Monday, 8 September 2014

Jeremy Pemberton files employment tribunal claim

The following statement has been issued by the lawyers acting for Canon Jeremy Pemberton:


“Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first British clergyman to enter a same sex marriage, has confirmed that he has filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. The action is being brought because of the sanctions imposed upon him as a result of his marriage. Canon Pemberton married his long term partner Laurence Cunnington in April of this year. Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused. This led to the withdrawal of a job offer from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Commenting on his decision to issue proceedings in respect of the alleged discrimination that he has suffered, Canon Pemberton said “I am deeply saddened that I have had to take this step against church authorities. However, I feel I have been left with little choice, having found myself being punished and discriminated against simply for exercising my right to marry. I will be making no further comment until these matters have been resolved through the court process.”

Among those assisting Canon Pemberton in his claim are Helen Trotter, a specialist employment and discrimination barrister from Kings Chambers and leading ecclesiastical lawyer, the Revd Justin Gau, from Pump Court Chambers.”

8th September 2014

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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

One guesses this will be a stressful time for these lads as Jeremy tries to challenge the institutional homophobia so clearly demonstrated by this case, my thoughts and prayers are with them.

I was at the tribunal when John Reaney challenged the bishop of Hereford (and won) for refusing to appoint him because he was gay.

What struck me then was the alarming willingness to present opinion as fact and press interviews in airports as the doctrine of the CofE. There were a couple of moments when the truth was so badly mauled that my involuntary gasps brought the proceeding to a momentary halt. Jeremy is no fool, he will realise that they will not play fair.

I look forward to the bishop giving an account of how he came to his decision. In particular it will be fascinating to know the part played by the Archbishop of York and the committee established by the bishops to give some consistency to the persecution they are ALL committed to, with one exception.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 7:50pm BST

Well done Jeremy and all the best with your claim


Posted by: Jean Mayland (Revd) on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 8:18pm BST

I'm sure I'm not the only person who's going to say this. But no matter what the technical result of this legal action is -- even if the Church "wins" it -- in the larger arena, the Church is going to lose here in a big way.

The Church's action in interfering with someone's employment -- for an employer that's not even the Church -- because he exercises his legal right to get married -- regardless of any rationale the Church offers -- is going to come across as petty, small-minded, vindictive, and thoroughly unChristian. Because it is.

Anyone in the Church who thinks otherwise is living in a self-contained bubble separated from the real world.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 8:24pm BST

Who is going to pay for the Bishops to defend the indefensible?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 10:31pm BST

I don't understand the logic of this. The ABof Y and Bp of Southwell and Nottingham are not his employer and were not involved directly in the appointment process.

If he has a case, surely it must be against the Hospital Trust…?

Posted by: Ian Paul on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 10:46pm BST

Can any one blame him..when the Church of England has no fault divorce and remarriage. I also hope he brings out the anomaly that he is in "good standing" in another diocese.

Posted by: Robert ian Willaims on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 10:53pm BST

It will be interesting to see what the NHS Trust in question does. It might ask to have itself joined to the case, and in any event they're going to get dragged in. The Bishops' defence will be, I suspect, "we aren't stopping him from working for the NHS Trust in question, it's their decision to demand the accreditations we offer, and we are entitled to determine who works for us (which he hasn't applied to do) because of our exemption from discrimination legislation". Legally (as opposed to morally, decently, etc) that argument looks reasonably sensible.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 8 September 2014 at 11:51pm BST

So, if he wins, are all denominations and churches, mosques, etc. going to have to have gay married priests? Since gay marriage is legal are all religions going to have to accept them?

Posted by: Chris H on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 1:00am BST

" .... were not involved directly in the employment process "
They clearly were directly involved in this process, as the process requires the bishop to consent to the appointment.

I can't see how this can be construed as not directly involved in the appointments process.

Of course Ian Paul is one of those defenders of the anti gay stance of the CofE
It is interesting that people like Paul resist the idea that they are unaccountable for the evil policies they promulgate.
Otherwise Interested Observer throws up a perfectly reasonable defence. The health service is unlike the Army and Prison Service where there is an internal ecclesiastic structure.

The bishop argues his actions are perfectly consistent ..... It looks as if that will be tested.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 8:30am BST

Glad to see this. May the good prevail.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 8:45am BST

Ian Paul, this sentence is your answer: "Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused."

Well done, Jeremy P!

Legal action is no picnic. Good luck, and be assured that you are doing the right thing.

Posted by: Jeremy (non P) on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 8:46am BST

These last two comments then mean: he doesn't have a hope. And I suspect he knows that.

So what is the purpose of the action? To close down any conversation.

Posted by: Ian Paul on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 9:11am BST

The CofE and other religious org may have got that legal change in the equality act to allow them to not employ vicars in a SSM but why on earth does the CofE want to pursue this case. They're not that popular anyway and many MPs already think they should be disestablished unless they are there for all of society. After all the CofE have a very inconsistent policy on same sex relationships and most poeple would find it odd that some vicars can get married or do a CP and not be punished while others are not.

Posted by: aldwyn on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 10:02am BST

Canon Pemberton can not win his case. The Church of England's position is protected by the Equality Act, which was amended specifically for this purpose by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Posted by: alan marsh on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 10:26am BST

With reference to some of the comments above, the facts of the case and the legal arguments relating to them are far more complex than some commentators may realise.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 11:10am BST

Chris H,
no, no church nor religious group will ever be required to accept married gay clergy within their structures.

The question is how far the opt out of the equalities legislation reaches, and whether the church is within its rights to block someone from employment in a secular organisation that is not protected by the opt-out.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 11:29am BST

As an observer from the other side of the Anglican world; may I ask whether the NHS is legally obliged to refuse chaplaincy employment to a clergy-person licensed by a different diocese - rather than the diocese of its geographical NHS situation?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 11:33am BST

"So what is the purpose of the action? To close down any conversation."

How on earth can a tribunal action be construed as an attempt to close down conversation? I suspect that all sides will have quite a lot to say actually. Whether you believe this to be a constructive form of conversation is perhaps a different matter, but I imagine Canon Pemberton will feel (quite rightly) that his attempts to discuss this with the authorities involved have already been ignored to the point of effectively closing down conversation...

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 1:40pm BST

I am not sure that the only value in this case is in the 'winning'. Making people defend an unjust system and an unjust institution is the best way to expose the nonsense for what it is. Civil rights movements have used the tool of making people defend the indefensible very effectively. Many battles against inequality based on race, gender and sexuality have been furthered by court action which 'lost' but scored a win in the court of public opinion and common sense. Having said that, I wish Jeremy all the best with his case. The personal cost of taking this step will be high, not least in emotional energy.

Posted by: Disgraced on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 1:52pm BST

"So what is the purpose of the action? To close down any conversation."

This is ever the cry of the defendant that has to explain its actions in a neutral forum.

"Why couldn't we have remained in 'conversation'--a 'conversation' in which we possess the power and you do not?"

Posted by: Jeremy (non P) on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 3:03pm BST

I guess Canon JP is bringing a discrimination action against the bishops in respect of their decision to revoke his licence because he married his partner - they would not have revoked a heterosexual priest's licence in the same circumstances.
Given that the CofE had not formulated any rules or punishment for rule-breakers before coming down on him, he could well be successful.
The fact that he failed to secure a job as a result would be a factor in compensation should his claim be successful.
I wonder whether the tribunal is the right jurisdiction - but then I do no know anything about his employment relationship vis a vis the C of E.
This will be interesting to follow.

Posted by: Jill Armstead on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 3:42pm BST

This is the kind of reply he will probably get in my opinion - it's in 2 parts.

Part One

There is and was no employer-employee relationship.

The ET has no jurisdiction.

The claim is vexatious.

Part Two

Even if an employer-employee relationship existed:
a) it would have been with the NHS Trust
b) the C of E is exempt from the Equality Act 2010

Posted by: Adrian Judd on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 5:04pm BST

Ian, I can't speak for the motives of others, but I think it's far likelier that he wants an injustice acknowledged and, so far as is possible, put right.

Martin, I disagree with Ian's position, but he's an open evangelical who holds it out of a nuanced reading of the Bible. If church policy is to change, it's moderates like him who must be persuaded.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 5:13pm BST

I expect that, once again - as has happened on both sides of the issue in church property disputes in TEC - we are going to be given all sorts of sophisticated reasons why 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not apply to this situation?

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 5:26pm BST

nothing sophisticated about it.

A fair dispute among equals is one thing.
What we have here is a bully who put out a quick statement, that may or may not be legal even within its own framework. When tested, they did not use either of the two disciplinary processes to assess the legality of the situation, but without any due process made sure that someone who had not been tried or convicted of anything lost a job offer.

Many of us have since written to the church and tried to get the bishops to reconsider. We did not even get a reply.
So what else is Jeremy to do, other than give in meekly and let them get away with it?

Jesus does not want us for a doormat.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 6:09pm BST

I agree, Jill. This was done without any due process or right of appeal. The church's exemptions are not unlimited, and must be exercised fairly and proportionately.

Prominent open evangelicals like Ian Paul could support Jeremy's case on due process grounds, without changing their theology of sexuality. Such support would be right in itself, and signal détente with LGBT Anglicans. How about it, Ian?

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 6:13pm BST

Adrian Judd:

The Equality Act exemption relating to religious organisations allows them to discriminate on the grounds of religion, belief or sexual orientation 'in certain circumstances'.
In my view, because the CofE had not formulated its grounds for revoking JP's licence (I understand the matter is under some sort of extended discussion period?)It just might not get away with it.

Posted by: Jill Armstead on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 6:40pm BST

Tim Chesterton: The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Archbishop of York, Primate of England, is clearly not a member of an oppressed Christian minority in first century Greece. He is a member of Parliament and it is appropriate for him to be challenged in the Queen's courts to the extent that he violates the laws established by Parliament.

Posted by: Christopher on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 6:58pm BST

Tim Chesterton, would that be the same 1 Corinthians that tells us that "the head of every woman is the man"?

See also id. 34-35:

34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

Please explain what kind of authority you ascribe to 1 Cor. 14:34-35?

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 7:05pm BST

I wonder how Tim Chesterton would feel if he were sacked just for getting married. Would he apply an unsophisticated bible quote?

Posted by: FrDavidH on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 7:47pm BST

At first sight, I'd agree with Adrian's analysis.

However, solicitors don't set out to make fools of themselves, so presumably there is a legal theory that has been written on more than a fag packet as to why the case won't be immediately rejected.

I would have thought that the more obvious path was to bring an action against the NHS Trust and leave it to them to explain their reasoning and (probably) involve the church. But let's wait for the ET.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 9 September 2014 at 8:17pm BST

Note that the Equality Act 2010 specifies that an Employment Tribunal has jurisdiction to determine a complaint relating to a contravention of Part 5 (work) [see section 120 of the Act, there are some irrelevant exceptions]. Part 5 (sections 39-83) covers more than Employer-Employee relationships e.g. Office Holders, Partners, Trade Organisations, Barristers etc.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 12:01am BST

Perhaps I should make clear that I am not supporting the arguments I mentioned, and they do look like they were written on the back of a cigarette packet, but they are the sort of arguments that I expect to find in the initial response to the submission of the ET1 form.
The mere retelling of these arguments doesn't mean the case will be thrown out, it's more like round one of a 10 round boxing match, where the opponents are sizing each other up, and ducking and weaving round the ring, trying to get in an early blow.
The other argument I expect to see is tied in to the vexatious and frivolous argument which is to offer a 'walk away now or we will claim costs' settlement.
I wonder whether Jeremy has got his ACAS early conciliation certificate allowing the case to proceed to the tribunal...

Posted by: Adrian Judd on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 7:43am BST

taking your Corinthians quote seriously, what would you make of this "I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?"

When the church is supposedly of one mind? When one of the accused is the second highest office holder in the church?
Would you honestly say that there was anyone who was in a genuine position to judge? That there were the structures in place to allow that process to take place?

And if there isn't, can we then say, shameful though it may be that the church has manoeuvred itself into this place, that Jeremy has no other option if there is to be at least the possibility of justice and compassion for all lgbt priests who are planning to get married and work outside the church in a secular environment?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 9:15am BST

The bishops pastoral statement was disastrous and I think at least some of them know it. Some will tell you it was far better than it could have been. It is what they will be defending if they go to court over this.

I say 'if' because I think what we now need is a campaign to encourage the bishops to say that they were wrong and to find a way to settle this dispute without going to court. Pete Broadbent sometimes reads and comments here and did an amazing job of getting a steering committee/process together for the recent legislation passed by synod. Pete, working in the diocese of London will know that even if the church wins the legal battle it will have lost a great deal in the process. Will you help with the campaign I propose Pete?

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 1:07pm BST

Good morning all from Alberta, where the Lord blessed us with a good dump of snow yesterday.

I'll try to respond to the various answers thoroughly. For the record, I think those who know me will know that I have consistently opposed legal action between Christians through the years (on the grounds not only of 1 Cor. 6:1-8 but also of Jesus' teaching of how we respond when we are wronged), whether it was initiated by liberals or conservatives, and I have told some of my conservative colleagues that they are compromising their commitment to the authority of scripture by going to court over church property.

Erika, we have no idea whether or not the legal dispute mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians was a fair dispute between equals. What we do know is that in this passage Paul laid down the principle that it is preferable to be wronged than to go to court before unbelievers. And as for Jesus not wanting us to be doormats - well, I don't know if 'doormat' is the word that I would use, but is this the same Jesus who said, 'But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also'? It seems to me that Jesus gave a consistent teaching about how his disciples were to respond when they were wronged by their enemies. Some would call that doormat-like behaviour, I guess.

Christopher, the Archbishop of York is currently in a situation where the teachings which he believes to have been handed down to the Church by Christ and his apostles are in conflict with the laws of England. I know most people here disagree with him, but currently the official teaching of the Church of England does not. Whether or not the Archbishop is a member of an oppressed minority is irrelevant. Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:38-42 clearly envisages a situation where the victims are members of an oppressed minority, and Jesus tells them quite clearly what they should do.

More to come.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 4:20pm BST

'Second period'.

Jeremy, your argument is not just an argument to dismiss 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 but also the entire New Testament; it basically says, '1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is clearly wrong, therefore we can't accept the authority of anything Paul says anywhere in 1 Corinthians' (kind of tough, when 1 Corinthians gives us our earliest witness to the Lord's Supper and the Body of Christ teaching).

My response would be to say that Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is clearly consistent with the teaching of Jesus about how Christians are to treat those who wrong them, and also with other passages such as those in 1 Peter that deal with the same subject. By contrast, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a disputed passage that does not have a fixed address in the canon of scripture. We can also see a trajectory in the teaching of scripture (which we also see with regard to slavery) that is clearly in a direction of more equality between men and women, and I would argue (as my evangelical forebears did with regard to slavery) that this movement was not intended to end with the last verse of Revelation.

What I am not at liberty to do as an Anglican priest is simply to say, 'Such and such a verse of scripture is clearly wrong, therefore we can't treat any of scripture as authoritative'. At my ordination I said publicly that I believed the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God containing all things necessary to salvation. Those who wrote those words were not fundamentalists, but scholarly Canadian Anglican liturgists. I think my loyalty to what was asked of me at my ordination demands a better answer than 'We can't trust two verses in 1 Corinthians, therefore the whole thing is clearly not authoritative for us'.

Over to you. Please tell me why you think 6:1-8 is no longer authoritative for the Church?

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 4:30pm BST

DavidH asks how I would feel if I had been sacked just for getting married. I think the answer to that one is obvious; I would be hurt, upset and angry, just as Jeremy is.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 4:39pm BST

Erika, with regard to yours of 10 September 9.15, I have no idea what legal structures are in place in the Church of England. I know that in the equivalent canons of the Anglican Church of Canada there are clearly structures in place to deal with the situation of one of the alleged offenders being the Primate. I would be very, very surprised if there are no parallel provisions in the canons of the Church of England, but I can't speak to that.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 4:45pm BST

I'm not terribly worried about legal action. It's not a sign of failure, it's not anything negative in particular.
When you have new laws, and the Marriage Equality Act is a new law, there is always a grey area about its application and about how it affects other laws and regulations.

If the parties in question cannot agree, it makes perfect sense to take the matter before the courts to decide.

We can leave accusations of un-Christian behaviour out of this. That's always a hurtful and completely pointless two-way slanging match.

There are legal questions here, two sides have different opinions about them. It makes sense to get them answered professionally.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 5:34pm BST

I don't know about the use of an Employment Tribunal, but it is established (E&W) that an individual can seek redress for the content of a reference (or even, I think, refusal to provide a reference) that stops him/her from getting a job. The Bishop's refusal to grant a licence could be seen as parallel to refusal to give a reference, so even if not the employer the Diocese can still be taken to court.

Posted by: Richard on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 5:55pm BST

"Jeremy, your argument is not just an argument to dismiss 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 but also the entire New Testament."

No, it is the very Anglican argument that we must interpret Scripture using reason and tradition.

We believe that the Hebrew Bible and New Testament contain "all things necessary to salvation." But you will admit, surely, that they also contain much else.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 7:41pm BST

Tim, a further comment/question.

You say, "By contrast, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a disputed passage that does not have a fixed address in the canon of scripture."

In other words, in light of reason and tradition we no longer view it as authoritative.

Even textually, the reading that you ascribe to 6:1-8 is only one of two literal meanings. Does this passage tell us not to litigate among ourselves at all? Or does it say that we may litigate, but that we must do so in Christian courts?

If the former, reason and experience tell us that crimes, abuses, torts and other wrongs are just as common among Christians as among those of other beliefs or no belief at all. Are Christian victims of wrongdoing to have no redress in this world?

If the latter, I share the questions above about whether a Church of England court can be neutral in the Pemberton matter, given that a Primate seems heavily involved.

More generally, anyone who asserts that Christians are not to litigate against Christians has to contend with the evidence that justice can be had in the secular courts. Indeed, the secular courts often provide leadership on moral issues, and to protect minorities, in ways that the church--a majoritarian institution--is utterly unable to achieve.

Posted by: Jeremy (non P) on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 7:58pm BST

A few comments (really more like a few questions) responding to the comments about 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

Certainly it’s a scandal when Christians sue each other in the secular courts. But is this an absolute rule applicable at all time and in all circumstances?

During the disputes in TEC over the last 40 years groups unhappy with TEC left TEC, attempted to take church property with them, and taunted that TEC was acting unchristian under this passage for suing them to get the property back. In the vast majority of cases, the courts in fact ruled that these groups were in fact not entitled to the property, that they had wrongfully taken it, and that they had to return it.

This text says that disputes between believers should be decided by “wise” persons in the Church. What happens when one side refuses to accept the wise persons’ decision? In TEC, these disputes followed decisions of the General Convention (or other authorized bodies) – usually after years of debate and discussion – to (1) permit women’s ordination, (2) revise the Prayer Book, and (3) permit Gene Robinson’s consecration to proceed. In TEC, these bodies are the wise persons authorized to decided disputes. The losing side is not necessarily required to agree with the decisions of these wise persons and, if they disagree, they are free to leave. But does their disagreement with the decisions of these wise persons entitle them to take property with them that, in the vast majority of cases, they do not own? And are the wise persons permitted under those circumstances to seek to regain the property that those who have rejected the wise persons’ decisions have taken with them?

Another example. A rector, owning his home, takes a vacation after Christmas. On his return, he finds the senior layperson (with whom he has often disagreed) has moved into his home, changed the locks, and declared that he has taken over the property. Is the rector required to let senior layperson have the house, leaving the rector and his family out in the winter cold, or may he go to court to get it back? Moreover, is the rector also required under Matt. 5:40 (“if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well”) to give the senior layperson the funds in his checking account as well?

Posted by: dr.primrose on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 at 8:01pm BST

Tim C's position is a perfectly honourable one and consistent with an acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God. As a priest I heed his (and my) ordination promise to accept the Bible as containing all things necessary to salvation.But that does not mean that I have to accept literally everything it says. There is much of the Old Testament, for example, that we would not treat as normative for Christian ethics and behaviour today (and I agree that there is still much we can follow). The same applies to a lesser degree over the NT. We just live in a different world where it is extremely difficult to see how the cultural settings of 3,000, 2,000, 1,000, even 50 years ago can be normative for the times in which we ourselves actually live. There is no escaping the necessity to make judgments on what is lasting in terms of ethical and theological principles and what is constrained by its time.
Tim's response is that it is all lasting (at least the NT part of it). I'm afraid I cannot follow that path because God has given me a rational mind that will always challenge and enquire.
But there is another element to this, and that is in England the CofE is part of the establishment, not independent of it. The House of Bishops has reserved seats in Parliament, the highest law-making body in the land. It has its own ecclesiastical law which is upheld by the laws of the land. And the CofE itself has been found wanting in recent cases under employment law. The CofE has also moved to create a relationship with its clergy which is underpinned by law and employment tribunals. It might be ideal if Christians did not pursue each other through the courts, but I'm afraid that in the case of the CofE there is sometimes no alternative in order for justice to be served and for the abuse of power to be curbed.

Posted by: Roger Antell on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 12:06am BST

If we're looking to the House of Bishops to set an example on the question of whether fellow members of the Church should settle their disputes in court then we need look no further than their pastoral statement with its threat of CDMs for clergy.

The claim seems to have a reasonable prospect of success. An existing employee of the NHS with a CofE licence is denied a promotion in another part of the organisation solely because of the discriminatory actions of the bishops in direct contravention of the Equality Act as it applies to public sector organisations. It would be hard to argue that Jeremy was not in good standing with (or able to model Christ in) the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham whilst being simultaneously so in Lincoln!

Counsel for the bishops will no doubt argue that their actions comply with doctrine or avoid conflict with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the Church's members, to cite the exemptions. But the question may be what is reasonable if the standards are not applied consistently across the Church. And the reliance on a hastily cobbled together and ill thought through document denounced as 'collective stupidity' by the bishop of Buckingham on radio 4's Sunday programme recently.

Posted by: Andrew on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 12:09am BST

"Certainly it’s a scandal when Christians sue each other in the secular courts"

In the 2012 census, 59.3% of the adult population self-identified as Christian. Do you therefore believe that use of the secular courts to resolve disputes amongst nearly 60% of the population --- unpaid rent, liability for car accidents, planning disputes, arguments over wills, copyright claims, medical negligence, personal injury --- is all "scandalous"? Is the church planning to run an alternative dispute resolution service at a scale to deal with 33.2 million people's affairs? Seriously?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 6:45am BST

In general I have no time for such things.
Christians should indeed be examples of boundless love rather than vexatious litigants.
But here the bishop is acting in his judicial role and has issued summary judgment. In many peoples eyes this is unjust and falls far short of what Christian love compels , for the sake of the Christian community the reasons behind this punishment need to be opened up to public scrutiny.
The tribunal, rather than a court, offers an excellent format to explore the bishops ungodly actions.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 6:53am BST

So, if I, a Christian, break an agreement with you, a Christian, and, say, defraud you or evict you from your home without cause, or fire you without cause, you would, of course, Tim, simply be pleasant and make no attempt to go to court with that, yes?

To expand on Erika's point, does your reading of Paul include the idea of wrongdoing by the church itself against an individual. If the church is corrupt, where, other than courts, can one hope for a just hearing? I will be impressed with the continual cries of "Corinthians! Paul! Corinthians! Paul!" from conservatives - particularly its ongoing use against TEC - when they never, ever, ever again pursue any action against any other individual or body who has wronged them, or live by their own code and simply give what is asked to avoid court.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 6:59am BST

........... Whereas if the bishop had stolen Jeremy's surplice from its hook in the cathedral vestry, I am confident that Canon Pemberton would have been swift to offer him his lace cotta too ..........

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 7:33am BST

I agree with the recent trend of comments. There is such a thing as justice. It's important that Jeremy Pemberton gets justice and it's just as important that the bishop and archbishop get publicly biffed. I look forward to these things. They will do much good.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 9:11am BST

There's a detailed discussion of this case in the following article by Ian Paul:

Law suits and same-sex marriage

The comments there are also interesting.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 9:13am BST

Given that Paul wrote Corinthians in light of (presumably) 1st century Roman law, it ought surely to be obvious that it doesn't apply to litigation in a common law system that evolved centuries later!

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 7:21pm BST

Has anyone who knows the law put up any information on the relevant legal provisions?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 7:51pm BST

Since the blind application of the restraint on recourse to the secular courts has assisted people within the church to hide abuse of various kinds, including constraining women in abusive relationships without challenge to the men who abuse them, and keeping abused children within a network of abusive power relationships. I think the scandal is not just one way.

Those within the church who would judge such cases need also to reflect on the New Testament passages which warn those who presume to stand in judgment in the place of God.

In England, the history of our law and court system takes us back deep into ecclesiastical law. Our "secular courts" exercise judgment in the name of our Queen, who is supreme governor of the Church of England.

Thus there are ethical, Biblical and constitutional depths to be unpacked by "thinking anglicans" who wish truly to own that name.

And this is quite apart from the conclusions people are reaching about this case without having done proper research on the legal provisions which may actually apply. Low quality commentary does not serve any of us well.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 11:57pm BST

Mark - as we do not know the exact detail of the claim it is not simple to do so. We only know that a claim is lodged under the provisions of The Equality Act 2010. This can be viewed at should you wish to read it. Sections 13-27 detail the prohibitions, sections 39-40, 49-52, (possibly 53-54) relate to employment, and the exceptions in schedules 9 and 23 could/may be relevant.

Posted by: Neal Terry on Thursday, 11 September 2014 at 11:58pm BST

Presumably, the Church of England will argue that i) marriage implies a sexual relationship, ii) that same-sex sexual relationships are immoral, and iii) therefore the removal of a licence is justified on the grounds of immoral behaviour.
It certainly gives the Church of England an opportunity to articulate its official position!

Posted by: Erasmus on Friday, 12 September 2014 at 5:21pm BST

@Erasmus: if it did follow such an argument, church officials would at least prove all of their "respecting conscience" arguments, which its reactionary forces deploy at moments of (only) their suiting, to be hollow.

Posted by: AndrewT on Saturday, 13 September 2014 at 9:15am BST

If people are going to comment on this issue, may we please be accurate in our terminology. In the CofE there is a difference between a "Licence" and a "Permission to Officiate (PTO)".


Jeremy's PTO in the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham has been revoked and a Licence to exercise the role of an NHS Chaplain in the diocese (effectively a statement that he is a priest in good standing within the CofE) has been refused.

Jeremy STILL HOLDS a Licence to exercise the role of an NHS Chaplain in the diocese of Lincoln. In the eyes of the CofE in Lincolnshire Jeremy is a priest in good standing, authorised to exercise a priestly ministry within the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Herein, it seems to me, lies the issue for the church (and, potentially, for the Employment Tribunal). How can a priest of and in the CofE be in good standing in one place but not so twenty miles away on the other side of the county, diocesan and provincial boundary?

Posted by: RPNewark on Saturday, 13 September 2014 at 9:37am BST

In respect to the appropriateness of 1 Cor 6 to this matter, it is clear Paul (or any of the apostles or early church leaders) would never concede any authority over the church to the State: the head of the church is Christ. I don't think any UK tribunal or court will be in a position to speak for Christ in this or any matter. In fairness the church should not show up as it has no case to answer to the state.

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Saturday, 13 September 2014 at 1:26pm BST

Andrew F. Pierce, it seems that you are based in the Republic of Ireland. I am not a (UK) lawyer and I'm certainly not qualified or experienced in Irish law but in the UK, failure to respond to a claim laid in an Employment Tribunal will almost always result in judgement for the Claimant. "Not showing up", as you put it, is not a sensible option.

Posted by: RPNewark on Sunday, 14 September 2014 at 10:36pm BST

So, Andrew Pierce, where do you draw the line?

If a bishop commits murder, does the state not have the power to bring him to trial, and jail him if he is found guilty?

I am always interested to hear how church people think they are above the law (that is, unaccountable according to the standards that apply to the rest of us).


Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 15 September 2014 at 2:43am BST

Andrew Pierce is quite right. The Employment Tribunal is not a criminal court, and the Church should not be subject to secular law in respect of its Ministry. The first clause of Magna Carta remains on the statute book: Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit. The same principle is enacted in the Church of Scotland Act. The state has no business interfering in the ministry of the church.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 12:55pm BST

So, Alan Marsh, you draw the line at civil versus criminal?

If a pinnacle falls off York Minster and injures several people, do they have a right to sue the church, in tort, for civil damages?

If not, why not?

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 25 September 2014 at 8:54pm BST
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