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I do trust Tories, says Bishop of St Davids after Twitter row

04 June 2021

Church in Wales

Dr Joanna Penberthy

Dr Joanna Penberthy

A WELSH Bishop with the hashtag “GTTO” (“Get the Tories out”) in her Twitter profile has apologised for tweeting “Never, never, never trust a Tory.”

Dr Joanna Penberthy became the first woman bishop in the Church in Wales when she was consecrated Bishop of St Davids in 2016 (News, 4 November 2016). Reaction to her tweet, which she posted on 25 March, escalated on Wednesday after it was retweeted by Calvin Robinson, a Conservative political adviser and an Anglican ordinand.

Dr Penberthy issued an apology that day, describing it as “a private tweet about Conservative Party supporters which has caused offence and for which I sincerely apologise”.

She explained: “The tweet was in response to another tweet which claimed that the Conservative Party was planning to abolish the Senedd. I acknowledge that while there may be those within the Conservative Party who oppose Welsh devolution, it is not the policy of the Conservative Party to abolish the Senedd and I should have checked all the facts before tweeting. I, of course, trust and have trusted many Conservatives and know there are many honourable people in that party.

“I further apologise for other tweets I have posted which have caused upset and offence. While I hold strong political views, I have expressed them on Twitter in a way which was both irresponsible and disrespectful and I deeply regret this. I have now closed my account down.”

Screenshots taken before she closed down her Twitter account showed regular posts critical of the Conservatives and those who voted for them. In May last year, in response to polling showing voting intentions she wrote: “A very sad indictment of British electorate that so many still want to vote Tory. Absolutely appalling. I am ashamed of each and every one of them.” The previous year she wrote: “How can anyone with any moral fibre stand as a Tory candidate?”

While serving as a parish priest in the diocese of Bath & Wells in 2015 she stood for election as a Labour councillor for South Somerset District Council.

On Thursday, the Church in Wales issued a statement saying that it “expects all its clergy to engage robustly in public life. However, they need to do so in a way which is respectful, responsible and fair, acknowledging the breadth and diversity of political opinion within the Church. We do not support intemperate claims or poorly informed commentary, and we urge all clergy to recognise that, as public office holders, there should be no expectation that personal views will be regarded as private.

“The Bishop of St Davids’ strong political views are well known. We recognise that she has apologised for causing offence and are pleased she has acknowledged the hurt and damage she has caused and deactivated her personal Twitter account.”

The MP for St Davids and a large part of Bishop Penberthy’s diocese is the Conservative Stephen Crabb, a former Secretary of State of Wales. In the 2019 General Election, his majority increased to 5062. He is an Evangelical Christian who voted against same-sex marriage in 2013, chairs the Conservative Friends of Israel, and is currently chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

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