The Faith in Conflict conference “Finding Better Ways to Handle Conflict in the Church” was held in Coventry Cathedral this week.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave this address at the closing Eucharist.
The cathedral website has links to some of the other addresses. At present these are available.
Another excellent response to the consultation (which has a deadline of today “if possible”) comes from Jonathan Clatworthy.
This is a personal statement but the main points aim to express the theological tradition of Modern Church, which has supported the ordination of women since the 1920s. I support a simple measure which removes the obstacles to the consecration of women on exactly the same terms as men.
The focus is on how to handle the theological disagreements.
No legislation will last long unless it is both self-consistent and theologically coherent. Legislation containing contradictions will fail the test of time, however strong the short-term pressure for fudge.
Currently there is no genuine theological debate between the two sides. This is partly because of the polarisation of views, but also largely because there is no agreement on how to do our theological disagreeing. It is an epistemological issue rather than a theological one…
Press release from Lambeth Palace
Thursday 28th February 2013
Archbishop of Canterbury announces new Chaplain
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of the Reverend Dr Jo Bailey Wells as his new Chaplain, based at Lambeth Palace. Her primary focus will be for the spiritual life at Lambeth Palace and for supporting the Archbishop’s pastoral and liturgical ministry.
Speaking about her new position, Dr Jo Bailey Wells said:
“I am honoured and delighted to be joining Archbishop Justin’s team at Lambeth as he takes on a heavy but exciting mantle. I look forward to supporting him personally and pastorally - above all by praying for his flourishing in that role - and so to facilitating the wider flourishing of God’s people in God’s church.”
The Reverend Dr Jo Bailey Wells was ordained in 1995. Her ministry thus far has focused on nurturing faith, mentoring vocations teaching Old Testament and training leadership - in Cambridge, in the United States and in South Sudan. Previous positions include Dean of Clare College Cambridge and most recently Director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. She holds degrees from Cambridge, Minnesota and Durham and has written two books, God’s Holy People (Sheffield: 2000) and Isaiah: A Devotional Commentary for Study and Preaching (BRF: 2006).
Speaking about her appointment, the Archbishop said:
“Jo is an outstanding speaker, scholar and pastor, with a very wide experience of the Anglican world. I am delighted that she has been agreed to come and work with me at Lambeth.”
Updated to include links to Thursday debates
On Tuesday the Public Bill Committee resumed its examination of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It also met on Thursday of this week.
On Tuesday the committee concluded its deliberations on Clause 1, without agreeing any amendments to it. There was however a lot of discussion about the exact position of the Church of England.
To read the full record of the Tuesday debate:
Links for Thursday:
Clause 2 amendments were debated but none were adopted.
A large number of written submissions to the committee have now been published. This page contains links to all of them. Some of them have been linked previously.
And there several other contributions from Church of England clergy but only one other from a bishop: Bishop Frank White.
This one is from the Mothers’ Union.
The submission from the Roman Catholic bishops has been linked here earlier, but is now also available on the parliamentary website.
And then there is Professor Julian Rivers.
The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, reported a couple of weeks ago on the reactions to his recent public statements.
Read it all but I particularly liked this bit:
One lay comment sticks in my mind. The gentleman pointed out that a positive sense about homosexuality has been building in British society since the 1920’s. The resulting tsunami arrived in the 1990’s in the fields of education, culture media and sport, public life, the law, the military (in which he had been a senior officer), the police. In each of these areas of national life the overwhelming, when it came, was sudden and, surprisingly, almost entirely benign. The Church had parked itself in a siding in the 1990’s, and everyone else, as he put it, was somewhere round Birmingham by now.
The bishops, I was told, had simply taken the easiest way out — try to agree with everyone as much as possible, make generally safe noises about change, be nice to individual gay people whilst constructing fences against their full acceptance, humour reactionaries under a banner of inclusivity, generally treating past certainties as though they still applied as much as possible. As a military man he could say you cannot run any institution, least of all a Church, on niceness, evasion, pusillanimity, cowardice and hypocrisy. That’s one military view, anyway.
The Diocese of Sheffield has issued this press release: A statement from the Bishop of Sheffield on the Ordination in Kenya of Pete Jackson.
The Bishop of Sheffield today issued the following statement on the Ordination in Kenya of Pete Jackson:
“On Sunday 10th February I received a short note informing me that Pete Jackson had been ordained in Kenya the previous day to serve the Church plant in Walkley in Sheffield. This news was a complete surprise.
“In 2003, Christ Church Fulwood planted a new church, Christ Church Central, in the centre of the city led by the Revd. Tim Davies. Despite extensive discussions, the plant could not be contained within the legal structures of the Church of England.
“The Diocese of Sheffield has a strong commitment to mission, to evangelism and to church planting of all kinds. Shortly after I became Bishop in 2009, I invited the community of Christ Church Central to explore with me the possibility of making a Bishop’s Mission Order to regularize their life once again within the Diocese of Sheffield and the Church of England. After careful consideration, this offer was declined by Christ Church Central because of alleged wider differences between Christ Church Central and the Church of England.
“In 2012, Christ Church Central established a new church plant, Christ Church Walkley, with the support of Christ Church, Fulwood. This new plant was established with no consultation with the Diocese or with St. Mary’s Walkley, the local parish. Although there has been some local contact between St. Mary’s Walkley and the new plant, no-one in the Diocese was given any notification of the plans to ordain Pete Jackson in Kenya on 9th February.
“I will be entering into correspondence in the next few weeks with the various parties involved in the decision to ordain Pete Jackson in this way to explore their motives and reasons for acting in the way that they have. I will also be making contact with the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd. Eliud Wabukala and with Pete himself.
“As a diocese we are particularly concerned to offer our support and prayers to the parish of St. Mary’s Walkley who quite understandably have found these developments unsettling. Bishop Peter will be present with them on Sunday 3rd March. We also hold the Revd. Pete Jackson and Christ Church Walkley in our prayers. We know that neither community will be helped by being the focus of an ongoing wider controversy.
“As a diocese we continue in our commitment to mission, to the making of disciples and to joyful and creative church planting within the order and polity of the Church of England.”
26th February, 2013.
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has written this excellent response to the Consultation document on women bishops legislation.
Luke’s story of the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod depicts Jesus as being particularly tenacious and heartbreakingly poignant.
To repaint the scene, some Pharisees warn Jesus to leave the area because Herod is out to get him. This seems to be out of genuine concern (we’re not told otherwise, and there are no parallels in the other gospels). In any event, Jesus had no plans to remain, though this had nothing to do with Herod. To make that point clear, he urges them to go to Herod (even if only rhetorically), to tell him that he’s not going to stop doing what he’s doing. Jesus will continue his journey to Jerusalem because he must, because it is impossible to think that a prophet would die elsewhere. This determination to make his way to Jerusalem reinforces Luke’s overarching journey theme, which began when Jesus ‘set his jaw for Jerusalem’ (9.51).
There is a justifiable tendency to read ‘necessity’ in such texts. It is easy to think that Jesus was fated to die, that his death was somehow preordained, that the blood sacrifice had to be made for our salvation. For better or worse, that is one way of reading the whole story from Candlemas (with Simeon’s prophecy of Mary’s sufferings) to the cross. However, the descriptions of Jesus’s resoluteness ought to undermine such thoughts of fatalistic inevitability. The more obvious narrative explanation is that Jesus’s death owes more to his decisions, to the logic of what he said and did, than to any pre-written script. There is undoubtedly a strange rightness to his ending up in Jerusalem, but that rightness is appreciated not by a glimpse into fate, but by the realisation that any other choice would have been the end of it all — instead of the culmination of it all.
It is sometimes helpful to wonder what might have happened had Jesus kept his head down, had he stopped preaching and healing. What if he’d refused to go to Jerusalem, what if he’d stayed on the periphery and not gone to the holy city itself, not proclaimed his message there, where it really mattered? What if his fear of death had been stronger than his belief in the coming Kingdom? Safe to say, it would have been all over. The dream would have fizzled; his disciples would have scattered. Seen in this light, Jesus’s death has nothing to do with fate, and everything to do with faithful choices. Indeed, the Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan suggested that Jesus’ sacrifice is best understood first in terms of Jesus’s choice to put his life on the line, and only secondarily in terms of his actual dying — the former is something he did (it was his sacrifice), the latter was something done to him. (Lonergan’s view of the Eucharist is similar: we are invited to share in Jesus’s attitude rather than in his physical death — the former is something actual, the latter is something we do symbolically, as a way ‘to put on the mind of Jesus’.)
But there is still more to this passage. Jesus’s decision to go to Jerusalem is not a political or dramatic calculation, even though the text suggests finality or even fulfilment. Neither is it a provocation or a grand geste. Though Jerusalem may well stone and kill the prophets, Jesus nonetheless longs for something else: he has longed to gather the people safely together, as a hen might gather her brood under her wings — to protect them from themselves. Later, in the nineteenth chapter (v. 41), Jesus actually weeps over Jerusalem for much the same reasons.
Jesus’s willingness to die, to put his life on the line for those who could hear his message — this was not a test of obedience to a divine decree (‘I must go on my way’), but was rather the out-flowing of his compassionate love. There is a strange rightness here, but there is no line of inevitability apart from the trajectory of love’s ‘dart to the heart’. Though we are smitten, we must still choose.
Joe Cassidy is Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham.
Neil Ormerod writes for ABC Religion and Ethics about The metaphysical muddle of Lawrence Krauss: Why science can’t get rid of God.
Frank Cranmer writes for Law & Religion UK about Doctrine and law – servants or masters?
Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that I go to church not for God but for humanity.
Clarissa Tan writes in The Spectator that The west doesn’t need Feng Shui. “If you doubt that a building can affect your spirit, try going to church.”
Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that The pope’s resignation has finally revealed that the papacy is simply a job.
Christopher Howse explains in The Telegraph Why we won’t get a bearded pope.
The Tablet has published correspondence between the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference and the Government, see Catholic schools will be forced to teach about gay marriage.
The documents are:
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales: MEMORANDUM Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: House of Commons Committee Stage dated 11 February
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Memorandum Explanatory Note
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, prior to second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Following a meeting on the 16th January, Maria Miller sent Archbishop Peter Smith a letter dated the 2nd February 2013. This letter was submitted to the Public Bill Committee, along with a memorandum in response, on Monday 11th February. The memorandum and letter constituted the written evidence of CBCEW and have been attached with this document.
The memorandum sets out the possible adverse effects that the Bill will have on the religious freedom of the Catholic Church, Church-related institutions and bodies, and individuals…
Dr Augur Pearce appeared before the scrutiny committee last week, and his written memorandum on behalf of the United Reformed Church has now been published.
His remarks concerning Clause 2 of the bill are particularly interesting.
The transcript of his oral evidence is back here (scroll down, he was one of the last two witnesses in that session).
Updated Wednesday afternoon
From the EHRC website:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has analysed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012/13 in light of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. This analysis concludes that the Bill, which will apply in England and Wales, would be in accordance with provisions within the legislation and would further the rights of individuals to equality before the law, in so far as it will:
The briefing is available here as a .doc file.
Or see the version filed with the Public Bill Committee.
The following additional memorandum from the EHRC has been published by the Public Bill Committee: Memorandum submitted by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (MB 24)
…The Commission is issuing this supplementary briefing to assist MPs at committee stage. It draws on a legal opinion obtained from Robin Allen QC, Cloisters, and Jason Coppel, 11 King’s Bench Walk. The full opinion is annexed to this briefing…
From the EHRC website:
[The] Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guidance today to help employers and employees deal with the expression of religion or belief at work and avoid conflict and costly court cases.
The guidance has been issued on the same day that the Commission has provided a briefing to MPs on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill as it is scrutinised in Parliament. Both publications will help to clarify two complex areas of law that will have a direct impact on people’s lives.
The guidance follows the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in four cases about religious rights in the workplace, one of which found that an employee suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom for being told not to wear a cross at work.
However, the fact that this judgment could be overturned on appeal and it could take time for domestic courts to re-interpret existing domestic law, has the potential to cause confusion for employers on how to deal with employees who wish to express their beliefs at work.
The Commission has therefore produced straightforward, expert guidance to clarify the law and how employers can use it to manage and protect religion and belief rights in the workplace.
It includes good practice advice for employers such as how to tell if a religion or belief is genuine, the kinds of religion and belief requests employers will need to consider and how to deal with them…
The guidance document, together with a legal explanation, can be found here.
David Pocklington has published two articles at Law & Religion UK about the Consultation document on women bishops legislation.
The second includes this comment.
The above analysis suggests that whilst the four propositions developed by the Working Group provide a broad framework within which to proceed, these need to be finessed further to maximize the benefit of the progress achieved to date. This would include.
- more formal declaration of the objectives a) to provide a clearer focus for the group’s work, and b) to give a signal to those outside the group of the expected outcome;
- minimization of “soft law” instruments within the “package” which is developed, which would rely [on] a combination of primary and secondary legislation coming into force at the same time;
- a statement on the expected time-scale, identifying key milestones and reviews of progress.
But do read all of them both.
Anglican Mainstream has published the following press release: Ordination in Kenya of Minister in Anglican Church Plant in Sheffield
In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, statistics show that only 3% of the population regularly attend church. Back in 2002 the leadership team at Christ Church Fulwood were invited by senior diocesan staff to investigate the possibility of church planting, with the aim of sharing the Gospel with people who had moved into the new residential developments in the city centre. Despite extensive discussions, diocesan support for this initiative was withdrawn, but with mission our priority Christ Church Central was “born” in October 2003 as “a church for people who don’t go to church” outside the formal structures of the Church of England.
Nearly 10 years later both parent and daughter churches have continued to grow numerically and partnered one another in mission to the city. An expression of this partnership was the planting of Christ Church Walkley last year, with the initial members drawn from both congregations living in the area. Pete Jackson, who has been one of the associate ministers at Christ Church Central, is the founding minister.
Although recommended by the Reform Panel of Reference and trained at Oakhill Theological College, Pete had not been ordained since Christ Church Central was not part of Sheffield Diocese. Concern that his ministry and that of the new church should be appropriately recognised led us to consult the leadership of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), who subsequently wrote to the GAFCON Primates’ Council with a request that they should facilitate Pete’s ordination.
We are immensely grateful for the leadership of the Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, as chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, and to the Bishop of Kitui, Josephat Mule, who ordained Pete as a deacon in the Anglican Church of Kenya on Saturday 9th February. We see this event as the latest expression of Gospel partnership between the churches in Sheffield and Kenya. Tim Davies’ father was Provost of Nairobi cathedral in the 1970s, Tim was born in Kenya and is himself an honorary canon of All Saints Cathedral Nairobi. Christ Church Central already supports mission partners in Nairobi…
The statement is signed by:
Tim Davies, Senior Minister, and Jane Patterson, Trustee, Christ Church Central
Jane Patterson is a General Synod member from the Diocese of Sheffield and a member of the Crown Nominations Commission.
The Diocese of Sheffield has issued this:
ORDINATION IN KENYA
Reports are now circulating in the public domain of an ordination in Kenya in recent days. The Communications Office was inundated with calls wanting clarification and comment.
+Peter has issued the following statement today:
“The Diocese of Sheffield was made aware last week that Pete Jackson from Christ Church Walkley had been ordained in Kenya on Saturday 9 February 2013. This came as a total surprise as we had no prior knowledge or communication regarding this. We continue to seek further clarification and dialogue with those involved in the ordination at various levels and are taking advice so that we have a comprehensive picture of what took place. This will enable us to reflect further on the developments and their implications.”
(+Peter is the Bishop of Doncaster)
Monday 18th February 2011
Archbishop’s new Director of Reconciliation
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of Canon David Porter as Director for Reconciliation at Lambeth Palace. Canon David will work part time on the Archbishop’s personal staff, seconded by Coventry Cathedral where he remains Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry - bringing first-hand knowledge of the Cathedral’s eminent and longstanding reconciliation work to Lambeth Palace and the wider Church.
The focus of Canon David’s role will be to enable the Church to make a powerful contribution to transforming the often violent conflicts which overshadow the lives of so many people in the world. His initial focus will be on supporting creative ways for renewing conversations and relationships around deeply held differences within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.
Canon David brings extensive front-line experience in the area of reconciliation having served on the Northern Ireland Civic Forum, chairing its working group on peacebuilding and reconciliation, as well serving as a member of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council. Since September 2008 David has been the Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, England. An experienced community relations activist, peacebuilding practitioner and community theologian he has thirty years experience in regional, national and international faith based organisations.
Speaking about his new position, Canon David Porter said:“How we live with our deepest differences both within the Church and our increasingly fractured world, is one of the major challenges to the credibility of Christianity as good news.”“It is a privilege to be asked to take on this responsibility for Archbishop Justin and I look forward to working with him in serving the Church in making reconciliation and peacebuilding a theological and practical priority in its life and witness.”
Speaking about the appointment, Archbishop Justin said:“I am delighted to welcome Canon David Porter, Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry, who will join my personal staff part time as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation. David brings a wealth of experience in reconciliation and peacebuilding from his work in Northern Ireland and through the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry. Conflict is an ever present reality both in the Church and wider society. Christians have been at the centre of reconciliation throughout history. We may not have always handled our own conflicts wisely, but it is essential that we work towards demonstrating ways of reducing destructive conflict in our world - and also to setting an example of how to manage conflict within the Church.”
Information about Canon Porter and the Coventry Cathedral Ministry of Reconciliation is below the fold.
Canon David W Porter - Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry
David is Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral. Previously he was co-founder and Director of ECONI (Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland). An experienced community relations activist, peace building practitioner and community theologian, David is honorary Research Fellow in Peace Studies at Coventry University. In 2006 he was Visiting Practitioner Fellow at the Centre for Reconciliation, Duke University Divinity School.
From 2007 until 2011 David was a member of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council and a trustee of Warwickshire based peace building charity, CORD. In 2007 he was appointed by the British government to the independent Consultative Group on the Past. Chaired by Lord Eames their report to government in 2009 set out proposals for how to deal with the legacy of the troubles in Northern Ireland. In 2000/03, David served on the Northern Ireland Civic Forum, chairing its working group on peace building and reconciliation. He is an honours graduate in Theology from the London School of Theology, with a Masters in Peace Studies from the University of Ulster.
Coventry Cathedral Ministry of Reconciliation
Coventry Cathedral is one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation. Following the destruction of the Cathedral in 1940, Provost Howard made a commitment not to revenge, but to forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.
Using a national radio broadcast from the cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940 he declared that when the war was over he would work with those who had been enemies ‘to build a kinder, more Christ-child-like world.’
It was this moral and prophetic vision which led to Coventry Cathedral’s development as a world Centre for Reconciliation, which over the years has provided inspiration and support to many Christians addressing ongoing conflict in contemporary society. A major part of this ministry was the establishment of the Community of the Cross of Nails, which today is an international network of over 170 CCN Partners in 35 countries committed to a shared ministry of reconciliation.
The Cathedral’s work for reconciliation has involved it in some of the world’s most difficult and longstanding areas of conflict. Building on this experience we are committed to develop our ministry as a centre for excellence to resource the church in the practical outworking of reconciliation as an integral part of Christian worship, witness and discipleship
On Thursday, a retired priest, who had pleaded guilty last December to various sexual offences, was sentenced to prison, see these news reports:
Chichester Observer BREAKING NEWS: Former priest sentenced for child sex offences
Evening Standard Paedophile priest jailed for 1970s child abuse
This prompted the following official statements:
Archbishop of Canterbury: Statement on the sentencing of Robert Coles
Yesterday, the following news report appeared:
Today Anglican Mainstream has published Press Statement by Bishop Wallace Benn: “No ineptitude on my part and no cover up” originally issued on Friday.
This statement discloses that:
“the Complaint made against me personally under the Clergy Discipline Measure concerning Mr Coles has been dismissed on its merits…”
and the statement gives details of the process by which this happened:
…In March 2012, the Chairman of the Safeguarding Advisory Group, Mr Keith Akerman, and the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, Mr Colin Perkins, sought to make a complaint against me under the Clergy Discipline Measure, on the basis that it was misconduct for me (1) not to inform the Police directly of what Robert Coles had said, or to direct Mr Reade to do so; and (2) not to inform the Police directly of what I had been told about Robert Coles by the clergyman in another Diocese.
On 18 October 2012, the Archbishop of York concluded, at the preliminary scrutiny stage, that both complaints against me in respect of Robert Coles should be dismissed on the ground that they lacked sufficient substance to proceed.
In reaching that decision in relation to the first complaint, the Archbishop of York emphasised:
The Diocesan Child Protection policy of 1997, which required “any allegation of abuse against a church worker, clerical or lay, or any relevant incident in any way to do with the life of the parish or church organisation, should immediately be referred to the Diocesan Child Protection Advisor.”
The absence of any evidence to show whether Mrs Janet Hind had considered whether the matter should be reported to the Police and, if so, by whom.
The absence of any evidence that I had disregarded advice from Mrs Janet Hind in this matter.
The Diocesan Child Protection policy of 1997 also stated that: “The Diocesan Advisor, if appropriate, will make sure that a referral has been made to the local social services office and will liaise with that department and the police during any child protection investigation.”
I understand that a similar complaint by the same complainants was made against the Right Reverend Nicholas Reade, the recently retired Bishop of Blackburn. I understand that it has also been dismissed.
In reaching his decision in relation to the second complaint, the Archbishop of York concluded that he was satisfied that I “had passed or discussed or shared” the letter from the clergyman in another Diocese with the Child Protection Advisor when I received it. He further concluded that there was no evidence that the Child Protection Advisor advised me to report the letter myself to the Police. The Archbishop of York dismissed the complaint against me on the ground that it lacked sufficient substance to proceed.
On 29 January 2013, the Right Honourable Lord Justice Mummery, sitting as President of Tribunals, dismissed an appeal by Mr Akerman and Mr Perkins against the dismissal of these complaints against me by the Archbishop of York…
The attitude we take to things says much about our attitude to God. That’s why temptation is a spiritual issue. Ken Dodd used to say there were only three basic jokes. There are probably only three basic temptations, that go back to Adam and Eve.
Number One. Let your appetites lead. Hungry? Curious? Go on! Eve saw that the fruit looked good, smelt lush. So she took the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since, says the story, the rest of us have had hell to pay. We know so much, but much outruns our moral capacity. We know how to destroy the world. We know how to poison ourselves and trash everything. Some knowledge defiles. The fruit of the tree was good to look at and very tasty; but it pitched our primal ancestors in way beyond their depth.
Of course we all have needs and appetites. Jesus told his followers that their heavenly father knows they need things, food, clothing, friends, homes. But when the attainment of these things becomes our prime objective, we lose the script. Make God’s Kingdom of justice and truth the prime concern, and everything else will follow.
Temptation Number two. Adam and Eve took, and ate, and hid. Cover up. Pretend. Put on a good show. ‘Hypocrite’ was the word Jesus used for people whose whole lives were no more than frontage. Adam and Eve hid in the bushes. “What on earth are you doing there?” said God. “You were made for something better!” Adam and Eve held their figleaves tight and prayed he would go away.
We are much more civilised. We have all sorts of ways of covering up our truth. The masks we wear often take other people in. The fixed Christian smile, carefully applied with theatrical gum, can be rather tiresome. But it’s the face to give the world, when we’re too afraid to be ourselves. God’s Spirit helps people be themselves and be real.
Temptation Number three. Knowledge is Power. Adam and Eve grasped knowledge that would make the whole world theirs. They thought that when their eyes were opened they would be able to control everything. In fact, like Greek tragedy, the exact opposite happened. Their knowledge didn’t give them power or set them free. It made slaves out of them both, condemned to scratch the dust on their own, banged up in their own hall of mirrors.
In the desert Jesus confronts the whole corrupting reality of temptation. “Go on! Do the obvious!” No, said Jesus, for we cannot live on bread alone. God’s word alone can truly nourish us. “Oh, Go on,” said the enemy. ‘It is written…’ God gives the word, so that we need not finally be deceived. Next stop, the Temple, and whole world of religion.
“Go on!” said the enemy. “Jump! That’ll show them. Their longing for a bit of real proof to justify their faith. They’ll love you for it!” “No,” said Jesus. Outer Show is nothing. God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, looks on the heart. Hypocrisy is never enough. We look from the outside, then try to guess what is going on inside. God looks from the inside out, and until we aim to share his priorities, his way of looking at ourselves from the inside out, we are still probably lost in our sins.
Finally, the Big One. “Go on!” said the enemy. “It’s all yours; the world and everything in it. Time for the sack of firm government.” “No,” said Jesus. “It’s not.” When we play God we corrupt and destroy everything we touch. When we play control games, or allow our relationships to become self-serving, we wound the people who love us most, and make fools of ourselves. When we receive everything as we receive the bread of the Eucharist, with thanksgiving, we are blessed by everything we have been given. It’s as simple as that.
Alan Wilson is Bishop of Buckingham in the diocese of Oxford.
There have not been many accounts of the hearings in the media this week, but here are a few:
Ed Thornton Church Times Fittall: gay marriage ‘not on horizon’
John Bingham Telegraph Gay marriage: no opt-out for Christian registrars
David Williamson Wales Online Gay Welsh cleric Jeffrey John gives fierce defence of same-sex marriage
Joseph Patrick McCormick Pink News Dr Jeffrey John: Allowing individual parishes to decide on equal marriage ‘more Christian’
Mark D’Arcy BBC Trench Warfare (and scroll to the bottom for link to his podcast report)
Isabel Hardman Spectator Exclusive: Tory MPs push government for French-style ‘civil union’ weddings
Elizabeth Oldfield for ABC Religion and Ethics asks Does the Anglican Church really need a new Theologian-in-Chief?
In the comment is free section of The Guardian
Joy Bennett writes that Many churches don’t talk about sex beyond virginity, virginity, virginity,
Mark Vernon asks Is love more real when grounded in faith?, and
Giles Fraser writes that Prayer is not pious. Like art, it simply needs attention to that which is other.
The following article appeared last week in The Tablet, and is reproduced here by permission of the editor.
Human rights and faith convictions
When the tide turned
Recently arguments over same-sex marriage have drowned out other legal cases where respect for religious conscience has prevailed. As debates rage over what constitutes human rights, secular society remains unpersuaded by the Church’s traditionalist stance
The rights and wrongs of their position notwithstanding, church leaders would surely be forgiven for feeling that they are being overwhelmed by the issue of gay rights. It seems to be everywhere, with even a Conservative Prime Minister leading the way on imposing a new definition of marriage in the UK, by incorporating same-sex partners, a move that would have been condemned on all sides as either idiosyncratic or extremist just a few years ago. How did this situation come about? Will it change any time soon? What can the Church do about it?
The first of these questions is the easiest to answer. The shift to a human-rights culture signalled by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 has put down deep roots in Europe, where it has been supported not only by the developing union between an ever greater number of states within the continent but also by the existence of a politico-legal mechanism to ensure the protection of human rights, in the shape of the Council of Europe and its flagship juridical rights champion, the European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg. The latter body has been operating now for over 50 years and it would not have survived if it had regarded itself as merely a diviner of the exact intent behind the words used by the drafters of the European Convention on Human Rights – the 1950 document over which it has definitive authority. The terms of that rights instrument are general, as was the intent that lay behind it. So far as the court was concerned it was expand or shrivel, and like most institutions, its judges chose the former option.
This has had an impact across a range of European legal systems. The Scandinavians have found themselves compelled to allow judicial processes against which their social democratic instincts rebelled. The Italians have been repeatedly excoriated for unacceptable delays in their legal system. And recently, of course, the UK has had its collision with Strasbourg over the right of prisoners to vote. Most countries have similar stories to tell.
Then of course there have been the gayrights cases. The Strasbourg court operates by balancing a quasi-democratic sense of what human rights should require in the Europe of today against a desire to give states a degree of leeway, particularly on ethical and moral issues. But the fewer states there are that adopt a punitive moral position, the more likely the court is to take it on. In this way the criminalisation of homosexual acts has been picked off in a series of cases that began in Northern Ireland and went via Ireland to reach other bastions of tradition such as Cyprus. Restrictions on gay people in the military were next to fall, and since then a range of decisions have extended the rights of gay people in relation to succession to tenancies, child custody and same-sex partnerships.
The European Court of Human Rights has not brought about these outcomes in isolation. Indeed some have been the achievement of the indigenous British courts. All of these changes have gone with the grain of European culture’s consistent and now decades-long prioritisation of individual freedom and personal flourishing which, together with the imperative of non-discrimination, have superseded older, more morally prescriptive codes of behaviour. The Churches, however, remain wedded to these traditional ways even though they no longer appear persuasive to the great majority of secular-minded persons (and indeed others within the Churches themselves).
And so to the second question: will things change any time soon? It seems unlikely. After civil partnerships, how can British society be persuaded that marriage must still always be between a man and a woman so far as the state itself is concerned? Mainstream experts in human rights see gay rights as an essential component of what human rights are. This was evident after the minority report following the recent Strasbourg case of the Islington marriage registrar Lillian Ladele (who refused to conduct civil partnerships on the basis of her religiously rooted objection to them). Dissenting from the predominant view that the council’s disciplinary action against Ms Ladele had not breached her convention rights, judges Vucinic and De Gaetano wrote of what they called the “combination of backstabbing by her colleagues and the blinkered political correctness of the Borough of Islington (which clearly favoured ‘gay rights‘ over fundamental human rights)” which had “eventually led to her dismissal”. The borough had, they wrote, “pursued the doctrinaire line, the road of obsessive political correctness”. Writing about these dissenting dicta in the Ladele case, the University College London scholar Ronan McCrea has called them “extremely intemperate and disturbingly worded”. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s UN Human Rights Council representative Archbishop Silvano Tomasi has spoken of “a movement within the international community and the United Nations to insert gay rights in the global human-rights agenda”.
If gay rights are indeed here to stay, what should the Churches do about it? To start with, they should probably stop trying to explain themselves, since in the current climate of what constitutes common sense this seems only to make things worse: Tomasi’s likening of controls on same-sex relations to “forbidding practices like incest, paedophilia, or rape – for the sake of the common good” strikes many religious and non-religious alike as nonsensical. And saying that gay marriage destroys “the essence of the human creature” and that it is a “threat to world peace”, as the Pope has reportedly recently done in various messages and speeches, might well be thought to fall into the same hyperbolic category. But the Church can hardly go on the offensive either. It never occurs to anyone to call for a renewal of the criminalisation of homosexual conduct and a revoking of recent advances in gay rights – this must be because these are clearly now irreversible changes.
In truth, the Church is stuck, loyal to tradition, but a return to basics looks unlikely. If we look past the gay-rights issue, the recent European Court of Human Rights case which involved Ms Ladele (together with the successful applicant Nadia Eweida and two other disappointed litigants) has much of value to say about the importance of religious freedom and the need to protect religious conscience as far as is possible – allowing Ms Eweida to claim victory in her quarrel with British Airways over the wearing of her cross. But these important points about secular society’s sympathy to religious feelings are bound to be lost in the noise generated by arguments over same-sex marriage.
It blows down dry streets in eddies, dead. It gathers in corners. It forms into rich earth, and out of it sprout tiny seeds. It compacts into warm and rich clay, which can be cut and slammed and shaped by hands and wheel into pots, and bowls and little figures of stout women and tiny men. It blows in the stellar winds in furthest space. It is dust.
We are dust.
Do we read it as promise or as curse? As a cause for humility, or a reassurance? It is a complex image. We are dust, blown around for a moment on one corner of the planet Earth that we call home, and the next become ash and mud. Stand for a moment on any hill, and look down on a road, a city, to see how tiny each figure is in comparison to the great world we live upon. We are specks on the face of a mighty globe. It puts us firmly in our places: all the books published, the families reared, the academic recognition, the wealth earned, the tests passed, the career ladder climbed, all these are as nothing in comparison to the mighty Earth, still less in the face of the universe. Look at the dust eddying down the street. That is the totality of your achievements.
On the other hand, being dust limits our failures. The family row, the declining attendance at our churches, the catch dropped, the dead-end job, the constant grind to make both ends meet, well, that too is dust, insignificant, and unimportant. All of us are so tiny in the sight of the universe that it hardly matters. It is not that it will all be the same in a hundred years. It is all the same now. I struggle to imagine a universe so huge that the pinprick of light I see from my dark hillside, unpolluted by street-lights, is, in fact, an entire galaxy. Stand outside on a clear night and see the glittering dust in the sky and know that what you see as a speck of light is in fact not just a star but a galaxy of stars with their own planets. Let your miseries fall behind you and rejoice in being part of a dance of life so incredibly huge you cannot know all of it, indeed you cannot even imagine it all.
It is hard to believe that we, tiny little specks of dust, set on the face of a planet which is itself a speck in an immense universe, can be of huge value to God. That he can bend near us, and listen to our worries, and our anguish and our delight. Yet that is what we are taught. I pour out my joy for a new lamb born safely to one of my ewes, or my pleas understanding of the next steps that my path of life should follow to God, and this God is the same God who dances on the seas of some planet in that same bright speck of a galaxy. The sheer immensity of it all is what brings me my most agonising moments of doubt.
But then, I am dust. Dust is so limited. Our faith has always known that. As a liberal, I am frequently berated for trying to create a god who fits my limitations. Actually I don’t think I do. When I stand outside on a clear night, and compare myself to a speck in the mud on my wellies, I am acutely aware of the immensity of God. If the sheer scale of it all brings me doubt, it also brings me reassurance. No wonder there is so much I cannot get my mind around. No wonder the pain of the universe puzzles me. I cannot even understand how time and space can be the same thing; at least I cannot understand that intuitively. I know that there must be truths even more profound beyond my reach.
How then to make sense of it all? How to accept my intellectual limitations, and grasp both my lack of stature as dust, and also my belonging to God? I turn to that same One who dances on some distant planet as even now it comes into being, in the curved space/time continuum. Ah, that, then, is the worth God gives to dust: he becomes it. Dust may be limited but it can embody every value of God. My task is simple: to begin on the path of embodying those same values. Did I say simple?
Updated finally on Friday morning
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is now being scrutinised by a Public Bill Committee.
Today was the first day of taking evidence, and those appearing included representatives of the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Church in Wales. The second day will be on Thursday.
The evidence sessions can be watched via Parliament TV, at the following locations
Hansard written record of proceedings:
The committee has started to publish memoranda submitted in written evidence. Of particular interest may be this memo from Lord Pannick QC.
Follow this link, and scroll down for others.
Last week the House of Bishops decided to give eight senior women clergy the right to attend their meetings. They stated that the “eight members would be elected regionally from within bishops’ senior staff teams (that include deans, archdeacons and others)”.
This article is an attempt to compile a list of the eligible women.
1) At present there are four women deans.
|Frances Ward||St Edmundsbury|
2) This list of women archdeacons is extracted from Wikepedia. I know of some acting archdeacons omitted from the Wikipedia list, but they are all men. It is possible that some women are also omitted.
|Nicola Sullivan||Wells||Bath & Wells|
|Penny Driver||Westmorland and Furness||Carlisle|
|Jane Sinclair||Stow and Lindsey||Lincoln|
|Joanne Grenfell||Portsdown (designate)||Portsmouth|
|Jane Hedges||Westminster||Royal Peculiar|
|Jane Steen||Southwark (designate)||Southwark|
|Dianna Gwilliams||Southwark (acting)||Southwark|
|Sarah Bullock||York (designate)||York|
|Suzanne Sheriff||York (temporary)||York|
3) It is not clear to me precisely who the “others” will be. Diocesan websites do not usually give a list of the members of the bishop’s senior staff, and the Church of England Year Book never does.
It might be thought that Diocesan Advisors in Women’s Ministry (DAWMs) (listed here) would all be members of the bishops’ senior staff, but I know that this is the case in only some dioceses.
4) Readers are invited to submit (via a comment) the names of any women clergy (other than deans and archdeacons) who are members of their bishop’s senior staff.
It was announced from the Vatican this morning that Pope Benedict XVI is to resign with effect from 28 February.
Press reaction has been swift. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in a press release, has responded:
In his visit to the UK, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice — a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question.
In his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict showed us all something of what the vocation of the See of Rome can mean in practice – a witness to the universal scope of the gospel and a messenger of hope at a time when Christian faith is being called into question. In his teaching and writing he has brought a remarkable and creative theological mind to bear on the issues of the day. We who belong to other Christian families gladly acknowledge the importance of this witness and join with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in thanking God for the inspiration and challenge of Pope Benedict’s ministry.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, writes
… the Christian world will miss a great theologian with great spiritual depth.
We should remember Pope Benedict communicated the revelation of God in a characteristic way as a true successor of St Peter. He was unafraid to proclaim the Gospel and challenge a culture that is so self-referential, managing to lift our eyes to God’s glory.
Earlier in the year, opponents of the government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage published selective extracts of a legal opinion written by Aidan O’Neill QC. The summary of this document can be found here. The full opinion has not been published as far as I know.
The government has now published two documents (PDF) which rebut these extracts:
The full text of the first document is reproduced below the fold.
EQUAL MARRIAGE – A RESPONSE TO AIDAN O’NEILL QC’S LEGAL OPINION
During the drafting and introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, there have been several issues raised by opponents to the Bill which seek to suggest that the legislation is open to legal challenge.
These concerns predominantly centre around the notion that there is insufficient protection for religious organisations and individuals who hold the religious or philosophical belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman and who therefore oppose same-sex marriage. We have considered these concerns very carefully and are confident that they are misplaced. Our response to them is set out below.
A fuller explanation of the protections in place (PDF 346kb) is also available. This is the Government’s detailed position on the scenarios devised by the Coalition for Marriage for Aidan O’Neill QC to advise on.
Public sector chaplains
Aidan O’Neill QC says that public sector chaplains could be sacked if they express the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
This is incorrect. The view that marriage should be between a man and a woman is mainstream and entirely lawful. People already express views about a whole range of issues – such as that civil partnerships are contrary to religious teaching, that people should not have children outside marriage, etc. Same-sex marriage will not be treated any differently.
While expressing views – either at work or outside work – which are at odds with an employer’s policy can affect employment in some circumstances, expressing a lawful view about marriage would not affect the chaplain’s ability to carry out his work or the reputation of his employer, so dismissing him would be unlawful. The chaplain in this scenario has a number of protections. These include the Equality Act 2010, which protects employees from direct and indirect discrimination because of religion or belief, and also unfair dismissal. Clause 2 of the Bill ensures that a chaplain can legally refuse to conduct a same-sex marriage ceremony. Further, as a minister of religion, a chaplain has a justifiable expectation that he will be allowed to act in accordance with his beliefs. The public sector equality duty would not justify a wrong or oppressive decision by an employer.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that teachers could be sacked for opposing same-sex marriage, or for failing to endorse same-sex marriage in the classroom.
Teachers will continue to have the clear right to express their own beliefs, or those of their faith - such as that marriage should be between a man and a woman - as long as it is done in a professional way. Schools will not acquire a power to dismiss teachers who refuse to teach views about same-sex marriage which are against their conscience.
As with any area of the curriculum, teachers will of course be expected to teach the factual position that under the law, marriage can be between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. There are many areas within teaching, particularly within faith schools, where subjects such as sex and relationship education and issues such as divorce are taught with sensitivity. The guidance governing these issues is the same guidance that will govern how same-sex marriage in the classroom will be approached. No teacher can be compelled to promote or endorse views which go against their beliefs.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that parents who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman would not be able to withdraw their children from lessons which endorse same-sex marriage.
Teaching should be professional, sensitive, not involve political indoctrination and be respectful of sincerely-held beliefs. On this basis, there is no reason why pupils should not be taught factual information about marriage for same-sex couples.
All parents have the right to withdraw their children from any or all parts of sex education, with the exception of the National Curriculum for Science, which covers teaching about the technical biology of reproduction. Objections by parents to a curriculum can occur for all sorts of reasons, and objections relating to same-sex marriage will be dealt with no differently.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that local authorities could refuse applications to become foster parents from couples who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Views on marriage of same-sex couples would not justify a refusal to allow individuals to act as foster carers, as such views in themselves would not impact on how a foster carer cares for a child. People have the right to express their religious beliefs and should not be discriminated against for doing so. Local authorities are under a duty to place each child in the most appropriate placement available, and to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. Irrelevant considerations of religious or cultural background should not prevent children being placed with loving and stable families.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that a marriage registrar who believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman would be forced out of her job.
There is a balance to be struck between the rights of same-sex couples and the rights of those who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. Under the Bill, marriage registrars will be responsible for marriages of same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples. Public officials should offer their services to all, without discrimination based on the sexual orientation of customers.
Hire of public facilities
Aidan O’Neill QC says that local authorities could refuse to let churches who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman use publicly-owned buildings.
This is not true and would be against the law. A policy of only hiring out facilities to those who have religious or philosophical views with which the local authority agrees would be indirectly discriminatory against many religious people and organisations. The public sector equality duty would not justify such an otherwise wrong or oppressive decision.
The Coalition for Marriage says that non-Anglican churches which refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies could end up in a case before the European Court of Human Rights.
The European Convention on Human Rights does not impose an obligation on States to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, and Aidan O’Neill QC’s opinion tentatively accepts that such a case would not succeed.
The Convention protects the religious freedom of individuals and religious organisations and their members, and the Bill addresses this by allowing religious organisations to “opt in” to conducting same-sex marriages and protecting those organisations which do not wish to do so. Any requirement on a religious organisation or individual minister to marry same-sex couples contrary to their doctrines would infringe their right to religious freedom.
Aidan O’Neill QC says that non-Anglican churches could be refused registration of their buildings to conduct weddings because of their opposition to same-sex marriage.
This is incorrect. Under the Marriage Act 1949, there is no discretion for the Registrar General in this matter. As long as the proprietor or trustee of the building provides an application which meets the statutory criteria, the Registrar General must register the building for the solemnization of marriages. Although the Registrar General is subject to the public sector equality duty, that would not override her statutory functions where no discretion is given.
Church of England
Aidan O’Neill QC says that a ban on the Church of England conducting same-sex marriages could breach the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Bill provides equivalent protection for all religious organisations. Because of the unique legal position of the Church of England, the Bill contains specific measures to provide this protection for it. Unlike other religious organisations in this country, Church of England and Church in Wales clergy have a specific legal duty to marry parishioners; the Bill makes clear that this duty is not extended to same-sex couples. It also ensures that Anglican Canon law does not conflict with civil law and can continue to state that marriage is between one man and one woman. Like other religious organisations, the Church of England will be able to decide for itself whether to allow the marriage of same-sex couples according to its rites. There is therefore no reason to think that this protection would not be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights.
Government Equalities Office
1 February 2013
Andrew Adonis has published this open letter: Dear Justin Welby…
Kelvin Holdsworth has The 10 Commandments of Using Images on Church Websites.
Douglas Murray writes in the Spectator: Atheists vs Dawkins: My fellow atheists, it’s time we admitted that religion has some points in its favour.
The Church Times reports on (Tropical) fish for Lent — young to give up most.
Giles Fraser writes his last column for the Church Times: Goodbye: I am letting anger drop.
But he continues his Loose canon column in The Guardian with The key to forgiveness is the refusal to seek revenge.
First, there was an article in the Church Times by Mark Hill headlined Strasbourg marks a sea-change in tolerance that is only available to subscribers, but which takes a rather different line to his earlier article at the Guardian website.
The second guest post at the ECHR Blog was written by Hana van Ooijen and is available at Eweida and Others Judgment Part II - The Religion Cases.
Another second post at Strasbourg Observers by Stijn Smet is titled Eweida, Part II: The Margin of Appreciation Defeats and Silences All.
Iyiola Solanke wrote at Eutopia Law about Clarification of the Article 9(2) ECHR qualification? Eweida and Others v the UK.
Ronan McCrea wrote at UK Constitutional Law Group: Ronan McCrea: Strasbourg Judgement in Eweida and Others v United Kingdom.
Julie Maher wrote at Oxford Human Rights Hub Religious Rights in the Balance: Eweida and Others v UK.
And Andrew Worthley wrote at Ekklesia Law and religion: happy marriage or estranged acquaintances?
Church of England press release: Consultation document issued by working group on women bishops legislation:
08 February 2013
A consultation document setting out a new way forward in enabling women to become bishops in the Church of England has today been sent to all General Synod members.
The document draws on the facilitated conversations arranged by the Working Group on women bishops legislation held earlier this week and the meeting of the House of Bishops on February 7.
The consultation document can be read here. (PDF)
Statement following the meeting of the House of Bishops PR28.13
The facilitation process referred to was set out in PR160.12 on 11 December 2012 http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/statement-from-the-house-of-bishops-on-defeat-of-women-bishops-legislation.aspx
Membership of the working group was set out in PR169.12 on 19 December 2012 http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/working-group-on-new-legislative-proposals-on-women-bishops-announced.aspx
We have made a webpage version of the consultation document available here.
Following yesterday’s decision by the House of Bishops to give eight senior women clergy the right to attend their meetings these reports have appeared in the press.
Madeleine Davies in the Church Times: Women dignitaries to be elected as Bishops’ ‘participant observers’
Sam Jones in The Guardian Church of England’s house of bishops to allow female clergy into meetings
John Bingham in the Telegraph Church of England to give women clerics ‘observer’ status in House of Bishops
WATCH has issued this statement.
WATCH (Women and the Church) welcomes House of Bishops’ Statement
WATCH welcomes yesterday’s statement by the House of Bishops endorsing ‘robust processes and steps’ towards preparing legislation to make women bishops in the Church of England ‘at the earliest possible date’. Any such legislation will need to be unequivocal in its affirmation of women as priests and bishops and provide an institutional environment in which women’s ordained ministry can truly flourish.
The news that eight senior women are to attend the House of Bishops’ meetings is also to be welcomed. The presence of women in this previously all-male group will be very helpful in preparing the House to receive its first female bishops and in the development of new enabling legislation.
The electronic voting results of the House of Laity meeting held on 18 January 2013 are now available. As usual these take the form of a pdf file, arranged by vote (for/against/abstain) and then alphabetically.
For convenience I have put the results into a spreadsheet arranged by synod number (which brings members together by diocese) and added absentees and vacancies. I have also provided a webpage version of the spreadsheet.
A verbatim transcript of the meeting is also available.
07 February 2013
The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today expressed its encouragement and support for new robust processes and steps in bringing forward to General Synod the necessary legislation to consecrate women to the episcopate.
At a special meeting at Lambeth Palace today, the House reviewed the progress to develop proposals to enable women to become bishops at the earliest possible date. The meeting also considered changes to future meetings so as to ensure that eight senior women clergy will be participants in all meetings of the House and its standing committee.
The House was briefed on the two meetings held in January by the working group under the chairmanship of the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. All 10 of the members of the working group attended the House of Bishops meeting. The House also received an account of the intensive, facilitated conversations held by the group with 15 others from a wide range of viewpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
The House was encouraged to hear of the constructive manner in which everyone had joined together in the search for a way forward. It agreed that the working group should shortly issue a consultation document that would give an outline of the discussions of the past weeks, set out some emerging ideas and provide General Synod members with an opportunity to have an input into that conversation prior to the working group meeting again on 4 March.
The House affirmed the nature of the facilitation process and encouraged opportunities which may be available to extend this process further at a diocesan and regional level. There was also support for the facilitation process to continue in parallel with the fresh proposals that will be brought to General Synod in July.
Following the discussion with the working group, the House went on to consider issues arising from its current all male membership. It decided that until such time as there are six female members of the House, following the admission of women to the episcopate, a number of senior women clergy should be given the right to attend and speak at meetings of the House as participant observers. The intention is that eight members would be elected regionally from within bishops’ senior staff teams (that include deans, archdeacons and others). The necessary change to the House’s Standing Orders will be made in May.
In addition, the House agreed to a special meeting on 19 September when the College of Bishops and a group of senior female clergy will meet to take forward the range of cultural and practical issues about gender and ministry in the Church of England arising from the ‘Transformations’ initiative that was launched at Lambeth in September 2011.
The facilitation process referred to was set out in PR160.12 on 11 December 2012 http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/statement-from-the-house-of-bishops-on-defeat-of-women-bishops-legislation.aspx
Membership of the working group was set out in PR169.12 on 19 December 2012 http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/working-group-on-new-legislative-proposals-on-women-bishops-announced.aspx
Updated again Tuesday morning
The House of Commons committee hearings will commence on 12 February.
The committee is inviting the public to submit written evidence. The closing date is 12 March, but earlier submissions are encouraged.
Amendments are being filed by MPs and updated lists of them will be published regularly. The first set of them is here.
Update 11 February A few more amendments are now here.
Update 12 February Further amendments and a list of witnesses for this week here.
Just before the Second Reading, ResPublica published this “Green Paper” by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond: Marriage: Union for the future or contract for the present (PDF).
A shorter version of this paper is published at ABC Religion and Ethics under the title Marriage equality or the destruction of difference?
The speech made in the Second Reading debate by Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, can be found here.
David Pocklington has written at Law & Religion UK an article titled Tenuous European links to same-sex marriage, which deals with claims made elsewhere that recognition of same-sex marriages will become a “European requirement”.
The Guardian has a detailed analysis of the Second Reading vote.
The House of Commons held its first debate on this bill, known as Second Reading.
The Hansard record is now available here.
The vote on Second Reading was 400 in favour, 175 against.
According to the Press Association, as reported by the Guardian (and scroll for further details):
126 Conservatives voted for the bill, along with teller Desmond Swayne. 134 Tories voted against the Bill’s second reading, along with two tellers. That means 136 MPs opposed the bill. Another five Conservative MPs voted both for the bill and against it, the tradition way of registering an abstention. (Technically this means you could say 139 Tories voted against the bill, or 141 opposed it, but that would be misleading.) And another 35 Conservative MPs who did not vote.
217 Labour MPs voted in favour of the bill, 22 Labour MPs voted against and 16 did not vote.
44 Lib Dems voted in favour, four voted against and seven did not vote.
The BBC has voting lists here.
Subsequent votes were
Programme Motion 499 in favour, 55 against.
Money Resolution 481 in favour, 34 against.
Carry-over Motion 464 in favour, 38 against.
As the intensive facilitated discussions on legislation to allow women to be bishops start today WATCH has published these two articles, from which I have extracted a few key paragraphs.
The issue in front of us is not primarily doctrinal. That hurdle was jumped in the 1970’s and the church has not retreated from its clear commitment that there are no theological principles in our understanding of the tradition preventing women entering holy orders.
The issue is, therefore, fundamentally about the order of the church. The order of the Church of England is that if you are ordained deacon you may be ordained priest after one year and if you are ordained priest you may be ordained Bishop after 6 years and if you are over 30 years of age. Canon C2 sets out the refinements of this. Driving a permanent wedge between the priesthood and the episcopate is destructive of our tradition and order.
That is one of the reasons why the language of reception was used when women were admitted to the priesthood. The experience of this ministry would seal the issue. There can be no doubt that the period is reception is long passed. When the Archbishop Rowan suggested that, in theory, it was possible for the church to reverse its decision to ordain women into the priesthood, he very quickly had to retract. There is no doubt reception time is done.
Within the Church of England defending the rights of some individuals and groups to discriminate against women currently has a high priority and is connected in many minds with upholding freedom and diversity. By contrast witnessing to the equal dignity and worth of women in society has a low priority. It is not a moral imperative for us. Opponents of women’s ministry have worked hard to alter our perceptions in this way, to present gender discrimination as a respectable alternative position within the life of the Church and themselves as victims of intolerance. This reversal of values seems perverse and incomprehensible, even morally repugnant, to those outside the Church.
I voted for the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure last November, having persuaded myself that it was the best of the options available to us. I wanted to respect the views of others and make gracious provision for those who tell us they are struggling with this issue for theological reasons. I particularly wanted to find a way for the Church of England to break out of the current impasse and move forward with the pressing missional task that is before us.
I have come to understand that what I did was wrong. I was supporting a lesser good at the expense of a greater good. We cannot place the needs and wishes of a small number of our own members above our vocation to declare a gospel of justice and mercy for all human beings. We cannot achieve our goal of having women in the House of Bishops on such terms.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby became the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury at lunchtime today, when his election was confirmed at a ceremony in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Archbishop of York gave this Welcome to Archbishop Justin Welby.
St Paul’s Cathedral has this report of the ceremony, Justin Welby is made Archbishop of Canterbury at St Paul’s, with links to photographs and the order of service.
The Archbishop is now The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby following his appointment to Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.
Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph about Holding a candle in the Temple.
Robert McCrum writes this profile in The Observer: Justin Welby: from mammon to man of God.
Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that There’s no shame in suicide. And there’s no glory, either.
Andrew Brown in The Guardian asks Is gay marriage really about sex?
Following the consecration of Glyn Webster, an election has been held to elect his successor as prolocutor [ie chair] of the lower house [ie clergy] of the Convocation of York.
The Venerable Cherry Vann, the Archdeacon of Rochdale, was elected unopposed.
Amongst other things the prolocutor is an ex officio member of the Archbishops’ Council.
The House of Commons Library has produced a 63-page briefing for Members, in advance of the Second Reading next Tuesday.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill proposes to make a number of changes to the Equality Act 2010. One of them is in paragraph 41 of Schedule 7 of the Bill (page 52 in the paper version). As the Explanatory Notes say:
Paragraph 41 amends Schedule 9 paragraph 2 (religious requirements relating to sex,
marriage etc, sexual orientation) so that, where employment is for the purposes of an
organised religion, an occupational requirement may allow a restriction that a person
should not be married to someone of the same sex. This means, for example, that a church may require that a priest not be married to a person of the same sex.
The change alters Schedule 9 paragraph 2 in the following manner (added words are in bold face):
Religious requirements relating to sex, marriage etc., sexual orientation
2(1) A person (A) does not contravene a provision mentioned in sub-paragraph (2) by applying in relation to employment a requirement to which sub-paragraph (4) applies if A shows that—
(a) the employment is for the purposes of an organised religion,
(b) the application of the requirement engages the compliance or non-conflict principle, and
(c) the person to whom A applies the requirement does not meet it (or A has reasonable grounds for not being satisfied that the person meets it).
(2) The provisions are—
(a) section 39(1)(a) or (c) or (2)(b) or (c);
(b) section 49(3)(a) or (c) or (6)(b) or (c);
(c) section 50(3)(a) or (c) or (6)(b) or (c);
(d) section 51(1).
(3) A person does not contravene section 53(1) or (2)(a) or (b) by applying in relation to a relevant qualification (within the meaning of that section) a requirement to which sub-paragraph (4) applies if the person shows that—
(a) the qualification is for the purposes of employment mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)(a), and
(b) the application of the requirement engages the compliance or non-conflict principle.
(4) This sub-paragraph applies to—
(a) a requirement to be of a particular sex;
(b) a requirement not to be a transsexual person;
(c) a requirement not to be married or a civil partner;
(ca) a requirement not to be married to a person of the same sex
(d) a requirement not to be married to, or the civil partner of, a person who has a living former spouse or civil partner;
(e) a requirement relating to circumstances in which a marriage or civil partnership came to an end;
(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.
(5) The application of a requirement engages the compliance principle if the requirement is applied so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion.
(6) The application of a requirement engages the non-conflict principle if, because of the nature or context of the employment, the requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.
(7) A reference to employment includes a reference to an appointment to a personal or public office.
(8) In the case of a requirement within sub-paragraph (4)(a), sub-paragraph (1) has effect as if in paragraph (c) the words from “(or” to the end were omitted.
The Church of England has issued this press release: MPs briefed on Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and the Church of England which links to this briefing document (PDF).
The Church of England’s Parliamentary Office has provided a briefing note to MPs on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and the Church of England prior to the Second Reading debate in the House of Commons on February 5.
The briefing sets out why the Church of England cannot support the Bill and addresses some of the concerns that have been voiced by MPs about the Bill in relation to the Church of England. These include why specific wording is needed to give the Church of England the same protection as other faith groups and how the devolved legislative powers of the General Synod work.
We have made a webpage version of the briefing note available here.
The summary of the briefing note says:
The Church of England cannot support the Bill, because of its concern for the uncertain and unforeseen consequences for wider society and the common good when marriage is redefined in gender-neutral terms.
This reshaping and unnecessary politicising of a fundamental social institution, which predates church and state, did not feature in party manifestos, was not included in the last Queen’s Speech and has no mandate from the Government’s own consultation exercise. The legislation has also been prepared at great haste and as a result relies on an unacceptably wide use of secondary legislation.
We do not doubt the Government’s good intentions in seeking to leave each church and faith to reach its own view on same sex marriage and including provisions in the Bill to protect them from discrimination challenges. If the Bill proceeds into law it is essential that the various ‘locks’ in the Bill are preserved as drafted. The Church of England, whose clergy solemnize around a quarter of all marriages in England, has sought no more safeguards in substance than those provided for other Churches and faiths.
The Church of England recognises the evident growth in openness to and understanding of same sex relations in wider society. Within the membership of the Church there are a variety of views about the ethics of such relations, with a new appreciation of the need for and value of faithful and committed lifelong relationships recognised by civil partnerships.
Civil partnerships have proved themselves as an important way to address past inequalities faced by LGBT people and already confer the same rights as marriage. To apply uniformity of treatment to objectively different sorts of relationship - as illustrated by the remaining unanswered questions about consummation and adultery- is an unwise way of promoting LGBT equality.
The continuing uncertainty about teachers, the position of others holding traditional views of marriage working in public service delivery, and the risk of challenges to churches in the European courts despite the protections provided, suggest that if the legislation becomes law it will be the focus for a series of continued legal disputes for years to come.