Thursday, 20 December 2012

House of Bishops decisions taken in December

The summary of decisions taken by the House of Bishops at its latest meeting (December 2012) has been published.

The summary can be read below and has been posted on the Church of England website.


A meeting of the House of Bishops was held at Lambeth Palace on 10-11 December 2012. Those matters reported below reflect the items discussed and decisions agreed upon.

1. The House considered the consequences of the 20 November General Synod vote on the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure. The House recognised and felt the profound and widespread sense of anger, grief and disappointment experienced by so many in the Church of England and beyond.

2. The House considered that the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions, and affirmed that the Church of England now had to resolve the issue through its own processes as a matter of great urgency. It was agreed that a statement from the House of Bishops on this issue would be released as soon as possible after the conclusion of the meeting.

3. The House expressed its gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, and its sadness that recent events had left so many feeling undermined and undervalued.

4. The House had the benefit of four senior female members of General Synod participating in their discussion. The House agreed to hold an event in early 2013 to which lay and ordained women will be invited, to discuss how the culture of its processes and discussions might be changed and a more regular contribution from women secured.

5. The House also set up a working group drawn from all three Houses of Synod (the membership to be determined by the Archbishops and announced before Christmas), to arrange facilitated discussion with a wide range of people of a variety of views in the week of 4 February and to advise the House so that it can decide in May what fresh legislative proposals to bring before the next meeting of the General Synod in July.

6. The House considered a number of items relating to appointments, personal data and ministry and:

  • agreed draft guidelines on Clergy Current Status Letters and Clergy Personal Files subject to some further revisions;
  • approved new model guidance on Parochial Appointments;
  • noted a presentation on the funding of Bishops’ Legal Costs, with reference to upcoming local training sessions;
  • approved revisions to the 1975 Guidelines on Deliverance Ministry; and
  • agreed to the abolition of the obsolete Bishops’ Agreed Maximum for theological colleges.

7. The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group’s work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate.

8. The House was updated in relation to a draft document in preparation from the Faith and Order Commission in relation to the doctrine of marriage. The House agreed that, once further revisions had been made, it could be issued with the agreement of the Standing Committee as a FAOC document and commended for study.

9. The Archbishop of Canterbury briefed the House on recent events throughout the Anglican Communion.

10. The House approved new policies in relation to Local Ecumenical Policy.

11. The House approved a proposal to update the publication of Bishops’ Working Costs.

12. The House was briefed in relation to ongoing work by the Archbishops’ Task Group on Spending Plans.

13. The House was briefed on the published results of the 2011 Census. The House noted a statement which had been made on the results.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 9:25pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Is it me, but I don't recall ever seeing this kind of thing before. Are the HoB becoming all "open and transparent"? Or at least, trying to look like they are?

The report is still pretty opaque. What was the presentation on Bishops' Legal Costs about, for example? Study of their expenses reveals that this is a bit of their budget that has grown by more than 100% in a year (up £782216 in the last published year) to over £1.3 million. The notes hint that this may relate to the costs of clergy discipline measure cases. But have the clergy really got twice as bad in just one year? Or is it all for Chichester? I think some more information that does not break personal anonymity (which dioceses, how many cases, and why they think the numbers are shooting up) would be helpful if you are going to publish it at all.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 5:54am GMT

"It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate".

So the HoB has learned nothing and intends to pursue its discriminatory policy towards those in gay relationships. So much for "we fully support civil partnerships" (only on our own terms and definition) and so much for "there is no place for homophobia in the church".

Posted by: sjh on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 6:59am GMT

The HOB has learned nothing and remembered nothing. Otherwise why restate the requirements of the discredited 2005 statement. And why specifically include a reminder about bishops? Can we speculate?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 9:48am GMT

I think the item about Civil Partnerships could actually be progress. Does it not imply that the ban that was imposed on (celibate)civilly partnered candidates for the episcopate has now been lifted? This is also presented as an interim position 'Pending the conclusion of the [Pilling] group's work' and, presumably, though it does not mention it, the legislative outcome on equal marriage.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 10:12am GMT

sjh is quite right. Set that alongside the Bishop of Leicester's speech on the announcement of the Govt's plans for same sex marriage. The two are stark incompatible. And, as Colin Coward and others have pointed, the C of E will shortly have married gay clergy and laity in the pews.

Sending one message to the outside world and a contradictory one inside the stockade is not only dishonest, it's stupid. Do they imagine that Ruth Gledhill and Andrew Brown will not pounce on this?

Posted by: Iain McLean on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 10:47am GMT

Further to sjh's comment - Does this mean that Dr Jeffrey John at St Albans can expect his name to be allowed to be considered by future CNC's without the sort of interventions chronicled by the late Colin Slee? Here we have a man who is 'consistent' with the requirements but has been repeatedly 'black balled' by Archbishops. Let's hope we have an end to such behaviours. But I suspect that another means of blocking will be found or manufactured. This is after all just part & parcel of the rewriting of the history of the HoB response to Civil Partnerships, so that they may continue us to oppose marriage equality.
A good Christmas gift to the C of E would be restoration and justice for Dr John.

Posted by: Commentator on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 11:00am GMT

With reference to the comments above about the Bishop's reference back to the official CofE policy on Civil Partnerships. I too was struck by this, and actually went back to read the policy. If you have not had a look at it recently I recommend you remind yourself.

I wonder if this policy gives a clue to the unstated but actual CofE difficulty with same sex marriage. Sex is the elephant in the room, the problem we have but don't want to talk about.

The official position appears to be as follows:

Sex is allowed only within marriage, and any sex outside marriage is not in accordance with CofE teaching.

Civil Partnerships are not marriage. So we can be seen to support civil partnerships ONLY AS LONG AS WE CAN MAINTAIN THE PRETENCE THAT THESE RELATIONSHIPS ARE NON-SEXUAL. (it is worth going back to read the statement to appreciate how important the sex thing, rather than the relationship thing, is to the Bishop's thoughts.)

But now same-sex marriage is on the horizon, and sex is allowed inside marriage. The unspoken question, the elephant in the room, is does that mean that sex would be allowed in a Christian religious same-sex marriage?

Actually what it all boils down to is this: we can approve of a marriage that encompasses heterosexual sexual acts. But can't be seen to approve of same-sex marriage because that might be seen to be approving of same-sex sexual acts. And we can't argue for same-sex marriage as long as they are celibate (like we do for civil parnerships) because that would be ridiculous. So we will use arguments about "complementarity", which are actually a code for heterosexuality.

So the argument is nothing to do with marriage. It is actually about the range of Christian views on same-sex sexual acts. And until we debate and agree on that topic, arguments about marriage are domed to be confusing.

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 11:36am GMT

In response to Jeremy Pemberton's comment, the House of Bishops has been publishing these summaries of decisions for several years. They can be downloaded from the CofE website.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 12:17pm GMT

I think statement is quite clear - the existing CoE position on civil partnership applies to the episcopate too, there's absolutely no change there.

Jeffrey John did not have to renounce Reading because he was civil partnered and celibate but because he had not always been celibate and had not repented of his stance and was still teaching that same sex relationships are valid.

Until the church gets a grip on itself and sorts its views about gay people out, JJ stands no more chance of becoming a bishop now than he did then.

The only thing that has changed over the years is that the position of the church became more farcical and more reprehensible in the eyes of society.

And this statement they will eventually issue on Civil Partnerships will be completely irrelevant once gay people are allowed to marry.
The only ones who will still get civil partnered are those couples who do not want to be associated with the traditional patriarchal baggage of marriage.
Christians will always opt for marriage because of its sacramental character, so even a delayed willingness to bless CPs will not help the church one bit.

Closing stable doors after horses have bolted without a real change of heart is never a satisfactory long term solution.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 12:52pm GMT

Hi Erika, It does look to me as if there is a change here. See this link from July 2011

which says that 'To avoid pre-empting the review' [on Civil Partnerships, which was due to report before the Pilling group and of which we have heard little so far]'the House has concluded that clergy in civil partnerships should not, at present, be nominated for episcopal appointment. The review will be completed in 2012'.

I read 7 as saying that it has been agreed that the 2005 requirements for ordination apply to episcopal nominations as well and therefore, that the 2011 ban has been lifted.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 3:17pm GMT

but it also says that there is no ban on "civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England" and that teaching does not permit sex outside marriage, and as civil partnerships are not marriages, only celibate civil partnered people will be allowed to become bishops.

And the only celibate civil partnered person who has ever been in that position is poor JJ, who was nevertheless not considered to be a focus of unity or whatever terms were used at the time.

I don't really see this achieving anything at all for any real person in the CoE right now.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 3:47pm GMT

Does any of this really matter any more ?

I take no notice of whatsoever of the C of E and its confused / dishonest pronouncements.

I reckon we're all getting on with our lives, including our love life, for heavens sakes.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 3:59pm GMT

Agreed, Erika, it seems a tiny shift, but the ban on episcopal nominations was excessive and looked extremely punitive. If that has now ended - and it is not stated as directly as that - it is a start; but I agree with what you and Simon Dawson are saying here. This outcome also suggests that it is going to be tricky to move matters on, because Church of England statements on homosexuality, although available on line, appear to be written on tablets of stone!

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 4:19pm GMT

Erika and Tina, I believe that this curiously worded minute is indeed a lifting of the moratorium in relation to episcopal appointments imposed on all those in civil partnerships, regardless of their conformity to the 2005 "pastoral statement", back in July 2011.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 4:32pm GMT

It s a small step forward but too little and too late.

The Church of England has no credibility on issues of sex, gender and sexuality. This will not retrieve that position. Nor will the pronouncements, whatever be may be, of the absurdly all male Pillng Commission.

The Church of England has made itself irrelevant and ridiculous on these matters. I hope it will act to correct that but so far it shows no sign of appreciating let alone rising to the challenge.

Posted by: badman on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 5:37pm GMT

Does it matter, Laurence? Well, it might do, and if it doesn't then we are wasting precious time in Changing Attitude, England and the LGB&T Anglican Coalition where we continue to work for full inclusion. Only time will tell.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 6:16pm GMT

I agree that it is a lifting of the blanket ban, but to me this is a fairly cynical move that accompanies this recent fervent assertion that the church has "always" fully supported civil partnerships.

That doesn't mean they actually support them or that any priest in one will ever become a bishop. But it looks good on paper, which the blanket ban doesn't.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 21 December 2012 at 10:12pm GMT

I think the lifting of the ban is progress, albeit on a small scale, and may signal some openness to further positive change if enough people made it clear to the bishops and General Synod that the time is right.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 12:25am GMT

Perhaps it takes another crisis - like that of the intention of Parliament to allow 'Gay' marriage - to encourage the Church to pretend it has always been in favour of committed same-sex partnership being made legal. It is constantly surprising how ethical stances seem to change overnight - with the advent of more threatening alternatives to that being presented at the moment.

Until the threat of Gay Marriage, the Church of England was decidedly against the Church Blessing of Civil Partnerships undertaken by same sex couples. So what changed in the relationships?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 7:30am GMT

'Sex is the elephant in the room, the problem we have but don't want to talk about.' Simon Dawson is right. This is where the tyranny about gay marriage meets the tyranny about women priests and bishops. Do many people in the church still equate gender identity with physiological sex? Inhibitions about discussing sex prevent talk of gendered identity - about what being 'a woman', for example, or gay or lesbian, involves in a whole life. We have to talk about this elephant.

Posted by: Su Reid on Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 11:28am GMT

Ron, there has been a review taking place of the position on civil partnerships, due in part I think to the number of C of E clergy and laypersons who are now partnered.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 11:59am GMT

Yes, Savi, and while the report from the meeting of the bishops reports on an intermediate position from the Pilling group it fails to mention the review you mention overseen by the bishop of Sodor and Man.

It is somewhat confusing.

Has Robert Patterson also reported and this is the result?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 23 December 2012 at 8:10pm GMT
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