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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Church's gay policy 'shambles'
Bishop Priddis
Bishop Priddis denies any discrimination against Mr Reaney
The Church of England's position on homosexuality was described as "a shambles" after a senior bishop refused to appoint a gay man as a youth worker.

Sue Johns, a member of the church's general synod gave evidence in support of John Reaney, 41, from Conwy, during an employment tribunal in Cardiff.

Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, 59, has admitted blocking the appointment of the gay youth worker.

However the diocese denies any sexual discrimination.

Mr Reaney claims he stated he was gay on his application form and he was given the job by an interview panel made up of eight people.

But the bishop reversed their decision.

Miss Johns gave evidence in support of Mr Reaney and said: "The Church of England has no clear position on homosexuality. In my opinion it is a shambles.

'Accepting'

"There is no consistency or firm position and there are vast differences from one parish to another.

"For example in some parishes there are clergy, supported by the laity, who do not feel comfortable allowing homosexuals to participate in holy communion.

"I would like to think the church is accepting of all people, whatever their orientation - but barriers are put in people's way."

Miss Johns told the tribunal how she was on a panel that appointed Mr Reaney as youth worker for the diocese of Norwich.

She told the tribunal in Cardiff that Mr Reaney's work was "inspirational" .

"Frankly, the church cannot afford to lose the work of a man of this calibre."

Bishop Priddis claims he acted in the best interests of Mr Reaney, who had just come out of a five-year homosexual relationship.

The tribunal heard Mr Reaney had given the bishop an undertaking he would not start a new gay affair.

John Reaney
Mr Reaney was 'inspirational' said synond member Sue Johns

But the bishop said: "His relationship was not so far in the recent past for him to be in a position emotionally to make binding promises in the future.

"It was not right for me to encourage him to give an undertaking with his head that his heart could not keep.

"It remains my judgement that Mr Reaney had not met the standards required."

Under new employment laws passed in 2003, it is illegal to discriminate against people as a result of their sexual orientation.

But the law contains an exemption for organised religion and the tribunal is the first test case of how it applies to the Church of England.

The bishop, who is married, told the tribunal he would have made the same decision if it had been a heterosexual or a transsexual who had been having sex outside marriage.

He said: "We do not discriminate against anyone on the grounds of sexual orientation.

"But what is an issue is lifestyle and practice."

Mr Reaney is being backed by gay rights organisation Stonewall, which is funding his case at the tribunal in Cardiff.

The panel is expected to make a ruling within the next month.




SEE ALSO
Gay man takes bishop to tribunal
01 Apr 07 |  Hereford/Worcs

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