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Reader to lose Permission to Officiate over marriage plans

13 August 2015


Couple: Jeremy Timm (left) with his civil partner, Mike Brown

Couple: Jeremy Timm (left) with his civil partner, Mike Brown

JEREMY TIMM, a Reader, has described the “tears and soul-searching” that he endured before deciding to convert his civil partnership to marriage, knowing that this would result in the loss of his permission to officiate (PTO).

Mr Timm, a Reader in the Howden Team Ministry in Hull, was told by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, last month, that his PTO would be revoked if he pursued his intention to convert his partnership with Mike Brown.

Writing on the website of Changing Attitude, Mr Timm described being “placed in an impossible situation by the Church of England . . . faced with choosing between marriage or ministry”.

He entered a civil partnership with Mr Brown in 2009. After the publication of the Pilling report, the then Bishop of Hull, the Rt Revd Richard Frith, agreed that he could seek licensing as a Reader. He was granted a PTO by Dr Sentamu.

Last month, he informed Dr Sentamu of his plans to convert the partnership, and, during an “amicable” meeting, was told that this would result in the withdrawal of his PTO. Dr Sentamu was “keen that I continue my ministry as a Reader in a civil partnership”, he said. “But he made it absolutely plain that if we commuted to marriage my PTO would be withdrawn. . . I am a realist. But when confronted with it, it did come as a bit of a shock.”

He now plans to honour existing commitments before his PTO is withdrawn in mid-September. This will not be the end of his ministry: he feels he has “little choice but to continue my journey of faith outside the Church of England, as all those things I explore with the churches, such as welcome, encouragement, the recognition of gifts and ministries, growth, and potential suddenly have no real meaning for me”.

Having attended church since he was a child, accompanied by a next-door neighbour, the Church of England was “in my DNA”, he said on Tuesday. He was selected for ordination in the 1980s, and completed his training at Cranmer Hall, but opted to support his father in the family business.

“I wanted to remain there [in the Church], despite the injustice and hypocrisy I see for LGBTI folk,” he wrote on the Changing Attitude blog. “Now, I stand on the threshold of leaving, and joining the ranks of all those who feel they no longer have a place in the Church.”

Members of the congregations he serves were “shocked”, he said. “There is disbelief that this could be the situation.”

A churchwarden at Howden Minster, Hazel Cox, said that she and others were “absolutely furious” at the decision to revoke the licence. It was “pure hypocrisy”, she said, to permit a licence for a man in a civil partnership, but not for one who sought to get married.

She spoke of the disparity in the Church’s approach across different dioceses. She organised a meeting of the churchwardens at the Minster yesterday, to agree on a letter to Dr Sentamu.

“We are so short of priests,” she said. “We want to come to church and hear somebody like Jeremy, who is so devout, and his sermons are so meaningful. He has this love of God that a lot of poeple don’t have. He is amazing. We are all very, very angry, and going to do something about it.”

For now, Mr Timm plans to find a home with Contemplative Fire, a “dispersed community” that is an Acknowledged Community within the Anglican Communion.

“It is as though I have made a sideways move out from mainstream Church, but I am still there on there fringes, and enjoying the space and the spirituality and the fellowship of a loving inclusive community,” he said.

He also plans to continue his work as national co-ordinator of Changing Attitude “with sharpened focus and vigour” to “bring about the day when sexuality, gender identity, and relationship status are no bar to a rich and full experience of life in the Church or its ministry, lay and ordained”.

On Wednesday, the Team Vicar in the Howden Team Ministry, the Revd Graham Thornalley, passed on his congratulations to Mr Timm and Mr Brown “as they take this step and commute their partnership to marriage”. Mr Timm was a “much loved member of our churches and wider communities of this rural area”, he said.

He went on: “For several years, Jeremy’s ministry, as a churchwarden, PCC member, parish assistant, and latterly as a Reader has been very gratefully received by many regular church members, and those on the fringes of the Church.

“He has consistently shown himself to be a man of godly character and generosity of spirit. If it does become necessary for Jeremy to leave the Church of England, his ministry and presence amongst the local church will be sorely missed.

“Our churchwardens and ministry team are all extremely saddened about this situation, and we are all hoping and praying that somehow a resolution might be found.”

Lucy Gorman, who chairs Changing Attitude, said on Tuesday that, since the publication of the Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on same-sex marriage (News, 21 February), “clergy, and now apparently lay, are backed into a much smaller corner than previously.”

A spokesman in the office of Dr Sentamu said that he was away and unable to comment for the time being.

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