Thinking Anglicans

three more Coekin items

First, the Church Times has this report Mr Coekin: licensed again, but warned to be obedient.

Second, Giles Fraser in his Church Times opinion column, has A matter not settled by a Technicality.

Third, and most interesting, the prolific Andrew Goddard has written a further analysis for Fulcrum entitled Some ramifications of the Coekin case:
He concludes thus:

…It had been claimed that such undertakings should not be demanded as they were ‘unreasonable’ and ‘unjustifiable’. These are claims one could imagine being echoed by others who sit loose to the authority of bishops in the Church of England, especially if those bishops are seen as ‘liberal’. This claim is clearly and firmly rejected by the Archbishop. In contrast, he makes clear that ‘their content reflects the legal obligations which Canon Law imposes upon any licensed minister’ (italics added). In short, what Richard Coekin and many of his supporters view as unreasonable and unjustifiable limitations on the freedom of a parish clergyperson are in fact binding obligations under canon law. Furthermore, as noted earlier, doctrinal disagreement with one’s bishop or declarations of ‘impaired communion’ are not legitimate defences for disobeying canon law.

To ask for written undertakings on the part of one individual troublesome priest who had misbehaved, while perhaps providing a form of the ‘merited censure’, could also have been seen as having no wider significance for other clergy and simply be a punishment for his personal misbehaviour. By deciding not to ask for such undertakings the Archbishop has opened the possibility for a personal and relational approach to reconciliation (rather than one of a reluctant legal declaration). But he has done much more. He has made it quite clear that ‘the onus placed upon the Appellant to conform to the discipline of the Church’ (which was the rationale for asking for undertakings) ‘is not in any way lessened’ and that Richard Coekin is left ‘bound to submit to the Respondent’s episcopal authority and accountable for his actions to the wider Church’. Furthermore, this is not only true of Richard Coekin nor is it limited to the peculiar and difficult situation of this sad case. What it was proposed by the Bishop of Winchester to be explicitly required of this one person in this one case is actually now clearly shown to be required of all clergy in all situations. Whatever one’s problems with one’s bishop, no clergyperson is above the law.

No clergyperson in the Church of England can therefore now claim ignorance of the significance and seriousness of their acts if they involve themselves in any ordinations without the approval of their diocesan or if they disregard episcopal directions concerning church planting. Any such actions are a flagrant rejection of the discipline of the church and the standard rhetorical defences offered by those who threaten such actions have been found to be without legal or theological basis. In future any similar acts of disobedience, whether by Richard Coekin or any other cleric, are likely to result in disciplinary proceedings not by summary revocation of their licence but under the new Clergy Discipline Measure. As long as care is taken to follow due process, there can now be little doubt that any bishop faced with repetitions of conduct similar to that of Richard Coekin will be able effectively to discipline those involved as they have been shown by this ruling to have absolutely no justification in law for such actions.

Giles Fraser mentions something that has been asserted by several commenters here on TA: that Emmanuel, the parent church of Dundonald, practices lay presidency at the Holy Communion. If this is true, then will the relevant clergy now be challenged on this?

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Giles Fraser
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Giles Fraser

Just a word of clarification. I have no evidence that Mr Coekin’s own church of Dundonald goes in for lay presidency. Though I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Rather, Dundonald Wimbledon is a plant of Emmanuel Wimbledon which certainly does go in for lay presidency. I had lunch with a chap – not ordained – from that church who regularly celebrates the Eucharist, just last week.

David
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David

The last paragraphs of Giles Fraser’s article read : “Why do these churches want to stay in the C of E? The trust deed of Mr Coekin ‘s church mentions Anglicanism only once, grudgingly to concede that the minister ought “ideally” to be an Anglican. In a diocese that supports ministry in some of the poorest parts of Europe, it pays nothing in parish share. And it takes no notice whatsoever of the bishop. No, I doubt whether the people there really want to be in the Church of England. But they want all the advantages of membership. They like… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

But you would say that, wouldn’t you – because you agree with the conservative fundamentalism preached there?

if the CofE goes down that road, it has no chance of reaching the vast majority of people who understandably find such beliefs repellent.

Giles Fraser
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Giles Fraser

Dave, you said this. “I believe in the 39 Articles and other doctrine set out in the Canons of the CofE”. So I take it from this that you therefore believe in Canon B 12 para 1. “No person shall consecrate and administer the holy sacarment of the Lord’s Supper unless he shall have been ordained priest by episcopal ordination in accordance with the provisions of Canon C 1.” Is that correct?

Martin Reynolds
Guest

The description of the bishop of Southwark as “pugnacious” and “not the sort of man to be crossed in a hurry” combined with another who said the Coekin ordinations caused him to go “ballistic” are why we are at this juncture. I could add a few more suitable epithets but they would all be in the same vein. Now we see all this bluster and not a little abuse at others because this silly, block-headed man cocked it up! I like firm and decisive leadership when it is appropriate and I think that the Coekin ordinations called precisely for that,… Read more »

Alan Marsh
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Alan Marsh

This article is seriously not worthy of Giles Fraser. It is wholly intemperate and probably defamatory of these church plants and of the CESA – and completely one sided, with no mention of the way Dr Butler has failed to provide ordination for their leadership, despite qualified candidates and many requests.

It calls into question whether it is appropriate for a non-journalist to be allowed to use such a vehicle in which to parade such views. But it’s all too typical of the modern Church Times, unfortunately.

Marshall Scott
Guest

Mr. Goddard’s comment is quite interesting indeed. Has ++Rowan been more subtle and more rigorous than we had appreciated? It would seem so.

Dave
Guest
Dave

I was surprised that +Southwark, Giles Fraser and others are calling the bishop’s failure to properly spell out charges a “technicality”. Don’t they think that serious charges against anyone (even a conservative) should be brought properly …. removing someone’s licence is an extremely serious move !

ps David was not Dave.

Dave
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Dave

pps I thought that, after his previous article (May 2006), Giles had admitted here on TA: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/cgi-bin/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=1682 that he didn’t say lay presidency was sinful… he was just quoting other people’s views ? What is more I think there was pretty good “cross-party” agreement that it is probably less harmful that unauthorized lay preaching – at least if you follow a laid down liturgy – and that it probably goes on across the board (lib-con). So why highlight just one “sinner” now ?

Dave
Guest
Dave

And finally.. I keep feeling uncomfortable with the fact that many issues are being created *because* of the geographical model of episcopal responsibility. This means that we have many Bishops who feel unable to trust some of the largest churches and most successful clergy in their diocese, and some clergy and churches who feel that they constantly have to be “looking over their shoulder”. Strained relationships are hardly anything new either. Just because they may not have had a name like ‘impaired communion’ before didn’t make them any the less real. For instance, how many clergy used to defy their… Read more »

Marshall Scott
Guest

Alan, should the Bishop of Southwark provide ordination for leadership for these missions? Their relationship with the Church of England seems questionable at base. Had he provided some ordained leadership he might have affected that somewhat; but if Mr. Coekin’s attitude toward episcopal authority is any indication, it may well have affected it very little. In that case, why support one priest who does not accept episcopal authority by providing other ordained clergy who may well agree with Mr. Coekin? Again, this is not a reflection on what God may be doing in those missions. However, there were evidently questions… Read more »

jody
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jody

I believe that +Tom refused to ordain the candidates partly because he called into question the churchplanting strategy of Coekin, however it was also because they did not go through the discerning process that the rest of us would deem a very important part of confirming a calling. I for one am extremely glad that the CofE is a bit of a ‘slow moving beast’ in this respect. Although we might feel clear that God is calling us to the priesthood we are not autonomous in our being and we need to discern ‘as a body’ the calling. Let’s be… Read more »

Anglicanus
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Anglicanus

In defense of Dr Fraser, I wonder if Alan Marsh has read the article Dr Fraser wrote about journalism? In it he made a plea for those writing to reveal their point of view and not adopt an ‘independent’ view point, which in many cases they cannot maintain. Much better that the reader is allowed to hear the author’s perspective clearly and can therefore make hes/her own judgement at to the weight that should be given to the article. Very much a case of ‘let the reader understand’. As to what Dr Fraser wrote in this particular article, it was… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

Jody – what do you mean by “they did not go through the discerning process that the rest of us would deem a very important part of confirming a calling”?

David Chillman
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David Chillman

“Everyone would breath a huge sigh of relief if episcopal authority was exercised over recognised Anglican networks, instead of over geographical areas.” That is far too simplistic and indeed could lead to more and worse problems than are already faced now. For a start, such networks are inevitably narrowly-focussed and do nothing to enhance and support the vision of a wider, catholic church. Indeed, it is because of the (predominantly evangelical) preference for such networks over diocesan structures that we have such a growing failure of the different wings of the C of E to understand and work with each… Read more »

Alan Marsh
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Alan Marsh

My understanding is that these candidates had been through the ordination selection process and had completed their theological training in a recognised college. The church plants wanted ordained leadership and turned, as one does, to the bishop of the diocese, one of whose primary tasks is to ordain clergy for congregations. They were not going to present problems for the diocese’s Sheffield quota of clergy, because they were going also to be non-stipendiary – ie costing the diocese nothing. They were not ordained – and therefore kept within the Church of England under supervision of the diocesan bishop – because… Read more »

Alan Marsh
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Alan Marsh

My information is that these men had indeed been through all the processes of selection and had completed their training, like anyone else. Their “offence” in the eyes of Dr Butler, was (I am told) to have trained at Oak Hill, one of the recognised theological colleges of the Church of England – but Evangelical (!)

When a bishop behaves this unreasonably, it is impossible to have any sympathy for him.

I would like to know how much he has cost the Church of England in pursuing his private vendetta, and whether any of it can be recovered from him.

drdanfee
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drdanfee

I do not so far hear that people who like most to call themselves biblical-conservative believers are much interested in relationships of general democratic equality in which all the parties are more or less equal. Unless we all agree to mainly define relationships as being highly conformed connections which hew to what a conformed group already knows, believes, and has long ago ceased to critically evaluate from any other alternative framework. Yes, other groups can fall into these traps of making connection=conformity, and ordinary group formation processes require some degree of boundary/interaction conformity as a forming stage of group life;… Read more »

Neil
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Neil

Re Dave and David Chillman episcope over networks rather than geography. It would be good to see a thorough debate on this. I actually think Dave is onto something, though David is quite right to warn about the dangers of the ghetto. Provision has already been granted to Catholics who in conscience do not believe God’s intention is for women to be priests or bishops. Surely this is a network?

Rupert Standring
Guest
Rupert Standring

Dr. Fraser seems very keen to hold us all up to the mark on our Anglican formularies, perhaps he could list which of the 39 Articles he believes (or the ones he doesn’t – which ever is shorter)?!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dear David Chillman and Neil, thanks for your comments. I’m not so much worried about inter-church cooperation. I think that local churches (Anglican and otherwise) mostly have a very good record of working together. In fact in one city I lived recently every church leader except one – from the RC to the American Evangelical church(!) – prayed and worked together on projects. Similarly I think that the Bishops find ways to get on with each other. The issue in my mind is the difficult working relationships between Bishops and churches where the vision and objectives are so different.

Dave
Guest
Dave

ps Networks are by no means an evangelical preserve. Here are some others you might recognise: Affirming Catholics, Forward in Faith, Modern Church Persons Union, Inclusive Church .

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

I’d endorse wholeheartedly Giles Fraser’s recommendation of thoroughly biased journalism. This is really one way of saying that the only way we can tell how the land truly lies is for each of us to be ruthlessly honest about what we actually believe, rather than assuming that the prevailing paradigm (which may derive merely from second-hand repetition) must be better tahn our own ‘biased’ viewpoint. I also can’t understand why he is so insistent about a minor matter like ‘lay presidency’ (does anyone stop to think that neither ‘lay’ nor ‘presidency’ is a foundational Christian concept anyway?) when simultaneously himself… Read more »

Steve Watson.
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Steve Watson.

Every ‘celebration’ by someone not ordained in the ‘historic episcopacy’ (a doubtful concept in itself), including Methodists, Presbyertians, Baptists and others, must count as ‘lay presidency’ in Giles Fraser’s eyes. Such uninclusive Anglo-chauvinism! But Christopher Shell has it right. The notions of ‘laity’ (rather than laos) and ‘presidency’ are patristic rather than biblical. I don’t understand how Rev Fraser is happy to dump biblical teaching on homosexuality while raising a wholly synthetic fuss over a concept not found in Scripture.

L.L.Baynes
Guest

If priests are to ignore their own consciences, and govern their actions solely according to Canon Law and the peccadillos of the bishop they are landed with, it is no wonder that most churches are ‘going down the pan’. We here in Stapleford, where Richard Coekin spent his youth, are, in a way, in a similar position. The Archdeacon (with the acquiesence of his bishop) want, without cause, to get rid of our much loved priest, who has built the church congregation and finances up to about twice the size of that of the neighbouring priest, who, it was ‘ordained’… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

The situation described by L.L. Baynes ought not to go unchallenged.

Who says ‘there is nothing to discuss’ (in a case where there clearly is) apart from someone who is abusing their power and/or has something to hide?

As for the Freemasonry who knows? One hopes not. I thought their influence had been diminishing for the last 20 years. How is it that some denominations would never get within a million miles of countenancing freemasons in membership? If they can manage it why can’t the anglicans? Doesn’t that alone tell us that something is wrong.

L.L.Baynes
Guest

It appears that Freemasonry is shared by both the priest and archdeacon who, it seems, conspired to get rid of our priest, and bring our parish under his aegis. Numerically our parish is about a third of the size of his, yet our membership is about double, as are our financial contributions. Moreover, our priest is considered to be part time, so is only on half pay, and has to take on another part-time job. Whereas the priest who wants to take us over is not only on full pay, but has a curate and a (fellow Freemason) lay reader.… Read more »