Comments: Reactions to Bishop Richard Inwood's criticism of same-sex marriage

I have suggested on the earlier TA post that the CofE started this case love-30 down based on my amateurish legal analysis. Based on today's cross-examination of the bishop one might be tempted to say that the score is love-40. The bishop is meant to be trying to win this case and is backed by the not inconsiderable resources of the Church Commissioners. He has strayed miles from the House of Bishops' Pastoral Statement which is meant to be his talk sheet. Surely he must have been given the press release from Church House in advance! I am sure the judge will be impeccably objective but no mere mortal cannot but not be influenced by the language that was heard today.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 7:49pm BST

The Guardian has a rather different account of what Bishop Inwood said. (The below is all quoted from The Guardian's article on its website.)

Asked by Sean Jones QC, counsel for the respondent, whether the bishop thought Pemberton had committed a “sinful” act marrying partner Laurence Cunnington, he answered he was unsure. “The word sinful is such a difficult one to deal with really,” the bishop said.

“Part of me wants to say yes, because it’s against church doctrine on marriage, and part of me wants to say no because I believe canon Pemberton and his partner entered into it with a view to it being a wholesome thing.”

He added: “I think they chose the wrong moment to do it, because the church has not given its mind to it. I think that as a priest, canon Pemberton ought to have regard to the teaching of the church and held off marriage at this particular point.”

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 8:04pm BST

Bishop Richard, please be aware that Marriage has already been redefined in common practice within our lifetime. No longer is there a fixed pattern of courtship, betrothal, marriage family and home. The separate elements occur in various alignments. And very recently the voters of all persuasions in Ireland have signified their approval of further variations from the former norm. Is our society so different?

It is not suitable for the Church hierarchy to condemn any committed self-giving relationship as sinful, whoever has contracted it . The Church is not wise to meddle in secular unions, and who is the Judge of all? Bishop Richard, that is not your task and you can thank God it isn't. You owe an apology for these remarks, which are beyond proper limits.

Posted by Sister Mary at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 8:10pm BST

Sadly I feel that remarks like that are injurious and unwholesome.

What a terrible impression that gives to the nation at large.

We are, after all, talking about people who seek to commit (before God and the community) to lifelong devotion, tender care, sacrifice, love and fidelity.

And that is a sin?

The Church of England leadership is at sixes and sevens, and does not represent the opinions of so many of its membership. Frankly remarks like this are an embarrassment, and simply serve to alienate reasonable and fair-minded people, and portray the Church as homophobic...

...whereas many people in the Church accept gay and lesbian sex as legitimate, loving and caring... and could not identify with intemperate comments like this one.

I really hope the Bishop retracts. Please stop calling people's love and fidelity sinful, when they seek to make their covenant to each other before God and the community. Otherwise, journey down the dead end road to irrelevance, because compassionate and open-minded people will just go their own way, and understandably so.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 8:17pm BST

rjb, whom I greatly respect (not knowing who he is) has bewailed Jeremy P's recourse to law
(citing Paul). But at least one good consequence of this process is that Bishop RI has now lost all credibility, both within his episcopate and within UK society as a whole.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 8:30pm BST

This is not at all what the Guardian is reporting: Asked by the counsel for the respondent, whether the bishop thought Pemberton had committed a sinful act marrying partner Laurence Cunnington, he answered he was unsure. “The word sinful is such a difficult one to deal with really,” the bishop said.
“Part of me wants to say yes, because it’s against church doctrine on marriage, and part of me wants to say no because I believe canon Pemberton and his partner entered into it with a view to it being a wholesome thing.”

Posted by Lorenzo at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 9:05pm BST

"Clergy do not have the option of treating the teachings of the church as an a la carte menu and only modelling those with which they personally agree."

Really? So should bishops in the CofE model consecrating women, or not consecrating women? I was rather under the impression that there was precisely an a la carte there, or is that just the extra-cost cheese course on the table d'hote?

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 9:08pm BST

Honestly, I couldn't make this up if I tried.

The below from the Press Association/Guardian report:

A bishop has been asked if the “hot potato” issue of a clergyman marrying his partner in a same-sex marriage was delegated by the archbishop of Canterbury, to avoid a Church of England split.

Former acting bishop of Southwell and Nottingham Richard Inwood was asked if the Most Rev Justin Welby decided “to leave it (the issue) alone, politically,” in allowing individual bishops to handle such a breach of the church’s rule as they saw fit.

The bishop replied: “To paraphrase the TV programme [House of Cards], you may say that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.” Inwood was speaking at an employment tribunal for Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who has made a claim for discrimination against the bishop.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 10:03pm BST

Now having seen the transcript of the exchange between the bishop and Sean Jones, Counsel for Jeremy Pemberton, it seems he fell into a trap set for him. Had he stayed on the high ground of the language of the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (14 Feb 2014) there would have been no need to rise to the bate of 'sin' and 'unwholesomeness.'

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 10:08pm BST

I've read quotes of Bishop Inwood's remarks in the Nottingham Post:

"During the hearing, The Rt Revd Inwood said he believed Mr Pemberton married too early, as the church are still discussing their stance on same sex marriage.

He said: "I would hope my mind is open to change if we get to that point."

In other words, Bishop Inwood's position seems to be that if the institution changes the rules, then Pemberton's marriage would no longer be sinful and unwholesome.

I don't know what to say to that.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 10:43pm BST

Someone needs to get the phone number of the communications unit at church house westminster, and let them know that satirists have taken over their website and are posting things that can only be intended as jokes. I mean, seriously, that evidence cannot possibly by the work of someone who isn't playing it for laughs, can it? It boils down to "this marriage is sinful but not as bad as getting divorced".

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 10:47pm BST

It seems from reading these documents that Bishop Inwood deserves a degree of sympathy for the impossible situation he finds himself in, though from another perspective no sympathy, as he should have seen this coming.
To be questioned under oath my a clever QC on a matter of this complexity must be a truly awful experience. I am sure, for example, that his "prayers and good wishes" were genuinely offered, but it is easy for them to appear insincere under questioning.
The church as a whole, and especially its senior leadership is in an impossible situation, and this former Assistant Bishop has allowed himself to be hung out to dry.
Prayers and good wishes indeed to him, and to Jeremy and Laurence, and to all involved.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 11:11pm BST

Reading the "record of the relevant cross examination" it might seem we did go off slightly half-cocked...

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 11:13pm BST

While Inwood fell victim to leading questions on cross, I have zero sympathy for him. He brought this on himself. He was under no obligation to refuse Pemberton a license. If he had been, he should either have defied Church House, or resigned in protest.

I find the Church of England's cowardly evasiveness even more repugnant than Christians who say, plainly, that homosexuality is a sin. At least they've the courage of their convictions, say what they mean, and mean what they say.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 17 June 2015 at 11:35pm BST

I am surprised about the level of surprise, whether this bishop went into mealy-mouthed words or said it plainly. The Church of England has been given its right in sacred and ministerial areas to be discriminatory. The problem is that this should not impact at all on NHS employment. The NHS needs to have a legal method to know when a refusal to licence is discriminatory in nature so that it can grant the employment regardless. It's also time that the Church of England became the Church in England and thus as a principle kept its discrimination purely to itself.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 2:01am BST

So a prayer to "to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part" now makes one a "rebel." Well, there we are, aren't we?

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 3:34am BST

To state that to be anti-homosexual practice or marriage is homophobic is an over simplification, as I remember Jeremy Pemberton when he held that position.

There are undoubtedly many people, who have prejudice based on revulsion, but there are others who base their convictions on the Word of God and how it has been consistently taught and expounded for nearly two thousand years.

Posted by robert ian williams at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 5:49am BST

(Roman) Catholic theologians (USA) in a recent CTSA meeting discussed matters connected with the 'sensus fidei' and the 'sensus fidelium.' You can read an account of their meeting here:

http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/catholic-theologians-ponder-sensus-fidelium-annual-convention

One pertinent remark by a leading contributor - "The need for reception of teachings by the People of God is a counterbalance to this modern need for certitude, Burkhard said. “In some situations the real question is not ‘Is it true?’ but ‘Is it life-giving?’ ” he said. "

Canon Pemberton's marriage rests upon his and his partner's individual 'sensus fidei.' Does Bishop Richard think he, as Bishop, is enunciating the 'sensus fidelium'?

Posted by Sister Mary at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 7:08am BST

"The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. Jeremy Pemberton is one of many who currently serve and receive that support" quoth the Church House Comms unit. Once the laughter has died down and the tears have been wiped away, does this not require a massive reality check? Who on earth do they think they are kidding?

The Archbishops have lost all credibility on this issue, along with others (e.g. Renewal and Reform) and are simply setting themselves up to become a public laughing stock - even though they have tried to hide behind +Richard Inwood's naïve ineptitude.

There's no doubt in my mind where renewal and reform is needed in the C of E right now.

Posted by Will Richards at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 7:27am BST

I really can't understand why poor old retired Richard Inwood is in the dock allegedly saying unwise things that definitely don't promote his case? How come he was appointed Acting Bishop of the vacant diocese in the first place? Surely when a Diocesan retires the suffragan becomes Acting Diocesan, so why wasn't the Suffragan Bishop of Sherwood given the reins, was there some special circumstance or reason which prevented this usual arrangement taking place?
They sometimes say that life is stranger than fiction. Presently I am reading "Unseen Things Above" by Catherine Fox where the Suffragan Bishop of Barcup (Bob Hooty) is Acting Diocesan in the diocese of Lindchester. Poor chap is stressed and overworked and while visiting the Revd Ed Bailey, who is planning to marry his partner Neil Ferguson, in order to discuss their intentions suffers a heart attack in the Gayden Parva Rectory. His life is saved by the swift heart pumping actions of Neil. Trollope and Barchester was never like this.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 7:45am BST

"It's also time that the Church of England became the Church in England and thus as a principle kept its discrimination purely to itself."

Couldn't agree more, Pluralist, needs to be an iron curtain between church and state. Church of England, as currently set up, is worst of all worlds, with all the freedom of disestablishment, but all the power and influence of being part of the state.

If the church were finally cast adrift, it could only help cut down on its imperialist mindset, which veers between wallowing in vicarious guilt for the sins of others, and expecting its communion partners to heel like so many uppity colonists.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 8:31am BST

IO,
I think the question of a la carte cannot be compared to the women bishops arrangements, because they are in all parts sanctioned by the CoE and have come about through a formal internal process.
We would need to find other examples where priests have not followed what the church believes to be its official teachings without being punished for that.
Vestments, anyone?


To those who say that Bishop Inwood fell into a trap set for him, yes, he probably did. Please spare a thought for all the traps the church's legal team has set for the previous witnesses.

Setting traps seems to be how the British adversarial court system works.
We can wish it didn't, but we ought to recognise that ALL witnesses are being put under tremendous pressure.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 9:10am BST

I think that Pemberton should not be paying his lawyer. The lawyer should be paying him for the opportunity to publicly shoot fish in a barrel. The Church is not so much shooting itself in the foot as amputating both legs below the knees

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 9:37am BST

As others have remarked elsewhere, the sentence in the official Church House statement:

"It is regrettable that this case risks undermining that process by invoking legislation which does not even apply to this situation."

is at best unwise, and at worst public comment on a sub judice matter.

Posted by Alastair Newman at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 9:41am BST

As I read it, Bishop Inwood was saying that the problem was in going against current Church teaching, rather than the particular thing done. I don't think he would say that a same-sex marriage between two lay people would be sinful (see his answer to "So is entering into same sex marriage sinful"). But clergy, at their ordinations make promises to obey Church teaching - so as he sees it the sin would be promise breaking. If and when the teaching of the CofE changes, the ordination vows would not be imperilled by a same-sex marriage.

This seems to me pretty clear from the transcript (e.g.the language of "certainly irregular"). The Bishop clearly does not say that all same sex marriages are sinful, nor that they are all unwholesome. This particular one is, he says, unwholesome because of its timing in breaching Church teaching. Note that he is open to Church teaching being changed, in which case there is no problem.

When Colin Coward and Tracey Byrne leap to condemn the Bishop for saying something he has not said, they are hardly helping the cause - there should be conversation not mudslinging.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 10:10am BST

May I just correct some English here:


"There are undoubtedly many people, who have prejudice based on revulsion, but there are others who base their convictions on the Word of God"

Surely that should read:

"There are undoubtedly many people, who have prejudice based on revulsion, but there are others who base their prejudice on [sic] the Word of God"

Posted by Fr Andrew at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 10:25am BST

May I also just correct some English here:

The first comma should not be there.

Posted by John Roch at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 11:10am BST

The Bishop said that Canon Pemberton's marriage is sinful, because it flouts the Church's teaching, and unwholesome, because it came about before the Church changed that teaching.

Whether these are the Bishop's complete views is another question. He may actually think that the marriage is sinful and unwholesome for additional reasons. But these are the answers he gave, after being well prepared for this hearing by competent counsel.

The answers the Bishop gave are basically the Church asserting its power. Sin is what the CofE says it is--even if Parliament has just enshrined same-sex marriage as a legal right. (Given establishment, the state is speaking out of both sides of its mouth.) And according to this thinking, "unwholesome" follows from the timing.

The Bishop is quite wrong. But his prepared explanation--and he was obviously well prepared for this sort of question--is not moral, but organisational. In the church's eyes, we are now told, Canon Pemberton's real offense was insubordination!

Which shows that this case is not about morality, or sin. It's about power, and how uncomfortable the powerful become when someone not in the hierarchy shows the hierarchy how it must change.

Bishops don't like priests who tell them, and show them, that they must change. Some comments above reflect similar antipathy.

But when has positive social change ever come from above? The powerful like the status quo, almost by definition. Therefore others need to lead change, or force it. Canon Pemberton may be a mere canon, but he is a true leader.

In this instance, retaliating against him may produce demands for change from quarters that are far more powerful than he is.

Canon Pemberton did not bring this case just to win the case. Surely he brought this case to change the church. In my judgment, he's winning already.

Posted by Jeremy non P at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 11:14am BST

Should that be correct the punctuation rather than the English?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 11:43am BST

Jeremy non P,sometimes I wish Thinking Anglicans had a "like" button.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 18 June 2015 at 11:43am BST

Father David at 0735 on Thursday: "Surely when a Diocesan retires the suffragan becomes Acting Diocesan, so why wasn't the Suffragan Bishop of Sherwood given the reins, was there some special circumstance or reason which prevented this usual arrangement taking place?"

There was. The Bishop of Sherwood initially undertook the role of Acting Diocesan (in addition to his duties as suffragan) but after some time had to take sick leave for several weeks. The Metropolitan decided that it would be unfair to expect him to undertake both roles in the diocese in addition to his national responsibilities in the College of Bishops upon his return to work and so appointed +Richard, who was and is an Honorary Assistant Bishop in the diocese, to act as diocesan during the vacancy.

Posted by RPNewark at Friday, 19 June 2015 at 5:31pm BST

Apparently there are a few things that an "acting diocesan" can't/doesn't do. Patronage is one of them. Another (I gather) is to give consent for those who have been divorced and have a former spouse still living to be ordained - and that is interesting in relation to where the decision in this case happened to fall.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 20 June 2015 at 7:48pm BST

Daniel Berry NYC: In other words, Bishop Inwood's position seems to be that if the institution changes the rules, then Pemberton's marriage would no longer be sinful and unwholesome.
I don't know what to say to that."

That's because CoE is far more hierarchical than TEC. We tolerate equal marriage in some dioceses, even though the canons haven't been changed yet, as the movement of the Spirit, to which the church will catch up. CoE leadership don't seem to recognize the movement of the Spirit until they've said so... Order trumps conscience and Spirit, in my view. It's hard to listen to the movement of the Spirit when you are persecuting the voices of it...

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 11:14pm BST

Surely the 'church,' in common parlance, is a man-made religious organisation and as such can change its stance as it wishes. It doesn't mention God a lot. On the other hand, the 'Church' of Biblical definition is not an organisation but a group of people, irrespective of denomination, who know God through Christ and who believe the Bible to be God's inspired Word and therefore not subject to man's revision. Individuals comprising that 'Church,' in adhering to Biblical tenets may have some unpopular stances, but these are unfairly interpreted as 'judgments.' This is a misunderstanding of terminology, (evidenced also in the equally inaccurate definition of 'sin,' - Biblically, a'falling short of God's perfection and 'missing the mark.'...and who doesn't?) Those people who 'define' marriage 'biblically' are similarly inaccurately and unjustly dubbed homophobic. The Biblical 'Church,' while recognising 'fallings short,' should be governed by love which precludes judgmentalism. Every human is entitled to beliefs without being slandered. The reported discussion with the Rev Inwood seemed to be an attempt by an inquisitor to trip him up.

Posted by Helen Cameron Inwood at Thursday, 3 March 2016 at 2:59pm GMT
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