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UPDATED: New cathedral dean and partner feel 'no ill will' towards Lord Tebbit after 'sodomite' comments

Lord Tebbit (1968890)
Lord Tebbit (1968890)

A senior Conservative politician has provoked outrage after branding the new Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral a 'sodomite'.

Norman Tebbit, a Tory peer and former chairman of the Conservative Party, told the Mail on Sunday he would boycott services conducted by the Rev Canon Joe Hawes.

Canon Hawes, who is in a civil partnership with the Rev Chris Eyden, said they 'feel absolutely no ill will towards Lord Tebbit' and messages of support they have received show 'the Church and the world have moved on from a place where such language has any relevance'.

The Rev Canon Joe Hawes is the new Dean of St Edmundsbury (1970843)
The Rev Canon Joe Hawes is the new Dean of St Edmundsbury (1970843)

Speaking to the Bury Free Press this morning, Lord Tebbit, of Bury St Edmunds, stood by his comments, which have been condemned as 'disgusting' by a councillor in the town.

"I said I didn't think it was appropriate for him to be the dean," Lord Tebbit said.

"As I understand it, from what was said about him and what I've learned about in the newsletter from the cathedral, he's a sodomite.

"I don't accept him as my guide.

"It doesn't mean I won't continue my financial support to the cathedral because the cathedral will be there when both he and I are long gone."

Asked whether he would meet with Canon Hawes to discuss his views, Lord Tebbit said: "If he wants to tell me I'm mistaken and that he isn't a sodomite I would be very happy to talk to him.

"I don't see how he could for example take a marriage service."

Asked if his views stemmed from the Bible, he said it was 'shot through the Bible' from 'the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the purpose of marriage'.

He added: "I don't know whether anybody else in the town shares my views or not. I don't seek to influence anybody else, I just go my own way."

St Edmundsbury Borough Cllr Julia Wakelam condemned his comments.

Cllr Wakelam, who was among many community figures consulted by the cathedral during the selection process for the new dean, said: "It's an outrageous comment to make . The man's sexuality has nothing to do with his spirituality.

"If Lord Tebbit feels like that I'm sure he's very welcome to go to another church. He shouldn't be making such disgusting comments. I think he's an absolute disgrace."

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill said: "We live in a tolerant society and, with respect, I profoundly disagree with the views expressed by Lord Tebbit.

"On behalf of the whole of Bury St Edmunds I want to welcome the Reverend Canon Joe Hawes to our wonderful cathedral and community and I look forward to working with him."

Canon Hawes, who is vicar of All Saints' Church in Fulham, is due to be installed as the Dean of St Edmundsbury in the cathedral on Saturday, July 14.

He said: "We feel absolutely no ill will towards Lord Tebbit for his comments.

“The messages of support we have have received from St Edmundsbury and Fulham testify to the extent to which the Church and the world have moved on from a place where such language has any relevance.

“I have always admired the way in which Lord Tebbit has cared for his wife with such devotion following the Brighton bomb and I have been looking forward to getting to know them when I arrive in St Edmundsbury and offering what support I could.”

John Howard, spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “Under pastoral guidance issued in 2005 it has been clear for more than a decade that clergy are entitled to be within civil partnerships.”

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