Within the Church of England is a group of readers that have had special theological training who then become licensed lay ministers. They are allowed to preach from the pulpit, lead worship services and help in a variety of pastoral services. One such lay minister is Peter Gowland, a retired science teacher.
Apparently, Gowland recently crossed the lines of pastoral decorum when he spoke on biblical marriage and encourage parishioners to sign a petition against the proposed government acceptance of same-sex marriages. The heart of Gowland’s message was that the Bible clearly teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Shortly after his message, Gowland was called into the office of the Rev Canon Dr Barry Goodwin (they’re very big on titles in England) where he was informed that his license to preach was being suspended for at least two months, forcing him to step down from the pulpit. The reason given him was that his message on biblical marriage was too divisive and that his use of the pulpit was not the right place or time to broach the subject. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark tried to smooze it over by stating,
“Some members of the congregation had raised some pastoral concerns with the Archdeacon and he discussed these with the reader. During the meeting it became clear that there are disagreements within the parish concerning how some matters are handled.”
“The Archdeacon asked the reader to refrain from ministry in the particular parish for two months in order for there to be time for these pastoral matters to be resolved. The issue is not about the traditional view of marriage but related to matters of church order and authority during an interregnum;”
In response to his suspension, Gowland said,
“I have been a reader for almost 50 years and I have never heard of anything like this. People get suspended for the usual vicar and choirboy sort of thing but I’ve never heard of anyone being suspended because people don’t like what you said or the way that you said it.”
“That’s the point of being a preacher, you preach what you think God wants you to say, the congregation don’t have to agree with you. This has been one of the strengths of the Church of England, that it will accept and tolerate people with different opinions. It is disappointing that some people are so narrow-minded.”
Don’t think that this is only happening in England and can’t happen here in the US. I personally know of pastors who have been fired or reprimanded for preaching sound biblical doctrine. When church goers hear messages that make them feel guilty about their sins, they complain to church leadership rather than change their sinful lives and the pastors are then punished for being true to God’s Word.
The more liberal and morally decadent our world becomes, the more often this is going to happen to godly men who have taken a vow to be true to the Bible. That’s why it is so important for all of us to uphold godly pastors in our prayers daily. We need to shroud them with prayer for protection against the bleeding heart liberals who only want to silence them. Pray for Peter Rowland! Pray for your pastor and his family! Pray for your church! Pray without ceasing!