Another P.T.O. revoked…

What an intriguing dynamic, that as I begin to pick up the reins as Coordinator of CA that I should jez 605w, 75w, 944w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />find myself placed in an impossible situation by the Church of England.

I am a Reader, working, with a PTO issued by the Archbishop of York, in the Howden Team Ministry. This is a busy rural ministry where I am fully supported by all 6 churches, the Team Rector and Team Vicar. I enjoy a rich and varied ministry with all the churches in the team, from the grandeur of the Minster in Howden, to quiet country churches.

Following a meeting with the Archbishop on July 17th, I have been living with an ultimatum which I was then presented with. I have been in a civil partnership with Mike, since 2009, and we have been discussing commuting this to marriage for some time. I was told that although my ministry was much valued, if we change our status to being married then my PTO would be withdrawn with immediate effect. I was faced with choosing between marriage or ministry.

This has caused tears and soul searching, but at the weekend Mike and I had a trip to Leeds and chose two new rings to mark this new milestone in our lives together!

I have written to the Archbishop, and informed him of our intentions, and he will withdraw my PTO, and my ministry as a reader will come to an abrupt end. This will take place mid-September as I wanted to fulfil all the commitments I have in the diary.
I pointed out that if he were to withdraw my PTO then I would feel I had little choice but to continue my journey of faith outside the Church of England as all those things I explore with the churches such as welcome, encouragement, the recognition of gifts and ministries, growth and potential suddenly have no real meaning for me.

Many would ask, and sometimes do, why has it taken me so long to get to this point? I have always replied that my journey has been rooted and steeped in the Anglican tradition which is my tradition and I wanted to remain there, despite the injustice and hypocrisy I see for LGBTI folk. Now, I stand on the threshold of leaving, and joining the ranks of all those who feel they no longer have a place in the church.

Am I daunted? ….. No. I am not walking out into the desert alone (not that the desert is a bad place) but I am a member of a dispersed contemplative community, who are deeply supportive and enjoy a rich deep prayer life. This for me will become a holding place. It is also intriguing, the second intrigue, that our community, Contemplative Fire, is an Acknowledged Community by the Church of England, with Paul Bayes as our link Bishop, so I still have links with the Church but very much on the fringes.

It is an emotionally rough place to be at the moment; not only have I had to face up to the reality of the choice I was presented with, but now I am “going public” with what is happening the churches in the Team are angry and upset.

So my friends, it is with sharpened focus and vigour, I will work with the trustees to bring about the day when sexuality, gender identity and relationship status are no bar to a rich and full experience of life in the Church or its ministry, lay and ordained.

Thanks for your support.


  1. says

    A decision full of integrity, Jeremy. I wish you well. I trust the clergy and the Pccs of your former team have expressed their sorrow and dismay at the Archbishop’s decision to deprive them of a Reader.

  2. says

    I am so very sorry – and angry on your behalf – to hear this, Jeremy. In every case I know of where the PTO has been withdrawn, it does not just have a negative effect on the individual, but on all the people in the church(es) where he – and I only know of men – ministers. But you are the first non-ordained case that I have heard of, and this is also worrying, particularly when the current ‘bright idea’ for reviving the Church of England is to increase the number of lay ministers by as much as 60%! Like you, Anglicanism is in my DNA and I have not felt able to leave the Church, but the CofE has changed so much for the worse in my lifetime that I no longer recognise the Church of my youth, where everyone felt welcomed in order to worship, and the Inquisition was part of history. :<(

  3. Anonymous says

    Jeremy, I am so sorry that the Church has such short sight to lose a talented man like you. May I give you my congratulations on your ‘upgrade’! I am positive that God sees loving relationships before all else and that ALL love comes from the Love that made us.

  4. Anonymous says

    I am so very sorry and so very angry about this. I agree with Laura that it is the first time I have heard of this happening to a lay person and, as I have just posted on FB, it is against the ‘teaching’ of Issues which now seems to be used as a shibboleth in these matters. (I must add that I do not agree with Issues on this, or much else, really, but it seems awfully ironic that a tract which made a clear distinction between the permitted behaviour of clergy and laity, is now being used as a stick to beat you with. Do you think the ABY has read it?)

  5. says

    I have to echo Laura’s comments.

    The personalities involved, particularly the ABY who recently affirmed pastoral care for the LGBT community, particularly at York Minster has another face, that of intolerance and prejudice.

    We had evidence of it over the episode of The Dean of St Albans, when being run for Bishop of Buckingham, now we see it openly and transparently – but only because Jeremy has gone public.

    Time to clear out the HoB and change the system to one where the people of a diocese or suffragen SEE have a direct say, through an electoral system on who should be their Bishop or Arch Bishop.

  6. Anonymous says

    Jeremy I’m really sad that your PTO has been withdrawn and I hope and pray that you will get lots of support I pray for the day when the Church of England will change its official stance. My prayers are with you both for your marriage Julian Bowers

  7. says

    God is Love – God creates us to Love. God doesn’t define the parameters of Love (as there are none). God rejoices when we experience and express love. The Church is a human construct and rarely practices what it preaches. It can’t cope with love, unless of course love “fits”. Any faith organisation that condemns love condemns its very self. Any person of faith who stands up for love stands up or God.

    • Revd. Mandy Brown says

      Jeremy, I am so sorry and so sad that your gifting should be treated so shabbily.
      Thank you Christopher for putting into words all that I believe.
      Jeremy I pray that you and your partner have a wonderful wedding and a long and happy marriage, may God bless you and open up new doorways.
      A sad day for those of us working within the Church of England.

  8. says

    It seems to me that archbishops and bishops do not realise the extent that such actions have a cumulatively negative effect on the mission of the church. How they treat people – putting dogma above humanity – is noted by the “general public”, and the perception is that the church is increasingly irrelevant.

    Dare I suggest that the bishops have been wrong in the past – interpretation of “traditional reading” of Scripture has changed over the years, and I believe they are wrong now.

    I rather fear that the bishops place towing an increasingly untenable party line above honesty and integrity.

    It is clear that a problem for the hierarchy is that of language and definition and not of activity – “civil partnerships” are fine but “civil marriages” (since they can’t be church marriages … yet!) are not. What is the *practical* difference between the two in terms of the behaviour of the participants? May I humbly suggest – very little, but bishops can play “let’s pretend” that there is.

    So I’m sorry Jeremy that one bishop has decided to assert his authority rather than humanity – and I’m sorry for the congregations you serve that they too suffer – but be assured you are in our prayers and that other doors will be opened to you.

  9. says

    Solidarity, Jeremy. Thanks for doing this. As you know, I too was told I would not only not be able to go forward for ordination if we married, but that I also would not be licensed for lay ministry. This is not even a church ‘rule’. God bless. Glad you have a community of faith to still belong to, even if it is dispersed.

  10. Jean Mayland (Revd) says

    Jeremy I am so sad about this. I hope the parishes where you have served so long in many ways will protest strongly to the Archbishop.He talks of church growth and drives more people away. No wonder the Church of England is dying.Sadly it deserves too.God is with you as you journey on and my love and prayers are with you both too.

  11. says

    I am appalled at the archbishop of York giving you this ultimatum. Well done for showing him up. The CofE is not being Christian in behaving like this and it is only damaging to its public face- more nails in the coffin for many of us. But then it was founded on dishonesty and brutality (Henry viii) so maybe nothing much has changed. Can someone point Sentanu in the direction of K Renato Lings’s research into the Biblical texts? I hope the media will take up your case Jeremy.

  12. Anonymous says

    This is an example of why the church is losing the respect and following of the younger, caring,open minded, non judgemental, inclusive majority. Christianity should represent love and caring. None of us want to believe a God who created us the way we are and then judges and convicts us. I will remain an agnostic and continue to be a real ‘Christian’ while organise religion continues to alienate the masses.

  13. James Byron says

    This is, of course, vile behavior by York and its archbishop, and I hope Jeremy can find some grounds to take legal action. If none exist, none of us is powerless: a campaign to persuade York parishes to withhold all funds until the PTO is reinstated would be an excellent first step. This can be fought, and can be won.

  14. Stephen Peters says

    I think the telling point is that you tell the ArchBishop that you feel you have no choice but to leave the CofE and seem to get nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders. Because, whatever response, whatever words, unless they change, it amounts to nothing more than a shrug.

  15. Julie Withers says

    Oh Jeremy What a rotten position the C of E put you in! I am sure you have made the right choice, painful though it must be. The injustice of this short sighted action makes me cross. I do believe though that your courage and integrity is an encouragement to those of us still “hanging in there” to keep plugging away trying to influence or maybe change things from within. (Until our licenses or PTO are taken from us!)

  16. says

    There is both sadness and joy in your story Jeremy – great sadness for the Church that loses an active ministry. But there is great joy in your intention, and you will surely know that there are a great many people who walk with you – people who have been likewise hurt by wrongful decisions and poor management. As Christopher puts it, the Church ” … can’t cope with love, unless of course love fits.” If one doesn’t fit, then please go away – the complete opposite of the Gospel of Christ.
    You will find your slot – maybe outside the mainstream church – the Holy Spirit never misses a moment of action when needed. Prayers and blessings. I hope you have a long and happy marriage.

  17. Robert Ellis says

    The Archbishop should hang his head in shame….I don’t know how he sleeps at night!
    One feels so impotent to try and effect change….I’ve certainly thought of resigning as a priest but who would notice! It all makes me feel very sad… we have said a thousand times…it’s homophobia wrapped up in bad theology…..but from an Archbishop!!!!????

  18. Harry says

    I am a de facto atheist who has nevertheless felt that the Church of England is the least worst of the organised religions in this country and may indeed in some way still serve a useful integrative social purpose. I am also happily married to my same sex husband.

    Events like this and the treatment of Mr Pemberton show me however that you lot are no different from the Catholics and the sooner your institution dies the better. So my sincere thanks to the Archbishop of York for helping me to realise this.

  19. Martin Carr says

    This is a terrible situation, I’m sorry for you. Should we start a petition calling on the archbishop to reinstate you?

  20. The Rev'd Stella F Jones says

    I am so sorry Jeremy. Rejection by the Church for being the person God created you to be is very difficult to accept and I am deeply saddened by it. Thank you for making your story known, for only by being open about it, will the Church ever find its way back to the path Christ started all those years ago.
    I wish you and Mike a very happy marriage and may God find you new path for your ministry to continue. I will keep you in my prayers.

  21. says

    Dear Jeremy,
    A word of solidarity and support from New Zealand. We, here, in the Anglican Church are seeking to free ourselves from homophobia and sexism through our Motion 30 process, to examine ways in which we can bring our Church kicking and struggling into the modern world. I guess the dear old C. of E. still has along way to go. The fear of offending African Provinces of the ACC is, I am sure, one of the reasons Archbishop Sentamu is trying to close the gate against the necessary reform. GBWY.

  22. Jonathan Kemp says

    As a fellow Reader, I reckon that Readers stand in the ‘messy waters’ where the rivers of fresh water meet the tides and rich oceans. So, for the purposes of this piece, rivers = ordained; oceans = laity. Hmm. So: (1) there’s more of us (lay) than them (ordained); (2) it’s the oceans’ evaporation that gives the rains that feed the springs and on into the rivers; (3) Rivers are necessary and a natural part of the refreshment of the oceans. So: (1) this is an essential but symbiotic relationship; (2) but it’s from the oceans that the springs are fed; and (3) thus it’s we laity who ‘give permission’ for folks to be ordained – without our clouds the springs dry up.

    I reckon Faber got it about right: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea …. For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind;”

    Oops: of course God comes into it – but it’s OK: he’s everywhere, not exclusive to one aspect of this cycle or another. So whose church is it? Who makes the rules?

    Oh: and why don’t Bishops swear any form of ‘allegiance’ to US?

  23. James Byron says

    Robert Ellis, I know how you feel, going up against City Hall makes anyone feel hopeless, but there’s practical steps that have worked for evangelicals, such as withholding funds from the diocese, getting reps elected to General Synod, and above all, organizing nationally. Strength in solidarity.

    If you have freehold or common tenure, and the support of your congregation, you could consider openly marrying same-sex couples and blessing their relationships, although of course, that’d bring a firestorm down.

    Beyond all that, speaking out is crucial, especially to bishops in person, preferably in public, where shame may motivate where conscience has so badly failed.

  24. Keith says

    The church board that you are standing in front of in your photograph shows the the total hypocrisy shown by the Church. I feel for your pain.



  25. J Gibbs says

    Another victory for ++York and his merry band of unchristian homophobes.

    I don’t understand why the churches in the parish are now upset because Jeremy has ‘gone public’: if I attended one of the churches I’d be shouting from the rooftops that we were being deprived of a committed pastor simply because the Archbishop has decided (against the published statements of the House of Bishops) that a non-ordained person should be told, effectively, to get out.

  26. Stephen Deas, Hull says

    Jeremy; We have met, I think, only once, but I wish you and Mike every happiness for the future. God is greater than the church in any of its earthly manifestations; problems in the church arise generally from its believing in too small a god. God as he truly is will already have found work for you to do; part of that work may indeed be to bear the costly witness you are bearing now. You are leaving the Church of England; as a wise priest who once taught me was wont to say, ‘Go with God!’

  27. Mel Beynon says

    So very sorry for you that you have been forced in to this position, it makes me want to weep for the state the church is in. I start my Reader training in September and your news makes me seriously consider changing my mind! I intend to write to the Archbishop (not that I expect it will change anything), but at least I’ll have expressed my shock and distaste at this horrendous decision.
    I wish you well in your marriage and sincerely pray you will have many fulfilling years together.
    Mel Beynon
    (You may know my daughter in law Ruth Wilde?)

  28. Elaine Sommers says

    Jeremy, what a bold and courageous decision you have made. As others have said, so very sad and yet totally honest and dignified. The irony of the ‘ALL WELCOME’ sign outside the church says it all. Whilst the plight of ordained LGBT people is heartbreaking, the situation for lay people is sometimes forgotten, so your difficulties and impending rejection do need to be made public.

    There is another and more insidious way where discrimination happens (and of which I have some experience), and that is when there is opposition to ministry by LGBT people within individual churches. They may be denied using their gifts in any way, simply because they are LGBT. When this happens, the diocese may turn a blind eye, saying that ‘it is for each parish to make its own decisions’. When I was banned from all ministry in my own church, no one from the diocese came forward in my defence.

    May your gifts be recognised and used as you look to the future, wherever that may be.

  29. Derek Dorey says

    Another sad story. Those outside the Church do not understand. It seems that gay Christians are tolerated but must remain quiet. I have the privilage to work in a diverse community in Glastonbury. It would be good if the Church at large accepted the tolerance that we experience here in this cradle of Christianity.

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