Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 23 January 2016

Ian Paul The Primates and Public Relations

Bosco Peters 11 Ways To Stop Church Growth

Simon Hunter Law & Religion UK What is a “church” in English law?

Jonathan Chaplin Law & Religion UK ‘Living with Difference’: Time for a constructive Christian engagement

Martin Saunders Christian Today ‘When a knight won his spurs’: the lost genius of the 1980s school hymn

Andrew Brown The Guardian No religion is the new religion

Mark Woods Christian Today Church decline: Is evangelicalism to blame?

Stephen Altrogge The Blazing Center Early Warning Signs of Adult Onset Calvinism

Richard Chartres Church Times And Esau was an hairy man

Gabrielle Higgins, Chichester Diocesan Secretary, Bishop George Bell – points on a complex case

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Father David
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Father David

Here’s me thinking that we were entering a new era of openness when it came to the wickedness of alleged child abuse and that cover ups were a thing of the past to be shunned. However the Chichester Diocesan Secretary’s article on the destroyed reputation of Bishop George Bell reeks of secrecy and is in itself surely a cover up?

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

Several very interesting pieces: Bosco Peters’ article is not just witty, but very important; I have attended services at a large number of churches in southern, midland and eastern England; between about a third and a half of parishes fall foul of the ‘steps’ he has traced. The Commissioners invested in achurchnearyou some time ago; they did so for a purpose – so can incumbents and churchwardens please use it to provide up to date service times! And how many churches do I still encounter which have absolutely no information about forthcoming service times – not even in porches or… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Regarding Ian Paul and Primatial P.R., Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz told the Anglican Journal, in a piece published January 20th, “…while he considers the meeting to have been, on the whole, a success, Hiltz said Anglican Communion Office personnel could have brought much-needed clarity to the proceedings.”

In a subsequent Anglican Journal piece, Hiltz talks about the Primates’ conversations on climate change and violence.

http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/hiltz-primates-meeting-saw-increased-participation-on-climate-change-religious-violence

Father David
Guest
Father David

Quite so, Froghole, Bishop Bell retired to Canterbury where he had previously served as Dean and died there. One of his final acts was to go and perform the opening ceremony at Bishop Bell School at Eastbourne, named in his honour but alas, soon to be renamed. The school possesses a very fine full length portrait of Bishop Bell and has his framed mitre on display in the school hall which he kindly bequeathed to them as a most generous gift.

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

Re Andrew Brown…it was J N Figgis the political theorist and Anglican monk who in his work on political pluralism over a hundred yrs ago…see also the late ( and much lamented) David Nichols who made the point that in an increasingly pluralist state the C of E would become less inclusive and more exclusive.

James Byron
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James Byron

In treating the presumption of innocence as a narrow technicality relevant only in criminal cases, for a lawyer, Gabrielle Higgins shows a shocking lack of understanding of the spirit of the law. She needs to familiarize herself with Learned Hand: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.” The presumption of innocence isn’t a procedural hurdle to leapfrog on the way to a conviction: it’s a fundamental principle of justice, applicable everywhere, including… Read more »

Pam
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Pam

Gabrielle Higgins explained clearly the points of law on which the George Bell case was decided. Pointing out an error in her account about Bishop Bell’s tenure at Chichester is beside the point. The injustices faced by survivors of sexual abuse in the Church perhaps needs greater reflection. This is a very sad, and clearly, very complex case.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Whether a Church that embraced same-sex marriage would do any better at the numbers game is a different question. Judging by the experience of the Episcopal Church in the US, the answer is no; it is declining rapidly.” Dollars to donuts says that Mr Wood is ascribing the decline rate of DECADES to just the past couple of years. In my experience, those in the secular world who express antipathy towards the Episcopal Church do so because they don’t understand the (sadly) exceptional WELCOME of TEC towards LGBT people (inc marriage equality), not because they reject TEC’s stance. “As a… Read more »

Barry
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Barry

James, you and I have agreed before on the Bell case, and I support all you say here. An allegation is not to be regarded a statement of fact, and surely the law must concern itself not with what is alleged but with what can be proved? In the Bell case we are being denied the details of the allegation which ONE person (I believe) has made and by means of which Bishop Bell’s reputation is being sullied. I do not ask for special protection for George Bell, but I do ask for common fairness toward him. If he is… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Pam,”The injustices faced by survivors of sexual abuse in the Church perhaps needs greater reflection.” They do. However, at present,in the Bishop Bell case who really knows if there is a victim? James Byron has said what needs to be said.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

Is the Bishop of Londin exhorting all his priests to grow beards then? But what about the women?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“I do not ask for special protection for George Bell, but I do ask for common fairness toward him.” Well said, Barry; this is the other thing that disturbed me about Higgins’ piece. No one is asking for special treatment for Bell: just fundamental principles of justice that apply to us all, and which Higgins’ statement casually disregards. The good character of *anyone* is relevant to determining guilt, which is why courts allow character witnesses, something that, again, Higgins must surely know. Yes, as the diocese’s counsel, she’s obliged to zealously represent the interests of her client, but she could… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Can I just note that a Diocesan Secretary is not “the diocese’s counsel” but the chief administrative officer of a diocese.

David Runcorn
Guest

‘When attending some evangelical churches I am usually conscious of having entered a private club’. Only evangelical churches Froghole? No tradition has a monopoly on that kind of behaviour. It would presumably be no less in need of redeeming if you or I did feel we belonged on those terms.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Thanks for the correction, Simon. 🙂

If she’s not zealously representing a client, Higgins’ position is even less justifiable!

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

“Whether a Church that embraced same-sex marriage would do any better at the numbers game is a different question. Judging by the experience of the Episcopal Church in the US, the answer is no; it is declining rapidly.” Let me just add that my Episcopal church is growing slowly but steadily. Our Matthew Shepard sermon brings in strangers some of whom then come again. We run ads in the Seattle gay times, who also publish some of our sermons, and we walk in the Pride parade. We are growing because we are accepting and open, because LGBT people feel welcome,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re the Bell controversy, unless documents have been destroyed, is it not likely that one day historians will have access and offer an opinion?

Pam
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Pam

I’m underwhelmed by the arguments presented here questioning the Diocese of Chichester’s handling of the Bishop Bell case. I can understand that it can be painful to accept findings in such cases and would again urge greater reflection towards those whose lives have been adversely impacted by sexual abuse within the church.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Pam, for me, it has nothing to do with it being “painful,” but a basic question of evidence. If there were detailed testimony from a named person, I might well believe the accusation. Right now, I know nothing about the complainant (not even their gender), nor about the details of Bell’s alleged crime. Nor have there been multiple accusations. As I’m sure you know, child molesters tend to be repeat offenders. Regardless, the accusation may well be true; I’ve never said otherwise. I’m also fully aware of the importance of being willing to believe complainants. But that doesn’t mean we… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

In TEC, many of the liberal parishes are growing. Gay friendly = young families that can’t deal with last generation’s bigotries (not that that is a feature of ALL people in the older generation).

All religion is in decline but TEC is declining less fast that the other mainline religions.

Stop using TEC’s position on gay marriage to point to a cause for decline. It isn’t true, in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Pam, “I can understand that it can be painful to accept findings in such cases …” Your statement assigns motivation to those critical of the way the Bell case has been handled. No one who is interested in proper process is going to be deterred from asking questions based on this kind of quasi therapeutic babble about “pain”. Bishop Bell was an important voice on church social issues in the 20th C. His reputation with consequent credibility matters. Never the less, in asking questions about the process used ( abused?) by a self-interested diocese I’m quite prepared for an… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

“Since I have nothing but the diocese’s assertion, I don’t believe that Bell was guilty, and won’t without evidence.” Quite so, James Byron, I agree with what you have written and will have no truck with the Diocese of Chichester’s cover up until proven otherwise – common decency and fair justice can demand no other conclusion. The appalling accusations against the British soldier Lord Bramall come to mind – after a season in Hell all allegations against him have been dropped and yet we still await an apology for the turmoil and deep distress caused to this nonagenarian soldier and… Read more »

Pam
Guest
Pam

James, we have very obviously read Gabrielle Higgins, Diocesan Secretary (not counsel), in different ways. I would ask you to reread, carefully, paragraphs five and six of her statement. Confidentiality means deeply personal, private information is protected. Stating there is “no evidence” is making a very big statement indeed. Do you have proof there is “no evidence” or is it “no evidence” that you can see. I would also venture that this is a very unusual case and I repeat my sadness for both complainant and Bishop Bell.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“Here, there’s nothing to assess. Since I have nothing but the diocese’s assertion, I don’t believe that Bell was guilty, and won’t without evidence.”

There is nothing to assess “for us”, but the diocese’s “assertion” is presumably a little more than “just something we thought was remotely possible”.

Maybe we’re a little too used to trial by media where we end up making up our own minds as if we were qualified to assess that “evidence”.

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

Surely Church* cover-ups of abuse are invariably for the purpose of claiming that clergy were innocent when they weren’t, not the other way around? I don’t understand why the diocese is unable to release even the most heavily-redacted and anonymised summary of what the allegations were and how it is they appear to have been found to be true.

*of any denomination.

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Though not directly related to the question of TEC’s numbers, does anyone know how many LGBTQ couples have come forward to be married since Advent 2015 released the approved services for use in TEC?

Are we talking 15? 50? 100? 250? more?

Father David
Guest
Father David

Gabrielle Higgins summary of the posthumous treatment of Bishop George Bell is a Master Class in Bureaucratic obfuscation which has been soundly demolished in the Press by both Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens. Thank goodness that we have a Free Press in this country which is in marked contrast to the secrecy of the Church surrounding this whole sorry affair. As part of its ministry I am quite aware that the Church supports and upholds the secrecy of the Confessional but anyone can see that her response will satisfy nobody.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Pam, no one here’s claimed that there’s no evidence: simply that the diocese hasn’t released any. It’s not for us to disprove a negative; it’s for the diocese to make its case. Claimant bears the burden. Erika, why should we take on trust the word of a highly interested party? It’s not just about qualifications, but impartiality. We know next to nothing about how the claim was assessed, who assessed it, and whether or how throughly they investigated it. Did they look for inconsistency in the accusation? Was there corroboration? Did they interview witnesses, or see if Bell had an… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Guest
Daniel Lamont

While I understand Pam’s concern for the victims of abuse, in this case I feel that the Diocese has acted precipitately and inappropriately, no doubt out of a concern not to be seen as protecting the abusers. I write to support what posters such as James Byron have written. After all, Bishop Bell died a long time ago, in 1958 to be precise. How sure can anyone be of the reliability of the evidence for something which happened nearly sixty years ago? I note that accusations were made against the former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, also deceased and nothing further… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

“Though not directly related to the question of TEC’s numbers, does anyone know how many LGBTQ couples have come forward to be married since Advent 2015 released the approved services for use in TEC? Are we talking 15? 50? 100? 250? more?” (Christopher Seitz) Why does it matter? One is precious enough. And it’s heart-breaking when you can’t marry the person you love, before your loving God, in the church of your faith. I am waiting. I can’t marry my love because some bishops say it’s wrong. I think it’s wonderful that in The Episcopal Church people can marry each… Read more »

Barry
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Barry

The varied comments above on the case of Bishop Bell reveal how much we are all working in the dark, which must inevitably fuel speculation of something underhand going on. If I understand correctly, the scenario reads something like this: An unidentified person has made an allegation (details concealed) of abuse against George Bell, a man of previously unblemished reputation who died almost sixty years ago. This allegation has been examined in private by people who have suggested that there might be substance to it, but refuse to reveal the evidence for their verdict. As a result, Bishop Bell’s name… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“does anyone know how many LGBTQ couples have come forward to be married since Advent 2015 released the approved services for use in TEC?” The 2012 Liturgy (and 2015 is supposed to be mostly the same), with modifications for marriage by the local bishop (under the pastoral discretion allowed in 2012), has been used in my parish 3 times since my spouse and I were married a year ago Sunday. Several more are being planned. I know that there have been several others in my diocese. That’s anecdotal, but if I already know of 6… They are recorded in the… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

@Pam seems to be saying ‘think of victims’ of sexual abuse in general rather than this particular person with allegations.

Also, were any relatives of George Bell allowed to speak up for him in the process and were they allowed in on the evidence? The Diocese of Chichester, because of huge failures in these matters, clearly are now biased towards complainants and I wonder if they even thought of standing up for Bell.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I struggle to see why Gabrielle Higgins is facing so much criticism. There is no reason to believe the diocese has been anything other than objective. This is one occasion when we should trust church authorities. If anything, the diocese were likely to be somewhat protective of Bishop Bell and were undoubtedly reluctant to,pay compensation unless themselves convinced. That should be enough.

But, in truth, what does it matter? Our earthly reputations are a vanity, particularly once we have passed.

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

The parallel with Lord Bramall was made above. That is an instance where an accusation of abuse against a respected figure was apparently not substantiated. On the other hand, with Hall/Harris/etc/etc, we have accusations which apparently are substantiated. The Bramall case no more justifies a presumption that allegations are likely to be unfounded than the other cases justify certainty that allegations are likely to be well founded. It would, however, be interesting to know the ratio of (victims of powerful, respected people not being listened to) to (powerful, respected people being unfairly impugned). That might give us a clue as… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Kate “But, in truth, what does it matter? Our earthly reputations are a vanity, particularly once we have passed.”

This seems a superficially pious sentiment that would appear to place little inspirational and cultural value on such things as courage, innovation, creativity, sacrifice, and so on.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Also, were any relatives of George Bell allowed to speak up for him in the process and were they allowed in on the evidence?” Why should they? There’s no particular reason to believe that relatives are any more knowledgeable about the activities of individuals than anyone else, especially when the alleged activities took place “at work”. In this particular case, given that his wife is long dead and they didn’t have children, just what relatives were you thinking could have even the beginnings of any knowledge of his private life? “My parents told me that my great-great uncle George was… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

It would be good to know if the much vaunted idea of TEC growth due to its embrace of New Vision LGBTQ marriage could be correlated with genuine figures showing an influx.

So knowing how many LGBTQ marriages are taking place would be valuable information.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

‘It would be good to know if the much vaunted idea of TEC growth due to its embrace of New Vision LGBTQ marriage could be correlated with genuine figures showing an influx.’ I’d have thought even if figures existed after 1-2 months, it’s way too early to be meaningful. And as you say, such figures could only ever then be correlated, which proves nothing. However, I’m sure you attendance at TEC churches suddenly increased exponentially during Advent 2015. That would almost certainly be down to all those Carol services and midnight masses: thus demonstrating the fallacy of this sort of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

cseitz’s desire for statistics on the correlation between TEC’s decline/fall on the basis of how many S/S couples have sought to benefit from marriage rites in that Church seems a little simplistic. One might as well ask how many Anglicans have been recruited to the A.C. of Nigeria/Kenya/Uganda, on account of their disdain for the LGBTQI community. What do numbers matter when the Gospel offers what Jesus was talking about when he read from the Scroll of the Book of Isaiah: release of captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free. These virtues are what is… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

Interested observer. Not that family would know the facts – simply they would be motivated to see fair and unbiased process. Nobody else was motivated to be on Bell’s side in this.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“It would be good to know if the much vaunted idea of TEC growth due to its embrace of New Vision LGBTQ marriage could be correlated with genuine figures showing an influx.

So knowing how many LGBTQ marriages are taking place would be valuable information. “

In my experience the growth has not been because the same-sex marriages are taking place, but because they CAN take place, as people in my sons’ generation (both born in the 1980s) realize there is a mainline US denomination that is not discriminatory on this issue.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“So knowing how many LGBTQ marriages are taking place would be valuable information.” I don’t think that that’s going to be possible. Equal is equal and in the parish registers we go in as married and there’s no askerisk for gay vs straight sacraments, just like there isn’t for baptisms, funerals, and communicants. The process of separating and counting gays separately would violate the conscience. That information is only useful for those looking to attack us for our conscience in living out the Gospel. I know the conservatives value being in the majority, so from that view, numbers are important.… Read more »

F. D. Blanchard
Guest
F. D. Blanchard

My parish in New York has performed several same sex marriages in my 14 years there both before and after such things became official. I would say at least a dozen. The parish is undergoing changes among who sits in the pews, but it has less to do with any policies of the Episcopal Church and more to do with the rapid and dramatic gentrification of the surrounding neighborhood. Our pew sitters are getting younger, more affluent, and more heterosexual, though our parish still retains a large LGBTQ population. Our overall attendance remains the same. Anecdotal evidence to be sure,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ cseitz 26/16/6:59. I am not numbered, since we are talking numbers, among those who are inclined to view same sex marriage as member multiplier. The question you ask is not an unfair one to ask those who do see it that way. For decades churches have claimed that marrying non-church goers, or baptizing their children, ought to be seen as a form of “evangelism”. Actual outcomes caution the claim. There is no reason to expect same sex marriage to result in a different outcome. It is worth remembering that policy change by an institution does not alter the scars… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

So, the arguments for accepting Bell’s guilt amount either to blind trust in an organization that recently covered up the crimes of undoubtedly-guilty child abusers; or, in the alternative, disregarding truth altogether.

Not compelling, are they?

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Marriage equality has nothing to do with ‘church growth’ – whatever that may be- it sounds very unChristian to me.

As for the so-named ‘much vaunted idea’, I for one know nothing of it.

I have heard of Jesus’ big idea though —

the one that got him in trouble with both the mob and the law, and killed – much like so many of his sisters and brothers who are lgbt & more….

IT
Guest
IT

@cseitz your premise seems faulty. Why would the number LGBT marriages represent an “influx”? They may well be current members. And in many dioceses, marriages were already occurring, so there wasn’t necessarily a pent up demand. the influx OUR parish has seen isn’t LGBT people (who were already here), but families with young children. Over and over again these young parents have said they want to raise their children in a welcoming inclusive church. Indeed we have to hire a second manager of Children’s programs.

christopher seitz
Guest
christopher seitz

Oh, I’m just a very simplistic guy! Who heard the New Vision of TEC tell us of unexpected turnarounds in growth.

No one in the GS said anything by analogy, so your point is moot.

I wonder if it transpires that, for all the theological hauteur and general excitement of being out in front of others, TEC records minimal LGBT marriages in 2016.

What would that mean? I genuinely don’t know.

Barry
Guest
Barry

Once again, I agree with James Byron. The days when one could look at the actions of diocesan authorities and assume “mummy knows best” are gone, due to institutional coverings-up which have come to light. I take no pleasure in saying this. I would like to trust those in authority, especially in the Church. ” If anything, the diocese were (sic.) likely to be somewhat protective of Bishop Bell and were undoubtedly reluctant to, pay compensation unless themselves convinced.” If this is true, then it becomes even more urgent that they reveal what convinced them that they should pay out… Read more »