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Bishop was in his rights to refuse Pemberton a licence, tribunal rules

22 March 2018


Laurence Cunnington and Canon Jeremy Pemberton

Laurence Cunnington and Canon Jeremy Pemberton

CANON Jeremy Pemberton has lost his legal case against a bishop who refused to grant him a licence and thus deprived him of an NHS post.

Canon Pemberton, who married his partner, Laurence Cunnington, in April 2014 (News, 12 September 2014), worked as deputy senior chaplain in the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust. He was offered the post of chaplaincy manager at King’s Mill Hospital in Mansfield, but on condition that he obtained a licence from his new diocese, Southwell & Nottingham.

This was refused because of Canon Pemberton’s same-sex marriage, and the job offer was withdrawn.

In 2015, 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, a ruling that was then upheld at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2016 (9 December 2016).

On Thursday Canon Pemberton’s appeal against the judgment was dismissed by Lady Justices Gloster and Asplin, and Lord Justice Underhill in the Court of Appeal in London.

Canon Pemberton said in a statement that he has reached a “settled agreement” with the Church of England, and will not pursue his case any further. He expressed disappointment, but thanked his legal advisers and supporters.

He said on Thursday, after the case was thrown out, that the Church “has established through this process that it can continue to discriminate legally against some LGBT people in relation to their employment”.

The decision would be seen by most people as an “extraordinary result, and not one that will help commend the claims of Christ to the nation”.

He went on: “An official position that regards the loves and commitments of LGBT people, including clergy, as sinful by definition is years overdue for thorough-going revision.

“The need for a revolution in attitudes and practices in the Church towards this minority is still acute — we continue to wait for real change.”

Canon Pemberton said that he hoped to return to active ministry at some point in the future.

A spokesman for the diocese said on Thursday: “We are pleased that the court has upheld the decision made with regards to the employment tribunal.

“We recognise that this has been a long and difficult process for many of those concerned, and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers.”

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