Bishop says gay clergy’s marriage is ‘sinful and unwholesome’ at tribunal

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The same-sex marriage of a Church of England clergy member who was blocked from promotion after he married his husband has been described as “sinful and unwholesome” by a Bishop.

Bishop Richard Inwood was testifying at the tribunal of Jeremy Pemberton, 58, who was blocked from promotion after he married his husband last year, and says he was unlawfully discriminated against.

Canon Pemberton, 58, formerly a hospital chaplain, was the first member of the clergy to enter into a same-sex marriage, when he wed his partner Laurence Cunnington last April.

His marriage defied a decision by the House of Bishops, which has banned gay clergy from marrying, and he later had his permission to officiate revoked. This meant he was also unable to take up another job at the NHS, as he was declined the correct licences.

The tribunal is being held at the Nottingham Justice Centre, and began on Monday.

Canon Pemberton’s marriage was defended by the Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson.

A statement from the Church reads: “The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. Jeremy Pemberton is one of many who currently serve and receive that support. The Church has no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships.

“The Church of England’s doctrine on marriage is clear. The Church quite reasonably expects its clergy to honour their commitment to model and live up to the teachings of the Church. Clergy do not have the option of treating the teachings of the church as an a la carte menu and only modelling those with which they personally agree.

“The Church is currently involved in a process of shared conversations about a range of issues on sexuality in regions across the country. It is regrettable that this case risks undermining that process by invoking legislation which does not even apply to this situation.”

The statement was condemned on Facebook by London-based vicar Andrew Foreshaw Cain, who last year defied church teaching to marry his same-sex partner.

He wrote: “We see the homophobia and hatred of us that is at the heart of the Church hierarchy laid bare in open court for all to see. His comments were about Jeremy and Lawrence but of course they 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. This of course from a Church which continues to discriminate against women even whilst appointing women as Bishops. Words fail me – in a public forum like this, but believe me at home, right now and in the privacy of my office my anger at the Church and its leaders and the way they think about us has been rekindled. NO SURRENDER.”

The tribunal continues.