SOUTHWARK diocese has denied that a Reader was suspended for promoting the Coalition for Marriage petition, which opposes the introduction of same-sex marriage, in services.
During the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA) conference last week, the Vicar of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, the Revd Paul Perkin, spoke about Peter Gowlland, a Reader at All Saints’, Sanderstead, which is in an interregnum, in the diocese.
Mr Gowlland, who is 78, and has been a licensed Reader for nearly 50 years, promoted the Coalition for Marriage petition on three occasions during services. On 25 March, during the notices at the 10 a.m. service, Mr Gowlland read out the petition. On 15 April, he preached at the 8.30 and 10 a.m. services; during both sermons he suggested that members of the congregation sign the petition.
Mr Gowlland said on Wednesday: “It [the petition] wasn’t the main content of my sermon. It was part of the introduction in a sermon on the resurrection.”
The Acting Archdeacon of Croydon, the Revd Dr Barry Goodwin, met Mr Gowlland on 23 April. Mr Gowlland thought that the meeting was to confirm that his Reader’s licence would be renewed for another year. An email from Dr Goodwin to Mr Gowlland, dated 24 April, summarising the meeting, said that he was “immensely impressed by” Mr Gowlland’s CV and that he had put his Permission to Officiate (PTO) forms “into the system so that it will be renewed forthwith”.
Dr Goodwin said, however, that, after receiving comments from Dr David Atkinson, who is a non-stipendiary minister at All Saints’, and an Hon. Assistant Bishop in the diocese, and others in the congregation, “it is clear. . . that there is a potential for division in All Saints’.” Dr Goodwin said that “the disquiet was to do with [the] way you introduced the subject and petition, not with the desire to uphold Christian marriage. These are important issues which need to be discussed in an appropriate way with wardens and the ministry team.”
Dr Goodwin said that he had therefore asked Mr Gowlland “to withdraw from preaching and leading worship for two months just to let the dust settle”. He said that “in no way am I wishing or suggesting we suspend or revoke your PTO.” Dr Goodwin said that he was “endeavouring to reduce the tensions that a long vacancy brings”.
Mr Gowlland said on Wednesday that being asked to stop preaching or leading services for two months “is in my view the same thing [as suspension]”. He described Dr Goodwin’s comments about the potential for divisions as a “smokescreen”.
On 27 April, Mr Gowlland wrote to the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, to “formally appeal against the decision . . . to suspend me for two months from preaching and leading worship at All Saints’, Sanderstead”. Mr Gowlland said that he was “given no warning of any accusations”, and was “charged, convicted and sentenced in under 45 minutes. . . How could I prepare any defence when I had not been told any charges?”
Mr Gowlland said on Wednesday that he had received a short response from Bishop Chessun, suggesting that he meet Bishop Atkinson and the churchwardens. He said that no meeting had yet been arranged.
A statement from Southwark diocese said on Wednesday that Mr Gowlland “has not been suspended”, and that the issue was “not about traditional marriage but related to matters of church order and authority during an interregnum”.