'Deeply embarrassed' Archbishop of Canterbury apologises for bishop

'Deeply embarrassed' Archbishop of Canterbury apologises for bishop

June 19, 2021

‘Deeply embarrassed’ Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologises for behaviour of bishop who told her congregation ‘never trust a Tory’

  • Dr Joanna Penberthy, 61, told her congregation ‘never trust a Tory’ in a tweet 
  • Took ten weeks to issue an apology and only after ‘complaints from senior Tories’
  • Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologised to the government in a letter 
  • Bishop of St David’s faces mounting pressure to quit over the remarks in March 
  • Conservative West Dorset MP Chris Loder has branded her ‘not fit to be a bishop’ 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised after a bishop told her congregation ‘never, never, never trust a Tory’, describing her remarks as ‘intolerable’.

Archbishop Justin Welby said sorry in a letter to the government, in which he said he felt ‘deep embarrassment’ for the behaviour of Rt Rev Dr Joanna Penberthy, the Bishop of St Davids.  

He described her remarks as ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and said it was ‘intolerable’ to ‘be trolled in this way’ in a letter seen by the Telegraph.

His apology has added to mounting pressure on Dr Penberthy to quit, though the Church in Wales has refused to comment on calls for her resignation, referring instead to her apology.  

Dr Penberthy wrote ‘never, never, never trust a Tory’ in March this year in response to a post claiming the Conservative party were planning to do away with the Welsh parliament.

She then took ten weeks to apologise and only issued a withering climb down after it is believed senior party members complained. 

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has apologised after a bishop told her congregation ‘never, never, never trust a Tory’, describing her remarks as ‘intolerable’ in a letter to the government

The Archbishop’s apology has added to mounting pressure on Dr Joanna Penberthy (pictured) to resign

Dr Penberthy wrote ‘never, never, never trust a Tory’ in March this year in response to a post claiming the Conservative party were planning to do away with the Welsh parliament

In a statement, Dr Penberthy said: ‘On March 25th 2021 I put out a private tweet about Conservative Party supporters which has caused offence and for which I sincerely apologise.

‘The tweet was in response to another tweet which claimed that the Conservative Party was planning to abolish the Senedd.

‘I acknowledge that while there may be those within the Conservative Party who oppose Welsh devolution, it is not the policy of the Conservative Party to abolish the Senedd and I should have checked all the facts before tweeting.

‘I, of course, trust and have trusted many Conservatives and know there are many honourable people in that party.  

‘I further apologise for other tweets I have posted which have caused upset and offence. While I hold strong political views, I have expressed them on Twitter in a way which was both irresponsible and disrespectful and I deeply regret this. 

‘I have now closed my account down.’ 

Archbishop Welby was corralled into issuing an apology on Thursday after Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary (pictured), wrote to him to raise concerns over the comments

Archbishop Welby was corralled into issuing an apology on Thursday after Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, wrote to him to raise concerns over the comments. 

Giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee this week, Hart said Dr Penberthy’s remarks had ’caused significant offence’ and were ‘remarkable’ considering the bishop resides over constituency with a Conservative MP.

Her remarks were also condemned West Dorset MP Chris Loder (pictured) who branded her ‘not fit to be a bishop’

‘It wasn’t just a casual aside, it was a full-scale, consistent, sustained, and bitter and unpleasant attack on people who chose to have a different political output to her’, he told MPs. 

Hart added he had told Archbishop Welby that Dr Penberthy’s apology had done ‘little to restore faith in her judgement’ and asked him to lay out plans ‘to ensure that sure situations are avoided in the future’.   

Her remarks were also widely condemned by the Conservative party, with West Dorset MP Chris Loder branding her ‘not fit to be a bishop’. 

Loder, a practicing Anglican in the Church of England, wrote to Dr Penberthy telling her to resign over the ‘disgracefully divisive’ comments. 

He also claimed his political affiliation had led members of the clergy to ‘turn their backs when sharing the peace of Christ at the eucharist’ and that ‘there are some churches and some clergy who don’t welcome me, even in my home constituency… because I am Conservative.’

Apologising on Thursday, the Archbishop wrote: ‘It is absolutely unacceptable, and I am truly sorry. I am especially sympathetic because I am very well aware of what it is to be trolled in this way [including by people of all shades of political opinion]. 

‘It is intolerable, and I am determined to work with my sisters and brothers to find better ways to express disagreement.’

He noted a commitment to reconciliation and said the Church ‘seeks to be welcoming to everyone in the nation of Wales’. 

The 61-year-old (centre), who has previously expressed her anti-Brexit and anti-Conservative views, is facing mounting calls to resign

Dr Penberthy was the Church in Wales’ first woman bishop when she was appointed to St Davids in 2017

The Archbishop joined the Bishop of Bangor and the Archbishop of York in issuing apologies, but have failed to say if Dr Penberthy will be removed from her post.  

The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Rev Andy John, wrote to Welsh Secretary Simon Hart saying: ‘The Bishop of St Davids has apologised for the hurt she has caused as a result of her posts on Twitter and the Church in Wales has welcomed her statement. 

‘I add my apology on behalf of the Church in Wales; I regret the intemperate language that she used and the hurt it caused.’

Bishop John said he thought Dr Penberthy’s apology was ‘sincere’ but said it was important senior clergy understood there is no difference between ‘personal and public statements’.

He added Dr Penberthy had said he wanted to improve ‘the way in which her ministry operates in the public domain’, indicated she will not be forced to resign.  

Dr Penberthy was the Church in Wales’ first woman bishop when she was appointed to St Davids in 2017.

The 61-year-old is known for her strong political views and the Church in Wales has said her ‘strong political views are well known’.

The bishop, who previously expressed her anti-Brexit and anti-Conservative views, was using a Twitter handle that included the term ‘We Are Remain’ as well as the acronyms GTTO and FBPE – which stand for ‘Get The Tories Out’ and ‘Follow Back Pro European’. 

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