SODOR & MAN: Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal hands 10-year ban on former C of E Priest
Former Bishop calls ban “entirely appropriate” and “about right”
By David W. Virtue, DD
December 24, 2016
The former Bishop of Sodor and Man, Robert Paterson, and a tribunal he set up, this week imposed a 10-year ban on the Rev. Dr. Jules Gomes from exercising ministry in the Church of England and anywhere in the world, according to the Manx Independent.
The principal findings against Gomes by the tribunal chairman Geoffrey Tattersall QC was that Dr. Gomes had an ‘over-inflated view of his own self-importance’ and dealt with people with ‘little or no compassion or pastoral concern’. He was also accused of losing his temper and displaying anger on occasion. At no time was there a hint of adultery, sodomy, or doctrinal denial by the priest.
A senior official in the Church of England told VOL that the bishop has no authority and the tribunal cannot exercise any jurisdiction outside England. “It has none beyond these shores,” he said.
Dr. Gomes, an immigrant priest, said the findings were “patently false.” Each church in the Anglican Communion is independent and operates under its own jurisdiction with its own legal system and discipline. A ban on Dr. Gomes’ ministry cannot apply anywhere except in the Church of England.
Furthermore, it would appear that the sentence seemed extraordinarily disproportionate – double the penalty normally given to a priest caught in adultery. The tribunal’s document awarding the penalty, said Gomes’ behavior had been ‘entirely inappropriate’, by giving a radio interview describing the Bishop as vindictive and likening the Church of England’s approach to dealing with disciplinary issues to Shariah law.
“This is a travesty of justice. Compare the sentence given to two clerics from the Isle of Man who left their wives, had an affair, divorced their wives and married the women they were having an affair with. Each was reportedly penalized with a 5-year ban on ministry in the Church of England. Both clerics are now back in active ministry on the island,” Gomes told VOL.
“Is this the Church of England’s new morality code? When did it become a crime to describe your former bishop’s behavior as “vindictive” and the church’s disciplinary procedures as “Shariah” law? Does the Orwellian Church of England not believe in freedom of speech any longer? Can a tribunal decide a penalty for a crime the respondent has not been tried for?”
It would appear that Bishop Paterson, who retired from the Isle of Man on November 11, violated all codes of clerical decency and convention by giving an interview on Manx Radio over the phone from his new residence in Evesham, Worcestershire. He told the radio that the penalty was ‘about right’.
Dr. Gomes said he resigned from the Church of England in March 2016. He was not ordained by the Church of England but by the Church of North India and the Diocese of Sodor and Man no longer had any jurisdiction over him.
Paterson pursued his witch-hunt, spending well over £20,000 ($24,500) against the priest who managed to fill his congregation, gave academic lectures on the Bible that drew well over a hundred people each week and was considered outstanding in the pastoral care of his congregation.
Senior sources in the Church of England, who are embarrassed by the verdict and penalty, have compared the witch-hunt against Dr. Gomes to the smear campaign against the famous Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a great friend and supporter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his resistance to Adolf Hitler.
“Dr. Gomes is one of the finest clerics in the Church of England. He is a man of integrity, impeccable moral character, an outstanding preacher, a loving and caring pastor, a biblical scholar with a formidable intellect, and a journalist who writes with great flair and brilliance. He should have been made a bishop by now but the Church of England is a mediocracy and not a meritocracy and Dr. Gomes’ ministry has posed a threat to the hierarchy,” a highly-placed cleric told VOL.
“Instead here we have a kangaroo court, a weak judge appointed by the bishop, false witnesses, trumped-up charges, and a verdict delivered under pressure to pacify a failed bishop baying like a bloodhound for revenge. The verdict has damaged the credibility of the Church of England and will continue to haunt it for years to come,” he added.
People on the Isle of Man have been amused by the penalty. John Wright, a legal consultant from the island, wrote this on Manx Forums: “Gomes banned from being a CofE priest for 10 years. Bishop says it’s about right. But he’s left the CofE so it’s pretty pointless. No reciprocal recognition between the CofE and his new lot. Wonder what his God thinks of it all?”
Dr. Gomes is now pastor of St Augustine’s Church, an independent Anglican church that is thriving because of its robust biblical teaching and high-quality liturgy. Sources told VOL that the penalty is intended to destroy the new church plant that poses a threat to the Diocese of Sodor and Man, especially if the new bishop appointed is a woman.
Because many Anglicans on the Isle of Man are conservative, it is likely they would leave the Church of England and join Dr. Gomes’ new church since they are not in favor of women clergy. Paterson is desperate to make sure that St Augustine’s Church is destroyed and there is no conservative and complementarian alternative to Anglicanism on the island.
Paterson’s vendetta may have backfired on him. Since Dr. Gomes left the Church of England, he has partly returned to his former career as a journalist and has begun to write extensively for a number of media outlets. In November, around the same time as the tribunal was deciding his fate, one of UK’s most prestigious media websites The Conservative Woman invited him to write his own column under the title ‘Rebel Priest’.
In the same Christmas week that Bishop Paterson gave his interview on Manx Radio, Dr. Gomes along with Dr. McCrae, broke the story on the removal of Archbishop George Carey’s portrait from the portals of King’s College, London, which was picked up by the Times Higher Education Supplement, The Times, The Telegraph, Christian Today, the Evening Standard and other national newspapers in Britain.
A senior Anglican cleric told VOL, “There is both divine irony and divine justice at work here. Dr. Gomes’ resignation from the Church of England has liberated him to exercise a ministry of great potential that was dormant for so many years. Dr. Gomes combines his first career as an investigative reporter with academic scholarship, cultural exegesis, sociological trends, pastoral sensitivity, an in-depth knowledge of the Church of England and a singular ability as a wordsmith.”
Gomes refused to attend the three-day tribunal hearing in October, saying he didn’t recognize its authority.