Thinking Anglicans

More discrimination against clergy who enter a same-sex marriage

Updated again Monday evening

Our previous reports on this were Discussions in the House of Lords on same-sex marriage and Update on clergy entering same-sex marriages although the subject is also touched on here.

Today, the BBC reports that Gay wedding canon Jeremy Pemberton has NHS job offer withdrawn and there is an audio file of the interview that lies behind this report over here.

The first gay British clergyman to marry a same-sex partner has had an NHS job offer withdrawn because a bishop will not give the licence needed.

Jeremy Pemberton currently works as an NHS chaplain in Lincolnshire, but has been blocked from taking a new job with the NHS in Nottinghamshire…

Other media are now picking up on this story, see for example, the Independent Married gay clergyman has NHS job offer withdrawn after bishop blocks licence .

Updates

The Church Times asked its readers a question about Bishop Richard Inwood’s action last week:

Is Bishop Inwood right to withhold Canon Pemberton’s licence? Total: 571 Yes: 21.5% No: 78.5%

Andrew Brown at the Guardian has written: Church faces legal challenge after blocking job offer to married gay priest.

The first priest to marry his same-sex partner is to issue a legal challenge to the Church of England after his offer of a job as an NHS chaplain was withdrawn when his bishop refused the necessary permission.

The Rev Jeremy Pemberton, who married Laurence Cunnington in April, was informed on Friday that Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS trust had withdrawn its offer of a job after Bishop Richard Inwood had refused him the official licence in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.

“It this is not challenged,” Pemberton said on Sunday, “it will send a message to all chaplains of whom a considerable number are gay and lesbian. This is an area of law that has not been tested and needs to be.”

Anglican clergy are allowed to enter civil partnerships, but the House of Bishops has forbidden them to marry their same-sex partners, at least until a two-year discussion process within the church has been completed.

But the legal process for disciplining clergy who do so is unclear and has not been tested. Supporters of gay marriage claim it is a doctrinal issue, which is cumbersome and difficult for the church to prosecute. Opponents claim it is merely a matter of conduct, for which a simpler legal process exists.

Pemberton’s case suggests that some bishops hope to deal with the matter by ensuring that no one who marries their same-sex partner will ever find another job.

“It is tragic and disappointing that bishops think they can get away with this,” Pemberton said. “I have not been through any disciplinary process…”

The BBC has a further report which quotes a spokesperson for the Archbishops’ Council: Church of England shuns gay wedding canon Jeremy Pemberton row

The Church of England has said it will not intervene in the case of the first gay British clergyman to marry.

Following the ceremony in April, Jeremy Pemberton had his permission to work as a priest in Nottinghamshire revoked.

This led to the offer of a chaplaincy with the NHS being withdrawn – although he is still holds a licence and has a similar job in Lincolnshire.

The church, which does not accept gay marriage, said each diocese was responsible for its own decisions…

… a spokesperson for the Archbishops’ Council said it would not comment on individual decisions made by diocese.

They added: “The Church of England is made up of 42 dioceses.

“Each diocese is autonomous with the diocesan bishop overseeing and taking a lead in its ministry and mission.”

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sjh
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sjh

The only solution really is for the NHS to remove the requirement for chaplains to hold a bishop’s licence. This would be something of an own goal for the church but would mean the NHS did not have to discriminate against its own ethical values.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

I am looking forward to seeing the justifications for this action from the bishops.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest
Spirit of Vatican II

The Church of England is giving a scandalous bad example of employment discrimination and disrespect for people’s human rights.

Concerned Anglican
Guest
Concerned Anglican

At the very same time as the 100th anniversary of the First World War when we commemorate folly, so the Church of England does something that will seem just as incomprehensible in the future.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

It’s sad that the bishops who comment and post here are so silent on these threads about this issue. The man at Willesden is on the panel established to advise on punishments for clergy who get married a panel that has obviously been at the heart of the present activity and even more sadly that panel was welcomed by the man at Mancgester on this very blog. Once again we see the growing distaste the people of the UK have for this wicked policy. Only the twisted mind of a spiritually bankrupt cleric could understand how a priest can be… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Glad Jeremy P is to challenge this. Best of luck to him. Church Times poll very eloquent. I can’t believe the bishops aren’t going to be busted over this. But of course it is vital we win.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I agree with every word Martin writes. And I am getting thoroughly sick of talk of supposedly “friendly” bishops whose hands are so sadly tied. No bishop is in a vulnerable position. Every single one can stand up for what he believes in. That no-one does other than the Bishop of Buckingham is a shocking indictment of the idea that Christians are to be counter-cultural and that we are to be courageous in speaking out for justice. I wish I understood what happens to fundamentally genuine people when they become bishops and what makes them all lose the ability to… Read more »

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Not one bishop in the Church of England would offer Canon Pemberton a living, so why this protest? The inconsistency, is that he has not been dismissed from his present post. He should sue, to expose the hypocritical Church of England policy.This is blatant discrimination.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Legal action can be expensive.

Is there a legal defence fund for Jeremy P?

Jeremy (non Pemberton)

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

I have just read Robert Harris’ novel about the Dreyfus case,’An Officer and a Spy’. It is very interesting that when the Army officers responsible for Dreyfus’ condemnation are shown that he was in fact innocent and that another officer, Esterhazy, was the real culprit, they did everything to hide it. ‘If we’ve made a mistake, so what? The prestige of the army, the very unity of France are at stake, and those values are far more important the miserable life of one (Jewish) officer.’ The officer who reveals the lie is head of national security, so indeed it IS… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

RIW,
Jeremy Pemberton has applied for and been offered a job with the NHS, a secular equal opportunities employer.
There are serious questions here about the boundaries of the CoE opt-out from the equalities legislation.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Let’s not delude ourselves.

I doubt that the female gender, in and of itself, is any antidote to a herd mentality, or to groupthink.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

All gay and lesbian clergy should resign their livings immediately. The resultant closure of the Church of England would soon have the Bishops begging them to come back.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“The fact that supposedly liberal bishops remain publicly silent and do not cry out against this injustice is to be deplored.”

Couldn’t agree more, Martin. Yet again, I’ll name Nick Holtam, a liberal who expressed his support for equal marriage. Not one word from him against this persecution of gay clergy.

As a diocesan, he’s secure. His livelihood isn’t threatened if he speaks out. When will he? What’s stopping him?

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

@Jeremy: you may well be right, but we could give it a try…..

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

Two quotations from Churchill spring to mind; only one or two words need be changed: “History will characterize all these transactions as insane… All this is a sad story of complicated idiocy in the making of which much toil and virtue was consumed.” “The Government simply cannot make up their minds… So they go on in a strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. So we go on preparing more months and years – precious, perhaps vital, to the greatness of Britain – for the locusts… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

The stage is set for an employment tribunal to flush out the issues. It can’t be right that the Church should allow such an important area of policy to be dealt with in such an arbitrary, ad hoc way, with different approaches taken depending on which diocese (or province) you happen to be appointed in and the individual ideological convictions of the (arch)bishop. I’m sure Stonewall, for example, would be willing to take it on. But will the respondent be the C of E or the NHS? The NHS as employer refused a job offer as a direct result of… Read more »

John
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John

I do think the treatment of Jeremy P is disgusting. I do also think that challenges to certain otherwise mouthy bishops to say something about this particular matter are well aimed. I also think that Martin and Erika have to frame their arguments with more precision.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Oh, bloody Nora!

Are these people complete incompetents or are they devious, choosing to mischievously mislead?

Here we have the Archbishops’ Council telling us that the diocese are autonomous while the lead bishop of a unique committee set up to oversee the way the Bishops’ Guidance is implemented has told us they are there to maintain a consistent approach when persecuting gay clergy.
You couldn’t make this up!

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

‘[A] spokesperson for the Archbishops’ Council said it would not comment on individual decisions made by [a] diocese.’

I wonder whether the Archbishops’ reticence will extend to situations where the diocesan bishop takes no action at all against a same-sex bridegroom?

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

You do not need a bishop’s license (or anyone else’s) to comfort the bereaved, to minister to the sick and dying, to stand alongside families at times of crisis. The NHS – in line with their own Equalities values – should accept Jeremy in any post where he can provide spiritual succour as part of a multi-faith chaplaincy team. If Jeremy has a caring and compassionate ministry (as I don’t remotely doubt he has) then THAT is what qualifies him to meet the needs of his clients, and the NHS should stand firm on that principle, and their often cited… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“The stage is set for an employment tribunal to flush out the issues.” It’s going to be very interesting, and it’s to be hoped that if he doesn’t have a union or other organisation willing to fund him, and in the unlikely event that he can’t find a pro bono lawyer, he gets appropriate representation via an appeal to the likes of the TA chatterati. The interest comes because the people with the main issue to defend, the CofE, won’t be represented (I would welcome correction, but my limited knowledge of ETs is that they don’t accept interventions from third… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

John, how much precision would you like? How many bishops are actively speaking out in favour of lgbt equality, of same sex marriage, of support for gay married clergy? We are being told that many don’t approve of the bishops’ guidelines. Some have hinted they won’t take punishment too far. Who can you name who has actually spoken out firmly and clearly for Jeremy and Laurence, for Andrew and Stephen? Can you not tell the difference between the women bishops’ debate where everyone spoke out clearly for their views, and this one, where a few people hint delicately and the… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“It is absolutely astonishing, and no wonder the wider British public is astonished, confused and disgusted.” Sadly, Susannah, I think the public are indifferent. If the public cared, the bishops would never dare act in this way; they’re politicians, who know what realpolitik will allow. Indifference is, admittedly, an improvement on the received homophobia that used to be endemic in society (homophobia that, according to Stonewall’s report on schools, remains commonplace amongst teens). But public indifference does mean that supporters of LGBT rights within the church are on their own. Cavalry won’t crest the horizon. If this is to be… Read more »

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

It seems the LGBT community is not important enough for bishops to take seriously. Not one has spoken out for Jeremy Pemberton, for example. To leave the decision to 42 diocesan bishops as to whether and how to discipline clergy who have married same-sex spouses makes the Church of England look completely irrelevant as well as homophobic.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

James,
Public indifference is not so much towards LGBT people, but towards the Church of England. I think the public is shocked and disgusted by the way church authorities look like they are going to treat clergy and lay Christians in same-sex marriages. The events of the last few months will have stiffened the resolve of a good number to have nothing to do with this form of organised religion ever again.

I entirely agree, however, with the comment that public opinion will not stop them. This has to be fought from within.

Turbulent priest
Guest
Turbulent priest

The archbishops’ council point about all 42 dioceses being independent is legally correct (in some ways) but of course obviously ridiculous in any other sense. An appropriate response might be a concerted and public campaign by large numbers of clergy and laity in positions of responsibility (eg churchwardens) to withdraw from all cooperation with bishops and diocesan authorities and structures until Jeremy gets his licence, his job, and an abject apology. (Or, in any particular diocese, until the diocesan bishop comes out clearly against the unpleasant aspects of all this.) Care and advice would be needed so as to make… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

I understand John. But as Erica explains the tenor of the debate is somewhat different here. Murder, murder/rape, execution, imprisonment, torture, castration, medical/surgical interventions and social exclusion remain the norm in most of the world. Here suicide remains the frequent consequence of religious hatred. Irrespective of how plastic human sexuality may be for some, these consequences are concrete and often terminal. Persecution of gay people, no matter how mild or inconsequential it may appear, gives succour and encouragement to those set to do us serious harm. The Anglican Communion story of the past ten years is a testimony to this… Read more »

David WIlson
Guest
David WIlson

One aspect which does not seem to have had much discussion in this area is the oath of canonical obedience. When anyone – and this includes lay ministers – is to receive a licence from a bishop they are required to make a declaration under oath that they will obey the bishop “in all things lawful and honest”. That is, those seeking a licence voluntarily place themselves under the authority of the bishop. It is clear that Canon Pemberton has deliberately and publically gone against the instructions of the House of Bishops. Can he in all conscience make such an… Read more »

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
Guest

Meanwhile Abp Ntagali is publicly speaking for the hideous Ugandan anti-gay bill to be reinstated, appealing not only to Christians but to all ‘God-fearing people,’ presumably local Muslims. I’m guessing our bishops will remain silent, again.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I’ll post a new article to report on the statement of Archbishop Ntagali, so please save further comments on this for that thread.

AndrewT
Guest
AndrewT

@David Wilson: The fact that the HoB have put themselves in a position where there is a plausible comparison to be made between membership of a violent far-right organisation and GETTING MARRIED demonstrates quite how absurd and morally bankrupt the Bishops’ “guidance” is.

Never mind the fact that the ban on BNP membership was ratified just as the BNP is about to splinter irrevocably. It would have been braver to make such a requirement 20 years ago! Way to go CofE, right on.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Very good point, Jeremy.

I think both kinds of indifference are in play: many people are indifferent about gay rights; but many supporters are indifferent about the church. “Church is gay-bashing again? Well that’s no surprise! Why does any gay person join such a homophobic organization?”

Lesbian and gay Christians are caught in a pincer movement between the two kinds of indifference. The low expectations of progressives give bishops license to behave so appallingly.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
Guest

I will, though I’m not sure what there is to say. I just wanted to second what Erika wrote: ‘We are told these supporters exist – well, let them do some supporting.’ One priest gets married, the whole episcopate is in tumult; thousands will be sent to prison or worse… not a word.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Turbulent Priest,
thank you for correcting my statistics about bishops voting in the equal marriage vote!

And yes, I would have expected more to turn up and I would have expected those who actually support marriage equality to have voted for it.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

The last reference to a breach of the feudal oath of canonical obedience I could find was back in 2008 in a letter from the bishop of London to Martin Dudley about the wedding in St Bartholomew’s. It seems only to be made in relation to pro-gay clerical actions these days. But isn’t there a case for principled disobedience in situations which are clearly unjust? A legal and public declaration of love and life long fidelity is hardly in the same category as membership of a far right organisation seeking repatriation of ethnic minorities. Synod voted almost unanimously for a… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

In expansion of what David Wilson has written: Canon C14 3. Every person who is to be ordained priest or deacon shall first take the Oath of Canonical Obedience to the bishop of the diocese by whom he is to be ordained in the presence of the said bishop or his commissary, and in the form following: I, A B, do swear by Almighty God that I will pay true and canonical obedience to the Lord Bishop of C and his successors in all things lawful and honest: So help me God. This is reaffirmed on taking up a new… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I’m in the former East Germany at the moment.

Margot Honecker, the former East German education minister and widow of the late Erich, has a simple answer to criticisms that she and her husband were complicit in (indeed, in his case ordered) the murder of people whose only crime was to want to leave the country. “There was no need for them to climb over the wall, to pay for this stupidity with their lives” [1]

That is pretty much the CofE bishops’ position on same-sex marriage. And history will be equally unkind.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/02/margot-honecker-east-germany-interview

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

James,
Public indifference is not so much towards LGBT people, but towards the Church of England. I think the public is shocked and disgusted by the way church authorities look like they are going to treat clergy and lay Christians in same-sex marriages. The events of the last few months will have stiffened the resolve of a good number to have nothing to do with this form of organised religion ever again.

I entirely agree, however, with the comment that public opinion will not stop them. This has to be fought from within.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Are we really going to do *this* again? “Same-sex marriage is like [insert offensive comparison to dogs, adulterers, polygamists or Nazis here]”

You know what same-sex marriage is like? Opposite-sex marriage. Marriage = Marriage. Period.

CofE bishops, SPEAK UP!

Christina Beardsley
Guest
Christina Beardsley

Having read Turbulent Priest’s suggestion, this thought came to mind last night (whilst brushing my teeth): What if everyone who objects to what is happening to Jeremy, and who has a licence, PTO, etc., agreed to return their permissions to their bishop on the same day as a protest at what has happened, but with the commitment to continue their daily work? We would then be in complete solidarity with Jeremy, and if other hospital chaplains, like myself, were to do this the issue of authorisation for that ministry would have to be tackled as a general one rather than… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

One wonders what Church authorities could do about lay people who undertook a same-sex civil marriage? Would these people be forbidden the Sacraments? One supposes not.

However, the hullabaloo that is being raised in public about the Church’s treatment of its pastors in the same situation – especially when the marriage is legally valid, though not ‘churched’, might cause more trouble than is good for the Church.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

And contrary to what David Wilson says, there have been detailed discussions on TA threads about canonical obedience and what it means in this particular instance.

Robert ian williams
Guest
Robert ian williams

Interesting if Canon Pemberton was a defence chaplain…given that the armed forces are now gay friendly.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Christina’s point is a valid one – because the compassionate care of the NHS chaplaincies would carry on the same as usual, because when it comes down to it, you don’t need a license to care for the sick, you don’t need a ticket to be compassionate, and if enough people in the chaplaincy service showed solidarity, it would quite rightly defy the bishops’ deeply discriminatory actions. This is just one action, among many, that could be taken in collective repudiation of the bishops’ episcopal letter and its threats. I have said it before (on at least two occasions): the… Read more »

Turbulent priest
Guest
Turbulent priest

Christina’s suggestion of a concerted return of licences would need careful legal advice first. To continue to operate as a priest without a licence is a breach of clergy discipline, of course. But if thousands of people did it together it would be impossible to pursue all of them. However, this would only happen as the culmination of a coordinated public campaign—which there’s no sign of. It is interesting that Bishop Inwood essentially used the “I have to do this because of the view of the House of Bishops” justification, while the central C of E uses the “we are… Read more »

Chris A
Guest
Chris A

Got an encouraging email this morning from the Chairman of the NHS Trust involved. It was in response to mine expressing dismay at the unlawful discrimination in this case. He says that the Trust is reviewing its position.

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

While taking Turbulent Priest’s point, I think it is worth noting that Bishop Inwood operates (I expect) under an Instrument of Delegation from the Archbishop of York. This is the normal practice during a vacancy-in-see. The elephant in this particular room is the one who resides at Bishopthorpe.

robertellis
Guest
robertellis

Hi Chris A. Do you have a contact name and address please for the Chair of the NHS Trust involved….a few more letters to him /her might be helpful. Particularly if they are reviewing the situation.

robertellis
Guest
robertellis

If we can help to get the NHS Trust to have a rethink and neutralize the pernicious action of this bishop and Archbishop it will at least be one feeble blow for love and justice. It makes no sense that he should hold a licence in one Diocese ie Lincoln (and I happen to know rather well the Bishop of Grantham who licensed him – the clue is in the surname) and be denied one in another Diocese.