Vicar faces action over tweets on lesbian row
Father Robert Thompson faces online bullying claims after supporting lesbian who was forced out of Kentish Town church
14 May, 2021 — By Harry Taylor
Father Robert Thompson
A VICAR is facing a “clergy discipline measure” over tweets he allegedly sent to a priest at a church where a woman said she had been forced out for being gay.
Father Robert Thompson, who leads St Mary’s Church in Kilburn and St James’ Church in West Hampstead, had spoken out in support of Rachel Gillingham, a church leader who said she had felt ostracised after coming out as a lesbian at St Luke’s Church in Kentish Town.
As the New Journal revealed in February, Reverend Jon March, a priest at St Luke’s, faced a church investigation after introducing “beyond reproach” rules for lay leaders. Ms Gillingham had left a meeting with Revd March upset after being told he did not realise she “would be so visible and open as a gay person”.
An inquiry found that St Luke’s had been negligent in its treatment of Ms Gillingham. Fr Thompson has supported Ms Gillingham but now faces disciplinary action over claims he took place in online abuse, harassment and intimidation of Rev March by sending tweets highlighting the story. He denies the accusations.
Ms Gillingham said: “I worry that the message is that this is what happens if you try to get justice in the Church of England,” she said. “This is what happens if you support someone else who has been hurt by the Church of England. It sends out a message of fear and ‘we will discipline you’ if you dare to support someone who tries to get justice.
“So many people have reached out to me since it happened, and this is incredibly frustrating to hear it’s happening to Robert. The key thing for me was that he never mentioned the vicar Jon March or the church directly. I don’t know how the vicar can be accused of bullying or intimidating or harrassing someone if they’ve never been named.”
St Luke’s Church in Oseney Crescent
The Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England’s chairman, Nigel Pietroni, said: “We have reviewed Fr Robert’s online comments, tweets and retweets in relation to the case of this young woman and can find no evidence of bullying and intimidation, and in fact no reference to the other priest concerned at all.”
A spokesperson for the Diocese of London said: “Where an individual brings a complaint to the Diocesan or Area Bishop under the clergy discipline measure, as is their right, it is taken seriously and the formal, confidential process is followed. St Luke’s Kentish Town continues to work closely and constructively with the Bishop of Edmonton on a positive way forward for the parish, on the issues arising from last year’s report, and in the context of ongoing national discussions within the Church of England around ‘Living in Love and Faith’.”