(Telegraph) Anglican preacher suspended short-term over opposition to same sex marriage

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An Anglican lay preacher has been banned from the pulpit after encouraging parishioners to oppose against gay marriage – in line with official Church teaching.

Peter Gowlland, 78, was accused of sowing discord among worshippers at the liberal-leaning All Saints Church in Sanderstead, Surrey, by inviting them to sign a petition against the Government plans to introduce same-sex weddings.

Read it all.

Update: An article from the Christian Institute on this is there.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)

11 Comments
Posted May 5, 2012 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Teatime2 wrote:

No, this headline isn’t correct. He was suspended from preaching for two months to let the dust settle after causing a disruption. The way he went about this, I don’t think it would matter what controversial issue he chose to address, it was the manner that was the problem, not his opposition to same-sex weddings. After reading the article, I would agree with the brief suspension, not that my opinion means anything, lol.

He went to a parish which doesn’t currently have a rector/vicar and purposely instigated a scene during the service, without telling the others leading the service what he was going to do. The archdeacon is right—there are ways to discuss a contentious issue and springing this on an unsuspecting congregation during a service, asking them to sign your petition and lobby the government isn’t appropriate.

Thanks I amended the headline from the Telegraph—ed.

May 5, 2:16 pm | [comment link]
2. driver8 wrote:

But all he did was teach what is the current official teaching of the COE. How can one be asked to stand down from preaching for upholding what the church says it believes?

And is it really the case in Southwark of all places that teaching things that cause division is dealt with by being asked to refrain from teaching? If so, one might expect a fair minority of the senior clergy to be barred from the pulpit too.

May 5, 2:54 pm | [comment link]
3. Teatime2 wrote:

Driver8, I really don’t think it was what he said but how he went about it. Maybe I’m just weird in not appreciating a serving of politics put on my plate Sunday morning but if anyone started squawking about signing petitions and lobbying the government over any issue at the service, I’d be put off.

I’m not amused by veiled suggestions on how “committed Christians” should vote on election day and how it might reflect on your soul if you don’t. Increasingly, the IRS isn’t amused, either. But even in a country with an established church, I don’t think that sort of thing belongs in the service. He could have asked the parish if it would be OK to discuss it all at coffee hour and have his petition available there.

May 5, 3:23 pm | [comment link]
4. Dcn. Michael D. Harmon wrote:

Opposition to same-sex marriage is not “politics,” it is faithful Christian moral teaching perfectly appropriate for a sermon or pulpit discussion.  That some objected is not germane, and it is odd that the faithful person was suspended but others who spoke out against him (also identified as lay preachers) were not.  In point of fact, in this country the IRS may care if a preacher says “Vote for Candidate X,” although that never seems to apply when the church is primarily African-American and the candidate is a Democrat.  But making voting recommendations from the pulpit on ballot issues that do not involve a named candidate is not illegal.  (Not that the other should be either—we have Lyndon Johnson to thank for the fact that it is.  And no, it doesn’t violate “the separation of church and state,” which is a limit on the government, not the church.

May 5, 4:20 pm | [comment link]
5. driver8 wrote:

But bucket loads of clergy preach political sermons. This may have been inept or purposefully provocative but it’s hardly unique in that. It may have caused controversy, but if Southwark barred from preaching all those who have caused controversy they’d silence a fair few of their senior clergy.

All of those things - teaching that has implications for current legislation, teaching that causes division, suggesting that folks act in accordance with the beliefs of the church, even offering petitions to be signed - are hardly unique. Southwark itself has a good few senior clergy who teach that marriage law should be changed. Good Lord, Bishops are supporting the reform of marriage legislation. Are they ripe to be barred from the pulpit too?

In other words, this seems to be being handled in a way that is ineptly different from the way Southwark bishops have often responded to controversial teaching within their diocese.

If it were me, I would have invited the whole gang in for a “conversation”.

May 5, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
6. driver8 wrote:

It’s worth saying that the retired Bishop present is himself broadly sympathetic to same sex unions and has written to support such.

May 5, 5:01 pm | [comment link]
7. Teatime2 wrote:

#4—But he wasn’t giving a sermon about the immorality of same-sex activities and marriage. That’s entirely the point. He was pushing a petition and encouraging people to lobby the government. This was not a spiritual matter, it was a political one. Perhaps some of y’all enjoy that sort of thing during Sunday worship but other people don’t. I belong to the latter group. Let’s keep worship focused on the Lord, please, and talk about petitions and politics, if we must, at coffee hour.

The IRS does scrutinize complaints about churches preaching politics from the pulpit. Google it for some recent cases. I recall one TEC parish a few years ago in California. I think the parish was named All Saints.

May 6, 12:07 am | [comment link]
8. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

Sorry Teatime but faith does not exist in a vacuum. If all Christians took your stance there would be no opposition to same sex unions and in a few years the very forms of words and worship within the walls of your church will have changed. Faith cannot be pushed to the margins of public life or exist only for an hour on Sunday

May 6, 3:14 am | [comment link]
9. paradoxymoron wrote:

Ha! I went to a TEC service this morning where the female rector described the healthcare contraception controversy as part of a larger assault on women, and then started in on a diatribe about gender-based wage discrepancies.  I stood up and walked out in what I think was the middle of the harangue, but was sorely tempted to interrupt and ask when the Republican party service is conducted, as I was obviously attending the Democratic one.

May 6, 3:04 pm | [comment link]
10. Br. Michael wrote:

Churches should not be subject to the income taxed as a matter of fundamental right, not government permission.

May 6, 3:37 pm | [comment link]
11. Katherine wrote:

Here in North Carolina the constitutional amendment on Tuesday’s ballot which bars any marriage not between one man and one woman in the state is being extensively discussed in churches and preached on.  In a couple of cases liberal Catholic parishes in Durham and Charlotte have skirted very close to defying their bishops by hosting “forums” to discuss the amendment, which those parishes oppose.  Black churches here routinely endorse candidates, contrary to IRS rules.  It will be interesting to see the analysis of how black voters went on the marriage amendment vote.

May 6, 4:54 pm | [comment link]
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