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Press release from the Church of England
House of Bishops
A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today on Thursday, the 21st of May 2020 (by Zoom).
The meeting was a resumption of the previous meeting of the House of 19 May which was adjourned by the Chair due to technical issues.
Amongst the issues discussed by the House:
The Archbishop of Canterbury led a Vote of Thanks on behalf of the House, to the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu for his dedicated ministry and service.
The next meeting will be held on 9 June 2020.4 Comments
As I reported earlier this month the July meeting of General Synod has been cancelled. In addition the Archbishops said they would ask the Privy Council to postpose the election of a new Synod, due this summer, by twelve months. The Council met yesterday, and accepted the Archbishops’ request. The current Synod will now be dissolved on 31 July 2021.
The details are in Statutory Instrument 2020 No 526: The General Synod of the Church of England (Postponement of Elections) Order 2020.4 Comments
The Church of England has announced that Stephen Cottrell will be confirmed as the next Archbishop of York on 9 July 2020. The proceedings will be via video conference. Details are in today’s press release which is copied below.
Confirmation of Election of Bishop Stephen Cottrell as the 98th Archbishop of York, Thursday 9 July 2020
Bishop Stephen Geoffrey Cottrell will be confirmed as the 98th Archbishop of York at 11am on Thursday 9 July 2020, in a service broadcast entirely via video conference due to the Coronavirus restrictions. As Presiding Judge, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has granted permission for the virtual service to take place.
The service, which had been due to take place in York Minster, will be in two parts: a legal ceremony with readings, prayers and music; and a film marking the start of Bishop Stephen’s ministry as Archbishop of York.
The service will include music from York Minster Choir and Manor Church of England Academy School (York). Young people from across the North of England, will read a letter written by the medieval religious scholar Alcuin of York. Bishop Stephen will offer his first address as Archbishop of York. Prayers will be offered for the Archbishop, the Diocese of York and the Northern Province of the Church of England as well as for the wider world in these difficult times. (more…)34 Comments
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Updated yet again Thursday evening
The Church of England has issued this:
Statement on latest Government guidance on coronavirus
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We note from the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings.
“We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued this:
The timing and the manner of the opening of churches touches profound sensitivities and spiritual needs. The Government’s document and statements fail to recognise this.
The Government’s position, established today, includes these steps aimed at opening churches as soon as possible: the establishment of a task force for places of worship, to work closely with ‘stakeholders’ in ensuring that premises are COVID-19 secure; and heeding the experience of other countries in which churches are already open for worship.
In dialogue with the Government, the Catholic Church will continue its engagement in this process and has already submitted a detailed plan, in full accordance with public health guidelines, for churches to be opened for private prayer.
The Church is ready to play its full part in the task force, understanding that this includes the possible earlier use of churches for private prayer, as a first safe step towards their use for public worship.
Will these two organisations now consult each other? The Catholic bishops took full advantage from the outset of the government regulations, to maintain livestreamed worship from inside their church buildings.
Update 1 Wednesday evening
The Government has announced that Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, will chair a taskforce to develop plans for the re-opening of “places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings”. For more detail see Reopening of places of worship in England: breaking news and the government announcement is here.
Update 2 Thursday morning
The Church of England had issued this press release:
Notice from House of Bishops meeting
The House of Bishop met by Zoom today. The bishops prayed together and continued to discuss all matters relating to the COVID 19 pandemic and how they affect the church.
Several hours later, this was replaced by a revised version:
Notice from House of Bishops meeting
The House of Bishops met today (on Zoom) where the various impacts of Covid-19 on a wide range of church matters and national issues were discussed. The Bishops continued in prayer for the victims and families of those most affected.
Update 3 Thursday afternoon
The Church Times has published this report: Churches wary, as task force meets to plan reopening. This includes a full report on the views of Cardinal Nichols.16 Comments
Yesterday Bishop Stephen Cottrell had a letter published in The Times. Text available here.
The following letter from Bishop Richard Llewellin appears in The Times today, in response.
SHIFTING THE BLAME
Sir, Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s letter (May 11) misses the point. The decision to close buildings for public worship was indeed made by the government, but the instruction (and it was an instruction, not advice) that even our clergy should not enter their own churches for prayer was given by our bishops. That instruction went well beyond what the government required of its citizens, and sent a signal that the C of E was closing down completely. Resourceful clergy have been making the best of it by streaming prayer and worship from their own homes and have, of course, offered ministry alongside their parishioners in many other ways. But kitchen table is not an altar, and living room not a church. These latter are not dispensable things of convenience, but symbols of God’s presence with us and His care for us in these dangerous and difficult times.
The Right Rev Richard Llewellin
Bishop at Lambeth 1999-2004; Canterbury
Meanwhile, over at the Telegraph, Stephen Cottrell has written an article: The Church will emerge from the coronavirus crisis even stronger. For those unable to view directly, the Church of England has reproduced it in full on its Facebook page (albeit with a different headline: God is at work, even when our church buildings are closed) and also on the CofE website.
This is reported in a Telegraph news article: Clergy to start streaming services from churches this week, Archbishop designate confirms
…The guidance that churches must close completely was given on March 23 in response to the outbreak and has been reviewed “on an ongoing basis”, with the Bishops acting “within Government advice and in line with best public health practice”.
The policy attracted protests, including a letter published in The Times and signed by more than 600 clergy and laity.
Last month, The Telegraph reported that some vicars were rebelling against guidance issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury ahead of the Easter weekend, warning clergy that they could not enter churches for solo prayer nor to film a service, despite provisions for this in the Government’s lockdown rules.
The Most Rev Justin Welby used a YouTube message to echo the first Government slogan repeated during the daily ministerial press conferences on coronavirus, saying it was vital that the church “set an example” in following the guidance to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
“By closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message,” he said. Some vicars responded by saying: “Now is the time to revolt.”
Yesterday’s post links to a detailed analysis of the various previous statements from the House of Bishops, which explains why the original “advice” of the House of Bishops, which was more stringent than the government regulations require, provoked criticism.10 Comments
Bishop of Chester: 12 May 2020
Queen approves nomination of Reverend Mark Simon Austin Tanner as Bishop of Chester.
Published 12 May 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Mark Simon Austin Tanner MA BA MTh, Suffragan Bishop of Berwick, for election as Bishop of Chester in succession to The Right Reverend Doctor Peter Forster, following his resignation on 30th September 2019.21 Comments
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We reported the action of the CofE House of Bishops earlier this week here: Bishops discuss access to church buildings.
Before that announcement was made, Angela Tilby had written this for the Church Times: The C of E has become member-only.
…As Bishop Peter Selby suggested in an article in The Tablet last week, the result, in effect, has been to “privatise” the Church of England — achieving what the National Secular Society has failed to do in years of earnest campaigning.
How trite has been the little trope that “The Church is people, not buildings,” which totally misses the point about the public and institutional nature of the Church. We are now a domestic, members-only Church, with nothing to say to the nation about death, sacrifice, or charity, and nothing to plead before God on behalf of us all.
What we are left with is what the narrator in E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India describes as “poor little talkative Christianity”, delighted with itself for having mastered Zoom meetings, and talking excitedly about new mission opportunities, while refusing, in some cases, “for safety reasons”, even to put the church notices through the doors of those who have no access to the internet. There are many priests, of course, who have battled their way through this, still finding ways to connect with the needy and vulnerable — even, sometimes, and with a bad conscience, creeping into their churches to pray…
And Meg Warner had written: Re-visiting Aberfan: The Church of England and Covid-19
…Such a concession – the apparent lack of conviction that the Church of England has anything to offer the situation – is deeply disheartening. The Church of England’s experience of the disasters of 2017 shows it also to be wrong.
Why is it that the Church of England now appears to be content to throw away the green shoots of its new life that everybody else seems to have noticed in 2017?
The parallels between the Queen and Aberfan and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Covid-19 are not, I suggest, superficial and they are not coincidental. As valid and cogent as the five reasons articulated by the Archbishop may be, they do not paint the full picture. The Bishops’ decision, the Aberfan story suggests, is motivated, at least in part, by fear. The fear is that the Church of England has little to offer to Covid-19 society, and that if offered, it would likely be judged irrelevant, and therefore self-indulgent and dangerous.
Ironically, the Archbishop’s decision to withdraw to his palace, away from public consciousness, and to direct his bishops and priests to do likewise, just as in the case of the withdrawal of the Queen after Aberfan and the death of Diana, raises the spectre of precisely the outcome the Archbishop and the Church of England are keen to avoid. Like Oedipus and the Queen, the Archbishop, in his attempt to ‘do the right thing’, risks bringing about the very disaster of which he himself has often warned – that the churches might be empty by the end of his unexpectedly long tenure at Canterbury….
Afterwards, Richard Burridge wrote this detailed analysis of the bishops’ statements.
…However, this means that the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what is happening is denied [the bishops] – and therefore perhaps the responsibility for this falls on those of us who are retired and on the sidelines in this situation, locked down with nothing else to do but think and write (the excellent article by +Peter Selby in the Tablet last week was a superb example of this). In that spirit I offer these reflections in an attempt to “speak the truth in love” to my episcopal friends and former colleagues – and pray that they might be able to receive it, although I say hard things, in that same spirit. And I also apologise for any offence or hurt caused by the previous circulation of these reflections – that was not my intent, sorry.
This is because I find the Statement profoundly worrying in its use of language. It would have been a golden opportunity, in an admittedly extremely complex and fast-moving situation to give the nation an example of how Christians can admit to having made a mistake, change their minds (which is what ‘repentance’, metanoia, means in Greek), apologise, and seek forgiveness and a new way forward in life – as indeed I am trying to do in this amended version. Instead, I fear that its use of language, with its ‘doublethink’, is regrettably typical more of the approach being taken by leading politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, than that of teachers of the faith and shepherds of Christ’s flock…
I do recommend that you read the whole of his article, carefully.52 Comments
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House of Bishops backs phased approach to revising access to church buildings
The House of Bishops met via Zoom this afternoon, as it has done regularly throughout the current pandemic, and continued to review advice to clergy on the Church’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus, to protect the vulnerable and health services.
In a discussion led by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who chairs a group examining how the Church of England might proceed once the current restrictions for COVID-19 are relaxed or lifted, the House of Bishops recognised that there have been some welcome signs of improvement in the current situation, including a reduction in new cases and hospital admissions giving evidence for hope.
While church buildings remain closed for public worship, in line with Government advice, the Bishops agreed in principle to a phased approach to lifting restrictions, in time and in parallel with the Government’s approach, with three broad stages as infection levels improve:
The Bishops agreed that the decision on the timing of when to implement the revised advice on ministers or worship leaders praying and streaming from their church buildings should be made by individual Diocesan Bishops, depending on their local situation.
The Bishops were clear once again that this is guidance – not an instruction or law – and that it will be constantly reviewed depending on the national situation.
National Church of England guidance will be updated in the coming days with further advice on how the staged process could be implemented and with factors and information for dioceses to consider.
Bishop Sarah said: “We are hugely grateful for all that our churches and clergy have been doing to support the Government’s message to stay at home, to support the NHS, and to save lives.
“While it is clear there will be no imminent return to normality, the emphasis is now turning towards how and when aspects of social distancing can be eased, although we remain mindful of the potential risks of a second wave of the virus.
“Nevertheless, it now makes sense for us to start to look ahead to the potential easing of restrictions so that our clergy and churches can be prepared.”
The planned residential meeting of General Synod due to take place in York in July has been cancelled. In a press release today the officers of Synod also set out proposals for members of Synod to meet informally and remotely. The Archbishops will also ask the Privy Council to postpose the election of a new Synod, due this summer, by twelve months.
The press release is copied below.
General Synod officers examining possibility of ‘virtual’ meetings amid coronavirus challenge
The Church of England is looking at options including a possible change in the law to enable the General Synod to meet remotely, in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to all members of Synod today, the officers of Synod confirm that they have used their legal powers to cancel the planned residential meeting due to take place York in July in light of the current restrictions.
However, they set out proposals for members of Synod to meet informally and remotely, potentially in a similar way to the current sittings of Parliament, as well as details of an extension to the term of the current Synod by a year.
Under the current rules, Synod can only pass legislation and transact key business by meeting in person.
In their letter, the officers – the Archbishops, Prolocutors of Canterbury and York of the House of Clergy, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity – say they wish to explore with the Government the possibility of Parliament passing legislation to enable the Synod to transact its business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person.
If it is not possible to do this in time to arrange a remote sitting in July, they suggest an informal remote meeting of Synod members in July when, although they could not pass legislation or take other decisions, could discuss urgent matters and carry out scrutiny.
Separately, Parliament has already approved a provision in the Coronavirus Act 2020 enabling the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to request an order postponing the elections to General Synod due to take place this summer.
A request to postpone the elections for a year is due to be considered by the Privy Council shortly. It would enable the current Synod to meet in November. If it were still not possible to meet physically by then, it is hoped that Parliament will have passed legislation so that an official sitting of the Synod by “virtual” means would be possible.
Synod members are to be surveyed to gauge support for the idea.
Canon Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, said: “The residential York Synod is a time to renew friendships and debate important matters; cancelling it has been a hard, but necessary, decision.
“We must now find ways, together, to ensure that the Synod’s vital work of engaging with legislation and scrutiny can continue.”
The Revd Canon Chris Newlands, Prolocutor of the Convocation of York, said: “The decision to cancel the physical gathering of General Synod was taken only after much prayer and reflection, conscious that we need to listen to the mind of the whole Synod more than ever at this time, though we are constrained by the measures currently in force nationally and the legal requirements that have to be met for a meeting of Synod.
“We very much hope that when we are able to gather physically once again, we will together seek to discern how God is calling us to be His Church in England in the ‘new normal’ of life after the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Revd Canon Sue Booys, Chair of Synod’s Business Committee, said: “It is obviously right in our current circumstances to take steps to minimise risk to Synod members and those who would serve them in York by cancelling the formal sessions in July.
“The Business Committee is ready to fulfil our role in finding ways to generate and enable discussion about issues of importance as well as to explore and make arrangements for a future formally constituted group of sessions.
“We will be working with others to enable the legal framework we need to allow our business to proceed properly and give Synod members the opportunity to scrutinise and comment on business.”
Notes to editors
The Officers of the General Synod are:
Text of letter to The Times
As the Bishops of the Church of England meet to consider their next steps in response to the pandemic, we call on them to change their current policy, which prevents clergy from visiting their churches to pray or broadcast a service. Bishop Peter Selby in The Tablet last week (‘Is Anglicanism going private?’, 30th April 2020), speaks for many laity and clergy about the Church of England’s current approach. We fear, like him, that ‘this may mark a decisive point in the retreat of the Church of England from the public to the private realm’. We regard what has happened to be a failure of the Church’s responsibility to the nation, stifling our prophetic witness and defence of the poor, and ask for open discussion and accountability through the Church’s structures and other forums regarding the processes and thinking which led to these decisions.
It is widely agreed that the temporary closure of churches for public worship is necessary in the current crisis. However, the broadcast of services from a closed church is explicitly permitted by government guidelines, yet unlike almost all other Churches in these isles, the Church of England has gone beyond this advice. Without detracting from the excellent worship offered by many clergy in their homes, domestic settings cannot replace the church buildings whose architecture, symbolism and history represent the consecration of our public life. Moreover, Church of England clergy have also been prevented from ministering in schools educating the children of key workers and to the sick and dying in hospitals.
As the government is talking about the hope of easing the national lockdown could the Church of England now offer similar hope to its people with this first step?
Full list of signatories (names are still being added)
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[Free registration my be required to access this article]
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Update – Helen King writes about the postponement: Stopping: and starting?
The Church of England issued the following press release today.
Living in Love and Faith: update in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
The House of Bishops has agreed that, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the publication of the Living in Love and Faith resources, which had been scheduled to take place in June, should be postponed.
In a statement, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the Bishops of Coventry and London, emphasise that work on the Living in Love and Faith resources continues and that the situation will be monitored to discern the most appropriate time for their publication.
The archbishops and bishops also reiterate that the publication of the resources will initiate a process of whole Church engagement, within a clear timeframe, to enable the Church to discern and decide about the way forward for the Church in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
In recent weeks and months, almost every aspect of our lives – and the life of the whole Church – has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Inevitably, that has prompted some serious thought about our plans for the publication of the Living in Love and Faith resources and what we envisaged might come next: a process of church-wide engagement and episcopal discernment and decision making about the way forward for the Church in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
The LLF resources were due to be published at the end of June 2020. However, the Church’s focus is now on ministering to people who are experiencing so many challenges – of bereavement, sickness, isolation, uncertainty about livelihood and fear for what the future holds. That is why we have decided to delay the publication of the resources. We know that there may be real disappointment about this delay, especially for LGBTI+ people, and we are grateful for the continued engagement of so many in the LLF process.
It is important to say, however, that while the publication date has been delayed, Living in Love and Faith has not simply been parked. Far from it: a huge amount of work and prayerful engagement has gone into the resources and we are more hopeful than ever that they will enable the people of God to learn together about human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage in the context of our life together in love and faith.
No one can predict how COVID-19 will affect the life of the Church or society over the coming months and years. That is why we will monitor the situation to discern when might be the earliest appropriate time to publish the long-awaited LLF resources and thereby launch the process of whole-church engagement.
The production of the resources continues to be in hand under the leadership of the Bishop of Coventry. We hope that, when the time is right, they will serve the life of the Church. It is likely that the resources will seek to reflect and give due attention to the context in which they will eventually be launched.
As well as the resources themselves we have also been giving prayerful thought to what would come next following their publication. The House of Bishops has agreed that, when that time comes, there will be a process of engagement right across the Church. This will take place within a clear timeframe under the leadership of the Bishop of London and will enable the Church to discern and decide about the way forward for the Church in relation to questions of human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
We will say more on how that might be shaped when our current situation becomes clearer. The Archbishop of York Designate, who will be in post when the resources are published and disseminated, has been consulted about these plans and supports them.
The vision continues to be one of enabling the whole Church to explore the resources together and so to contribute to the Church’s discernment about these matters that affect deeply our life together in love and faith.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of York
The Bishop of Coventry
The Bishop of London48 Comments
Fergus Butler-Gallie reviewed streamed services from the Church of England and protestant churches for BBC Radio 4‘s Sunday programme (listen from 3 min 16 sec).
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The Prime Minister’s Office has announced today two new suffragan bishops for the Diocese of Chichester. Ruth Bushyager is to be Bishop of Horsham and William Hazlewood is to Bishop of Lewes. The two press releases are copied below and there is more detail on the Chichester diocesan website
Suffragan See of Horsham: 29 April 2020
Queen approves nomination of the Reverend Ruth Kathleen Frances Bushyager to the Suffragan See of Horsham.
Published 29 April 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Ruth Kathleen Frances Bushyager, BA, MSci, Vicar of St Paul’s Dorking and Area Dean for Dorking in the Diocese of Guildford to the Suffragan See of Horsham, in the Diocese of Chichester, in succession to the Right Reverend Mark Sowerby who resigned on 1st September 2019.
Suffragan See of Lewes: 29 April 2020
Queen approves nomination of the Reverend Prebendary William Peter Guy Hazlewood to the Suffragan See of Lewes.
Published 29 April 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Prebendary William Peter Guy Hazlewood, Vicar of the United Benefice of Dartmouth and Dittisham and Honorary Canon at Exeter Cathedral, in the Diocese of Exeter, to the Suffragan See of Lewes, in the Diocese of Chichester, in succession to the Right Reverend Richard Jackson following his translation to the See of Hereford.29 Comments