Canon Jeremy Pemberton’s discrimination case against the Church of England before an employment tribunal continued today at Nottingham Justice Centre.
The Rt Revd Richard Inwood, an honorary assistant bishop in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham and acting bishop told the tribunal hearing that the marriage of Canon Jeremy Pemberton and Laurence Cunnington is sinful and unwholesome.
Supporters of Changing Attitude, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight, faithful, prayerful, deeply committed Christians, have reacted with shock, anger and disgust at Bishop Inwood’s language.
We honour and respect those among us who live in faithful, life-long covenant relationships, some in civil partnerships and others in civil marriages (and there are more than the two clergy married couples known to the press). Jeremy and Laurence, Andrew and Stephen and hundreds of other couples have committed themselves to each other in marriage, making considered, careful and deeply committed vows.
How dare the bishop condemn these tender, loving relationships as ‘sinful and unwholesome’? He has revealed in the tribunal hearing the homophobia and hatred of faithfully partnered lesbian and gay couples, whether in CPs or marriages, that we often suspect is the real opinion of those at the centre of the Church. His comments relate to all gay and lesbian people, whether married or not. He is telling us that our lives, our loves, our desire to be in relationship with another person are unacceptable and rejected by the Church.
I know that not all bishops and archbishops would use these words to describe lesbian and gay relationships. Bishop Alan Wilson has spoken at the tribunal in support of Jeremy’s discrimination case.
Changing Attitude will ask the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the House and College of Bishops to condemn bishops Inwood’s words. There is huge anger and impatience for change now. We have been asked to wait patiently while those who value LGBTI people in the church and those who condemn lesbian and gay relationships as sinful and unwholesome meet in the Shared Conversations which continue for another 12 months.
The homophobia revealed today by the bishop shows that the Church of England is systemically prejudiced and unwilling to confront the truth of the many Godly, wholesome lives which faithful LGBTI Anglicans live. The Church claims to have no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships. Bishop Inwood’s comments show this to be untrue.
Whatever the outcome of the tribunal and the Mutual Conversations, the House of Bishops of the Church of England must urgently move to repair the damage done by today’s shockingly ill-judged remarks and commit the Church to equality in ministry and relationships for those of us who are gay.