Thinking Anglicans

More reporting on the Bishop of Maidstone's letter

Updated again Tuesday afternoon

The reply from the Bishop of Maidstone to the Diocese of Lichfield ad clerum continues to get coverage.

We first reported this in our roundup of 6 June, which included a link to Colin Coward’s Open Letter to Archbishops Justin and Sentamu re: +Maidstone.

Since then:

Savi Hensman wrote about this at Ekklesia Bishop’s call to deny communion defies church on LGBTI welcome.

David Ison wrote about this at ViaMedia News Welcome, Disorder & Hypocrisy in the Church of England.

The Church Times reported David Ison’s article: Dean of St Paul’s enters debate on Lichfield’s ‘inclusion’ letter.

The Times (£) reported Gays and unmarried lovers should repent, bishop insists.

The Sunday Times (£) reported Gay Christians ‘being forced out’ by evangelical churches.

And Colin Coward has written a second article: A bishop authorised to discriminate against LGBTI people.

Updates

catholicity and covenant How +Maidstone gets ‘worthy reception’ wrong

Colin Coward has written The Archbishop of York refers matters to the Pastoral Advisory Group.

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Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Isn’t it wonderful how these conservative evangelicals keep digging and digging; and, as they dig, they simply confirm the popular widespread perception that churches are nothing more than sectarian ghettos? As one of my neighbours recently told me, ‘I don’t want my kids going to church and being told it’s ok to discriminate against people because they’re different.’

Well done, Rod Thomas, you’ve struck gold – again. And so has the Archbishop of Canterbury for not censuring one of his suffragans for meddling in the affairs of another diocese.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

A quick PS to my previous post. Perhaps Rod Thomas would like to talk to the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. He and they seem to have an awful lot in common – and the PCI are obviously prepared to say out loud what Rod Thomas is (probably) thinking.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/presbyterian-church-in-ireland-votes-to-deny-gay-people-full-membership-of-the-church-36989680.html

John Wallace
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John Wallace

How sad that the evangelicals. personified in + Rod, seem to want to discriminate. The table (or altar) is not their prerogative – it is God who invites and also the only one who can bar. These words from a Baptist liturgy book sum it up for me and in ths I rejoice and gain strength for my lay ministry: ‘Come to this sacred table, not because you must, but because you may; come not to testify that you are righteous, but that you sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ and desire to be his true disciples: come not because… Read more »

Jeremy Bonner
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“The Lord’s table does not need guardians. That is up to God and the individual.”

As I read his letter, Bishop Thomas upholds this position when he writes of the practice of ‘charitable assumption’.

I am curious, however, whether the clergy should have no discretion in administering the Sacraments? What if a priest has knowledge of unrepentant adultery or publicly expressed homophobia or racism on the part of a parishioner seeking Communion? Few priests exercise such discipline today, but to remove that pastoral discretion is radically to alter the relationship between priest and layman.

Kate
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Kate

Great post John.

For me it is Matthew 20:1—16

S Cooper
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S Cooper

Welby sees large, full evangelical churches …. don’t expect any censure

Kate
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Kate

“I am curious, however, whether the clergy should have no discretion in administering the Sacraments?”

They absolutely should not have discretion. It is the Lord’s Supper and the minister is not there as priest but as a servant to serve the food and drink for our Lord. It is not for a servant to question the guests his/her master has invited.

It’s one of the objections I have to Bishop Rod’s letter.

Olivia
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Olivia

Jeremy, it was always been the case that only the bishop can excommunicate. Priests must give Communion to anyone who asks for it. They can have pastoral conversations in which they might attempt to discourage certain people from receiving Communion (eg, unbelievers or those who have not been prepared sufficiently, or notorious sinners, indeed) if they wish, but they can’t deny Communion if the person asks. The Lichfield letter merely states this established bit of law, it’s not an innovation.

Olivia
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Olivia

Here’s Canon B16 on the subject: ‘If a minister be persuaded that anyone of his cure who presents himself to be a partaker of the Holy Communion ought not to be admitted thereunto by reason of malicious and open contention with his neighbours, or other grave and open sin without repentance, he shall give an account of the same to the bishop of the diocese or other the Ordinary of the place and therein obey his order and direction, but so as not to refuse the sacrament to any until in accordance with such order and direction he shall have… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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One does wonder (from ‘down-under’) what the provincial archbishops will actually do about the
‘Shepherd of Exclusion’ situation in Maidstone. Will he be cautioned in any way whatsoever about his sacramental gate-keeping policies that are quite contrary to the hospitality of Christ in the Gospel?

Jeremy Bonner
Guest

Olivia, I was thinking of the provision of Canon B16 that “in case of grave and immediate scandal to the congregation the minister shall not admit such person, but shall give an account of the same to the Ordinary within seven days after at the furthest and therein obey his order and direction.” While such discipline is ultimately for the ordinary to approve (or not), it does exist. I must confess that the bald statement that “priests must give Communion to anyone who asks for it” seems theologically highly suspect. It’s very different from saying that the circumstances under which… Read more »

Jeremy Bonner
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I assume we can all agree that (a) no sin is unforgivable and (b) that certain categories of sin constitute more grievous infringement of our Lord’s injunctions than others (while disagreeing as to which categories those might be). The problem arises when there is disagreement over whether there is a sin for which it is necessary to repent, which is at the root of the objections expressed here to the Bishop of Maidstone’s letter. Contemporary interpretations of Luke 18: 9-14 are so often preoccupied with the self-righteousness of the Pharisee that they forget “Lord have mercy upon me a sinner.”… Read more »

Olivia
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Olivia

Jeremy, Our posts crossed. I would argue that Canon B16 is clear that such provision – denial of the Sacrament – is only to be used in the direst of cases where there will be immediate public scandal, and the priest concerned is to ask immediately for an interview with the Bishop to give an account of his reasons, for the Bishop then to approve or not the case. This is an emergency provision, not a discretion allowed to the priest. And I can’t really think of a case where it would be appropriate to use it as opposed to… Read more »

Olivia
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Olivia

Jeremy, I also disagree with ‘I must confess that the bald statement that “priests must give Communion to anyone who asks for it” seems theologically highly suspect.’ Article 29 says that: ‘The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.’ It doesn’t say the wicked should be refused… Read more »

Jeremy Bonner
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Olivia, Thanks for the reply. It sounds as if you would prefer to abandon Canon B16 entirely (which from your perspective I can understand), but while I suspect you’re correct in your interpretation of its emergency character, as it stands it leaves the discretion to invoke in the hands of the priest (subject to referral to the bishop). I find it hard to imagine even the most conservative of Anglican clergy denying Communion to someone simply “because they are gay or trans”. What is at issue is whether sexual expression is licit in such contexts (and, for that matter, in… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Inherent within the Communion Service itself is the act of formal repentence. Since most Anglicans do not use the confessional, we rely entirely on the Eucharistic liturgy for confession and repentance. Exclusion because someone hasn’t repented would be entirely paradoxical. Moreover, Anglican repentance is private between the penitent and God so no minister knows, nor should ask, what has or has not been repented. The Maidstone letter is much more sinister. It suggests that if same sex couples stay together that is prima face evidence of ongoing, unrepented sin. That’s totally different to remarriage involving a divorcee where the assumption… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

I have myself at times withdrawn from receiving communion for what felt to be a necessary period of self examination and penitence. I have at times encouraged others to do the same. That is where I understand priestly discretion and pastoral guidance to be rightly expressed and exercised. So I am disturbed by suggestions here that the Lord’s table and supper is somehow ‘secondary’. It is where the Lord’s death is proclaimed and where Christ is most faithfully ‘remembered’. There is nowhere more central.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“I assume we can all agree that (a) no sin is unforgivable and (b) that certain categories of sin constitute more grievous infringement of our Lord’s injunctions than others (while disagreeing as to which categories those might be).” I wouldn’t see b) is contentious but it isn’t axiomatic either. Certainly I don’t believe that the scale of grievousnes, if there is one, is the same for everyone, nor invariant over time. I definitely don’t believe that anyone, lay, claric or saint, is in a position to judge the seriousness of anyone else’s conduct – we often have no idea of… Read more »

Grumpy High Churchwoman
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Grumpy High Churchwoman

Since the letter, not the spirit, of the Law seems to be in fashion, can we be assured by +Maidstone that all the ordinations he conducts are done according to the authorized Church of England ordinals (Common Worship or 1662)?

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

The disciplinary rules in TEC for denying someone communion are a bit different than those in the CofE. A “priest” may deny communion to (1) “a person who is living a notoriously evil life,” (2) “those who have done wrong to their neighbors and are a scandal to the other members of the congregation,” and (3) where “there is hatred between members of the congregation.” In each case, the priest must first “privately” speak to the person involved. If communion is denied, the priest must notify the bishop within 14 days. (1979 BCP, p. 409.) This was an expansion and… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Since the letter, not the spirit, of the Law seems to be in fashion, can we be assured by +Maidstone that all the ordinations he conducts are done according to the authorized Church of England ordinals”

Are you suggesting some people exercising ministry have not been properly ordained? That could make some marriages void too I guess.

RosalindR
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RosalindR

Those who are divorced, especially women, are also often discouraged, firmly, from communion in churches of this theological outlook.

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

No, I don’t wish to abandon Canon B16, Jeremy, whatever gave you that idea? I quoted section 1 in full above precisely because I agree with every word of it. It says that nobody is to be denied Communion except by the Ordinary of the Diocese, except in an emergency situation which then must be referred straight to the Ordinary. I don’t know where you got your interpretation from, that Canon B16 allows for clergy to deny the Sacrament of their own volition, such that to remove this arcane emergency provision (which I have never seen or heard of being… Read more »

Bernard Randall
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Bernard Randall

I take it that in respect to Canon B16, in those parishes which are under the oversight of +Rod he would be “other the Ordinary of the place” – and would therefore give his backing to the presbyter who regarded same sex marriage as “grave and open sin without repentance.” However, I read +Rod’s letter as saying that he would discourage any of his clergy from actually denying communion. I think the point is that he’s trying to make clear that he would support any clergy who preach that same sex marriage is “grave and open sin” and who would… Read more »

NJW
Guest
NJW

‘I take it that in respect to Canon B16, in those parishes which are under the oversight of +Rod he would be “other the Ordinary of the place” – and would therefore give his backing to the presbyter who regarded same sex marriage as “grave and open sin without repentance.”‘ Posted by: Bernard Randall on Wednesday, 13 June 2018 at 1:05pm BST Within the framework of the CofE it is always very clear who the Ordinary is in a particular situation. In most cases it will be the Diocesan Bishop (not a suffragan, area or PEV – who act on… Read more »