Thinking Anglicans

Titus Trust, John Smyth, and Jonathan Fletcher

The Titus Trust published this statement yesterday:

John Smyth: statement on settlement

The Trustees of The Titus Trust wish to make this statement now that a settlement has been reached with three men who have suffered for many years because of the appalling abuse of John Smyth.

We are devastated that lives have been blighted by a man who abused a position of trust and influence to inflict appalling behaviour on others, and we have written to those concerned to express our profound regret at what happened and also to apologise for any additional distress that has been caused by the way The Titus Trust has responded to this matter.
The emergence of details about the abuse by John Smyth and Jonathan Fletcher has caused us to reflect deeply on our current culture and the historic influences upon us. Although the culture of the camps that The Titus Trust runs today has changed significantly from the Scripture Union camps of the late 70s and early 80s we still want to look hard at our traditions and practices and to invite feedback from those currently involved and also those who are no longer involved.
This reflection includes a number of elements and has led, or is leading to, the following actions:

  • A full independent review of our safeguarding practices took place in 2018 by thirtyone:eight and the recommendations have been implemented in 2019 to ensure that we operate best practice across all our camps to protect the children and adults involved in our activities. Among other things, this has included receiving training in pastoral care and supporting survivors of abuse.
  • An internal Cultural Review has been carried out that considered aspects of our traditions and practices and identified risks to and ways of building healthy cultures across our leaders teams.
  • An independent Cultural Review will begin shortly which will include inviting feedback from a wide range of individuals and organisations to enable us to look honestly at our culture and its impact on individual behaviour.

The Trustees regret that we have not been able to speak out while the legal situation has been ongoing and want to take the opportunity now to listen well to people’s experiences of our camps to inform our future planning. We would therefore invite anyone who would like to share their experience to email  If anyone wishes to contribute to the forthcoming Cultural Review, we invite them to be in touch too, so we can pass their details to the review team once their work gets underway.

We are sorry that the Titus Trust’s earlier public statements were inadequate as explanations of the relevant facts and history and that some of the language the Trust has used in public statements about these matters has prompted anger on the part of some survivors and others. We recognise the impact that this guarded use of language has caused, and apologise if this has contributed in any way to the anguish experienced by the survivors and their families.

The Titus Trust is co-operating fully with the Review into John Smyth led by Keith Makin. Extensive documentation has been provided to the Reviewers and the Trust has met with them and expects to do so again to further assist in the Review.

Today, the following statement has been issued in response:

Statement from victims of the Titus Trust and John Smyth QC
4th April 2020

We call for the Titus Trust to cease its activities immediately, and to disband.

Yesterday the Titus Trust issued a statement following the settlement of three civil claims in respect of abuse by John Smyth QC. The statement comes no less than eight years after a victim of Smyth bravely came forward to inform the trust of the appalling legacy of abuse upon which their organisation is built. It is an astonishing 38 years since the leaders of the Iwerne network were first made aware of the criminal nature of this horrific abuse.

When the abuse came to light, the trustees of the Titus Trust, who now run the Iwerne network, did everything they could to protect their own interests. They did not offer care and support to the victims. They refused to cooperate with an independent inquiry. If the Titus Trust had been open and transparent with what they knew years ago, John Smyth could have been brought to justice. Instead they repeatedly blanked the victims, refusing to speak with us and denying any responsibility. Perhaps we should not have expected them to act with care or candour, since some of most senior members of the network had been complicit in concealing the abuse for 38 years.

In the face of this intransigence we felt compelled to take action against the Titus Trust, so that they would be forced to confront their responsibilities. Even so, the trust has spent eye-watering sums of money fighting our claims – many times the amount they have offered us in settlement.  We are pleased that they have finally issued a limited apology for their recent behaviour, but we note that none of those responsible has resigned. They have not acknowledged the historic cover-up. There is no evidence that the culture of moral superiority, exclusivity and secrecy that has pervaded the network for decades has changed in any way.

Those of us who suffered as victims of John Smyth through our contacts with the Iwerne network simply want to uncover the truth. We want an accurate narrative of the abuse and its cover-up, not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of scores of victims of Smyth in Africa, and for the sake of those young people who even today come under the toxic influence of this network. John Smyth is only one of several abusers known to us who have been closely associated with the Iwerne camps network over many years. Events of recent years lead us to believe that there are still some within the Titus network who value their own reputations more than they care about the children they work with. Shockingly, some of those are ordained clergy in the Church of England. Such attitudes should have no place in any organisation working with children.

The Titus Trust has consistently said that they were not prepared to take part in the Church of England’s Makin Review into John Smyth whilst litigation was outstanding. Now that this settlement has been reached, that excuse is gone, and we urge the trustees and all those involved in the Iwerne network to cooperate fully with the Makin Review, and the other reviews being held into abuse by John Smyth and Jonathan Fletcher.

A culture that has resisted reform in the face of overwhelming evidence of damage over many years is beyond reform. It is our wholehearted belief that in the light of these events the Titus Trust and its work should cease immediately.

To those within and beyond the Titus/Iwerne network who have come to understand that they too are victims of abuse, we urge you to take courage and seek help outside the network.

Issued on behalf of victims of the Titus Trust and John Smyth QC
For more information, contact Andrew Graystone
07772 710090


Opinion – 4 April 2020

Jonathan Gibbs The Church of England Blog from Lead Safeguarding Bishop

Bosco Peters Liturgy Spiritual Communion

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Looking to the Future. The Church after COVID-19

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of mission and finance in challenging times

Giles Goddard ViaMedia.News Into the Dark….

Church Times Interview: Brendan McCarthy, C of E medical adviser


London bishops write about the Eucharist

The London College of Bishops has published this excellent article: The Eucharist in a time of Physical Distancing. It is reproduced in full below. The current advice mentioned therein can be found here.

The Eucharist in a time of Physical Distancing

A paper from the London College of Bishops:

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have gathered together to bless, break and share bread and to bless and share a cup of wine in obedience to the Lord’s command, given on the night before He died, to ‘do this in remembrance of me.’ The Church of England which emerged from the upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, has maintained in its ‘historic formularies’ the centrality of the Eucharist in its account of Christian living. Along with Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, is a ‘Sacrament ordained of Christ’ (Article 25) and ‘a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death.’ (Article 28).

The Canons of the Church of England teach the importance and centrality of the Eucharist. Canon B14 requires the celebration of the Holy Communion in at least one church in every benefice on all Sundays and principal Feast days, as well as on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. Canon B15 teaches that it is the duty of all who have been confirmed to receive the Holy Communion regularly, and especially at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

What, however, of the present circumstances in which, however desirous they might be of attending Holy Communion, the faithful are prevented by the strictures of lawful authorities both secular and ecclesiastical from doing so?

Rubrics at the end of the BCP Communion office plainly declare that ‘there shall be no celebration of the Lord’s Supper except there be a convenient number to communicate,’ a number which is further defined in a parish of twenty persons or less to be ‘three at the least.’

This reflects a ‘rule,’ which is both desirable and to be enjoined in all normal circumstances, that there should be communicants other than the minister at every celebration of Holy Communion. In teaching and holding this position, the Church of England does so in common with Christian tradition back to apostolic times. The Eucharist is intended, normatively, to be a corporate, not a private act, because it is given to offer the people spiritual nourishment (to “feed on the banquet of that most heavenly food“) [Exhortations in the BCP service of Holy Communion] build up the body of Christ in love and fellowship (Christ ordained the sacrament to move and stir all men to friendship, love and concord“) [Thomas Cranmer’s Treatise on the Lord’ Supper (1550)] and to “strengthen and confirm our faith in him.” [Article 25]

In Anglican understanding, sacraments are signs that both point to and embody the things they refer to. They are both “sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace” (Article 25). They both direct our attention to the ascended body of Christ, yet they also make the ‘benefits of his passion’ available to us here and now. There are therefore two aspects of sacraments as signs – they both point to and embody the reality to which they refer – the benefits and presence of Christ given to us and received by faith.

In our current circumstances, to the extent that they embody and offer the spiritual food of the body and blood of Christ, not being able to partake of the sacrament physically is an occasion for sadness and lament, as we are denied the opportunity of this particular aspect of this ‘holy communion’. At the same time, to the extent that they signify the promises of God and the gift of Christ, they can still benefit those who observe but cannot partake.

There is a benefit to be had for those who are ‘present’ at a celebration of Holy Communion, yet unable physically to partake of the elements. Because the sacrament is “given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” (Article 28), even if a person cannot physically receive, their faith and love can still be strengthened by seeing, even if not tasting or feeling the gifts of bread and wine that signify the body and blood of Christ. As an example, the rubrics at the end of the order for the Visitation of the Sick in the 1662 Prayer Book envisage a situation in which someone might be in such grave or advanced sickness that they are unable to receive the Sacrament at a bed-side celebration of the Holy Communion. In such circumstances (and for a number of other causes), the sick person may, by associating him or herself with the benefits of the Sacrament which is not being physically received, nevertheless receive the gifts and graces which it brings.

Consistent with this position, we offer several options for parishes as long as the current physical distancing restrictions apply:

  1. Some parish churches may wish temporarily to suspend the celebration of Holy Communion until they are able to meet together in person again. We are already having to cease the practice of public Baptism for the duration due to the restrictions placed upon us, and so a church may choose to do the same with the other dominical sacrament. As one incumbent put it recently: “We will take this opportunity to fast from the Sacrament while we feast on the Word.”
  1. To ensure congregational involvement, where a parish church wishes to continue to celebrate the eucharist within the current advice issued by the London College of Bishops, and only the priest can be present, it should, whenever possible, be livestreamed, so that others can at least (as Cranmer put it) “see with our eyes” even if they cannot “smell with our noses, touch with our hands and taste with our mouths.” This enables the kind of spiritual reception that is at the heart of the sacrament, even if physical partaking is not possible.
  1. If that is not feasible, at the very least, it should be clearly advertised in the parish and among the congregation when the Holy Communion is to be celebrated in the home of the priest, with or without the presence of another member of that household. Such public advertising is insisted on in the ‘Exhortations’ in the BCP that are inserted between the Prayer for the Church Militant and the Confession. This way, others can be invited to pray and perhaps read the Scriptures at that time, so that the service takes place within some kind of extended communal act of worship in that parish, even if dispersed, and does not become merely a private act of devotion. Some prayers that would enable people to take part in such a celebration might be prepared.

In granting permission, exceptionally, for the clergy to celebrate Holy Communion in this way, our prayer must be that this time will be short. We pray too that God will give us a hunger and a thirst for that time when once again we can gather together to lift up our hearts in praise and adoration, to be nourished by the bodily reception of this sacrament which the Lord instituted on the night before he died and which he commanded us to continue ‘until he comes again’, to do again, indeed, all that is ‘meet, right and our bounden duty’ so to do.

The London College of Bishops


Opinion – 1 April 2020

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Covid-19, Theodicy and Common Grace

Wendy Bower ViaMedia.News A Sermon for Our Time: Tears & Tombs

Jonathan Draper Afterthoughts Virtual Church?

Tim Stratford One way of looking at things… Changed but not stopped

Richard Peers Oikodomeo Life with Zoom – Small solitudes, little deserts: Poustinia for a time of Pandemic

Gary Waddington The Busy Priest Three Rules for Love, in a time of pandemic


Problems with the guidance on closing churches

Updated 5.45 pm Tuesday

The Archdeacon of Hastings, Edward Dowler, has written for the Church Times: Let the clergy pray in their churches. Do read the whole article, but here are some key points (emphasis added):

  • “OUR church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own.” This direction from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, contained in their recent letter to the clergy, goes surprisingly beyond the current restrictions outlined by the Government in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. These state that a reasonable excuse for people to leave the place where they are living includes “in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship” (6.2K), and, moreover, that a place of worship may be used “to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast” (5.6b).It would be helpful to know upon what further scientific advice the Archbishops have based their ruling…
  • …THE Archbishops’ ruling also has doubtful legal basis. In law, church buildings are vested in their incumbents, who, at their induction, take possession of the temporalities of the benefice. It is not clear that the bishops have any legal ability to issue apparent management instructions that incumbents should not pray in their churches. Legally speaking, this is a matter of conscience for individual clergy, in particular those who are incumbents.
  • …The justification most frequently invoked for what has happened is that the clergy “must lead by example”, being “alongside those who are having to self-isolate”. This understanding of leading by example is also questionable, however…  what the clergy and other “worship leaders” (as the Government terms them) may be able to do in the current situation is to maintain the prayer life of their churches on behalf of the people of the parish as an act of service in the present, and in preparation for the day when, God willing, everyone can return.
  • …IS THE Archbishops’ ruling practical? Guidance issued last Friday by the Archbishops’ Council’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division states that “it may be reasonable for one designated person to enter the church to check that it remains safe and secure.” In most cases, regular checks will be not only reasonable, but essential. A curious situation will arise in which clergy and lay leaders are effectively obliged to perform janitorial duties, but will risk episcopal censure if they say any prayers while doing so. The Archbishops’ ruling implies a somewhat magical view, in which the consecration of churches continues unaffected even when they have temporarily been mothballed.
  • …In a final related point, the Archbishops’ ruling creates an interesting ecumenical situation, since the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales expect their clergy to offer mass every day in their churches…. We have reached a situation in which this aspect of the life of the parish church — one that often those of other denominations have been happy to acknowledge — has effectively been ceded to Roman Catholicism, with perhaps far-reaching consequences.

And the archdeacon concludes:

ONE aspect of the current situation is that guidance is constantly changing as new challenges become clear. My hope is that the Archbishops may see fit to change their guidance also.

Rather than mothball the parish churches, my plea is that clergy might actually be encouraged to visit their parish churches regularly; to pray in them for their parishioners and ring the bell to signify that they are doing so; to live-stream or record services from them as much as possible, given the current restrictions; and to use key features of the churches as teaching aids for those who are currently unable to gather inside them.

Do read the entire article.

Update: The prolocutors of Canterbury and York have issued a letter in support of the bishops. The text is copied below. (more…)


Funerals: are they too risky?

Update: Public Health England published new advice on 31 March. See press release, and the guidance document.

The Good Funeral Guide issued a call last Friday for ALL funeral services to cease for the time being. See their blog post Please, stop now. The whole article is worth a read.

…The decision to exempt funerals from the current ban on social gatherings was undoubtedly made for compassionate reasons, but the current lack of clear instruction and direction is leading to anguish and suffering beyond imagination.

By allowing funeral ceremonies to continue in some form or other, bereaved people – and all those supporting them – are genuinely risking their health and even their lives by gathering together to try and have a funeral like the ones we are used to, yet in most cases, grieving people are ending up with a funeral that has been pared down to something almost unrecognisable. Almost everything we are familiar with in a funeral ceremony has been stripped away by the attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. What we are left with is worse than nothing…

The situation in the Church of England is fully reported today by the Church TimesFunerals in churches are too risky, say bishops.

…Though current government guidance states that funerals may continue to take place in church buildings, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and diocesan bishops, believe that this presents an unnecessary “layer of risk”, owing to the difficulty of cleaning churches.

In a letter to all C of E clergy last Friday, they state: “The medical, epidemiological, and public health advice we have received clearly indicates that this represents an additional layer of risk that we do not need to take. Cleaning a church building after a funeral is much harder to do than a crematorium chapel.

“Furthermore, the ability of a parish priest to control the number of mourners will always be compromised by the proper instincts to care for the bereaved at the moment of a funeral. Of course, this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives. Consequently, we are continuing to ask clergy to conduct funerals at the graveside or in a crematorium chapel…”

Newly published resources for funerals


Opinion – 28 March 2020

Mandy Ford ViaMedia.News Space, Time, Prayer and Cranmer

Steve Goddard Ship of Fools In praise of online church

Lorraine Cavanagh Church Times Companionship with God and others in the Covid-19 pandemic
“There are ways of belonging to a worshipping community at this time that do not rely on a broadband connection”

Andrew Davison Church Times When priest and people are apart
“The eucharist remains vital, even if offered behind closed doors”

Fergus Butler-Gallie The Critic Return of the Dance of Death
“Coronavirus may be sweeping the world but we’ve been here before”


Bishops reiterate their restrictions on use of church buildings – 2

This press release was published today. The letter from the bishops mentioned in it is published in the preceding article.

New reflection issued for people who cannot attend a funeral

Under strict rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Church of England funerals may now only happen at crematoria or at gravesides. Only immediate family members can attend – if a crematorium allows – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.

new resource issued by the Church of England gives advice for those who cannot attend on how to hold a short and simple reflection at home on the day of the funeral.

This includes a set of simple prayers and suggestions, including finding a place to sit quietly, finding a photograph of the person who has died, writing down special memories of them, and playing a piece of music with a connection to the person who has died. The Church of England has also provided an   online facility for people to light a virtual candle in memory of loved ones.

Rev Canon Dr Sandra Millar, Head of Welcome and Life Events for the Church of England, said: “It’s so difficult when you can’t go to a funeral, whether for family, friend or neighbour. You might have wanted to support a friend, or show respect, or you might want to say your last goodbye and know that your special person’s life has been honoured, prayers offered, and God’s love experienced.

“Many will not be able to do this now.  When this time of social distancing is over, there may well be a time to share memories with others, but for now people can find comfort from setting aside time at home for a simple reflection, lighting a candle on line or sharing a prayer card with someone else.  God can feel very close in those moments.”

The reflection has been published alongside services for funerals at crematoria and at gravesides in the light of the coronavirus restrictions, alongside advice for clergy.

Meanwhile the archbishops and bishops have written to clergy reaffirming their guidance on the closure of Church buildings to help reduce the spread of the virus.

The letter makes clear that while the Government rules currently permit church buildings to be used for funerals within strict limits, Church of England funerals nevertheless must only take place by a graveside or in a crematorium. They explain that medical advice clearly indicates that holding a funeral in a church in the current situation “represents an additional layer of risk” of transmission.

“Of course this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives,” they write.

The bishops have also given serious consideration to their recent guidance preventing clergy entering churches to live stream an act of worship but concluded the restriction must stay in place.

“Not being able to use our church buildings is, of course, a huge loss to us all,” they write.

“We are aware that for many clergy it is hard not to be able to pray and worship in their church building; and for many lay people, not even being able to see worship going on in their church building is difficult.

“Streaming worship from home shows that we are alongside those who are having to self-isolate and those who are forgoing so many other things in their lives that they used to rely on.

“It also shows that we are facing up to the same restrictions as them and doing all that we can to take a lead in encouraging people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

“Moreover, to pray from and in the home may help us to show that the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings.”

Notes to editors

  • There were 128,000 Church of England-led funerals during 2018, 61% of which took place in churches and 39% at crematoria/cemeteries

Bishops reiterate their restrictions on use of church buildings – 1

Yet another letter from the bishops to all Church of England clergy has been issued today, Friday at 6.23 pm. You can read it here: 20200327 Letter from Archbishops and bishops. The full text is also copied below.

This came as an attachment to a press release, which is reproduced in the next article.

Letter from Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England to all clergy in the Church of England

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives

27 March 2020

We are writing further to you given the rapidly changing nature of the situation in our country at present. We want to thank you for the ministry you are exercising and for the creative and imaginative ways in which you are responding to the crisis and showing the love and care of Christ to the communities we serve, particularly to the most vulnerable in our society.

As we move towards Passiontide, focussing on what Jesus did for us on the cross, more than ever this is brought into stark focus.

We want to reiterate the advice we have already sent. The government is asking us to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We call upon all our churches and church leaders, clergy and lay, to follow this advice.

We are in a time of great fearfulness. The numbers of those becoming seriously ill and dying is increasing. It therefore remains very important that our churches remain closed for public worship and private prayer. The Church of England is called to model the very best practice. We must lead by example. Staying at home and demonstrating solidarity with the rest of the country at this testing time, is, we believe, the right way of helping and ministering to our nation. Therefore, for a season, the centre for the liturgical life of the church must be the home, not the church building.

We recognise that this has its challenges. But many clergy and lay people have already started streaming and live streaming daily worship from their homes. Often they create prayer spaces or a small oratory in a room or the corner of a room. It is hugely encouraging to hear stories of how our prayers and loving actions are blessing our communities and reaching out beyond our usual congregations. Similarly it is wonderful to hear stories of innovative pastoral practice and spiritual care being undertaken in new ways. Thank you for this.

Not being able to use our church buildings is, of course, a huge loss to us all. We are aware that for many clergy it is hard not to be able to pray and worship in their church building; and for many lay people, not even being able to see worship going on in their church building is difficult. Streaming worship from home shows that we are alongside those who are having to self-isolate and those who are forgoing so many other things in their lives that they used to rely on. It also shows that we are facing up to the same restrictions as them and doing all that we can to take a lead in encouraging people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Moreover, to pray from and in the home may help us to show that the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings.

Nationally, the Church is making a growing range of digital resources available including weekly video broadcasts each Sunday; daily audio for prayer for the day and night prayer; webinars for churches; daily #LiveLent content; new mental health reflections; and apps and smart speaker skills. Lots of this content is also available in downloadable and printable formats. Explore everything available here. More will be added in the weeks and months ahead.

The BBC is also offering services on television and radio and online which people can access and we are working closely with them. This will be especially helpful for clergy who do not feel confident in streaming services themselves. No one should be under pressure to stream worship or feel guilty if they can’t.

Some of our communities do not have access to the internet. Please, therefore, do all that you can to ensure other resources are available and pastoral care is offered to all. For example, we know many places have set up telephone networks and these are crucial for keeping in touch with the vulnerable, isolated and elderly. We are endeavouring to make other resources for prayer and worship at home available, particularly for Holy Week.

The decision to close the church buildings and to prevent them being used for streaming has been a very difficult one. Some government advice suggests that we should be able to allow streaming from church buildings. Our advice, however, is that we should go the extra mile in following the clear public health advice and guidance which is to stay at home and to stay safe.

The government guidelines also continue to assert that funerals can take place in church buildings. The medical, epidemiological and public health advice we have received clearly indicates that this represents an additional layer of risk that we don’t need to take. Cleaning a church building after a funeral is much harder to do than a crematorium chapel. Furthermore, the ability of a parish priest to control the number of mourners will always be compromised by the proper instincts to care for the bereaved at the moment of a funeral. Of course, this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives. Consequently, we are continuing to ask clergy to conduct funerals at the graveside or in a crematorium chapel.

We are very aware of how quickly events are changing and we will keep under review all our advice and guidance.

If Government guidance changes we will consider our own guidance. Our priority is to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Our prayers are with you all; let us all support one another.

With every blessing,

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis


Closing churches now codified in Government regulations

Updated Friday morning

The. government restrictions relating to church buildings have now been published in a Statutory Instrument: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.  (PDF version here.)

The relevant paragraphs are copied below. This wording supersedes earlier government notices.

Further restrictions and closures during the emergency period

…(5) A person who is responsible for a place of worship must ensure that, during the emergency period, the place of worship is closed, except for uses permitted in paragraph (6).

(6) A place of worship may be used–

  1. (a)  for funerals,
  2. (b)  to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast, or
  3. (c)  to provide essential voluntary services or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency)…

Restrictions on movement

6.–(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need…

….(k)  in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;…


The position of most but not all of the Church of England diocesan bishops remains more restrictive (example here), in particular no funerals are allowed in church buildings, and broadcasting is forbidden from inside church buildings. But there are exceptions:

The Church Times reports the London diocese position:

…On Tuesday evening, the College of Bishops for the London diocese wrote to clergy stating that they understood “the need for a consistent approach to all worship and occasional offices”.

They write, none the less, that “where the church is accessible by an internal door from the clergy home, or can be accessed from the clergy home without leaving the curtilage of the church, we will encourage those — and only those — clergy to pray in their churches privately and to consider whether they could live stream their services from within the church building.”

The Bishop of Chichester yesterday issued this Ad Clerum which says:

…Many clergy have asked about whether they are forbidden to enter their churches. It is vital that we model best practice in terms of public safety, protecting the limited resources of the NHS, and attention to the care of the most vulnerable to infection. Nothing we do should compromise these concerns or the regulation of them by Government instruction.

If you can ensure that these requirements are met, and you still decide to go into church to pray and celebrate the Eucharist, I would respect your decision on the basis that it is made in conscience and informed by legitimate pastoral, spiritual, missional and legal considerations. Thank you to all who streamed services and messages last Sunday. Any service must clearly be solo-streamed or you should explain that it is being done with the aid of a person who lives in your home…

The Church Times editorial view supports a change:

…Thus the Archbishops’ letter on Tuesday, enforcing the shutting of all churches, must be broadly welcomed. When parks and outdoor areas are being closed or carefully policed, it is clearly wise to shut buildings to which many vulnerable people repair. We say “broadly”. Many priests can reach their churches without the risk of encountering other people. Some, indeed, are as close to their churches as are the Archbishops to their chapels at Lambeth and Bishopthorpe. The Archbishops give no reason for deviating from the advice of the London bishops on Sunday — that clergy who live “adjacent to their churches” may continue to enter, pray, and celebrate — other than that clergy must “take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave”.

Theologically, of course, the eucharist can be offered anywhere; but it is more than a symbolic act to offer the sacrament on behalf of the parish in the place where their prayers have been gathered. If commercial managers are being trusted to keep their key staff safe in the workplace, priests can decide whether they can enter a church safely. It would signal that the eucharist, and the church, fall into the category of key activities, alongside the shopping and the exercise that the Archbishops mention. We urge them to reconsider this aspect of their advice…


Revised Government information about closing churches

Updated again 8.50 am Friday

The government advice which was previously given about allowing churches to be open for private prayer has been changed. The new wording is contained in this document, and the relevant section is copied below. There are differences between this and what the Church of England bishops have most recently said.

Update 1: the Diocese of Chelmsford has issued this letter from their bishops which says in part:

…We have become aware this morning that there is some confusion and indeed disagreement over the use of our church buildings in the current coronavirus restrictions. It seems this arises out of a difference between the current government advice and our own diocesan guidance based on the national church’s instruction from yesterday. 

The Church of England guidance does go further than the government guidance and comes from our own medical advice. In the light of that advice we believe we need to take the lead in demonstrating how important it is to stay at home and that we can still be the church without our buildings, hard though that is at present. 

As your four bishops we are asking in the strongest possible terms that churches and clergy follow our instruction and guidance in these matters for the immediate future. As a reminder that instruction is as follows:

1. Our church buildings remain totally closed with a notice on the door explaining why, as provided previously. This includes for the clergy, such that no act of worship is led or streamed from inside the building.

2. Therefore funerals are not possible in church, which we know is distressing for grieving families, but is safest in preventing the spread of the virus.  Funerals can only take place at the crematorium or at the graveside with numbers restricted to closest family (partners, children, parents) and the maintenance of social distancing.

3. For the support of the most vulnerable, food banks and other essential social services, where they operate out of the church building, can continue as long as strict distribution guidelines are adhered to (pick up of food outside at the door, again maintaining social distancing both outside and inside the building).  

We have no comfort in asking you to comply totally with these instructions, but we do believe it is our Gospel imperative and shared pastoral responsibility to be seen to be setting a lead to the whole of society. Being entirely blunt about it – this is what may save lives at present…

Update 2: The Government advice has been slightly changed (noticed at 14.30 Thursday), as shown below (italics denote superseded wording) and changed again (noticed at 8,45 Friday)

Update 3: The Church of England page can now be seen to contain the following update (which was not visible to me until just now, 24 hours later than the timestamp)

Last updated Wednesday 26 March 2020 at 16:00

  • Updated answer to What should I do about my PPC or APCM meeting? FAQ

Businesses and premises that must remain closed

The following businesses and premises must remain closed

Non-residential institutions Exceptions
Places of worship





Funerals, where the congregation is immediate family (with provision for a carer, if required) or a friend – in the case that no family members are attending. A distance of 2 metres is to be maintained between every household group, as per Public Health England guidelines.

A minister of religion, to go to their place of worship, including to broadcast an act of worship to people outside the place of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.
replaced by
A minister of religion, to go to their place of worship may broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.

And even later:

A minister of religion or worship leader may leave their home to travel to their place of worship. A place of worship may broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.

For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public service, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.



Opinion – 25 March 2020

Peter Leonard ViaMedia.News Flattening the Curve

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Chance Encounters and Changed Lives part 1

Christopher Southgate, Carla Grosch-Miller and Hilary Ison Tragedy and Congregations guidance for ministers as the coronavirus crisis deepens
“Thoughts for ministers during the first phase of the coronavirus crisis”

Godfrey Kesari Church Times Finding hope in the midst of a pandemic
“During this crisis, it is normal and natural to ask where God is. But this is not a time for Christians to retreat from their faith”


Church of England confirms closure of all church buildings.

A new press release was issued at 4.20 pm on Tuesday 24 March. The full text is copied below.

It refers to a letter from all the bishops to all the clergy, which can be found here.

The Church of England Covid-19 page has been updated with new FAQs.

Church of England to close all church buildings to help prevent spread of coronavirus

For immediate release
All Church of England churches are to close with immediate effect, including for private prayer, in an effort to help limit the transmission of the coronavirus COVID-19.



Church of England bishops respond to Prime Minister

The latest on the Church of England Coronavirus web page:

Last updated Monday 23 March 2020 at 21:30
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the instructions given by the Prime Minister to stay in their homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

There is then a link to the following announcement:

Archbishops and Bishops: stay at home but continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the instructions given by the Prime Minister to stay in their homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19). But they called on the Church to “continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable”.

It follows the announcement by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson of sweeping restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

It means all Church of England churches will close with immediate effect in line with the Government’s instructions. There will also be no weddings or baptisms.

Funerals can still go ahead but within strict limits with only the closest family in attendance and essential physical distancing measures in place.

In a joint statement the bishops said: He said: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given.

“We will give a fuller statement of advice as soon as possible. Let us continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable, and build our communities, even while separated.”


Lambeth Conference announces postponement to 2021

The following announcement has been made: The Lambeth Conference reschedules to the summer of 2021.

In recent weeks, the organising teams for the Lambeth Conference have been prayerfully thinking through the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the plans and preparations for this important event.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Lambeth Conference Company has been monitoring the situation and following advice from public health authorities.

The public health risk of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom has now been assessed as ‘high’ by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and a wide range of governmental measures are in place to respond to the health crisis.

Following consultation with the Lambeth Conference Design Group, Primates and trustees of the Lambeth Conference Company, The Archbishop of Canterbury has taken the important decision to reschedule the Lambeth Conference to the summer of 2021.

This significant meeting of Anglican bishops and spouses will continue to be planned- with an exciting and engaging programme, being held in the same venue at the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral – just one year on.

Prioritising the health and safety of our event attendees

We recognise that this will be a significant disappointment for all those registered to attend. Whether it’s as an event delegate; participating in the hospitality programme; contributing to the conference programme; being part of our Resource Centre or serving as a volunteer or steward at the event. Especially as the Lambeth Conference in 2020 was set to be the largest conference yet.

However, the health and safety of our event attendees is our utmost priority. In addition, the global travel restrictions and quarantine implications will present many people with huge challenges in their travel plans.

We also recognise bishops and spouses attending the Lambeth Conference will be playing a vital leadership and pastoral role in their Provinces and dioceses as together the Anglican Communion seeks to respond to COVID-19 around the globe.

Follow this link  and scroll down for What happens next. There is also a video message from the Archbishop of Canterbury at the top of that page.

There is also a Frequently Asked Questions page.

Printable (PDF) copies of this announcement in various languages are available here.


London area churches to close completely

This official notice has been issued, signed by the diocesan bishops of London, Southwark, Rochester and Chelmsford, each of which dioceses covers a number of London Boroughs. The full text is copied below, and includes a link to a template for a church door notice.

The Church Times reports accordingly: Close your churches completely, Bishops tell London clergy. (more…)


Opinion – 21 March 2020

Laudable Practice Pray the Litany Daily

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Synod Discusses Redress

Nicholas Henshall ViaMedia.News “Yoga-Gate” – Fundamentalism in a Twist

Savitri Hensman ViaMedia.News Dolly Parton and ++Michael Curry on the Power of Love


Key workers can include “religious staff”

FAQ about Key Workers published at 13.20 on Friday 20 March (check official page for later changes)


Schools and childcare providers are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children, including those whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.

The Government has published a list of categories of workers whose children will be prioritised. It includes “religious staff” – such as parish clergy and chaplains whose work is critical to the Covid-19 response.

All parents are being asked to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and schools are remaining open only for those children who absolutely need to attend. Clergy who wish to confirm that their role is necessary to the continuation of an essential public service must contact their bishop for approval.


Archbishops issue a further letter on Coronavirus

Updated 5 pm Friday
A further letter to the clergy was sent by the archbishops of Canterbury and York on Thursday 19 March.

A PDF copy of this new letter can be read here. The full text is copied below.
The earlier letter to which it refers can be found over here.

There was a separate note attached to the new letter (but which I only discovered later), COVID-19-Prayer-in-Church. It reads as follows:

Prayer in Church

During the current epidemic, some churches will remain open for private prayer. This must not become an opportunity for groups to gather for informal times of communal prayer or to conduct public worship in any form.

To make private prayer as safe as possible, the following guidance should be observed.

  • Make sure those bits of the church that are touched often (door knobs, light switches etc) have been cleaned.
  • If you have toilets or washing facilities, make sure you are using disposable paper towels, and that there is plenty of soap. Put up notices on hand hygiene.
  • Have notices on the entrance doors reminding people of the Government advice on hygiene as well as asking them not to come into the church building if they have symptoms of COVID-19. 
  • Emphasise the importance of social distancing. Those who don’t already live together should sit at least 6 feet (2 metres) apart
  • Remove holy water from stoups
  • Discourage people from using shared pens/pencils/pads of paper etc if leaving prayer request notes. Wash hands before and after handling any such notes.
  • Do not have hymn books, prayer books, notice sheets or bibles available for common use.
  • If clergy are present, do not shake hands with people as they come in, leave, or at any other time



CofE practical advice on Baptisms

Copied from the official page timestamped 14.45 pm 19 March, check the official page for later changes. Plain text version:


In this exceptional time, the Government’s guidance on social distancing and self-isolation will have a major impact on all aspects of everyday life, including the way baptisms can be conducted for the immediate future. Baptisms can continue in the Church of England but inevitably there will be some adaptations to protect everyone.

This means baptisms can go ahead, but they may be different from what might normally be expected.


It is advised that meetings between candidates or parents/guardians/carers and clergy are held by telephone, Skype etc. rather than face-to-face. If meetings can only be held in person, social distancing guidance will be followed.

Numbers of those attending the baptism must be kept to a minimum – the candidate, their parents/guardians/carers, godparents and the minister and no others.

This should also be communicated to anyone in the wider circle of friends, family or colleagues in advance who may wish to attend. Sadly, those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending any in the present circumstances.

If candidates or parents/guardians/carers wish to postpone the baptism in light of the restrictions in numbers, this is something that will be supported, and help given to find a suitable date in the future.

All baptisms will be “stand alone” events rather than part of a Sunday service as there is no longer public worship [defined as Church services which the public are invited to attend and take part in]. No additional church personnel will attend the service, for example organists, vergers or sound system operator etc.


Where family relatives or friends are unable to attend given the restrictions on numbering, churches will be happy to explore ways to allow others to join the service, either through platforms such as Skype, or recording the service to send at a later date to anyone unable to attend.

Where no audio link can be achieved, an order of service could be sent either by email or post.

Everyone attending the service must adhere to Government guidance on social distancing. Please follow the directions of the priest if you are attending a service.

While naturally those present may wish to shake hands or hug, all present should refrain from doing so in light of guidance on physical distancing.

Where infants are being baptised, a parent/guardian/carer will be asked to hold the infant for the duration of the service, including for the baptism.

Communal bibles and other items will not be used to minimise transmission risk and baptismal candles, if used, should be handled by one person only. A parent or Godparent will be asked to light and hold the candle on behalf of the candidate and to remove it safely immediately after the service.

The application of oil and signing of the cross will be done using an implement which avoids the need for direct physical contact.

While a parent/guardian/carer holds the infant, the officiating member of clergy will use an implement such as a shell to pour the water. A parent/guardian/carer will be asked to wipe the forehead of the baptised person with paper towels which can then be thrown away.

Unfortunately, baptism by immersion is not possible during the current restrictions.


In keeping with the recommendations to limit social gatherings, there should not be a celebration or other gathering after the baptism, and this should be arranged at a future date once Government advice permits.

We will do our best to explain any changes or delays which may be an inevitable consequence of the current restrictions, but we are here to support you and to ensure baptism can go ahead or be rearranged to a suitable date in the future.