Thursday, 16 February 2017

Archbishops write to General Synod members

Letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York following General Synod
16 February 2017

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to members of the General Synod setting out the next steps following the vote on General Synod not to take note of the paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.

The letter can be found here.

The full text can be read below:

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Following the vote in General Synod not to take note of the paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations (GS 2055) we are writing to set out the way forward in the next few months.

First, we want to be clear about some underlying principles. In these discussions no person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people called to redeemed humanity in Christ.

How we deal with the real and profound disagreement - put so passionately and so clearly by many at the debate - is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.

To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.

We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence.

The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ - all of us, without exception, without exclusion.

Nevertheless while the principles are straightforward, putting them into practice, as we all know, is not, given the deep disagreements among us.

We are therefore asking first for every Diocesan Bishop to meet with their General Synod members for an extended conversation in order to establish clearly the desires of every member of Synod for the way forward.

As Archbishops we will be establishing a Pastoral Oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, with the task of supporting and advising Dioceses on pastoral actions with regard to our current pastoral approach to human sexuality. The group will be inclusive, and will seek to discern the development of pastoral practices, within current arrangements.

Secondly, we, with others, will be formulating proposals for the May House of Bishops for a large scale teaching document around the subject of human sexuality. In an episcopal church a principal responsibility of Bishops is the teaching ministry of the church, and the guarding of the deposit of faith that we have all inherited. The teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops. However, all episcopal ministry must be exercised with all the people of God, lay and ordained, and thus our proposals will ensure a wide ranging and fully inclusive approach, both in subject matter and in those who work on it.

We will also be suggesting to the Business Committee a debate in general terms on the issues of marriage and human sexuality. We wish to give the General Synod an opportunity to consider together those things we do affirm.

In the meantime, we commend to your prayers our common concern for every member of this church, of all views, and most especially our concern for the mission of God to which we are called by the Father, for which we are made ready by the Son, and in which we are equipped by the Holy Spirit.

+ Justin Cantuar:        +Sentamu Eboracensis

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 8:43pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

Good to see talk of inclusion, but the Archbishops need to revisit the Ordinal to see where the teaching office resides, to wit, in the presbyterate, not the episcopate. So saying, "a principal responsibility of Bishops is the teaching ministry of the church,... The teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops" misses where the teaching office lies and is grounded, in eldership not oversight.

This is much of the problem with the original Report Not-Noted, in that it was generated by the bishops on their own. They need not just preliminary input, but continued collaboration from a wide assortment of knowledgeable presbyters (and lay people, and perhaps a few deacons?) at the final drafting, not just as voices heard at preliminary stages, or protesting at the end after a failing document is presented.

Anglicanism has a history (and a present) of theological thinking elsewhere than on the bishops' bench. It is foolhardy not to make use of such a resource out of a misguided understanding of the teaching aspect of the episcopal office.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 8:59pm GMT

"The teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops."

There's a question being begged here.

Especially seeing as the Bishops have done such a fine job thus far.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 9:48pm GMT

I'm just an American, unversed in the ways of CofE, but maybe this fine letter reaffirming everyone's dignity and humanity, and laying out a process to move forward on the issue of human sexuality should have been sent out BEFORE the paper on "Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations (GS 2055)" was released, causing the General Synod not to take note of the paper.

Posted by: peterpi -- Peter Gross on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 10:27pm GMT

What will the point of yet more meetings? The bishops in many dioceses will have clergy who are in the majority opposed to the report. They will feign to listen and then go back to the bishops' meetings and forget any principles they have and anything they have had and toe the party line.

Posted by: Chris A on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 12:05am GMT

"The teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops."

How does that accord with the synodical governing system of the Church of England?

Posted by: dr.primrose on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 1:35am GMT

I am beginning to wonder just who is guiding the Good Ship C of E through these current turbulent waters, as the above letter is an indication that the Captain and First Mate are beginning to panic somewhat and they are unsure as to the direction in which they are heading and the rocks seem very close!

Now that the bishops' inadequate report has been rejected does that mean that the document "Issues in Human Sexuality" still holds sway and is that an iceberg I see ahead?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 5:21am GMT

Odd account of oversight that is deference to presbyteral teaching!

Appears that conservatives voted not to take note as well.

Looks like a bad train wreck that will continue. Not to say this is a surprise.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 7:10am GMT

Can you say more Tobias? I have read the re-read the services of ordination to priesthood and consecration of bishop and the language suggests a shared teaching role. Which itself needs stressing in the light of the Bishops Report. Is that what you mean?

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 11:49am GMT

David, yes; that is more or less what I'm getting at: that the foundation (that is, the beginning) of the teaching office appears with the presbyterate. Of course it continues on in the episcopate (the old view, reflected in the Pastoral Epistles and continued on in strands of the tradition, is that the bishop is a "higher order" priest.) The commission to teach is introduced in the Ordinal for Priests, and is reemphasized in the Ordinal for Bishops, in slightly different language. The object of my comment was to respond to the language of the Archbishops letter: "teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops." There is no reason to believe -- on the grounds of the Ordinal or the traditional way theology has been done in the Anglican tradition -- that a teaching document could not be composed by a committee of bishops, clergy and laity skilled in the area, though "ultimately" given a seal of approval from the bishops and the whole Synod. That would, it seems to me, to be the best way to produce a document more likely to be received as representing the mind of the church.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 2:55pm GMT

The Common Worship Ordinal can be read here https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/ordinal/priests.aspx (priests) and here https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/ordinal/bishops.aspx (bishops).

In the Ordination of Priests, the Declaration says "they are to teach and to admonish".

At the Ordination of Bishops, the above phrase is not present but the Declaration includes the question "Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?", and the consecratory prayer includes the petition "Make him steadfast as a guardian of the faith and sacraments, wise as a teacher".

This suggests that both bishops and presbyters have a role as teachers, and that bishops have an additional role as "guardians of the faith".

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 3:06pm GMT

My understanding of the theology of the threefold orders would be such that the teaching and sacramental etc. authority of the priest is in a sense vicarious and is exercised on behalf of and flows from the Bishop. There is an argument that there are only really two orders of ministry: bishops and deacons: priestly ministry inheres in the episcopate and is exercised widely because (thankfully) the bishop can't be everywhere at once.

Given the strongly evangelical flavour of the current bench, I can't imagine many would hold such views, but something along these lines is surely the origin of their claim of the right to keep teaching to the purple shirts.

I'm a confirmed in Anglican ecclesiology but I can suddenly see the attraction of presbyterianism.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 3:52pm GMT

"One with the apostles...called to guard the faith...your heritage is the faith of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs...will you guard the faith, unity and discipline of the Church...chosen to be a guardian of the Church's faith and to lead us in confessing that faith."

This would need to be revised pretty thoroughly as well as the ordination of a priest.

Maybe we will get calls for that as well in TEC.

And a new name change from "The Episcopal Church" with the President of the House of Deputies the new co-Moderator?

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 4:50pm GMT

And in the Ordination of Deacons
https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/ordinal/deacons.aspx
the Ordinands are asked:

Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, and in your ministry will you expound and teach it?

Ordinands: I believe it and will so do.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 8:17pm GMT

This is the positive understanding of this, in the lgbt media. I am tempted too, - but not as optimistic as this. As I have no faith in the C of E and its leadership.

What do others think and feel about this ?

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 9:21pm GMT

I know nothing about the Bishop of Newcastle, but she can only be an improvement. For too long so-called centre ground Evangelicals represented by Graham Kings/Fulcrum (who stopped the appointment of Jeffrey John though failed to push through the Anglican Covenant) have appeared to wield far more power and influence than they actually have. And they have come across as somewhat arrogant too. Pete Broadbent has had his wings severely clipped and been rather humbled - and thank heavens the genie is now out of the bottle. Watch this space as he becomes side-lined and increasing numbers of parishes go public in welcoming same-sex couples for services of blessing.

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 1:35pm GMT

PS - After such a huge waste of money and time and delay we are no further than we were when Jeffrey John was announced as Bishop of Reading. I wonder whether Rowan Williams now regrets having caved in? Had we faced things and dealt with them then there would be so much less loss of confidence in the CofE in general, and its bishops in particular.

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 1:42pm GMT

I hope that the Bishops will take note of what happens in education, and produce a teaching and learning document. I don't look for a top-down approach, where I am taught what to believe, but one where I am encouraged to learn with others, and enabled to make up my own mind.

Posted by: David Exham on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 3:44pm GMT

CSeitz, there is a difference between "guard" and teach." This is precisely the difference between episcopal oversight and priestly eldership.

My point is that the office of teaching is not peculiar to the episcopate (though they do of course have that faculty), contrary to the assertion in the Archbishops' letter, that teaching "must come from the bishops."

It is interesting to see that the new Ordinal has, as Jeremy notes, added teaching to the ministry of a deacon, which was not the case in the 1662 Ordinal (where deacons are not to teach apart from instructing in the Catechism, nor to preach unless specifically licensed.)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 3:51pm GMT

Fr Haller, mine was not the only questioning of your post.

When guarding the faith is not teaching the faith I guess I will follow your point.

"Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you."

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 4:59pm GMT

Episcopal self-regard hasn't been dented too badly, I see.

Given the special teaching role English bishops continue to award themselves, it's clearly necessary to remind the bench that arguments from authority are a fallacy. A report has zero added weight 'cause a bunch of purple bellies signed off on it. If they hadn't forgotten, this Synod defeat would never have happened.

Until the bench learn some humility -- in short, until they accept that they're nothing special just 'cause some CNC gave them the nod -- nothing of substance will change. I hope and pray that humility comes. If it doesn't, it'll just have to be imposed again and again until it sticks.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 19 February 2017 at 8:42am GMT

The Synod does not need to approve what the Bishops have done.

I don't see any self rewarding.

I suspect Froghole is right in another place: as it appears the entire thing is collapsing, they have tried a last ditch effort.

The only question will be the character of the fissuring.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 19 February 2017 at 4:14pm GMT

Cseitz, I too fear collapse, but I'm less gloomy on the prospect of mutual toleration that I was a few days ago. It's not 2003, and what happened in TEC needn't happen in every province that chooses equality.

Many evangelicals remain opposed to equal marriage, but I'm being persuaded that, on the ground, the number willing to accept schism are much smaller.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 11:27am GMT

They might not want schism because they have a view of separated jurisdictions coming to pass.

This was not the TEC outcome because it is virtually ''one integrity" (to use the lingo).

Posted by: Cseitz on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 1:51pm GMT

"[T]hey have a view of separated jurisdictions coming to pass."

Unlikely, given how separated jurisdictions for WO opponents worked out.

Posted by: JeremyB on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 10:37pm GMT

There is effectively a differentiated polity when it comes to WO. Which liberals don't like.

In addition, WO is not ss marriage so far as conservatives are concerned.

And finally, the point had to do with schism and alternatives to it.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 7:30am GMT

I understood the point, thank you, and I also understand the differences between WO and same-sex marriage.

Conservatives may appreciate the differentiated-polity arrangement for WO. I doubt anyone else regards those arrangements as among the CofE's better moves. Such arrangements create islands of ideological purity, which then cause and/or enable people to talk themselves into leaving.

This is of course why OneBodyOneFaith has chosen the name it did.

So I doubt there will be any "flying bishop" or similar provision for those opposed to same-sex marriage.

Besides, priests already have the freedom to decline to marry anyone, as a matter of conscience. That will never change.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 2:57pm GMT
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