I am an unemployed, Anglican priest living in the Diocese of Durham, England. The Bishop of Jarrow, Mark Bryant, (in charge now Justin Welby has been promoted to Canterbury) has just been on the BBC News complaining that he can't get priests to fill the vacancies in the Durham Diocese. Yet he won't even give me permission to officiate which would at least give the diocese an extra pair of hands to cover the services in the parishes that can't get priests.
I would point out that I have never been disciplined, taken to court, defrocked or even sent a written warning.
My position is completely down to my former bishop, Martin Wharton, having a prejudice against people who, in the past, have suffered from a depressive illness and the next Archbishop of Canterbury's rejection of his own discernment in order to back up the Bishop of Newcastle.
What is more is that the Church of England bishops are ignoring the skills that I have been given that could actually help get people interested in the Church again. For example, the total number of people downloading just this passed Sunday's podcasted communion service has now risen to a staggering 7270. That is a third of the total number of followers the Church of England tweeter account enjoys.
You would think there would be a bishop somewhere who would risk upsetting Bishop Martin Wharton's feelings in order to employ a priest who has proved his commitment to the mission of the Church, and has done so at his own expense.
Of course, I am not the only person who has fallen victim to the prejudice of church employers and their willingness to use the Church's exemption from employment legislation to get rid of permanently and temporarily disabled priests especially those with current or passed mental health problems.
From THIS IS OXFORDSHIRE:
A curate is suing a religious college in Oxfordshire after it allegedly threw her out, an employment tribunal heard. Dr Sandra Reyes-Beaman also claims a Church of England bishop denied her a job because she was disabled and foreign, the tribunal was told. The 51-year-old alleges she was evicted by Ripon College Cuddesdon, the largest ministry training institution in the Church of England. She also claimed to have been turned down for a post by the Bishop of Leicester.
Giving evidence at a tribunal in Reading, Dr Reyes-Beaman, originally from Mexico, said her background and medical needs – including a benign brain tumour – had led to her being denied a role as a curate near her home.
She also claimed Reverend Sue Fields, Diocesan Director of Ordinands, told her to think “whether with my disability I should ever be trained for ordained ministry because it was very expensive.”
I don't know Sandra but I wouldn't be surprised if she is a difficult person at times. I know I am. Being a problem goes with mental and physical health problems and with being the victim of prolonged prejudice. But being difficult is not a reason to exile somebody from the Church. The disabled in the Church should be treated with the same accommodation as they enjoy in the world of secular employment. Heck, they should receive more help because we are the Church for goodness sake! But, no, even the Bishop of Canterbury elect refused to help me when I asked and looked for reasons not to give me permission to officiate rather than ways of rescuing me and repairing the damage that has been done to me by his colleague across the diocesan border. It always gets me that after over ten years of suffering the prejudice inherent in the Church of England I am now accused of being angry. Ye gods! The ignorance and/or plain nastiness of these people is almost beyond belief.