Hereford: BBC interviews the bishop

Updated

The radio programme Sunday contains a substantial item on the Hereford tribunal. Both Richard Kirker and Bishop Priddis are interviewed by Roger Bolton.

Bishop of Hereford and gay discrimination
Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement believes the Bishop of Hereford should resign. His remark followed an employment tribunal ruling that the Bishop discriminated against John Reaney, a candidate for a position as a youth minister in his diocese, on the basis of his sexual orientation.

Reaney had held youth officer positions in Norwich and in Chester dioceses, but left his post in Chester early in 2006 [sic] after his relationship with another gay man had come to light. He told his interviewing panel in Hereford that he was gay, although now celibate, and the panel recommended to the Bishop that he should be given the job as youth minister. The Bishop was needed to give final approval, and after meeting Mr Reaney and discussing his sexuality, the Bishop refused to do so.

As a result John Reaney took the Bishop to an industrial tribunal. His claim that he had been harassed was not upheld, but his claim of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was. Richard Kirker and the Bishop both talked to Sunday.
Listen (8m 57s)

A transcript of the interview with Bishop Priddis can be found here.

Note: the mention of the year 2006 above is incorrect. Mr Reaney left Chester in 2002.

45 comments

  • Pluralist says:

    The bishop’s interview just drove me nuts. The guy (John Reaney) cannot get married, so he is discriminated against, because the Church of England does not (except for the odd organist) recognise as equa Civil Partnerships. In any case, he was obeying these obsessive rules and the bishop is applying some cod psychology in order to deny him his job, a cod psychology employed because of some obsession about sex that goes on and on and which, had the chap been heterosexual, would not even have surfaced.

    He said if a relationship looked possible he would come to the bishop. One wonders about the frequency of potential partners. Perhaps going to a gay club or answering lonely hearts adverts in newspapers is just as relevant as having sex. Are there going to be sex behaviour and bedroom police employed by these bishops? The chap could say he will be a friend of a new partner for years, a bit like others have said in the clergy. He needed believing. Perhaps his honesty was self-defeating.

    Anyway, the tribunal said celibacy is not to be expected of lay people – even those promoting religion.

    The “teaching” of the Church (it needs to do some learning) is fundamentally unequal, and shows that someone of talent is to be passed over for the wrong reason.

    The Church of England is like someone who sees a spiky fence and keeps dropping himself on to it, repeating the same injury over and over again and cannot stop doing it. Never mind losing numbers – the Church of England will get fined over and over again. The key test, if there should be intrusion into private matters, is that of honesty and faithfulness in *any* relationship. If the Church of England does not see this, it will continue to have cases like this which diminish it further and futher as both laughable and ugly at the same time – and it had better budget for it.

    Lack of belief and lack of faithfulness are keys here, and why the Church of England is failing institutionally.

  • L Roberts says:

    Anthony Priddis’ assertion that “people of homosexual orientation are welcome in the Church of England” reassured me as much as hearing that negroes are welcome” would have done.

    Roger Bolton was very remiss in failing to raise the matter of Civil Partnerships. Bolton allowed Priddis to get away with murder.

    Richard Kirker’s interview was to the point and succinct. A welcome but untypical anglican voice.

  • Pluralist says:

    Here is the text of a not so imaginary Church of England job interview.

    http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/07/church-of-england-job-interview_22.html

  • matthewhunt says:

    Roger Bolton consistently asks the wrong question at the crucial moment. He’s either a little fuzzy in the head or quite markedly biased. Asking whether he would have made the same decision with an unmarried heterosexual couple in a relationship is bizarrely irrelevant. John wasn’t in a relationship. And this question after gibberish obfuscation about heart and head promises/delivery.

    This is the second time I’ve been linked to Bolton from here and been very disappointed with his… ‘style’ (?)

    One of the reasons I can’t be bothered with ‘Christian’ broadcasting. The new BBC standards committee should check him out.

  • Merseymike says:

    Make a complaint. I’d agree, Bolton is worse than useless. About time they employed an atheist to present the programme – at least these mealy mouthed frock-wearing homophobes would get a decent grilling. John Humphrys would do a far better job, as would Paxman, whose regular mashing up of evangelicals and Catholics is a joy to behold

  • Richard Ashby says:

    Why wasn’t the Bishop challenged over his congratulations to his Cathedral organist? Are organists in a lesser position of leadership that Diocesan youth workers. The Bishop’s muddled thinking and sheer hypocrisy were on public display again this morning and he had an easy ride from the usual vacuous interviewer.

  • Pluralist says:

    >Why wasn’t the Bishop challenged over his congratulations to his Cathedral organist?<

    Because he is not “promoting religion”. All an organist does is bash out tunes. We all know this. It’s like these people who say so many words from a pulpit or (continued page 94).

  • Hugh of Lincoln says:

    The exhilarating sound of organ music filling a cathedral is one of the most alluring ways of “promoting religion”: antediluvian episcopal prejudice is not.

  • NP says:

    Maybe some do not like his questions because Roger Bolton did not have an axe to grind?

  • Pluralist’s point about a concern about “promoting religion” seems pertinent.

    Is it the teaching possibility that worries them? Is that why they don’t have a problem with filthy women in their pews? They’re being trained to shut up and put up, and smile nicely whilst they are insulted from the teachers that all the world’s problems are their fault?

    Being silent, the women can’t point out that men have made their own share of mistakes, the typical ones being when they didn’t get advice from a woman.

    How many a woman (and her children) have seen a man cringe when he’s finally confessed to his wife that he has done a really big doo doo and there’s a lot of mess to be cleaned up? How often has his wife’s ire being exacerbated by her finding out that the cause of the problem had occurred years or months before.

    I am sure I am not the only one who has then found out that their “beloved” had not told them about the decision at the time because “they didn’t want to worry/hurt her”.

    In actual fact, they (and their drinking mates who helped egg them on) knew that she wouldn’t let him do something so reckless and stupid.

    So, he didn’t tell her so he could pretend that he didn’t know it was going to go wrong and he gets the narcisstic supply of acting out an unfulfillable fantasy (e.g. posturing as the God of gods).

    It wouldn’t hurt for some souls to remember that if it weren’t for women they wouldn’t exist. Not only in the breeding cattle sense. Also in the sense that it is acknowledged that Judaism would have become an extinct theology through the Pharoah’s repression and genocide attempt if the Jewish women had not gone into the fields to lay with their men. Fast forward to today, it is women and their children (no matter how afflicted) who refuse to surrender the just loving inclusive God of mercy and compassion.

    They can teach whatever they want from the pews. We teach our children in the homes. Men preen and posture. Women change diapers and nurture.

  • Merseymike says:

    Maybe some think conservatives should accept the fact that they lost the case and are out of step with contemporary social justice….

  • Ford Elms says:

    I think the question for most conservatives, as I think it ought to be for all of us, is why should we care what “contemporary social justice”
    says? It once said slavery was OK, it once couldn’t distinguish between a wife and a chattel, it once said beating one’s kids was right, and on and on. I can’t justify claiming that the prevailing societal mood towards social justice is any more reliable than it ever was simply because I agree with it now. There were lots of people who agreed with slavery too, did the fact that it was socially justified make it right? Sorry, Mersyemike, but I don’t think that society has ever been all that reliable in deciding what was right, whether or not the Church has is another matter. The question here is whether or not the world is out of step with the Gospel, not whether or not the Gospel is out of step with the world. The world might be more in compliance with the Gospel in this instance, it might not, but it’s unimportant either way.

  • NP says:

    Merseymike – in your joy about a CofE bishop “losing” the case…..do you notice the principle upheld in the judgment was that the church can LEGALLY apply Lambeth 1.10 principles, even to laity??

    And many liberals will, like me, tell you that it is not the job of the church is not to stay in step with society – not only is that not our job, it is also a poor strategy as it has proven to empty churches in England at an alarming rate

  • Neil says:

    Re the Bishop of Hereford’s moral crusade – I wonder if he approved of the appointment of the former Bishop of Durham. He had a record of being caught and cautioned for, shall we say, inappropriate behaviour in a public convenience?
    Mr. Reaney, I understand, is a highly regarded upright man with no police record whatsoever.

  • JCF says:

    I think MM’s point, Ford, is that in vast swaths of the developed world, “contemporary social justice” (secular) is MORE “in step with the Gospel”, than are MOST Christians (regrettably!).

  • L Roberts says:

    The Church has never been all that reliable in deciding what was right

  • Merseymike says:

    No, don’t agree. I’m afraid the Church has got so far behind that it has become utterly out of step and is instead supporting the voices of reaction and bigotry.

    TEC recognise the need to renew and revise.

  • NP says:

    Merseymike is a big fan of TEC and says the CofE is out of step with society – so, why is TEC shrinking??

    If it is because nasty conservatives are leaving, if MM is right, there should be thousands joining given TEC is very in step with the morals of secular US society….

  • Ford Elms says:

    NP,
    You DO know the public face of Christianity in the US, right? Do you seriously think it’s an image of good Godly people working fo rthe Kingdom?

  • NP says:

    Some of it is good, Ford…..Billy Graham and others have kept their integrity.

    There are and always have been lots of conmen – and we have been told not to follow them and to expect more and more to come.

    My point to Merseymike is that those who please him by adopting the morality of secular society do not have many coming to them at all – so I do not want the AC to go that route – it might a happy Merseymike make but it will not lead to a thriving AC (as TEC has proved and liberals in the CofE prove too)

    I know some don’t like talking nos…but a mustard seed was used by someone to predict great growth, as you know, not decline and irrelevance as we see in the liberal parts of the church. Even full-fat RC is doing better in the US than “RC-lite” (that is ceremony and fine robes but no solid teaching) in TEC

  • Merseymike says:

    Try reading the judgment carefully rather than the conservative spin – actually very muted, since the judgment was far worse than they had imagined and makes it clear that celibacy cannot be requested for a layperson unless the post is exempt. See point 107.

  • Pluralist says:

    Ten of us this evening had a very good discussion, not one being (as best I know) evangelical and at least three describable as theologically radical (including me). It was about the 39 Articles and they pretty well ended up in the museum, yet generated good contemporary discussion. The mustard seed can also be about a qualitative development in individuals, and it has nothing to do with so-called “solid” teaching: the discussion was very solid indeed. Such a rich, good, active discussion is also attractive to many who realise they are being taken seriously, who can make their points without fear or favour of saying something “naughty” and actually search out their own beliefs. These folks will be in church services this week; by the way, odd as it may seem, I realise I have been to a service twice on Sunday, once Monday, once Tuesday evening (before the discussion) and I should be there Wednesday, as will many of these ten adding to the others who go Wednesday morning. It is what takes place that is important.

  • “the principle upheld in the judgment was that the church can LEGALLY apply Lambeth 1.10 principles, even to laity??”

    This decision offers no such “principle” to guide the legal future, and English Canon Law has not been extended to cover all the laity by this Welsh tribunal.

  • NP says:

    Pluralist – you say 10 met and decided the 39 articles are a museum piece now and they you say “Such a rich, good, active discussion is also attractive to many”

    Since they are not in your meeting…where are they?

  • ellen says:

    Does anyone know what happened to John Reaney? Does he now have a job? How is he? He is a lone citizen caught up in a case against the CofE (and the Bishop has all the support of the Cof E behind him). Who is caring for John Reaney?

    It is easy for us to forget that there are real human beings involved. I am shocked by the lack of compassion demonstrated in all this. I hope that John Reaney has a supportive spiritual adviser and that he is being cared for by people that love him. My prayers go out to all those caught up in this case.

  • I’m afraid NP is incorrect when he says that “the principle upheld in the judgment was that the church can LEGALLY apply Lambeth 1.10 principles, even to laity??”

    What the tribunal found was that
    – the extra requirement was imposed in order to comply with the doctrines of the Church of England, and
    – alternatively, the evidence indicated strongly that a not insignificant number of people have strong feelings against homosexuality within the Church of England (nationally)

    That is quite distinct from finding that the requirement could be lawfully applied. On the contrary, the tribunal said:

    If it is necessary, we would hold that there has been indirect discrimination in this case.

  • Pluralist says:

    Well, this is what happens. In a town, a group of people meet, and they have a good discussion. They have a few, and they tell their friends, some of whom have an interest matters spiritual, but don’t want people telling them what to think or Bible bashing, but may well like to work things out themselves along with others. Slowly new people come.

    I’ve only been there myself for some one and a half years actively, and before that was an infrequent attender at mainly evening services. If it had pushy, “strong teaching” (as you call it, NP) then I would not have started. My nearest church is thirty seconds walk away. It is evangelical. I’ve been four times since 1994. I quite like the incumbent there as a person, and chatted with him including at length once. Last year it stopped regular services, focussing instead on the other two churches. I go nearly five miles to the neighbouring parish. The nearest one of this parish with regular services is two miles away. I have never been.

    Actually, having this variety in fairly close proximity (two parishes) does offer choice. Neither parish is “extreme”, but the vacuum cleaner one affecting evangelical churches adversely is over the river in the wealthy outer urban area, breaking every liturgical rule. It would meet your numbers game, NP, but its effect on other churches is negative. Anyway, some people from Hull even make the long journey to Bradford where they can have their media charismatic evangelicalism in spades (not Anglican). And I know that that one sucks the life out of evangelical churches in Bradford, including Anglican ones.

    A chap at Tuesday night’s discussion said to me afterwards he was really glad I had attended (it was only my second) and he also wants to be at the next one where we shall move on to the presenter’s point that whereas 1571 had its controversies we have ours, and the contemporary issue is the faiths. So in three weeks we discuss different faiths. It will be most interesting. This chap was also at the service this morning, like me.

    I call it qualitative, NP.

  • NP says:

    Simon – not sure I am wrong, unless you are disagreeing with the Archbishops’ Council statement (reported on TA on 18/7) below??

    A spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council said:
    “The broader issue raised by this case is whether there are posts, including some non clergy posts, where the religious exemptions permitted under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations can properly be applied by bishops and dioceses. The Tribunal has helpfully confirmed that there are. It also held that the role of Diocesan Youth Officer is such a post….”

  • NP
    There is no conflict between my assertion and the Abps Council statement.

    The tribunal found that the *post* fell within the ambit of the religious exemption.

    That is quite a separate legal point from whether the *requirement* was discriminatory or not.

  • NP says:

    Simon – clearly, the exemption (even for clergy) can be read as discriminatory by those who do not want to allow freedom of conscience on this issue.

    But if, as you say, the post is exempt from the regulations, it cannot be at the same time discrimination to treat the post as exempt, can it?

  • NP
    Can I refer you to my comment on another thread where I attempt to answer Peter O’s assertions?
    Also, you will find an article by me in this week’s Church Times which explains the tribunal judgment in some detail.
    I will write a further article here on TA giving even more detail on this Regulation 7(3), in a little while.

  • kieran crichton says:

    ….so I wonder how the Cathedral organist at Hereford felt being *outed* like this by his bishop???

  • NP says:

    ok – will have a look, Simon

    I am sure Stonewall are very happy to have humiliated a CofE bishop…..I realise +Hereford has rather walked into defeat on this one but as long as the exemption has not been overturned, I am not too worried.

    I wonder if Stonewall has any clergy wanting to take the CofE through the courts?

  • Pluralist says:

    As was pointed out by someone I was chatting with, the organist in a cathedral congratulated over his Civil Partnership by this bishop otherwise upholding marriage will, of course, be “promoting religion” via his work with young people not to say adults.

  • Hugh of Lincoln says:

    The Tribunal easily found direct and indirect discrimination, even when the exemption applied, so the Church will need to be very cautious about discriminating against ordained gays, including those in Civil Partnerships.

    General Synod Feb 2007, “affirm[s] that homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to … full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the church…”

    In its Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships, July 2005, the House of Bishops “does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.”

    Clearly, the Bishops do not regard CPs as incompatible with “the doctrines of the religion”, or “conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions”.

    Reductio ad absurdum, Regulation 7(3) is a dead duck.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “I am sure Stonewall are very happy to have humiliated a CofE bishop”

    Oh, you poor suffering victim, you! Hang on, I’m sure I have an Imperial Altar round about, then you can refuse to burn incense on it. I won’t use you for a streetlight, all the same, I won’t gratify your vainglory.

  • Brian MacIntyre says:

    Kieran Crichton wrote: “….so I wonder how the Cathedral organist at Hereford felt being *outed* like this by his bishop???”

    As I don’t get the idea that the marriage was a hush-hush affair I’d assume the organist was already out.

    A great number of people (and their numbers are growing faster than NP can hope or imagine, for for his/her own preferred “None of Your Innovations, Please” denomination) really aren’t bothered any more by the fact that some people want to date and then marry members of their own sex.

    Besides, there’s this: Q: How many straight organists does it take to change a light bulb? A: Both of them.

  • NP says:

    Ford- it was just a question. Relax!

    Do you really support people taking the church to civil courts – supported by secular campaigning groups? (I would not have thought you would…)

  • Brian MacIntyre says:

    “Do you really support people taking the church to civil courts – supported by secular campaigning groups?”

    Good question. My answer would be, Of course, if the church is violating the civil law. As was decided in this case.

    Someone once said words to the effect – if someone is suing you, try to make friends with him before you reach court. Otherwise you will go to prison and stay there until you have paid every cent of your debt. Whoever it was that said that doesn’t seem to have regarded his followers as above the law.

    True, there are unjust laws. Apparently the objection to this one is that it interferes with freedom of religion. I don’t see how what the man in question does or does not do in the privacy of his bedroom has any impact on the proper functioning of the Church.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “Do you really support people taking the church to civil courts – supported by secular campaigning groups? “

    NP,
    If the Church actually practiced what it preached, there’d be no need. How would have handled the residential schools issue if the victims had not been able to take the Church to court? They needed a secular campaigning group to stand up for them when the the Church would have liked for it to go away. The fact that it was taken to the courts forced the Church to face what it had done and then behave, I think, appropriately. What would you have done?

  • NP says:

    I would have completely supported those who were abused by “priests” in going to the police and getting the abuse stopped plus forcing the church to discipline its priests. There, we are talking about a crime.

    As you know, lawsuits amongst believers are wrong so I do not support using the civil courts to fight theological battles….I expect you will agree with that.

  • Erika Baker says:

    NP,
    this was not a theological battle. The bishop did not believe the applicant who was clearly following church teachings. It has absolutely nothing to do with theology but everything with prejudice.

  • Ford Elms says:

    NP, first, it wasn’t only priests. Second, the people victimized were believers. Many have left the Church because of it, others have stayed to find healing. It has shaped our approach to such issues and we are determined not to make the samemistakes again, hence our debates about gays. Why do I get the feeling you don’t really know what I’m talking about? This isn’t the American RC sex abuse scandal, nor is it the one in Newfoundland 10 years earlier. It is about Anglicans, in Canada. You do understand, right?

  • NP says:

    you are right – I don’t know what you are talking about Ford….pls explain.

  • Ford Elms says:

    NP, go here first:

    http://www.anglican.ca/Residental-Schools/overview.htm

    then go to the website of the Anglican Church of Canada, and click on ‘residential schools’ on the left hand side. We are humbled by our role in this evil. You need to realize this has been an important insight into how evil the Imperial Church can be, even when She thinks She is acting correctly. It certainly colours my response to the things you say, since I hear in your attitude the very ideas that were the basis of this happening. Yes, you are appalled at what happened and I know you don’t condone it, but it is the kind of spiritual arrogance you display that led to this. We all need to learn humility from this, and understand that, even when we think we are doing good, we can actually do great evil.

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