What an intriguing dynamic, that as I begin to pick up the reins as Coordinator of CA that I should find myself placed in an impossible situation by the Church of England.
I am a Reader, working, with a PTO issued by the Archbishop of York, in the Howden Team Ministry. This is a busy rural ministry where I am fully supported by all 6 churches, the Team Rector and Team Vicar. I enjoy a rich and varied ministry with all the churches in the team, from the grandeur of the Minster in Howden, to quiet country churches.
Following a meeting with the Archbishop on July 17th, I have been living with an ultimatum which I was then presented with. I have been in a civil partnership with Mike, since 2009, and we have been discussing commuting this to marriage for some time. I was told that although my ministry was much valued, if we change our status to being married then my PTO would be withdrawn with immediate effect. I was faced with choosing between marriage or ministry.
This has caused tears and soul searching, but at the weekend Mike and I had a trip to Leeds and chose two new rings to mark this new milestone in our lives together!
I have written to the Archbishop, and informed him of our intentions, and he will withdraw my PTO, and my ministry as a reader will come to an abrupt end. This will take place mid-September as I wanted to fulfil all the commitments I have in the diary.
I pointed out that if he were to withdraw my PTO then I would feel I had little choice but to continue my journey of faith outside the Church of England as all those things I explore with the churches such as welcome, encouragement, the recognition of gifts and ministries, growth and potential suddenly have no real meaning for me.
Many would ask, and sometimes do, why has it taken me so long to get to this point? I have always replied that my journey has been rooted and steeped in the Anglican tradition which is my tradition and I wanted to remain there, despite the injustice and hypocrisy I see for LGBTI folk. Now, I stand on the threshold of leaving, and joining the ranks of all those who feel they no longer have a place in the church.
Am I daunted? ….. No. I am not walking out into the desert alone (not that the desert is a bad place) but I am a member of a dispersed contemplative community, who are deeply supportive and enjoy a rich deep prayer life. This for me will become a holding place. It is also intriguing, the second intrigue, that our community, Contemplative Fire, is an Acknowledged Community by the Church of England, with Paul Bayes as our link Bishop, so I still have links with the Church but very much on the fringes.
It is an emotionally rough place to be at the moment; not only have I had to face up to the reality of the choice I was presented with, but now I am “going public” with what is happening the churches in the Team are angry and upset.
So my friends, it is with sharpened focus and vigour, I will work with the trustees to bring about the day when sexuality, gender identity and relationship status are no bar to a rich and full experience of life in the Church or its ministry, lay and ordained.
Thanks for your support. – (Jeremy Timm)
______________________________________________________________This report by Reader, Jeremy Timm, submitted by Licy Gorman of ‘Inclsuive Church’ in the U.K., highlights the dilemma in which he has been placed by his and his Partner’s decision to commute their Civil Partnership into Marriage in September, 2015.
Despite the fact that Jeremy and his partner, Mike, are actually living together under their Civil Partnership status, while Jeremy has continued ministry as a Reader with Permission to Officiate (PTO) from the Archbishop of York; he has been informed by the Archbishop that, the moment he gets married to Mike, under the new legislation that permits this new status; his permission to minister as a Reader in the diocese will be withdrawn!
YES. Although the ‘nature’ of his same-sex relationship to Mike will not actually be changed but that its ‘status’ will be commuted from Civil Partnership into Marriage – both legally valid under English Law – seems a distinctly odd reason for withdrawing his PTO. If it were the fact that Jeremy and Keith were entering into an illicit relationship as same-sex partners one might better understand the distinction the Archbishop might want to claim as a reason for withdrawal of the PTO at this new juncture of the relationship.
However, it would appear that the main objection to Jeremy’s retention of his PTO after commuting his Civil-Partnership to legal Marriage, is that this would render him ‘de facto’ ineligible to retain the PTO because of his defection against the current Church polity on Christian Marriage, which is reserved for heterosexual couples only.
All this, despite the fact that the parishioners with whom Jeremy is working are fully aware of his same-sex relationship to his partner, Mike, and are aware of his intention to take advantage of the legal right to commute their Civil Partnership to Civil Marriage. His parish priest is also aware of the situation, and is keen to retain the ministry of Jeremy in the parochial district.
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When the Church of England allows dissenters to their canon law which allows women clergy and bishops to operate in the Church of England, giving them their own special bishops to ensure that they flourish; one cannot but wonder about the disciplinary measure take here by the Archbishop of York against the retention of his PTO by a lay Reader in his diocese, whose only ‘misdemeanour’ is to ‘dissent’ to the canon law on the contentious issue of partnerships in a marriage.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand