Coekin: Butler gives his view

The Face to Faith godslot in the Guardian is written by the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler. His conclusion:

…We have yet to see how the new clergy discipline measure works in practice. There are cases in the pipeline in several dioceses but none has yet come to fruition. Bishops are concerned, however, that there is a danger that the new processes will dramatically change the nature of episcopal ministry. Typically, bishops prefer to intervene in a problem at an early stage, before matters become too serious. The pastoral and discipline roles of the bishop overlap through personal contact and discussion. Under the new measure the bishop has a formal role of judgment to exercise once the other processes have been completed. The advice is, therefore, for the bishop not to beome too involved at an early stage of a problem because he might prejudice himself from exercising his formal role later in the process. Yet solving problems at an early stage is what most bishops do best.

One must not overemphasise the difficulties. Most clergy most of the time in partnership with one another and with their bishop get on with the ministry of serving God and God’s world with dedication and commitment. They rarely trouble or are troubled by disciplinary measures old or new. But for the handful of cases needing to be handled, I think all bishops are going to be spending a fair bit of time with lawyers.

Christopher Smith, Lambeth Palace Chief of Staff, thinks the Guardian was unfair in its earlier report. (Note, he is not commenting on the other one, which exists only online, not on paper.)

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