Opinion: We will not stand aside while persecution takes place

Whilst party activists gathered in Glasgow and quite literally were debating policy F33 Age Ready Britain there was another gathering taking place of a quieter, but perhaps more significant nature.

In the Admiral Rodney Pub, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire a small group of LGBT activists and supporters prepared to demonstrate for equality. Archbishop John Sentamu was in Southwell for the opening of the refurbished Bishop’s Palace and he was accompanied by acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Richard Inwood.

Normally simply an occasion of celebration, instead Bishop Inwood and Archbishop Sentamu were met at the doors of Southwell Minster by LGBT activists and supporters calling for the end to persecution of LGBT clergy. Acting Bishop Inwood has refused to license one of his clergy for an NHS role as a hospital chaplain because he has exercised his legal right to marry his male partner.

For many, they can’t quite believe that this sort of thing is happening in this day and age, that the Church of England is so out of step that they have refused a Chaplains license and that they are frankly getting away with it.

The demonstrators, small, select and dignified were led by Peter Tatchell (and included my mother-in-law and father-in-law) and had a conversation with Archbishop Sentamu. This specific case will probably go to court, but liberals everywhere should be alert to what is going on and prepare to fight for equality from the Church of England. Our instinctive response might be to disestablish it, but for starters, and regardless of that, we must stand up for all, for equality and against persecution.

The Bishops of the Church of England are seeking to prevent their clergy from marrying, to create a ‘blacklist’ of those that do, and are actively refusing progression and employment against gay clergy. This article is to raise awareness of the disgrace that is taking place in the name of the Church of England.

Tuesday’s protest was small, dignified and entirely appropriate. But the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and all of the bishops of the Church of England are now faced with a prospect of LGBT activists and all those who care about equality performing protests outside any location they are present – anywhere in the UK.

This is an issue that can easily go away – Archbishop of Canterbury – stop persecuting your clergy, allow them to marry as per the law of the land and embrace all of your flock. There is no other way forwards unless you wish to be dogged by protest and the shameful record of truth. Acting Bishop Richard Inwood has, through his cowardice, consigned his own reputation into the dustbin of history. Archbishop Welby, I pray that do not require your other Bishops to do the same.

* Ed Fordham is a councillor on Chesterfield Borough Council and runs Brockwell Books of Chesterfield, selling many thanks, not least ephemera he bought from Liber Books over the last 25 years.

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  • “Our instinctive response might be to disestablish it, but for starters, and regardless of that, we must stand up for all, for equality and against persecution.”

    I’m both an Anglican and a supporter of equal marriage (including for clergy). My default position has been for disestablishment for many years but in this case I believe it would hinder rather than help achieving the aim should the HOB’s dig their heels in. A disestablished Church would be in the same position as the RC Church which doesn’t allow it’s own clergy to marry at all. I would have thought that political pressure could prove the difference here by virtue of establishment, after all Parliament must decide whether any C of E measure is passed to the Queen for Royal Assent and also retains the right to pass Primary measures.

    From the C of E website:

    “it remains possible for primary legislation concerning the Church of England to be made by Act of Parliament, however in practice this has happened only very rarely since the enactment of the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 (see below), and there is a constitutional convention that Parliament does not legislate for the internal affairs of the Church of England without its consent.”

  • “Church teaching has been pretty clear for hundreds of years.”

    Sorry, but it hasn’t. For example, the re-marriage of divorcees, the ability for divorcees to be ordained.

    “Unless you think God has got it wrong or changed his mind the only other reasonable explanation is that God doesn’t exist. ”
    Except of course the possibility that men have got it wrong, or that men were setting organisational rules based upon the norms of the age they were written in etc..

  • Sorry Caractacus it’s not about being married by the Church of England or their ministers – this is about clergy within the Church of England having the right to a civil marriage without fear of persecution. And as Steve Way says that teaching of the church has developed over centuries. This is about helping and fighting for those who are facing direct persecution by the House of Bishops – some of them in direct contradiction of their lifestyle and their beliefs. I am standing up for LGBT people wherever they are.

  • Ed Fordham
    When you wrote — “…they can’t quite believe that this sort of thing is happening in this day and age…”

    I know you did not mean —- they can’t quite believe that this sort of thing – paying a minority religious sect out of NHS money which could be better spent on treating patients — is happening in this day and age.

    But that is my reaction. If the CofE what to fund chaplains in hospitals let them do so with their own money. The NHS is funded by taxpayers, the majority of whom have nothing to do with the Church of England.

  • matt (Bristol) 10th Oct '14 - 5:29pm

    With regard to the specific issue of chaplains – why specifically target the CofE, why are you not targetting other denominations which would not allow civilly-married gay clergy to operate as chaplains, or would not ordain civilly-married or any other sort of gay clergy, if you hold that disestablishment would not make the CofE immune to scrutiny and the imperative for reform on this matter? And what action are LibDems in Scotland or Wales taking with regard to Scottish or Welsh denominations? (I can’t remember the exact position of the Church In Wales on this, for which I apologise…)

    Similarly, with regard to the comment in the thread above that it is somehow ‘wrong’ for the Catholic church (as an example of a non-established church which takes a conservative view at this time on clerical sexuality) to choose to not ordain gay clergy and appoint them to offices in their church, if this is so, at what point are you beginning to prescribe what people may believe and why / how far is that ethically acceptable? Is not the logical thing to do next, to demand that the Catholic church allow clergy to marry?

    I agree that whilst the CofE is established and continues to want to be established, it is deserving of scrutiny if it is felt to be acting on behalf of the English ‘crown’ or ‘nation’ in some way (always difficult to establish and deliberately kept muddy), but I don’t see why you consider that non-established churches

    I am wary of a situation where the momentum is being created for the liberal norm within society and a whole and within this party is fixed opposition to organised Christianity from a humanist / secularist position, rather than sceptical friendship from a diverse plurality of perspectives…

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Oct '14 - 7:41pm

    I struggle to feel enthusiastic about campaigning for LGBT equality within religious institutions. However, I do think we should get some urgency behind campaigns to remove extreme anti-LGBT laws. It is outrageous that being gay is illegal anywhere and some of the punishments are unspeakable bad.

    I think we could get real national cut through in tackling countries were being gay is illegal. LGBT equality within religious institutions is always going to be a contentious area. Even if we include the fact the Church of England has official ties with the UK government.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Oct '14 - 7:53pm

    I mean, I’m not going to encourage people to get in your way, I am not a fan of the teachings of the church, I’m just saying I care about LGBT rights, but for me it has to be the right issue, such as the ones I mentioned above.


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