Comments: Hereford tribunal decision: press reports Thursday

This whole story is rather confusing. One side (the Diocese and the Archbishops's Council) claim that the verdict backed their right to inist on celibacy for key lay workers (as for clergy) whilst the other side (eg the guy's solicitor and Stonwall) maintain that such an insistence would be unfair discrimination. Which view is right?

Posted by Andrew Holden at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 11:11am BST

"“I took the view that anyone who has been in a committed relationship of that kind for five years will be in a position of loss, grief and bereavement."

Is it common practice in the church to deny grieving people employment?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 12:24pm BST

The Right Reverend Bishop of Hereford: “If he had been a heterosexual person with a five-year relationship outside marriage then I still wouldn’t have appointed him because that’s not the teaching of the Church.”

Just show us!

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 12:58pm BST

Anthony Priddis has congratulated the Cathedral organist on his and his partner's forthcoming Civil Partnership--- apparently.

I am VERY confused.

Surely the Cathedral organist should also be sacked as a non-ce;eibate lay (sic) man ?

On another matter, the bishop has a fine way with bereaved people. He is wasted as a bishop ! Perhaps he could become a (Good ?) Samaritan ?

Posted by L Roberts at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 7:50pm BST

Goran wrote:
"The Right Reverend Bishop of Hereford: “If he had been a heterosexual person with a five-year relationship outside marriage then I still wouldn’t have appointed him because that’s not the teaching of the Church.”

Just show us!"

Difficult for him to do, unless he could point directly to a case in which he had actually done so. The linguistic features of the utterance attributed to the bishop (use of conditional mood) would seem to indicate that he had not. Your tone seems sceptical, Goran, but I seriously doubt if a bishop would employ a straight guy who said, "I've been shagging a bird for five years but I've stopped now..."

My expertise is in employment relations, rather than employment law, and I'm not sure where the burden of proof lies in a case like this, but I do recall cases in industrial tribunals (as they then were) in which the first question asked by the tribunal chairman was "Did you sack him?" Having admitted that the company had sacked the person, the personnel guys and other gaffers present had to convince the tribunal that they had acted correctly in terms of grounds for dismissal and disciplinary/redundancy procedure.

As has been remarked in another thread, ETs are very low in the judicial food chain and don't establish precedent. It will be interesting to see if either side appeals in this case. They may decide not to do so for fear of creating precedent unhelpful to their side in the future.

Posted by Alan Harrison at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 7:59pm BST

"The Bishop joins others in offering them his congratulations…"

Not a P45, I'm pleased to hear.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 8:46pm BST

Your tone seems sceptical, Goran, but I seriously doubt if a bishop would employ a straight guy who said, "I've been shagging a bird for five years but I've stopped now..."

There is nothing tosuggest that the interviewee said anything of the sort. I didn't get the impression that he was atall flippant, with the bishop, or that he regards relationships as 'shagging'.

But ahving been to the job interview and been given the job, the encounter with the bishop must ahve been confusing and shocking.

They went agaisnt their own interview and selection policy. Thisis not equalk opportunties interviwing --unless ALL candidates were seen by the bishop ......

Posted by L Roberts at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 10:21pm BST

Alan Harrison, why should the Claimant appeal? He won. In fact, he can't appeal, because he won. Appeals are against outcomes, not reasons. If you get the outcome you want, you can't appeal just because you would have preferred another route.

I bet you the Bishop doesn't appeal. Because, if he appeals, he'll lose. He's spent enough diocesan money on a losing case already.

I repeat, he lost on the facts. The law was apparently taken in his favour, and he still lost. He can't appeal that.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 10:51pm BST

Well of course the Bishop congratulated the organist on his civil partnership. Do you think there would be a single functioning cathedral or collegiate choir in the whole of the C of E if it weren't for gay men?

Posted by John Bassett at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 1:09am BST

"The Right Reverend Bishop of Hereford: “If he had been a heterosexual person with a five-year relationship outside marriage then I still wouldn’t have appointed him because that’s not the teaching of the Church.”

And if he had been a heterosexual man who'd just got divorced after a five-year marriage?

At the time John Reaney was still with his partner, civil partnerships weren't yet legal. Saying "I wouldn't employ anyone who's been in a longstanding relationship outside marriage" by definition at this point excludes all gay people who've had lasting relationships.

Posted by charity at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 1:22am BST

I think the real question is whether the bishop would have ASKED an unmarreid heterosexual man if he'd been shagging his bird for 5years.

I bet he wouldn't.

As for the organist, as long as he's up in the loft and not "teaching da yout'", then I suppose that's the justification.

You don't suppose the Bishop's lawyer told him to congratulate the organist just to make it clear he didn't hate homos?

Naw, that would be too cynical....

Posted by IT at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 2:10am BST

"I seriously doubt if a bishop would employ a straight guy who said, "I've been shagging a bird for five years but I've stopped now..."

You know, this is just despicable.

The man was in a relationship with another man - under the circumstances, they could not at the time marry or enter a civil partnership. It was not at all like a case of refusing to marry by heterosexuals.

Is 'shagging' what you think of as a sexual relationship with a woman? Really?

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 3:32am BST

[Borrowing this line from another] For Bp. Priddis, apparently it's only OK to be gay in the closet or the organ loft...

Posted by JCF at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 5:27am BST

As a parish treasurer I am pleased that I am not in the Hereford Diocese as I should feel that I would have to recommend to the PCC that they with-hold part of the quota. The finances of the Diocese, the Bishop and the Cathedral are all quite separate and should be kept so. It is unfortunate that the action had to be taken against the Diocese as the potential emloyer rather than the Bishop who influenced the decision not to offer the employment.

Posted by Brian from West Yorkshire at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 7:53am BST

I wonder if the claim that the bishop blessed a gay wedding is true.

If it is, it reminds me of one of my friends favourite phrases "the smiling assassin".

The one who smiles and is mild to your face, whilst behind the scenes they are planning your assassination.

We don't mind who you assasssinate and send to hell. The reformers have reminded the devil that they are part of God's creation and provide hospitality on unconditional basis. The Hindus are off acknowledging the beasts and alternative life forms as part of God's divine order. The indigineous souls (e.g Australian Aborigines and North Americans) are acknowledging the strengths of the various animal forms. The Buddhists are conducting classes in meditation and detachment, thus teaching anger management and not to over react to insults. The Jews are emphasising that God does not belong to one form alone and is more than any one form, even though God may manifest in one form to communicate more effectively. The Muslims are confirming that prophets came after Jesus. The women are nursing the orphans.

Second thoughts, don't change the status quo. Hell is being much improved by being the catch all for all the souls that Jesus' priests don't want. If you want to find the Shechina, she'll be amongst the riff raff honoring the Daughter of Zion's covenant.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 1:10pm BST

It would be a lovely gesture if the Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral were to offer the newly-weds the use of the cathedral for a ceremony to mark the occasion of their union, should they so wish.

Bring on Messrs Wagner, Widor and Vierne.

(If only Anthony Trollope were still around)

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 1:43pm BST

Alan,
I hope I'm just being hypersensitive. Are you equating committed monogamous gay relationships to two straight people getting together on a regular basis to get their jollies? I know a lot of anti-gay people think exactly that, so I'm a bit touchy on the subject.

And IT, realism isn't cynicism.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 2:06pm BST

"Gay Trollope." As Molly Ivins used to say, "now there's a notion".

Posted by Lapinbizarre at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 2:30pm BST

Badman wrote:
"Alan Harrison, why should the Claimant appeal? He won. In fact, he can't appeal, because he won."

Not quite. He won on discrimination, lost on harassment. He could therefore appeal on the harassment issue, just as the diocese could on discrimination. It's not uncommon for both sides to appeal when a verdict is mixed. (For an example close to my own heart, involving my former employer, see:http://www.thompsons.law.co.uk/ltext/lelr-weekly-20-bias-at-brunel.htm )

Having read the judgment, admittedly pretty quickly and once again emphasising that my field of knowledge is employment relations rather than employment law, I suspect that the diocese's lawyers will be reading it pretty carefully, especially since the tribunal does indeed seem to have accepted that the post for which Mr Reaney was applying was one that was exempt under reg 7(3).

And let me say a word in favour of flippancy, of which I stand accused. On the whole, I think I would rather be flippant than po-faced...

Posted by Alan Harrison at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 4:26pm BST

I hope Mr. Reaney will appeal agaisnt harrasssment and onthe grounds of a failure of Equal Opportunities interviewing -- if one is to be interviwed by bishop, all must be, and all must be asked the same questions. This harrassment also breached flagrantly EO.

Still if the diocese thinks a deacon is a priest then heaven help them ! (see their website re 2 July Ordinations)

Posted by L Roberts at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 5:49pm BST

If the tribunal hadn't thought the post was exempt then the judgment would have been even worse for the church ( and one could be forgiven for forgetting that they lost the case!)

There are very few exempt posts outside the clergy and the church is going to have to be extremely careful. I gather that this particular job no longer exists....

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 7:19pm BST

"if the diocese thinks a deacon is a priest"

"They will be known as deacons"

Well, no. Either they will be deacons, or they will be priests. I can see some thinking this is a mere quibble over terms. For me, it belies a basic profound difference between my understanding of the Church and theirs. That is unless the person who wrote the copy didn't really understand the terms and it got by the editor. But still. it's kind of like saying "This is my wife, but I'll call her my fiance for the next 15 months.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 7:24pm BST

"if the diocese thinks a deacon is a priest"

"They will be known as deacons"

Well, no. Either they will be deacons, or they will be priests. It's like saying "This is my baby, but I'm calling it my housepet for the next 15 months till I can have "another service" ". I can see some thinking this is a mere quibble over terms. For me, it belies a basic profound difference between my undestanding of the Church and theirs. That is unless the person who wrote the copy didn't really understand the terms and it got by the editor.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 7:26pm BST

>if one is to be interviwed by bishop, all must be, and all must be asked the same questions<

Good point. That's what many public employers do, though they never quite (when an interesting answer leads to elucidation).

The whole process did verge on the humiliating. Hereford got off lightly. It might still cost them.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 25 July 2007 at 1:31am BST

Yes, it's called Equal Opportunities interviewing.

Posted by L Roberts at Wednesday, 25 July 2007 at 10:01am BST

Interesting thought. A deacon is a church baby or a church housepet. I know it was not your thought but it shows my thought.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 12:41am BST

Pluralist,
LOL. While inadvertent, I see how close the statement comes to traditional reality. We have in our diocese an active perpetual diaconate, and part of it is a rediscovery of the role of the deacon after centuries of the order being, as you say, Church housepet or Church baby. It's an interesting dialogue. Some would say deacons are supposed to be thorns in the flesh of the hierarchy and the powers that be. St.Lawerence comes to mind.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 1:31pm BST

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves! I meant of course that the statement, not myself, was inadvertant.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 2:38pm BST

You know what? Last night in my reasonably meaningless existence, I was surfing from one place to another, reading pointless website after pointless website from a Forward in Faith perspective why they would reluctantly stay in touch with Canterbury with its lost liberals rather than join Abuja with its "Calvinism" and somewhere down the line I asked myself why am I wasting time reading all this stuff? I'd flatten the whole hierarchy. Half the time I'm trying to get into the mentality of this, not because I want to join in (hell's teeth) but because it baffles me how it operates and what floats some peoples' boats.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 3:32pm BST

We agree Pularlist"

The structures and hierarchy are a big man-made mess and everyone would be better off without them.

This is why I favour a generous realignment - i.e. let everyone take their building and their people and join, let's say, " TEC Global" or The AC (with clear covenant)........I think liberals and conservatives would both be better off without a strangely dysfunctional hierarchy which lacks authority in every sphere of the church

(sorry Cheryl, I am sure women were involved in making the mess too)

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 2:34pm BST

"The structures and hierarchy are a big man-made mess and everyone would be better off without them."

There goes your right to use "traditional" and "orthodox" to describe yourself.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 4:13pm BST

Let's say: Anglican Communion Canterbury without Covenant or broad one, and Anglican Communion Abuja/ Sydney with restrictive Covenant. According to Chris Sugden, the concept of Communion should not be nationalistic any more.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 4:40pm BST

Fine in Metroland, NP - but here, there's just one Anglican church, and we try to be accessible to all. That, I think is part of my calling, and I wonder whether the Metro perspective on all this clouds the reality of church life out here in the sticks.

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 4:58pm BST
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