Comments: Hereford case: diocese issues statement

Does the Diocese of Hereford employment application ask heterosexuals for the names and genders of persons that they have slept with over the past 5 years? Does it ask them if they intend in the near future to have sex with anyone? If not, then the same standards are definitely not being applied to heterosexuals as are apparently applied to homosexual persons.

Posted by Robert at Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 7:52pm BST

And this simply isn't true - talk about moving the goalposts. There are plenty of openly gay lay readers in relationships and people in relationships working within the church bureaucracy.

Not to mention all the closeted gay vicars...all celibate, of course!

In any case, I am sure that the exemptions did not set the boundaries this wide. It was a way of ensuring they could continue to bar gay people from the clergy.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 8:46pm BST

It would be more honest if the statement said they did apply different standards as they were able to do so - surely that is the basis of this change of decision regarding the employment of this chap. Sounds to me like this defence is an own goal to start with.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 8:52pm BST

hopefully the employment tribunal will see right through this.

And one would expect Christian leaders to be more honest.

Posted by Dennis at Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 9:39pm BST

This is the crux of the matter. Is it discrimination on the basis of orientation if you discriminate based on conduct or intended conduct?

Posted by Andy at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 12:17am BST

Unmistakable whiff of pharisaism.

Posted by Fr Joe O'Leary at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 1:36am BST

Is it not the case that this man is being honest and carrying out the agreed position of the CoE?

Is not "don't ask, don't tell" hypocrisy? Would we really prefer that dishonest attitude?

Hope to see the ABC back this faithful person

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 9:42am BST

Supposing that there are openly/active gay people in office, that leads to the question not 'why can't there be more?' but 'how did they come to be there in the first place, given that in most denominations, and in foundational christianity, this would be unthinkable?'.

By Merseymike's 'argument', someone who is nabbed for peddling drugs could plead: 'well, there are already a lot of people dealing drugs openly, and no-one has said anything to them'. On this 'basis' they should be let off to peddle more drugs.

This is another confusion of 'ought' and 'is', morals and mores. That is the root problem which needs to be faced up to and addressed.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 12:19pm BST

NP, it's pretty likely that you'll get your wish (ABC backing +whatshisname). ++Rowan will catch even more flak than he is catching now, though.

it's not 100% clear that the Bishop of Hereford is carrying out the agreed position of the CoE. as I understand things, the CoE would do this for clergy and (unfortunately, imo) be perfectly justified. however, Reany was applying for a lay position. he was also approved by the panel that he interviewed with (so it seems). it's not easy to muster much sympathy for the Bishop's position, and it does seem to be more his position than his subordinates' position. anyway, we should wait to see what the tribunal says.

Posted by Weiwen at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 1:49pm BST

So if a person tells the truth, they get sacked (or denied the job in this case), if they lie, they get nailed.

What was that famous quote about scoundrels hiding behind the letter of the law? Oh, Mark 7:6, and if you read it right, both sides can claim this.

I must admit that it does not look good for the applicant however, as the position was never offered, so discrimination will be hard to prove. Is there such a thing in C of E canon law as "discovery"? I think that many would like to see what questions were asked during that interview.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 2:21pm BST

NP, I don't disagree with your observation about the "don't ask, don't tell" policy being hypocritical. But if you apply that policy in general to heterosexual job applicants and not to certain "suspect" homosexual job applicants, you certainly have discrimination. As for the ABC, I would love to see him take a public position on this case, but he probably will want to study it for a while--maybe it will go away, eh?

Posted by Robert at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 2:46pm BST

"... it emerged that he had not long come out of a five-year homosexual relationship.

"The Bishop said he concluded that Mr Reaney was not emotionally in a position to be making promises about his behaviour for the future. “Such sexuality in itself was not an issue but Mr Reaney’s lifestyle had the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese.,” said Bishop Priddis."

SO - the applicant is not in a relationship. Has left a five year relationship. The BISHOP thinks he's not emotionally in a position to be making promisess ... Did the applicant say that?

Now let's posit a straight applicant who has divorced after a five year marriage. The BISHOP decides he is not emotionally ready to make promises about future behavior...

Are C of E bishops clairvoyant? Glad a [presumably] straight bishop can discern the emotional state of a gay man whose 5 year relationship has ended. Glad to know too that the mere hiring of such a person would impact the spiritual, moral and ethical keadership of a whole diocese. Is this what they mean by Gay Power?

I supppose if the applicant had just lied, all would be well.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 4:01pm BST

Well if the CoE standard is now to internally hunt down and dismiss all who do not strictly meet Lambeth 1.10 celibacy standards apart from marriage - but then what to make of civil partnerships? - at least we shall finally know just what sort of lines are being drawn in just what sorts of sand. Bravo conservative realignment of all Anglicans. If we could only see more policing in our church life, we would all be so much the better for all of it.

I strongly suggest that only married believers be allowed to join the new Anglican sex police forces, because after all strictly considered, they are the only believers who know anything categorically good and real about the approved sort of human sex, up close and personal. According to some interpretations, married straight folks in fact are the only truly human humans. Yes. Many of them will tell you that, themselves.

This is not just about sex of course, but about who is superior to whom. Same as always. And, therefore, who is uniquely privileged to lower the boom bang bong on other folks' heads while orgasms are being catalogued and counted. What joy. What ethical gleam. I feel better already.

And all church tribunal judgments simply must be reported in bold print, in triplicate, to Canterbury for filing in case of future sex offender policing and tracking needs that may arise in church life. Just think what believers might accomplish, if only we kept a national or international church register of sexually active people who failed investigations.

Maybe sexually active people, and all people who might become sexually active, could wear large red letter SA tattoos or insignia sewn on their sleeves? You know how wily and devious and untrustworthy - stained horribly in a word? - sex automatically makes people, except married straight people of course. Thanks goodness they are all safe ports in the rubbish and storm of sex.

Bravo new Anglican realignment. God speed the Anglican sex tribunals to a parish near all of us.

Don't ever say you haven't been notified in advance. These people mean it, not least when they are policing orgasms.

Posted by drdanfee at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 4:06pm BST

Andy asked "This is the crux of the matter. Is it discrimination on the basis of orientation if you discriminate based on conduct or intended conduct?"

This to me is clearly discrimination on grounds of orientation. The Bishop saw that the applicant was gay, and called him in for detailed questioning on his sexual life. The decision to call him on was based not on conduct, but on orientation.

I think it would only not be discrimination based on orientation if the bishop called in EVERY new appointee in the diocese, gay and straight, married and single, to question them also to see if they had a history of sex outside marriage.

After all, if the bishop is so keen to enforce orthodoxy how can he assume that his straight married employees aren't having sex outside marriage. Shouldn't he question them too to be certain?

Somehow I suspect such questioning does not happen.


Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 4:24pm BST

Given the position of the CofE in this country at present, I would not think that the Church would want to narrow down the pool of prospective young talent available to it any further than absolutely necessary. If it is now the Church's position that only married people or confirmed celibates will be able to take up lay positions, the already-shallow pool of youthful enthusiasm in the Church will shrivel into a murky puddle. God help me, I can already feel my passion for the Church of my baptism ebbing every time an English bishop opens his mouth.

Posted by Caliban at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 4:42pm BST

Yah, this non-discriminatory policy - everyone to be assessed for whether they are bonking outside of marriage: what a fantastic line of questioning in interviews.

Christopher Shell - no equivalence between gay relationships meaning love and faithfulness and peddling drugs. Honestly. If this is where it is at... Oh add it to the questioning?

Have you had or likely to have sex outside of marriage?
Have you ever peddled or likely to peddle drugs?
Have you just emerged from a long term relationship and cannot give commitments to anything?
Has this line of questioning assisted destroying your sense of ethical self?
Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 5:00pm BST

drdanfee / Cynthia - maybe it is not about persecuting anyone - maybe it is about being faithful to the scriptures?

So,the man would have found the same response if he had been living with a woman who was not his wife for 5 years....

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 5:00pm BST

The point is that they may not be able to do this - its a question of exactly what jobs have the same conditions attached to them as do clergy.

The previous judgment suggested they were limited - essentially to clergy and similar roles which are themselves clearly defined.

However, I would seriously question whether gay people would now wish to have anything to do with the CofE in any case.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 5:22pm BST

Yes this sounds like the completely shambolic and and unprofessional C of E for which I worked for many years.

I was honest then, as I am now about having a loving relationship and partnership. It was no problem for the then Bishop of Southwark, the Southwark DDO., or the PP where I served my title. Subsequently, I was open at every application and interview for a C of E post. (It's rather hard to hide one's family -- and who would want to ?).

That was years ago in 'the bad old days'; and then and now, there was a good deal of openness where possible. It took some courage nonetheless, and sometimes I was rejected because of this family. That was painful, but preferable to trying to live in cloud cuckoo land !

I believe there is openness today when it is permitted. Bishops who are going to verbally abuse aspirants, or over-rule the diocesan appointments procedures are unlikely to be met with great trust or openness.

That must come as no surprise to anyone.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 6:15pm BST

NP: "So,the man would have found the same response if he had been living with a woman who was not his wife for 5 years...."

Except that man had the option of marriage.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 7:12pm BST

I had thought not to comment on the case until the judgement was rendered cos obviously a lot of stuff - including legal arguments and so on.

However I am (to put it mildly) astonished at the things the bishop is reporting himself to have said.

That old canard about not discriminating against orientation rather than practice - you need to look up the law which specifies indirect as well as direct discrimination and that's part and parcel of the law.

Secondly I am shocked (to say the least) at the fact that a job was denied someone who appears to have met the proposed (discriminatory) criterion but the employer felt he would not be able to keep it even though he was stating he could.

Well I will continue to observe the case, but I observe two things:

1. I am in a way glad this is happening as it blows to smithereens the ungodly pretence at the heart of the Church of England at the moment that you can have discrimination and homophobia provided you sugar coat it - you can't. If you have discrimination, you have discrimination. If you will homophobia (however nicely dressed up and camouflaged) then you are part and parcel of that whole system.

2. This goes to show that the reg 7(3) which embodies the religious opt out is badly and misleadingly drafted as it is being interpreted much more widely than is warranted.

Finally just to say that this case could very well (if won by the Diocese) be appealed all the way to the Higher Courts as well as to the ECJ as the regulations outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation derive from an EU Directive.

All of this assumes that the post did not state explicitly that it was being viewed as exempt under the regs. So we shall see as it promises to be an interesting case as it unfolds.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 7:38pm BST

This bishop illustrates so much of what is wrong within Anglicanism. Not just the bigotry (which is bad enough) but the claim that their personal bias is somehow the norm, the standard of teaching of the church. It isn't - but trying to defend one's own bias and bigotry by claiming that "it is really Christianity that says this" is a lie about Christianity and an attack on our faith. This is what most disturbs me about the so-called "orthodox": they have redefined our faith to match their own prejudices and in so doing have twisted the faith to be not about grace and redemption but about exclusion. This is why it is so important for this bishop to lose this case. Not just for the sake of equal rights in employment law, but for the sake of the faith. I am praying that the employment tribunal will allow themselves to be a tool of God and help drive one more nail into the coffin for bigotry and prejudice and exclusion within the church. As Christians, for the sake of our church, we need the employment tribunal to help this bishop "see the light."

Posted by Dennis at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 7:39pm BST

"a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would also be turned down for the job,"

Given that there is no recognized marriage for all but the first listed orientations, this boils down exactly to discrimination.

Posted by Tim at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 8:37pm BST

Is there an Anglican version of the CRB (super) enhanced disclosure? As well as searching out any criminal record, cautions or up and coming cases, it can add any history of having sex outside of marriage, including inside Civil Partnership. So let's add this through the keyhole stuff.

(Oh, as marriage and Civil Partnership have equality in the law, that makes 'marriage only' discriminatory in terms of employment).

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 9:37pm BST

This case exposes the C of E's anomalous distinction between "orientation" and "practice".

We generally define our sexuality according to the physical and emotional bonds we form with another person of the same or opposite sex. For the majority of people, and indeed the law of the land, there is no difference between orientation and practice. The church's policy is cruel, leading to humiliating and intrusive questioning such as has been experienced by the claimant, and to outright discrimination.

The key phrase used by the respondent is "a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage... would also be turned down for the job", meaning that LGBT people could never aspire to such a post. I very much doubt whether single heterosexual people would be subjected to such close scrutiny of their private lives for such a post.

This boils down to the inherent contradiction in the church's current position with its commitment to Lambeth 1:10: "homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture" and the recent GS resolution: "Homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry", from which you could infer that practice IS a bar.

Of course the bishops are these days looking over their shoulder to ++Akinola by avoiding "anything that could be perceived as the C of E qualifying its commitment to the entirety of the relevant Lambeth resolutions" which the appointment of Mr Reaney would be a breach of.

At least this case will set some boundaries. Either rights for LGBT lay people in the church will be affirmed, or there will be a need for a revision of the legislation.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 10:55pm BST

At last - a Bishop who has the courage to apply uniformly the official teaching of the Church of England on extra marital relations.

Posted by Etheldreda at Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 11:24pm BST

What a disgusting *inquisition*: how can the Bp of Hereford live with himself?


Lord have mercy!

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 2:14am BST

"a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would also be turned down for the job,"

The key word in this phrase obviously is “sexual”.

Remove it:

"a person in a committed relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would also be turned down for the job,"

and you get a very different thing…

So Ethelreda, show us the good Bishop has done that! Names and dates.

(oh! how I long for the good old days when thhis sort of thing was only seen on the screen! Nit! Nit! Nit!)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 7:53am BST

Well done, Goran - you are right, if you remove a word from a sentence, it can indeed change the meaning.

Posted by NP at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 12:16pm BST

Maybe you should read the sentence NP, not just be funny about it.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 3:35pm BST

I have spent the day (Wednesday) listening to the Bishop of Hereford give his account of why he refused to employ John Reaney as the diocese’s youth officer and apparently it’s all John Reaney’s fault.

Several times under direct and cross examination the bishop appeared to be flummoxed by the fact that Mr Reaney had written TWO paragraphs mentioning his sexuality on his application form for the job. This matter became so much of a puzzle for the bishop that eventually the tribunal’s chair intervened to offer the bishop a careful explanation that in fact Mr Reaney was accounting for his leaving another job in the diocese of Chester after only 16 months and the information was very pertinent to that.

This seemed to calm the bishop somewhat, and he agreed that this was indeed the probable and reasonable cause for such unexpected honesty which the bishop repeated several times he had never – ever – seen on an application form before.

The two paragraphs that worried the bishop had obviously not bothered the eight-person team who had considered all the candidates for the post. Seven had scored Mr Reaney’s application and interview performance at A or above with just one A-. They had unanimously recommended him for the post.

It was not quite clear when the bishop decided the writing was on the wall for Mr Reaney. He had been kept appraised of the situation as things progressed. The diocese has a non-discrimination policy that includes lesbian and gay people – but as the bishop explained with references to Lambeth conferences, General Synod motions, Primates meetings and a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury talking to a Tanzanian journalist, being gay was OK just don’t do anything about it.

Perhaps Mr Reaney was just too honest. That was the definite feeling the bishop left everybody with at the tribunal.

It seems if he hadn’t said anything the bishop would not have been able to ask the questions. But the real problem came when he DID ask the question. Mr Reaney freely told the bishop that he had been in a relationship that had lasted five years; this relationship had come to an end some three months before his interview with the bishop. Mr Reaney gave the assurance required that there would be no relationships during the time he was in post - but the bishop did not believe him.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 4:02pm BST

Goran - you're not making a useful or intelligent point.

Martin - do you prefer the dishonest "don't ask, don't tell" policy adopted by some?
Does it have any integrity?

Posted by NP at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 4:46pm BST

Surely the point is that the CofE have no right to demand this stipulation of anyone other than clergy?

If they can, then they simply prove themselves to be the homophobes we should by now know that they are.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 4:48pm BST

Hi Martin-
Surely a minimum Christian requirement would be that Mr Reaney renounce his former behaviour, which was not a blip but a settled lifestyle? It's not clear that he has done so.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Saturday, 7 April 2007 at 1:12pm BST

I thought the purity laws apply to behaviour, not to thinking. If this man promised to obey the church teachings it doesn't actually matter whether he personally agreed that they were right.

Personally speaking, coldly renouncing a whole 5 years of loving relationship is the most appallingly cruel thing anyone can do to a former partner and should disqualify them from any position of trust forever.

A minimum Christian requirement would be to trust Mr Reaney's assurances.
Or do we all have to be clones to be accepted into your church? No wonder that ever fewer want to!

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 2:02pm BST
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