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Canon Jeremy Pemberton has lost his case at an employment tribunal following the removal of his permission to officiate because he had entered into a same-sex marriage. The Church of England can be satisfied that it has followed the letter of the law but whether the Church has acted within the spirit of the law is much more doubtful.

In the end this is not another case that shows the Church all hung up on sex.  This case matters because it is about the kind of Church we want to be.

On the one side of are those who argue this is about the obedience of clergy to Anglican doctrine, the affirmation of a Biblical view of marriage and the Church of England remembering its place in the wider global Church.

Set against this are those who point out that Anglican doctrine has throughout its history evolved, the Biblical understanding of gay relationships is open to differing interpretations, and in the end the Church of England has to minister in the particular context in which it finds itself.

The history of the marriage of individuals who have been divorced reflects just this. Clergy were allowed to follow their conscience and allow remarriage in their churches even when it was against Canon Law and in the face of a much stronger Biblical evidence against such practice.  Married, formerly divorced clergy, now go unnoticed.

For all the Church speaks of welcoming LGBT people, if clergy are prohibited from entering into an equal marriage, that welcome is significantly compromised.  However much the Church may protest otherwise, the Pemberton case makes the Church appear excluding and judgemental

If we want to stand before the judgement seat, we will all be found to have fallen short. Rather, the Christian Gospel tells us, we come before a Heavenly Father, who welcomes us with a radical love that is beyond our human understanding.

This case is not just a struggle about sexuality but a struggle to witness to a God who puts no limits or barriers to the divine love and who will reject or exclude no one

On that final day my theology may be found to be misinformed or wrong, but I would rather stand before God having lived a life of over generous love, welcome and inclusion, than having played safe, obeyed the Church and kept to the letter of the law.

With God all are welcome – even me.  And if God can accept me then I am sure God can accept a married Jeremy Pemberton.

 

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