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more on Hereford recruitment policy

My news report on this, published in the Church Times last week, is now available here.

The statement that the diocese issued to me while I was preparing that article was previously published here and is below the fold.

The full context for that statement was unfortunately not included in the Church Times article as published. I reproduce below a longer version of my report.

Priddis now regrets but remains impenitent

THE Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, has said he now regrets “a lot of what has happened” in the case of unlawful discrimination against John Reaney. He lost the case (News, 20 July), but he has not changed his opinion, he said last Friday.

Bishop Priddis said in a witness statement: “I am very sorry for all the hurt and pain my decision not to appoint [him] has caused”, but he went on: “my opinion was, and still is, that at the time of the interview [he] did not have sufficient stability of life to give the assurances the Tribunal have found I was entitled to require of him.”

An employment tribunal at Cardiff last week adjourned before deciding on financial compensation and other remedies, which the parties had failed to agree privately in the four months since judgment was given in July. During the hearing, the chairman repeatedly urged the parties to seek agreement. No decision will now be issued until at least mid-January. A Stonewall spokesman said afterwards: “It is deeply regrettable that John has been forced to come back to endure further unnecessary cross-examination, which has been deeply distressing”.

Counsel for the diocese interrogated Mr Reaney as to why he did not apply for two similar posts recently advertised by Worcester and Guildford dioceses. Mr Reaney said that he lacked the confidence to seek any other church position after the way the bishop had treated him.

When asked whether or not the diocese would in future insert a reference to the employment regulations in its advertising, the bishop was hesitant: “We wouldn’t want to be in a position where we discourage people of homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation to apply for posts”. Later a diocesan spokesperson explained: “Given the judgement of the tribunal the only “safe” option to avoid future discrimination claims is for the Diocese to express a Genuine Occupational Requirement… This we do not wish to do… We are therefore seeking advice on how we can maintain the teachings of the Church without transgressing the law.”

The bishop took strong exception to adverse press reports, saying: “The media attention has, in my opinion, made matters worse for myself, the claimant and the Church of England as a whole.” He insisted the coverage had been “driven by Stonewall” particularly the Bigot of the Year Award. He said: “when they make derogatory statements about me personally, then that’s clearly hurtful to me”. Responding to this, Stonewall said: “The only person responsible for the media coverage is the bishop himself, who was found to have acted unlawfully”.

Here is what the Diocese of Hereford told me on Tuesday 11 December when I asked them to clarify the comments made by the Bishop of Hereford at the employment tribunal hearing in Cardiff on Friday 7 December:

“Given the judgement of the tribunal the only “safe” option to avoid future discrimination claims is for the Diocese to express a Genuine Occupational Requirement and claim exemption from the Sexual Orientation Regulation 2003.

This we do not wish to do as we wish to encourage people of any sexual orientation to play a full part in the life of the Church and to apply for all Diocesan posts.

However, we also require those in leadership positions within the Diocese, and the DYO is such a position, to uphold, support and promote the doctrine of the Church of England. We are therefore seeking advice on how we can maintain the teachings of the Church without transgressing the law.”

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Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

The Bishop’s lack of contrition is astonishing. The tribunal has judged him and found his conduct to have been wrong, not vice versa. How can he be fit for leadership in the Church?

david wh
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david wh

I love the way that so-called liberal human rights legislation has taken away the right of people to do anything other than act and speak like an insincere amoral vacuous liberal. It is not justice and freedom for all, just for those who are approved of by liberals! Homosexuality is a sin according to God, yet human law now imposes a right to sexual freedom overriding any right the Christians have to act freely. I guess it won’t be long before some Bishops decide they would rather go to jail than submit to this sort of totalitarian ideology.

Pluralist
Guest

I wonder what this bishop would say or do if the Church as a matter of ethics respected the fundamental equality of all persons, as reflected in its blessings and ministry.

All I see now, in the context of discrimination of the institution, is so much wriggling and positioning, when the law for employment demands a general condition of equality – and yet it is not enough that the law is allowing for the Church’s stated doctrine of inequality!

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Priddis sums up everything that is wrong with the church. He needs to accept that he is wrong and that he broke the law. As it is, he simply defends the unacceptable institutional homophobia of the Church. My journey towards atheism has certainly been encouraged by this prime example of Christian homophobia.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“How can he be fit for leadership in the Church?” Because he’s orthodox: he didn’t let a fag get a job with the Church. What other criterion is there? “when they make derogatory statements about me personally, then that’s clearly hurtful to me” Right back at ya, there! Maybe these things wouldn’t be so hurtful to you if they were said by an ‘orthodox’ bishop, I know I never feel in any way hurt when some bishop or another makes derogatory statements about me, and conservatives think I’m being extreme in reacting negatively to what they seem to feel are… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“My journey towards atheism has certainly been encouraged by this prime example of Christian homophobia.”

I could be almost there with you. But it’s a non sequitur. You can keep your faith in God while losing faith in the church. The two are not one and the same.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Well, David, you still have the ‘right’ to act freely, just as other bigots have the right to do so. But, it is quite right that human law should override the made up laws of your god, who plays no part in the governance of secular law. Within your church, you have the right to behave in a discriminatory fashion according to agreed set boundaries. That is a concession you really should be grateful for. After all, we do not live in a theocracy and your conservative god-laws are not applicable to those of us who choose not to follow… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

david wh,
what astonishing circles you move in.
I have never met an insincere amoral vacuous liberal – where do they hang out?

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

David Wh: repsecting human rights is not “insincere vacuous and amoral.” Quite the reverse. I do not consent to losing the human rights which I enjoy everywhere else in our society just the moment I walk through the door of a church. I do not consent to that happening, and I don’t think it’s Christian either. I expect the law to defend me against those who practise discrimination and rights abuse, whatever colour of shirt they are wearing. There’s nothing amoral about that: I expect Christians to aspire to a higher standard of ethics than the minimum required by law,… Read more »

MRG
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MRG

“I guess it won’t be long before some Bishops decide they would rather go to jail than submit to this sort of totalitarian ideology.” Why, oh why must conservatives constantly adopt the “help, help, I’m being oppressed” line of argument? The Church has been oppressed at times in its history, david wh, and Christians are suffering for their faith in the world even now. However, insisting that British Churches adhere to UK employment law (which specifically *respects* the right of the Church to discriminate in the case of clergy!) is not exactly throwing your reactionary brethren to the lions. Face… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

So some of us call what people are born as a “sin”.

Then we act on our high horse self-righteousness and run afoul of the law. We’re sorry but we don’t apologize.

Then we whine about it.

Pathetic.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“I have never met an insincere amoral vacuous liberal – where do they hang out?”

Why, in PapaRatzi’s “Dictatorship of Relativism”, of course!

[aka, “Never-Never-Land” ;-/]

+Priddis: “Those nasty queers have hurt my feelings: waaaaaah!” :-(… {Now, if only I could FIRE the lot of them from the media!}

drdanfee
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drdanfee

The agony and waffling of the bishop in question helps demonstrate the difficulties of the traditional negative approach. If the bishop wishes to continue to bear false witness against queer folks as his negative traditions and manner of reading the scriptures necessitates – then he cannot at the very same time get kudos and cheers from the rest of us for being an exemplar of both caring and honesty. The common sense equation is simple – if you believe queer folks are bad as most of our negative legacy says they are, then you will probably treat them badly. How… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Dr Dan What you suggest, albeit ironically I daresay, is undoubtedly unlawful here in the UK, except for a religious organisation. That is the point here: we have a law on the matter, which already contains not one but two separate clauses that each permit an organisation such as the Diocese of Hereford to claim exemption, i.e. to lawfully discriminate on grounds of orientation, for a particular job. Senior Church of England officials have previously stated that the first clause, which roughly approximates to the scenario you describe, is not one which the Church would ever wish to invoke, because… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

The problem for the church, Simon, is that the civil law does not follow its beliefs at all. It makes no distinction between practice and orientation. It never will, as such a law would be unworkable.

So, either the church has to discriminate by restricting, or it allows all comers and does not discriminate. It isn’t above the law but cannot cope with the law that exists – which shows it up in its true light. Institutionally homophobic.

Neil
Guest
Neil

David Wh ‘Homosexuality is a sin according to God’

Errr…Hmmm…Don’t think I understand how you can speak for God. Even the Bible has nothing to say about two people who are deeply and wonderfully and faithfully in love.

trog
Guest
trog

The “Bigot of the Year” award is most amusing. Should that action be used as an example of righteous shaming?

Surely Jesus walked, talked, and ate with a bigot or five and, in all likelihood, affirmed them as well as accepted them unconditionally. I wonder how Jesus would reconcile this situation.

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

Let me try to stir just a little grey into the black and white terms in which this issue is being discussed. As I read it Bishop Anthony does not want to impose a total ban on gay men being recruited to posts in his diocese, even to posts at a quite senior level. If he did he could use the proivisions under the law to do so. I suspect some C of E bishops would want to impose just that kind of complete veto, and for them the current law will probably work. I would expect that every C… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

David: are you really as naive as you make out? Basically, it was not appropriate for him to ask those sort of questions, and there is no evidence at all that it would have even been known had he simply been a single applicant who had not revealed his sexuality. The court got it right and recognised that he was behaving in a discriminatory manner. I wouldn’t believe a word he said about anything! If he had any conscience at all, he would resign – but ‘church’ and ‘conscience’ are somewhat oxymoronic! More chance of finding ‘morality’ in the Hellfire… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

David
First, I don’t think there is any question here of discrimination on grounds of gender (you said “men”).
Third, the tribunal (rather than “court”) did not need to take a view on whether they believed the bishop on this point. The view they took was that the Complainant had met the requirement of “Issues”, see para 105 of the judgment.
Second, I am unclear what the point you are trying to make is! Any bishop may have such boundaries, but under the law he may not have different boundaries for females, or for straights…

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Merseymike

In fact, the tribunal ruled that the bishop was entitled to ask the questions that he asked, and it cleared the bishop of the separate charge of harassment. What the bishop was not entitled to do was to disregard the reply given by the Claimant to the requirement to abstain from a sexual relationship.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But would he have asked a heterosexual candidate those same questions? I think the answer is no….

The simple way forward is to remove the exemptions. There is no justification for them in any case. I see no reason why discrimination should be allowed simply because people justify them by way of religion.

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

David mentions “stability in personal life” as an important consideration for bishops when licensing. Yet “stability in personal life” in the Hereford case meant ‘stable celibate’, not ‘stable committed gay relationship’. Indeed the Bishop of Hereford’s letter to John Reaney on rejecting him for the post states: “It would be potentially extremely destructive for the Claimant, as a youth worker, for the Diocese, to have to withdraw from the work should he wish to enter into a future committed relationship”. This is consistent with the position the Diocese of Chester took previously when forcing Reaney to resign upon entering a… Read more »

david wh
Guest
david wh

Mike and Simon, if liberal “human rights” legislation is against biblical morality in some ways, it should be repealed. Human Rights are not divinely inspired – they are just “laws made by humans”. So who are Christian leaders supposed to obey – God or humans? I don’t expect that Bishops will always submit to the law of the land, despite the CofE’s strong erastian tendencies. Why shouldn’t we expect God’s judgement on a country that rejects Him and His righteousness and then tries to force His people to act against His will too?… I think you could see the massive… Read more »

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

The problem for the church, Simon, is that the civil law does not follow its beliefs at all. It makes no distinction between practice and orientation. It never will, as such a law would be unworkable. So, either the church has to discriminate by restricting, or it allows all comers and does not discriminate. It isn’t above the law but cannot cope with the law that exists – which shows it up in its true light. Institutionally homophobic. Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 21 December 2007 at 9:56pm GMT Neither does Church Law make any such distinction. All thruogh Church… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

So david w., how does the blessing of monogamous, long-term same sex relationships have to with increased promiscuity, STD’s, abortions,and breakdowns in society? You know, it is the “conservative” continual fight against encouraging the LGBT community to partake in a “lifestyle” of stable relationships in an ecclesiastical atmosphere that makes your argument so selfishly and stubbornly ignorant. More than missing the forest because you continually bang your head against one of the trees, you are leading the way to the eventual extinction of Christianity. Now that is one causative effect I can certainly see emerging from your pontifications. What did… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

No, David. You do not appear to realise that the UK is a secular country where religion is respected but does not direct the law of the land. You appear to be advocating a theonomist or reconstructionist position, where you impose your religious beliefs upon the broader population even if they do not follow your religion. Christian leaders have to remain within the democratically agreed law of the land. You are welcome to call upon your god to wreak vengeance. Poor old Africa. They must have really irritated him somewhere along the line. All those famines, all that AIDS –… Read more »

david wh
Guest
david wh

choirboyfromhell, the trouble with liberal attitudes to sex is that they are based only on Self (what I want, who I am) and see objective human realities as inconveniences rather than God-ordained disciplines (babies, sexually transmitted diseases, relationship breakdowns etc). So they have failed to make people happier, healthier and more integrated. Quite the opposite, as I just said. Whether legal forms of same-sex relationship will improve matters I don’t know, but it will be at best a small improvement since very few LGB people have taken up the option of forming a legal partnership. As I guess you know,… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I can only assume you do not live in the UK, David, or you would know that the numbers of civil partnerships which have taken place here are way above estimates. According to the Office for National Statistics, 18,059 couples, or 36,118 individuals, entered into an officially recognised civil partnership in the UK between December 2005 and the end of December 2006. This total far exceeded the Government estimate, surpassing in one year the number of partnerships which were estimated would take place by 2010. I also think you have been reading too much 70’s liberationism – gay and lesbian… Read more »

Hugh of Lincoln
Guest
Hugh of Lincoln

18,000 civil partnerships in two years, David Wh. Not bad, eh?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7156151.stm

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“choirboyfromhell, the trouble with liberal attitudes to sex is that they are based only on Self (what I want, who I am) and see objective human realities as inconveniences rather than God-ordained disciplines (babies, sexually transmitted diseases, relationship breakdowns etc). So they have failed to make people happier, healthier and more integrated. Quite the opposite, as I just said.” God’s discipline is STDS? Where is this in scripture? “Whether legal forms of same-sex relationship will improve matters I don’t know, but it will be at best a small improvement since very few LGB people have taken up the option of… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

“..and that more flexible forms are better – ie, in Christian words, homosexuality is related to promiscuity.” That’s b.s. and you (no, you probably don’t) know it. How in heaven’s name does homosexuality=promiscuity? ..”Which is the reason for the much higher incidence of STDs and lack of life-long exclusive relationships in the LGBT community. This is harmful to LGB people, not to me (directly at least).” Your logic is incredible. But then again, it proves that being filled with so much nonsense you can equate anything to become anything. “The arguement is really about what is and isn’t holy/healthy, why,… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

David Wh:

Just for you. My favorite Christmas Carol:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdXF9KhcSJQ

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Hugh

No, actually the tribunal’s finding in relation to the second point you mention also falls into what the law calls “direct” discrimination. See para 97 and 98 of the judgment. The tribunal then found that in one particular respect the case failed to meet the multiple requirements of the clause 7(3) exemption, see paras 105 to 108.

The tribunal did also say in para 100 that they would if necessary have found there was indirect discrimination as well, but they did not need to do so.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

David Wh I do not believe there is any conflict between the UK employment legislation involved in this case and the beliefs of the Church of England. This is because the law provides, as I have already explained, two forms of exemption which the Church of England is entitled to make use of. The problem is that in the case at hand, the diocese had signally failed to follow the procedures needed to be safe in invoking the second form of exemption. And now, the diocese is stating that as a matter of policy it does not wish to follow… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

David Wh: you suggest that bishops should be breaking the law where necessary. The problem with that argument is that bishops sit in the House of Lords, and are instrumental in the legislative process. You cannot be a legislator and then say people should disobey laws you have voted against (and lost). Secondly, you suggest that liberal churches will die out, and the illiberal ones will remain. The problem for that argument is that many people (I am an example) are brought up in illiberal churches, but then move into a more liberal position on the gay issue as they… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Mark
I would say that many people move to a more liberal view on many other issues too. It’s not restricted to the gay issue.

What I’ve loved about Anglicanism is that it has been able to encompass all my growing and changing, giving me space to become more and more liberal on a huge variety of theological issues.

I do hope that we’re not in the process of destroying that wonderful aspect of our church. Otherwise people like me are likey to fall off the edge with nowhere to go once the certainties of conservatism no longer make sense.

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Yes, Erika, you’re quite right. Being broad and diverse is the chief selling-point of Anglicanism: those who are trying to ditch this don’t understand the nature of the Anglican genius at all, and shouldn’t be allowed to take it over, as they will only destroy it. If people want hard-line religion, then most of the other mainstream denominations will cater for them quite happily. I am always coming across gentle people who have found a space in Anglicanism which allows them to be unpressured and does not judge and push them. That is so important in this world of increasingly… Read more »

david wh
Guest
david wh

Simon and Mark, I don’t think that Bishops will be influenced by my musings about what they might do; but I do think that several, including ++Rowan and ++Cormac, are not sounding very happy with the ideological and compulsive elements in the way “gay rights” laws have been formulated and imposed. As for lawmakers breaking the law, I presume that you don’t mean that in any case where a government makes bad laws the lawmakers must conform regardless? Where would that leave people trying to resist an autocratic fundamentalist regime? Would they have to resign and leave parliament completely open… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Some comments are tending to wander from the subject of the Hereford case. Please ensure comments are related clearly to that issue.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“Where would that leave people trying to resist an autocratic fundamentalist regime?”

Poor Mr Brown???

Now, t h a t one was ridiculous.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

david wh In a democracy there are enough processes for disaffected people to try to overturn laws they don’t agree with. If they don’t succeed they have to live with it. That’s the nature of a democracy. They can vote for a different government next time round. In a totalitarian state things are different, but you really will not be able to turn the Bishop of Hereford into a modern day Bonhoeffer. Sweet irony too, when you think that most conscientious objectors to oppressive laws fight on the side of the oppressed to win their freedom. Yet here the church… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“”gay rights” laws” I note your quotation marks. Now, being gay is something one is, not something one chooses, whatever the way in which that state arises. Religious belief is, however, a choice. Being gay demands nothing in terms of how one lives one’s life: one can be promiscuous, celibate, monogamous. One can work in an office or at home. One can eat what one wants, dress as one wishes, go out or stay home as much as one wants. Religious belief, on the other hand, often dictates what one eats and when, how one dresses, how one lives one’s… Read more »