Cathe­dral row after Teb­bit snubs ser­vices held by gay dean he calls a‘ sodomite’

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Jonathan Pe­tre RE­LI­GIOUS AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

LORD TEB­BIT has pro­voked out­rage by vow­ing to boy­cott ser­vices con­ducted by a gay dean the Tory peer has branded a ‘sodomite’.

The for­mer Con­ser­va­tive Party chair­man has been at­tend­ing the cathe­dral near his home in Bury St Ed­munds, Suf­folk, for nine years but has told The Mail on Sun­day he will no longer go there when the re­cently ap­pointed Rev Canon Joe Hawes is of­fi­ci­at­ing.

The 87-year-old Tory grandee is adamant that the canon of St Ed­munds­bury Cathe­dral is a ‘sodomite’ – a bib­li­cal term seen as un­ac­cept­able by gay peo­ple.

Lord Teb­bit said: ‘I find it dif­fi­cult to ac­cept a sodomite as a mem­ber of the clergy who will, for ex­am­ple, be called upon to con­duct mar­riage ser­vices. I will strug­gle to at­tend if he is of­fi­ci­at­ing.’

His com­ments were con­demned last night, with one prom­i­nent gay Con­ser­va­tive call­ing for him to be thrown out of the party.

Lord Teb­bit said he had dis­cov­ered from a news­let­ter in March that the canon, 52, who is in a civil part­ner­ship with an­other cleric, the Rev Chris Ey­den, was to be­come the cathe­dral’s most se­nior of­fi­cial.

He said: ‘The cathe­dral has taken this de­ci­sion and I dis­ap­prove of it but I do not wish to dam­age the cathe­dral in any way. I will main­tain my fi­nan­cial sup­port for it ev­ery year be­cause it will be there long after the dean and I are gone.

‘I just don’t see how he can de­cently read the mar­riage ser­vice. I stand by what is writ­ten in the Bi­ble, which is the ba­sis on which the cathe­dral was built. It says the cities of Sodom and Go­mor­rah were de­stroyed by God.

‘It can­not be a sin to be born ho­mo­sex­ual. It is what one is. What I can’t ac­cept is the ac­tiv­ity. I use the ex­pres­sion sodomite.’

The for­mer Cab­i­net Min­is­ter was an out­spo­ken critic of the Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment’s in­tro­duc­tion of same-sex mar­riages in 2014.

He said he and his se­verely dis­abled wife Mar­garet, paral­ysed in the 1984 Brighton bomb­ing, had at­tended ser­vices ‘fairly fre­quently’ since they moved nine years ago to their three-storey Ge­or­gian home near the cathe­dral in the mid­dle of the mar­ket town.

He said he did not know if other wor­ship­pers shared his views: ‘Most will shrug their shoul­ders and move on as they won’t want to lay them­selves open to crit­i­cism that they are ho­mo­phobes.’

Last night, Ivan Mas­sow, the gay for­mer Tory Lon­don May­oral hope­ful, called on Lord Teb­bit to be ex­pelled from the Tory Party: ‘Theresa May needs to do that. You can’t hold Jeremy Cor­byn to ac­count for anti-Semitism and not hold your own party to ac­count.’

Tory MP Crispin Blunt, who is gay and chairs the For­eign Af­fairs Se­lect Com­mit­tee, said: ‘I ex­pect St Ed­munds­bury Cathe­dral will bear its loss with equa­nim­ity. Lord Teb­bit may have a dis­agree­able sur­prise at how many cathe­drals he has self-ex­cluded him­self from.’

The gay Labour MP Chris Bryant, a for­mer Church of Eng­land cler­gy­man, said Lord Teb­bit’s Chris­tian­ity was ‘skin deep’ and he de­spaired when peo­ple could not see ‘be­yond their own blink­ers’. He told the peer: ‘Get on your bike, my dear, and have an­other gin.’

A spokesman for the Dio­cese of St Ed­munds­bury and Ip­swich added: ‘It has been clear for more than a decade that clergy are en­ti­tled to be within civil part­ner­ships. Lord Teb­bit is wel­come to his views.’

Un­der Church of Eng­land rules, gay clergy who en­ter into civil part­ner­ships should re­main celi­bate but are banned from same-sex mar­riages. The is­sue has caused deep di­vi­sions within Angli­can­ism.

‘I stand by what is writ­ten in the Bi­ble’

StAncE: Lord Teb­bit (be­low right) is re­fus­ing to wor­ship at St Ed­munds­bury Cathe­dral (above) when the Rev Canon Joe Hawes, (be­low left) is of­fi­ci­at­ing. Left: Canon Joe with part­ner Chris Ey­den

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