(4 Nov 2015) Those of you who have been awaiting the outcome of Jeremy Pemberton’s employment tribunal will, I know, be disappointed to hear this afternoon that he has lost his case. This is an important moment, and whilst Jeremy and his legal team consider a possible appeal, I wanted to write to you to reflect on what the case means for all those of us committed to justice and change.
The groundswell of support for Jeremy has been quite remarkable; this case has shone a light on the Church’s ongoing discrimination against gay and lesbian people, and in bringing that discrimination into the light, we have become even more determined to fight on for justice and change.
Wherever I go to talk about LGCM’s work, and especially when I speak to people on the fringes of the church, I meet with outrage and disbelief that something as simple as marrying the person you love renders a good and holy minister unfit to represent the Church. Is this really the kind of Church we want? Is this really the kind of church which can reach out to, engage with, meet the needs of this hurting and broken society of ours? How much longer will the NHS tolerate this kind of church telling it who it may and may not employ? How on earth is this reflecting the love of God for all humanity?
This case will of course, be won on points of law. But this evening what I find myself reflecting on is something even bigger than that. Jeremy and his team – who have conducted themselves with the utmost grace and dignity – have given hope to all those whose lives, loves and gifts have been diminished and dismissed by the church over the years. All those who have been eased out of ministry, or never had the opportunity to start, or who were told they had nothing to give, or who found the burden of keeping their life in compartments just too much to bear. All who right now are exploring or training, because they love God and think they can make this work on the church’s terms, but who face an uncertain future. All those in places which feel good and nurturing – for now. Til the next bishop, who may not be so kind and understanding.
I meet too many people who have been hurt and broken beyond repair by the church’s rules. This cannot continue. We must work, not to have those rules disapplied by kindly supporters, and not to pretend that they don’t apply to us – but to change the rules altogether, so that the gifts of all God’s children are recognised, affirmed, celebrated and used for the building up of the kingdom.
Please give thanks tonight for the courage and dignity of all those who’ve been involved in Jeremy’s case – Jeremy and Laurence, his legal team, those in Southwell diocese amongst whom both he and I will continue to live as brothers and sisters in Christ. And remember too those others whose suffering is not in the public domain, but is no less real. This is still happening.
Jeremy has said, for all of us, ‘I won’t take this any longer’; in doing so, he has given us all hope, and dignity, and a reason to fight on together. And with your support, and in your name, fight on we will.
With very best wishes,