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Pemberton tribunal transcript clarifies Inwood defence

26 June 2015


Establishment support: a rainbow flag flies from the Cabinet Office, in Whitehall, on Tuesday. It is flying throughout this week to celebrate the annual Pride event in London, to take place on Sunday 

Establishment support: a rainbow flag flies from the Cabinet Office, in Whitehall, on Tuesday. It is flying throughout this week to ...

THE Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, has published a partial transcript of evidence given by the former Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, at an employment tribunal last week, after criticism of his reported comments on social media.

Bishop Inwood was defending his decision not to grant a licence to Canon Jeremy Pemberton, who claims that this constituted unlawful discrimination ( News, 19 June). Canon Pemberton, who is Deputy Senior Chaplain and Deputy Bereavement and Voluntary Services Manager in the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, needed the licence in order to take up a new post as Head of Chaplaincy and Bereavement Services in the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in June last year.

Bishop Inwood has previously said that he was unable to issue the licence "in light of the pastoral guidance, and for reasons of consistency" (News, 11 July 2014). He was referring to Canon Pemberton's marriage to Laurence Cunnington in April that year (News, 17 April 2014).

Asked by Sean Jones QC, counsel for Canon Pemberton, whether entering a same-sex marriage was a sinful act, Bishop Inwood replied: "I think at this point, because the Church has not changed its canons or legislation, it is certainly irregular, and some may say it is sinful, yes."

When asked whether he personally felt it was sinful, the Bishop said: "That's a very difficult question to answer. I'm not a judge of what is sinful in the sense that I would claim to understand the mind of God. We are currently engaged in discussion to see what the mind of God might be. It may be that there would be a change in the Church's position, in which case same-sex marriage would not be a problem."

He continued: "I think Canon Pemberton ought to have had regard to the teaching of the Church, and held off on his marriage at this particular point and had regard to the Church's teachings."

The tribunal heard that the Communications Unit at Church House, Westminster, sent an email to bishops setting out the line that would be taken by Lambeth Palace if asked about the case. The email made reference to the House of Bishops' pastoral guidelines and the facilitated conversations, and said that "in each individual case, and this clearly won't be the last, it is a pastoral matter for that diocesan bishop".

Judge Peter Britton asked Bishop Inwood whether he agreed that the email "is not indicative of any strong disapproval". The Bishop replied that the email showed that "the Archbishop of Canterbury had other things on his priority list at this point."

A ruling is not expected until September.


Sentamu defends York Minster's Pride parade blessing

THE Archbishop of York has defended York Minster, after a vicar from his diocese said that it was "offensive" and "provocative" for its Canon Pastor to bless a giant rainbow flag draped over its steps.

The York Pride Parade, an LGBT event, began from the minster last Saturday.

In a statement on Monday, Dr Sentamu gave gay people assurance that "they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship".

The Archbishop spoke out after the Vicar of St John, Newland, in Hull, the Revd Melvin Tinker, told Minster FM, a local radio station, last week that the Canon Pastor of the Minster, the Revd Michael Smith, should be "ashamed of himself".

"Would he say serial adulterers should be welcome in the Church? Would he say that people who are engaged in paedophilia should be involved in the Church?" Mr Tinker asked.

The Dean of York, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, said last Friday: "For the second year running we are joining other groups in the City of York in showing our support for a section of the community that frequently experiences discrimination and hostility.

"York Minster's invitation to everyone to discover God's love through our welcome, worship, learning and work is extended to the entire community."

Mr Tinker has, in turn, been strongly criticised for appearing to link gay people with adulterers and paedophiles. In response, Dr Sentamu said: "Clergy of the diocese are entitled to express varying views on the question of human sexuality."

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