Archbishop of Canterbury ‘deeply embarrassed’ at bishop’s ‘never trust a Tory’ tweet
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he is “deeply embarrassed” after a Welsh bishop tweeted “never, never, never trust a Tory”.
Justin Welby has written to the Secretary of State for Wales to apologise for the tweet by the Bishop of St Davids Joanna Penberthy.
She had written her tweet 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.
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.”
At the time of her apology Dr Penberthy received support from many people including former leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood and politics and free speech organisation Ekklesia.
We agree completely with @ElinCeredigion here. The attempt by an MP to have Bishop Joanna Penberthy sacked over an unwise tweet is cheap, nasty, opportunistic and shameful. We hope and trust that the @ChurchinWales will give this nonsense short shrift. #WeStandWithJo pic.twitter.com/nbCBXe3xrG
— Ekklesia (@Ekklesia_co_uk) June 17, 2021
But in a letter sent to the bishop, English West Dorset Tory MP Chris Loder accused the Church in Wales cleric of holding “divisive views” and called on her to stand down.
The Church in Wales has also apologised for offence caused by the tweets.
In his letter to Conservative Preseli-Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, in which Ty Ddewi or St Davids is located, Mr Welby said the language used was “absolutely unacceptable” from a church leader.
The BBC reported that Mr Hart had previously written to Mr Welby saying that although citizens, including clergy, had a right to engage with politicians, Dr Penberthy’s comments “seem to fall well wide of that objective”.
“It’s disappointing that Dr Penberthy does not seem to appreciate or respect the fact that many of the Church in Wales’s staunchest supporters may have political views that are at odds with her own,” the Welsh Secretary said.
“They . . . do not take kindly to being collectively abused online for so doing.”
Mr Hart pointed out that St Davids is in the Tory-held Preseli Pembrokeshire constituency and he highlighted another message in which she criticised people voting for the Conservatives.
Dr Penberthy, who became the Church in Wales’ first woman bishop in 2016, had also tweeted: “A very sad indictment is that so many still want to vote Tory. Absolutely appalling. I am ashamed of each and every one of you.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Mr Hart and said he was “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),” he said.
“It is intolerable, and I am determined to work with my sisters and brothers to find better ways to express disagreement.”
The Archbishop of York has also spoken to the Secretary of State for Wales about Dr Penberthy’s comments.
Justin Welby says he is "deeply embarrassed" by a tweet from a Welsh bishop that said "never never never trust a Tory".
The Bishop of St Davids, Joanna Penberthy, has apologised and deleted her Twitter account.
— Harry Farley (@HarryFarls) June 19, 2021
The UK government wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace because the Church in Wales, which currently does not have a senior bishop since the last Archbishop retired, is part of the Anglican Communion.
Wales’ most senior bishop apologised and added people of all political persuasion are welcome in the Church in Wales.
“I have spoken with the bishop and believe her to be sincere in her apology and that she wishes to improve the way in which her ministry operates in the public domain.
“Clergy have a role to play in holding politicians and others to account in their public office. In order to do this effectively, clergy need to be respectful and robust in both their delivery and discourse,” he said.
“I regret the impression that has been formed that we favour one political viewpoint over another.”