Dame Caroline Spelman (said):
"I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. This is a really serious matter, and we should heed what the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the head of the Anglican communion, said about the need to have radical Christian inclusivity. The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive."
My response to this is: "How long, O Lord. how long" - will it be before the Bishops of the Church of England live up to this statement. In other words; we should not have had to wait until this vacancy in Wales turned up before the Church of England offered an overdue post as bishop to Dean Jeffrey John.
No doubt Wales is waiting for the C. of E. to lead the way on its high-minded statement about its supposed 'Inclusivity'.
Being myself half Welsh I take a bit of an interest in what goes on over the other side of Offa's Dyke and was sorry to note that having been mercilessly rejected several times for the episcopate within the Church of England the Dean of St. Albans narrowly missed becoming the next Bishop of Llandaff. The decline in the Church in Wales is indeed a tragedy. It is good to note that the former curate of High Wycombe who is now the M.P. for Rhondda, having turned his back on the Established Church, is asking pertinent questions in the House about the shambles in the Church in Wales. Not only is the diocese of Llandaff without a bishop but also since Dr. Barry Morgan's retirement the Church in Wales is lacking an Archbishop. Does the diocese of Llandaff have to be filled before the process of electing a Primate can begin? The obvious candidate to fill the vacancy would seem to me to be the current Bishop of St. Asaph (spell check has just suggested as an alternative to Asaph - ASAP!). On a recent visit to the Gladstone Library I visited St. Asaph's cathedral and was sadly the only person in the building which certainly seemed to me to lack any vibrancy. This was in sharp contrast to the visit I made to Hereford cathedral during the same trip when I was delighted to find that the place was buzzing with life. In St. Asaph's I did pick up a copy of "TEULU ASAPH" - the diocesan magazine which is extremely attractive and well produced. The Awst/Medi edition contained an article on the Re-drawing of the diocese in accordance with the Review carried out by Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford. As a result of the review parishes are to lose their independence to be replaced by "Mission Areas". In response to a desperate situation the diocesan bishop does indeed seem to have "a cunning plan" for the future of his diocese but don't these so called reviews cause and create a whole lot of upheaval, fuss and bother?
The question in the Commons quoted comes at the end of several other questions:
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
8. What discussions she has had with Church leaders on the vote by the General Synod to reject the bishops’ report on human sexuality; and if she will make a statement. 
Dame Caroline Spelman
The majority of members of the General Synod voted to take note of the report of the House of Bishops, but the motion did not pass because a small majority was against it in the House of Clergy. Following that, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement committing them to find a way forward.
Was it not very significant that it was the clergy, who are in the frontline of providing pastoral care to their parishioners, who voted down the bishops’ paper? Is it not increasingly untenable for our Church, which enjoys significant privileges in this country because of its established status, to continue to discriminate against its own members simply because they happen to be gay?
Dame Caroline Spelman
There was a narrow margin in the House of Clergy vote—93 in favour of taking note to 100 against—but a majority is required in all Houses. The way forward, as outlined by the archbishops, is that the pastoral oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rev. Christine Hardman, will now work on how to be as generous as possible to welcome all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people into the Church and to include them in the work of the pastoral oversight group.
Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con)
My right hon. Friend may be aware of the case of my constituent, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who was found not to have been discriminated against on the grounds of sexuality when the Diocese of Southwell denied him permission to officiate in the light of him having had a gay marriage, despite the fact that neighbouring diocese would allow him to officiate. Does my right hon. Friend accept that allowing each bishop discretion in how to handle these, admittedly, complex issues is creating unfairness and variances that are quite hard to justify?
Dame Caroline Spelman
It is hard to comment on the specific case. It has come before the House before, but it is a legal process, which we normally do not comment on, although it has now reached its conclusion. My hon. Friend may not be aware that the Ecclesiastical Committee of this House actually met and was content with changes to the law with regard to the need to protect children and the powers and discretion that bishops have. Changes have taken place and more need to happen.
"The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive."
So . . . do not change the law or doctrine, but change the culture?
One wonders whether anything of importance will result....
I would like people to know that I have spoken to Caroline Spelman and complained about the association of my name with the phrase "the protection of children" as if there were some connection between them. She has apologised for saying what she did and assured me that she understands that there are no safeguarding issues of any kind involved in my case.
"It is hard to comment on the specific case [re Jeremy Pemberton]. It has come before the House before, but it is a legal process, which we normally do not comment on, although it has now reached its conclusion." Dame Caroline Spelman
No, it hasn't "reached its conclusion". I am surprised that Caroline Spelman is not kept fully informed of the progress of the case by the Church of England's legal department.
Pemberton is not allowed to "officiate" in the Diocese of Southwell "in the light of him having had a gay marriage..."
Of course, in virtually any diocese in the United States, Fr Pemberton could have been married in a nuptial mass celebrated by his bishop, entirely in accordance with the canons and discipline of the American church.
I am glad you contacted her.
Quite apart from being wrong treatment of you, the idea that an MP says bishops need flexibility when dealing with same sex marriage because of the "need to protect children" is chilling
Kate, I think Caroline Spelman was using the issue of the protection of children as an example of where bishops are given discretion to handle the matter in their own diocese, and she said that in response to Robert Jenrick's allusion to the way episcopal discretion could create unfair variations between dioceses.
I don't think. anywhere, she said that bishops needed that flexibility when dealing with gay marriage issues *because* of the need to protect children.
Albeit, placing a reference to the 'protection of children' anywhere near a reference to gay sexuality is I believe ill-advised, given the historic (and continuing) insinuations that gay people are a threat to children.
I did not notice that unfortunate proximity. Apologies to Jeremy Pemberton for posting a quote that can be read very much the wrong way.
As someone raised in the CinW I regard Jeffrey John as eminently suitable to be Bishop of Llandaff. He is a liberal Anglo Catholic, in tune with the ethos of the diocese. But not a campaigning liberal in the Morgan mould. After the latter, the CinW needs to rethink its strategy. The last thing needed in Llandaff is a woman.
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