Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 26 September 2020

Giles Fraser UnHerd Why Covid can’t cancel Christmas
“There is much to be gained by the knocking out of all the cheap commercial cheer”

Peter Leonard ViaMedia.News What Schitt’s Creek Can Teach the Church of England

Archdruid Eileen The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Keeping Everyone Happy at Church

Edward Dowler All Things Lawful And Honest Singing a new song
“Edward Dowler considers the Psalms, Augustine and anthropology, and calls for the safe restoration of congregational singing to our worshiping life.”


Archbishops’ Council agrees new safeguarding proposals

Updated again Saturday evening

Press release today: Unanimous support from Archbishops’ Council on safeguarding proposals

The Archbishops’ Council, at its meeting on Wednesday (Sept 23), voted unanimously for safeguarding proposals to offer both immediate practical support to survivors of abuse and also to strengthen independence in the Church’s safeguarding work.

The Council approved a proposed plan for an interim pilot support scheme for survivors and agreed to draw down reserves for an initial support fund to support those who have come forward. The Council also committed to urgently pursue the principle of independent safeguarding recognising the need for greater independence and transparency of safeguarding.

The pilot scheme is designed to enable the Church to respond in particular to those survivors’ cases which are already known to the Church, where the survivor is known to be in seriously distressed circumstances, and the Church has a heightened responsibility because of the way the survivor was responded to following disclosure. Experience with these pilot cases will help inform the setting up of the Church’s full redress scheme for victims and survivors of abuse as that is developed. Part of the value of a pilot scheme is that it will enable the Church to explore different ways of working and to learn important lessons for the future.

The full paper put to the Council contained further details of how the interim pilot support scheme would be run.

The vote followed a detailed discussion by Council members on the importance of safeguarding in the Church including a presentation from the national director of safeguarding Melissa Caslake and input from the lead safeguarding bishop, Jonathan Gibbs.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said:

“Today the Council discussed the safeguarding challenges that face our Church. We acknowledged how we have responded badly to survivors, and what that means for the Council as a trustee body. It was a long, honest and soberingly frank discussion. There were some very personal reflections and comments, including from both of us. This reflects the seriousness with which the Council took the proposals under discussion. The issue of independence is something we have taken a personal lead on and are very committed to. We are glad that we the Church is now going to make this happen. Along with providing redress for victims and survivors this is the next step we must take. Today’s meeting and these decisions feel like a turning point. As we await IICSA’s report into the Church of England we continue to pray for survivors and all those the Church has failed. We are profoundly sorry for our failings, but today our words of sorrow are matched by actions that will believe will lead to real change. We hope that this will provide some hope for the future.”

Bishop Jonathan Gibbs said: “While there is much work now to be done the decision to start a support fund is an important and vital step in our response to survivors. This is an endorsement by the Archbishops’ Council of General Synod’s unanimous vote in February for a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress.’

The press release says: and also to strengthen independence in the Church’s safeguarding work and the archbishops are quoted as saying: The issue of independence is something we have taken a personal lead on and are very committed to. We are glad that we the Church is now going to make this happen. But there is absolutely no explanation of what this means.

Updates: see in the comments below for some helpful explanations of what is meant.

Also, this recruitment advertisement appeared earlier this week: Development Manager (Redress Scheme)

The Church Times has this report: New scheme ‘marks turning point’ in Church’s treatment of survivors.


General Synod – 24 September 2020 – reports

Updated Friday and Saturday

The meeting of General Synod took place today as planned and completed all stages of the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure. At the end of the meeting the Measure was given final approval, with 14 bishops, 42 clergy and 45 clergy voting in favour. There were no votes against and just two abstentions (both in the House of Laity). There is a press release here.

The meeting started with a joint presidential address by the two archbishops. There is an official press release summarising the address here, and the full text of the Archbishop of York’s contribution is here.

Friday Update

Andrew Nunn reports on the meeting: All done and dusted.

The Church Times has these two reports.

‘Love can jump two metres’: Archbishops upbeat despite pandemic trials
Synod clears path to a November meeting online

Saturday Update

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of synod
Stephen Lynas bathwellschap (They long to be) Close to you

1 Comment

Bishop of Stafford

Press release from Number 10

Suffragan Bishop of Stafford: 10 September 2020
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Venerable Matthew John Parker to the Suffragan See of Stafford.

Published 24 September 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Matthew John Parker BA MA, Archdeacon of Stoke-upon-Trent in the diocese of Lichfield to the Suffragan See of Stafford, in the diocese of Lichfield, in succession to the Right Reverend Geoffrey Peter Annas who retired last year.

Matthew was educated at the University of Manchester and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and trained for ministry at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He served his title at St Mary the Virgin, Twickenham in the diocese of London and was ordained Priest in 1989.

In 1991, Matthew was appointed Curate of St George, Stockport and Chaplain of Stockport Grammar School in the diocese of Chester. In 1993, Matthew moved to St Mark’s Edgeley as Priest-in-Charge and in 1994 became Team Vicar in the Stockport South West Team Ministry.

In 2000, Matthew was appointed Team Rector of Leek and Meerbrook Team Ministry in the diocese of Lichfield and in 2007 was additionally appointed Rural Dean of Leek. In 2013, Matthew took up his current role as Archdeacon of Stoke-upon-Trent in the diocese of Lichfield.

There are more details on the Lichfield diocesan website.


General Synod – 24 September 2020

The papers for tomorrow’s meeting of General Synod are here; they now include

NP1 Motions and Amendments
OP1 Order Paper 1 for Special Session

which have been added since my previous post.

According to the order paper a presidential address has been added to the agenda.

The Church of England issued the following press release today.

Special session of General Synod to go ahead amid new Covid-19 measures

A special session of the Church of England General Synod, needed to pass urgent legislation enabling Synod to continue to operate amid the challenges of the pandemic, will go ahead in London on Thursday. (more…)


Archbishops write about coronavirus second wave

The Church of England Communications Unit has today issued this press release: Offering hope as we face a second wave – Archbishops’ letter to bishops.The press release is copied in full below.

The full text of the letter, which is addressed to “All Bishops” is available here (PDF). It reads as follows:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

23 September 2020

It is clear that we now have to gear up for a second wave of the coronavirus. This is hard. Many people were starting to believe things could return to normal. They can’t. But neither are we in the same place as before. We have learned a great deal. In our leadership of the Church and in the witness we show to our nation we need to be determined, resilient and hopeful. We will need to be more critical in our response to restrictions that are above and beyond government regulations, helping the church at the local level, in parish and diocese, steer a course that is marked by responsible action towards each other, care for the most vulnerable, and witness for the poor and disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionately. All this is the nature of love.

Our national situation is much more complicated than it was in March. The divisions are deeper. There is public and reasonable concern about hunger – especially amongst children – and homelessness, with an expected rapid rise in evictions. Domestic violence remains a major issue which is concealed.

We are also in a situation which threatens the recovery from the huge decline in the economy in the second quarter. The most vulnerable to this second wave are the small companies who employ the most people, and especially those in the hospitality industry. It will be for us and others to encourage the banks, who received such help in 2009, to be equally merciful to others as the nation was to them. St Matthew 18:23-35 seems highly relevant.

The poor, the elderly and isolated are especially vulnerable. There will be growing nervousness about Christmas, about mental health and many other issues that cannot be considered in this very short letter.

We are called to be responsible, but we are also called to resilience and prophetic speech. We have the networks, long since mobilised, and the partnerships to serve especially the hungry and homeless. Our schools are a particular treasure.

However, there will also be a sense of tiredness; the weariness which comes with dealing with yet another threat and difficulty. To face this, we must continue to encourage one another and bear one another’s burdens. We must in our meetings be transparent with each other, able to say difficult things in a way that avoids mistakes being made through unwilling acquiescence to the perceived view of the majority.

Most of all we need to draw close to Christ, and continue to offer the hope and stability of the gospel. It is this gospel joy, even in the darkest times, that alone can help us through this crisis, bringing hope and an eternal perspective to the very pressing trials of the moment.

We are so grateful for our partnership with you in this work. Do feel free to share this letter as you see fit. And please be assured of our prayers.

In the peace of Christ,

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop of York

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Press Release: 

Offering hope as we face a second wave – Archbishops’ letter to bishops

The Church has a vital role to play in offering hope and comfort to the nation as we face an expected second wave of the coronavirus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said.

In a joint letter to the bishops of the Church of England, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell set out a stark assessment of the challenges facing the country amid the pandemic including hunger, homelessness, mental health pressures and domestic violence.

But, they say, the Church of England, through its presence in every community, can play a vital role in serving the nation – especially those most in need – and in bringing hope to all through the gospel.

Churches are especially well placed, through networks and partnerships across the country, to help those in most need those who are hungry and homeless, they point out.

“Most of all we need to draw close to Christ, and continue to offer the hope and stability of the gospel,” the Archbishops write.

“It is this gospel joy, even in the darkest times, that alone can help us through this crisis, bringing hope and an eternal perspective to the very pressing trials of the moment.”

And they also highlight the particular pressures faced by small businesses after months of restrictions and issue a challenge to banks to show the same mercy to those in difficulties now as banks themselves received during the financial crisis.

Referencing the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, they add: “It will be for us and others to encourage the banks, who received such help in 2009, to be equally merciful to others as the nation was to them.

“St Matthew 18:23-35 seems highly relevant.”


Opinion – 23 September 2020

David Ison ViaMedia.News One for All and All for One?

Barry Orford All Things Lawful And Honest Holy Useful
“Barry Orford replies to an earlier article … by Angela Tilby. He shares many of her concerns about theological formation.”
Thomas Plant All Things Lawful And Honest Deschooling Theology
“In a further contribution to debate on the future of theological formation, Tom Plant argues for the maximum possible decentralisation of ministerial education.”

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Anger that Challenges Injustice


Opinion – 19 September 2020

Jon Price Earth & Altar The issues are worth working through: Starting ministry during a pandemic

Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law In Defence of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003: Measure and Management

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Secrecy and an Unaccountable Church of England

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Reflections on the Dynamics of Control among Evangelical Anglicans

Micah Lazarus Earth & Altar The Fountain Of Life: Reclaiming Church And Tradition For Queer Flourishing


Vision and Strategy Group

Press release from the Church of England

Vision and Strategy Group: Tuesday 15th September

A consultation hosted by the Archbishop of York took place online from 14 to 16 September and was attended by over 150 delegates.

The consultation — dubbed ‘Living Vision, Walking Strategy’ — was part of the ongoing work on the Church of England’s Vision & Strategy led by the Archbishop of York and expected to conclude in early 2021. The consultation was an opportunity for all the bishops and diocesan secretaries to work together on the Church of England’s mission, vision and priorities for the next 10 years.

The consultation opened with sessions on where the Church is presently and what we are learning from this experience. On Tuesday the consultation considered the particular challenges facing the Church both internally and externally and what the vision for the Church over the next ten years might be. The final day covered potential practicalities of committing to the work needed to put the strategy and vision into action at a national, diocesan and local level.


House of Bishops Meeting – 17th September 2020

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops Meeting – 17th September 2020

A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today Wednesday 17 September 2020 via Zoom.

At the second meeting of the House this autumn, the focus of the meeting was on strategic planning and the on-going work of the Emerging Church groups.

Earlier this week, 130 of the Church’s Bishops and most senior leaders in the regions met in a zoom forum entitled “Not the College” which was chaired by both Archbishops. The forum considered how the Church of England can boost its mission and outreach to all communities in this country.

Reporting back to the House in his capacity as Chair of the Church’s Vision and Strategy Group which sponsored the meeting, the Archbishop of York spoke of the Church’s addressing the spiritual need of a society which is going through an economic and health crisis. In particular Archbishop Stephen focused on the themes of inclusion and broadening the Church’s engagement with younger and more diverse groups.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally in her capacity as Chair of the Recovery Group then updated the House on the recent ‘rule of six’ announcement by the government and how the announcement will affect church services and church related activities. These will continue to take place while building on the digital engagement and outreach which have been markers of the Church’s activities during the crisis.

The Chair of the Governance Review Group then gave an update on the various models of Church governance structures which are being considered by the group.

This was followed by a report from the Chair of the Transforming Effectiveness Group which is looking at what activities sit best at a local level and which are best resourced nationally. The House welcomed this initiative and agreed to feed in ideas and inputs to assist with structured conversations at diocesan and national levels about how all levels of Church activities are best supported.

The House then received an update on the financial position of dioceses and parish share, with the House supporting specific conversations and engagement with those dioceses facing financial strain.

This was followed by an update regarding ongoing plans for the 2022 Lambeth Conference. Although the Conference was unable to take place in 2020, supportive and productive dialogues are continuing between the Archbishop of Canterbury and his counterparts in all parts of the global Anglican Communion who are each facing the crisis in different ways.

The current position of the Church of England with respect to the distribution of Holy Communion and the use of the Common Cup during Covid was discussed with further theological reflection, discussion and work on this matter planned.


Opinion – 16 September 2020

Different views on individual communion cups:
Peter Anthony All Things Lawful And Honest A Shot of Salvation
“Peter Anthony reveals the murky racist past that lies behind the invention of individual communion cups in Nineteenth Century America and argues against their introduction in the Church of England for a number of theological and practical reasons.”
Steven Holmes Shored Fragments On the use of individual communion cups
Hilary Bogert-Winkler Montreal Diocesan Theological College Individual Communion Cups, Community, and Covid-19

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Richard Coekin and Jonathan Fletcher’s circle

Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News Solidarity, Oppression and the Church of England

Gilo Surviving Church Thoughts on the Elliott Review ‘translation’ by Archbishops Council


“The Government must decentralise to survive Covid”

Update: The Telegraph article is now available on the Archbishop’s website.

The Telegraph has published an article by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London today.

The Government must decentralise to survive Covid
Getting through the winter will only be sustainable if we resource, train and empower local parishes

When the covid pandemic began and lockdown took force across the country – shuttering shops and pubs, closing schools and barring places of worship – much of what we saw, heard and experienced was dictated and driven by “the centre”. Ministers and officials commanded our attention and determined the daily details of our lives. Few of us have experienced the sheer power of government like that in our lifetimes.

It makes sense to look instinctively for central direction in such an acute crisis, and we’re indebted to the roles many played in doing so, especially those who organised the NHS to cope with the increased demand. Within the Church there are lessons to be learnt about the role and importance of central guidance and its crucial interplay with government rules that exist for the benefit of all…

So here’s our challenge for the next phase of this complex, painful and hugely challenging time: let’s place our trust in the local, and make sure it is resourced, trained, informed and empowered. Some places will get things wrong – but that is true of central leadership too…

The Telegraph also has this news item: Exclusive: ‘Rule of six’ is damaging, Justin Welby tells Boris Johnson

Unfortunately these articles are behind a paywall, but there are freely available reports elsewhere.

Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury warns ‘rule of six’ is damaging family life and demands ministers stop making ‘centralised’ coronavirus rules and leave it to local ‘decision makers’

Independent Archbishop of Canterbury warns of ‘sheer power of government’ and says coronavirus rules must be decentralised


Opinion – 12 September 2020

Giles Goddard ViaMedia.News Sexuality & Christianity – Does One Size Fit All?

Church Times A case of reverse contagion?
Sheila Bridge reflects on the unexpected power of one of the lesser sacraments


Dean of Hereford to retire

The Dean of Hereford, the Very Revd Michael Tavinor, has announced that he will retire on 28 February 2021.

Hereford Cathedral press release
Statement from the Bishop of Hereford


Safeguarding News

Today’s Church Times has two safeguarding stories.

Oxford admits failings in spiritual-abuse case

“THE Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has apologised for “shortcomings” identified by an independent review of his diocese’s handling of a case of spiritual abuse. These failings “contributed to the distress of the survivors”, he said…”

You can read the full report and information about how the diocese is responding here.

Elliott condemns PR response to his safeguarding review

“THE author of a strongly critical safeguarding review of the Church of England has condemned the revelation that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) responded to his recommendations by initiating closer ties between insurers, communications officers, and legal staff…”


General Synod September 2020

All the papers for the meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod on 24 September are now available online.

Note from the Chair of the Business Committee, September 2020
Guide for Synod Members, September 2020
GS 2174 Agenda
GS 2176 General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders)
GS 2176X Explanatory Note
GS Misc 1252 Note from Chief Legal Adviser

It should be noted that GS 2176 and GS 2176X and the timetable are revised versions of the papers originally published last month.


Clergy Discipline Measure

Update Saturday

A working party of the Ecclesiastical Law Society has been reviewing the operation of the Clergy Discipline Measure and has issued an interim report today. ELS members have been sent the following in an email; this is also available online. There are links to the report and an executive study below.


Members will be aware that earlier this year the ELS established a Working Party, under the leadership of Peter Collier QC, to review the operation of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. The Working Party has now produced its Interim Report which scopes out the issues to be addressed and provides an indication of direction of travel for reform. It is an impressive piece of work and merits careful reading in full, although an Executive Summary has also been produced.

The Interim Report indicates where further work is to be done in coming months, and this will be the subject of detailed consultation in due course in the expectation that a comprehensive Final Report will then follow. A notification inviting submissions will be circulated in due course.

The views stated in the Interim Report are not necessarily those of the ELS or its Trustees. The opinions expressed are those of the Working Party, whose membership is recorded in the Report. It represents an informed and expert consideration of a subject of pressing concern and considerable importance to the Church of England today. I commend it to you for study and comment, and in doing so I express the thanks of the Society to Peter and all the members for devoting their time and talents to this project.

Mark Hill QC

Chairman, Ecclesiastical Law Society

Download the ELS Working Party (CDM 2003) Interim Report
Download the ELS Working Party (CDM 2003) Executive Summary


Church Times CDM review: lawyers press for an immediate change


Opinion – 9 September 2020

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Reflections on Church Management and Structure. Time for Change?

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News A Tribute to Colin Blakely, Co-Founder of Via Media


Dean of Christ Church cleared of all safeguarding accusations

Updated again Wednesday evening

The Church of England has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford:

Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “An independent investigation into allegations that the Dean, Martyn Percy, failed to fulfil his safeguarding responsibilities has concluded the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The National Safeguarding Team, NST, followed the House of Bishops guidance when the four separate allegations were referred earlier in the year relating to the Dean, a senior office holder. At no point was there any allegation or evidence that the Dean presented a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult.

I am aware this has been a very difficult time for all parties, particularly Martyn and his family, and I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation. There will of course be lessons to learn about the processes, as there are with any safeguarding case, and that is an essential part of our guidance to make the Church a safer place for all. We welcome the Dean’s commitment to taking part in this. Now the investigation has concluded and the Dean has been exonerated of these safeguarding allegations, the NST’s involvement has come to an end. I continue to pray for his ministry and the life of the Cathedral and its mission in the diocese and wider Church.

As I have said before, the NST has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy
Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford
8 September 2020

In March this year it was alleged that the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, a senior member of the clergy and Dean of Christ Church Oxford, had not fulfilled his safeguarding responsibilities. The National Safeguarding Team (NST) duly appointed an independent safeguarding person, who was asked to investigate and report back. The report has concluded that the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The Bishop of Oxford has issued the following statement:

“I welcome the news that the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has concluded and that Martyn is exonerated. The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST, though these continue to be testing times for all at Christ Church. My prayers remain with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College at the start of this new academic year.”

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

The Church Times has published this news report: Dean Percy exonerated over safeguarding charges. This rehearses a good deal of the background.

Update 1:
Christ Church has now issued this: Statement from Christ Church on Church of England Safeguarding Investigation.

8 September 2020

“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has announced the outcome of its independent investigation into the handling of four disclosures to the Dean of Christ Church, made by survivors of sexual assault. The NST has now informed Christ Church that its report concludes there has been no breach of the Church of England’s protocols.

“Safeguarding is of the utmost importance at Christ Church, and it is our obligation to report such concerns appropriately. After a query from a national newspaper regarding a serious sexual assault, an independent QC advised that a referral should be made to the Church of England as the handling of such disclosures fell within its jurisdiction. It is vital that everyone has the confidence to report safeguarding concerns. We will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities.

“Our thoughts are with all survivors of abuse. If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.

Update 2
Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer: Church of England clears Martyn Percy of all safeguarding allegations.

Harriet Sherwood writes in the Guardian: Church clears Oxford college dean after ‘black ops campaign to discredit him’.
Headline later changed to Church clears Oxford college dean over alleged safeguarding failures.

Tim Wyatt at Religion Media Centre has Oxford dean cleared by abuse investigation and Christ Church Oxford timeline.

Update 3
The Times Dean of Christ Church Oxford cleared of safeguarding failures

Telegraph Oxford University dean finally exonerated after safeguarding dispute

Daily Mail Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church college is cleared of all safeguarding allegations in abuse row

Cherwell Christ Church dean exonerated after safeguarding allegations

Update 4
Stephen Parsons Loose ends in the Martyn Percy Affair.


Law Commission consults on wedding law

The Law Commission has issued a public consultation paper on reforming the law in England and Wales relating to the conduct of weddings. The press release is here.

The consultation paper is here:
Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law.
The consultation questionnaire is linked from this page.
Links to Welsh versions and other related documents are here.

The consultation document is very long indeed, but there is a helpful precis of what it is about here:
Law & Religion UK Reforming wedding law in England & Wales.

There are some media reports here:
Church Times Law Commission suggests sweeping marriage reforms
Religion Media Centre Wedding reform proposals allow humanist legally binding ceremonies

And there is some theological comment on the topic by Nicholas Henshall at Via Media Worldly Weddings – To Bless or Not to Bless?