Church of England's equality law exemptions allow for 'abuse, homophobia and sexism' says bishop
A sitting bishop has called for the Church of England to be stripped of its exemptions under the Equalities Act to stamp out 'deep structures of abuse, homophobia and sexism'.
Under the 2010 legislation the established Church has special rights to overrule equality laws meaning when it appoints people to new roles it can discriminate on the basis of sex, marital history, gender identity, sexuality and faith if they conflict with 'strongly held religious convictions'. A 2013 document approved by senior bishops permitted church officials to insist clergy were 'not a transsexual and were not married to a divorcee whose ex-spouse was still alive.
But the Bishop of Buckingham says these rules also allow for a culture of abuse, homophobia and sexism.
Rt Rev Alan Wilson has called for these special privileges to be removed and priests be allowed to conduct same-sex weddings if they wish.
'If the church were far more observant of the Equality Act, then deep structures of abuse, homophobia and sexism would not be embedded in the church in the way they are,' he told the Times.
When asked if the Act should be altered he said: 'Yes. The Equality Act is used as an accountability standard in modern Britain. It describes how we understand public accountability in every institution except the Church. That does seem quite extraordinary.'
Quoting Romans 13's instruction 'let everyone be subject to the governing authorities', he also called for an overhaul of the CofE's safeguarding approach. Despite 'good intentions' the Church was still failing survivors, he said.
'I think the Church needs to rethink the whole safeguarding thing,' he said, adding the standard response was 'hide behind the sofa and call the lawyers'.
It comes after abuse survivors staged a protest outside a meeting of Anglican leaders from around the world last week calling for a 'tangible' change in the Church's response.
The Bishop at Lambeth, Tim Thornton, told the victims: 'We have done lots of things wrong in the past and I am sure there are still things going on today. We are trying our best and I think we can show evidence of things we are putting in place.
'But yes we have still got lessons to learn and we want to carry on learning from and listening to you.'