Gay clergyman has NHS job offer withdrawn after bishop blocks licence

Jeremy Pemberton said he has been treated in ‘unfair and rather harsh way’

Adam Sherwin
Monday 04 August 2014 06:36
Canon Jeremy Pemberton, 58, and his husband Laurence Cunnington, 51, leave for their honeymoon following the wedding
Canon Jeremy Pemberton, 58, and his husband Laurence Cunnington, 51, leave for their honeymoon following the wedding

Jeremy Pemberton, the first gay British clergyman to have a same-sex marriage, has had an NHS job offer withdrawn because a bishop refuses to grant him the licence he requires to work.

Mr Pemberton, currently the NHS chaplain in Lincolnshire, was offered the position of chaplaincy and bereavement manager for Sherwood Forest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in June but has been blocked from taking a new job due to his marriage status.

After marrying his partner in April, Mr Pemberton was informed he would not be able to work as a priest in Nottinghamshire.

The Acting Bishop for Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, issued a statement, which 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."

Mr Pemberton’s permission to officiate in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham was revoked. He was also told that for "reasons of consistency" he could not take up the new NHS post. The offer was withdrawn on Friday.

Mr Pemberton told BBC Radio Nottingham he was "very, very disappointed" not to be able to take up Trust position. "I’ve now been treated, I think, in an unfair and rather harsh way in Southwell and Nottingham, whereas I'm now going to carry on doing the job I have been doing in Lincolnshire where I have a licence," he said.

NHS chaplains are funded by the NHS rather than the Church of England, but a chaplain needs a licence from the relevant diocese.

Mr Pemberton, whose case was raised in the House of Lords, said he would "not bow out gracefully" and planned to test the decision in the courts.

The trust said it would consider its response after receiving the Bishop’s letter, then withdrew the job offer on 1 August.

Mr Pemberton said: "I think the problem now is that it appears that I'm stuck in the job I'm doing, and if I try to move I could be blocked. There are, to be honest, quite a lot of gay and lesbian Church of England chaplains working in the health service. Now we don't know, if any of them try to move, will the same thing happen to them, and should it?"

He said he did not know this would happen when he married his partner. "I didn't, and neither did the House of Bishops, appear to know what would happen."

"As soon as they put their pastoral guidance out that very obvious question was asked of them, and the bishops said, 'Oh no, we don't know, we will have to take it on a case-by-case basis."