An African diocese has stripped a high profile English priest of his title of canon, declaring the Rev. Jeremy Pemberton’s same-sex marriage and his agitation for change in the Church of England’s teachings on human sexuality renders him unqualified to hold the honorary title in the Congolese church.
In a letter dated 25 March 2017 to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s advisor for Anglican affairs, the Rt. Rev. Anthony Poggo, the Bishop of Boga in the Anglican Province of the Congo stated the Rev. Jeremy Pemberton is “no longer recognized” as a canon of Boga Diocese.
On 11 April 2014 Mr. Pemberton, a hospital chaplain in Lincolnshire, became the first serving priest of the Church of England to enter into a same-sex marriage. Weeks after his marriage to Laurence Cuttington was solemnized, Mr. Pemberton, a divorced father of five, was banned from taking a position as a chaplain for the National Health Service in Nottinghamshire by the Bishop of Southwell.
Mr. Pemberton, who is chairman of the gay church pressure group OneBodyOneFaith (formerly the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) brought suit through Britain’s employment tribunal against the Church of England, claiming his ban violated secular law. In December 2016 the Mr. Pemberton lost his final appeal before the Employment Appeal Tribunal, effectively ending his attempt to force the Church of England to change its teachings through the civil court system.
In his letter to Lambeth, the Bishop of Boga, the Rt. Rev. William Mugyeni explained that in the Congolese church a canon is a senior clergyman “who has contributed to edification of faith in the Church by though, words and actions. He is an advisor on Christian faith, doctrine and ethics. Rev. Jeremy, since he left Congo two decades ago, has never played any of those roles in the Diocese. According to our canons, his choice on marriage doesn’t allow him to visit, minister or work in the Diocese.”
The action to strip Mr. Pemberton of his honorary title was formalized at the 25-27 Feb 2017 meeting of the diocesan synod, the bishop wrote, noting it confirmed action taken by the previous meeting of the Boga synod.
Mr. Pemberton told Anglican Ink he had had “no direct or indirect communication from Boga diocese at all. Not last year, nor this.” However a third party gave him a copy of the 25 March letter.
He stated he had written to the Bishop of Boga, adding: “The decision of the Synod is unsurprising but disappointing. The bishop’s letter is either accidentally or deliberately ill-informed.”
Mr. Pemberton is not the only English cleric whose progressive views in Britain made him unwelcome in Africa. In 2005 the bishops of the Church of the Province of Central Africa refused to ratify the election of Dr. Nicholas Henderson, vicar of All Saints Ealing, as Bishop of Lake Malawi, citing his leadership of the progressive theological society the Modern Church Person’s Union, now known as Modern Church. Dr. Henderson’s election was overturned after American and British conservative clerics alerted their allies in the Central African House of Bishops to his progressive views.