Church of England gay policy incoherent, tribunal told
An employment tribunal in Cardiff heard today that the attitude of the Church of England towards gay people is inconsistent.
Youth worker John Reaney is bringing the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance to the tribunal, claiming that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his sexuality.
Gay equality organisation Stonewall Cymru is funding Mr Reaney’s legal costs.
Mr Reaney was previously employed as a youth officer for the Norwich and Chester Church of England diocese.
In an application form for a similar job in Hereford, Mr Reaney stated that he is gay.
Following a successful interview, he was told that subject the consent of the bishop, he would be appointed.
However, after meeting Bishop Priddis, he was told that he was not selected for the position.
He claims he was asked humiliating questions about his personal life.
Susan Johns has been a member of the House of Laity of the Church of England General Synod for 16 years and knows Mr Reaney from his time as a youth worker in Norfolk diocese.
She told the tribunal Mr Reaney, who she has known for over a decade, is inspirational and tireless in his work.
Mr Johns attacked the confusing position of the church towards gay people:
“The Church of England has no coherent position on homosexuality, in my opinion it is a shambles,” she said, accoring to icWales.co.uk
“I cannot understand how a faith that professes to be open, honest and truthful can condone a situation whereby if a member of clergy covers up their same sex relationships, it is acceptable.
“But if they are open and honest and a person of integrity, there is condemnation and discrimination.”
Earlier this month, Mr Reaney told the tribunal that at a meeting with the Bishop of Hereford in July last year he was asked about his sexual relationships.
“I made it very clear to the bishop that I was not seeking a relationship and would adhere to his wishes if I were under his authority,” Mr Reaney told the tribunal.
“I would communicate with him if I was struggling. He asked me ‘what would you do if you met someone?’
“I told that if I felt a relationship might develop in the future, I would discuss it with him.
“However, I reiterated to him that I was not in a sexual relationship and I did intend to remain that way and I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post.”
After meeting Bishop Priddis, he was told that he was not selected for the position in the Hereford diocese.
Mr Reaney told the tribunal that after the interview he took two days off work because he was distressed, and felt ashamed of his treatment at the hands of the bishop.
Earlier this month Bishop Priddis told the tribunal that when he found out Mr Reaney had recently come out of a five-year gay relationship, he did not feel that he would remain celibate, in line with church teachings.
Mr Reaney confirmed that he had been open with the bishop about his previous relationship, and that he was asked if he thought it “appropriate” for a youth worker to be involved in a gay relationship.
Mr Reaney asserts that a straight person applying for the same job would not have been asked similar questions about their sexual history.
Bishop Priddis told the tribunal that he decided not to hire Mr Reaney as he felt he would not be able to remain celibate.
“Mr Reaney’s lifestyle had the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese,” the bishop told the tribunal, according to the Daily Mail.
“The Church’s teachings draws distinction between sexual orientation and practice and lifestyle.
“We didn’t discriminate against Mr Reaney on the grounds of sexuality. Had we done so we wouldn’t have called him for an interview.”
Giving her evidence today, Ms Johns attacked the muddled position of the church on homosexualiy:
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“I would like to think that the Church of England is accepting of all people, whatever their ability, sexuality, ethnicity and so on.
“The church says it is accepting, but barriers are put in people’s way.
“The barrier is get higher when ordained ministry is concerned. The Church of England has no consistency and no firm position on homosexuality.
“In addition, there are vast difference from one parish to another.
“An extreme example of discrimination is that in some parishes I understand there are clergy, supported by the laity, who do not feel comfortable with allowing practising homosexuals to participate in Holy Communion.”