Sunday, 26 March 2017
The Path to which initiation points
This is the point in the Lenten season when the vista changes, the vision of the desert yields to the anticipation of passiontide, and the inevitability of the clash between Jesus’s Kingdom of God movement and the religious and colonial authorities of his day.
This opposition will be starkly drawn on Palm Sunday. Around the time that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, or within a few days, the imperial Procurator will have decamped from his official residence on the coast at Caesarea Maritima and set off for Jerusalem. His name was Pontius Pilate. Every year he would move into Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover with enough soldiers to make sure the peace was maintained. Passover contained all the elements for an uprising. It was an annual rehearsal of the moment in history when the national god of the subjugated Judeans overcame the imperial might of the Egyptian Pharaoh. It is the re-telling of a time when these downtrodden people were liberated from imperial power. It was Pilate’s job to ensure that the festival passed peaceably and without incident, and his column of soldiers and horses would arrive in Jerusalem amidst dust, the glint of metal, the smell of leather and imperial banners flying through the western gate.
On or around the same day, another procession will enter the city from the east, a parody of the imperial procession, not military horses but a donkey, not imperial banners but palms. Crowds of people will line the streets and praise their god for their anticipated liberation. Their cries will invoke a former national king who had ruled in their nation’s finest hour, and the central character of this procession, Jesus of Nazareth, will be named as his heir.
The outcome of the opposition of these two processions will be played out in the week that follows. This resistance would form the seed of a movement which will follow the inevitable death of Jesus, in the years which follow, and will find its way to the imperial capital, Rome itself.
The path to enlist in this movement will quickly crystallise into a particular initiation ritual, a ritual which will combine the acceptance of death and the promise of new life in a higher authority than imperial power. Immersion in water will symbolise transition from living under imperial power to the freedom of life under divine power. It will be called baptism.
Baptism will symbolise both dying to being subject to the empire of Caesar, and the new life under the rule or the Kingdom of God. As this resistance movement spreads, so the forces of empire will inevitably move to eradicate it, and the loyalty of the movement will be tested by the threat of death, even as it had been for Jesus. While the signature prayer of the movement prays that followers will be spared the ‘time of trial’, many will be executed in the cause of asserting imperial sovereignty.
When the accounts of Jesus’s life come to be written, many years after the original members of the movement had been martyred, the significance of baptism as an declaration of resistance will be incorporated into his story.
In the accounts which survive, Jesus speaks of his baptism twice. In Mark 10:38 Jesus responds to two followers who want status in this new rule of God by asking them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Baptism, the passing into death with the promise of new life is a dark path. The promise alone of new life is what will enable him to resist, even at the cost of his life. Baptism will empower him to go down into the dark places of human conflict, even into his own deep fears and anxieties, as will become apparent in the hours before his arrest. Baptism will enable him to go into his own interior darkness, as it will for those who will follow him.
Again, in Luke 12:50 his baptism carries the vocation that, to assert the rule of God over the rule of Caesar, will be both a catastrophic and divisive one, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”
Although the church will rightly assert baptism to new life as it celebrates resurrection, it does us well to remember, as we draw near to the last days, the days of that head-on collision, that it is baptism which empowers us, as we are faced with the cost of being part of that Kingdom of God movement. The hope is resurrection and acceptance of death to self is held in baptism.
Andrew Spurr is the Vicar of Evesham in the Diocese of Worcester.
Saturday, 25 March 2017
Opinion - 25 March 2017
Bosco Peters Liturgy How Revealed Is Christianity?
Giles Fraser The Guardian Prayer is not wishful nonsense. It helps us to shut up and think
Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Are We an Institutionally Homophobic Church?
Martin Saunders Christian Today In His Grip: A guide to Christian email sign-offs
Scott Gunn Seven whole days Getting your church building ready for guests
Friday, 24 March 2017
Bishop of Sheffield: Joint statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York
The Archbishops have issued the following statement today.
Bishop of Sheffield: Joint statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York
Friday 24th March 2017
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York made this joint statement today on the recent events surrounding the nomination of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield.
“The recent events surrounding the nomination of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield, including his withdrawal from the process, have understandably raised great concern amongst many in the Church of England. The status of the House of Bishops Declaration of June 2014 has been questioned by some and its meaning has also been challenged.
“We have therefore written to Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer under the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, (Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations) 2014, to address the concerns that have arisen in the Church following these recent events. We attach our letter to Sir Philip, in which we reaffirm clearly our commitment, and the commitment of the House of Bishops, to its Declaration, to the principles contained in it, and to the overriding principle of mutual flourishing.
“Finally, in this period of Lent, as part of our preparation for the glorious celebration of the extraordinary grace of God in the events of Holy Week and Easter, we call on all those in the Church to pray openly for the flourishing of those with whom they disagree, to demonstrate the mutual love which we are called to share and to proclaim confidently in word and deed that in Christ we find our true identities, and the overcoming of those things which in ourselves we find so divisive.”
+ Justin Cantuar: +Sentamu Eboracensis
The text of the letter is copied below the fold.
Forward in Faith has issued this statement: Forward in Faith welcomes reference to the Independent Reviewer.Continue reading "Bishop of Sheffield: Joint statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York"
Church Times on See of Llandaff
Updated again Sunday morning (scroll down)
Today’s Church Times carries another version of the news report linked previously: MPs join row over Llandaff election.
This includes a sidebar (scroll down) which reports that the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, is under pressure to resign:
Pressure on Bishop.
IN THE midst of the row over Dr John, the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd David Wilbourne, has spoken of a campaign to force him to resign.
Bishop Wilbourne (pictured, at a confirmation in Cardiff last weekend) was appointed eight years ago to help run the diocese in order to release the then Bishop of Llandaff, Dr Barry Morgan, to spend time on his duties as Archbishop of Wales. Archbishop Morgan retired at the end of January.
Speaking to the Church Times this week, Bishop Wilbourne said: “Over the past 18 months, I have been under considerable and increasing pressure to relinquish my post and leave Wales.” In one recent conversation, he had been strongly advised to resign before Easter.
He said: “Whilst I can fully see that the next Bishop of Llandaff deserves the space to be their own person, for the moment I remain upbeat about serving in this thriving diocese, and carrying out the role I was called here and consecrated to fulfil.”
Bishop Wilbourne’s open support for Dr John’s candidacy has not improved his prospects. He said this week: “Ever since I knew that Jeffrey was in the frame for Llandaff, I thought it would speak mountains about our policy of inclusion. Wales has led on that; so I can’t understand why the Bishops aren’t of the same mind.”
After the electoral college ended, Bishop Wilbourne organised a prayer vigil in Llandaff Cathedral. He described it as “the most remarkable of my ministry”.
There is a leader article, which can be read in full here. It concludes this way:
…Can the situation be rescued with any scrap of dignity? Only if the bench acknowledges the huge injustice perpetrated against a candidate who fulfils all the criteria for the post, and who convinced the diocesan representatives who interviewed him at length that he would bring wisdom, kindness, theological sensitivity, sound teaching, and good humour to the post. Among the “current challenges” listed on the diocesan profile is: “to increase the representation and inclusion of LGBTI, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Anglicans as an essential element of growth at all levels within the Church”. If Dr John is not reconsidered, this is a challenge that the Church in Wales has clearly failed.
Here is the text of a resignation statement from Bishop David Wilbourne dated yesterday.
Statement by Bishop David Wilbourne
It has been the greatest privilege to be Assistant Bishop of Llandaff these past eight years, a diocese which serves the beating heart of South Wales, teaming with life and hope. It has also been the greatest privilege to have worked with Dr Barry Morgan, the former Archbishop of Wales, and share in his very personable ministry, whose hallmark has been a remarkable reaching out to the lost and forsaken and those on the margins of society, making them feel truly welcome in the name of Christ.
Though the weeks since Dr Morgan retired have been full and fulfilling, increasingly I realise it is time to hand over the baton to the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff, so he or she can run free, enabling the Church which I have cherished these past years to flourish. I therefore intend to finish my time as Assistant Bishop on Easter Day 2017, just before the Sacred Synod approves our new bishop. I do so with the greatest gratitude for all the faithful parish priests and people here, whose marvellous ministry I am daily humbled by. I pray that you are given the bishop you so richly deserve, one who, in the words of Cardinal Basil Hume, simply comes to where people are and takes them to places they never dreamt of going.
One of my favourite novels is Trollope’s The Warden. Mr Harding finishes his time as Warden of Hiram’s hospital with these words, which I would like to make my own: ‘God bless you all! You have my heartfelt wishes for your welfare. I hope you may live contented, and die trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, thankful to Almighty God for all the good things he has given you.’
23 March 2017
And here is the official announcement about Bishop Wilbourne.
Sunday morning update
The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon was interviewed in this morning’s episode of Sunday on BBC Radio 4. Listen here, starting at 22 minutes.
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Church in Wales issues further statement about Llandaff
Updated again Thursday evening
This has been issued today:
Bishop of Llandaff appointment – statement
In response to further questions about the recent Electoral College for the Bishop of Llandaff , the Church in Wales has issued the following statement:
“We understand the disappointment felt by all the candidates considered by the Electoral College who did not secure enough support to be elected as Bishop of Llandaff. However we are satisfied that the Electoral College process was carried out properly and fairly.
“The meeting was confidential and we will not comment on speculation about the nomination and discussion of candidates. However, we strongly deny allegations of homophobia in the process. Neither homosexuality nor participation in a civil partnership are a bar to any candidate being either nominated or elected as a Bishop in the Church in Wales. Moreover, this was made clear to members of the Electoral College by its President, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.
“The Constitution of the Church in Wales requires that an electoral college meets for up to three days and that if the college fails to elect, the decision passes to the Bench of Bishops. The Bishops are now acting carefully in full accordance with the Constitution. Unlike the Electoral College process, there is no fixed timetable for an appointment process, however, the Bishops would wish to announce any appointment made as soon as all necessary formalities are finalised. The appointment process is underway and we see no reason to halt it.
“The Bishops have stressed during the whole process that whoever becomes Bishop of Llandaff, whatever their circumstances, will receive their full support.”
More information: the previous statement is here.
Some further coverage of this matter:
Church Times Reconsider Jeffrey John, Welsh MPs tell Bishops
And there was a open letter to the Welsh bishops from Changing Attitude Cymru which we failed to spot earlier.
And Southwark Cathedral.
A Time for Grace: Bishops’ responses to the concept of Unity in Diversity
Editors’ note: this is a guest piece by Susannah Clark.
It is obvious to any observer that the Church of England is faced with a stand-off on the issue of human sexuality, and is divided down the middle, trending in the direction of acceptance of gay and lesbian sex, but with people of good faith and strong conscience on either side, along with diverse views motivated by complex implications, related to understanding of gender, Communion-wide consequences, and the risk of schism in the English provinces. In these contexts it is disingenuous to suggest that there is a uniform position in the Church, or even among the bishops (as I have discovered for myself this month), whatever the ‘front’ of collegiality that gets projected. Indeed, the rejection of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ in England indicated that most people did not want a uniformity of view imposed on Anglicans, or the domination of one conscience by another one. This stand-off clearly cannot be resolved by political struggle over ‘Who is right?’ which only leads toward schism and, for many, what really matters is finding the grace to love one another, seeking the flourishing of those we disagree with, and finding our unity in Jesus Christ: a Unity in Diversity. The whole of the rest of the Church’s mission is too vital, and too important, for the Church to keep floundering and expending so much energy on sexuality in a perpetual stand-off.
To this end, I set out a case for the accommodation of diverse views, and wrote to 109 bishops, with the proviso that ‘no reply was expected or assumed’. Considering I am simply an obscure nurse it is touching that, in the event, 31 bishops have so far corresponded with me, expressing a wide range of views and positions, and demonstrating that there is indeed no uniformity of belief on these issues.
While not naming individual bishops out of respect for confidentiality, and mostly not quoting verbatim, I have detailed the issues raised by 14 of these bishops (and see below), whose statements typify the diversity of episcopal opinions and some of the problems and challenges we face. These problems of implementation are very realistically reviewed by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, in his address to the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod. I have not included the views of the Bishops of Buckingham and Bradwell which have already been well-publicised and both of which regret the recent Bishops’ Report of which the General Synod declined to take note — as did 14 retired bishops.
In the end, if we cannot respect and accommodate sincere but diverse views, and allow priests, PCCs and local churches to follow their consciences in the service of their own communities, we run the risk of evangelistic alienation of those communities, and alienation from one another as Christians. There is a strong case, reflected in the Bishops’ responses to me, not for imposed uniformity, but for the grace to disagree well in a broad and diverse Church. As Bishop John Wraw said: “There are very differing views on this [lgbti inclusion] within the Church of England and across the Anglican Communion, but there is much more we hold in common. Unity in Christ is a fact, a command, a promise; not simply something we can opt in and out of as we pick and choose. We need to live with our differences.” Indeed, perhaps the real test for us all is not “Who is right?”, but “Can we find abundance of grace and love?”… to co-exist, to serve, to welcome, to live with the diversity to which each one of us is called, uniquely, differently, in good conscience, as we are drawn towards that community of the Trinity, which is the eternal household of God, in whom alone in the end our unity is found — not in imposed uniformity or dogmatic correctness.
Perhaps we need to stop trying to dominate one another, and ‘winning the argument’. Perhaps really the argument is won to the extent we find love and grace for one another: accommodating each other’s consciences and as a Church becoming more than our individual parts, growing through our need for grace and the primary biblical imperative to exercise love, even uncomfortable love where people disagree. In short we arguably need a kind of power-sharing and peace process in the Church of England to end the long decades of stand-off and conflict, and turn to all the other crying needs of our communities: poverty, health and social care, loneliness, lostness, marginal lives, material craving and spiritual wastes; and the breakdown and atomisation of society, that in some ways we sadly mirror when we separate ourselves from each other in the Church, and let dogma polarise us rigidly, when actually it can separate and drive us apart, where grace might reconcile us and love might be calling us daily, with our diverse consciences and diverse expressions of faith, but giving us lives of sharing, and helping us bear in our own wounds and healing the touch of God’s love for hurting, yearning hearts.
To do this credibly, we need to demonstrate real love for each other, so people can see… not ‘how uniform we are’ but ‘how we love one another’. That challenge to love is surely, also, the challenge the bishops must face and are facing. No-one said it would be easy. They have written to me sincerely and with touching honesty. But in the face of decades more stand-off and division perhaps, as one of them says, “the key issue is Unity in Diversity” and as another states, “agreeing to disagree will have to be acknowledged in some way.” The crisis in the Church of England cannot be resolved by one side ‘winning’. Descending into schism and division is not winning. Grace is winning. Love is winning. Mutually recognising divergent consciences is winning. Unity in Diversity may face degrees of opposition, but it does at least reflect the realities of the Church of England — and what better solution exists for preventing wholesale schism and the dismantling of a broad and tolerant Church?
(The extended entry contains quotations from some of the responses received.)Continue reading "A Time for Grace: Bishops’ responses to the concept of Unity in Diversity"
Opinion - 22 March 2017
Linda Woodhead Modern Church The Philip North affair has exposed the theological weakness of ‘traditionalism’
Frances Coleman-Williams Metro Why I don’t tell people I’m Christian even though it’s a big part of my life
Archdruid Eileen The War on Easter
Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Becoming the best church we can be
Richard Coles has been taking to Katie Deighton of The Drum: Reverend Richard Coles: ‘The Church of England is spectacularly bad at handling the world of media and communications’.
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Welsh MPs write to the Bishops of the Church in Wales
The following letter has been sent to the Bishops by Members of Parliament from South Wales constituencies.
Election of a Bishop of Llandaff
It is with some reluctance and regret that we find ourselves needing to place our concerns relating to recent events within the Church in Wales on the public record.
We had heard from many quarters of concerns and allegations relating to homophobic comments made during the election process for the appointment of a Bishop of Llandaff.
We are aware that neither homosexuality nor civil partnership are a bar to appointment within the Church in Wales. We are strongly of the opinion that leadership, scholarship, compassion and communication skills are the primary qualifications for the tasks facing a Bishop in Wales.
We are sorry to hear the allegations, the distress and the acrimony recent events surrounding the appointment of a new Bishop of Llandaff have created within the Church.
We are of the opinion that ‘exhaustion’ cannot be acceptable as a reason not to appoint someone eminently qualified and what we are informed was the unanimous choice of the electors of Llandaff.
We feel that the present process has been flawed and has let to considerable disharmony, anger and confusion. We respectfully recommend that there is a pause in the appointment process to allow emotions to cool and sound council to be heard. It would then appear appropriate that a new election is called, open to past and new candidates to apply and an open and transparent decision be made. There is now a need for healing and rebuilding of trust and confidence in the legality and moral leadership of the appointment of a much needed new Bishop of Llandaff and we hope this will soon be possible.
Madeleine Moon MP Bridgend
Stephen Doughty MP (MP for Cardiff South and Penarth)
Carolyn Harris MP (MP for Swansea East)
Nia Griffiths MP (MP for Llanelli)
Chris Elmore MP (MP for Ogmore)
Chris Bryant MP (MP for Rhondda)
Chris Evans MP (MP for Islwyn)
Wayne David MP (MP for Caerphilly)
Gerald Jones MP (MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
OneBodyOneFaith writes to the Welsh bishops
The Chair of the Board of OneBodyOneFaith, Jeremy Pemberton, and Chief Executive Tracey Byrne have written an open letter to the bishops of Swansea and Brecon, Bangor, St Asaph, Monnmouth and St David’s regarding the process of appointing a new bishop to the diocese of Llandaff. The text of the letter is as follows:
An Open Letter to the Bishops of the Church in Wales
Dear Bishop X,
OneBodyOneFaith this morning published our concerns about the way the process to appoint a bishop for the See of Llandaff has been handled. The confidentiality of your processes has been blown open in a way that is very uncomfortable for you.
Jeffrey John has accused you collectively of not following due process in the way you have treated his candidature; of using his supposed notoriety, his sexuality and his relationship as an excuse for not appointing him. It is more difficult to fathom why you have acted in this way when three factors are taken into account: first, that he fulfilled the requirements of the Church in Wales in relation to the status and nature of his relationship. Secondly, that in the only other case of an appointment after a deadlocked Electoral College, the candidate appointed was arguably just as controversial as Jeffrey John. Lastly, the reported unanimity of the Llandaff electors is a strong indication of what they wish to happen.
We are very concerned that in your management of this situation you are repeating the mistakes that the Church of England has made over GS2055 and the See of Sheffield (for very different reasons). Those examples demonstrate starkly that the churches need bishops in whose leadership people can feel confident – regardless of the process for their appointment. As a candidate, Jeffrey John displays the integrity required in offering such leadership and had strong local support; it is a tragedy your people have been denied that opportunity. With the choices you have made, you risk weakening the authority of your personal and your collective episcopal office if people do not believe that there has been fair treatment or integrity in this process.
The dissonance between the views of individual bishops and their actions collectively is at best puzzling and at worst unhealthy for them, and for the church. That this should be manifest in such a small group of bishops as the Welsh bench is undermining not only of your authority, but also of your work in your dioceses. False collegiality militates against accountability and transparency. For example, the Bishop of St Asaph has recently established and endorsed an excellent initiative to support LGBT people though a dedicated chaplaincy. This now appears patronising, if he continues to be unwilling to challenge the collective structural homophobia of the bench of which he is a part. Again, the Statement from the bishops last April, which struck a notably positive note for LGBT people and assured them of work to make the Church in Wales a safe place, and which offered prayers for same-sex couples, is seriously compromised by your actions over the last few weeks.
Finally, we are very struck by the comment made by one of your number in a phone call to Jeffrey John on March 3rd that you are collectively “just too exhausted” to deal with the problems you believe his appointment would cause. If the bishops are ‘exhausted’ by this process, consider how much more so those many LGBT people who have been working for inclusion for decades. It seems quite remarkable that a bench of five people, none of whom has been in office more than nine years, would find this task beyond them. It is entirely unacceptable to problematise a gay man in the way you have. Indeed, it is an insult to him and to every other LGBT+ person in your church. We are not problems, we are part of the body of Christ and deserve to treated with dignity, and to be seen as a gift. The capacity of churches to throw talent away because it doesn’t come packaged in easily manageable forms is not a reason to discard both the gift and the bearer of the gift, nor does it make that an acceptable policy option. This issue is not one of energy or enthusiasm, but one of integrity, commitment and obedience to the Spirit.
For the health of your church and the recovery of confidence in leadership that is needed, and for the sake of the mission of God in Wales, we urge you to think again, halt the appointment process, review all that has happened, reconsider the candidates from the electoral process heeding the voices of the people of Llandaff, the standing of the bench of Bishops with the people of the Church in Wales, and how the church you lead is presently perceived by the wider public.
Yours in faith and hope,
Tracey Byrne, CEO
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair
for the Board of
Monday, 20 March 2017
See of Sheffield: Affirming Catholicism responds
A response to the nomination of the Rt Revd Philip North to, and his resignation from, the Diocese of Sheffield March 2017
Affirming Catholicism has watched with deep concern the circumstances surrounding the nomination of the Rt Reverend Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield and his subsequent withdrawal from that nomination. We are very aware of the hurt caused to many of those involved, including to many of the clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Sheffield and +Philip himself. We believe that the current situation reflects a failure to take seriously – on several sides – the Five Guiding Principles (see below) but we also believe that it illustrates how difficult is going to be to put these principles into practice, and reveals how much hurt and distrust still exists within the Church of England around questions of the ordination of women and the place in the Church of those who cannot accept it. It seems to us that the Church of England needs to reflect carefully on the three concepts which underpin the Five Guiding Principles: simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality.
We have been surprised by the apparent lack of recognition in some quarters of the fact that the Church of England has since 1994 been living with a situation in which a small minority of its bishops are in some sense “not in communion” with their female clergy. This situation existed before the admission of women to the episcopate in the Church of England, and we believe that reflecting on experiences of such situations can shed some light on what has happened over the past weeks.
There can be no question that clergy – including female clergy – and lay people who affirm the ordination of women can flourish in dioceses in which the diocesan bishop does not ordain women. Indeed, the Five Principles were in part predicated on the fact that relationships in such contexts had been found to be not only workable, but capable of promoting flourishing amongst all the clergy and lay people of such dioceses. It should probably also be recognised, however, that the dioceses where this is the case have often had a long history of having bishops who have had doubts about the ordination of women, and that this self-understanding has played a role in how relationships function.
Moreover, it is important that the complexities in describing experiences of ministry not be underestimated. The same situation may be experienced by different people in very different ways. One priest may experience the ministry of her bishop who does not recognise her priestly ordination as personally supportive and deeply affirming. Another may experience the ministry of the same bishop as profoundly undermining and unfriendly.
It must also be recognised that very difficult situations have sometimes arisen, in which female clergy have found themselves subject to discrimination, or opponents of women’s ministry have been appointed to parishes without proper consultation even when female clergy were already in post.
Those who do not accept the ordination of women have similar stories and mixed experiences from their own perspective.
We are aware too that the two positions which the Church of England is seeking to hold together are rooted in very different – and even opposed – understandings of what it means for women to be created in the image of God. For those who cannot accept the ministry of ordained women or those ordained by a woman, women are created spiritually equal but are called to different offices or ministries, or to a different place in the order of creation. For those who rejoice at the ordination of women, this is a fulfilment of a gospel imperative to equality, articulated in Paul’s recognition that “In Christ there is no male of female” (Galatians 3:28), and only slowly recognised after many centuries, and now anchored also in law. It is very hard for some of those who believe this is the case to understand how it can be right to take a different view on the ministry of women, or how that ministry can be properly affirmed by a diocesan bishop who does not ordain women.
All this results in complex series of relationships which are not easy to negotiate. And all too often it is the bad news stories which have been shared, whilst reports of flourishing across difference have been less prevalent. We believe that it is not always appreciated how much hurt has been caused and trust lost though the way in which the Church of England decided to proceed, not only in the ordination of women to the episcopate, but also in the ordination of women to the priesthood. We suggest that it would be helpful for the Church of England to compile a series of case studies which offer examples of mutual flourishing across difference, whilst being realistic about the difficulties which are sometimes expressed.
The settlement which the Church of England reached in order for women to be ordained to the priesthood and to the episcopate may be seen as theologically or ecclesiologically inconsistent. Consciously paradoxical, it was intended to enable the Church of England to move forward and the whole church to flourish. The Five Guiding Principles affirm that the Church is a community, not an organisation, and that its business is love, not unanimity.
What has happened in Sheffield raises profound questions about the integrity of the Church of England’s paradoxical way forward. If the Church of England is to make progress in moving forward together over the issue of same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage and leaving behind the double-think that LGBTI clergy currently face, it will be necessary to develop a similar accommodation whereby we agree to live together with profound disagreement. The current situation has shown vividly how painfully little trust exists in the Church of England across differences about the ordination of women. It shows the immense challenges facing the Church of England as it seeks to move forward together with a similar respect for difference on the issue of human sexuality.
Affirming Catholicism believes that the church is not a place in which there need to be winners and losers. Rather, other ways of living with difference are possible. These require of all involved patience, tolerance and openness – and in this way the fostering of trust.Continue reading "See of Sheffield: Affirming Catholicism responds "
OneBodyOneFaith writes about the See of Llandaff
Dean Jeffrey John and the Bishops of the Church in Wales
As an ecumenical organisation OneBodyOneFaith surveys the actions of all the churches in the UK in relation to their policies and practices with regards to LGBTI people. The Church in Wales is engaged in the process of replacing the Bishop of Llandaff, following the retirement of the previous bishop, Barry Morgan. The election process failed to produce a clear result, no candidate achieving a two-thirds majority of the electoral college in the time set. This means that the process now becomes an appointment process without a specified time scale, in the hands of the bishops of that church, in consultation with other designated representatives from the diocese in question and the other dioceses.
What has happened is that one of the members of the Electoral College broke the confidentiality of the meeting and let it be known that the Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John, who is in a civil partnership, had attracted over half of the Electoral College vote, but failed to meet the two-thirds majority required by, it is alleged, only two votes. The electors from the diocese in question, Llandaff, had unanimously backed Jeffrey John.
OneBodyOneFaith commends the individual who had the courage to break confidence on this occasion, and Dean John in publishing his letter. Far from showing a lack of integrity or faith in the process, what they have exposed is just the tiny tip of an iceberg in terms of injustices which are meted out to ‘rank and file’ LGBTI+ people by bishops on a weekly basis, behind closed doors, and under the cloak of ‘confidentiality’. Such behaviour – lack of accountability and transparency – is shameful and homophobic. It does not belong in the processes of any organisation and certainly not a Christian church.
There has only ever been one other occasion on which an Electoral College has failed to make a choice. This was in 2004 when Tony Crockett failed to receive a two-thirds majority for his election as Bishop of Bangor. He was a divorced and remarried man, and notwithstanding the controversy that this provoked, the bishops went ahead and appointed him almost immediately. He proved to be a faithful, popular and successful bishop, sadly dying in post only four years later.
It now appears that the bishops of the Church in Wales have decided to omit Jeffrey John from the short-list for the appointment process, notwithstanding the precedent set in 2004 and his popularity in the diocese. In the published notice about the appointment process there is no mention at all that previous candidates for election will be excluded from further consideration. Jeffrey John has now published his response to a letter from the Chair of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies. Bishop Davies’s original letter has also now been published on the internet.
In his letter, Jeffrey John accuses the bishops of anti-gay discrimination. Despite declaring that being gay and in a civil partnership is no bar to appointment, he claims that they have decided to bar his candidature on precisely and specifically those grounds, in contravention of their own rules.
It appears that they told him that they were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems that they believed his appointment would cause. There is no evidence of any problems being caused by his candidature, and no reason to think that it would cause any particular problems as Jeffrey’s personal relationship falls within the permitted guidelines. A divorced and remarried man they appointed immediately, a gay man in a relationship they exclude.
The bishops’ behaviour is a very clear example of the instability and inconsistency of the institutional practices of this Anglican church in the way it treats LGBTQ+ people. The open integrity of Jeffrey John causes them more psychological disturbance than gay clergy who are closeted or semi-closeted, certainly far more than a heterosexual man who was divorced and remarried, and they have been unable to act with professional and pastoral integrity themselves. Despite their own published codes relating to this matter, they cannot manage the stress. The consequence is unjust and discriminatory behaviour. It is the kind of tension and response that is well-described in a recent article in Theology, Ledbetter, Charles, Sexuality and informal authority in the Church of England, Theology 2017. Vol. 120(2) 112-121.
OneBodyOneFaith makes an urgent call to the Bishops of the Church in Wales to think again. It is vital for the good health of their church that they re-establish confidence in their leadership and the credibility of the election/appointment process. With this in mind, we ask them:
- To undertake a full enquiry into all the processes in this case before proceeding any further with an appointment
- Not to exclude any previous candidates from further consideration, as they gave no notice of this
- To follow the precedent of their church established in 2004 in appointing a bishop after a failed election, having regard to the support a particular candidate attracted in the diocese in question
- To abide by their own guidelines regarding candidates who are gay and in civil partnerships
- To apologise publicly to Jeffrey John for homophobic remarks and attitudes, and
- To listen to the voices of the people of the diocese of Llandaff and the Church in Wales
For the Board of
Monday 20th March 2017
Sunday, 19 March 2017
Llandaff: letter from Dean of St Albans
Updated again Monday afternoon
A letter has been made public today (Sunday) by the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. It has already appeared in numerous places on social media, and has been reported on by Christian Today:
And also on the BBC Callum May ‘Homophobia’ row over Bishop of Llandaff selection
Harriet Sherwood at the Guardian has Anglican clergyman accuses Church in Wales of homophobia.
The full text of the letter can be read here.
Readers may care to refer to this earlier article: Church in Wales publishes pastoral letter, authorises prayers for same sex couples.
The Church Times has published a very detailed report by Madeleine Davies Jeffrey John replies to exclusion from Llandaff: ‘This is how discrimination works’. This includes a statement from the Church in Wales which says:
“The Bishops strongly deny allegations of homophobia.”
The Guardian has a second article: Church in Wales urged to rethink rejection of gay candidate for bishop
The BBC has Bishop of Llandaff sexuality row ‘wholly wrong’.
And Harry Farley at Christian Today has a further article: Jeffrey John: Pressure mounts on Church in Wales after allegations of homophobia.
Saturday, 18 March 2017
Becoming God's People
Every Sunday we are praying that ‘… through a pilgrimage of prayer and discipline we may grow in grace and learn to be your people once again.’
We are, more or less, half way through Lent, and if we are to take that prayer seriously, we live in the hope that this is indeed a time of growth and learning. But what are we learning?
This year, more than before, it has struck me that this is a time when the disconnect between a church with a deep commitment to the liturgical seasons and the communities in which we live is profoundly evident. We have become used to a conversation about the changing character of Advent: there are laments for the lost solemnity of the weeks of preparation for Christmas, and the way in which the season of celebration seems to move earlier and earlier. The focus of those weeks, though, is shared by regular churchgoers, occasional attenders, and those way beyond the church walls: all are getting ready for one particular occasion, still largely shaped by one particular story.
Easter, the great destination of our Lenten pilgrimage, has far less traction on our culture. True, in the shops there are Easter eggs and a plentiful supply of decorations for cards and cakes involving spring flowers and fluffy chicks, and the shadow of an older Lent survives in occasional conversations about ‘giving something up’, but these weeks do not have a single point of reference in the way that December will.
Against that background, we endeavour to sustain a distinctive character to these forty days. Like any worthwhile pilgrimage, this is not an easy one, and as always, I am struggling to hold on to the possibilities of the season. Our usual practice, like many another parish, is to provide more ‘church’: discussion groups, additional services, times of prayer, all good in themselves. The other demands on time and attention from those beyond our church communities do not stop, however, and if we seek to withdraw from them we are in danger of creating new barriers between church and not church, losing sight of the image of God in the many for whom Lent has little meaning, while nurturing the few(er) for whom it is a profound experience.
Maybe, though, those beyond our churches who still speak of ‘giving something up’ have preserved a profound truth that we, within the churches with our Lenten encouragement to ‘taking something up’, have missed. Maybe we should be listening to those voices, and recognise that the time has come to return to that older practice. As we very slowly and unwillingly begin to understand the need to limit our demands on the earth, as we count the practical and emotional cost of constant connectivity, perhaps we can offer and model the long Christian tradition of abstinence, of learning to flourish through restraint and self-denial; for our time, our place, that perhaps would be being salt and light, a way of becoming ‘your people once again’.
Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford.
Opinion - 18 March 2017
Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau Are liberals illiberal about women priests?
Andrew Lightbown There0 Neither guides nor principles in the blame game
Kelvin Holdsworth St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta revisited — Does the Eucharist exist in cyberspace?
Marcia Pally ABC Religion and Ethics Forgive Us Our Trespasses? The Economics of the Lord’s Prayer
Giles Fraser The Guardian As Songs of Praise viewers will find out, the market is bad at doing religion
Charlotte Bannister-Parker ViaMedia.News Learning From our Disagreements
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Opinion - 15 March 2017
Christina Beardsley OneBodyOneFaith On not throwing stones at the late Revd Carol Stone
Kimberly Bohan wonderful exchange theology & flourishing: Why do we send ordinands to theological college?
Martin Seeley ViaMedia.News A Tale of Two Shared Conversations
Sonya Doragh and Lizzie Lowrie Diocese of Liverpool ‘Mother’s Day Runaways’ will offer a safe space to find God’s presence on Mothering Sunday eve
Anonymous The Guardian What I’m really thinking: the gay Christian
David Pocklington Law & Religion UK The Stirrings in Sheffield: the next steps in the appointment of a bishop in the See of Sheffield.
John Davies looks at how to prevent clergy-PCC relationships’ becoming a tug of war Church Times A responsibility to co-operate
Stephen Cottrell Presidential Address to Chelmsford Diocesan Synod, 11 March 2017
[Harry Farley of Christian Today reports on this: Bishop Calls For ‘Thanksgiving’ Prayers For Gay Couples]