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Today, the BBC reports that Gay wedding canon Jeremy Pemberton has NHS job offer withdrawn and there is an audio file of the interview that lies behind this report over here.

The first gay British clergyman to marry a same-sex partner has had an NHS job offer withdrawn because a bishop will not give the licence needed.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Other media are now picking up on this story, see for example, the Independent Married gay clergyman has NHS job offer withdrawn after bishop blocks licence .


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same-sex partner is to issue a legal challenge to the Church of England after his offer of a job as an NHS chaplain was withdrawn when his bishop refused the necessary permission.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who married Laurence Cunnington in April, was informed on Friday that Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS trust had withdrawn its offer of a job after Bishop Richard Inwood had refused him the official licence in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham.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.”


  • sjh says:

    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 says:

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

  • Spirit of Vatican II says:

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

  • Concerned Anglican says:

    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 says:

    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 judged unfit to take up a new almost identical job while continuing to be deemed fit for their present post. Only the most deformed mind can see any consistency in that action.

    The fact that supposedly liberal bishops remain publicly silent and do not cry out against this injustice is to be deplored. Those bishops deserve our contempt even more than the equivocators and conservatives.

    It was interesting to hear Jeremy himself on the subject and encouraging to know that legal action is a possibility.
    Why, Oh Why do these bishops find themselves, yet again, in a position that is deeply offensive and reprehensible. They continue to do enormous harm to the lives of vulnerable individuals, to the Church and to our battered faith.

  • John says:

    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 says:

    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 speak up for what they supposedly believe.

    Don’t they realise they’re not playing nice theological games but that they are playing with people’s lives?
    Can a few more please urgently wake up to their responsibility and recognise what harm they’re doing?

  • robert ian williams says:

    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 says:

    Legal action can be expensive.

    Is there a legal defence fund for Jeremy P?

    Jeremy (non Pemberton)

  • Sara MacVane says:

    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 his job to find the truth, but he is sent off to Tunisia and there is even an attempt to send him on a suicide mission. He is stripped of rank, ousted from the army, and imprisoned. But he just can’t give up (thanks be to God). At the very end he is reinserted in the army and becomes Minister of War in Clemenceau’s government. I was struck by the power of association among those men (as of course they all were….) and how that was far far more important than truth or the innocence of Dreyfus. Is this a class-mentality? Is it de rigeur for the HofB to ‘stick together’ whether right or wrong? Is it partly at least because it is (still…) a men’s club?

  • Erika Baker says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    “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 says:

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

  • Nathaniel Brown says:

    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 to eat.”

  • Andrew says:

    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 the complainant’s sexual orientation, but, unlike the Church, has no exemption from the Equality Act. They could argue in their defence that a bishop’s licence was needed, meaning they had no choice but to act in the way they did. This would result in the NHS’s association with the Church being subjected to review.

    With Parliament looking at reconciling these difficulties, to paraphrase Lord Fowler, we could eventually see an end to these discriminatory practices.

  • John says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    ‘[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 says:

    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 principles of diversity and equality.

    What an extraordinary ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ world, when a Christian Church is actually trying to STOP someone exercising a caring and compassionate ministry.

    It is absolutely astonishing, and no wonder the wider British public is astonished, confused and disgusted.

    The NHS should retain Jeremy because of its own principles, because there is nothing in what he has done that diminishes his compassion and capacity to care for people, any more than an Imam, a Rabbi, or a Buddhist. Jeremy should not have to be mandated by a (discriminatory) religious organisation in order to operate in a secular and Equalities-committed organisation.

  • Interested Observer says:

    “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 parties, although EATs might).

    The NHS trust on the receiving end of the application is going to have to argue that it has a legitimate interest in ensuring that people employed as chaplains are accredited (which is itself contestable). If the body that performs that accreditation (a) discriminates in a way which would be illegal were the NHS to do similarly but (b) has an exemption under equality legislation which makes this permissible, is the NHS still allowed to use that accreditation as the basis for employment?

    There are some vaguely equivalent pieces of case law which say the NHS would be on reasonably safe ground. For example, it’s increasingly common for IT service companies to insist that all employees of significant seniority either hold or could potentially hold forms of clearance which are extremely difficult to obtain for non-UK citizens, and which are not subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. If the employer directly said “job only open to UK citizens who have never been convicted of anything ever” they would be acting unlawfully, but by claiming a requirement to hold clearance as past of the job they can pass the problem to the Defence Vetting Agency (or whatever it’s called this week).

    But in that case, the employer has an active interest in maintaining that position: they want to be able to move staff between private sector and government jobs easily, and that you need to be a UK citizen to view “SECRET UK EYES ONLY” is hardly going to cause outrage in the Independent. But whether the NHS is particularly bothered in this case is another question, and therefore they might not be willing to make themselves look bad in order to fight what is effectively the CofE’s battle.

  • Erika Baker says:

    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 only real voice for us is the Bishop of Buckingham?

    Can you not see that we, supposedly, have a large number of bishops who are not staunchly conservative, but every single one in the House of Lords voted against marriage equality?
    That rumour has it (rumour!) that there was only one bishop who abstained from voting for the pastoral guidelines?

    If there is division in the HoB, as well meaning people tell us there is – let dissenting bishops speak out!
    If someone is actually for us – let them support Jeremy and gay marriage.

    We are told these supporters exist – well, let them do some supporting.

  • James Byron says:

    “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 stopped, it’ll have to be stopped from within.

  • Gary Paul Gilbert says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 sure that action stops short of anything that would bring down clergy discipline. The key is to continue proper provision for those for whom we are given the “cure of souls” but to consider every other possible form of action (or inaction) against the hierarchy and authorities.

    The point to make is that the C of E has an exemption from carrying out SSM, and many people within the church think that such a thing is not even possible. But I really don’t think this was intended as carte blanche to persecute those who go in for a legal institution which some in the church don’t recognise or approve of.

    Finally, Erika, it isn’t true that the majority of bishops in the House of Lords voted against same sex marriage. In fact the clear majority either absented themselves or abstained. There are 26 bishops in the House of Lords. Of these, 9 voted for the “wrecking motion” proposed by Lord Dear. Five were present but abstained. Twelve obviously didn’t think the matter was important enough to turn up for (or else discreetly stayed away to avoid the embarrassment of letting down the party line by voting the other way.)

    If this issue were really as serious as is claimed, I’d expect all 26 to turn up and vote against the legislation, wouldn’t you?

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    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 end.

    I am protecting my family. Expect harsh words!

  • David WIlson says:

    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 oath of obedience? How should a bishop regard such an oath, if made?

    In June, the House of Bishops declared that is was a disciplinary matter for an ordained minister to be a member of the BNP. If a chaplain were to join the BNP and be photographed with the leader, and then seek a licence for a new job would the bishop be wrong to refuse that license?

  • 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.

  • 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 says:

    @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 says:

    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.

  • 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 says:

    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 says:

    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 disciplining canon in relation to the BNP. No such vote has been forthcoming as regards gay marriage.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    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 post. Its effect in this case depends on the meaning of “true and canonical obedience” – it would be difficult to argue, for example, that Canon Pemberton’s marriage is unlawful or dishonest. Note also that the oath is made to the Dioceasn, not to the House of Bishops, and we do not know what has passed between Canon Pemberton and his Diocesan Bishop.

    Also relevant for those changing from one diocese to another is Canon C12

    C 12 Of the licensing of ministers under seal

    1. A licence, granted by the bishop under his hand and seal to any minister to serve within his diocese, shall be in the form either –

    (a) of a general licence to preach or otherwise to minister subject to the provisions of paragraph 4 of Canon C 8 in any parish or ecclesiastical district, or

    (b) of a licence to perform some particular office or to serve for the purposes of or in connection with a mission initiative endorsed by a bishop’s mission order.

    2. No bishop shall grant any such licence to any minister who has come from another diocese, except such minister first show unto him Letters of Orders or other sufficient evidence that he is ordained, and bring him testimony, from the bishop of the diocese whence he has come, of his honesty, ability, and conformity to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Church of England.

    No doubt the lawyers are working on it. One interesting question may be whether Canon Pemberton has “come from another Diocese” given he did have PTO, and is, as I understand it, resident in the diocese concerned.

    I am sure there are aspects of equalities legislation to be considered too. It is all too easy in these circumstances to think that the law has the last word. There were people who thought that before in the ritual prosecutions of the 19th century. But it is as well to know what the legal documents actually say, in full, rather than relying on partial readings.

  • Interested Observer says:

    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.


  • Jeremy Pemberton says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 on a single case basis. I would much prefer that Jeremy’s bishop and the Trust reviewed the matter and facilitated the appointment of the selected candidate, but that was my ‘night thought’.

  • 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 says:

    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 says:

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

  • Susannah Clark says:

    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 only ‘realpolitic’ the bishops will understand is collective action, and orchestrated resistance, to their Covenant-style imposed uniformity.

    Other actions could involve a priest and PCC-led ‘sign up’ to commit – from a specific date – to celebrate gay marriages and relationships openly in local churches. The bishops may be able to meanly pick off lone individuals like Jeremy Pemberton (or think they can) but you can’t ‘lock out’ entire congregations and their PCCs.

    As the majority of Anglicans in England (according to most recent polls) accept gay and lesbian sex, local churches in good conscience (their *own* consciences) choosing to engage in their local communities including the affirmation and blessing of gay reltionshps, would simply be expressing the will of the majority of the Church of England.

    In practice… at episcopal level, at priest level, and at local church level… and I fear it could be the same among chaplains… there is a lack of solidarity. Individuals are so far being left to get picked off (as I predicted).

    Collective action – to affirm the reality of what people in the Church of England believe – may be a breach of ‘canonical obedience’ (aka the Covenant by the back door… ‘you will do what I say, and accept my right to impose my conscience on your conscience)… but it may also be seen as the decent and moral expression of what many (in many places, most) believe in good conscience… and also expression of the decency of our society at large, who we should be attracted, not repelling.

    For a start, it’s time that hundreds of priests organised and signed public letters to the media, stating their acceptance of gay and lesbian sex, and their repudiation of the bishops’ actions. This would subvert the *lie* that the Church of England is opposed to gay sex.

    If you are referring to the real Church of England, it is not.

    There are priests I know, who are gay or gay-supporting, who seem to be silent to the hounding out of Jeremy Pemberton from a good job he had been offered. As has also been said, there are bishops too, including ones I know and respect.

    This silence – like the airbrushing out of lgbt presence from diocesan websites – seems part of a terrible appeasement. The whole position of the bishops is untenable, and needs to be made untenable. Just let priests and PCCs decide for themselves, and if they want to affirm people’s legal right to marry, let them do so.

  • Turbulent priest says:

    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 not a single organisation, just an association of 42 independent dioceses” argument.

  • Chris A says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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 says:

    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.

  • Chris A says:

    Robert I just went to Sherwood Forest hospitals website contact us page and sent an email to their complaints address. Also making my views known on diocesan Facebook page

  • Susannah Clark says:

    Lorenzo, I agree that the silence sometimes is deafening, when truth and goodness need to be boldly affirmed:

    “Truth is not only violated by falsehood. It may equally be outraged by silence.”

    (Henri-Frederic Amiel)

  • Chris H says:


    Is it really that unheard of for a conservative bishop to refuse to allow a liberal priest into the diocese or vice versa? Going to the wrong seminary gets you banned here, no matter if you agree with the bishop’s politics or not. The blanket ban makes it easier to say the denial is “nothing personal” (He’s liberal in a conservative state so he bans priests from conservative schools). How many liberal bishops there love hiring priests who don’t agree with women priests, etc.?

    Isn’t this what Anglican “fudge” is all about? One diocese doesn’t have to be like the others? For those who want the NHS to ignore licenses, etc. what requirements would you have for being a chaplain? A 6 lesson online course? Get rid of chaplains altogether and just use psychiatrists? Surely no matter which religion a chaplain belongs to he has to be approved by some authority?

    I guess after the bishops’ announcement against same sex marriage I’m surprised that so many others are surprised that this happened. He tried to call their bluff, but…

  • Interested Observer says:

    ” Get rid of chaplains altogether and just use psychiatrists? Surely no matter which religion a chaplain belongs to he has to be approved by some authority?”

    Well, in the case of Muslim chaplains, the answer is “no they don’t”, because there is no such authority to do the approving. The NHS could appoint people as Christian ministers on the same basis: if the CofE is a discriminatory organisation, the NHS should refuse to do business with it, and should adopt its own criteria for appointment.

    If that upsets Anglican patients, then that’s something for the CofE to reflect on, not the NHS. The CofE is asking the NHS to impose discriminatory hiring policies, which are not relevant to the performance of the job, on staff in a particular role. It is not the NHS’s job to help the CofE oppress people who want to get married.

  • Erika Baker says:

    I believe that NHS chaplains in Scotland do not need a license from their bishops.
    Can anyone confirm this and tell me if the same process could be adopted in England?

  • Kelvin says:

    I know of at least one chaplain in Scotland who was appointed without a license from a bishop.

  • Erika Baker says:

    thanks. Is that standard practice or an exception? Might it be possible to contact the relevant NHS Trust to find out how they got round the requirement for a license?

  • John Roch says:

    Without claiming any expertise, and having undertaken no research (in other words, speaking from ignorance):

    Scots law is different from English law;
    The Episcopal Church is not the Established Church in Scotland;
    The Scottish NHS is separate from that in England.

    So I don’t see that what happens north of the border is of short-term help. I have the Anna Russell lines running round my head

    “Things would be so different
    if they were not as they are.”

  • Mark Bennet says:

    There are chaplains appointed to hospitals in England without licenses from Bishops – you don’t have to be CofE to be a chaplain, for example.

  • I also don’t think that the Scottish experience is helpful to anything here.

    I also don’t think it is helpful to campaign for the NHS Trust in question to appoint Jeremy Pemberton without a license. The point is that he needs a license and should have been given one not that he doesn’t need a licence and shouldn’t need one.

    Clergy need authority and discipline. They need it to be administered without prejudice. That should be the focus.

  • Erika Baker says:

    I’m sorry that the Scottish example isn’t helpful here.
    Because I believe that a two-pronged approach is needed.
    Yes, we must try and change the church. But failing that, or assuming that that will take rather a long time, we must at the same time try to ensure that the church cannot wreak more havoc, especially not in the secular sphere.

    Looking at how the NHS Trust came to make its decision and whether it would have had an alternative is an important first step.
    To be followed by lobbying for a policy change at whatever level necessary to ensure that whenever a license is not issued on grounds that are based on the CoE opt out of equalities legislation, the license requirement an be dispensed with and the employment confirmed.

  • Gary Paul Gilbert says:

    The hospitals should not be interested in who has a license from a bishop or other religious authority. But there must be some pro-LGBT denominations who can certify clergy from the C of E.

    Gary Paul Gilbert

  • Of course a hospital should be interested in the denominational credentials of a chaplain. If you are a Muslim patient you want to see a Muslim, if you’re Jewish you want to see a rabbi; if you are RC you want someone in communion with the Pope. Etc. It’s perfectly reasonable for a hospital trust to employ as a chaplain of the Church of England someone who is licensed and/or authorized by the Church of England to minister in that hospital. The hospital is caught: it’s the Church which needs to change.

  • Mark Bennet says:

    Simon – I agree that the hospital should be so interested. I was on holiday in Scotland when I wrote my short comment, having conversations with a friend who has been involved with chaplaincies there, and I posted it because there seemed in some of the comments that there were unjustified assumptions being made.

    Now a Licence validates the good standing of a priest who may be applying for a post. One question is whether there are other means by which this could be done – for example, through the examination of the orders of the priest in question, and enquiry of the previous employer. There is the question of how far the jurisdiction of a bishop extends to a hospital chaplaincy (and here the presence of other chaplains may be relevant), and how that jurisdiction is exercised, and what appeal there is against its exercise in particular ways.

    There may also be questions about who is funding the post and the extent of the legitimate requirements of funding bodies.

    As I noted earlier, no doubt there are lawyers examining these questions from both ecclesiastical and secular perspectives.

  • Jeremy says:

    “It’s perfectly reasonable for a hospital trust to employ as a chaplain of the Church of England someone who is licensed and/or authorized by the Church of England to minister in that hospital.”

    Not sure I agree. If the deacon or priest is ordained in the Church of England, then is it really the place of the NHS to uphold a local bishop’s discriminatory licensing scheme?

  • Erika Baker says:

    It would be easy enough to say that a Bishop’s license is required unless the refusal to issue such a license is based on the CoE opt-out from equalities legislation.

  • Indeed it is not the job of the NHS to uphold such a scheme. But the point is to provide pastoral care to patients and staff who wish to have the ministrations of the Church of England. That surely requires someone who is properly accredited by the Church of England according to the Church’s own rules. Otherwise patients and staff are not receiving the ministrations of the Church.

    If the Trust (or anyone else for that matter) wishes to have a chaplain who is not properly accredited by the Church of England then they are free to do so. But they cannot then say that the said chaplain is accredited by the Church of England.

    And a priest in the Church of England can only exercise their priestly ministry under the appropriate episcopal authority — it is the bishop who is the chief pastor of all that are within his diocese.

    The solution to this problem is not to bend canon law or for the Trust to sidestep the episcopal nature of the Church. It’s to change Church policy so that the appropriate licence can be issued.

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