Gay canon has ‘job offer withdrawn’

editorial image

A gay Southwell priest who married his long-term partner has said that his job offer from King’s Mill Hospital has now been formally withdrawn.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton has been told he cannot work as a priest in Nottinghamshire after he became the first gay clergyman to marry, after he wed his long-term partner Laurence Cunnington in a civil ceremony in April.

The 58-year-old had planned to start a new role as head of chaplaincy and bereavement services at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - which runs King’s Mill, Mansfield Community Hospital and Ashfield Health Village.

But after the marriage Canon Pemberton, who currently works as a hospital chaplain in Lincoln, was barred from presiding over services in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham by acting Bishop for Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Rev Richard Inwood.

Speaking on a local radio station today (Sunday 3rd August), Rev Pemberton said that the job offer had now been formally withdrawn.

He said he will now continue in his chaplaincy role in Lincolnshire, where he is still allowed to practice.

“I’ve been treated in an unfair and rather harsh way in Southwell and Nottingham and I’m going to carry on doing the job I have been doing in Lincolnshire where I have a licence,” he said.

“I’ve been treated in an inconsistent way, and the House of Bishops can’t agree amongst themselves what ought to be the processes that somebody who enters a same-sex marriage should go through.”

He added that the decision may have implications for other gay and lesbian priests working in hospital chaplaincies elsewhere.

Speaking to Chad last month, Rev Pemberton said that he felt that he was being prevented from answering God’s calling.

He said: “I actually feel that God is calling me to do this - I am trying to respond to that calling and I would like the bishop to help me respond to that calling.

“This decision is going to mean delays for the hospital trust because they’re probably going to have to go back to the drawing board and that will impact on the people at the hospital that I’m wanting to serve.

“With the Church of England there is no appeals process - people in other jobs have ways of recourse, but the Church of England doesn’t have that.

“I’m hoping we can find a resolution because I would really like to take up this job.”

Without the licence, Canon Pemberton, who has also served at Southwell Minster, cannot take up the position with the trust, even though the role is funded by the NHS and not the church.

He added: “I don’t think it’s fair - nobody has made a complaint against me, I’ve not been put through any form of disciplinary procedure. No. It’s not fair.

“My decision to marry Laurence was a personal, conscientious, and moral decision to do something that is completely legal and to marry the person that I love, and I stand by that 100 per cent.”

In a statement, the Rt Rev Richard Inwood said: “In its pastoral guidance on same sex marriage, the House of Bishops said that getting married to someone of the same sex was clearly at variance with the teaching of the Church of England.

“The statement said it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.

“In view of this, and having spoken to Canon Jeremy Pemberton, his permission to officiate in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham was revoked.

“In light of the pastoral guidance and for reasons of consistency, I am unable to issue a licence to Jeremy Pemberton for the post of chaplaincy and bereavement manager, in the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust.”

Karen Fisher, executive director of human resources at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, said: “Jeremy Pemberton’s offer of employment was subject to an approved licence from the Church of England and authorisation from the interim Bishop of Nottingham and Southwell.

“This licence was not granted and regrettably the trust has withdrawn the offer of employment. We wish Jeremy all the very best for the future.”

PICTURED: Canon Jeremy Pemberton (left) and Laurence Cunnington after their marriage in April.