The Huffington Post has photographs of Christmas 2012: Celebrations Around The World.
Jim Al-Khalili for The Guardian explains Why this atheist celebrates Christmas.
Linda Woodhead writes for The Observer that A British Christmas has lost faith in rituals, but not religion.
John Dickson writes for ABC Religion and Ethics about A fight they can’t win: The irreligious assault on the historicity of Jesus.
David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK presents this End of Term Quiz.
Cole Moreton for The Telegraph asks What has the Church of England ever done for us?
We published the official summary of what was decided at the December House of Bishops meeting here.
Two articles have since appeared which discuss this.
David Pocklington wrote at Law & Religion UK Decisions by the House of Bishops and most of his analysis concerns the actions related to Women in the Episcopate. But he also notes:
…The House of Bishops is currently considering two aspects of human sexuality: one group is providing advice on the bishops’ review of the 2005 civil partnership statement, the membership of which was announced on 1st December 2011 another group to advise the HoB on the more general issues relating to human sexuality. The membership of this group was announced on 5th January 2012. With regard to the latter, the House considered an interimreport from the group, but pending the conclusion of its work in 2013, (i.e. the preparation of a consultation document), announced its intention not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. However, 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…
Christina Beardsley wrote at Changing Attitude Whatever happened to the HoB working group on civil partnerships?
…Paragraph 7 says that the House considered an interim report from the working party on sexuality chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling. It continues:
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.’
There is no mention of the working party on civil partnerships, chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man, which was formed prior to Sir Jospeh Pilling’s group, and was due to ‘report to the House in time for the House to reach conclusions during 2012.’
It does look though, from paragraph 7, as if one important outstanding matter has been decided, namely, that a member of the clergy who is in a civil partnership is no longer automatically debarred from nomination to the episcopate. This appears to lift the ban on such nominations that was introduced when the working parties were announced in July 2011…
Frank Cranmer continues his series of articles for Law & Religion UK with Church and State III – the European dimension.
The LGB&T Anglican Coalition welcomes the government proposals published on 11 December, and in particular the following points:
However, as Anglican Christians, laity and clergy, we are disappointed that the proposals to exclude both the Church of England and the Church in Wales appear to impose an additional barrier should these churches decide in future that they wish to marry same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. If this were the case, it would reduce religious freedom.
As a Coalition we have repeatedly pointed out that the Church of England’s official submission did not reflect the views of the many members of the Church of England who are in favour of equal marriage, and we are also aware that there is support among many in the Church in Wales. These churches should be as free to opt in as any others.
The Archbishop of Wales has made it clear that any additional obstacle would be unwelcome. The Church of England’s leadership is reportedly shocked at such an outcome, though it appears to reflect precisely what the Church requested in its submission, published in June. Church reactions to the Government’s proposals do confirm that the Church of England’s official position is out of touch, not only with a significant number of its own members, but with the majority body of public opinion.
We will be advising the organisations in our coalition to invite all of their members to write to their MPs calling for a review of the implications of the so-called quadruple locks in the proposed legislation, especially the fourth, which relates to the Church of England and the Church in Wales. In our view this fourth lock would inhibit the religious freedom of the people we represent, and who are in favour of equal marriage in these churches.
The BBC carried this interview: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan
And Robert Pigott writes
This was Archbishop Nichols’s strongest attack yet on the government’s plans for gay marriage.
There was anger in his passionate criticism of the government’s plans, and a call to Catholics to become involved in the political struggle against them.
He said MPs would have a free vote on the issue, and they should feel the weight of the Church’s opinion.
I’ve never heard him speak with such emotion. This is something very close to the Church’s heart and his personally.
Many Christians - including Roman Catholics - do support marriage for same-sex couples, and the government has made it clear that no churches will have to perform gay marriages.
However, the Church feels very strongly, not about whether it has an exemption about carrying out same-sex weddings, but about the distinction between the ceremony - the wedding - and the institution of marriage.
The Church says the government’s plans will weaken society, “hollow out” marriage and diminish it for everyone else who’s been married.t
The text of the archbishop’s midnight mass sermon is published here.
The Independent reports: Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan
And reports on a new public opinion poll: Gay marriage: public say Church is wrong
By a margin of 2-1, people oppose the Government’s proposal to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct gay marriages. Asked whether its vicars should be allowed to perform such ceremonies if they wanted to, 62 per cent of people said they should and 31 per cent disagreed, with seven per cent replying “don’t know”.
And comments on the archbishop’s sermon: Editorial: The Archbishop’s unseasonal note
…No more of a shambles, it might be said, than the Archbishop’s Christmas message. His words might have given the impression that the Government would require the Roman Catholic Church to marry homosexual couples. But nothing is further from the truth. Indeed, one disappointing, even shameful, aspect of the proposed law is that the Church of England, the established Church, will be banned from conducting gay marriages, even though – as we report today – opinion is strongly in favour of letting individual priests do so if they wish.
And if the Church of England will not be permitted to conduct gay marriages, at least for the time being, it is unthinkable that any pressure would be placed on the Catholic Church, whose hierarchy is far more united in its opposition than that of the Anglican Church. The proposed legislation is designed to give gay people, not before time, full equality before the law. So what is the Archbishop so worried about?
…Although Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters remain more likely to support gay marriage, with respective majorities of 67% and 71%, there is now also a majority among Conservative supporters. Among those who voted Tory in 2010, gay marriage now enjoys 52%-42% backing, a big turnaround from ICM’s survey in March, which recorded 50%-35% opposition from 2010 Conservative voters.
Both men and women support gay marriage, although the majority is bigger among female voters, 65% of whom support gay marriage, compared with 58% of men. Gay marriage is backed by 60%+ majorities across every nation and region, the 74% majority recorded in Wales being the most emphatic. There is a pro-gay-marriage majority, too, in every social class – although the majority is somewhat smaller in the DE class, which contains the lowest occupational grades. Fifty-one per cent of this group is in favour of the change, as opposed to 68% in the C1 clerical grade, which emerges as the most enthusiastic.
Sharper differences emerge when the results are analysed across the age ranges. The over-65s resist the proposal, by 58% to 37%, but support is progressively stronger in younger age groups. The pro-reform majority is 64% among 35-64s, 75% among 25-34s, and an overwhelming 77% among 18-24s…
Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop’s Christmas Sermon – ‘join the human race this Christmas’
Archbishop of York Christmas Sermon - Let Light Shine Out of Darkness
Archbishop of Wales Catch a sense of wonder from children– Archbishop’s Christmas message
Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow Christmas Day Sermon 2012
Bishop of Chichester Bishop of Chichester’s Christmas Message
Jake Wallis Simons writes in the Telegraph that I don’t believe in God, but I believe in the Church of England.
Timothy Radcliffe writes in The Guardian that Tolerance is not enough to learn the art of living with others.
Mark Vasey-Saunders retells the Christmas story: Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Damian Thompson writes in The Spectator about Alpha male: Can Nicky Gumbel and Holy Trinity Brompton save the Church of England?
Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian An atheist’s prayer for the churches that keep our soul.
Richard Coles writes for the Church Times about Salute the happy morn?
Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that Jesus knows, flooding isn’t the end of the world.
Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that Christmas shows us humanity’s hope is to be found in the crib not in the stars.
The Secretary General has prepared an explanatory memorandum outlining the legislative process that would need to be followed by the Church of England to enable women to become bishops. Although prepared for members of the two Houses of Parliament it has been issued to members of General Synod and made available online.
I have also placed an html version online here.
The memorandum concludes, “It would, therefore, be possible for legislation introduced in 2013 to complete all its stages in the lifetime of this Synod, which ends in July 2015. Pending the discussions with all interested parties in the early months of 2013 it is too soon, however, to offer a confident prediction of what the timescale will be given the imperative need to avoid a second failure.”
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.
HOUSE OF BISHOPS - SUMMARY OF DECISIONS
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:
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.
Paul Johnson has written an article for the Jurist titled Same-Sex Marriage To Be ‘Illegal’ in the Church of England and Church in Wales. He argues that the effect of an on-going human rights debate in the British Isles and the European Court of Human Rights may have a detrimental effect on the same-sex marriage debate in the UK…
I found this paragraph particularly interesting:
…On the basis of a growing moral panic about human rights in the UK, the government has announced deeply problematic legislation. Whilst they will extend marriage to same-sex couples in England and Wales, they will also amend the Equality Act 2010 to establish a form of legal discrimination in marriage based on sexual orientation. They will also write legislation to make same-sex marriage in a Church of England or Church in Wales church “illegal.” The UK government will, therefore, follow a number of other states, such as those African states like Nigeria, that are regularly held up in the UK as the embodiment of homophobia, and introduce legislation designed to prohibit same-sex marriage in a particular context…
Paul also wrote this article last June: Same-Sex Civil Marriage Gives Deference to Church of England Canon Laws
Scot Peterson has written an article, now republished at Law and Religion UK titled Same-sex marriage, National Churches and the quadruple lock.
On 11 December the government announced its response to the consultation on same-sex marriage that took place from 15 March to 14 June 2012. The initial consultation concerned how (not whether) to proceed with same-sex civil marriage. In its response to the initial consultation, the Church of England failed to respond to the question that the government had asked. It took the position that all marriage (civil or religious) was the same and that same-sex marriage should not be offered by the state. The church failed entirely to say how it could be offered, arguing that same-sex marriage should not be offered at all, even by the government in non-religious ceremonies…
And he concludes:
It seems clear that the constitutional, political and legal complexities of the law of marriage in Wales surprised the government. But good, sensible argument, not a generalized attack on the government’s competence is needed. And extending the omnishambles argument to the Church of England is entirely unfair given that Church’s general, public refusal to cooperate with the consultation in the first place.
The Church of Wales may have received a temporary scare, which will make it think twice in the future about trying to ride on the coat-tails of its established equivalent in the east. The Church of England may have received its just deserts for being obstinate. But the government should not be the target of general criticism for an honest mistake on an obscure point of law, which was unforeseeable when the Church in Wales did not address this point, or any other, in its response to the consultation.
The problems in this bill can easily be corrected. This is a cross-party question of policy that addresses a felt need by LGBT people and religious freedom for minorities like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews as well as for those, like the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England, who disagree. It should not be turned into a political football.
Anya Palmer has written in the Solicitor’s Journal_ One step forward, two steps back.
The government’s decision to make it illegal for the Church of England to conduct same-sex marriages leaves Anya Palmer questioning its position in society.
The agenda and supporting papers for the meeting of the House of Latiy to be held on 18 January 2013 have been published.
I have copied the agenda below.
The press have been advised that this is a public meeting and that it will be chaired by the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC, Dean of the Arches.
HOUSE OF LAITY
Notice is hereby given of a meeting of the House of Laity to be held at 1.30 p.m. on Friday 18 January 2013 at Church House, Westminster.
Westminster SW1P 3AZ
18 December 2012
Chair of the House of Laity: HL01A and HL01B
Canon Stephen Barney (Leicester) to move:
1. ‘That this House have no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House.’
Notes to the agenda are below the fold.
1. This meeting has been convened under Standing Order 2(c) of the House.
2. Canon Stephen Barney has prepared a note (HL01A) explaining his reasons for seeking this meeting. Members are also referred to HL01B, which is an unedited transcript of Dr Giddings’s speech during the debate on the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure (GS 1708D) at the November 2012 group of sessions of the General Synod.
3. It would help if members who wished to speak in this debate could, if at all possible, notify the Secretary of the House in advance either in writing or at firstname.lastname@example.org. A request to speak form is included with this agenda.
4. Members who wish to reclaim expenses associated with attendance at this meeting should discuss this with their diocese or, where their expenses are met centrally, with the Synod Support Unit. Diocesan Secretaries have been informed that the meeting is to take place.
19 December 2012
Bishops’ office and working costs published
The 2011 office and working costs of bishops in the Church of England are published today. Figures for individual bishops were first published, for the year 2000, in December 2001. Bishops’ office and working costs were previously published as a total figure. The latest report reflects the recently introduced block grant funding to support bishops’ ministry.
Total expenditure by and on behalf of bishops in 2011 totalled £17,013,912 (2010 £15,983,479) including an increase of £782,216 in legal costs incurred.
The report includes a full description of the important role played by bishops locally, regionally and nationally.
The 113 diocesan and suffragan bishops of the Church of England institute and support the ministry of all clergy and lay ministers in their dioceses, as well as providing pastoral support to them. Each diocesan bishop has ultimate oversight of several hundred clergy, Readers and lay workers and of a diocesan budget and portfolio of assets. In addition to diocesan responsibilities, such as ordinations and diocesan festivals, and engaging with the communities which they serve, bishops often chair or serve on national and international Church boards and councils, as well as large charities, special commissions or public inquiries. They are involved in the growing work towards visible unity with other denominations both nationally and internationally and in work with other faiths.
Twenty-six diocesan bishops sit in the House of Lords: at least one is present every day and others will attend according to the subjects under debate that day. The Bishop of Sodor & Man sits in the Tynwald.
Following the meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this month when they said that they would appoint a working group to assist them in formulating new legislative proposals on women bishops the Archbishops have today announced the membership of the group.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the membership of the new working group established by the House of Bishops following the defeat of the women bishops’ legislation.
The group includes members of all three houses of the General Synod - Bishops, Clergy and Laity - and a senior member of clergy who is no longer on the Synod. The members are:
The Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (chair)
The Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry
The Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester
The Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester
The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
The Ven Christine Hardman
The Rev Dr Rosemarie Mallett
Dr Philip Giddings
Dr Paula Gooder
Mrs Margaret Swinson
The group’s task (see PR 160.12) is to assist the House when it meets in February and again in May to come to a decision on the new package of proposals which it intends to bring to the Synod in July. The group has been tasked to arrange facilitated discussions in February with a wide range of people of a variety of views. It is expected to have two initial meetings in January.
Once draft legislation is ready for introduction to the Synod there will be a separate decision, in the usual way, about the membership of a new Steering Committee. That Committee will have the responsibility for the management of the legislation through Synod. Steering Committees are always composed of members of Synod who support the legislation.
The membership of the Revision Committee is settled after first consideration of the legislation.
Andrew Brown at the Guardian has written Church of England traditionalists are running out of hiding places.
A backlash against the female bishops vote and gay marriage ruling has put church conservatives on the back foot.
On the face of it, this autumn has seen two resounding defeats for the liberals in the church of England, over female bishops and gay marriage. But it may be just as true that these have been two really pyrrhic victories for the traditionalists.
On female bishops it looks already clear that the best the traditionalists can hope for is an orderly retreat. I don’t think they had any idea how angry their opponents would be, nor how numerous. It really has been something like a revolution, in that the old power structures are quite inadequate to contain the real power of the laity. You can see that from the way that the supposed representatives of the laity in the General Synod, the house of laity, were the people who most diverged from sentiment in the pews.
Even in the house of laity the opponents were a minority, but they were a significant minority. That significance may now be over…
And he concludes with this:
…Where gay marriage is concerned the position is not nearly so stark. Fear of a wider evangelical backlash (for all I know, quite justified) led the bishops into their “quadruple lock” jail where now a liberal Anglican who wants to marry a gay couple is breaking the law in the way that no other minister of religion would be. It seems to me inevitable that some vicar nearing retirement will carry out a gay wedding in his church once these are legal and then wait for martyrdom. The resulting kerfuffle will only dramatise the difference between legal establishment, where the church’s bureaucracy is bound into the state, and what one might call emotional or effective establishment, where the church is a natural theatre of society’s self-understanding – a way to think about who we are, both as individuals and as a country. That’s not a distinction to which a wise archbishop would want to draw attention, but it’s going to be hard to avoid.
Following Frank Cranmer’s article Church and State – an idiot’s guide at Law & Religion UK the site now has this follow-up about primary and secondary Church legislation.
Here’s a brief extract:
It [the recent debate in the House of Commons] also exposed a number of common misconceptions and gaps in understanding of the relationship between Parliament and the Church of England, which are unlikely to be restricted to the Lower House. Indeed, Stephen Slack, the Registrar and Chief Legal Adviser to the General Synod, notes, [(2012) 14 Ecc LJ 54-55]:
“in the case of the draft legislation relating to women in the episcopate, members of Synod can wrongly assume that preliminary debates of this kind have conclusively settled the Synod’s position in relation to issues that have been debated, when in fact they remain open for subsequent further debate and decision in the course of the legislative process itself.”
But do read it all.
Frank Cranmer has analysed the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Read all about it at Same-sex marriage in Scotland – the draft Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill.
Two extracts from his article which may be of particular interest to English or Welsh readers:
The [consultation] document begins with a list of “proposed protections” at para 1.06 (which is not on all fours with the recent English proposals):
- religious bodies that wish to solemnise same-sex marriage or register civil partnerships will have to opt in to do so;
- there will be no obligation on religious bodies and celebrants to opt in to solemnise same-sex marriage and register civil partnerships;
- religious celebrants will only be able to solemnise same-sex marriages or register civil partnerships if their organisation has decided to opt in;
- if a religious body decides to opt in, there will be no obligation on individual celebrants to solemnise same-sex marriages or to register civil partnerships.
And there is this:
In addition, it has concluded that an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 is required – which would need to be made by the United Kingdom Parliament rather than by the Scottish Parliament. A draft of the proposed amendment to the 2010 Act is at Annex N.
Possibly with Ladele in mind, the Government has decided that the legislation should not include a conscientious opt-out for civil registrars.
Updated yet again 7 pm
Father Philip North, who earlier this year was appointed to be the new Bishop of Whitby in the Diocese of York, has announced he is withdrawing from the role. He has notified the Archbishop of York and his current bishop, the Bishop of London, of his decision. He will now remain as Team Rector of the Parish of Old St Pancras in North London.
Philip North commented, “It was a great honour to be chosen for this role and I had been very much looking forward to taking up the position. However, in the light of the recent vote in the General Synod and having listened to the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland, I have concluded that it is not possible for me, at this difficult time for our Church, to be a focus for unity. I have therefore decided that it is better to step aside at this stage.
“I have reached this decision after a time of deep reflection and feel sure that it is for the best. I now look forward to refocusing my energies on the pastoral needs of my Parish.”
The Bishop of London added, “I can understand the reasons for Philip’s decision. He is a gifted and energetic priest and I am glad that he remains in this Diocese to continue his outstanding work in Camden Town.”
The original news of his appointment was (rather belatedly) reported in this news item with a headline about a quite different appointment.
Ed Thornton at the Church Times has a report of what is meant by “the views of people in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland” see “I would not be a focus for unity”: Philip North withdraws from Bishop of Whitby post.
…The churchwarden of St Oswald’s Church, Lythe, in Whitby, John Secker, wrote a letter to the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, dated 28 November, which gathered a number of signatories.
The letter said: “We are puzzled, dismayed and very disappointed that for the third time running we have been assigned a Bishop of Whitby who does not accept the ordination of women priests. . .
“We are aware that some parishes, some clergy, and some of the laity in the Whitby bishopric do not accept the validity of women priests but, as in the rest of the country, a substantial majority of us do. So why should we have to have a bishop who does not accept them? We assume that there must be some sort of rationale behind the decision, but you should be aware that many of us feel aggrieved and overlooked.”
In a reply, dated 6 December, Dr Sentamu wrote: “Whatever fears there may be about Revd North’s ability to work with all in the Archdeaconry [of Cleveland], I am confident that he will not only live up to Bishop Martin’s example, but also go beyond it in his valuing of the ministry of his female colleagues.
“Clearly the appointment of Revd North has also been made as part of our accommodation for our petitioning parishes in this diocese. The fact is that the vast majority of our petitioning parishes are in the Cleveland Archdeaconry and so the see of Whitby is the obvious choice for such episcopal provision where the diocesan bishop is an outspoken advocate of women’s ministry. . .
“I deeply regret that this appointment should be seen as in any way indicating a lack of respect and value for women’s ministry in this Diocese and in the Church as a whole. I would hope that my words and actions elsewhere would be ample proof to the contrary.”
The Evening Standard has Clergyman says he will not take up bishop job, as Church of England crisis deepens
The Diocese of York has now issued this announcement: Fr Philip North withdraws from Bishop of Whitby post
…Yesterday, Archbishop Sentamu wrote to all clergy and Readers in the Archdeaconry of Cleveland to say, “It is with sadness that I have heard from Revd Philip North of his decision to withdraw his acceptance of the post of Bishop of Whitby.
“This has come as a great disappointment to me personally and I am sure to many in the wider church, the Diocese and the Archdeaconry of Cleveland.
“Philip North is not a single-issue priest. As a gifted pastor-teacher he is deeply committed to the flourishing of the diverse ministries of all God’s people - lay and ordained. His dynamic vision for making Christ visible in mission and ministry, as well as serving the poor, would have been a great asset to us all.
“I am returning to the Diocese later tomorrow, having been in Uganda to attend the Installation of the new Archbishop.
“The question of the appointment of a new bishop will be first referred to the Dioceses Commission. As many of you may know, the Dioceses Commission will be reviewing our Diocese, its structures, boundaries and delivery of mission. As to the timing of when this will happen, the Dioceses Commission will let us know.
“Please pray for Philip and all those in the Cleveland Archdeaconry at this time.”
John Bingham at the Telegraph has Priest forced to stand aside as bishop over traditionalist view on women.
Anya Palmer has written Church “shocked” to get what it lobbied for
Suggestions that CoE never asked for gay marriage ban need to be taken with a pinch of salt
The Guardian reported on Friday (14 December 2012) that the Church of England and Church of Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at proposals to ban them from conducting marriages for same sex couples. The piece ends with Ben Bradshaw MP quoting the Bishop of Leicester as saying the CoE was very upset about this “because it gave the impression that the Church of England were unfriendly towards gays.”
But is the Church of England really unhappy with the proposed ban?
…The only on-the-record statement from the Church of England in the Guardian report is from “a spokesman” claiming that the CoE was not consulted on the proposed “quadruple lock”. The spokesman does not confirm that the CoE does not want a ban – all he or she confirms is that the CoE claims it was not consulted.
Personally I find it difficult to believe the CoE was not consulted.
Firstly, because when the government’s proposals were outlined, on Tuesday 11 December, the Church of Wales immediately stated it did not agree, whereas the Church of England neither disagreed nor made any claim that it had not been consulted. Here is the statement the CoE put out on Wednesday 12 December:
Far from suggesting the CoE has not been consulted, the statement asserts that it has been listened to:
“This is not a question of the Government and Parliament imposing a prohibition or ‘ban’ on what the Church of England can do. It is instead the Government responding to the Church’s wish to see the status quo for the Church of England preserved.” [Emphasis added]
The statement clearly approves of the proposal that the CoE not be given a right to opt in:
“For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.”
If that doesn’t say “we don’t want an opt-in, thank you” I am not sure what would.
This statement was presumably approved at a high level. It has not been retracted. At no point has the Church of England stated on the record that it does not want the additional bar.
And secondly, I don’t believe the CoE was not consulted because the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has now put out a statement expressly denying that the CoE was not consulted…
Sam Jones at the Guardian had Government’s gay marriage plan a mess, says Labour
Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has Equal marriage confusion: owning up.
…The government would appear to have blundered in its attempts to head off the more alarmist opponents of equal marriage. But it cannot be blamed for the perception that the C of E is “unfriendly to gays”.
Church leaders have openly and persistently discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, to the extent of asking lawyers to come up with excuses for blocking even celibate gays who seek full inclusion from being considered as bishops.
They have also criticised other Anglican provinces for treating LGBT people equally, and sought to give greater power to anti-inclusive churches to hinder progress in other countries.
The official consultation response on equal civil marriage was not only heavily negative but also raised alarms about human rights law and the position of the Church of England as an established church.
Exaggeration and misinterpretation of these warnings was not properly addressed by church authorities unwilling to admit in public that many at all levels of the Church of England want greater inclusion…
Fraser Nelson writes in the Sunday Telegraph that Britain is getting a glimpse of the crazy world of culture wars.
…But the news, in recent days, has started to sound a little more American. MPs have been quoting the Bible in just the same way, and getting themselves just as wound up. David Cameron’s plans for gay marriage, which were controversial enough in the first place, have been made even more so by his decision to let such unions take place in churches. After two years of trying to discuss this rationally, tribal battle has now broken out. A group of liberal Tories calling themselves the “Freedom to Marry” alliance are up against a group of less organised, lesser known and less telegenic Conservatives who are popping up on TV to denounce the Government. The ordinary viewer may conclude that the Tory party is going through one of its periodic bouts of madness.
I suspect that, by now, even Cameron is wondering if this has not all spun out of control. It’s perfectly easy to see his original logic. As a matter of principle, he believes in marriage and would like it to be accessible to everyone. If the Unitarian Church and certain strands of Judaism want to marry gay couples on their premises, then why should government stand in their way? For the record, I quite agree. Religious freedom in Britain ought to be universal, extended to the handful of churches or synagogues who want same-sex marriage. To lift the ban ought to be a technical issue, an amendment to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 requiring no fanfare…
Ed Malnick has a report in the Sunday Telegraph inaccurately headlined Anglican vicars threaten to defy gay marriage ban.
Leading Anglican campaigners have warned that Government plans to exempt the Church from the new legislation will lead to hundreds of homosexual clergy and worshippers marrying in Quaker and Unitarian services and then returning to the Church.
In a letter to The Sunday Telegraph, dozens of clergy, including Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, today urge homosexual Anglicans to follow this course of action.
“Until the Church of England allows us to solemnise same-sex marriages in our churches, as a matter of pastoral expediency we will counsel lesbian and gay members of our congregations to marry in those churches willing to celebrate faithful same-sex relationships,” the letter, which is also signed by scores of lay members of the Church, states.
The 150 signatories warn: “If the bill is enacted in its present form, in 2014 married lesbian and gay Anglicans, lay and ordained, will be worshipping and ministering in parishes of the Church of England.”
The presence of married homosexual couples, including clergy, in the Church will force its leaders to confront the growing debate over sexuality, the letter suggests…
The letter itself, with signatories, appears here (scroll down).
Vicky Allan in the Sunday Herald writes that Love will burst through any lock.
When it comes to keeping intruding gay couples out of the premises of the institution of marriage, there is only one security measure up to the job – the Westminster quadruple lock.
Like many aspects around last week’s launch of the bill to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales, this term used to describe the multiple layers of protection that will be afforded the clergy to allow them to act as their beliefs dictate – measures which include a ban on same-sex marriages being conducted by the Church of England and Church of Wales – comes edged with hysteria. Only the paranoid, fearful and homophobic, surely, would seek more than, say, a standard basic lock. Yet two archbishops in the Church of England declared they still wanted to see the “shambolic” gay marriage bill stopped. For them, even the Westminster quadruple lock was not enough.
So, it was a relief when, on Wednesday, the Scottish Government published its draft legislation for our own bill, and there were no strange multi-layered locks and no ban for the Church of Scotland, only talk of allowing churches to opt in or opt out, and protecting both churches and individual celebrants through changes to the Equalities Act…
…The results of a Mail on Sunday poll, conducted by Survation, suggest strong support for gay rights across a wide range of issues among most voters, but with sharp differences between the young and old.
Overall, six out of ten support the gay marriage plan. Among the under-35s, it soars to 73 per cent; by contrast, 56 per cent of over-55s are against…
David Gibson writes in the Huffington Post about Mary Breastfeeding Jesus: Christmas’ Missing Icon.
This article by Philip Jones for Ecclesiastical Law was published several months ago, but may be particularly relevant now: The Two Structures of the Church of England: Pyramids with Grass Roots.
Lizzy Davies of The Observer has been talking to Philippa Boardman: ‘Every day I wear purple’.
The Church Times leader today: The Church that says ‘No’
…The chief problem for the C of E is not so much the Government’s new understanding of marriage as its understanding of establishment. Writing in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, said: “I will never bring in a law that would impinge, in any way, on the Church’s power to decide who it marries and who it does not.” But the Church does not have the power to decide. It is the right of any couple, provided neither has a living spouse, to marry in their parish church. If the new legislation passes, therefore, it will introduce a new discrimination, and cede power to the Church that it did not have before. Perhaps some might approve of this new autonomy, but it has a significant implication for establishment, and at a personal, not an abstruse constitutional, level.
Marriage is defined neither by the state nor the Church. Couples commit themselves to each other in ways that seem best to them, and, if it conforms to the general understanding of marriage, that is what they call it. The state recognises this aggregate definition and legalises accordingly. Hence the latest move to recognise the desire of many same-sex couples to call their union “marriage”.
In a charged atmosphere of reform, the simple restating of the present blanket ban could not be a neutral act, especially when wrapped in the Government’s protectionist language, designed, we presume, with its own back-benchers in mind. However mollifying various sections of the Church have been in the past, Tuesday thus established the C of E as a gay-unfriendly institution: the Church that says “No.” Religion has been a key part of marriage for many, but this is not a given. The Church has the privilege of blessing the unions that people bring to it. Since the blessing it offers or withholds is God’s, it needs to be sure that its interpretation is sound and explicable. Many believe that it is not. The way of testing this in the C of E is through the amending of canons - a long and, on such a divisive issue, tortuous process. The Government proposes to leave Churches to make up their own minds. In the mean time, there are the twin concerns of public perception and mission. A greater enthusiasm for the blessing of same-sex partnerships in church would be one effective way of countering the negative impression given this week.
In this week of the second Sunday in Advent, readers are invited to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this very helpful article by Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK.
When matters touching on relations between religion and the state are discussed it not infrequently happens that the terminology becomes hopelessly confused and misused – sometimes by people who really should know better. So the following is a cut-out-and-keep guide to the absolute basics of Church and State.
First, there are four separate territories in the United Kingdom…
Madeleine Davies has two articles in today’s Church Times.
House of Bishops to revive hopes for women bishops
MPs ‘take up the fight’ over women bishops
David Pocklington fo Law & Religion UK has written Towards Women in the Episcopate – I.
Julian Joyce of the BBC has written Women bishops: Ordinary churchgoers could shape CofE’s future.
[There is a mistake in a sidebar to this article. PCCs do not elect deanery synod members. They are elected by the annual parochial church meeting.]
Updated yet again 23.00 with statement from DCMS
There are multiple reports in the media this morning.
Church Times see preceding article.
Sam Jones Guardian Church of England and Church in Wales protest at gay marriage ban
The Church of England and the Church in Wales have expressed their “complete shock” at the government’s plan to ban them from offering same-sex marriages, claiming they were not consulted over the proposed legislation, which would make them the only religious organisations to be legally barred from conducting the ceremonies…
…The Right Rev Tim Stevens, bishop of Leicester and the Church of England’s lead spokesman in the Lords, told a closed meeting of bishops, Lords and MPs that the government had not consulted the church on the proposal, adding that the church had never sought the government’s so-called “quadruple lock” on gay marriage. He also expressed his regret at the government’s lack of consultation.
A Church of England spokesman confirmed that the church had not been consulted over the government’s plans, saying: “Bishop Tim is correct that the first mention of a ‘quadruple lock’ came when the secretary of state announced it in the Commons. We had not been privately informed of this prior to the announcement.”
Miller had been due to meet the Church of England representatives last Thursday but she cancelled the meeting at the last moment…
John Bingham Telegraph Church accuses Maria Miller of ‘omnishambles’ over gay marriage announcement
…Although the meeting went ahead in Mrs Miller’s absence, the bishop was given a general briefing about legal provisions to enable gay couples to marry without churches which chose not to carry out the ceremonies facing challenges under human rights laws.
The first that officials at Church House in Westminster knew of a special legal bar, specifically aimed at the Church of England, was when Mrs Miller made her statement.
MPs expressed amazement when Bishop Stevens set out the sequence of events during a meeting yesterday with the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to discuss the separate crisis over women bishops.
Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP, who was present, said: “He said that ‘the Government did not consult us on this and we wish they had sought our advice’ – it was pretty strong.”
He went on: “At the end Bishop Justin simply said I really have nothing to add to what Tim has said, I agree with every word that he has said.”
Mr Gardiner added: “I think that there was shock on the part of the Church leaders that the Government had not even thought to consult with the bishops on this.
“The Government has behaved in an extraordinarily high-handed and cack-handed way.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport insisted it would have been “inappropriate” to tell the Church of England about the provision before it had been announced to Parliament.
But senior Church of England officials likened the cancellation of the meeting and failure to brief the Church to an episode of the satirical programme The Thick of It.
“It is an ominshambles,” said one. “This is legislation on the hoof, it has been a botched job.”
A spokeswoman for the department said: “Clearly, it would have been inappropriate to discuss the fine detail of our proposals prior to them being announced in Parliament.
“But the Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages would continue.”
Questions are now being asked about why the Church of England did not express this surprise about the fourth lock earlier in the week. See this blog post: The Church of England, #equalmarriage And The Truth
The Church of England was quick to explain that the Government was not giving them any extra protections but respecting their right to opt-in constitutionally if they so wished. Their press release is here (it is their second version. The first was entitled “Equal Marriage and the Church of England”. Obviously that couldn’t stand, so it has been changed to “Same-sex Marriage and the Church of England. Note the “Same Same Marriage” reference in the left hand sidebar which I like to think suggests someone at the press office wasn’t happy with the need to change the title!). An excellent explanation of the Quadruple Lock and the Church of England’s position can be found here. But let us quote from the press release.
For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.
The Church of England, on the 11th, was extremely clear they didn’t want an opt-in as they already had one…
…Now the main issue the Church of England representatives have is that they were not consulted on the details of the proposals. Given their initial press release afterwards (where they expressed satisfaction with what the Government was proposing in terms of legal protections) I find this very disingenuous. Do these representatives want marriage equality in the church? The Bishop of Leicester, quoted in the story, certainly doesn’t…
And now the BBC has this report Gay marriage: Church says government move ‘absurd’
The day before the PM’s remarks, CofE officials had met for talks on the issue with officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
“What is clear is that the amount of detail given by officials from the department certainly wasn’t the level of detail revealed on the floor of the House” five days later, said a CofE spokesman. “It think that’s surprising, at the very least.
“There is this sense of the government slightly making it up on the hoof. This is an important and serious issue and a complex area of law. Doing all this on the hoof is absurd.”
But a DCMS statement said: “It is just not true to say that we have not properly discussed our proposals with the Church of England.
“As part of our consultation process, and before we finalised our proposals, Government officials met the Church of England at a very senior level.
“The Church made clear to us its wish to see legal provisions which would ensure that their position on not conducting same-sex marriages could continue. While it is inappropriate to share the exact nature of legislative proposals before announcing them to Parliament, discussions with the Church were quite specific about the quad lock.”
The CofE spokesman said there was no wish for “protection or exemption for ourselves in ways that are any different from any other Church”, though it was accepted that its unique position as the established Church would require particular legislation.
“If, despite our opposition, the legislation goes through, we support the government intention of leaving the choice of conducting same-sex weddings with all Churches and faiths.”
He added: “The Church’s position is about the meaning of marriage; the Church’s position is not about being anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) - we fully support civil partnership.”
The DCMS itself has published this on behalf of Maria Miller: Equal marriage and the Church of England.
…We discussed our plans with the Church of England
Some have suggested that the Church of England didn’t know in advance about the legal protections we were proposing. This is simply not correct. We sat down and had detailed, private discussions with them prior to my statement in Parliament. But of course, the rules of the House of Commons mean that the detail of legislative proposals is presented to Parliament before anyone else. We will continue to discuss our plans with them going forward, and those meetings have already started…
Jerome Taylor wrote this at the Independent on Tuesday. I think it is the best analysis I have seen so far.
Census, gays and a very bad day for the Church of England
The historical goodwill of the British public towards Anglicanism is starting to run dry - and this anti same-sex marriage stance will only drain further support
New census data revealed this morning showed that just shy of 1,100 people in England and Wales ditch their Christian identity every day.
Meanwhile the only organisation that has a duty to marry British citizens will, the government announced this afternoon, be legally allowed to discriminate once more against gay men and women. Not a good day for the Church of England. If I were a Lords Spiritual right now, I’d be rather nervous about keeping my job. The established church has never looked so out of touch with the rest of Britain…
And on the equal marriage legislation, he said this:
Out of touch
The Church hierarchy’s official opposition to equal marriage legislation, meanwhile, is likely to erode support for Christianity even further over the next ten years – especially among younger generations who simply aren’t as bothered about what people do with their genitals in loving, committed consensual relationships to the same extent that perhaps their parents or grandparents are.
It’s important to note that much of the Church of England is not anti-gay marriage. There are wonderful, inclusive Anglican congregations that welcome gay couples and plenty of Anglicans who support equal marriage rights. But a chuck are opposed and the Church hierarchy has decided to go for a de facto oppositional stance until they can sort out what their ecclesiastical approach to same sex relationships is (which given how long it’s taken to sort out the issue of women could take some time).
The government’s announcement today that the Church of England will be legally banned from having gay marriages – as opposed to other religious groups who will be allowed to opt out – should halt concerns that the definition of marriage is somehow being threatened in canon law. The Church now has a “quadruple” legal lock that Europe and our courts simply would not be able to interfere with. For much of the anti-gay religious right, though, I fear even that won’t be enough.
However they try to portray this as a “religious freedom” argument, they are ultimately anti-gay marriage and determined to sink it however they can. The fact that no religious group would ever be forced to conduct gay marriages – or that plenty of religious groups believe their right to religious expression is currently being impinged because they can’t conduct gay weddings – falls on deaf ears.
The additional legal protections for the Church of England, of course, now means that the chances of Britain’s established church embracing gay men and women in marriage is now further off than ever. So an already out of touch church will become further disconnected while most of the people it is supposed to minister to march on. If the established church isn’t careful, the distance will become simply too wide to bridge.
The Church Times reports this morning: Same-sex-marriage Bill will lock C of E’s right to abstain by Ed Thornton
THE protection for the Church of England to be contained within the Government’s same-sex-marriage legislation was a surprise to church representatives, it emerged this week.
On Tuesday, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, announced that the Bill would include a “quadruple lock” of measures that would “protect religious freedom”. These would specify that it would be illegal for any Church of England minister to conduct a same-sex marriage.
But at a meeting with Parliamentarians on Thursday, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said that this level of protection had not been mentioned in meetings with the Government. He regretted that no prior consul[t]ation had been sought…
And there is this sidebar
The legal position
IF, once the same-sex marriage legislation is passed, a parish priest decides to break the law and marry a same-sex couple, it will be to no avail: the marriage will not be valid.
This is because the legislation will not alter the Church of England’s canons, one of which - Canon B30, paragraph 1 - states that marriage is “of one man with one woman”.
The Government’s legislation does not, therefore, make it illegal for C of E ministers to marry same-sex couples, as some reports have suggested: it merely reinforces what is already the case in canon law.
Since canon law is also part of public law, the Government has had to make it specific that same-sex marriage legislation does not apply to Church of England marriage rites.
The Government is not attempting to alter canon law for two reasons: first, it is responding to requests from Church House officials that it permit the Church to maintain its existing position on marriage; second, it is preserving a long-standing tradition that Parliament does not legislate for the Church of England in matters of doctrine and practice.
It would be up to the General Synod, therefore, to pass legislation changing the C of E’s doctrine and practice of marriage. A legislative package would have to include an Amending Canon redefining the nature of marriage, and the passing of a Measure (the General Synod’s equivalent of an Act of Parliament) which altered both statute law concerning C of E marriage rites, and the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer.
If passed by the Synod, the Measure would require parliamentary and, ultimately, royal assent.
This post from Ministry of Truth Making sense of Cameron’s ‘Quadruple Lock’ on Equal Marriage gives a great deal of detail.
…Okay, so why has the government now put religious marriage on the table when, previously, it was only offering to support same-sex civil marriages?
The answer to this lies in the legal advice that the government will have received prior to the publication of its response to the consultation on equal marriage in which they will have been told that by affording legal recognition to civil same sex marriages they would be paving the way for a legal challenge under article 9 of European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of thought conscience and religion.
To be absolutely clear on this, as this is an issue that has been widely misrepresented by opponents of equal marriage, the issue here is not that affording legal recognition to civil same-sex marriage would allow gay couples to use current equality legislation or the European Court of Human Rights to compel the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church, or any other religious group or denomination to set aside their theological/doctrinal objections to same-sex marriage. Even without the proposed ‘quadruple lock’ the likelihood of either the High Court of England and Wales or the European Court of Human Rights forcing any religious organisation to carry out same-sex marriages against its wishes is somewhere on a par with the chance of my being elected the next Pope. The High Court does not, as a matter of principle and long-standing convention, issue rulings on matter of theology while the European Court’s preferred approach to religious cases is perhaps best characterised as ducking the issue by batting the matter back to national governments/courts under their margin of appreciation.
What was highly likely, had the government not made some provision for religious same-sex marriages, was a legal challenge to the government, and not to any individual church, under article 9 of ECHR from one or more of those denominations that has already indicated that it does wish to be able to conduct religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, a list which currently includes the Unitarians, Quakers and Liberal Jews. From the point at which secular law recognises same-sex civil marriages their ceases to be any viable legal argument for restricting the ability of religious denominations to recognise and conduct same sex marriages, if that is consistent with their theological position, solely on the basis that other religious groups are, themselves, opposed to that same practice….
And, regarding the fourth lock in particular:
…Unlike other churches and religious organisations, the Church of England, as the established church, is legally obliged to conduct marriage ceremonies for anyone who asks subject only to the rules of canon law and secular provision of the Marriage Act 1949 (and subsequent amendments) irrespective of the actual religious beliefs of the parties who wish to marry. As long as both parties are content to be married under the rites of the Church of England, legally able to marry and are willing to comply with the Churches administrative requirements, e.g. the posting of banns, etc. then, save for an explicit legal exemption relating to divorcees whose former spouse in still alive, the Church has a legal duty to perform the ceremony.
This being the case, the government cannot merely leave the option open without creating a constitutional problem by giving rise to a potential conflict between statute and canon law, one that can only be resolved in one of two ways given that the Church remains, at least for the time being, opposed to carrying out same-sex marriages; the government must either legislate for the Church of England in line with current canon law, in which case statute law must specify that it remains unlawful for ministers of the Church of England to marry same-sex couples, or it must remove from law the Church’s legal duty to perform marriages for any heterosexual couple who asks to be married under the rites of the Church.
As this second option would entail the Church taking a very clear step on the road to disestablishment, the government have chosen to take the first option and maintain a consistent position between statute and canon law by retaining a ban of same-sex marriages within the Church of England in statute law…
John Bingham at the Telegraph wrote: Gay marriage: Church of England signals it could ‘live with’ Government plans
…Church officials have acknowledged that they could potentially “live with” the proposals drawn up by Government lawyers to prevent churches facing human rights challenges to force them to conduct weddings for homosexual couples.
It comes in marked contrast to claims earlier this year that same-sex marriage could pose the biggest threat to its position as the established church since the reformation.
The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has made clear that he is opposed to same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile the House of Lords heard on[e] claim that several bishops secretly support the principle of gay marriage but are afraid to speak out because it would contradict the official policy of the Church…
The Hansard transcript of yesterday’s House of Commons debate on women bishops is now available here.
There is also a video recording.
Press reports inlcude:
John Bingham Telegraph Church urged to put faith in Parliament over women bishops crisis.
The Scottish government has today issued this press release Same sex marriage
A consultation on a draft Bill to allow same sex marriage in Scotland has started today.
The plans have received cross party support in the Scottish Parliament.
The consultation seeks views on the detail of the legislation. It covers not only the introduction of same sex marriage but the detail of important protections in relation to religious bodies and celebrants, freedom of speech and education.
The Bill contains a provision making it clear that the introduction of same sex marriage has no impact on existing rights to freedom of speech…
The consultation itself can be found at this page: Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill from where links to all the associated documentation can be found.
WATCH has today issued this response to yesterday’s statement from the House of Bishops.
Response to the House of Bishops Press Statement of 11th December, 2012
WATCH welcomes the House of Bishops’ expression of gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, its acknowledgement of the anger, grief and disappointment so widely expressed during the past weeks and the commitment of all its members to making an effective response.
The House of Bishops’ willingness to consider questions regarding culture, processes and how women might more regularly contribute is also encouraging. We believe this will best be realised through the admission of women to the episcopate and will continue to work for the full inclusion of women at every level in the Church of England.
WATCH support the House of Bishops’ belief that a future legislative package would benefit from greater simplicity. A single clause measure is entirely consistent with that aim and would affirm that those who assent to the ordination of women to the episcopate are, in fact, loyal Anglicans from whom no ‘protection’ is needed.
WATCH remains clear that after ten years of searching for a compromise in law without success, a single clause measure is the best way forward now. Provision for those opposed can be made outside the Measure. This is the way that every other Province of the Anglican Communion with women bishops has proceeded.
We look forward with interest to the Archbishops’ announcement of the membership of the proposed working group and hope that it will be properly representative of the widespread support for women bishops clearly demonstrated at local level through Diocesan Synods.
We hope that future discussions will be guided by the principle that women are as central to the whole life of the church as men. It will be essential that such discussions uphold General Synod’s decision of 1975 there is ‘no fundamental objection to ordination of women to the priesthood’, and also that of 2006 which recognised that admitting women to the episcopate is ‘consonant with the faith of the church’.
Rachel Weir, WATCH CHAIR, commented
“There can be few issues that have undermined the Church’s credibility more than its recent rejection of the women bishops legislation. The entire country is watching as we try to find a way forward. Supporters of women bishops are prepared, if necessary, to wait for a new synod to get this right. It is time for a clear and unequivocal endorsement of women’s ordained ministry embodied in a single clause measure.”
The Church of England has issued an explanatory note:
The full text is reproduced in full below the fold. Now moved to here and the title changed from “Equal Marriage” to “Same-sex marriage”.
Apologies for the broken link earlier. One would not have expected the CofE website to move such an important statement so soon after its publication without inserting a forward to the new location.
And the page has been moved yet again. 17 December.
The following explanatory note may be helpful in the context of yesterday’s Government statement and subsequent press coverage.
In her statement to the House of Commons on 11th December on the Government’s proposals for Equal Marriage, the Secretary of State said:
“because the Church of England and Wales have explicitly stated that they do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages the legislation will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Churches of England and Wales to marry same-sex couples. Mr Speaker, this provision recognises and protects the unique and Established nature of these churches. The church’s canon law will also continue to ban the marriage of same-sex couples. Therefore, even if these institutions wanted to conduct same sex marriage, it would require a change to primary legislation at a later date and a change to canon law. Additional protection that cannot be breached.”
Press and political commentary on this has given rise to the impression that extra safeguards have been put in place for the Church of England, which give legal protection above and beyond that for other denominations and faiths. Some have said that this amounts to Government deciding to give preferential treatment to the Church of England on the question of legal protection for religious organisations not wishing to perform same-sex marriages. Others have questioned why the Government should explicitly write in to primary legislation that it would be “illegal” for the Church of England to perform same sex marriages when it will not be so for other denominations and faiths, taking this to mean that it places additional legislative barriers in the way of the Church of England in the unlikely event that it should wish to change its current position.
Such questions are understandable, but are based on a misunderstanding of the Church of England’s established status and its relationship with Parliament on matters relating to Canon Law.
This is not a question of the Government and Parliament imposing a prohibition or “ban” on what the Church of England can do. It is instead the Government responding to the Church’s wish to see the status quo for the Church of England preserved and accepting, as for other churches and faiths (though the legal framework is different for them), that it is not for the Government and Parliament to determine matters of doctrine.
As explained in the Church of England’s submission to the Government’s consultation in June 2012 (here: http://tinyurl.com/bsn6dxt), the Canons of the Church of England define marriage, in accordance with Christ’s teaching and the doctrine of the Church, as being between a man and a woman. Because the Canon Law of the Church of England is also part of the public law of the land and cannot be in conflict with statute law, it is important that any legislation for same-sex marriage makes it clear that it does not apply to marriage according to the rites of the Church of England. The legislative drafting of what is needed for the Church of England is necessarily unique because of that; and because Church of England clergy normally have a legal duty to marry people by virtue of their office. The Government, in accepting that the legal effect of the Canons of the Church of England need to be preserved (in line with its assertions about protection of religious liberty), have committed to drafting legislation on same sex marriage accordingly.
The effect of what the Government has proposed is to leave decisions about the doctrine and practice of the Church of England with the Church of England. Any change to the Church of England’s doctrine and practice of marriage would require legislation by the Church’s General Synod. In addition to an Amending Canon that redefined the nature of marriage such a legislative package would also involve the General Synod passing a Measure (the General Synod’s equivalent of an Act of Parliament) that altered both the statute law concerning marriage according to the rites Church of England and the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer.
All Synod Measures require parliamentary consent. The usual process of parliamentary scrutiny for legislation submitted by the Church is that it goes first to the Ecclesiastical Committee and then has a single debate in each House before the Measure goes for Royal Assent. As the General Synod’s devolved legislative powers includes the ability to amend Westminster legislation it would not require separate, additional legislation on the part of Parliament to enact any change to the Church’s practice on marriage. Talk of additional ‘barriers to opt-in’ for the Church of England following the Secretary of State’s announcement is therefore misplaced.
For Parliament to give the Church of England an opt-in to conduct same sex marriages that it hasn’t sought would be unnecessary, of doubtful constitutional propriety and introduce wholly avoidable confusion.
In addition, as the Bishop of Leicester said in the House of Lords on 11th December in response to the Government statement “our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities”. The arguments set out in the Church of England’s submission in June to the Government’s consultation (here: http://tinyurl.com/bsn6dxt) spell out those concerns in detail.
11 December 2012
Statement from the General Secretary of the Methodist Church, the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, in response to the Government’s proposals on same-sex marriage:
“The Government has announced that it will proceed with a Bill to make provision for the marriage of same-sex couples, including marriage in Churches which “opt in”. This decision raises both issues around the nature of marriage, and also about religious freedom.
“The Methodist response to the consultation on Equal Civil Marriage, drawn up by members of Faith and Order and the Methodist Council, stated that ‘The Methodist Church, in line with scripture and traditional teaching, believes that marriage is a gift of God and that it is God’s intention that a marriage should be a life-long union in body, mind and spirit of one man and one woman.’
“Within the Methodist Church there is a spectrum of belief about sexuality; however the Church has explicitly recognised, affirmed and celebrated the participation and ministry of lesbians and gay men.
“The Government has indicated that Churches which do not wish to marry same-sex couples will have the protection of law. This is important. However, in our response to the consultation we also stated that, while in the future we may or may not choose to affirm same-sex marriage, it would be unwarranted interference for the State to make that decision for us. For the purpose of religious freedom, if the Government allows marriage of same-sex couples in civil venues, then it must allow religious bodies to make the same choice. Whilst we recognise that most Christian Churches will probably choose not to offer same-sex marriages, the principle of religious freedom is an important one as it would it would leave with the Church the ultimate authority and autonomy to chose whether or not to do so.”
Yesterday the Archbishop of Wales expressed surprise about the government’s action with respect to the Church in Wales.
See BBC report: Gay marriage ban ‘step too far’ says Archbishop of Wales.
But if you read the official submission from the Church in Wales to the consultation, you can easily see why the government took them at their word.
The Church in Wales is in an almost identical position to the Church of England with regard to the solemnisation of marriages. The Church in Wales’ concerns about the legal implications are therefore the same as those of the Church of England. We have taken note of these, and would seek assurances that the Government would specifically include the Church in Wales in any provisions for the Church of England under the proposed legislation.
11 December 2012
Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church, the Rt Rev Tim Stephens, Bishop of Leicester, reminded Parliament in a response to the Government statement on equal marriage in the House of Lords, today.
While the forms and legalities around marriage had evolved over time, he said, one fundamental feature had remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.
The Bishop asked for assurances that, for example, teachers would not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings and that proper time would be given for consultation.
The Bishop of Leicester’s response in full:
“Those of us on these benches entirely share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, that we are all equal in the eyes of God. That is why many of us supported civil partnerships as we believed that the rights and obligations that flow to those who wish to formally mark and celebrate their commitment to each other should not be denied to people simply because of their sexuality.
“However, my Lords, civil partnerships, while conferring virtually the same legal benefits, are not the same as marriage. Marriage is not the property of the Government nor is it the property of the Church; and while the forms and legalities around marriage have evolved over time, as the noble lady minister has pointed out, one fundamental feature has remained the same throughout: that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a social institution that pre-dates both Church and State and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together.
“Does the Minister recognise that our concern here is not primarily for religious conscience or the protection of the Church of England’s position, but rather a more fundamental concern for stable communities? Can the Minister assure us that teachers for example in Church schools will not be disciplined for upholding traditional religious teachings? Can the Minister assure this House in spite of the accelerated pace of this process, proper time, even over a Christmas holiday, will be given for adequate consultation with the Church of England’s Canon lawyers on the legislative drafting. Can the Minister assure us that the great majority of members of the Church of England and other faiths will not be labelled as prejudicial to gay people for taking a traditional stand, and perhaps most troubling my Lords is the fact that the Government and Opposition have together in their proceeding with this Measure led to division, not only within the country where polls consistently show half the population against this change, but also between the political class and the vast majority of practicing religious people. What plans does the Government have for working towards a degree of consensus on this matter?”
The House of Bishops of the Church of England met yesterday and today at Lambeth Palace and considered the implications of the General Synod’s recent rejection of legislation to enable women to become bishops. The House had the benefit of participation in its discussion of the Very Rev Viv Faull, the Venerable Christine Hardman, Dr Paula Gooder, and Mrs Margaret Swinson, who had all previously served on the Steering Committee or Revision Committee for the legislation.
The House expressed its ongoing gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, and its sadness that recent events should have left so many feeling undermined and undervalued. Effective response to this situation is a priority on which all are strongly agreed.
The House acknowledged the profound and widespread sense of anger, grief, and disappointment felt by so many in the Church of England and beyond, and agreed that the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions. It expressed its continuing commitment to enabling women to be consecrated as bishops, and intends to have fresh proposals to put before the General Synod at its next meeting in July.
The House will be organising an event early in 2013 at which it will share with a larger number of lay and ordained women - in the context of prayer and reflection - questions about the culture of the House’s processes and discussions, and how women might more regularly contribute.
In order to avoid delay in preparing new legislative proposals, the House has set up a working group drawn from all three houses of Synod, the membership to be determined by the Archbishops and announced before Christmas.
This group will arrange facilitated discussions with a wide range of people of a variety of views in the week of February 4th, when General Synod was to have met.
The House will have an additional meeting in February immediately after these discussions, and expects to settle at its May meeting the elements of a new legislative package to come to Synod in July.
For any such proposals to command assent, the House believes that they will need (i) greater simplicity, (ii) a clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference “that those who dissent from as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans”, (iii) a broadly-based measure of agreement about the shape of the legislation in advance of the beginning of the actual legislative process. These concerns will be the focus of the working group in the months ahead.
The House endorsed the view of the Archbishops’ Council that the “Church of England now has to resolve this issue through its own processes as a matter of great urgency”.
Today the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has published data from the 2011 census which includes results for England and Wales from the ‘What is your religion?’ question. David Pocklington for Law & Religion UK has this handy summary Religion in Great Britain, 2011 with links to the ONS data.
The Guardian publishes this data on its own website:
Census 2011 mapped and charted: England & Wales in religion, immigration and race
Census 2011: how many Jedi Knights are there in England & Wales?
The Church of England has issued a press release: Census 2011 - England remains a faithful nation.
For the Telegraph Damian Thompson writes that Christianity is fading away in Britain as Islam surges and agnosticism spreads whilst Cristina Odone says 2011 census shock revelation: Christianity is still the majority religion, and Britain is still a God-fearing country.
The BBC reports that Census shows rise in foreign-born, but the article also covers the figures for religion.
Robert Booth writes for The Guardian that Christians could be minority by 2018, census analysis reveals.
Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):
On the principle of this matter, I sometimes think that we are talking at cross purposes. For me, there is absolutely no dispute that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt) and I were all created equal in the image of God. That is not the issue. For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the distinctiveness of men and women, so removing that complementarity from the definition of marriage is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):
Marriage has changed over the centuries, has it not? For centuries, the Church of England’s doctrine was that the primary purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, but many heterosexual couples either are unable to have children or choose not to have them. Marriage today is, for very many people, about many other things—companionship, sharing one’s life, mutual support and so on. As I said to the Minister yesterday, I find it difficult to believe that any Christian, including many Anglican bishops and clergy, would not want that for every member of their parish. Will she therefore consider not putting such an ultimate lock on the Church of England, so that there is freedom for the Church of England? Those in the Church of England all voted to keep slavery for 30 years, but eventually they changed their minds.
Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab):
The Minister just spoke about the special protection for the Church of England. The Church of England plays a special role in this country as our established Church, so is she satisfied that it is once again opting out of equalities legislation?
The remarks of the Bishop of Leicester have been published previously.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth:
Is the Minister aware that, notwithstanding the official position of the Church of England on this, a good number of its members warmly welcome the Government’s position on this? Is she aware that privately, a fair number of individual bishops in the Church of England also support it, but are not able to say so publicly at the moment because of the political situation in which the Church of England now finds itself?
The government has announced its plans for same-sex marriage.
The press release is here.
The consultation response is here.
And here is the official fact sheet.
Here is the key section of the press release:
The Government reiterated today its absolute commitment that no religious organisation, or individual minister of religion, would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. European law already puts protection for religious freedom beyond doubt (under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights) but the Government intends to go even further and put in place a ‘quadruple lock’ in domestic law.
The legal locks, which will be on the face of any primary legislation, are:
- no religious organisation, or individual minister, could be compelled to marry same-sex couples (or to permit this to happen on their premises);
- it will be unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless the organisation’s governing body has expressly opted in to do so (and that would mean the religious organisation itself opting in, the presiding minister having consented and the premises in which the marriage is to be conducted having been registered);
- the Equality Act 2010 would be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual minister for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose); and
- the bill will explicitly state that it would be illegal for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples, or to opt-in to do so. Canon law – which bans the marriage of same-sex couples – will continue to apply. That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before Church of England and Church in Wales would be able to opt in to conduct same - sex marriages.
Channel 4 News Gay marriage law plans split Tories - video
And the Guardian has this editorial: Gay marriage: beyond argument
…As the response to the consultation on equal marriage is published, there are two twists on the old tale of principled reform meeting pretend practical objections. The first is that desperate defences of the status quo are starting to self-defeat. It was in an effort to address the one reasonable religious demand, that no priest should be required to bless a union they believe to be wrong, that Whitehall proposed restricting reform to civil marriage, and keeping gay weddings to hotels and civic halls, well away from hallowed ground. The distinction was always clunky, particularly because reformist chapels and synagogues have now been free to stage civil partnerships for a year. Had the law gone through in this form, religious gay couples would have had to shun marriage in favour of a civil partnership to receive a religious service. That is plainly absurd, but this was not the basis on which the Church of England attacked the civil/religious marriage distinction. Rather, it suggested that dividing marriages into different classes would somehow fracture a foundation stone of a Christian society. This sophistry appears to have tested the patience of the Christian culture secretary, Maria Miller. Appearing in the house on Monday, she appeared ready to call the church’s bluff, by conceding that the civil/religious wedding distinction has indeed proved problematic – and then blurring it. She looks set to allow any church that wishes it to stage a gay wedding…
An Urgent Question was asked in the House of Commons today (Monday) about this.
Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, asked an urgent question in the House of Commons on Monday 10 December 2012 on whether the Secretary of State would give a statement on same-sex marriage in churches.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller, responded to the question on behalf of the Government.
You can read the full transcript here.
You can watch the video recording via this page. The item began at 15.31 and ran for 45 minutes.
A more convenient video recording is now available here: Government to outline same-sex marriage plans.
The Minister announced that she would make a full statement tomorrow (Tuesday 11 December) that will set out the Government’s response to the recent consultation on how to allow same-sex couples to marry. The timetable for Tuesday is here but, at the time of writing this post, the page does not show this matter as a separate timed item.
Update I understand the announcement will be made at 12.30 today.
This Wednesday there is a debate in the House of Commons scheduled, as shown here.
This will be a backbench debate, something introduced by the current Government as a way for backbench MPs to have more of a voice in the House. The business is chosen by the Backbench Business Committee. In this particular case it will be a general debate sponsored by Ben Bradshaw MP and with no substantive motion before the House. Mr Bradshaw argued his case for holding the debate before the Committee on 27 November, and the uncorrected transcript of his representations can be found here.
A transcript of the earlier session of Questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner can be found here.
Updated Monday afternoon to include full text of email to members of the House of Laity
The date of the meeting of the House of Laity to debate a motion of no confidence in its chair, Dr Philip Giddings, has now been confirmed as 18 January 2013. Members of the House were sent this email this morning:
Dear Members of the House of Laity
An extraordinary meeting of the House has been called to debate a motion of no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of the House. Sufficient of you indicated your support under the provisions of Standing Order 2(c) of the House to require the meeting to take place.
Given the nature of the motion that will be before the House, the Standing Committee has determined that the meeting should take place as soon as possible and has consequently called the meeting for Friday 18 January 2013. The meeting will take place from 1.30 p.m. in the Assembly Hall in Church House, Westminster.
Tea and coffee will be available free of charge in the Bishop Partridge Hall. Cold snacks will also be available for a charge.
If members wish to claim expenses incurred in attending the meeting, they will need to agree this with their diocese. Those members whose expenses are met centrally will need to agree reimbursement with the Synod Office as usual.
The Standing Committee has agreed that there will be only one item on the agenda - namely, the motion of no confidence - and that no other business will be in order.
I shall circulate an agenda and supporting papers this week.
With all good wishes
The Archbishops’ Council
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ
Dr Giddings’ local paper, the Reading Post, has published this article by Linda Fort: Top church of England figure faces no confidence vote.
In light of yesterday’s announcement, it may be helpful to reprise what the Church of England has said in the recent past about the government’s proposals concerning same-sex marriage.
Here is the original consultation document. Among other things it said:
We have listened to those religious organisations that raised concerns about the redefinition of religious marriage. We are aware that some religious organisations that solemnize marriages through a religious ceremony believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
That is why this consultation is limited to consideration of civil marriage and makes no proposals to change the way that religious marriages are solemnized. It will not be legally possible under these proposals for religious organisations to solemnize religious marriages for same-sex couples. There will therefore be no obligation or requirement for religious organisations or ministers of religion to do this. It will also not be possible for a same-sex couple to have a civil marriage ceremony on religious premises. Marriages of any sort on religious premises would still only be legally possible between a man and a woman.
Here is the press release issued on 12 June about the CofE’s response: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- [from the Church of England].
And here is the actual response made by the CofE published that day: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- from the Church of England
You can follow Thinking Anglicans reporting of the ensuing news coverage by following this link and scrolling to June 2012.
Then in July, at General Synod, a lot of Questions were asked about this response. Here is a copy of the official transcript of the Questions with Answers.
Yesterday, the following further press release was published in response to what has been described as a U-turn by the government on the issue of religious participation in same-sex marriages. Like the official response it is totally anonymous. Unlike the first one, it makes not even a small attempt to mention that there is a wide range of views on this topic held by members of the Church of England.
John Bingham reports in the Telegraph that Being ‘forgiven’ makes people more generous, psychologists find.
Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that In theology as in politics, conflict is not only real, it is necessary.
Jahnabi Barooah writes for The Huffington Post about Advent 2012: A Season Of Waiting For The Coming Of Christ. The article includes photographs of the Advent Darkness to Light service held in Salisbury Catehdral. Do view these in full screen.
Caroline Davies writes in The Guardian: Last Christmas? Partridges and turtle doves face risk of extinction in UK.
It’s not just opponents of women bishops; other Traditionalists demand ‘proper provision’.
Updated Monday morning
Financial Times Gay marriage clash looms for Cameron
Blogs and opinion:
James Townsend The consequences of the women bishops vote start to roll in
…I am relatively relaxed about Gay Marriage – I would never campaign for it, but then could never bring myself to oppose it. However, many of the traditionalists who voted against women bishops have done themselves a great disservice because they care rather more about protecting the institution of marriage than they do about women bishops.
The Prime Minister’s original position not only respected the right of churches to opt out of Gay Marriage (I haven’t yet heard anybody suggest that churches should be forced to conduct gay marriages), but including a legal ban making it non-negotiable. His new position won’t change things very much for the Church of England. The only shift is that people like the Quakers, who choose to recognise Gay Marriage, will be able to do so.
Nevertheless, we can see a hardening of the government’s position which is a direct consequence of the women bishops vote. They are less interested in accommodating the needs of a group of people who increasingly look like nutters on the sidelines.
The great tragedy is that there are some decent (non-bigoted) arguments against redefining marriage to include gay relationships. Unfortunately the debacle of women bishops, which has served nobody, means they are likely never to be listened to again.
Changing Attitude Changing Attitude welcomes government plans for gay marriage in church
Christian Concern Government breaks promise on same-sex marriage in churches
Maria Miller ‘We should not stand in their way’
…And I know concerns have been raised by some faith groups about our plans and what they will mean for them. I have put it on record many times, and I will say again, that I will never bring in a law that would impinge – in any way – on the Church’s power to decide who it marries and who it does not. No religious organisation, or individual, should ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages. The European Convention on Human Rights already guarantees freedom of religion, and this cannot be breached. We should not confuse this issue, as many do, with some cases currently going through the EU courts about the right to wear items such as crucifixes – this is about a fundamental religious tenet. But in spite of this guarantee, I will also be bringing forward additional watertight legal locks on the front of any primary legislation introduced, to ensure that these protections are iron clad.
Now, many religious organisations have pointed out to me that these protections would be stronger if we changed our original proposal to ban all religious organisations from conducting same sex marriages. Some, like the Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians, have also said that they want to be able to conduct same-sex marriages, in the same way that they can conduct civil partnerships. My own personal view is that we should not stand in the way of this, especially if it means that those that don’t want to will be even further protected. It is a fundamental point of religious freedom that religious bodies should be able to make their own decisions on this issue.
For me, far from being a radical departure, this is simply one more in a long line of reforms which have strengthened marriage, ensuring it remains a modern and vibrant institution. Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to work closely with faith and other interested groups on how best to implement our plans…
The LGBT Anglican Consortium has issued this press statement:
The LGB&T Anglican Coalition is delighted that David Cameron has said the government’s proposals on equal marriage will include an option for ceremonies to take place on religious premises.
This outcome concurs with our own submission to the government’s consultation, and those of our partner organizations.
It is a matter of regret that the latest official Church of England response makes absolutely no mention of the breadth of views on this matter within the Church itself.
Independent editorial: When Tories dig their heels in
Quakers in Britain Quakers welcome steps towards equal marriage
Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on same sex marriage today, the Church of England issued the following statement.
It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage is not knee-jerk resistance to change but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole. Our concern is for the way the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight, if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.
The proposition that same-sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. To that extent, the Prime Minister’s claim that he supports same-sex marriage from conservative principles is readily understandable. However, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.
To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.
We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.
Given the absence of any manifesto commitment for these proposals - and the absence of any commitment in the most recent Queen’s speech - there will need to be an overwhelming mandate from the consultation to move forward with these proposals and make them a legislative priority.
We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has signalled he is abandoning the Government’s earlier intention to distinguish between civil and religious marriage. We look forward to studying the Government’s detailed response to the consultation next week and to examining the safeguards it is proposing to give to Churches.
The Council of Reform today urged the Church of England’s House of Bishops not to concentrate exclusively upon discussing the issue of the Consecration of Women to the Episcopate when it meets next week, but to focus additionally on the much more pressing and significant issue of the threat to marriage.
Following a 24 hour meeting in Sheffield, the Council issued an urgent statement that said,
“It is understood that Government proposals for a new law on so called “gay marriage” may be imminent and that the proposals may require consummation for a “gay marriage” to be legally valid. Everybody’s marriage will be affected by the result. In law, marriage is a sexual relationship. Incapacity and wilful refusal to consummate a marriage are grounds for annulment, and adultery is one of the five facts which demonstrate irretrievable breakdown. Significantly, it appears that parliament will leave the crucial and delicate task of defining same-sex consummation to the judiciary. However, when consummation is redefined, marriage and marital breakdown are themselves redefined and accordingly the meaning of marriage will be fundamentally altered for all.
Critical as it is to resolve our current difficulties over women bishops, we urge the House of Bishops, during their meeting, additionally to do all that is required to implement immediately a strategy for the preservation of marriage as it has been traditionally understood throughout history and across cultures. We look to them to mobilise the Church in England and specifically the Church of England to defend marriage.
The first priority must be for the Archbishops to invite the leaders of all Christian denominations in this country to ask the millions of Christians in this country to join together in a national day of prayer.
The Council had a fruitful discussion about options for resolving the dilemma over women bishops and continue to pray for a successful outcome to discussions in the New Year.
There are numerous press reports today concerning the results of the consultation on Equal Civil Marriage, which are due to be reported publicly next week.
The story appeared first in the Evening Standard under the headline EXCLUSIVE: Prime Minister David Cameron backs gay weddings in church. The newspaper then published this editorial comment: Gay marriage in church is a basic right.
Other British media followed:
Channel 4 News PM backs gay marriages in churches or synagogues
Blogs and Opinion:
Law and Religion UK Same-sex marriage latest: Prime Minister supports church weddings
UK Human Rights Blog Allowing religious gay marriages will avoid human rights challenges
The following letter to the House of Bishops of the Church of England has been sent jointly by four organisations, Inclusive Church, Modern Church, Progressive Christianity Network and the Centre for Radical Christianity.
For the attention of the House of Bishops
c/o Mr Christopher Smith
Archbishop’s Chief of Staff
6 December 2012
We, the undersigned, deeply regret that the House of Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England failed to reach the two-thirds majority required to pass legislation enabling women to be ordained Bishop. This was a huge disappointment delivering a devastating blow to the Church of England and undermining its credibility among the people of the nation it seeks to serve. It is a missed opportunity to see women and men sharing fully in the mission, ministry and leadership of the Church of England. Other Anglican provinces have found a way of doing so and been enriched by the ministry of both male and female bishops as a consequence.
There is overwhelming support for women bishops in both the church and throughout the country. We have been discussing this issue for a generation and working on the details of this compromise legislation for over ten years. Almost 73% of General Synod members voted in favour of women bishops, challenging the legitimacy of a voting process that is able to frustrate the mandate of forty-two out of forty-four Diocesan Synods. This decision may be legally binding, but it carries no moral authority, undermining the process of representation the Synodical system is supposed to enshrine.
We welcome the statement issued on the conclusion of the Meeting of the Archbishops’ Council on 27-28 November 2012, and the decision that a process to admit women to the episcopate be restarted as soon as possible.
We offer our prayerful support to members of the House of Bishops as they prepare to meet shortly in December and ask them to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.
We urge them to support the recommendation of the Archbishops’ Council to put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing new legislative proposals before the General Synod as a matter of urgency, convening in February 2013 if necessary.
We ask the House of Bishops to end the theological anomaly of women priests who cannot be ordained as bishops by bringing forward the simplest possible form of legislation without delay, thus fully recognising and affirming the vital importance of women’s ministry in the church.
We strongly support the principle that a woman appointed to be a bishop must be a bishop on exactly the same terms as her male colleagues, whilst recognising the need to make pastoral provision for those unable to accept the ministry of women bishops. However a new way forward must be found and one which does not enshrine discrimination on the grounds of gender.
In the meantime, we continue to celebrate all the ways in which women enrich the life of the church and look forward to their leadership as bishops.
Rev’d Ian Wallis
Chair, St Mark’s CRC
On behalf of CRC Council
Rev’d Jonathan Clatworthy
General Secretary, Modern Church
On behalf of the Trustees of Modern Church
Chair, PCN Britain
On behalf of PCN Committee
Rev’d Canon Diana Gwilliams
Chair, Inclusive Church
On behalf of the Trustees of Inclusive Church
Once again we have permission from the Editor of The Tablet to reproduce two articles from last week’s issue, dealing with the General Synod’s failure to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops. The first one by Mark Chapman was reproduced here. The second one by Linda Woodhead is below.
A woman’s place
The Church of England is supposedly more hospitable to women than the Catholic Church. After all, the Anglicans ordain women priests and there are laywomen on the General Synod. Here, an Anglican authority on the sociology of religion turns conventional wisdom on its head
Listening to the General Synod debate on women bishops last week, I chortled with recognition when I hear the line: “Of course women aren’t just there to make the tea … Though that is an important aspect of diaconal ministry.” I remember being surprised when I was being inducted as tutor in doctrine and ethics at an Anglican clergy-training college to be asked if I could sew tablecloths. I was equally surprised to find that when I addressed certain gatherings of clergy I seemed to have donned a Harry Potter invisibility cloak.
What shocked me more was the way that insults and downright cruelty went unchecked and unchallenged. I remember a woman ordinand in an Anglo-Catholic college having her “pray for me on the day of my ordination” cards torn up and returned to her pigeonhole by fellow ordinands opposed to the ordination of women. And I remember how, at the ordination services I attended for some of the first women to be made priests, the presiding bishops told them not to celebrate out of compassion for their opponents.
That was 20 years ago. Surely things have changed? It’s true that half of all Anglican ordinands are now female, and a third of all clergy. Moreover, the gender equality scores (where 100 per cent would be perfect equality) have risen from 19 per cent in 2000 to 35 per cent in 2010. But progress has been spotty – in 2010 Blackburn and Chichester Dioceses could still only manage a score of 11 per cent. With the exception of a few high-flyers, women priests are often marginalised – in the least popular parishes, outside the positions of greatest power, and as unpaid or “non-stipendiary”. According to the Church’s own statistics, in 2011 fewer than a quarter of stipendiary clergy were female, compared with more than half non-stipendiary.
Anglican theology also remains a male bastion. In the university departments in which it is largely housed, women make up only 28-30 per cent of the staff, according to a recent study from Durham University (this compares with 57 per cent in languages, 48 per cent in law, and 27 per cent in maths). In fact it’s even worse, because not all of the 28 per cent are theologians, fewer still systematic theologians. Women trained in theology often move into areas which are more open to their talents, including practical theology, Christian ethics and sociology of religion.
Moving beyond the Churches, it’s easier to name prominent Catholic women in British society than prominent Anglicans. In planning a series of debates on religion in public life, my colleagues and I kept thinking of women with interesting things to say on the subject – and realising that they were nearly all Catholic. It’s not that Anglican women don’t make a vital contribution to society, but Catholics seem more willing to own their faith and speak openly about it. Ironically, it may be that the ordination of women in the Church of England has actually served as a brake on progress. By limiting the priesthood to celibate men, the Catholic Church has inadvertently liberated a large and well-educated laity to get on with living out their faith, independent of clerical constraints. By contrast, ordained Anglican women may find that wearing a dog collar means you can be put on a leash.
It’s not that the Church of England is as overtly authoritarian as the Catholic Church; it exercises control in more subtle ways. A prime one is the cult of niceness. You mustn’t be ambitious, and you can never, ever get angry. This applies to women more than to men: they must be patient and caring at all times. Any form of protest or demand is interpreted as pushy, unfeminine and unchristian.
The problem is compounded by a pervasive Anglican commitment to the importance of unity and inclusion. It’s this pursuit of the “common good” that has led the bishops to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that those who oppose women’s equal treatment don’t feel excluded. They have, in effect, allowed the establishment of a Church within a Church – and this is what opponents of women bishops want to strengthen, contrary to all traditional understandings of the bishop’s role as guarantor of unity.
By virtue of being lay, women in the Catholic Church escape a lot of these pressures. Their Church’s teachings give more weight to issues of truth and justice than the Church of England’s, and there’s a humour and honest earthiness about the Catholic Church and a willingness to criticise and challenge, which I often miss in my own.
Catholic women in Britain are also helped by the fact that they belong to a minority with a history of struggle against poverty and prejudice. Members of religious minorities tend to support one another. They encourage girls to be educated, get good jobs and gain the advantages that their parents – above all their mothers – could only dream of. In practice this means that Britain has many good Catholic schools with inspiring women teachers. Until recently, some of those teachers used to be nuns, sent with a mission to uplift and educate the Catholics in Britain. I attended one myself for a few years, and very empowering it was too. State-assisted Catholic schools often do similar work.
Anglican schools seem not to offer their pupils such clear identity, nor to help workingclass girls in the same way. The Church of England remains class-ridden. Public schoolboys are prominent among its leaders, and the model of the pastor with supportive wife and large family lives on.
All this may offer a crumb of comfort to Catholics, but it’s not really good news for either Church. The Catholic Church has proved more hospitable to women in spite of its official teachings and practices, not because of them, and the Anglican Church has managed to turn its ordination of women into a problem rather than a solution. This is serious for both Churches, as they contemplate declining numbers. When they began to lose power and prestige after the 1970s, increasingly welleducated but still-faithful women were the natural group to step in and inject new energy. By excluding them from senior leadership positions and influence, both Anglicans and Catholics have squandered a vital resource. Some women have done their very best to save the situation. But their difficult experiences and repeated disappointments make it ever less likely that their daughters will do the same.
Madeleine Davies reports in today’s Church Times that July might be too soon to return to fray, bishops warn.
CAMPAIGNERS who want to see a fresh Measure to admit women to the episcopate at the General Synod next July may be disappointed, two bishops have suggested…
On Tuesday, however, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, suggested that the House “ought to be able to share with people a process” at the Synod in July. “That will lead in due course to fresh legislative proposals.”…
Once again we have permission from the Editor of The Tablet to reproduce two articles from last week’s issue, dealing with the General Synod’s failure to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops. The first one by Mark Chapman is reproduced below. The second one by Linda Woodhead will follow soon.
Don’t blame the laity
Most observers inside and outside the Church of England have concluded that last week’s failure by the General Synod to vote through legislation allowing women bishops has left it in turmoil. Here, a member of the synod claims that the problem is a lack of trust by the bishops
Seldom do the decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England make much of an impact outside the somewhat closeted world of ecclesiastical enthusiasts. But last week the Church’s governing body voted to reject the legislation to allow women to become bishops – and the media is still reeling. Although there was an overwhelming majority in favour, the necessary two-thirds majority was not achieved in the House of Laity, and the motion fell. I felt a sense of bewilderment and anger, and shared tears with my women colleagues. After all, the Church of England has ordained women as priests for 20 years, and it seemed a logical progression to move to women bishops. Church people have quickly criticised the House of Laity as unrepresentative of opinion, calling for a reform of the electoral system on the grounds that electors frequently know virtually nothing about the candidates.
But I am not sure that the House of Laity was really to blame. What was being voted on was not simply the principle of women bishops, but the safeguards offered to those opposed to women’s ministry. When women were ordained priests, a mechanism was created so that parishes could refuse their ministrations, and could also ask for “extended episcopal oversight” from bishops who did not ordain women. With this precedent, virtually everybody in the Church thought something similar would be needed if women were to be ordained as bishops.
Consequently after the principle of women bishops was accepted, a series of drafting groups took soundings over a number of years to produce proposals that were carefully crafted. The basic idea was that women bishops should have the same legal jurisdiction as all other bishops, but that pastoral care and celebration of the sacraments would be delegated to male bishops for those parishes unwilling to accept episcopal oversight from a woman or even from a man who had ordained a woman. This measure was presented for consideration to the General Synod in July 2010.
What happened then was unprecedented: no doubt with good intentions, the Archbishops of both Canterbury and York – in an act which rode roughshod over the hard work of the drafting committees – introduced an amendment that would have created parallel legal jurisdictions, and which had the support of the majority of bishops. This would have meant that the diocesan bishop would not have been legally responsible for the diocese, which could have resulted in incoherence or even conflict between bishops in matters of clergy discipline. The rejection of this amendment by the synod spelt the end of the credibility of the House of Bishops. The archbishops did not seem to realise that a blatant refusal to listen to the formal mechanisms of synod would be disastrous for efforts at building the sort of trust needed to move the measure through the legislative process.
In the new General Synod, to which I was elected and which met in November 2010, it was clear that there was a poisonous relationship between the House of Bishops and the Houses of Clergy and Laity. In what was supposed to be a straightforward piece of rubber-stamping, the synod rejected a bishop, who was a suffragan to the Archbishop of Canterbury, as chairman of the business committee. The other two houses simply did not trust the impartiality of a member of the House of Bishops being in charge of synod business.
In the subsequent months, the Anglican Communion Covenant, which was supposed to offer a mechanism for conflict resolution among the worldwide Churches, was rejected in the dioceses, despite – or perhaps because of – the support of most of the bishops for the covenant. The dioceses were also asked to vote on the women-bishops’ legislation – and 42 out of 44 voted decisively in favour. The matter returned in February 2012 for discussion – amendments were discussed, and firmly rejected. Instead, synod asked the bishops not to change anything substantial at the final stage of scrutiny. But having failed to learn from July 2010, the bishops introduced a last-minute and ill-drafted amendment which seemed to allow parishes to choose their own bishops on the basis of “theological convictions” which would have gone against one of the cardinal principles of church government since the time of Augustine’s conflicts with the Donatists.
Some bishops – most notably the Bishop of Liverpool – broke ranks and recognised their own folly. Not surprisingly, most of those in favour of women bishops firmly rejected the amendment – and since it couldn’t be changed at this stage, the measure was returned to the bishops for further amendment. It was obvious to most of us that circles cannot be squared, and there has to be a limit to compromise for the sake of coherence. Synod was consequently forced to meet again in November. Finally, it discussed a measure that was substantially unchanged from that first proposed in July 2010.
What was clear in the run-up to the synod and in the debate itself was that the significant minority who did not support women bishops and their sympathisers did not have sufficient trust that those responsible for the provisions – the bishops – would make them work unless they were forced to by law. The bishops had failed to trust the mechanisms of synod. For those who are likely to be suspicious of bishops anyway, and who certainly feel beleaguered by the dominant liberalism of the Church, it meant little that the bishops rallied behind the measure on Tuesday. The damage had already been done in July 2010.
The measure will no doubt return soon – and perhaps next time the bishops will work with synod rather than against it and realise that it is synod that provides the mechanism for listening to the mind of the Church, and not the loud-mouthed lobbyists who can easily bend bishops’ ears. Synods can work, but they have to be trusted. And in an Established Church it is to the House of Laity that the Royal Supremacy – which had previously been exercised by Parliament – has been delegated. Chastened bishops might do well to remember that – and then the Church of England might have the leaders it so richly deserves, men and women.
Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions on women bishops and the constitution of General Synod in the House of Commons today. The full text of the questions and answers is here.
Claire Maxim has written about Righteous Anger.
One article we missed earlier is Jane Kramer in the New Yorker writing about The Fear of Women as Bishops
Chris Sugden has written this View from the Church of England (to American Anglican Council).
Updated again Friday
The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs has issued a statement titled Presiding Bishop accepts Lawrence’s renunciation.
Citing Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 of the Constitutions and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and following thorough discussion with the Council of Advice, with their advice and consent, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.
The Presiding Bishop made the announcement December 5. The Presiding Bishop informed Lawrence by phone, email and mail on December 5. Following that, the House of Bishops was notified.
According to the documents, Lawrence “is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations. This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character.”
The renunciation is effective immediately on December 5.
The renunciation was consented to by the members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, who are the presidents or vice presidents of the nine Provinces of the Episcopal Church: Bishops Stephen Lane of Maine (Province I), Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island (Province II), Neff Powell of Southwestern Virginia (Province III), Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida (Province IV); Wayne Smith of Missouri (Province V), Rob O’Neill of Colorado (Province VI), Larry Benfield of Arkansas (Province VII), James Mathes of San Diego (Province VIII) and Francisco Duque of Colombia (Province IX). Also members of the Council of Advice are Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas, vice president of the House of Bishops and Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development. Note: Bishop Dabney Smith was not present at the meeting because of illness…
Bishop Lawrence has issued this letter: Bishop Lawrence Writes Regarding Renunciation.
The Presiding Bishop called me this afternoon to inform me that she and her council of advice have accepted my renunciation of ordained ministry. I listened quietly, asked a question or two and then told her it was good to hear her voice. I did not feel any need to argue or rebut. It is the Presiding Bishop’s crossing of the T and doting of the I—for their paper work, not my life. I could bring up the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church but to what avail? They will do what they will do regardless of canonical limitations. That is already well documented by others and hardly needs further documentation by me. She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address of November 17, 2012.
Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ—But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous…
There is a lot of useful background information on earlier comparable cases, and how they were dealt with, towards the end of this ENS news report.
A further statement from the diocese: Diocesan Statement Regarding Claimed Renunciation
…This action by the Presiding Bishop will come as no surprise to most, though it should be a disappointment to all. It has been done before. Just as the Episcopal Church has been increasingly characterized by ignoring the plain meaning of biblical texts, that same behavior has now come to characterize the application of their own governing canons as well. Those canons are quite explicit about the renunciation of ministry. It is to be a request, made in writing, to the Presiding Bishop, that the bishop in question wishes to be released from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. None of those qualifications have been complied with. Bishop Lawrence has never renounced his orders or expressed the desire to do so.
It is also clear in the canons that a release from ministry is not possible when another disciplinary process is in force. With the previous certification of abandonment by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, it should not have been possible, without violating the canons, for there to be a declaration of the renunciation of ministry. As surely as these same interpretive habits have created theological chaos within the Episcopal Church, these latest actions are further evidence of increasing canonical chaos and a leadership that has slipped all restraints in pursuit of its agenda and goals. For those remaining within the Episcopal Church, these developments should be cause for serious concern. For the Diocese of South Carolina, which has already departed, they are viewed with a certain amazement, but also with gratitude that we have disassociated ourselves from the increasing dysfunction.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has sent an Advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches.
David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK ask Are the laity revolting?
Rachel Weir the chair of WATCH has her own blog and yesterday she published her Advent Reflections.
She has also recently published these two guest contributions:
Rose Hudson-Wilkin writes: “Sitting in the gallery…”
Anne Stevens writes: “The Synod Vote on Women Bishops - a personal reflection”
For a different perspective read what Martin Dales, a Synod member from York, has to say: Church failed to respect its minority voices.
WATCH (Women and the Church) issued this press statement tonight.
WATCH (Women and the Church) PRESS STATEMENT
Monday 2nd December, 2012 - For immediate release
WATCH urges the House of Bishops to bring back a Single Clause Measure
Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops. Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed. The cost in human and financial terms has been enormous. Since 2000, there have been three major church reports, and the work of a legislative drafting group, revision committee and steering committee. General Synod has discussed the question at 10 of its meetings, and it has been debated at every level of the church. (Full details of the progress of the debate can be found here.)
The draft Measure represented the furthest possible compromise for those in favour. It was not enough for those opposed. After all these years of discussion, debate, and drafting it is clear that that there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed. We therefore have to ask whether it is wise to allow the entire church to be held to ransom by minority factions who resist a change that the Church of England has discerned and declared to be entirely consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith. These same voices have spoken out repeatedly against any of the compromise proposed by the Church, and supported widely, including by WATCH.
Bishop John Gladwin said “What a small minority has done is blow up the bridge to any compromise solution. There is now only one route which must be travelled to that outcome. That is the route which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and ministry of the Church”
It is now time to go for the simplest possible legislation - a single clause measure. This would enable people to vote for or against legislation simply enabling women to be bishops. Provision can be made at local level as appropriate for those who find this difficult. This option will maintain the greatest degree of unity and open dialogue between those of differing views and prevent ghettos forming within the Church. This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed.
It is also time for honesty in this debate. Those opposed do not want women bishops. They do not want resolution of the issue but to extend the decision-making process as long as possible. We cannot see how further conversation will result in any proposals that have not been tested and rejected before. They will simply prolong the process.
With the disproportionate number of conservatives in the House of Laity, the nature of the internal debate within the church has been so weighted to accommodating small minorities that we have lost sight of the legislation’s main objective – to make women bishops. We are now in a changed landscape. It is clear from the debates in Parliament and the response in the country at large that those outside the church are scandalised by the acceptance of gender discrimination in the established church. As Helen Goodman MP said in the emergency Commons debate on 22nd November,
“too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests… It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.”
For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod.
In the meantime, it is imperative that women are present at the discussions of the House of Bishops in December and beyond. We call on the bishops to open their proceedings to the public and invite senior women to play a full part in their discussions. As Diana Johnson MP said in February 2012
“It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make decisions about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by the decision.”
The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said
“We have spent enough time in exploring how to accommodate the views of those who do not want women as bishops. Generosity is laudable but without limits it becomes a kind of profligacy. We are wasting the Church’s precious resources, both its money and its people if we seek to continue the debate about provision in law. The House of Bishops must act decisively now to legislate for women bishops in the simplest possible way.”
The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Baker, has written at length on his website about The General Synod vote on Women Bishops. The full text is reproduced below the fold.
Bishop Baker is to move to become the Bishop of Fulham early in 2013. Scroll down the link above for his announcement about the timing of that.
The General Synod vote on Women Bishops
After the General Synod failed to give Final Approval to the draft legislation on the ordination of women to the episcopate, I had hoped for a period of calm, prayer and reflection all round; and perhaps some sense of regret, on the part of the proponents of the Measure, that they had not got the legislation right. Of course, as we now know, this was very far from the case: instead, a media furore, and a sense from some quarters that those who had voted against the Measure need to be punished in the future for daring to step out of line.
We need to say very clearly, that we understand, and deeply regret, the pain, hurt and anger felt on the part of many women clergy and their supporters; that we value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of the Church of England; and that we recognise the gifts which God has given in and through their ministries.
However, we also need to challenge some errors and misunderstandings which have been widespread since the vote was taken.
First, it has been suggested that the draft Measure represented the fruits of work done over many years by representatives of all traditions in the Church of England, and that it was a compromise and the best possible way forward. This is simply not the case, as anyone – myself included – involved in the various processes of preparing the legislation for Final Approval (the legislative drafting group, the revision committee stage, and so on) would have to admit. At every step of the way, provision for the traditionalist minority was withdrawn altogether or significantly watered down. Looking back, we can see a number of decisive forks in the road: when delegation (rather than a transfer of jurisdiction) was adopted as the basis for the legislation; when the Archbishops’ amendment for co-ordinate jurisdiction was defeated – by just 5 votes in the House of Clergy – in 2010; when the amendment to Clause 5.1.(c) of the Measure, proposed by the House of Bishops, was withdrawn in the face of pressure from members of WATCH in July of this year. In the light of all this, it seems to me that there is only one analysis of the vote on 20th November which rings true: that the draft Measure was driven ‘over the cliff’ by those unwilling to agree proper provision for those of us who have conscientious difficulties concerning the ordination of women.
The second misunderstanding is that the Synod’s processes were somehow abused or manipulated to produce this result. Again, we need to say clearly that this is not the case. Every member of General Synod understands very well what the processes are which are followed in order to pass legislation: processes which, in matters of doctrine, are designed precisely to ensure a high level of consensus, such as is surely appropriate for a Christian community. The meetings of General Synod are always framed with prayer – prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide the hearts and minds of those speaking and voting. It is difficult not to be amazed at the confidence with which many people have rushed to conclude that the Holy Spirit could not have spoken through Synod on 20th November. Having said all that, I would be the first to agree that the Synodical system has not served the church well in discerning the way forward on this matter. Perhaps one thing that the Holy Spirit might be saying to us, is that there might be a better way.
The third thing which I have found puzzling in the last week or so is the growing sense in some quarters that there was an ‘unholy alliance’ between traditional cathiolics and conservative evangelicals to defeat the Measure. To say this is again, surely, to misunderstand how General Synod works. Individuals vote on the legislation laid before them, and, while it is true (and hardly startling) to say that of course anglo-catholics and evangelicals will have different – often, markedly different – theological instincts and insights, what mattered in this case was only the fact that Synod members from both traditions found the draft Measure wanting. We also know now that a significant number of Synod members who are wholly supportive of women in the episcopate nevertheless voted against this draft legislation; they did so out of concern for their brothers and sisters in the Church of England with whom they disagree, but whose flourishing they desire: surely a model for us all.
Where do we go from here? I very much hope that all parties to this debate will resist the calls from some MPs and peers that Parliament should legislate ‘over the head’ of the Church of England in order to impose a solution. That way cannot be right.
The Bishop of Durham, our next Archbishop of Canterbury, has called for fresh discussions early in the New Year, with a view to preparing the way for fresh legislation on women bishops. I am sure that is right, although I do hope that the desire for haste in some quarters will not squeeze out what I am sure the whole Church truly needs: real listening, engagement, and, above all, mutual charity. We must get away from the whole sense which has dogged us for so long, that this is a zero-sum power game, with winners and losers, and, at the end of the process, first and second class bishops, serving – as Fr Simon Killwick put it so well – first and second class Anglicans.
So what, in our local context, can we – priests and people of the See of Ebbsfleet – actually do? The first thing, obviously, is to pray – and the fact that this is such an obvious thing to say makes it no less true. My late confessor and spiritual director always urged upon me the virtue of praying, consciously and by name, for those with whom I disagreed, had fallen out, or had (in reality or just in my imagination) done me wrong. That was good advice then, and I commend it to all of you now.
The second thing to do is actively to work to maintain the bonds of charity with all those who are your partners in the mission of the Church in your area – clergy and laity of other traditions, male and female, all those involved in the life of your diocese and deanery. Let it never be said that the traditional catholic voice is absent from the life of the local church.
Third, we must all seek renewal in those great gifts which our tradition brings to the life of the whole of the Church of England: our zeal for souls; our liturgical worship; the sacramental life; our incarnational faith, rooted in the community and especially in service to the poor; our deep commitment to the full visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ. You can all, I am sure, add other things to that list of equal or greater importance, but there are five to be getting on with!
We have just celebrated the great feast of Christ the King; now we come to prepare for the celebration of the birth into this world of time and space of that same Word of God who is King of the Universe and King of our lives. May each of us be deeply renewed in our discipleship this Advent and Christmastide, and may the Lord stir up in us those supernatural gifts given us at our baptism: faith; hope; love.
Jonathan Petre of the Mail Online is reporting today that sufficient signatures have been obtained to force a meeting of the House of Laity of the General Synod to discuss a vote of no confidence in its chair, Dr Philip Giddings: Synod ‘may oust chairman’ after defeat of legislation to allow women bishops.
The standing orders of the House of Laity state that in these circumstances the chair of the house shall convene the House, and give at least 21 days’ notice. I cannot see anything to specify the longest he can wait before calling the meeting, but I have heard that the meeting will probably be in January.
Although the Mail calls the meeting “secret”, meetings of the House of Laity are open to the press and public on the same terms as meetings of the General Synod. The House can vote to exclude the public, or the press and public, whilst it is sitting, but I see nothing to allow such a decision to be made in advance.
Updated Saturday evening
Here is the motion passed today by the Diocese of Bristol:
In the light of the recent failure of the General Synod to pass the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) measure at its sessions of November 2012, despite overwhelming support for this legislation by this and other diocesan synods of the Church of England, Bristol Diocesan Synod:
1. Reaffirms our strong conviction that it is God’s will that women be ordained as bishops in the Church of England.
2. Has no confidence in the General Synod’s ability to transact the clear will of the majority of the Church with the urgency required to further the mission and witness of the Church.
3. Calls on the House of Bishops to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.
Read more about the synod meeting: Diocesan Synod tells Bishops to effect the will of the Church, and read Bishop Mike Hill’s address to the synod over here (PDF).
This motion is by no means the strongest one that might have been passed. Paul Roberts has written about this in two blog articles:
…However, if other diocesan synods pass similar motions, where does that leave us? Essentially, the message given to Synod is, ‘we don’t think you lot are capable of passing satisfactory legislation and we’re upset about this.’ But, it doesn’t take any further action which would amend this situation. Essentially, this will not do anything other than register a protest.
The stronger, original version of the motion goes further – by expressing a total lack of confidence in the Synod to act as the present General Synod of the Church of England, it’s essentially saying it needs to go, and go as soon as possible. So why is this necessary? I think it’s so, for the following reasons…
And earlier in the week he had written: A possible way out of the Women Bishops bind.
Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK The House of Lords “doing God” – or, at any rate, debating religion
Simon Barrow for Ekklesia Disestablishment debate back in the spotlight
Doug Chaplin asks What would disestablishment mean?
James D Tabor writes for The Huffington Post about Christianity Before Paul.
David Pocklington at Law &Religion UK writes Of Vesture – I
Stephen Cherry compares Rowan and Justin.
The detailed report on the reference to the dioceses of the now failed legislation is contained in GS 1847 available here in PDF format.
As has been widely reported, 42 of the 44 dioceses passed the legislation. The two dioceses where it failed were
Chichester: Bishops 0-2-0, Clergy 30-35-0, Laity 37-41-0 (failed in all three houses)
London: Bishops 2-1-0, Clergy 39-41-0, Laity 45-37-0 (failed only in the Clergy house)
Less widely reported are the aggregate voting figures for all dioceses:
Bishops: 75 for, 13 against, 4 abstentions
Clergy: 1503 for, 461 against, 50 abstentions
Laity: 1664 for, 489 against, 72 abstentions
Thus the proportions voting against the motion were: Bishops 15%, Clergy 23%, Laity 23%.
These contrast with General Synod proportions of 6%, 23%, and 36% respectively.
There were numerous following motions proposed and debated. GS 1847 summarised it thus:
Thus, in aggregate a total of 11 motions calling for some kind of amendment passed, and a total of 31 motions failed. GS 1847 contains much fuller information on all of them.