Thinking Anglicans

Hereford update

Updated Monday

My Church Times articles published in last week’s paper edition are now available on the web:

Priddis loses, but sticks to his guns

Quotes from the bishop:

Talking to the Church Times last week, the Bishop said that he had consulted the diocesan registrar on four separate occasions during the course of the recruitment, and believed he had followed the advice given. He was therefore surprised at the tribunal’s judgment, which, he said, was puzzling and in some ways inconsistent. A particular concern to him was that it felt able to override his own pastoral judgement, based on 35 years’ experience.

He awaited further advice from the lawyers on whether to appeal, but he also needed them to advise on changes to diocesan procedures to avoid future problems. “I am disappointed that the judgment spends so much time focusing on the 1991 House of Bishops teaching document Issues in Human Sexuality, and so little on the more important decision of General Synod in 1987.”

The Bishop insisted that in rejecting Mr Reaney he was upholding the 1987 teaching of the General Synod that “holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders,” which was not limited to the clergy.

Why this constitutes illegal discrimination

My concluding paragraphs:

The tribunal found the facts of this case so compelling that it found in Mr Reaney’s favour without needing to rely on the discriminatory nature of the underlying Church of England policy of “marriage or abstinence”. The marker laid down here, however, and the inherent difficulty of proving justification, suggests that any future case might well succeed in a claim of indirect discrimination.

On the other hand, the ease with which this tribunal accepted that this officer-level post fell within the ambit of the religious exemption will be of concern to those who had imagined that only top-level lay employees in dioceses and at the National Church Institutions were affected.

Last Tuesday’s edition of The Times carried a profile of the barrister who represented John Reaney. Sandhya Drew said this about the case:

What were the main challenges in this case and the implications of the decision?

The challenges were having to deal with the culture of fear and concealment surrounding sexual orientation in the Church of England. What was very striking, however, was the amount of support for John Reaney from Christians of all sexual orientations, not only within the Church of England but within the Diocese of Hereford itself. The main implication of the decision is that organised religions should not assume that they can rely on an exemption from the law against discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Lesbian and gay people of faith make a significant contribution to all the leading world religions and the law will protect them where necessary.

Update Monday
The case is cited in an article in Personnel Today Weekly dilemma: Job interviews.


  • “The challenges were having to deal with the culture of fear and concealment surrounding sexual orientation in the Church of England.”

    It reminds me of a comment from the Gene Robinson interview. That many gay couples had local bishops over for a meal at their place and the bishops were aware of the relationship and quite nice to them. But then said that if this ever went public then they would be their “worst” enemy.

    I wonder what they say to serial pedophiles (or used to before there were successful secular state litigations)?

    Far better for two males who love each other to be with each other than camouflauging behind a heterosexual relationship where they don’t really love their female wives. Better for women too, it’s better to not be in a relationship than find out that your partner was only there so you could make them “acceptable” and they didn’t really love you in the first place.

    Is it better to tolerate two in an unusual relationship or doom four to dysfunctionality so souls can “keep up appearances”?

  • NP says:

    Cheryl – you miss the point…VGR is right about the hypocrisy but the logical conclusion of what he is saying is the CofE bishops should say to clergy that they have made vows to uphold the teaching of the church – if they cannot do that, honesty and integrity should lead to resignations.

  • Pluralist says:

    The point is that the religious exemption cover peoples “promoting religion” (like the organist congratulated by Bishop Priddis on his Civil partnership) – and this could involve many. Still, it also said celibacy was not expected of lay people.

  • JCF says:

    Kudos to the Church Times for a truthful headline (for a change, compared to some headlines reported of late to TA).

    LGBT people are only too used to having those who hate us “stick to their guns” . . . clubs, knives, rocks, broken bottles, etc. And a metaphorical “gun” (etc.) often leads to a real one. 🙁

  • How many priests have resigned for aiding and abetting child abuse within their parishes?

  • Clive Sweeting says:

    I have no decided view as to whether bishop Priddis acted rightly or wrongly, or whether he has subsequently acted inconsistently (given changes in the law which have since ensued and which may or not affect the issue).
    I noted however that it was revealed in court that he had taken the trouble to telephone the plaintiff explaining the reason for his non appointment. It has not been my experience that employers generally take this line with regard to unsuccessful applicants. Is it that of other contributors or readers? This may have opened his flank to attack but seems proof of courtesy and consideration.

  • “Changes in the law”: I know of no relevant changes to the law at issue in this case since the regulations were first approved by Parliament in 2003. I am thus at a loss to understand what Clive Sweeting is referring to.

  • Clive Sweeting says:

    Bishop Priddis was accused by some of his critics of inconsistency in sending good wishes for a civil partnership. The law establishing these dates to 2005. There has been a plethora of legislation on various related issues.

  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004 indeed took effect in 2005. While this act could affect the outcome of some other cases brought under the 2003 Employment Equality regulations, it has no relevance here as the Complainant in the case is not, and never was, in a civil partnership.

    The events under review in this case took place in the period between May and July 2006.

  • Merseymike says:

    The more you read about this judgment, the more sleazy and underhand the church appears. The judgment shows well that Priddis has neither ability nor judgment and should resign. Its amusing to see a sole voice trying to make out that this wasn’t a dreadful and embarrassing judgment for the Church.

    I think its excellent – everything they so richly deserve, and I trust there will be many more embarrassments in the future

  • NP says:

    Cheryl – again, you miss the point….2 wrongs do not make a right.

    Merseymike / Pluralist – the church is not to take its lead from the civil law. We are supposed to be providing moral leadership….I know that is a bit of a joke with regard to the CofE but still, that is supposed to be one of the things we do in society.
    – Do show me the verses which say “change your doctrine to fit in with the laws of your society”

    I hope +Hereford appeals. As Peter Ould has shown, there are grounds.

  • Merseymike says:

    Peter Ould has, as ever, misread and misunderstood the judgment.

  • Pluralist says:

    _You should also avoid ‘chitchat’ with the candidates_ Personnel Today

    Well that takes away a bishop’s job description.

    Two people then – a chaplain giving employment guidance at a bishop’s interview:

    Bishop: Er, do you think…
    Chaplain: Sorry for interrupting bishop, but you can’t ask that.
    Bishop: So, then…
    Chaplain: Sorry for interrupting again bishop, but you can’t ask that either.
    Bishop: Er..
    Chaplain: No.
    Bishop: (Breathing)
    Chaplain: Don’t.
    [Bishop leaves the room]

    By the way, we don’t need verses – we have the law. The law protects people from verses that discriminate. If the job promotes religion, it then depends on what the main thrust of the community thinks about the verses (if they form doctrine) and not the verses themselves.

  • mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    NP rather unwisely limited the sphere of divine interest by declaring that ‘the church is not to take its lead from the civil law. We are supposed to be providing moral leadership…’

    Unfortunately a pretty similar argument has been used in some circles to justify anti-female and anti-black attitudes. Just ‘cos you don’t like the civil law because it conflicts with your view of the faith doesn’t mean your view of the faith is right, does it? Or does God only EVER speak through ConsEvs?

  • Gerry Lynch says:

    Can someone explain to me how discriminating against people because they’re gay is providing moral leadership?

  • NP says:

    Pluralist / Mynster – you may benefit from studying Daniel and how he balanced obeying the civil law and obeying God when a conflict arises.

    You may also ask yourself why St Paul spent so much time in prison…..because if he listened to the views you are pushing, he would have listened to the Roman laws of the time and not preached the gospel – right?

    Gerry – the church is not called to make a morality which pleases you or Merseymike….we are called to be salt and light in the world and even if it is unpopular, we are to tell the world what God has said is good and holy and what is not. NB -this is for the good of the world…..if biblical morality was followed in the world, there would be no STDs, for example. This is moral leadership, Gerry, and it is not arrogantly following what I want but following what God has made clear he wants in scripture (as held by the Anglican Communion, by the way)

  • Hugh of Lincoln says:

    Blithely pursuing an unpopular “counter-cultural” policy, ridiculed by the media and mainstream society, won’t win us converts in the long run.

    The CofE is waking up to this reality. It’ll have to ditch its discriminatory policies sooner or later. Fudge won’t do. If the Church wants to be seen as an equal opportunities employer in keeping with other respectable organisations, it will need to reform – quickly.

    Not forgetting the other “non-core” doctrines the Church changed its mind on: slavery, usury, divorce and contraception.

  • mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    Heavens. NP is now asking us to read a C2BCE document as an historical record from C5BCE rather than a dollop of morale-raising propaganda.

  • NP says:

    mynster – you are free to follow current English law……I know my churches are full because the teaching is true and God is, as always, blessing those who follow him above all other authority (that is in C21 England!)

    I am not making a point about nos….I am expressing my confidence that obeying God first is the right thing to do and giving you some evidence for his blessing on us at this time in London and the regions.

    +Hereford need not fear Stonewall….he must do what he knows is right. (I hope he appeals)

  • Merseymike says:

    Yes, Hugh, I agree. I think ultimately, the exemptions will have to be removed. After all, they are purely a way of justifying christian homophobia and I do not think have a place in a society which values gay and lesbian equality.

  • NP says:

    Merseymike….any other liberties we currently enjoy that you would like to curtail?

    I think freedom of speech and religious conscience are worth fighting for…..but you may know better…..but you should read some history before you start taking away liberties such as these.

    Are you an Anglican now or still not got anything better to do than worry about the AC…even though you are not involved?

  • NP

    In what way do these employment regulations limit freedom of *speech* exactly?

    I doubt that Merseymike is alone in thinking that exemption currently embodied in Regulation 7(3) will not survive indefinitely. As far as I am able to ascertain, no other country in the European Union apart from the UK has included any such exemption in its implementation of the relevant European Directive. I would be happy to be corrected on this point.

  • NP says:

    Simon I mentioned freedom of speech in the context of asking MM what other liberties he might like to limit.

    Despite their heritage and partly because churches have discredited themselves in various ways over the centuries, most European countries are not Christian in any meaningful sense, but secular, as you know….so, it is not surprising if biblical principles matter even less there than here.

    I suspect even the Labour government won’t take away the exemption….given how much they care not to upset certain other religions

  • Erika Baker says:

    I agree, religious conscience is worth fighting for. I do it all the time on this forum!

    Of course, I would not want the government to give the likes of me license to discrimminate against those I don’t agree with.

  • NP says:

    Glad you support freedom of conscience, Erika

    I do not want the government to force me and many others to go against what the bible says (as held by the CofE currently and 2000yrs of tradition)

    They are too scared of other religions to try to force secular liberal principles on the church at the moment…it is easy to push wooly, spineless archbishops around but not all faiths have resorted to being led by academics with little experience of leading….and they put up a stronger defence against government interference….with regard to maintaining general religious freedom, this is a good thing.

  • Gerry Lynch says:

    NP – can you explain to me how me being denied a job because I’m queer provides moral leadership? You didn’t actually answer the point in that post.

    How would that be being salt and light in the world? Where did God tell you in scripture that he wanted you to deny employment to homosexuals? And what does this have to with STDs?

  • Erika Baker says:

    But you see, my idea of religion is quite different to yours. Would you be happy if the Government supported my (let’s just say) wish to discriminate against you?

    It’s one thing for me to battle it out with you on TA, quite another if I suddenly had the power to stop you from working in your church.

    My right to religious freedom is limited to me. My right to free speech is limited to speech.
    As soon as I claim the right to discriminate because of my beliefs, I violate your rights to your religious beliefs. It just can’t be done!

    The Government has to protect both of us from each other.

  • NP says:

    Quite simple, Gerry, as I said, we are not hear to please you or Merseymike….moral leadership is to tell society what God has said is acceptable to him and not to be pressurised into accepting the standards of society in the church.

    Erika – I am quite happy for you and people who agree with you to have the freedom to pursure your religion. What I think is mad and causing chaos in the AC is the pathetic, weak-willed attempt to try and contain contradictory views in one organisation. So, if you do not like Lambeth 1.10, I completely support your right to be part of a church which takes a different view. I do not support the right of vicars to make vows in the AC and break them – this lacks integrity.

    You might say that you want to change the AC….that is fine and can be done through persuading the AC but it is not acceptable for some to just ignore their vows and the agreed position of the church

  • NP

    I’m not clear how your comment relates to the topic of this thread, which is the Hereford tribunal case.

    Are you suggesting now that the employment regulations, as they stand, including the religious exemption (which the bishop failed to meet in this case), are contrary to “what God has said is acceptable to him”?

    Or do you just think that religious organisations should have even more generous exemptions from the regulations?

  • Gerry Lynch says:


    you’re being evasive, which isn’t very impressive testimony. Do you think denying me a job because I’m gay would constitute ‘moral leadership’? It’s not a hard question – yes, no, in x and y circumstances, whatever.

  • NP says:

    Gerry – I would not deny you a job….actually, I am really against the anti-discrimination legislation.

    Simon – I am saying that freedom of conscience is important and should be protected for the benefit of all so the church should not be forced to appoint people who do not intend to uphold church teaching. Those who cannot stand church teaching are free to start another church (given they have failed to persuade the church over the last few decades) I would support their right to do that…but not be ordained and just ignore teaching they do not like.

    As for the bishop, I still think he acted in a caring, pastoral way….if I rocked up and said that I had been living with a woman for the last 5 years but the relationship had ended (ie nothing to do with repentance, just the end of a relationship) but now I promise I won’t start another relationship outside marriage if I get the job, I think the bishop has made it clear he would have acted in a similar way…..i.e. he was not discriminating. The question in his mind was about the credibility of the promise and the commitment of the person to the teaching of the church…..which is a big question when we see a person taking the church to court with money from secular campaigning groups. I really hope the bishop appeals.

  • NP says:

    Gerry – sorry I made a typo – I meant to say that I am NOT against the anti-discrimination legislation in general. I would employ anybody who was the right person for the job.I support equal rights in employment.

    When it comes to the church, I don’t feel the state should limit freedom of conscience….but I support the right of others to set up chuches which are “liberal” etc….but not those who make and break vows in the CofE (that lacks integrity)

  • Christopher Shell says:

    Hi Gerry-
    One thing I have never understood: Why would you be happy to be called something like ‘queer’ any more than anyone would be happy to be called ‘odd’ or ‘strange’?

  • Hugh of Lincoln says:

    “I support equal rights in employment”

    If truly do support equal rights, NP, then you are opposed to the exemption for organised religion to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.

    You can’t have “a little bit of discrimination” as Harriet Harman famously said. This derogates from the principle of equal treatment, and makes Regulation 7(3) an anomaly.

  • NP says:

    Hugh – you do realise that you are not supporting equal rights for those Christians who hold to the traditional understanding of scripture when it comes to church leaders?
    YOu want the law to force them to go against their consciences…….there is a paradox here, right?

  • Merseymike says:

    No. NP. people cannot be allowed to discriminate because of their so-called ‘conscience’

    The same case could be made for racists who see it as a decision of conscience to discriminate against black people.

    Simply becsuse homophobia is attached to a religion doesn’t make it acceptable. Fundamentalists must obey the civil law like everyone else. They could choose to live in Nigeria instead, if they feel so sggrieved.

  • Ford Elms says:

    As a rule, I agree with you, Merseymike, but it isn’t so easy. If the Aztec religion had survived, I doubt we’d let them rip out people’s hearts these days! All the same, ought the Church allow the State to dictate who She may ordain, or how She should structure her dioceses? I don’t think so, but then I’m an Anglo-Catholic! This doesn’t apply to a lot of areas where NP would likely also claim the Chruch should be free of State interference, and it doesn’t apply to the “conscientious” refusal of services to someone because of the colour of their skin, their religion, or their sexual orientation. It does apply to clergy, though.

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