Tribunal examining role of CofE bishop in blacklisting chaplain wrongly reported as a 'terrorist'

'Church of England seems to care more about its reputation in the secular world than showing spiritual leadership'

The Rev. Bernard Randall
The Rev. Bernard Randall | Christian Legal Centre

An employment tribunal is scrutinizing the role of a bishop in blacklisting a chaplain from officiating in the Church of England after he was wrongly reported as a potential “terrorist” for preaching traditional Christian views on sexual ethics during a chapel service.

The case involves the Rev. Bernard Randall, 50, who was denied permission by the Bishop of Derby, the Rt. Rev. Libby Lane, to work as a minister following his dismissal by Trent College in Nottingham in August 2019, labeling him a “moderate risk to children” and vulnerable adults over his beliefs on sexual ethics.

East Midlands Employment Tribunal is to decide whether the actions of Bishop Lane fall within the remit of an employment tribunal, with Randall's lawyers arguing that he was never employed by the diocese and, therefore, this is not an employment matter, the U.K.-based group Christian Concern, whose legal arm, the Christian Legal Centre, is supporting the chaplain's case, said in a statement Thursday.

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Randall's lawyers say that he has remained unemployable as a priest due to the bishop's actions and, therefore, the entire claim must be heard in that forum, the group said. The lawyers also argue that he would not have been treated in this way by the bishop if he had been approving of same-sex marriage and transgender beliefs.

In a past sermon at Trent College, Randall questioned the legitimacy of a new LGBT-inclusive curriculum at the school and said students should be allowed to question the curriculum and convey conservative views on sexual ethics.

The diocese did not specify what the allegations against him were, and no evidence has ever been disclosed showing that he has done anything wrong or behaved inappropriately toward anyone, Christian Concern noted.

The teaching material from the “Educate and Celebrate” curriculum had been adopted by the college after a visit by Elly Barnes, founder of Educate & Celebrate, an LGBT education charity. The material aims to “equip ... communities with the knowledge, skills and confidence to embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of your organization.”

Documents have revealed that a senior member of the diocese stated in regard to Randall’s sermon, “There are a disproportionate number of people who are drawn to schools via the Church who have ‘this way of thinking.’”

The Diocesan Safeguarding Team was also concerned that Randall represented a “reputational risk” to the CofE because of the denomination's own teaching on marriage and human identity, which were expressed in Randall's sermon. They concluded in a risk assessment that because the Bible supports this position, the CofE could even be “a risk factor to itself.”

Ahead of the hearings, which began Thursday, Randall said, “I’m being charged with wrongthink. There is no allegation that my behavior towards any person has ever fallen below proper standards. Only my thinking is being checked. Even the Spanish Inquisition told people what the charges were.”

The chaplain said because he preached what the CofE teaches, “they think I am too dangerous to be allowed to preach in any Church.”

He added: “The Bishop of Derby has shown moral cowardice in refusing to stand up for the goodness of the Church’s own teaching, and totally failed to support and vindicate me. Sadly, the CofE seems to care more about its reputation in the secular world than showing spiritual leadership. … The human cost on me has been immense and I have no idea what the future holds.”

Despite behind-the-scenes efforts to resolve the situation, Randall has faced no alternative but to bring a claim against the Bishop of Derby and the diocese’s safeguarding team on the grounds of religious discrimination, harassment, and a breach of the Equality Act 2010, Christian concern said.

Randall is seeking damages for financial loss and a recommendation that the Bishop and the Diocesan Safeguarding Team undergo training on Discrimination Law, especially as it pertains to the Christian faith and freedom of speech.

CLC’s Chief Executive Andrea Williams said Randall is one of “many” faithful CofE ministers who have been “targeted for believing and defending the Christian views on sexuality, gender, and marriage.”

“On paper, the Church of England believes and teaches exactly what Bernard said. But in practice, ministers like him are put through cruel safeguarding procedures as if believing the church's own doctrine makes him a danger. The Bishop failed in any way to stand up for Bernard and is effectively seeking to end his ordained ministry,” he said.

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