MP calls for St David's bishop to resign over 'Tory' tweet

By John McManus
BBC News

  • Published
Bishop Joanna PenberthyImage source, Church in Wales
Image caption,
Bishop Joanna Penberthy has apologised following her comments online

A Conservative MP has called on an Anglican bishop to resign over comments she made on social media advising people to "never trust a Tory".

The Bishop of St David's Dr Joanna Penberthy posted the comments on Twitter in March.

Following criticism, she apologised and subsequently deleted the message.

But in a letter sent to the bishop, Chris Loder MP accused the Church in Wales cleric of holding "divisive views" and called on her to stand down.

In her tweet sent on 25 March, Bishop Penberthy wrote "never, never, never trust a Tory" in response to another Twitter user who had alleged that the Conservatives were planning to abolish the Senedd or Welsh Parliament, formerly known as the Welsh Assembly.

Earlier this month, she deleted her account and apologised, admitting that it was not the policy of the Conservative Party to close down the Senedd.

Image source, Twitter

Dr Penberthy, who wrote that she held strong political views, also said: "I, of course, trust and have trusted many Conservatives and know there are many honourable people in that party."

The bishop also apologised for previous tweets she had sent "which may have caused upset and offence".

At the time of her apology Dr Penberthy received support from the former leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.

But in his letter, seen by the BBC, West Dorset MP Mr Loder said the comments were "disgracefully divisive", and called on Dr Penberthy to resign, saying she was "not fit to be a bishop".

Mr Loder - who is a practising Anglican in the Church of England - wrote that he felt strongly about the issue due to incidents where he believed he was targeted because of his politics.

In his letter he said these included churchwardens at a cathedral he attended for a decade shouting "oi, Tory boy" at him, and being made to feel unwelcome in some churches in his own constituency, despite raising thousands of pounds for his local food bank.

Mr Loder also wrote that "clergy turn their back on me when sharing the peace of Christ at the Eucharist".

The MP has written in the past that, before he went into politics, he considered becoming a vicar.

'Unpleasant attack'

Referring to Dr Penberthy's previous public apology for her comments, he called it "nothing more than a stunt to quell the media".

"I am also writing to you today to urge you to resign because you are not fit to be a bishop," he wrote.

In response, the Church in Wales said Dr Penberthy had not yet received the letter, and added it was unable to make any further comment until it had seen it.

The Secretary of State for Wales has also waded into the row and accused the Bishop of St David's of an "extraordinary act of intolerance".

Giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Thursday, Simon Hart told MPs: "This has caused significant offence. ...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."

Mr Hart said the comments were "remarkable" given Pembrokeshire's constituency MPs and MSs are all Conservative politicians, including himself.

He also revealed he had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury to express his concerns.

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