Comments: CofE response to Hereford judgment

I am glad to see the Archbishop's Council does nothing at all to endorse the Bishop's amazing statement at today's press conference when he said "I still think the decision I made was the right one".

On the contrary, they note the facts which made his decision wrong, even with the benefit of the religious exemption. The decision that the religious exemption applied to the post in question, but that the Bishop's conduct failed even the test of the religious exemption, is a very, very serious one from the Bishop's point of view, and he shows no sign of comprehending that.

The bishop is no poster boy for Lambeth 1.10. He's made a mistake, on any view, and he won't admit it. This makes his position much worse. It would be wonderful if he reconsidered and admitted, at the very least, an error of judgment which has had a serious adverse impact on a loyal servant of the Church of England, for which he really ought to say he is sorry.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 5:03pm BST

However, the Archbishops' Council have not discussed this.

The important thing seems to be that this discourages openness. Very healthy.

The 'spokesman' goes against Issues and what it says about lay people's relationships there.

Will lay people be asked to do something that clergy have not been asked to do , or have declined-- the answering of such impertinent questions. I don't see how the CofE can avoid decline, as it lacks moral sensibility and respect for people. GAy and lesbian people and our families run into millions of disaffected parishoners.

Posted by L Roberts at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 5:12pm BST

They must be employing a spin doctor...fact is that in reality, the sort of questioning and approach taken by the Church will not be legal to repeat, and the number of posts with exemption other than clergy are very small indeeed.

Even the exemption cannot cover 'possible future relationships'

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 5:12pm BST

Am I right in thinking that the Archbishops' Council's statement that a Diocesan Youth Officer is covered by the permitted exemptions of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations conflicts with the opinion of John Reaney's solicitor when she says, "In this landmark test case the Tribunal found not only that he suffered direct discrimination but that if necessary they would have found indirect discrimination in the Diocese imposing a requirement of celibacy for lay people in employment within the Church."

Does anyone have a link to the text of the Tribunal's judgement?

Posted by John S at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 6:04pm BST

Two cheers only for the judgement in this case? Judging from the reports I have read so far it seems to indicate that the Bishop was wrong to deny employment to a single gay man but may be right to deny it to one in a relationship. What happens when a single gay man is employed and then enters into a relationship, can he still be sacked by the bishop? Perhaps we need to see the final judgement, but if this exemption stands then there are still people employed by the church or eligible for employment who are vulnerable to bishops like this one. And why is 'Issues' being trotted out yet again. I thought it was a discussion document, it seems to have become holy writ.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 8:32pm BST

Richard A,

You are of course correct. The judgement seems to raise a number of issues and precedents which may actually in the medium term strengthen the conservative position. I discuss this further here:

Posted by Peter O at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 9:28pm BST

"The regulations will continue to provide important protection for churches and other religious organisations".

How callous! Protection for gay people is unimportant; the institution comes first.

What happened to the "safe place" idea? Has that been slain too?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 10:04pm BST

There is no substitute for a direct examination of the actual text of the judgement. This should be available very soon.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 10:08pm BST

Before anyone gets too excited about the decision as a legal precedent, I should point out that Employment Tribunal decisions are made at a very low level of the judicial hierarchy and don't generally bind anyone else, including other Employment Tribunals. It is very, very rare for them even to appear in the law reports, although this one is so special that it may be an exception. It is only if the case goes up to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (which is presided over, usually, by a High Court judge) that it starts to impact on other cases as a legal precedent. Since the Bishop appears to have lost on the facts rather than the law, the Employment Appeal Tribunal may well refuse to take the case, because an appeal lies only on a point of law.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 11:08pm BST

Hugh of Lincoln

It was a bishop’s gloating of how they could destroy a safe space and that not even higher being could help that set me off.

When I was growing up, I used to watch movies where people would flee to churches for sanctuary from evil and violence from without. Loving gentle priests and nuns allowed them entry and invoked God's name that no one should desecrate a holy space.

In recent times, we have seen evidence that families or individuals who have come to the temples for sanctuary from violence and an insane world find themselves or their kin and friends being used to satisfy selfish whims by priests or their colluders. It's like the child who runs to a family friend for safety finding themselves sold into prostitution.

It's despicable. It's despicable when it is done to babies and young children (male or female). It's despicable when it is done to women. It's despicable when it is done to GLBTs. It's despicable when it done to others who come for the first time for sanctuary, only to find that a Christian community is just as cruel as that from which they were trying to flee.

Such conduct is not from God. It is not condoned in any Christian circles, nor in any other theology. Wicked priests and corrupt cohorters.

Isaiah 47:5-15 is an appropriate response to priestly castes who condone such behaviour over decades and centuries. It includes: "I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance; I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy. Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke. You said, ‘I will continue forever — the eternal queen!’... You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom..."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 18 July 2007 at 11:22pm BST

Just a side point really. I was involved in supporting a land and access dispute case, and when the judgment was made in "our" favour, you suddenly experience how decisive a victory is and, for the other side, how (with costs, and the consequences) devastating is the outcome. In a situation like this, there is always the sense by the party that has lost that if they hadn't been so over-reaching and arrogant that they would be where they are anyway at much less cost.

The Hutton judgment had a huge impact on the BBC, even though many saw the evidence stack up differently. On a narrow point the BBC could have been more careful.

A judgment goes for the most obvious point where a case fails - in this case that the bishop discriminated when the man was celibate. It is important to read the actual judgment, because the failure on this may be on the basis of an *even if* the Church was able to discriminate - not that it could do so.

I doubt if the bishop is feeling quite what seems to be a dismissive attitude given in public, that he still thinks he took the right decision. The judgment is that he lost: and it is winner takes all and loser pays.

Whatever these rights to discriminate that some of these religious want, it is getting increasingly difficult for them. So it should; the ground under their feet has shifted. They can believe all manner of things, but they cannot so easily affect others adversely as a result.

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 12:56am BST

Has anyone consulted ++Akinola to make sure this doesn't accidentally besmirch the communion?

Posted by Curtis at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 4:25am BST

"Whatever these rights to discriminate that some of these religious want, it is getting increasingly difficult for them. So it should; the ground under their feet has shifted. They can believe all manner of things, but they cannot so easily affect others adversely as a result."-Pluralist

That's the gist precisely. Just like the mid to late 1960's in the U.S., one could make jokes, have feelings of complete disgust and (mis)use scripture to fuel their hatred of the negro, but to act upon those feelings and beliefs landed them in a court of law and a verdict intended to change behavior, if not attitudes. The latter will come around eventually.

What a sad commentary it is though, to have to leave it up to the state to legislate evil out of the houses of given to Glory of God.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 2:00pm BST

"Has anyone consulted ++Akinola to make sure this doesn't accidentally besmirch the communion?"
Oh, I'm sure this is taken as another example of how the True Christians are being persecuted by evil wanton Western society, and the Evil wanton CofE is cooperating with these enemies of the Gospel. Wait for it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 19 July 2007 at 5:44pm BST

I'm still reeling from the idea that partnered gay clergy can enter into civil partnerships, yet a Bishop can inquire into someone else's private life.

Is this a logical disconnect?


Posted by IT at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 4:48am BST

hi Ford-
Are you sure that you are not denying the terms 'evil' and 'wanton' on principle, ie before resource to statistical fact?

If certain trends in western society have bad statistical effects (literally hundreds of percentage points rise in abortions, divorces, STDs, extramarital relationships...and an associated massive rise in crime connected with subgroups that have no stable families) then it is not merely an option to point out that another route had better effects. Even if no-one pointed that out, it would still be true.

We already know a better way, which has been demonstrated by our society at other times in history and is being demonstrated by other societies now.

Given these statistical rises, how would you describe western society? Good?

CS Lewis called this fernseed and elephants: ie sometimes the data are so huge that we miss them. It's like being on a liner that's so big you never see it. Or like a 'hidden face' puzzle I once saw in the Strand magazine, where the entire picture was the hidden face.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 9:14am BST

More attacks on ++Akinola.....when he is nothing at all to do with this story....come on, be sensible TA contributors!

Ford - I know you like making these (weak) claims about persecution and martyr complexes etc etc BUT pls note the tribunal affirmed the right of the CofE to implement Lambeth 1.10 based employment policies - even for lay people

Posted by NP at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 11:09am BST

"If certain trends in western society have bad statistical effects"

First of all, Christopher, I have engaged before your concepts of "statistical facts" and the sources you use for these statistics. What's more, you seem to think there has been a collosal moral decline in Western society in the past, say, century. Can this actually be supported? I am of the opinion that we have merely switched one set of evils for another. A rise in crime? Really? The stats I have heard reported time and again suggest the opposite. Indeed, there is at least one author who points out that the fall in violent crime in Western society seems to have begun after Roe v Wade in the US. He makes no causal link, just points out the interesting co-occurance of the two facts. Abortion and teen pregnancy have both been found to be as big, if not bigger, in heavily fundamentalist areas of the US in comparison to other part of the country.

"a better way, which has been demonstrated by our society at other times in history"


Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 2:26pm BST

Oh, here we go with the post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument for causality. Nice try, Christopher, but fails on many fronts.

is this the week for exposing logical fallacy and sophistry? We took down the slippery slope argument on Fr Jake's, because there was no independent verification of inevitability.

Posted by IT at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 4:38pm BST

When ?

Never !

Posted by L Roberts at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 4:52pm BST


"an associated massive rise in crime"
Vide Infra. When something drops to its lowest level in 25 years, I don't think it entirely accurate to claim there has been a "massive rise"!

Also, while the most serious violent crime is showing a slight increase despite the overall fall, it is in general weapons related violence. Why then are those who most loudly panic at what they perceive as a "rise" in crime also the ones who most loudly oppose removing the weapons from the hands of those who commit the only kind of violent crime that has actually not dropped in the last two decades?

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 20 July 2007 at 6:00pm BST

Christopher Shell observed "hundreds of percentage points rise in abortions, divorces, STDs, extramarital relationships...and an associated massive rise in crime connected with subgroups that have no stable families."

and is Global South so much better, in the light of soaring HIV infection rates, the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy...?

Posted by Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Tuesday, 24 July 2007 at 12:48pm BST

mynster - you do reaise that African bishops have been preaching against the behaviour that has led to AIDS and poverty spreading...they do not control African secular society or even individuals in the church...I don't think you have made a strong reply here

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 24 July 2007 at 3:50pm BST


"Hundreds of percent rise in abortions" has been accompanied by a marked decrease in deaths of women having abortions. I have never attended a young woman dying of peritonitis from a botched abortion, but I was trained by Obstetricians who had, only one of whom performed abortions. They all desired never to have the experience again. I would contend Christopher's statistics (see the two reports I linked to). This is the typical doomsday "The world is falling apart and it's all because of change" scenario. What's interesting is that he is not being dishonest here. He truly does perceive a crumbling of society. It's typical Conservative thought process. There was quite a storm a few years ago when a psychologist, I forget who, made this claim, and it was taken as saying that to be conservative was to have some sort of perceptional pathology. This was not what was being said of course, merely that people's perceptions of reality may guide their politics. Most Liberals, I would think, figure we live in a good, progressive society, if one still "striving towards perfection", a very old Christian perception of Creation, ("groaning in her travail"). Conservatives are often on the brink of destruction. Maybe a link between perception and which books of the Bible we favour?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 24 July 2007 at 7:34pm BST

"African bishops have been preaching against the behaviour that has led to AIDS and poverty spreading"

And yet have refused to confront the fact that it isn't working. So, wwjd? Continue on preaching and ignore the fact that people are dying and children orphaned resulting in societal dysfunction or actually support measures that will stop the contagion? The latter would help reduce human suffering, but we already know that +Akinola, in direct disobedience to the Lord's teaching, believes "human suffering doesn't matter." It would also mean that people could also have sex without the risk of suffering the consequences you think they so richly deserve. The former merely allows people to sit back with pursed lips commenting on how God has abandoned the wicked to the consequences of their sin, and my, aren't we so much better than them in their evil lust.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 25 July 2007 at 1:44pm BST

Dear Ford.....I know you hate him but are you even aware of what ++Akinola has been doing practically to alleviate suffering and help those suffering with AIDS?

We are not in a position to lecture the Africans on how to respond to suffering - they are actually doing it every day

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 8:59am BST

".....I know you hate him"

No, I don't. I fear him. I respect his right to his religion, but I don't believe the same things, and I fear that he will try to force us all to believe as he does. I feel his behaviour is not at all consistent with the Gospel he claims to follow, but hate, no, I don't hate him.

As to HIV, from:

I note their concept of prevention, while including education, centres on abstinence and monogamy. All very well and good for those who believe you, but for those who are not of your faith, or do not think you worthy of respect, it's pointless. (But then, those people deserve what they get for being so rebellious, right?). They will advocate for the fundamental human rights of those with HIV, unless of course you are gay, when they will throw you in jail (where you can suffer the full consequence of your sin). All the while the situation gets worse. Yeah, really great that.

"We are not in a position to lecture the Africans on how to respond to suffering"

Because God knows no gay person ever suffered. No gay person has ever had to deal with HIV.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 1:17pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.