By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor
(The Telegraph) Peter Gowlland, 78, was accused of sowing discord among worshippers at the liberal-leaning All Saints Church in Sanderstead, Surrey, by inviting them to sign a petition against the Government plans to introduce same-sex weddings.
Despite being told by his Archdeacon to “withdraw” from ministry for two months as a result, Church authorities continued to insist last night that he had “not been suspended”.
The retired science teacher says he was told “we don’t do that here” by a fellow lay reader when he set out a pile of leaflets promoting the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey’s Coalition For Marriage before a Sunday service last month.
Matters came to a head shortly during the service when he urged parishioners in his sermon to be “bold like the apostles” and register their opposition to the redefinition of marriage.
It prompted what might pass in the Church of England for a public showdown: a brief and polite disagreement with two other lay readers in front of the congregation, a retired bishop and the visiting Worldwide President of the Mothers’ Union.
The two women who stood up in front of the church during the parish notices and advised parishioners told them not to sign the petition, adding: “There are other views”.
He Rt Revd David Atkinson, the retired Bishop of Thetford, who was leading the worship, stepped in to advise that the service was “not the correct time and place” to discuss the bitterly contentious issue, according to Mr Gowlland... (continued)