Thinking Anglicans

Same-sex Marriage and CofE Clergy

Updated yet again Wednesday afternoon

The BBC reports on the employment tribunal case that is being heard this week in Nottingham: Gay canon Jeremy Pemberton in Church discrimination tribunal.

A clergyman barred from working because he married his partner has denied going against the Church’s teachings, an employment tribunal heard.
Canon Jeremy Pemberton was refused a licence to work as a hospital chaplain by the then acting bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.
He brought a discrimination case which started on Monday.
The Rt Revd Richard Inwood argued the marriage was against the Church of England’s teachings.
Although Mr Pemberton was employed by the NHS, he needed a licence from the diocese to work at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield which was refused.
Canon Jeremy Pemberton was appointed Head of Chaplaincy and Bereavement Services in the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust but the Church declined a licence.
At the opening of the hearing at Nottingham Justice Centre earlier, his lawyer said “equality has reached the door of the church. Where that boundary lies is for you to decide”.
Lawyers representing the Church suggested that Mr Pemberton had gone against the Church’s teachings.
He replied: “No, because I have had a civil marriage. I believe that was the moral thing to do…”

Also at the BBC Caroline Wyatt has this which includes a 2 minute video report. She interviews Malcolm Brown and Andrew Symes as well as Peter Tatchell.

Earlier, she published this detailed analysis of the case: Will the Church ever accept same-sex marriage? which should be read in full. Here is an excerpt:

…The Church acknowledged that its teachings now diverged for the first time from the general understanding and definition of marriage by Parliament.
However, the Church of England says that it nonetheless values theological debate, and allows clergy to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while making clear that they should not marry someone of the same sex.
At the same time, it has no wish to be seen as homophobic, and has also issued guidance to say that the Church welcomes gay and lesbian clergy and laity and considers homophobia unacceptable.
But can it hold those two positions at the same time for much longer, especially as social mores around the Church continue to change rapidly, with younger generations in the UK far more likely than their elders to accept same-sex marriage as a given?
The Church may well see its position in this case as clear: that those who serve as clergy must live up to all the teachings of the Church, whether they agree with them or not.
However, campaigners for change in its current position on same-sex marriage will argue with equal vigour that the Church’s doctrine has adapted in the past to accommodate changing social mores, and – if it wanted to – the Church of England could do so again.

Other media reports so far:

Updates

Nottingham Post Tribunal hears first day of gay clergyman discrimination case

…Today, Thomas Linden, representing the respondent, cross-examined Pemberton on a several issues including his claim for harassment, the background prior to the wedding as well as the ‘media storm’ that followed his marriage.

At one point Pemberton broke down in tears in front of the tribunal as he recounted how he felt after his PTO was revoked.

He said: “PTOs are (only) really revoked if someone has done something serious, they’re criminally involved, is involved in an affair or has lost their capacity.”

Mr Linden, representing the church claimed that following the revocation, Pemberton could have continued to perform for the choir and carry on in parish life.

Pemberton replied: “Not as a priest.”

Pemberton also defended claims he was ‘surprised’ by the publicity he received on his wedding day and in the weeks that followed.

A spokesman for the C of E said: “The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. Jeremy Pemberton is one of many who currently serve and received that support.

“The Church of England has no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships.

“The Church of England’s doctrine on marriage is clear. The Church quite reasonably expects its clergy to honour their commitment to model and live up to the teachings of the Church. Clergy not have the option of treating the teachings of the Church as an a la carte menu and only modelling those with which they personally agree.

“The Church is currently involved in a process of shared conversation about a range of issues on sexuality in regions across the country. It is regrettable that this case risks undermining that process by invoking legislation which does not even apply to this situation.”

Both the Telegraph and the Guardian have reports on Tuesday morning:

And here are two reports of what happened on the second day of the hearing:

Update Wednesday afternoon

The following has now appeared on the Church of England website: Statement on Nottingham Employment Tribunal. This appears to be the same statement quoted in several media reports yesterday, and not related directly to the developments in the case at today’s hearing.

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Fr William
Guest

‘those who serve as clergy must live up to all the teachings of the Church.’ If I were looking at this issue for the first time (e.g. a jury person with no prior knowledge) I would think that already the church accepts divorced clergy, apparently going against the ‘teachings of the Church’. I might think if the church can choose to set aside the divorce teaching, then it can choose to set aside other aspects of its teaching. Our Lord condemns very little, but always hypocrisy and pretence, both of which are found in the Church in all sorts of… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

It was good seeing Laurence, and Jeremy with Erika going into court. Fellowship and support know no bounds, in all circumstances. ‘Let right be done’. (Terence Rattigan). The Church of England has no moral case behind it, and no gospel case. On another note, The ‘minister’ speaking (apparently) ‘for’ ‘the Church of england’ sported the uncanonical shirt and tie, while espousing those very Canons. While the chap from ‘anglican Mainstream’ said ‘the Church won’t change its teaching’. But seemed unaware of the contested nature, in this and many contexts, both of who the Church is or may be, let alone… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

If a PCC representing its parishioners… or an NHS Trust representing its employers and taxpayers under UK equalities law… are happy to employ a married priest who happens to be gay or lesbian… then that conscience should be respected. The actual members of the Church of England are increasingly supporting gay sex and gay marriage as acts of love that deserve respect, and freedom from discrimination. Society is changing. The Church of England is out of step, even with many of its own members. There is no uniform position on this issue. The church is divided, pretty much down the… Read more »

John
Guest
John

‘Let the good prevail’ (Aeschylus).

Great post from Father William. it’s not true that (some) ‘liberals’ and (some) ‘traditionalists’ don’t think the same about some important things.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

The Church of England is keeping the Employment Bar in pocket these days, but this case will make Reaney v Hereford DBF (sexual orientation of a youth worker) and Sharpe v Worcester DBF (do clergy have contracts of employment for unfair dismissal purposes?) look like a tea party. The case as I understand it is against the Archbishop of York and the Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. Although the NHS Trust is not entirely an innocent bystander, they were entitled to request a copy of the bishop’s license to the effect that Jeremy Pemberton was a priest in good… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Susannah makes a very important point.

Really makes sense.

Bro David
Guest
Bro David

Fr Pemberton appears to be arguing that he hasn’t broken the teachings of the CoE because he has a civil marriage and not a religious/church marriage.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The Archbishop of York is no longer a party to this case.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“PCC’s (and the local church communities behind them)who want to welcome and accept gay priests should not have their consciences (and generosity of spirit, and love) trampled over.” They shouldn’t, Susannah, but they will, until the Church of England changes how it’s governed. Personal views aside, the diocesan bishops *unanimously* support the current position. On this, there are no progressives. Not a one. Any change from below will be resisted furiously. These are hard men of power, who view justice as a platitude that melts when, as they believe, the future of the church is at stake. Patricians born to… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

It seems appropriate that the opening day of the tribunal coincides with the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, which confirmed that even a monarch isn’t above the law. If only that applied to our bishops.

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

My sympathy is with the bishop. The Church of England teaches that the only valid marriage is heterosexual marriage, and some one who steps out of that discipline cannot possibly be in good standing,and indeed could be endangering their soul. As I have stated that is not going to change in the Church of England for the foreseeable future, due to the conservative evangelical block. As with divorce..it is up to the gay lobby to change the Church’s stance in a democratic way.That is one of the reasons why I left Anglicanism. I can’t believe God’s teaching can be changed… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“At one point Pemberton broke down in tears in front of the tribunal as he recounted how he felt after his PTO was revoked. He said: “PTOs are (only) really revoked if someone has done something serious, they’re criminally involved, is involved in an affair or has lost their capacity.”

Proud of yourself, CofE?

David Beadle
Guest
David Beadle

Is the reason for this known, Simon?

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Didn’t Magna Carta establish the principle that the crown (state) should not interfere in the Church..granted it was a different church at the time.

Peter Ould
Guest

Call me a kill-joy, but I can’t see Pemberton winning this case. The exemptions in the Equality Act are really clear, there is no legal obligation for the NHS Trust to require a Church of England licence and the very idea that a court can tell the CofE who they can and can’t authorise for ministry is a notion that will be opposed all the way up to the Supreme Court and beyond. Sadly, Pemberton’s on a hiding to nothing here.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

There is an analysis of the case by Peter Ould, published at Psephizo

http://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/briefing-the-jeremy-pemberton-employment-tribunal-case/

John
Guest
John

I sincerely hope Peter Ould is wrong. I think the behaviour of both bishop and archbishop has been disgraceful and that whatever happens this thing will bring deep disgrace upon them.

Jeremy (non Pemberton)
Guest
Jeremy (non Pemberton)

“It is regrettable that this case risks undermining that process by invoking legislation which does not even apply to this situation.” I’d say this statement assumes what the CofE is trying to prove. Canon Pemberton is right to emphasize that he did only what was lawful–what Parliament has allowed him to do. Peter Ould describes the case as about a court telling the CofE who they can and can’t authorise for ministry. But one can easily flip that and say that the case is about the CofE trying to tell its clergy whom they may lawfully, *civilly* marry. Outside of… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

It pains me to say it, but I think Peter Ould’s analysis may be right. Jeremy Pemberton is bringing suit against the wrong people. The NHS Trust involved could grant employment tomorrow morning, by simply ignoring the requirement (which is completely self-imposed) of obtaining a PTO. Other people are employed as chaplains without such documents when, for example, they represent a religion which doesn’t have the same concept of “official” office (for example, a Muslim chaplain will be appointed based on a fairly ad hoc collection of criteria). If I advertised a job which required that someone, inter alia, were… Read more »

badman
Guest
badman

I agree that the odds are against Jeremy Pemberton. But the breadth of the religious exemptions in the Equality Act is arguably in breach of European law, which takes precedence. This is such an extreme case that it could well surprise us if it reaches (as it has the potential to) the Supreme Court or the Court of Justice of the European Union, both of which will disapply domestic law if it conflicts with EU law and both of which have the confidence and the policy motive to do so in a case of grave prejudice, irrationality and injustice, such… Read more »

James A
Guest
James A

Whatever the outcome (and I’m with Jeremy P every step of the way here) this whole episode will simply tell Jo(e) Public that Christianity – and the C of E in particular – is a toxic brand. Richard Inwood (and John Sentamu) were absolutely stupid and stubborn to let things get to this point. I doubt that many people out there will ‘get’ the religious opt outs in the equality legislation. This will certainly do the long-term future of C of E chaplains in the NHS no good at all. Perhaps +Sentamu and +Inwood could tell us how this very… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

James: “These are hard men of power, who view justice as a platitude that melts when, as they believe, the future of the church is at stake. Patricians born to rule, they view justice as the naïve dream of the little people, of no concern to Nietzschean over-men like them.” James, my cousin is a bishop, and your definition bears no resemblance to the gentle, generous-hearted, spiritually astute man I know. I believe the bishops, en-masse, have made a mess of this business… but I don’t want to denigrate their personalities. Let the one without sin… first stone… etc. I… Read more »

Joseph Golightly
Guest
Joseph Golightly

How is it that his Employment Tribunal case is against the bishop who was not involved in employing him? What am I missing?

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Well, rather than speculate about how easy the case is to win on either side, let’s wait for the lawyers, who know what the real legal arguments are, and see what they make of it. I’m guessing that the key legal point will not be one of the headline points flagged by amateurs or pressure groups – it very rarely is.

american piskie
Guest
american piskie

“the very idea that a court can tell the CofE who they can and can’t authorise for ministry is a notion that will be opposed all the way up to the Supreme Court and beyond”

Well up to a point, Father. The state decides in each individual case who is to exercise the episcopal ministry. No mandate, no consecration. And with few exceptions the state has decided that only those willing to take the Oath of Allegiance can exercise ministry in the C of E.

IT
Guest
IT

I also think it is likely that Jeremy Pemberton will lose in the short term. Here in the states, we see that gay people can be fired from their jobs in Roman Catholic institutions with no recourse.

But the CofE ought to consider the consequence of a victory here, which promises to be Pyrrhic. Marriage equality is strongly accepted in the UK, and the CofE will be seen to be (even more) unjust, cruel, and completely out of touch.

DBD
Guest

Whatever happened to Article XXXII, eh? “it is lawful for [priests] … to marry at their own discretion”

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

If they cite doctrine he only needs to point out that he’s a divorcee along with many other clerics in the CofE. If they argue that it was to ‘avoid conflicting with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers’ then surely the relevant test is to compare the convictions of patients and their families in Southwell and Lincoln dioceses. How many object to Jeremy’s chaplaincy services on grounds of his marital status? If they counter this by saying that it is legitimate for bishops in neighbouring dioceses to take different approaches, then it doesn’t seem… Read more »

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

“I can’t believe God’s teaching can be changed by whim of democracy.Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” — An interesting statement; I had not realized that God cannot work through the democratic process, or that Jesus’ teaching contained any reference to homosexuality or same-sex marriage. And yet I have the feeling that Jesus’ compassion and inclusiveness – as well as his recorded feelings about those who judge and condemn – really is yesterday, today and forever.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Despite Ould trying to appear open-minded in his blog article, it is clear from his comment above he already knows what the tribunal’s decision will be. It would be such a terrible disappointment for Ould if they ruled in Canon Pemberton’s favour.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Susannah, I wasn’t referring to all bishops by any means, just Church of England diocesans, and even there, I was generalizing. These men are different in kind to bishops in other Anglican churches: they’re not only unelected, they’re, in general, drawn from a very narrow social circle.

I’m not resting on moral authority, merely giving an opinion on the scope and scale of the problem, and the possible solutions.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Further to my previous comment, this is a case in a tribunal. There is all sorts of commentary on what the case is and what the outcome should be, but I haven’t seen any mention of the precise legal basis on which the claim is being argued. To answer Joseph Golightly in part, for example, the Equality Act 2010 gives the Employment Tribunal jurisdiction over certain of the provisions of that act, and some of those provisions involve parties who are not employers. Presumably the case is being brought under such a provision (perhaps even a similar provision under another… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Myriad legal issues to be debated which is the reason the ET has scheduled five days for the case. I am not sure how relevant the PTO/license issue/refusal/revocation is. That is merely the outworking of the alleged discrimination. The fact is that Jeremy applied for a job and is arguing that he has been unfairly discriminated against and but for the discrimination he would have secured the job. Nor does it matter that the NHS is not a party to this. The discrimination, if there was such, was by the bishop, hence he is respondent. The putative employer (NHS) made… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“for example, the Equality Act 2010 gives the Employment Tribunal jurisdiction over certain of the provisions of that act, and some of those provisions involve parties who are not employers” I suspect that the basic legal theory of the action against the CofE be that the CofE is guilty of one of the S.111(1) through S.111(3) offences (Instructing, causing or inducing contraventions). The NHS trust is the employer (and therefore a party under S.120(5)(a), which makes it something of a mystery as to why they are not) but the CofE is a third party guilty of instructing, causing or inducing… Read more »

James A
Guest
James A

@Susannah Clark, please don’t put words into my mouth – especially words I have not written or intended. All I was doing was highlighting a damaging public spectacle for the Church in relation to the inconsistent way that same Church has handled Jeremy’s situation (e.g. Licence in Lincoln but not Southwell & Nottingham). Whatever the legal outcome, the millions who have decided that this same Church is an irrelevance at best, will have their suspicions confirmed that, for those seeking God in a spirit of truthful freedom, the Church of England is no place of safety because of the determined… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Nor does it matter that the NHS is not a party to this” I really don’t see this, which is why (as you say) it’s going to end up at an EAT or, alternatively, in a court to debate jurisdiction. The Equality Act is very clear when it talks about the jurisdiction of employment tribunals to hear discrimination cases, S.120(5): (5)In proceedings before an employment tribunal on a complaint relating to a breach of a non-discrimination rule, the employer— (a)is to be treated as a party, and (b)is accordingly entitled to appear and be heard. Whether the NHS Trust chooses… Read more »

rjb
Guest
rjb

This is a very painful case. Although I wish Jeremy all the best and I hope he succeeds, I do wish he hadn’t felt it necessary to bring this matter before a secular court (1 Cor 6: 1-8 is a passage that deserves at least as much careful scrutiny as the following verse gets). I have very little sympathy with the acting bishop or the ABY in this case, they have both acted scandalously and I won’t be sorry if the court throws the book at them. But the real loser will be church, regardless of what the court decides.… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Jeremy Pemberton, along with all clergy serving in the Church of England, is fully aware of the current understanding attributed to marriage in that Church and was therefore ill advised to embark upon this pointless lawsuit. It will be surprising if he is successful. Furthermore, when will Liberals get it?! To say that marriage should be between a man and woman is not the same as condemning homosexuality. Indeed, some of my own Christian homosexual friends are opposed to the marriage of gays themselves, simply because they are unable to accept that the sacrament of marriage can be tinkered around… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

I know it’s not an equivalency since we’re talking about being licensed to administer the sacraments and such like; but are cathedrals and abbeys technically allowed by canon to employ same-sex married persons in their bookstalls and sandwich shops? Would they be violating civil law if they fired such persons? How about choral directors and choristers? Could a homophobic dean wipe out his stipendiary music staff if they married their boyfriends? Even more interesting, If Jeffrey John got married, could he be kicked out of St Albans?

Susannah Clark
Guest

@James A: I was quoting James B, in an exchange I was having with him in this thread.

There was no intended allusion to your comments.

I should have distinguished between A and B!

Iain McLean
Guest
Iain McLean

Instead of working up to the expected EAT, as several lawyers do above, let’s work down from the European Court of Human Rights, where this may well end up (even if the proposed repeal of the Human Rights act goes ahead). The closely parallel cases are Obst and Schüth v. Germany, here http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng-press/pages/search.aspx?i=003-3272505-3650095#{“itemid”:[“003-3272505-3650095”]} Both men had admitted adultery against the rules of their churches. Obst was sacked as regional director of the Mormons; Schüth as a RC church organist. At the ECtHR, Obst lost and Schüth won, on very similar facts. But a relevant difference was that Obst was at… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

Benedict… Until Valentine’s Day 2014 the Church of England had no position on same-sex clergy marriage, because it wasn’t possible till that point to contract one. So this was not something those gay clergy, many who have dedicated decades of their lives to the C of E, could have known when they signed up: it’s a bit rich for the Bishops to hurriedly invent a position, rush it out and then expect those they are kicking in the teeth to just roll over without complaint. This is not about abstract doctrine, it’s about real people’s lives. And yes, one can… Read more »

Peter Ould
Guest
Peter Ould

Iain,

The parallel is with Obst, not Schüth. Apart from that I agree.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

The Valentine’s Day statement, as we now know, was approved by barely half the bishops but issued as if the unanimous view of them all.

Iain mclean
Guest
Iain mclean

Peter: why?

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

My response to Father Andrew’s comment would be to say that if Jeremy Pemberton was fully aware of the Church’s teaching on gay marriage, and he didn’t agree with it, he should have resigned. We are where we are, in the Church, however unpalatable you may find it, so we either have to put up or shut up. Surely that would have been Father Andrew’s response to those opposing, for example, the ordination of women to the episcopate?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Interesting, Richard Ashby. What’s the source for that?

If half the diocesan bishops of England disapproved, they were free to say so, issue a dissenting statement, and guarantee not to discipline clergy in their dioceses. That they didn’t shows their “disapproval” to be so toothless it might as well not exist.

These are not vulnerable people; they’re men at the top of the church’s hierarchy, with job security that’d make a Supreme Court justice envious. If they dissent from a policy, we can reasonably expect more than private hand-wringing. Much more.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“To say that marriage should be between a man and woman is not the same as condemning homosexuality.” “should {only} be”/(should not be): well, there are all sorts of marriages that I, personally, don’t think “should be.” But it’s not really any of my business to try to stop them. Benedict, were I to think that you’d never spoke out against or acted (inc voted) in any way to prevent same-sex marriages, I might feel differently about your argument. “some of my own Christian homosexual friends are opposed to the marriage of gays themselves”: these are partnered, physically-intimate “Christian homosexual… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

James, I can’t give you a source, but it has definitely been stated either here or elsewhere.

Peter Ould
Guest
Peter Ould

Iain,

Because Pemberton was (is) a clerk in holy orders so assumes a representative position for the Church in a way that a church organist does not. The ordinal and canons make this clear.