An Anglican lay reader has been suspended after encouraging his congregation to support traditional marriage, despite this being the official position of the Church of England.
Peter Gowlland, who has been a lay reader for 50 years, was encouraging his congregation to sign the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) petition, which supports the current definition of marriage.
But he came up against opposition from two other lay readers who stood up in front of the congregation saying: “There are other views”.
Mr Gowlland, 78, was later told to withdraw from preaching and leading worship at All Saints Church, Sanderstead, for two months by the acting Archdeacon of Croydon, who insisted it was not a suspension.
Mr Gowlland said that the efforts taken to avoid calling his suspension a suspension were “Orwellian”.
In a letter to Mr Gowlland, the Archdeacon said there was “potential for disunity” at the church following the incident and insisted the problem was not with what he said but “the way” he raised the issue.
The letter said: “I asked you to withdraw from preaching and leading worship for two months, just to let the dust settle and in no way am I wishing or suggesting we suspend or revoke your [licence].”
Mr Gowlland lodged an appeal against his suspension with the Bishop of Southwark, but received a reply insisting that he had not been “suspended” but simply asked to take a “cooling off period to create space for reflection”.
Religio-political blogger Cranmer commented: “What is significant here is that the lay reader whose licence has been temporarily ‘withdrawn’ for two months supports the Coalition for Marriage, while the lay readers who oppose it – and who stood up in front of the congregation to dispute publicly with Mr Gowlland – are not subject to any disciplinary action.”
Mr Gowlland, who was a headmaster for 24 years, is the latest in a number of people who have faced hostility for their support for traditional marriage.
Earlier this year David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, and the Archbishop of York received hate mail after speaking out in support of traditional marriage.