Bishop Jack Iker has today issued a Memo to All Diocesan Clergy.
In recent days I understand that all of you have received two threatening letters from representatives of the rump diocese. The first is a letter from The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. Gulick, Jr., the Bishop of Kentucky, in a capacity he claims as the “Provisional Bishop” of the rump diocese, threatening to inhibit and then depose you if you do not recognize his authority over you as your bishop. The second is a letter from Jonathan Nelson, legal counsel for the Gulick-led group, addressed to our vestries, treasurers, and finance committee members, as well as to all our vicars and rectors. It too is meant to intimidate and control us. It is the preliminary notification that will lead to additional lawsuits to be brought against us by The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA). Both of these letters are now in the hands of our attorneys, and they will be responding on our behalf. There is nothing you need to do at this point in time. We are no longer members of PECUSA and are not subject to their discipline. It is indeed regrettable that they find it necessary to engage in such harsh, uncharitable tactics, rather than enter into negotiation…
Earlier in the month, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth had issued this formal response to a document filed in court on 8 May by the lawyers for Bishop Iker.
Episcopal Café has published two important articles relating to The Episcopal Church. Only the first one is, at present, scheduled for discussion at the triennal General Convention which starts on 8 July.
GC and B033: a preview and an analysis by Jim Naughton explains what may happen in relation to the moratorium in TEC on consecrating bishops who are in same-sex relationships.
Nick Knisely in Report on communing the unbaptized released introduces the text of a report from the House of Bishops Theology Committee entitled REFLECTIONS ON HOLY BAPTISM AND THE HOLY EUCHARIST.
Here is what Bishop Paul Richardson, Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph:
…The church is being hit by a double whammy: on the one hand it confronts the challenge of institutional decline but on the other hand it has to face the rise of cultural and religious pluralism in Britain.
How it responds to the second challenge will be crucial in determining whether it will be able to survive as a viable organisation and make a contribution to national life.
At present church leaders show little signs of understanding the situation. They don’t understand the culture we now live in.
Many bishops prefer to turn their heads, to carry on as if nothing has changed, rather than face the reality that Britain is no longer a Christian nation.
Many of them think that we are still living in the 1950s – a period described by historians as representing a hey day for the established church…
On the other hand Bishop Jonathan Gledhill, diocesan Bishop of Lichfield, just said this:
…the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, accused ‘the metropolitan pundits in the broad sheets who constantly sneer at organized religion’ as being ‘out of touch with the deep spiritual desires of most people in our nation.’ And he said the demise of services such as Matins in favour of services of Holy Communion risked turning some churches into an ‘exclusive sect’…
In a press release headed CANA Celebrates Launch of New Anglican Province, Bishop Martyn Minns is quoted as follows:
“…Since day one, CANA has been and will continue to be a full participant in the life of the new province, and will continue to maintain our own identity. We will encourage groups of congregations, when they are ready, to establish themselves as free-standing dioceses. Our goal is to support the work, mission, and ministry of the Gospel on this continent and bring our own particular distinctive to that task.
“CANA congregations now have a ‘dual citizenship.’ They are members of the Church in Nigeria and as a result of that relationship, full members of the global Anglican Communion. CANA congregations are also members of the Anglican Church in North America and will participate fully in the life of the new province.
“CANA is unique in its connection to the largest province in the Anglican Communion, the Church of Nigeria, which represents about 25 percent of the entire population of the Communion. CANA also has a distinct connection with the GAFCON and Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans movement, and with the Global South. We have a radical commitment to ministry of the poor which crosses all ethnic lines, to planting new churches, equipping the next generation for leadership in the church, and educating the church about how to engage with a resurgent Islam in North America….”
And there is also a Q&A with Bishop Minns on the Inauguration of the Anglican Church in North America which goes into greater detail about how this will work.
This seems rather different to what the Church of Uganda recently said:
Likewise, the Bishops resolved to release, effective immediately, the Bishops, clergy and churches in America under its ecclesiastical oversight and to transfer them to the Anglican Church in North America. The House of Bishops further resolved to continue its partnership and friendship with them in mission and ministry, extends its hand of fellowship, and wishes them well.
Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said, “This really is the moment we have been waiting for. We have been longing to be able to repatriate our clergy and congregations to a Biblical and viable ecclesiastical structure in North America, and that day has now come. To God be the glory.”
Updated Tuesday morning
Three years ago a move to legalise physician assisted suicide, by way of a Private Members Bill, was defeated in the House of Lords. The debate on the Bill was heated and impassioned. It was also, by and large, respectful and serious.
Shortly before the Bill was debated in Parliament, the Royal College of Physicians asked its member doctors if they thought the law needed changing - and over 70% of those responding said the law against assisted suicide should stay the same. The Royal College of General Practitioners also urged that the law should stay the same.
Now, by way of an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill, the legality of assisting people to end their own lives is once again to be debated. The proposed amendment seeks to protect from prosecution those who help friends or relatives to go abroad to commit suicide in one of the few countries where the practice is legal.
It would surely put vulnerable people at serious risk, especially sick people who are anxious about the burden their illness may be placing on others. Moreover, our hospice movement, an almost unique gift of this country to wider humankind, is the profound and tangible sign of another and better way to cope with the challenges faced by those who are terminally ill, by their loved ones and by those who care for them.
This amendment would mark a shift in British law towards legalising euthanasia. We do not believe that such a fundamental change in the law should be sought by way of an amendment to an already complex Bill. It should be rejected.
The Most Reverend and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster
Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
And that’s not all, Martin Beckford of the Telegraph reports: Senior legal figures join in opposition to ‘euthanasia law’ proposals.
The Church of England has published Protecting Life - opposing Assisted Suicide.
The Church of England is opposed to any change in the law, or medical practice, to make assisted suicide permissible or acceptable.
Suffering, the Church maintains, must be met with compassion, commitment to high-quality services and effective medication; meeting it by assisted suicide is merely removing it in the crudest way possible.
In its March 2009 paper Assisted Dying/Suicide and Voluntary Euthanasia, the Church acknowledges the complexity of the issues: the compassion that motivates those who seek change equally motivates the Church’s opposition to change…
The Church in Wales had a press release.
The Times reports today on a new survey of public attitudes in Britain to homosexuality.
A PDF file containing some of the survey statistics is here.
Ruth Gledhill comments on this in Church ‘out of touch’ on gays, says Times poll.
Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times that Without a shared moral code there can be no freedom in our society.
Robin Gill wrote in last week’s Church Times about Synthetics — the new moral playing-field.
This week, Giles Fraser writes about a white-water ride of old atheism.
Over at the Guardian Christine Allen writes about the Catholic Church and social justice.
And Antony Lerman asks What can religion offer politics?
The discussion of Clause 12 can be found here.
The discussion on Schedule 9 starts here. See below the fold for an extract.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights also held a hearing on Wednesday. Read the written answers from the Solicitor General to the questions posed in advance by the committee in this PDF file. Several of the questions relate to Schedule 9. One in particular is of interest:
37. Does the Government consider that the provisions of Paragraph 3 of Schedule 9 will permit employers in certain circumstances to make adherence by employees to religious doctrine in their lifestyles and personal relationships a genuine occupational requirement for a particular post?
Paragraph 3 of Schedule 9 permits organisations with an ethos based on religion or belief to require an employee to be of a particular religion or belief. The organisation must show that being of that religion or belief is a requirement for the work, taking into account both the nature or context of it and the ethos of the organisation - the requirement must not be a sham or pretext.
It is very difficult to see how in practice beliefs in lifestyles or personal relationships could constitute a religious belief which is a requirement for a job, other than for ministers of religion (and this is covered in paragraph 2 of Schedule 9). It is perhaps worth noting, however, that if an employee has been employed on the basis of an occupational requirement to be of a particular religion or belief and the employee can no longer be considered to be of that religion or belief e.g. an employee who has lost faith, then the employer would be able to terminate employment as the employee would no longer meet the occupational requirement.
Is the position different if a religious organisation is wholly or mainly delivering public functions?
Extracts from two speeches during the discussion on Schedule 9:
Mark Harper (Forest of Dean, Conservative):
Several hon. Members and I have held a number of discussions with some of the Church organisations and two issues have arisen. The hon. Gentleman has already alluded to the first, which is the narrowing of the definition of an organised religion under paragraph 2(8)(a) and (b). At the moment, the Government’s position in the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 does not attempt to define it at such a level. The then Minister of State, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, said in response to the debate on the 2003 regulations in the House of Lords:
“When drafting Regulation 7(3), we had in mind a very narrow range of employment: ministers of religion, plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those who exist to promote and represent religion.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 17 June 2003; Vol. 649, c. 779.]
When we had such a discussion previously, there was no disagreement about those who are in a post of clergy where they are taking religious services. The issue was the width of the scope of paragraph 2(8)(b), which concerns
“promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion…to others”.
We have had some discussion around whether it would cover those who, for example, were involved in promoting a religious organisation to the outside world and representing its case, for whom it would be significant that their public utterances about the things that were important to that religion or Church, and their behaviour, would be in line with the views of the Church. It clearly would not be convincing if they said one thing and did another.
Many Church groups think that the wording of the provision represents a narrowing that will rule out a number of the posts that are currently allowed under the 2003 regulations, which the Bill is effectively supposed to be carrying across. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us about the translation of those regulations into the Bill, and say what was intended, so that we can see whether that has been the effect. Will she also set out what posts the Government think should be covered?
One of the things that has confused the situation is the explanatory notes, which talk specifically about a “church youth worker”. We have discussed whether the nature of the role of a church youth worker could be determined as
“promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion…to others”
as under paragraph 2(8)(b). We have also considered whether that type of post should be included, and we will welcome the Minister’s comments about that.
The second area, which the hon. Member for Glasgow, East touched on, is the proportionality test. A number of Churches and religious organisations think that that represents a further narrowing. It concerns the condition in sub-paragraphs (5) and (6) that when the “compliance principle” or the “non-conflict principle” are engaged, both must be applied only if doing so is a proportionate means of complying with the doctrine of the religion. That proportionality test is not present in the 2003 regulations. The Churches are concerned not because they want to act disproportionately, but because putting that in means that courts and tribunals will have to be involved in addressing questions about the nature and extent of particular religious doctrines and the way in which they work.
I raise that because when regulation 7(3) of the 2003 regulations was drafted, it seemed that the Government’s policy was deliberately not to impose a proportionality test. In the case of R (Amicus) v.Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 2004, the witness statement filed on behalf of the Secretary of State explained:
“Regulation 7(2) simply sets out criteria of general application and leaves it to the courts and tribunals to determine in individual cases if those criteria are met. This was not done in relation to employment for purposes of an organised religion in regulation 7(3), because the Government was concerned it would lead to litigation in tribunals about the extent to which requirements dictated by doctrine or the religious convictions of followers could legitimately limit working for an organised religion, and to what extent those requirements, and by extension, the doctrine or convictions giving rise to them, could be said to be reasonable or proportionate. The Government was engaged in striking a delicate balance”—
the Committee acknowledges that it is a balance—
“between the employment rights of gay and lesbian people, and the right of religious groups to freedom of religion. The Government took the view that it is not appropriate for courts or tribunals to make such judgments, and that the balance should be identified in the Regulations themselves.”
It would be helpful if the Minister commented on the judgment at that time, why the Government in effect have introduced the proportionality test and whether they recognise that it carries that risk—that it opens up to courts and tribunals the test of having to make judgments about individual religions. The hon. Member for Glasgow, East made a very good point when he said that those judgments are best left to the religions themselves, rather than being taken outside the religion and given to the industrial tribunal or the court.
Those are the two issues on which I wanted to probe the Minister and invite her to set them out clearly for the Committee, so that we can see whether the Bill does what the Government’s stated intentions are.
Vera Baird (Solicitor General, Attorney General’s Office; Redcar, Labour):
The effect of amendment 189 would be to exclude from that definition those whose employment “wholly” as opposed to “mainly” involves duties between one of the definition’s two limbs. The existing exceptions about employment
“for the purposes of an organised religion”
do not contain the definition of what that expression means. However, contrary to what has been suggested, the new definition does not narrow the scope of the existing exceptions.
There has been some confusion about what is meant by
“for the purposes of an organised religion”,
and we have therefore included a definition of the term to clear up misunderstandings, to save courts and tribunals having to go into areas of potential religious controversy and to reduce the risk of the exception being misused. The definition is designed to make it clear that the exception applies to a very narrow range of employment, such as ministers of religion plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those that exist to promote and represent religion. I have found examples of that difficult to put forward. That was again what Lord Sainsbury had in mind when he talked about the existing exemption under regulation 7(3) of the Employment Equality (Sexual Relations) Regulations 2003. What he said was entirely consistent with the Amicus case, which was that regulation 7(3) was very narrow and affords an exception only in very limited circumstances.
There is now a section of the Church of England website that contains information on the current procedures for the selection of diocesan bishops, suffragan bishops, deans, archdeacons, and residentiary canons.
See Senior Appointments, and follow the links from there for
The front page says:
The aim of the attached guidelines is to ensure that the process of discernment is underpinned by a selection framework which incorporates best practice methods and aspirations. The documents set out common national standards and, as with any such document, there may be cases where the detail of provisions might need to be varied according to local circumstances. They are designed to make recruitment as transparent, fair and consistent as possible as well as open to the Holy Spirit. The structure they provide should assist all involved in appointments in making more informed decisions. Candidates who are being considered for senior office are engaged in the deeply personal experience of examining their own calling whilst having it tested by the Church. It is hoped that these guidelines will also provide the support and clarity they need.
These guidelines replace the Senior Church Appointments Code of Practice (GS Misc 455, 1995). They are based on the report Talent and Calling (GS1650, 2007), which recommended that:
‘The Church adopts an integrated and consistent method for making of appointments to senior ecclesiastical office and that all appointments are transparent and encourage the confidence of the Church in the procedures’.
The availability of these documents was announced to Parliament on 23 June, see this statement by the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
Updated Friday morning
The Church of Uganda has issued this statement:
Church of Uganda Declares itself in Full Communion with Anglican Church in North America
The House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, in its regularly scheduled meeting on 23rd June 2009, made several resolutions concerning the state of the Anglican Communion and the future of global Anglicanism.
…Finally, concerning the formation of the Anglican Church in North America, the House of Bishops resolved that it warmly supports the creation of the new Province in North America, the Anglican Church in North America, recognizes Bishop Bob Duncan as its new Archbishop, and declares that it is in full communion with the Anglican Church in North America.
Likewise, the Bishops resolved to release, effective immediately, the Bishops, clergy and churches in America under its ecclesiastical oversight and to transfer them to the Anglican Church in North America. The House of Bishops further resolved to continue its partnership and friendship with them in mission and ministry, extends its hand of fellowship, and wishes them well…
Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh has issued this statement:
ACNA Faces Difficult, Divisive Future
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — June 25, 2009 — The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) faces a difficult and uncertain future. The new “Anglican” denomination formed this week in Bedford, Texas, that elected Robert W. Duncan, deposed Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh, as its archbishop, seems more likely to fracture the Anglican Communion permanently than to strengthen or “reform” it.
ACNA faces the difficult task of embracing diversity while adhering to the restrictive polity, theology, and membership set out in the Global Anglican Future Conference’s Jerusalem Declaration. The disparate groups that met in Texas have in common a desire to be a part of the Anglican Communion, a disdain for The Episcopal Church and for the Anglican Church of Canada, and a passionate desire to believe as they think their forebears have always believed. Future conflicts over polity, power, and theology appear inevitable…
Friday morning update
ENS has a report North American Anglican group holds inaugural gathering and another one UGANDA: Bishops declare full communion with Anglican Church in North America.
The Church Times has this: North American Anglicans hold inaugural gathering.
Updated Thursday evening
There have been many reports from the meeting being held in Bedford, Texas.
Official reports can be found at http://acnaassembly.org.
Some media reports:
Religious Intelligence George Conger New US Province is formed.
But what about those 100,000 members that ACNA claims? Shortly after it launched last February, the group actually lowered that number to 81,311 people in the pews every Sunday. In June, ACNA lowered that number again to 69,197.
For some context, the Episcopal diocese with the largest average Sunday attendance in 2007 was Virginia, with 25,300.
It’s not unusual for membership numbers to be much higher than average Sunday attendance. But that usually happens in large, longstanding churches, like the Episcopal Church, which may have people on the membership rolls who stopped attending church long ago, or who are Easter-Christmas attenders only. One would assume that in a new church committed to orthodoxy, the gap between average Sunday attendance and membership would be quite a bit smaller.
Speaking of leavers, this site reported (emphasis added):
Rumors abound that Ft. Worth Bishop Jack Leo Iker’s long term goal is to take his diocese to Rome. Not true. Numerous sources have told VOL that he is deeply committed to the new North American Anglican Province and he will work with his fellow bishops over the thorny issue of women’s ordination.
A number of his Ft. Worth priests were recently seen at the Anglican Use conference in Houston. He has told them that if they want to go to Rome, they can do so, but they can’t take their property with them.
Thursday evening update
Colin Coward has helpfully summarised the support for ACNA that can be found in England, see Why are Church of England bishops betraying the Communion?
…On behalf of the Church of England Evangelical Council, Bishop Wallace Benn of Lewes and Archdeacon Michael Lawson sent greetings and expressed delight to be in full communion with the dissident Province. On behalf of Anglican Mainstream Canon Chris Sugden (who is present at the meeting) and Philip Giddings sent very warm greetings, rejoicing at this very significant stage of development and expressing their fellowship and communion in the Lord with the dissident body. Philip Giddings is Vice Chair (House of Laity) of the General Synod of the Church of England.
A report posted by Anglican Mainstream says that Archbishop Bob Duncan informed the assembly on Tuesday that greetings had been received from the Bishops of Rochester , Winchester, Chester and Chichester. The Bishop of Rochester is speaking at a meeting on Sunday 5th July in support of the launch of FoCA.
The bishops of Lewes, Rochester, Winchester, Chester and Chichester and the Lay Chair of General Synod are all supporting a dissident, ultra-conservative, reactionary movement which aims to destroy and replace the Anglican Communion as at present constituted.
The plan doesn’t end with replacing Provinces in North America. The FoCA launch on the 6th July is the first step in a movement to replace the four UK Anglican Provinces. The only names missing from this list of usual suspects are the bishops of Blackburn and Exeter who signed a letter of support for Bishop Bob Duncan last year…
TA Note: The Bishop of Rochester has formally resigned his see effective from 1 September 2009 although he has already ceased public engagements in the diocese.
There is a long article by Ann Rodgers profiling the new Archbishop of ACNA and the history behind ACNA in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headlined Bishop Robert Duncan is trading sacred places.
It includes this quote from one of the Episcopal Church’s most respected retired clergy, a former President of the House of Deputies of General Convention:
But a retired Pittsburgh cathedral dean said Bishop Duncan followed his own agenda. “The only program he has kept to totally for the past 11 years has been developing this parallel universe and his position in it,” said the Rev. George Werner.
An earlier NPR report Conservatives Push For Rival U.S. Anglican Church included this quote from Susan Russell:
“It would be as if Sarah Palin were to take a small, but vocal, percentage of very conservative Republicans and decide that they were going to create a parallel United States without having the White House at the center,” Russell says.
and this from George Pitcher:
George Pitcher, an Anglican priest at St. Bride’s Anglican Church in London and religion editor at the Daily Telegraph, agrees. He says the communion welcomes conservative views.
But, he says, “when they want to say this is the one true way, and we want to impose it on all Anglicans, then it’s at that stage that the broadly tolerant Anglican Communion says, ‘Well that’s not the way we do things.’ ”
Updated Monday 22 June, Tuesday 23 June, Thursday 2 July, Wednesday 22 July, Monday 27 July, Friday 31 July
Many papers for next month’s meeting of General Synod are now online. The list below will be updated as the remainder become available. Papers are also listed when they are known to exist but are not yet online.
Papers for debate
The scheduled day for debate or presentation is appended.
GS 1642D Draft Amending Canon No 28 [Saturday]
GS 1692B Draft Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure [Saturday]
GS 1693B Draft Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure [Saturday]
GS 1692-3Z report by the Steering Committee
GS 1723 Christian Stewardship: Report from the National Stewardship Committee [Friday]
GS 1724 Additional Weekday Lectionary and Amendments to Calendar, Lectionary and Collects [Saturday]
GS 1725 Opening the Doors: Report from the Committee for Ministry of and among Deaf and Disabled people, and the Mission and Public Affairs Division [Sunday]
GS 1729 Business Committee Report [Friday]
GS 1730 Archbishops’ Council’s Draft Budget and Proposals for Apportionment for 2010 [Saturday]
GS 1731 Archbishops’ Council’s Spending Priorities 2010-2015 [Saturday]
GS 1732 Archbishops’ Council’s Annual Report [Saturday]
GS 1734 Appointments to the Archbishops’ Council [Friday]
GS 1735 Chair of the Archbishops’ Council Audit Committee [Friday]
GS 1736 ARCIC Report Life in Christ: note from the Faith and Order Advisory Group [Friday]
GS 1736-01 ARCIC Report Life in Christ: note from the Archbishop of Canterbury
GS 1736-02 ARCIC Report Life in Christ: note from Mgr Andrew Faley and John Sherrington
GS 1737 Archbishops’ Council Review of Constitutions [Sunday]
GS 1740 Draft Pastoral and Mission Measure [Monday]
GS 1740X Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1741 Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2009 [Monday]
GS 1742 Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2009 [Monday]
GS 1741-2X Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1743 Parochial Fees Order 2009 [Monday]
GS 1743X Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1745 The Urban Church: Three Years on from Faithful Cities [Saturday]
GS 1746 Clergy Pensions [Saturday]
GS 1747A Diocesan Synod Motion: Clergy Discipline Measure [Monday]
GS 1747B Clergy Discipline Measure: A note from the Clergy Discipline Commission
GS 1748A Diocesan Synod Motion: Confidence in the Bible [contingency business]
GS 1748B The view of Scripture taken by the Church of England and the Anglican Communion
GS 1749 The Church of England Funded pensions Scheme (Additional Lump Sum) (Amendment Rules 2009 [Monday]
GS 1750 The Church of England Pensions (Lump Sum pensions) (Amendment) Rules 2009 [Monday]
GS 1751 The Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2009 [Monday]
GS 1749-51X Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1753 The Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (Revaluation) (Amendment) Rules 2009 [Monday]
GS 1753X Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1754 The Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (Exclusion of Ineligible persons) (Amendment) Rules 2009 [Monday]
GS 1754X Explanatory Memorandum
GS Misc 918 Human Genome
GS Misc 919 Retirement housing review: second report
GS Misc 921 Engaging with Europe
GS Misc 922 Illustrative Material in Support of the Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations
GS Misc 924 Clergy Discipline Committee Annual Report for 2008
GS Misc 925 Archbishops’ Council:Report on its activities since the February Group of Sessions
The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in York from 10 to 13 July 2009. The following press release was issued a short time ago.
NEWS from the Church of England
For immediate use
July Synod Briefing - Debates on Church finance, legislation, governance, and the Church’s ministry in the community
The Agenda for the July Synod, meeting at York University from Friday 10 July to Monday 13 July, will be primarily concerned with financial issues, legislation and other governance issues. There will also be opportunity for discussion of The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Inquiry, urban life and faith, and ministry with people with learning disabilities.
There will also be one item of liturgical business (the Additional Weekday Lectionary), an update by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Anglican Communion matters (following the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica), and consideration of the Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners annual reports.
The credit crisis and the accompanying recession provide a new and challenging context and opportunity for a debate on Christian Stewardship. The debate is resourced by a report from the National Stewardship Committee and an accompanying parish guide, which the Synod is invited to commend to dioceses, deaneries and parishes for discussion and action. The Synod will have the opportunity to consider the current target of Church members giving 5% of their income to their local church.
The Synod will also receive a presentation from the Clergy Pensions Task Group on the main findings of the Group’s work and the options for the future of the Clergy Pensions Scheme. The Task Group’s report, which looks at the funding of the scheme and the impact of the current financial recession, will start a consultation process with bodies which sponsor the scheme, with a prospect of a Synod decision in February 2010 on the way forward.
The Archbishops’ Council established a review group under the chairmanship of Andrew Britton (Chair of Finance Committee) to undertake a strategic financial assessment of the Council’s spending priorities for the period 2010-2015. The report will be the subject of a take note debate in the Synod before the Council gives more detailed consideration to the outworking of the report’s conclusions, in the context of the 2011 and subsequent budget rounds. The Synod will also be asked to approve the Council’s budget for 2010.
The principal two items of legislative business are the revision stage for the draft Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure, which received first consideration at the February Synod, and approval of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations, which will set out the detailed terms of ‘Common Tenure’, following on from the Measure which will introduce new terms of service for the clergy having received the Royal Assent.
There will also be the final approval of two draft Measures, revised in February, which deal with issues relating to Crown appointments, a number of changes to the Rules of the Funded Pensions Scheme and the Past Service Scheme, and some detailed changes to the Church Representation Rules and the Clergy Representation Rules (which give effect to the recommendations of the Synod’s Elections Review Group).
Synod will give First Consideration to two draft measures which will consolidate various pieces of legislation on pastoral reorganisation and on the care of cathedrals.
The motion from the Bradford Diocesan Synod invites the General Synod to request the Archbishops’ Council to formulate proposals for reductions in the number of episcopal and senior clergy posts, taking into account the number of stipendiary clergy over the past 30 years, and to make recommendations to the Synod within three years. Amongst the resources for this debate is a paper from the Dioceses Commission, which sets out the work which it has been undertaking since its reconstitution last year.
Diocesan synod motions from London and Chelmsford express concerns about the pastoral implications of the Clergy Discipline Measure and ask for a review of the practical outworking of the Measure and the Code of Practice. The debate will take place on the London DSM. The Clergy Discipline Commission has itself undertaken a review of aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure and the Code of Practice under it and this is one of the resources for the debate.
The Constitutions Review Group was set up by the Archbishops’ Council under the chairmanship of Dr Christina Baxter to conduct the quinquennial review of constitutions of bodies accountable to the Archbishops’ Council. The report of the review group was the subject of a presentation and questions at the February Synod. Since then there has been a consultation process. The Archbishops’ Council has considered the revised report of the review group and invites the Synod to endorse the Group’s recommendations, and to ask the Council and the Standing Orders Committee to take steps to implement them. Under these proposals, which aim to make present arrangements lighter and more flexible, the present Boards and Councils would be replaced from November 2010 by lead persons for each area of work, supported by small reference groups.
The Church’s ministry and the community
A Good Childhood was published just before the February Synod. It was a landmark report of the first major independent inquiry into childhood and was commissioned by The Children’s Society. The purpose of the Synod debate is to provide an opportunity for Synod members to respond to the findings of A Good Childhood, and to lay foundations for a debate in due course on the Board of Education’s children’s and youth strategies.
A presentation by Bishop Stephen Lowe will provide an opportunity for him to reflect on his three years’ work as Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, and there will be opportunity for Synod members to ask questions and offer brief reflections.
A report entitled Opening the Doors: Ministry with People with Learning Disabilities and People on the Autistic Spectrum has been produced by the Committee for Ministry of and among Deaf and Disabled People and the Mission and Public Affairs Division, and an accompanying DVD is also being circulated. The Synod is invited to commend the guidelines contained in Opening the Doors to dioceses and parishes.
There will also be a presentation and group work for Synod members on a report from the Council for Christian Unity and the Faith and Order Advisory Group, on the report from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on Life in Christ.
Anyone can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website ahead of the General Synod sessions. Audio files of debates along with updates on the days’ proceedings will be posted during the sessions, which will also be live streamed by Premier Radio.
To hear a new podcast with David Williams, Clerk to General Synod, click here.
Saturday 11 July
You are warmly invited to join the annual Pilgrimage to Little Gidding
commemorating the life and example of Nicholas Ferrar
This year’s pilgrimage is led by Bishop John Flack, formerly Bishop of Huntingdon, and formerly the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the Holy See and Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome
Join the celebration of Holy Communion in Leighton Bromswold Church
whose restoration was funded by George Herbert and directed by the Ferrars
Share lunch with fellow pilgrims at the historic Green Man at Leighton Bromswold
Enjoy the gentle walk through the Huntingdonshire countryside
from Leighton Bromswold to Little Gidding
(about five miles along the country roads, with three short stations for prayer and rest)
Gather round the tomb of Nicholas Ferrar for prayer
Sing Evening Prayer at Little Gidding (led by the Hurstingstone Singers)
Delight in Tea and conversation at Ferrar House
For more details see www.littlegidding.org.uk/pilgrimage
10.30am: Holy Communion at Leighton Bromswold Church
12 noon: Pilgrims’ Lunch at the Green Man
1pm: Start of Pilgrimage Walk from the Hundred Stone at Leighton Bromswold
1.45pm (approx): First Station at Salome Wood
2.45pm (approx): Second Station at Hamerton (refreshments and toilets available)
3.30pm (approx): Third Station at Steeple Gidding Church
4pm: Prayers at the Tomb of Nicholas Ferrar at Little Gidding
followed by Pilgrimage Evensong and Tea
Born in London in 1592, Nicholas Ferrar gave up a life in commerce and politics to move to Little Gidding, with his mother and his brother and sister and their families, establishing a life of prayer and charitable works. Ordained deacon, he was the leader of the household, foremost in the life of prayer, study, and work, setting an example of devotion and spiritual life to the English Church that has stood as a beacon to those who have followed. Nicholas died on 4 December 1637, and his devout life and example have consecrated Little Gidding as a holy place to this day. Our pilgrimage to his grave not only honours his memory and devotion, but also binds us into that same story.
George Pitcher wrote in the Telegraph that A good claret, Bishop, is a menace to no one.
Last week, in the Church Times Colin Buchanan wrote that The time is up for first past the post.
Paul Vallely also wrote about the recent election, see Not thugs so much as alienated.
This week, Giles Fraser writes that Art should point further than cash.
Theo Hobson at Cif belief wrote that We must separate church and state.
Nick Jowett writes in The Times that Great music can unite the sacred and the secular.
The Rt Revd the Lord Eames of Armagh, OM, gave the Annual Lecture of the College of St George, Windsor Castle on 26 May 2009. Speaking on the theme of the mechanics of reconciliation, he drew from his extensive experience both in the Anglican Communion and in ministering in Northern Ireland.
Full text of his lecture at Lord Eames’ St George’s Windsor Lecture 2009.
Twelve of Canada’s finest theologians explore issues relating to same-sex blessings in a series of essays now posted online. These essays by members of the Primate’s Theological Commission form the third and final part to the Galilee Report, which considered questions of human relationships and the blessings of same-sex unions.
The first two parts, a report on the commission’s discussion and the essay “Integrity and Sanctity” were posted in May 2009…
Full press release
Links to all the papers at The Galilee Report Primate’s Theological Commission.
From the USA:
We Will, With God’s Help, published in June 2009 by the Chicago Consultation, is a collection of essays about perspectives on baptism, sexuality and the Anglican Communion….
Updated Friday evening
There is a report from Rwanda: Three Bishops Consecrated for American Dioceses
Kigali — The Episcopal Church of Rwanda has elected three new Bishops to serve in one of the provinces of the Anglican Church in North America.
The election took place on Saturday 13 at the Anglican Diocese of Kigali…
Here is the official statement on the website of AMiA:
A COMMUNIQUE FROM THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS OF THE PROVINCE OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF RWANDA
Meanwhile, ENS reports that
Two Episcopal Church bishops, one active and one retired, are among the members of newly-announced committees of a proposed Anglican Church in North America, which is holding what it is calling its “inaugural provincial assembly” later this month…
Friday update See this Press Release from the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield concerning the role of Bishop Beckwith in ACNA.
The assembly mentioned above has its own dedicated website which contains a large amount of information about the new ACNA organisation.
News, video, photos and documents from the Inaugural Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America is now available. The new website is also optimized for web capable cell phones…
Additional website changes will mark the creation of The Anglican Church in North America. The Common Cause Partnership Website, at www.united-anglicans.org, will be relaunched as the homepage of the Anglican Church in North America on June 22. Key features of the old website, such as the parish map, will remain in place. With the relaunch will come a domain name change to www.theacna.org.
The Church of England General Synod meets from 10 to 13 July in York. An outline agenda has been published, and is copied below.
July 2009 Group of Sessions
Sitting hours: 9.15 am - 1.00 pm, 2.30 pm - 6.15 pm and 8.30 pm - 10.00 pm (except where otherwise stated)
Friday, 10 July
3.30 pm Prayers, introductions, welcomes, progress of legislation; greeting on behalf of the ecumenical guests
Business Committee Report
Appointments to Archbishops’ Council and of Chair of Audit Committee
Christian Stewardship: Report from the National Stewardship Committee
Introduction to group work: Paper from the Council for Christian Unity/Faith and Order Advisory Group on the ARCIC report Life in Christ
8.30 pm Questions
Saturday, 11 July
9.00 am Group work (including prayer)
10.15 am Faithful Cities: Urban Life and Faith: presentation
Amending Canon No 28
Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and Other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure
Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure
Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure
2.30 pm Clergy Pensions: presentation
Archbishops’ Council’s Spending Priorities 2010-2015
Archbishops’ Council’s Budget
Liturgical Business: Additional Weekday Lectionary and Amendments to Calendar, Lectionary and Collects
8.30 pm Archbishops’ Council’s Annual Report
Church Commissioners’ Annual Report: presentation
Sunday, 12 July
2.30 pm Opening Doors: Ministry with People with Learning Disabilities: Report from the Committee for Ministry of and Among Deaf and Disabled People and Mission and Public Affairs Division
Review of Constitutions
Episcopal and Senior Church Appointments: Bradford Diocesan Synod Motion
8.30 pm Being Adult about Childhood: A Consideration of the Good Childhood Inquiry: Report by the Children’s Society and Mission and Public Affairs Division
Monday, 13 July
9.15 am Prayers
Anglican Communion: an update, by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Changes to the Rules of the Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme and the Past Service Scheme
Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations
Two Consolidation Measures (if debated)
Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2009 and Clergy Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2009
Usual Fees Orders (if debated)
2.30 pm Clergy Discipline: London Diocesan Synod Motion (and Chelmsford Diocesan Synod Motion)
4.45 pm Prorogation
Contingency Business: Chelmsford DSM: Confidence in the Bible
Final reports from the diocese:
Anglican Journal New Westminster diocese court case hearings end
Supreme Court of British Columbia hearings have concluded in a case that will decide whether the Anglican diocese of New Westminister or parishes that have split away from the Anglican Church of Canada own disputed church buildings and resources. Judge Stephen Kelleher reserved his judgment and did not say when he might announce a decision.
Two lawsuits were filed against the diocese of New Westminster and its bishop, Michael Ingham, by clergy who cut ties with the Anglican Church of Canada and individuals who say they are the lawful trustees of church properties and resources for several congregations that also voted to leave the church. Other hearings have resulted in decisions about interim possession and sharing of Anglican church buildings in British Columbia as well as in Ontario, but this trial will be the first in Canada to rule on which side owns the buildings and resources…
The Public Bill Committee that held hearings reported earlier and also here, is now engaged in a clause-by-clause review of the text of the bill. The easiest way to follow their deliberations is via this page, or alternatively via TheyWorkForYou (which runs a little behind in its updating, but is more nicely formatted). To keep up with the amendments, you need to check that page.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is considering the compatibility of the Equality Bill with the UK’s human rights obligations.
The Committee has decided to focus on a number of matters in the Equality Bill which it considers are capable of raising significant human rights issues. Further details of the Committee’s concerns are contained in its letter of 2 June 2009 to the Solicitor General Vera Baird QC MP:
During its recent review of its working practices, the Committee agreed that it would be helpful to engage relevant stakeholders in its legislative scrutiny work. Submissions of no more than 1,500 words on the human rights compatibility of this Bill are therefore requested by 17 June 2009…
Separately, the Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation on specific public sector equality duties. As explained on this page:
On Thursday 11th June 2009, a consultation document setting out policy proposals for the specific public sector equality duties was published. The closing date for comments is 30 September 2009. Please click below to view the document:
There is a lengthy press release which gives more background to this.
Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times Our longing for truth is implicitly a search for God.
Mark Vernon wrote about God, Dawkins and tragic humanism.
Nick Spencer wrote about Measuring British religion.
David Haslam wrote in today’s Guardian about the anti-racism work of the World Council of Churches.
Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Taking my questions seriously.
Last week, Jonathan Bartley wrote Now is the time for all good men . . .
The Rt Rev David Chillingworth was today elected Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church - at an Episcopal Synod held during the annual meeting of the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Bishop David was the single nomination and his election was supported by all other six bishops.
Bishop David has been Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane since 2005 and succeeds the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones, Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway who stepped down as Primus last night following his recent announcement to retire from the office of diocesan bishop…
Read the full press release.
The full text of his statement is here.
See Bishop David’s blog, Thinking Aloud here.
California appellate court’s June 9 ruling was the latest in a series of recent developments that return disputed church properties to three California Episcopal dioceses.
On June 9, the San Diego-based Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the Diocese of Los Angeles is legal owner of property currently occupied by St. Luke’s Anglican Church. The congregation had cited theological differences when severing ties to the Episcopal Church (TEC) in 2006 and realigning with an Anglican diocese in Uganda.
In unrelated agreements, displaced Episcopalians will return July 1 to two other disputed properties, St. John’s Church in Petaluma, in the Diocese of Northern California and St. Paul’s Church in Modesto in the Diocese of San Joaquin…
See also news reports:
The Scottish Episcopal Church is holding its General Synod in Edinburgh right now.
Audio and other reports of the proceedings can be found at the official church website.
There is an audio interview with the outgoing Primus.
There is an overview of the agenda at New Primus to be elected during 2009 General Synod.
A comment article, written by me, appears at Cif belief.
See Equality, the church and discrimination. (They changed the title…)
“Unjust discrimination is fundamentally wrong.” So say the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales in evidence to parliament on the equality bill. But doesn’t this terminology imply there might be another category of “just discrimination” which is slightly less awful, or even in some circumstances righteous?
A news report, also written by me, appears in this week’s Church Times. This was filed on Wednesday morning, before the publication of the full transcripts of the Tuesday hearings.
REPRESENTATIVES of both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church told the House of Commons on Tuesday that their existing right to discriminate in cases of employment, on the basis of factors other than religion, would be unreasonably limited by the new Equality Bill. A scrutiny committee was taking oral and written evidence this week, before starting its clause-by-clause examination of the Bill, which is scheduled for completion in early July…
(Note that the last part of the article is from another journalist).
The House of Commons committee continued its hearings on the Equality Bill yesterday.
The first session of the day (third session in total so far) heard first from the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church among others. You can read a complete transcript of the proceedings, starting at this page. This part of the session continues for four pages.
Update More user-friendly link to the transcript from TheyWorkForYou here.
The session continued with a second group of witnesses, from business and trade union organisations.
I will have my own comments in a while about the first part of the first session of the day, at which I was present.
There was no written statement from the Church of England. The written statement from the Roman Catholic bishops has been linked previously, and is here.
Gary Wilton wrote about the European Parliamentary elections in last week’s Church Times. See Don’t let the chance of big decisions pass by.
Alister McGrath writes in The Times that A system of belief should not involve point scoring.
Sunny Hundal writes in the Guardian about interfaith dialogues.
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that People need something irrational.
Earlier in the week, he wrote at Cif belief about Why I still have faith in politicians.
Andrew Brown wrote there also, about David Hume’s comment policy.
Justin Lewis-Anthony wrote about Why George Herbert must die.
First, there is a Research Paper from the House of Commons Library concerning the bill, available as a PDF, see Research Paper 09/42.
Written evidence has been submitted by various organisations, all listed there.
Among them are these:
Proposed amendments to the bill can be found here (click on Show+ Amendment Papers and Proceedings).
Ekklesia published on 2 June a study by Savi Hensman The Equality Bill 2008-9 and church responses to it.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reports ‘Everyone just agreed to walk away’ from Grace Church dispute.
Litigation over the Grace Church property downtown seemed destined to drag on for years.
But all that changed Tuesday.
In a marathon mediation session, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado agreed to drop its lawsuit against 18 Anglican parish members being sued for damages. Also several motions, including an appeal of the March 24 court decision upholding the diocese’s ownership of the Tejon Street church property, were quashed…
And there is this earlier report, Dispute over Grace church property settled.
A press release found at the website of the CANA congregation says:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2009
St. George’s Responds to Settlement with the Diocese of Colorado
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – St. George’s Anglican Church issued the following statement in response to the settlement agreement reached with the Diocese of Colorado:
“We are pleased with the settlement, particularly since it relieved our staff and vestry members of the burden and expense of defending against $5 million in unjustified claims brought against them personally by the Diocese of Colorado and The Episcopal Church.
“The settlement reached also means that all the costs associated with maintaining the property of Grace Church and St. Stephens, including payment of the $2,500,000 mortgage, belong to the Episcopal congregation and the Diocese of Colorado.
“Our only remaining obligation is to pay final operational expenses we had incurred during our possession of the property, but were unauthorized to pay until this settled agreement was reached.
“We look forward to fulfilling God’s call to us for mission and ministry.”
Updated again Saturday
Charity Finance reports Charity Tribunal dismisses Catholic adoption case
The Charity Tribunal has rejected the latest attempt by a catholic adoption charity to circumnavigate rules preventing it from discriminating against homosexual couples seeking to adopt children.
Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) had sought to take advantage of an exemption in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which suggests that discrimination can occur if it is in pursuit of charitable objectives.
In its preliminary judgment in March, the Tribunal had ruled the exemption could only apply if the charity’s activities were not made unlawful by other provisions.
But at the final hearing last month, the charity was unable to demonstrate that it could operate in such a way.
See also Third Sector Online reports (registration required)
Children’s charity Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) has lost its appeal to the Charity Tribunal against the Charity Commission’s refusal to allow it to change its objects to allow its adoption service to discriminate against homosexual parents.
The charity wanted to take advantage of an exemption in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 that permits charities to discriminate on the grounds of “the provisions of a charitable instrument”, such as a governing document.
But in its first ever final judgement, the tribunal’s panel of three legal members, led by president Alison McKenna, concluded that Catholic Care would infringe other provisions in the regulations if it discriminated against homosexual parents and would therefore be operating unlawfully…
Two earlier reports from the same source:
Allow us to exclude gay people, Catholic adoption charity tells Charity Tribunal.
Adoption charities must justify equality law exemption
The decisions of the Charities Commission and the Charities Tribunal are all available online:
Charities Tribunal: (all PDFs)
Directions Order with Ruling (7 January 2009)
Ruling on Preliminary Question (13 March 2009)
Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) v The Charity Commission for England and Wales decision (1 June 2009)
Other media reports:
Daily Mail Steve Doughty Catholic ban on adoption by same-sex couples is ruled illegal
Neil Addison writes at Religion Law Blog about this in Catholic Adoption Agencies lose case:
…What the agencies were trying to do was to change their objects so as to add the following
“The Charity shall only provide adoption services to heterosexuals and such services to heterosexuals shall only be provided in accordance with the tenets of the Church. For the avoidance of doubt the Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds from time to time shall be the arbiter of whether such services and the manner of their provision fall within the tenets of the Church”
They argued that this would enable them to operate because of the exemption for Charities under reg 18 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 which say
“18.—(1) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a person to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation, if—
(a) he acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument, and
(b) the restriction of benefits to persons of that sexual orientation is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument”
Mr Addison goes on to explain where he disagrees with the tribunal, why even if the agency had won it would have been a pyrrhic victory, and he also offers an alternative solution that he had recommended, but which was it seems rejected.
The Catholic Herald has reported on this, Judgment seals fate of adoption agencies. This includes:
However, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator allowed St Margaret’s Adoption and Child Care of the Archdiocese of Glasgow to change its charitable objects to continue its policy of assessing only heterosexual married couples and single people as adopters.
That has prompted a complaint from the National Secular Society, see Scottish Charity Regulator lambasted for caving in to Catholic Charity over gay adoption.
See also SNP and Catholic Church’s secret plan to sidestep legislation on gay adoptions in the Glasgow Sunday Herald.
Ekklesia has reported on the English case, and refers to the views of the LGCM RC Caucus, see Gay Catholics welcome rulings against adoption agency discrimination.
The publication of the proceedings before the Charities Tribunal has publicised the actual drafting of the proposed charitable objects which the Leeds and Birmingham agencies wished to adopt.
Both draft instruments relied upon the following paragraph to gain the desired exemption: “The Society shall provide adoption services only to heterosexuals and only in accordance with the tenets of the Roman Catholic church”.
The Roman Catholic Caucus of LGCM points out that, contrary to the general press comment about the appeals by these adoption agencies, the agencies were not seeking permission to place children only with married couples. They were seeking to exclude all lesbian, gay and bisexual people from the ambit of their services, including those who choose to live their lives celibately in strict accordance with Catholic church teaching.
“This proposed object is blatantly contrary to Catholic church teaching,” comments the Caucus.
The Caucus says it also became clear in various discussions before the Charities Tribunal that the “adoption services” referred to include services to children who are to be placed or have been placed for adoption. The proposed wording would therefore have required the agency to ascertain the sexual orientation of any child who was placed for adoption as a condition of providing services to that child.
As the “adoption services” described include support after the child has been placed, this would also involve withdrawing after-care services to a family in which the adopted child comes out after the adoption has taken place. The LGCM Catholic Caucus says it considers that “most Catholics will find this proposal both offensive and contrary to the values of the Roman Catholic Church.”
The full text of the statement from the LGCM RC Caucus is available at Caucus reacts to Adoption Ruling.
Updated again Saturday evening
Here’s a very surprising story from the USA about the Episcopal Church.
Episcopal Café Secret theology committee studies same sex relationships
The House of Bishops Theology Committee is refusing to release the names of members of a sub-committee it has appointed to study same-sex relationships. The existence of the panel was first reported in the Blue Book, which contains information relevant to General Convention, 2009. However, the Rt. Rev. Henry Parsley of Alabama, chair of the Theology Committee has refused several requests to disclose the names of its members.
The anonymity of the panel raises serious concerns in the Church that prides itself on the transparency of its representative form of governance. In addition, the work of this secret panel has already been cited by some bishops as a reason to delay further legislative action on the issue of same-sex relationships until the panel finishes its work in 2011…
The Chicago Consultation has issued a press release:
CHICAGO CONSULTATION CALLS FOR HOUSE OF BISHOPS THEOLOGY COMMITTEE TO RELEASE NAMES OF SCHOLARS STUDYING SAME-SEX RELATIONSHIPS
…However, we are saddened that the House of Bishops Theology Committee has chosen to begin this important scholarly work without making public the names of the bishops, theologians and scholars who are serving on this panel. The theological study of human sexuality is essential to our common life, to our mission and evangelism, and to our ability to live out our baptismal promises. Such important work deserves to be no less than a model of the transparent governance that the Episcopal Church has upheld for centuries.
As theologians, priests, bishops and laypeople from across the Episcopal Church, we call upon the House of Bishops Theology Committee to release at once the names of those serving on the panel it has appointed to study same-sex relationships. We commit to praying for them by name and to providing our assistance as they continue their work…
EpiScope reports this statement From the HOB Theology Committee:
The following is a statement from the chair of the HOB Theology Committee.
By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.
Chair, Theology Committee of the House of Bishops
In response to questions that have been raised about the panel of theologians appointed by the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops to prepare a paper on same-sex relationships in the life of the church, I wish to assure those concerned that the panel very intentionally represents a robust range of views on the subject and includes gay and lesbian persons.
This project has been designed in full communication with the House of Bishops. It has always been the committee’s intention to publish the names of the panel when the work has reached the appropriate stage. We believe that for a season the work can best be accomplished by allowing the panel to work in confidence. This supports the full collegiality and academic freedom of the theologians and provides the space they need for the deep dialogue and reflection that is taking place among them.
This project is designed to articulate theologically a full range of views on the matter of same sex relationships in the church’s life and to foster better understanding and respectful discernment among us. It will also be a contribution to the listening process of the larger Communion. It has several stages and is scheduled to be complete by early 2011. We are grateful to the distinguished theologians for their generous service to the church.
We wish to invite any member of the church who wishes to address the panel to send comments to the Theology Committee. We will see that these are communicated to the theologians to enrich their reflection and dialogue.
Comments should be directed to the chair of the committee, Bishop Henry Parsley, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ENS has a full report now, see Bishops’ Theology Committee chair declines to release names of same-gender study group.
Saturday evening update
Here’s a further twist to this strange tale. Frank Lockwood reports at Bible Belt Blogger that
Facing criticism for withholding information from its 2.3 million members, the Episcopal Church has quietly removed from its new IAmEpiscopalian.org website assurances that the church is committed to openness and transparency in government.
For months, the site had proclaimed on its home page: “Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections…” (See a copy of the original message here.)
But sometime this week, after the church was repeatedly criticized for concealing key governance decisions from the people in the pews, the “transparency” and “openness” message disappeared.
Mark Harris doesn’t think this change is related to the above story. But even if it isn’t the original story is still very surprising. It even made the Church Times this week, see Name gay study group, say activists.
Updated Thursday morning
Latest reports from the continuing court case in British Columbia:
Bishop knew of several dioceses blessing same sex unions before the Diocese of New Westminster did
Day 5 – Trial of ANiC Parishes v Diocese of New Westminster
And from the New Westminster diocesan synod:
No more parishes may bless same sex couples for forseeable future
From the Diocese of Toronto:
Bishop asks synod for advice on pastoral response
From New Westminster:
Bishop testifies he came to being in favour of a same sex blessing slowly