CANON Jeremy Pemberton has lost his appeal against a bishop’s refusal to grant him a licence. Canon Pemberton was refused a licence to take up a post as chaplaincy manager at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield because he married his partner, Laurence Cunnington, in April 2014 (News, 24 June, 12 September 2014) .
Last year, an employment tribunal in Nottingham ruled that the then Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, had acted lawfully in refusing to grant the licence (News, 6 November 2015). On Wednesday, that judgment was upheld by Judge Eady QC at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
“It was not for the Court to determine issues of doctrine, still less to take issue with the beliefs of the religion,” Judge Eady said. “It was for the [Bishop] to prove the official beliefs or teaching of the religion at the time his decision was taken.”
She concluded: “This was not a case where the [Bishop’s] decision was unexpected: both parties understood each other’s positions; [Canon Pemberton] was aware his marriage would be seen as in conflict with the teachings of the Church (even if he did not accept the characterisation of those teachings as doctrine) and he would thus be viewed as not in ‘good standing’, as would be understood within the Church of England.”
Responding to the judgment, Canon Pemberton said: “The result is, obviously, not the one my husband and I had hoped for. I appreciate that this case was a source of hope for many people. . . I am now going to take some time to consider the lengthy judgment with my husband, and we will decide on the best way forward.”
The judge said that the case raised important legal questions and contained “novel issues”. She gave Canon Pemberton permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
A spokesman for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “For the second time, a tribunal has found in favour of the former acting Diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, on all the claims made against him by Jeremy Pemberton.
“The Employment Appeals Tribunal in London upheld the decisions made by the Employment Tribunal held in Nottingham last year.
“Churches across the diocese continue to offer a generous welcome to people from all backgrounds and we remain fully engaged in the Church’s exploration of questions relating to human sexuality.
“The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. It has no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships, as set out in the House of Bishops guidelines in 2006.
“We recognise that it has been a long and difficult process for all those concerned, and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers.”