotely “thinking” and “engaging” Anglicano kinda guy who is hardly “befitting” his interview skills!

Jay Wilson
Guest
Jay Wilson

The comments on this case appear to me, from my admittedly American perspective ( I am a British subject now)to bear out some of my own sorry stereotypes about blogging being an area which tempts us to loud Moral Posturing, usually at someone else’s expense. In the predominantly liberal American Episcopal Church, insurance requirements make sure that you are especially careful about whom you employ to deal with children or young people. I feel much sympathy with Jeffrey John and the impossible position he was put in, but there is a wide perception that gay people, and especially gay younger… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“there is a wide perception that gay people, and especially gay younger people, are emotionally vulnerable to emotional attractions, particularly to attractive young adolescents” Don’t you think that ALL young people are emotionally vulnerable to emotional attractions? I certainly remember many a serious schoolgirl crush on attractive young male teachers. How embarrassing it is to remember it years later! And how painful to see my nieces go through that stage now, well aware that my own girls won’t be long before they follow. Maybe to protect all young people of a vulnerable age, we should do away with young youth… Read more »

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest
mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)

Errmm, Jay – I think (as someone has said elsewhere, earlier) the expoitative relationships you fear tend to be heterosexual (older man, younger female), undermining fatally your defence of +Hereford. I think you’ve been listening to too many choirboy jokes.

There may, repeat may be more of an issue in the RC church because of the enforced celibacy ruling – but in less artificial situations it’s the straights whom you ought to deny employment if we’re to get all worried about paedophilia.

Jay Wilson
Guest
Jay Wilson

The ‘tu quoque’ response of ‘straights are just as bad’ has a certain obvious logic to it but it does not obviate the legitimate impression of many parents that the prominent culture of promiscuity in gay male society is threatening to the sexual development of impressionable young adolescents. As A.N.Wilson has pointed out in an article validating the faithful ministry of many gay priests, he along with many others ‘outgrew’ his bisexuality, but parents are afraid for their children. To whom should the Bishop of Hereford be most responsible – a hypercritical claque of activist/’inclusivists’ who want to legitimatize gay… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

No, Jay, this just won’t do. Individuals are a danger to children and there are systems in place to prevent, as far as possible, those individuals from working with them. I agree that open promiscuity is not a good role model for children and young adults. I don’t know where in Britain you live – where I am in Somerset, there is much heterosexual promiscuity too. But I would have thought that any church knows its own members well enough to know who can be trusted to be a good role model and who had better not be involved with… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

And, Jay, if one of your children did indeed turn out not to be straight, for whatever reasons – why would that be a problem? Why is it always assumed that not being straight is a dire fate to be avoided at all cost? So many seem to have this irrational view that all we want is to corrupt poor little straight children so we can have sordid sex in dingy toilets with them, or dress up in rainbow colours for protest marches, or do incredibly camp things on telly. In fact, if we were only allowed, most of us… Read more »

Harold J. Wilson
Guest
Harold J. Wilson

Erika, when I was a chaplain at the U. of Penn back in the late sixties, we put a very active gay young Catholic in charge of our acolytes who were fairly new and rather young. He did a great job. As I remember, some were Jewish and we had to remember not to give them communion. What Mr.Reaney’s church status is, I don’t know but your thought that most churches should know etc. is sadly in error. I think your point that all eight members approved him is a strong one though. My own sons are still close to… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I am sorry, but if you folks cannot keep to the subject matter and discuss the Hereford case before us (and the media), I strongly suggest that you leave this altogether, instead of ranting about a third, and a forth, and a fifth and someone you knew in Pennsylvania 30 years ago.

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

We’re following a fairly predictable track in this discussion. First: “Let’s not have a discussion at all. It’s wrong; it’s too awful to talk about.” Next: The confusions and misinformation start to surface. Third (I hope): Confusions are clarified; misinformation corrected. Here’s a start. Others are welcome to join in: Jay and Harold: Homosexuality is not pedophilia. Gay men are not pedophiles. Even young gay men are not pedophiles. Most pedophiles are heterosexual; they are men attracted to very young girls. Your comments are therefore entirely off track. But they do express, very well, one of the main fears heterosexuals… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Harold, I agree with Göran on this one. Bishops should indeed have firm opinions, but they should definitely not be based on emotive prejudice. That there are wrong candidates for every position is obvious. But this candidate does not appear to have been wrong at all. It’s not up to us on a blog to decide whether “not in a relationship” is the same as “celibate”, I assume that the original panel looked into this and was satisfied. My own experience on PCCs and other committees leads me to believe that he was very probably thoroughly vetted, just as thoroughly… Read more »

Harold(Jay)Wilson
Guest
Harold(Jay)Wilson

Well, I have read the posting of the Church Times article about Mr. Reaney’s experience and references and it sounds very much as though he ought to have been hired. That being said, I would like to add that I do not think illustrative stories of mine or any other relations of my experience are somehow outdated, pace Goran. I enjoy bishop-bashing as much as the next Anglican but the assumption that fair-play depends on some sort of equality of treatment and use of objective criteria – as helpful as these may often be – ignores the thousand gradations of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

But, Harold, if we take the general suspicion you cast at gay youth workers in your earlier postings as the yardstick, then Ken Livingston’s call for a lesbian to run a creche is the most sensible response.

Harold J. Wilson
Guest
Harold J. Wilson

Well, Erika, I dare say you would think so. But why be so narrow in your sense of inclusiveness ? What about ” Black female dwarf quadriplegiac Muslim lesbian wanted to run creche,”? And in response to Charlotte, I don’t consider true pedophiles either gay or straight, but a lot of them are men who desire younger male children.If you think they are a minority, all I can say is go tell it to the Roman Catholics. Where do you draw the line between ‘chickenhawks’ who lie in wait for boys or girls and romantically inclined younger men in their… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Jay,
your Black female dwarf quadriplegic Muslim lesbian is really the logical conclusion of your train of thought, that we should include or exclude certain groups simply because of the preconceptions we have about them.

My own view is that we must look at each individual on his or her own merits and trust that the general checks and balances in place will be applied to all applicants for a post. I think you’ve inadvertently proved my point.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“The fact that some generalized abstraction called ‘heteros’ is or can be also predatory does not answer the sense of many Christians, particularly Evangelical ones, that the ‘gay scene’ is actually dangerous to their children.” I don’t particularly care what the bigotry of Evangelicals leads them to be afraid of this week. And we in the Church can hulder them in their bigotry or try to educate them. Now WWJD, I wonder? Personally, I feel that Evangelical Christianity is dangerous to children, and I speak from personal experience, having been set upon on far too many occasions in my youth… Read more »

H.J.Wilson
Guest
H.J.Wilson

Re. Ford’s comments, Charlotte said that most pedophiles are interested in young girls. I am not sure whether there is any statistical evidence to show that – hence my comment about the R.C.’s. I am a General Seminary Liberal Catholic, not an Evangelical and I grew up with Southern Baptists in the American South so I probably know more about the various defects of this kind of religion than you do. But all Anglican Evangelicals are not so fear-ridden. Do you think children of sixteen are ‘informed’ enough to give meaningful consent to sexual acts which may determine a good… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Harold, Children of sixteen don’t need to be “informed” about their sexuality, they already know whether they can love only people from the same sex as their own, only people from the opposite sex, or both. What sexual acts they may give consent to is a totally different issue. Anyway – what sexual acts are these children consenting to in the case of the Hereford youth worker? His case has nothing whatsoever to do with the sexuality and sexual activity of adolescents. If you seriously try to claim there is a connection you only show that, in your eyes, his… Read more »

Charlotte
Guest
Charlotte

Harold, Jay, HJ — try looking at the criminal statistics, whether in the US or the UK. They will tell you that the majority of pedophiles are indeed heterosexually-oriented men who desire sex with girl-children.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“so I probably know more about the various defects of this kind of religion than you do.” I doubt that, where I grew up there was a large population of Fundamentalists, so our experiences might be more alike than you know. As to your statement about being 16 years old and giving consent, I’m not sure what that has to do with whether or not most pedophiles target boys or girls, or why that matters. It’s not all that long ago that our society considered 16 year olds quite mature enough, not only for sex but for marriage and family.… Read more »