The Archbishop of York announced yesterday that he had undergone surgery for prostate surgery.
Statement From The Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
Thursday 30th May 2013
Following an operation today, the Archbishop has released the following statement…
I am thankful and grateful for Mr Bill Cross, and his surgical team at St James’ Hospital Leeds, who today operated on me for a locally advanced cancer of the prostate. I am also grateful to the nursing staff who are caring for me.
I am thankful, too, for all of you who regularly pray for me and support me, especially my staff at Bishopthorpe Palace.
I will be out of action for some time, and will continue to value your prayers. I look forward to resuming my ministry as soon as possible.
As I have often said, during the most trying times, I have derived great comfort from the words of the Taizé chant, ‘Aber du weißt den Weg für mich’, adapted from a passage in Letters and Papers from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (a German Pastor and Theologian executed by the Nazis in 1945):
“God, gather and turn my thoughts to you. With you there is light, you do not forget me. With you there is hope and patience. I don’t understand your ways, but you know the way for me.”
I wish you all joy in the Lord.
on the Feast of Corpus Christi
The many press reports include these:
Ed Thornton in the Church Times Dr Sentamu treated for prostate cancer
Press Association (in The Guardian) John Sentamu, archbishop of York, has surgery for prostate cancer
Tim Ross in The Telegraph Archbishop of York has prostate cancer surgery
Kevin Rawlinson in The Independent Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, treated for prostate cancer
Dr Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, has written this Letter to a Saloon Bar Moralist.
Thank you for your letter. The more people apply their first principles to this question, the closer we will come to a way forward so thank you for trying. I am sure many people, especially those of a certain age will share it instinctively, driven by a primal feeling of disgust about gay sex.
What I am finding also, however, is that your views appear anything but natural to vast numbers of people who simply see gay people as people, not defined by their sexual practices. The opposite answer is as clear to them, as yours is to you and the minority of my correspondents your letter represents…
Updated Friday morning and evening and Friday 7 June
Today’s issue of the Church Times has several articles about the latest proposals from the House of Bishops. Ed Thornton and Glyn Paflin report on them in Next step proposed on women bishops.
In Bleak outlook, says opponent Madeleine Davies reports on several responses to the proposals, in particular this one:
WHILE it might be “difficult for anyone to claim outright victory”, the way forward to women bishops mapped out by the House of Bishops, looked like “outright defeat”, the chairman of Reform, the conservative Evangelical network, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said on Tuesday…
And there is this Leader comment: No cheap trust.
Yes2WomenBishops has issued several tweets including the following:
Church Times Leader gets a couple of important facts wrong. (1) senior women clergy were not at the last House of Bishops meeting and …
(2) proposal is NOT to pass the measure then develop the provisions for opponents - will all be done at the same time
So essentially the whole basis for the article is wrong!
Here’s an excellent legal briefing on the oath of canonical obedience and why it is essentially meaningless http://ecclesiasticallaw.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/canonical-obedience/ …
Subsequently the Church Times has published a correction to its leader in response to point (1).
The paper copy of the Church Times dated 7 June 2013 carries this correction on page 8: ” The official women observers were not present at the last House of Bishops’ meeting, as we stated in last week’s leader comment. Also, “option one” allows for the provision for those who object to women bishops to be decided before final approval of the main Measure.”
Updated again Sunday afternoon
The Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Bill) in the House of Lords will now be scheduled over two days, Monday and Tuesday, 3 and 4 June.
Updated The list of those who have asked to speak in the debate now stands at 90, about two-thirds of whom will speak on Monday, see list here. Only three active bishops (Leicester, Chester, Exeter) are listed, along with two retired bishops (Carey, Harries). There are however reports elsewhere that the Archbishop of Canterbury intends to speak.
The BBC has this news report: Late night votes on gay marriage could be a headache for Cameron which was written before the announcement relating to continuation on Tuesday. In his more recent post, Mark D’Arcy writes:
…Then the main business is the Marriage (Same Sex Couple[s]) Bill - with 86 peers now listed to speak. The Coalition business managers have responded to pressure from all sides (see earlier post) to rejig the debate to avoid sitting beyond midnight - and the vote will now be taken on Tuesday. Some peers may not like that, so watch out for complaints that this isn’t quite cricket…..Overshadowing proceedings is the rarity of a motion to decline to give the bill a second reading, from the Crossbencher, Lord Dear…
See this earlier article for links to the bill text and explanatory notes as it left the House of Commons.
There is a House of Lords Library Note about the bill, see here.
Read the transcript in Today’s Lords debates three hours after the debate.
Church Society has issued a press release: Church Society calls on House of Lords to put the brakes on Same Sex Marriage Bill. The full text is copied below the fold.
Church Society calls on House of Lords to put the brakes on Same Sex Marriage Bill
Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society, has written to the Lords Spiritual to express concern about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill which will be debated in the House of Lords next week.
The debate may focus on the notions of ‘rights’ and ‘equality.’ As Christians, we support and should defend the legal equality (properly defined) of all those who experience same sex attraction, and recognise them as made in the image of God. What this Bill would actually achieve, however, is not a great advance for minority rights but a fundamentally-flawed redefinition of a basic institution for every single one of us.
The formularies of our church and the law of the land define and recognise marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for as long as they both shall live. It was designed thus by God to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and his people. It has been thus since the creation of the world. The new definition proposed by the Government removes the requirement for consummation from our legal understanding of marriage, and tampers with the very idea of faithfulness in what it says about adultery. It unravels something inexpressibly precious which societies at all times and in all places have perceived as unique and essential.
Moreover, the Bill does not merely ‘open up’ marriage to a new group of people, as many are portraying it. Rather, it enforces and compels everyone in our country to hastily accept the creation of an entirely new socio-legal structure for all of us, which possesses neither an underlying consensual basis or a democratic mandate, and is actually only sought by a small minority of the gay community. Such grand-scale societal re-engineering cannot be mitigated with a few small legislative concessions to Church of England clergy or to employees with conscientious objections to the theory of same sex ‘marriage’ — in which the Bill is woefully deficient in any case, and which would quickly be eroded not least by test cases attempting to push the boundaries even further.
It is always dangerous to tamper with the foundations of a structure. To undermine marriage by redefining its very meaning as this Bill proposes to do, will have a crumbling effect on our culture as a whole. This is certainly not the way to heal the social unrest and family breakdown which are now all too prevalent in Britain and which affect every parish church in the land.
The House of Lords exists precisely to put a brake on this kind of rushed, ill-conceived legislation which has not made an appearance in any election manifesto or Queen’s Speech. Unless it is rejected by the Lords, we will all have to live with both the predictable and the many unforeseen consequences of this ideologically-driven false step for many decades to come. We must hope and pray that the Lords reject it, for the glory of God and the good of our nation.
Diocese of Salisbury press release: Bishop restates gay marriage is an endorsement of the institution of marriage and “a matter of justice” which begins thus:
The Bishop of Salisbury writes today that “The possibility of ‘gay marriage’ does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage.”
In a letter delivered to Lord Alli at the House of Lords, Bishop Holtam believes that civil partnerships have been a natural precursor of gay marriage being recognised in law: “Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law.”
Replying to a letter from Lord Alli of Norbury who requested that Bishop Holtam clarify his position on the issue as a member of the House of Bishops for members of the Upper House, Bishop Holtam stresses that this issue is about justice: “In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.”
Bishop Holtam states: “there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith.”
In his letter the Bishop of Salisbury also observes that the church has adapted its approach to marriage in light of social change including the widespread availability of contraceptives so that couples may choose to have children; the acceptance of divorce and possibility of marriage in church after divorce so that not all marriages are lifelong, and the acceptance of couples living together before marriage by a Church that still teaches sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage…
The full text of the letter from the Bishop of Salisbury to Lord Alli is available below the fold. It is also on the Diocese of Salisbury website (link in press release), and on the Daily Telegraph website.
Telegraph Edward Malnick Opponents of gay marriage like supporters of apartheid, says senior bishop
Lord Alli of Norbury
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW
29 May 2013
Thank you for asking me to set out why I am sympathetic to the possibility of equal marriage and have a different view from that stated in the Church of England’s response to the Equal Civil Marriage consultation. That response from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in June 2012, written in consultation with the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops, was prepared under the pressure of the government’s absurdly short period for consultation on a major legislative social and legal change. The Archbishops affirmed what the Church has always taught (with Judaism and Islam) that marriage is a gift of God in creation, the lifelong union of a man and a woman. A subsequent document has been produced by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission on ‘Men and Women in Marriage’. That this is ‘for study’ indicates a discussion continues to run within the Church of England. This was acknowledged in a recent briefing from the Church of England to MPs for the Commons Report stage which stated: “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.”
You, as a gay Muslim, will not be surprised that there are a variety of views within the Church of England where we are experiencing rapid change similar to that in the wider society. This is complex to express, partly because there are those who see this issue as fundamental to the structure of Christian faith. It is also complex because of the worldwide nature of the Anglican Communion in which what might be said carefully in one cultural context (for example, the USA) can be deeply damaging in another (for example, parts of Africa). Change and development are essential in the Church, as they are in life, and part of the genius of a missionary Church is its ability to root the good news of Jesus Christ in varied cultures in every time and place. One of the difficulties now is that globalisation and communication mean it is much more difficult for Christianity to develop in this culturally sensitive way. There has been a very uncomfortable polarisation of views even in our own country.
Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly. For example, the widespread availability of contraception from the mid- twentieth century onwards took several decades to gain acceptance for married couples by the Lambeth Conference in 1958. The newer forms of the Church of England’s marriage service have since recognised that the couple may have children. Over the last fifty years the Church of England has come to accept that marriages intended to be lifelong can break down and that on occasion marriage after divorce can be celebrated in the context of Church. It is also the case that most couples now live together before they marry. This happens without censure from the Church which continues to conduct these marriages joyfully even though the Church’s teaching is that sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage.
The desire for the public acknowledgement and support of stable, faithful, adult, loving same sex sexual relationships is not addressed by the six Biblical passages about homosexuality which are concerned with sexual immorality, promiscuity, idolatry, exploitation and abuse. The theological debate is properly located in the Biblical accounts of marriage, which is why so many Christians see marriage as essentially heterosexual. However, Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.
The pace of change with regard to same sex relations has been considerable. The Wolfenden report (1957) and Sexual Offences Act (1967) decriminalised homosexual acts in private between men aged over 21 years in England and Wales. This received cautious support from the Church of England at the time. The changes they introduced are now unchallenged and wholly welcomed.
At the co-educational North London Grammar School I attended from 1965-72, there were 2 effeminate gay lads in my year who were no threat to the rest of us but who were regularly beaten up just for being different. At times school for them must have been a brutal experience. What they went through was unkind and unjust but I don’t remember a teacher intervening on their behalf. I am thankful things have changed and we now have a greater sense of equality and fairness. In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.
When the proposal for civil partnerships was debated in 2004 the Church of England was largely hostile. I am grateful that in the Archbishops’ opposition to equal marriage they have expressed their support for civil partnerships and I hope this will help the Church of England towards affirming these relationships liturgically. Like the Archbishops now, I used to think that it was helpful to distinguish between same sex civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage. Many in the churches think the commonly used description of civil partnerships as ‘gay marriage’ is a category error. However, the relationships I know in civil partnerships seem to be either of the same nature as some marriages or so similar as to be indistinguishable. Indeed, the legal protection and public proclamation which civil partnership has afforded gay relationships appears to have strengthened their likeness to marriage in terms of increasing commitment to working on the relationship itself, to contributing to the wellbeing of both families of origin, and to acting as responsible and open members of society. Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law.
The possibility of ‘gay marriage’ does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage. The ‘quadruple locks’ contained in the Bill provide extraordinarily robust protection for those religious bodies, including the Church of England, unwilling or unable to conduct same sex marriage without accusation of being homophobic.
This subject provokes strong feelings but in most churches a variety of views will be found. I hope this letter helps to say briefly why there is a greater variety of views within the Church of England than can be expressed in the formal statements of the Church or House of Bishops. At its best the Church is committed to the Spirit of God leading us into all Truth in what is a complex period of social change.
The Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam
The Bishop of Salisbury
The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, announced today that he will retire in September.
The European Court of Human Rights has today announced that it has rejected the applicants’ request in Eweida and Others v the United Kingdom for referral to the Grand Chamber. This means that the Chamber judgement is now final.
The text of the lecture has been published by Theos, and can be found here: Does Establishment have a Future?
The same page has links to recordings of the lecture itself, and the following Q&A session.
Last week, The Tablet carried an (unsigned) editorial comment about the impact of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on the establishment of the Church of England. The full text of this article is, with the express permission of the Editor of The Tablet, reproduced below the fold.
Editorial from The Tablet issue dated 25 May 2013
The Church of England’s position as “the Church by law established” has been weakened by the progress of the legislation to permit the marriage of same-sex couples. Not only is the law on marriage under review, but so is the nature of the Church-State relationship.
What is surprising is how few in the Conservative Party, trad itionally the party of throne and altar, seem to be aware of this. It is as if the nation is taking a significant step towards disestablishment in a fit of absent-mindedness. Perhaps not so absent-minded on the part of the more vociferous secularists, however, who have been aware all along of the potential for the gay-marriage issue to further their own agenda. They needed the Church to do its best to stop the legislation, and fail. Although the battle is not yet finished, events do appear to be going their way.
The clergy of the Church of England solemnise about a quarter of all marriages in England, and so far the law of marriage they administer has been the law of the land. This is unlike the case of the Catholic, Jewish or Muslim communities, who have their own marriage laws, customs and courts where their own doctrines of marriage take precedence. Thus the law of the land can say two people are married, but the internal regulations of each faith community can still maintain that they are not. They can ignore the civil recognition of gay marriages if they want to, in a way the Church of England cannot. At least until the gay-marriage legislation becomes law, those that the common law of England says are married are those the Established Church says are married, and vice versa, with no distinction. In a briefing note to MPs, the Church of England explained that “the assertion that ‘religious marriage’ will be unaffected by the proposals” was misleading, as “at present there is one single institution and legal definition of marriage, entered into via a civil or religious ceremony. Talk of ‘civil’ and ‘religious’ marriage is erroneous…”
Henceforth, if and when gay marriage becomes law, the Church of England will be like the Catholic, Muslim and most Jewish communities in having a definition of marriage that excludes same-sex couples. The Government has drafted legal protection for the Church of England that in effect bans it from marrying gay couples. But that will put in place the very distinction between “civil and religious marriage” which the briefing document rejected, the absence of which has until now been one of the defining characteristics of the Church of England’s unique status.
So the Church is being forced to move towards becoming a private self-governing institution with its own internal rules, alongside other institutions in civil society – in other words, towards disestablishment. Some inside the Church of England will welcome that as good for the Church. But the larger question for the rest of society, including other faith communities, is whether that is good for everyone else. Indeed, some outside will hail it as a further step towards the exclusion of religion from the public square, where faith becomes a purely private matter. That is precisely how the victory for gay marriage has been greeted in France. At least the French have had a better idea of what is at stake.
While we await the House of Lords second reading a week tomorrow, on 3 June, here are some articles that have recently appeared.
Channel 4 News had two items:
Adam Wagner wrote in the New Statesman on Myths and realities about Equal Marriage
Robert Watts wrote in the Telegraph about the forthcoming debate: Peers plot gay marriage revolt
…Peers expect the Upper’s House [sic] debate over same sex weddings will go through the night or even into a second day, with a key vote that could scupper the policy regarded as “too close to call”.
The former head of the British army Lord Dannatt and Lord Lothian, a former Conservative Party chairman better known as Michael Ancram, are amongst those set to criticise the draft legislation in next Monday’s session.
Other opponents will include Lord Waddington, a former Home Secretary, Lord Luce, who served as a minister in Baroness Thatcher’s government, and Lord Singh of Wimbledon, a respected figure in the Sikh community.
The Sunday Telegraph has also established that the senior Tory Baroness Warsi, a practising Muslim, refused to lead the bill through the House of Lords when asked to do so by David Cameron, the Prime Minister.
Some peers believe dozens Lords who rarely attend Parliament will flock to Westminster to make their position on homosexual marriage clear…
And in today’s Observer there is an interview with Margot James MP, who has this to say about the Church of England:
“I do feel very strongly that public life should be conducted with far greater respect than it often is in the chamber. Opinions do get heated but I didn’t behave like that in business and I don’t believe that going hammer and tongs at an argument solves much.” Her anger is kept for the church: “I think the churches conducted a very disreputable campaign where they really distorted what the government intended with this bill. I think it was truly shameful, both the Church of England and the Coalition for Marriage misled people. Not impressive.”
And the Guardian published this Gay marriage: news and teaching resources round up (hat tip Anglican Mainstream who presumably disapprove of all this).
Revised Tuesday lunchtime
Andrew Brown has analysed the proposals for the Guardian in Church of England leaders propose female bishops by 2015.
The bishops of the Church of England have published a plan to consecrate female bishops by 2015, after the defeat of legislation last autumn. It would end 20 years of bitter struggle with a clear decision in favour of progress.
The proposals, published on Friday and backed by both archbishops, offer a nearly complete victory for the female clergy and their supporters outraged by the failure of the earlier legislation…
Tom Heneghan Reuters Church of England unveils plan for women bishops in 2015
Jonathan Petre in the Mail on Sunday reports that Church leaders may ask Queen to dissolve Synod if it continues to oppose creation of women bishops.
Senior bishops have raised the prospect of asking the Queen to dissolve the Church of England’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, if it continues to oppose the creation of women bishops.
The unprecedented proposal was made in a confidential meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury last week and reflects Church leaders’ frustration with the Synod for narrowly defeating legislation in November to allow women priests to become bishops…
Ed Thornton and Glyn Paflin wrote in the Church Times House of Bishops sets out next steps on women in the episcopate.
…Speaking on Friday, Bishop Stock said that “we have a choice of proceeding by grace or by law. As you go down the options, more law goes into it. It seems wise to start with maximum grace and see where that gets us; that’s where the House of Bishops would like to start.”
Bishop Stock said that small-group facilitated discussions among Synod members would take place on the Saturday of the Synod’s meeting, and warned of the danger of returning to “a zero-sum game”. “We’re hoping people will not start to take positions and sides too soon. . . This is a real attempt to see how we can begin to honour each other rather than be suspicious of each other.”
He went on: “People now really do want to look at a more positive way of being together rather than being in separate silos where you have no real contact with each other. There are various signals about that, and a new way of working.”
It would be “entirely open to anybody to produce an amendment” in the Monday debate, but “the Bishops thought this is where we ought to start.”
The first response from the Conservative Evangelical wing was published by Cranmer’s Curate on Sunday and then, after one modification, taken down. It has now appeared here: CofE Hierarchy terrified of political backlash over women bishops and part of the article is copied below the fold.
CofE Hierarchy terrified of political backlash over women bishops
By Julian Mann
Special to virtueonline
May 27, 2013
The latest legislative proposal for a single clause women bishops’ measure reflects the clear choice of the Church of England hierarchy to follow the world and not the Word by imposing a uniform, secular model of leadership on parishes.
The liberal establishment is desperate to get this legislation through the General Synod as soon as possible because it is terrified of the backlash from the metropolitan elite in Westminister if the Church of England repeats its failure to embrace political correctness. The failure of the General Synod to pass the women bishops’ measure in November led to outrage in the British Parliament.
Members of Parliament cheer-led by the Prime Minister - who has admitted that his faith fluctuates like the signal from his local radio station in the Chiltern hills - fell over themselves to denounce the Church of England for failing to ‘get up with the programme’. One newspaper columnist acidly observed that people who could not care less about the Church of England suddenly started developing ‘bilious opinions’ about women bishops.
There was even talk of banning ecclesiastical bottoms from the ermine benches of the House of Lords because they were so out of touch with societal opinion.
More sinisterly, homosexualist parliamentarians were quick to realise that acceptance of women bishops was an essential precursor to the capitulation of the Church of England to their agenda.
Campaign group for the traditional integrity, Proper Provision, has just issued a statement explaining in stark terms what the single clause option announced last week would mean for conservative evangelicals.
This breath of realism in advance of the July Synod meeting shows the real spiritual and moral battle ground on which conservative evangelicals are to pray and to take action and to make sacrifices so that the local churches we love can remain faithful to the revealed, apostolic Word of the Lord Jesus Christ and not be neutered by the world.
The House of Bishops have decided that “the moment has come for demonstrating how the Church of England can manifest its commitment to remaining a broad church without having to rely on legislation to do so”.
They are therefore recommending to General Synod that we move forward with “Option 1” (of the four offered by the Working Party).
In short this is the “Single Clause” option - with a non-legally binding declaration from the House of Bishops/ an Act of Synod (not available in July) which would set out recommendations for arrangements for those whose theological conviction does not enable them to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests.
We must however remember that NONE of the options provided jurisdictional provision (despite the Working Party recognising that this is what we had said was required).
All four options REQUIRE Conservative Evangelical Ministers to:
- Swear the oath of Canonical Obedience to their Diocesan (male or female)
- Accept that they hold a “dissenting” view because “the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter”
- Play a “full part” in the lives of the Dioceses and Deaneries in order to ensure that the “majority” flourish.
This option also has the potential to put our PCCs, incumbents and patrons at risk of being challenged under the Equality Act if there is a disagreement over the appointment of a male incumbent/nomination of a female curate in the future. The document makes clear that this will be at their own cost.
It would clearly be a disaster if a measure of this nature were passed but we must pray that people recognise the clarity of the decision the Church is making - we may be saying “yes” to women bishops but we are also saying “no’ to those who hold the dissenting view.
Despite all the talk about mutual flourishing and loyal anglicans this option will have the effect of reducing the breadth of churchmanship in the Church of England and unchurching large numbers of clergy and laity.
- Conservative Evangelical ministers will either have to lie (when taking their canonical oath to a woman) or leave.
- Conservative Evangelical laity will have to risk court action if they appoint the man of their choice.
- All Conservative Evangelicals will have to live as oxymorons - loyal dissenters.
Please pray for all those who will be making decisions about how to move forward on this issue.
Michael Bourdeaux wrote for Fulcrum The Iron Lady and the Dissident.
Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief Why the Church of England is in decline.
The church has failed to capitalise on its tally of advantages, and people are now cynical about the organisation.
And he has also written Why we’ll never have total religious freedom.
The US State Department report on religious freedom highlights much that is bad, but to dream of tolerant rationality is unrealistic.
Hadley Freeman wrote in the Guardian about From ‘swivel-eyed loons’ to lesbian queens: what fresh hell for the Tories?
And Tom Chivers wrote in the Telegraph A response to Lord Tebbit, on the subject of gay marriage and lesbian queens.
Savi Hensman wrote at Ekklesia Responding rationally to the Woolwich murder.
Simon Barrow wrote there too: Church ‘issues’ are about people, not abstract ideas.
The Economist has an article about the Church of Scotland: A gay Rubicon.
And finally, Archdruid Eileen wrote Contemporary Christianity Exam.
The Church of England has published this press release: New legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops published. The full text is copied below.
The proposals are contained in this document (PDF): Women In the Episcopate - New Legislative Proposals (GS 1886).
The report of the Working Group established by the House of Bishops is at the Annex of the document.
New legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops published
24 May 2013
The Church of England has published, today, new legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops which will be debated by the General Synod in July.
This will be the first occasion that Synod members have met since November 2012, when the previous legislation narrowly failed to secure the requisite majority in all three Houses, despite a 73% majority overall.
The proposals from the House of Bishops accompany the publication of a report of a Working Group which it had established in December. The Working Group’s report sets out four possible options for the shape of the new legislation. Of these the House of Bishops has recommended “the simplest possible legislation” (option one) which reads:
“A measure and amending canon that made it lawful for women to become bishops; and
“The repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the 1993 Measure, plus the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.”
In addition, option one involves arrangements for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests being set out either in a declaration from the House of Bishops or in a new Act of Synod.
The short report from the Archbishops on behalf of the House sets out the text of a motion which invites the Synod to reaffirm its commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency, require the legislative process to begin in November so that it can be concluded in 2015 and specify that the legislation should be in the simplest possible form.
The Business Committee of the General Synod met earlier this week and has scheduled the debate for the morning of Monday, 8 July in York. In addition, Synod members will spend a substantial amount of time in York on the Saturday in facilitated conversations, in which the various options can be explored further.
The Chair of the Working Group, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said on behalf of the Group:
“The mandate given to the Working Group in December reflected the House of Bishops’ view that new proposals would need both greater simplicity and 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’.
“This mandate did not simply reflect the House of Bishops’ assessment of what was achievable, it also reflected its view of what was desirable - namely that the Church of England should retain its defining characteristic of being a broad Church, capable of accommodating a wide range of theological conviction.”
Bishop Nigel continued:
“Given this range of views it is essential to be clear on whether the Church of England is still willing to leave space for those who dissent from its decision. We have approached our task on the basis that the Church of England is so willing.
“To expect unanimity on where the limits of diversity should be drawn may be unrealistic, given the variety of strongly held views which exist and are maintained with integrity. Nevertheless it is necessary to see whether there might be an approach which could command a sufficiently wide measure of assent to enable progress to be made.
“We are perhaps at a moment when the only way forward is one which makes it difficult for anyone to claim outright victory.”
Concluding his statement, Bishop Nigel said:
“The Synod, guided by the recommendation that the House of Bishops has now made, needs in July to come to a clear decision about the proposals and options laid before it and give a mandate for the introduction of a draft measure and amending canon in November.
“That decision-making process will be greatly assisted by all Synod members having first the opportunity in York for facilitated listening and engagement of the kind that the group has found so helpful in producing this report. To that end, we are grateful to the Business Committee for making space for this to take place on the Saturday of our July meeting.”
The Church Times has this news article: Gay-marriage Bill passes from the Commons despite rebels which reports on what may happen in the House of Lords:
…Lord Dear, a crossbencher who is expected to lead the opposition to the Bill in the House of Lords, told The Times that he might table a “fatal motion” to kill it off.
On Wednesday, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, who has led the bishops in the House of Lords on the issue, said: ”We clearly cannot support the Bill because it is contrary to the Church’s historic teaching on the nature of marriage.”
He said, however, that he would want to recognise “that the Government has done a great deal to accommodate some of the Church’s concerns, and to make it clear that individual clergy cannot be proceeded against by anybody”. “Hard work” had been done “to ensure that the Canons of the Church of England will not contravene the civil law of England”.
Bishop Stevens said that he intended to seek more concessions from the Government: further guarantees for teachers in church schools “to teach a traditional view of marriage”, and a “freedom-of-speech amendment to ensure those who argue for a traditional view of marriage are not treated as if they are in contempt of the law or behaving prejudicially”.
The Bill will receive its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 3 June. Bishop Stevens said that the House did not traditionally take a vote at this stage, but that this might happen. Individual bishops would then have to decide how to vote…
The timetable for the July group of General Synod sessions at York has been published. The business items are listed below. * against a time means “not later than”.
GENERAL SYNOD: JULY 2013 Timetable
Friday 5 July
[1-2.30 pm House of Laity]
4.15 pm – 6.15 pm
4.15 pm Opening worship
Brief response on behalf of ecumenical guests
Business Committee Report
*5.25 pm Approval of appointments
*5.45 pm Presidential Address
8.30 pm – 10 pm
8.30 pm Questions
Saturday 6 July
9.30-1pm Reflection, discussion and worship in small groups
2.30 pm Further group discussion followed by private plenary session
8.30 pm – 10 pm
8.30 pm Progress on meeting the Challenges for the Quinquennium
Sunday 7 July
10.00 am Holy Communion in York Minster
2.30 pm – 6.15 pm
2.30 pm Faculty Jurisdiction Rules
Miscellaneous Provisions Measure/Amending Canon No. 31 – Revision Stage
*5.00pm Safeguarding: Follow-up to the Chichester Commissaries’ Reports
8.30 pm – 10 pm
8.30 pm Welfare Reform and the Church
Monday 8 July
9.30 am – 1 pm
9.30 am Morning Worship
Women in the Episcopate: Report from the House of Bishops
Legislative Business Any items of legislative business from Special Agenda I proposed to be dealt with under the Procedure for Deeming will be debated at this point if a debate is required. If debate is not required on any of these items, the First Report by the Business Committee on the Work of the Elections Review Group will be taken.
2.30 pm – 6.15 pm
2.30 pm Legislative Business Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation
Financial Business Archbishops’ Council budget
8.30 pm – 10 pm
8.30 pm Farewell to the Bishop of Exeter
Church Commissioners Annual Report
Archbishops’ Council Annual Report
Tuesday 9 July
9.30 am – 1 pm
9.30 am Morning Worship
Legislative Business: Any unfinished business
The Work of the Elections Review Group: First Report by the Business Committee (if not taken on Monday)
Legislative Business Amending Canon and Amending Rules giving effect to the proposals contained in the First Report by the Business Committee on the Work of the Elections Review Group
The Work of the Elections Review Group: Possible changes to electorate for House of Laity and online voting: Second Report by the Business Committee
*12.30pm Farewell to the Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe, Hereford and Liverpool
The Church of Ireland General Synod met from 9 to 11 May, but we failed to report anything about it at that time.
There were several reports of the synod in the Church Times issue dated 17 May, but these are only available to subscribers.
The Church of Ireland official site has news reports linked from here. There is a detailed report titled Resolution Establishing Select Committee On Human Sexuality In The Context Of Christian Belief Passed.
Archbishop Michael Jackson said that there had been developments in the debate on Human Sexuality in the year since Synod 2012. “I sense now in 2013 more of a mood of sober carefulness than I have sensed before in relation to this most private of subjects and most invasive of areas. I also sense a proper fearfulness of insult and diminishment of others whom we are only now beginning to understand. If the passage of time has taught us any of this, then it is indeed good that time passes. There is no attractiveness or advantage in ripping ourselves or indeed our polity apart by the abstracted certainties which, all too readily, make it impossible for us to see the face of Jesus Christ in our neighbour and, I would have to add, in our enemy. This cannot continue to be a game of: cat and cat,” he said.
He said that the bishops and the Standing Committee had worked on drawing together the names of people who represent a broad range of human sympathy, life experience and geographical belonging in the complex organism that is the Church of Ireland of today to form the Select Committee. He said it was important to ensure that all points of view were included on the committee and said there must be room for co–options at later stages.
The Belfast Telegraph reported this under the headline Church denies ‘stalling’ on same-sex relationships.
The Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop Richard Clarke has denied that the creation of a Select Committee to consider same-sex relationships and human sexuality is an attempt by the Church to “stall” on handling this contentious issue.
At a General Synod press conference in Armagh he told reporters: “The subject of same-sex relationships is desperately divisive but we are trying to approach it in a systematic way.
“The creation of a Select Committee is not an attempt to kick anything into the long grass. If we rush things, people will want to think of ‘winning or losing’ but that is not the way the spirit of God works.
“ This is a time for people to listen generously to one another. It is no a stalling process, and I would not want to a party to anything which is evolved in this way.”
The Archbishop, who holds a traditional view of marriage, also said: “I have to be prepared to listen intently to the views of others. I have to be ready to the possibility of my mind and spirit being changed, and others will have to do likewise.”
The Church of Ireland Gazette carries reports of the synod and editorial comment in its 17 May issue. It had also carried a letter before the meeting, in its 3 May issue, which can be read in full here (scroll down) and starts this way:
It is almost beyond belief that there is not a single member of the proposed Select Committee on Human Sexuality who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (Gazette report, last week).
While there is space for two co-options, that these must come from General Synod – which (as far as I am aware) has only one openly gay member – makes it entirely possible that the committee will remain ‘straights only’.
Can we envisage the Church of Ireland setting up a committee with an all-white membership to examine the experiences of the growing number of ethnic minority people in our parishes?
Or could we imagine the State establishing a commission on gender equality with an all-male membership?
Updated Saturday afternoon
St John’s Nottingham organised an event recently titled Diocesan Church Growth Strategies - A consultation for Southern Dioceses.
David Keen has published a series of articles on his blog about this event, which you can read starting with this one.
This link will take you to all the posts in reverse date order.
But see the update below for a much easier way to navigate through all this.
The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the conference too.
And there is a final post on the role of the national church.
There is now an overview post with links to all the others, at Diocesan Church Growth Strategies - Pulling it All Together.
The First Reading of the bill occurred on Tuesday evening. The Second Reading is scheduled for Monday, 3 June. Subsequent committee hearings are scheduled for 17 and 19 June.
The Hansard record of the House of Commons Third Reading debate is here.
The following statement was released tonight (scroll down).
Statement on Safeguarding from the House of Bishops of the Church of England
21 May 2013
In its discussions on the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults during its meeting in York, the House of Bishops recognised the critical nature of safeguarding, discussed past failures and committed itself to a step-change in the way it is practised so as to enable the Church to fulfil its vocation as a place of safety for all. The House committed itself to creating a climate of transparency and trust with profound listening to survivors of past clerical and ecclesiastical abuse.
The House of Bishops considered the report and recommendations of the report of John Gladwin and Rupert Bursell QC to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Diocese of Chichester and repeated the continuing best practise of the Church - as contained in current guidelines from 2004 - that there remains a duty on all clergy to report to relevant authorities and the police any allegation of abuse from a child or vulnerable adult.
Whilst supporting the continuing good work of diocesan child protection officers and the best practise of safeguarding guidelines currently in operation in the Church, there was also a recognition that there was no room for complacency particularly at a time when cases from past decades were being brought to light.
These steps included the undertaking of an audit of safeguarding provision in every diocese, the review of risk assessment procedures and the review and development of national core materials for safeguarding training. These measures will be accompanied by further work on proposals for legislative change which will be brought to the Archbishops’ Council.
The following statement has been released tonight.
Statement on Women in the Episcopate from the House of Bishops of the Church of England
21 May 2013
At its meeting in York the House of Bishops of the Church of England has committed itself to publishing new ways forward to enable women to become bishops.
In its discussion on the issue of women in the episcopate, the House received and approved for publication the report from the Working Group on Women in the Episcopate which was set up on 11 December to prepare new legislative proposals following the General Synod’s rejection of the last legislation on 20 November 2012.
The report of the Working Group presented four new options as a way forward and proposed that the General Synod should consider those options at its meeting in July. The Working Group also proposed a timetable which would involve the legislation starting its formal stages in the Synod in November and receiving Final Approval in 2015.
The House of Bishops has agreed that the report of the Working Group should be published with a separate report from the Archbishops on behalf of the House setting out the House’s recommendations to the General Synod. The House has also asked the Business Committee of the General Synod to arrange for a substantial amount of time to be available at the General Synod in July for facilitated conversations in small groups before the Synod comes to a decision on the way forward.
The House also approved the necessary changes in its standing orders to ensure the attendance of senior women clergy at its meetings. These changes were proposed following the House’s decision at its meeting in December to ensure the participation of senior female clergy in its meetings until such time as there are six female members of the house, following the admission of women to the episcopate.
The House of Commons completed the Report stage and then voted at Third Reading in favour of the bill as then amended. The Third Reading vote was: 366 for, 161 against.
That compares with the Second Reading vote: 400 for, 175 against.
Uncorrected Hansard available here (will be replaced by final version in the morning).
The bill now goes to the House of Lords where it is likely to have its first vote at its Second Reading at the beginning of June.
Updated Tuesday morning
The official news release from the Church of Scotland is headed Church finds common ground in sexuality debate.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in a groundbreaking decision called for the Church to maintain its historic doctrine in relation to human sexuality but, in line with the Kirk’s historic position of allowing congregations to call their own minister, to permit an individual Kirk Session to call a minister in a civil partnership if it chooses to do so.
The Legal Questions Committee and the Theological Forum will bring reports to next year’s General Assembly about how this will be achieved. In the meantime courts and committees of the General Assembly will maintain the status quo…
The Associated Press reports: Church of Scotland takes step to allow gay clergy
Senior members of the Church of Scotland voted Monday to let some congregations choose ministers who are in same-sex relationships — an important compromise that must still pass further hurdles before it can become church law.
The church’s General Assembly backed a motion affirming a traditional conservative view on homosexuality, but permitted liberal congregations to ordain openly gay men or women if they wish.
The assembly’s vote would require the approval of next year’s General Assembly as well as votes by the church’s regional presbyteries to become law. The process is complicated, and is expected to take at least two years.
There is a discussion of what occurred today by Kelvin Holdsworth at Church of Scotland Debate.
…Three proposals emerged. The first two were in the report itself and labelled rather unsatisfactorily as the Revisionist (option A) and the Traditionalist (option B) position. Option A allows what tends to be called a mixed economy by which that church could eventually allow ministers in civil partnerships to be appointed to churches and gay couples in civil partnerships to be allowed to have their partnerships blessed. Option B would not though anyone who happened to be in a Civil Partnership already would probably not be hounded out of their ministry but no new minister in a civil partnership could be inducted or ordained. The third position emerged during the day and was moved in the name of Albert Bogle. (Confusingly it was option D – another motion C had been proposed and then was withdrawn during the process). This option D was a proposal to reaffirm the traditionalist view on these matters whilst allowing individual Kirk Sessions to opt to do as they like and chose such a minister anyway.
In each case, these were not final votes. The procedures of the Church of Scotland mean that where there are significant changes accepted by a General Assembly they then have to be put to the presbyteries of the church. The final position only emerges if a majority of presbyteries concur during the subsequent year and also the next General Assembly confirms the vote. (If a majority of the presbyteries do not concur then the process fails)…
Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK has more explanation: Church of Scotland votes to induct or ordain civil partners – but not yet and includes a link to the full wording of what was agreed.
The result of the Deliverance as amended by the countermotion is that instead of the change of position with an opt-out for “Traditionalists”, the Assembly have voted to maintain the status quo but with an opt-in for “Revisionists” – a very subtle shift of emphasis in the hope, no doubt, that it will keep the Church together.
As to further proceedings, if I understand the position correctly the next move is for the Committee on Legal Questions to draft an Overture to be considered by the General Assembly of 2014 which, if approved, will be sent down to the presbyteries under the Barrier Act 1697 because the terms of the Overture will engage an issue of “doctrine or worship or discipline”. If my assumption is correct (and if I’m wrong and there’s a Scots church lawyer who can correct me, please, please don’t hesitate to do so) the change will only be implemented if a majority of presbyteries approve the proposal and the General Assembly confirms it in 2015.
None of the hostile amendments to the bill that were voted on so far survived the first of two days of debate at Report stage.
Early media reports:
The gay marriage bill has been saved after Ed Miliband agreed at the last minute to vote against an amendment to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples that had prompted government warnings that it would derail the entire measure.
The Labour leader, who had planned to abstain in a Commons vote on the amendment, agreed to change tack after the government chief whip Sir George Young sent a message to his opposition counterparts that the Tory leadership was facing defeat.
The move meant that the amendment, tabled by the anti-gay marriage Tory, former children’s minister Tim Loughton, was defeated by 375 to 70 votes, a majority of 305…
Moves to legalise gay marriage cleared a crucial parliamentary hurdle as it emerged that civil partnerships could be abolished as the price for getting David Cameron’s plans on to the statute book.
A wrecking amendment tabled by Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage was defeated by 375 to 70 votes after the Tory front bench was supported by the vast majority of Labour and Liberal Democrats.
As the Commons debated the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Labour threw Mr Cameron a lifeline in his latest battle with Tory right-wingers. He faced the prospect of losing the vote on the wrecking amendment, which could have delayed the introduction of gay marriage until after the election…
The Hansard record of yesterday’s debate is available, starting here.
Some of the key voting figures:
To accept Maria Miller’s new clause 16 providing for a detailed study of Civil Partnerships: 391 for, 57 against.
Amended to do so immediately by Kate Green’s “manuscript amendment: approved by voice vote.
To accept Tim Laughton’s new clauses 10 and 11: 70 for, 375 against.
To provide marriage registrars with an option for conscientious objection: 150 for, 340 against.
Amendment to Equality Act 2010 to make belief in traditional marriage a protected characteristic: 148 for, 339 against.
Amendment to define the meaning of the word “compelled”: 163 for, 321 against.
British Religion In Numbers reports on 2011 Census Detailed Characteristics for England and Wales:
On 16 May 2013 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first outputs from the third wave of results (Release 3.1) from the 2011 census of population of England and Wales. They comprised detailed characteristics for local authorities in terms of cross tabulations for the questions on ethnicity, national identity, country of birth, main language, proficiency in English, religion, provision of unpaid care, and health. The full tables can be consulted at: https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/census/2011/detailed_characteristics
The BRIN article linked above contains a helpful summary.
There is a Statistical Bulletin here, and there is a shorter paper: What does the Census tell us about religion in 2011?
And David Voas has published Religious Census 2011 – What happened to the Christians? (Part II)
The Census detailed characteristics on religion for Northern Ireland were also published on 16 May and can be viewed here.
There is a press release: Census 2011: Detailed Characteristics for Northern Ireland on Health, Religion and National Identity and a Media briefing.
Ruth Cartwright explains in the Guardian Why I’m leaving social work to become a vicar.
Martin Vander Weyer of the Spectator has been talking to Richard Chartres: Bishop of London Richard Chartres on bankers, Occupy and Justin Welby.
Mark Vernon asks When did people stop thinking God lives on a cloud? for the BBC News Magazine.
Giles Fraser writes for the Guardian Bean-counters will never understand the transcendent value of art or religion.
Updated Monday morning
The updated list of new clauses and amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, arranged in the order in which they will be considered next week, is available here as a PDF file.
Towards the end of the file there is an amended programme motion, showing the proposed timetable for Consideration and Third Reading.
If you are confused by this long list of suggested changes, there is some help at hand.
David Pocklington has written Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: the story continues which contains several very useful links to earlier material.
And last Thursday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, responded to some Questions in the House of Commons on this bill, which you can read here.
This page contains information about the detailed timetable, and provides links for video coverage of the debates, etc.
Fulcrum has published an article by Andrew Goddard which is titled Men and Women in Marriage: Study or Ignore? It starts out this way:
No recent report from the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) has caused as much media confusion and engendered such vehement repudiation and anger as the publication of Men and Women in Marriage on April 10th. Some erroneously claimed the church was now more flexible on blessing gay partnerships but the press release made clear this was false. It quoted FAOC’s Chair, the Bishop of Coventry, stating “the document is clear that public forms of blessing belong to marriage alone”. The Church Times, in a short, dismissive comment, advised “the kindest thing to do with the new report Men, Women and Marriage is to ignore it”.
These responses show just how volatile this subject is in the Church of England and how difficult many find it to engage in constructive theological discussion. Despite some weaknesses, the six-part, 50-paragraph document represents a valuable contribution which richly repays the careful study called for by the Archbishops. The rapid campaign to sideline and silence it by opponents is an illuminating and worrying sign of where things may be headed in the Church of England.
The document’s purpose and central claim
A common complaint has been that the document does not reflect the diversity of views among Anglicans on the subject of marriage. This fails to understand its clearly stated purpose. Aware of government plans to redefine marriage in English law to include same-sex couples, last year FAOC requested and was authorised to produce a summary of the Church of England’s understanding of marriage and in particular its doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman. Its report complements the Church of England submission to the government consultation which opposed “equal marriage” (to a similar outcry from the usual suspects) but with limited theological rationale.
As the report’s first part makes clear, the document is therefore not a contribution to wider debates on human sexuality. That will appear from the group under Sir Joseph Pilling whose crucial report is due to be submitted to the House of Bishops by the end of this year. Indeed, sensitivity about not encroaching on that report has weakened this one which simply expounds the definition of marriage found in various Church of England documents. It does so to resource Christians in publicly defending marriage and to correct misunderstandings of marriage liable to have negative consequences. It is especially defending the claim that “the sexual differentiation of men and women is a gift of God” (para 3, citing Genesis 1.27-8). Rather than condemn and dismiss it for not setting out the views of those who reject church teaching, critics need to refute this central claim or show why it is no longer essential to the church’s teaching on marriage…
Updated Friday evening and again Sunday afternoon
Update Sunday afternoon The entire briefing paper has now been published as a press release here.
The Parliamentary Unit, Mission and Public Affairs Division and Legal Office of the Church of England, at Church House, Westminster has issued this briefing note. It begins this way:
The House of Commons will consider the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill at Report Stage and Third Reading on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st May.
A Church of England briefing for MPs in advance of the Bill’s Second Reading was published in February. That briefing summarised the principled reasons why the Church could not support the Bill and included a detailed Q&A on some of the more commonly asked questions (and misconceptions) about the impact of the legislation on the Church of England. It can be seen here.
This briefing should be read alongside the document produced for Second Reading and focuses on some of the issues that are likely to arise during debate on Report and Third Reading.
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.
We are grateful for the positive way in which the Government has sought to engage with the Church of England on the detail of the Bill prior to Report and Third Reading.
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 offering provisions to protect them from discrimination challenges. The ‘quadruple lock’ does, in our view, achieve the Government’s policy intentions in this area and we believe it is essential that the various locks in the Bill are preserved. The Church of England, whose clergy solemnize around a quarter of all marriages in England, has not sought or been granted any greater safeguards in substance than those provided for other Churches and faiths.
In our Second Reading briefing we said:
“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.”
Those concerns are now the subject of several amendments at Report and Third Reading.
The following commentary does not address specific amendments, but is a guide to Church of England concerns on the presenting issues…
The paper carries a footnote which reads:
It draws on the formal position on same-sex marriage as set out in the official Church of England submission to the Government’s consultation of June 2012, which was agreed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council.
A press release has been issued, titled Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships. The full text is copied below the fold. The same wording is contained in the briefing paper.
Opposite-Sex Civil Partnerships
We agree with the Government’s view that the Bill should not be amended to introduce an option of civil partnerships for couples of the opposite sex.
We believe that this would introduce further confusion about the place of marriage in society. We remain unconvinced that the introduction of such an option would satisfy a genuine and widespread public need, other than for those who pursue ‘equality’ as an abstract concept.
There has been little public evidence to suggest that significant numbers of opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry would opt instead for a civil partnership. We are not convinced that any clear new social good is created by this further innovation in civil partnerships and therefore they are best left as they are at a time when considerable uncertainty is being caused by the fundamental change in the nature of marriage.
In our submission to the Government’s consultation on the Bill in June 2012 (available here), we acknowledged that there is an inherent illogicality in introducing gender-neutral marriage whilst retaining same-sex civil partnerships.
“It is very doubtful whether the proposed continued limitation of civil partnerships to same-sex couples would withstand legal challenge, were the main proposal concerning the redefinition of marriage to be implemented.”
At the time this formed part of our wider concerns about anomalies created by the proposals to legislate. We do not believe however that introducing opposite-sex civil partnerships by amendment to the Bill to remedy what is largely a conceptual anomaly is in the broader interests of strengthening marriage as an institution. For the avoidance of doubt, this view is endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
We acknowledge that the availability of same-sex civil partnerships has continuing value for gay and lesbian people, including those gay and lesbian Christians who accept the Church’s doctrine of marriage.
The Roman Catholic Church in England & Wales has issued a briefing on the amendments that have been submitted for next week’s Report stage debate in the House of Commons.
The document is available as a PDF file and its introductory section is copied below the fold.
Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith have commented as follows:
We urge members of the House of Commons to think again about the long term consequences of the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill in deciding how to vote at the report stage and third reading debates next week (20-21 May).
Many people within and beyond the faith communities deeply believe that the state should not seek to change the fundamental meaning of marriage. This proposed change in the law is far more profound than first appears. Marriage will become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family, is no longer central to society’s understanding of marriage. It is not too late for Parliament to think again and we urge MPs to do so.
Furthermore, the Bill as currently drafted poses grave risks to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If the Bill is to proceed through Parliament we urge members to ensure it is amended so that these fundamental freedoms we all cherish are clearly and demonstrably safeguarded.
Even more detail than the Briefing Note can be found via this page.
Introduction and Summary:
This briefing note sets out specific amendments to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill proposed by Members of Parliament in order to protect religious freedom and freedom of speech. These amendments have the support of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The Church’s principled objection to the legislation was set out in our Second Reading Briefing Note (http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/marriage-same-sex-couples-bill-briefing). Given the support that the Bill received at Second Reading, our aim now is to ensure that the Bill, should it become law, effectively delivers the protections that the Government promised to provide for religious individuals and organisations. Our legal advice warns that these amendments are necessary to protect freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
These amendments seek to give effect to the protections that the Government has repeatedly stated that it seeks to provide. The amendments cover four areas:
(1) Freedom of Speech:
There is a real concern that individuals will be subjected to some form of detriment if they express views or opinions against same sex marriage.
The Bill causes two potential problems for religious schools: first in relation to current guidance issued by the Secretary of State about marriage, and second in relation to future guidance. Unless protection is built into the Bill, religious schools may be compelled to promote and endorse same sex marriage under current and/or future guidance issued by the Secretary of State.
(3) Protection for Registrars:
There is presently no protection in the Bill for current (or future) civil registrars who have a conscientious objection to conducting same sex marriage ceremonies.
(4) Protection from Compulsion:
Protection from “compulsion” is central to the protection provided for religious individuals and organisations. But there is no definition of ‘compelled’ in the Bill. This creates significant uncertainty and weakens the scope of the protection that is afforded by the Bill. The Bill also recognises the possibility of legal challenge under section 29 of the Equality Act 2010 and provides explicit protection in Clause 2(5); however the scope of that protection is too narrowly drawn and leaves religious organisations at risk of legal challenge.
Whilst these four issues are not our only areas of concern (other pieces of legislation, including the Public Order Act 1986 and other sections of the Equality Act 2010, should also be amended in order to provide proper protection for religious individuals and organisations), we have focused on them as our major concerns.
Frank Cranmer at Law and Religion UK reports in detail:
The Supreme Court today handed down its judgment in President of the Methodist Conference v Preston  UKSC 29. By four votes to one (Lord Hope DPSC, Lords Wilson, Sumption and Carnwath JJSC: Lady Hale JSC dissenting) the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal and restored the original order of the Employment Tribunal dismissing Ms Preston’s claim…
And as Frank says, in a comment at the end of his article:
…the Supreme Court’s decision has put something of a brake on the gradual evolution of employment rights for clergy under the common law…
The official press release summary of the case is here.
Updated Wednesday morning, Thursday morning
The Church Commissioners for England have issued their Annual Report and Accounts for 2012 today, together with a press release which is reproduced below. General Information about the Church Commissioners is available here.
Church Commissioners announce annual results for 2012
14 May 2013
The Church Commissioners have today published their full Annual Report and Accounts for 2012, announcing a 9.7 per cent total return on their investments during the year and confirming the fund’s strong long-term performance.
The Commissioners’ fund is a closed fund, taking in no new money, and has performed in line with or better than its target return of RPI +5.0% p.a. and its comparator group over the past, three, 10 and 20 years.**
Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said: “2012 has proved to be a better year for markets following 2011’s challenging environment and we have performed very satisfactorily. The fund grew by 9.7%, comfortably exceeding the inflation plus five per cent return target. The Assets Committee made wise decisions keeping away from certain longer term bonds, within equities our managers significantly outperformed the market and our residential and rural property holdings performed strongly.
“Much of our expenditure, representing 15 per cent of the cost of the Church’s mission, is devoted to clergy pensions, but in partnership with the Archbishops’ Council we aim also to invest in Church growth and in maintaining a nationwide Christian presence, identifying areas of need and opportunity in all contexts.”
The Commissioners - who contributed nearly £210 million in 2012 towards the cost of supporting the mission of the Church of England - manage assets which were valued at £5.5 billion at the end of 2012. More than half of their current distributions meet the cost of clergy pensions earned up to the end of 1997. The generous giving of today’s parishioners accounts for around £700m of the Church’s annual budget.
Writing in the report’s foreword Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner, reflected on the long term success of the fund: “The best way to judge the investment performance of an endowment fund like the Church Commissioners is to examine the results over a lengthy period of time. This shows whether the workings parts of the investment process are in good order.
“From 2003-2012 the Commissioners funds grew by 9.1% per annum. This exceeded our target, which was the rate of inflation in the period plus five percentage points, which was 8.3% per annum. Our performance was nearly a percentage point better than that of similar funds.
“Finally, in reviewing past performance, it is interesting to review the 20 year record. It would be difficult not to be proud of it. Inflation ran at 2.9% during the period. Add five percentage points to establish our target: 7.9%. The Commissioners’ assets, however, grew through this long 20-year period by 9.9%. In other words, a substantial amount of extra resources has been created to put at the service of the Church.”
The Commissioners’ overall 9.7 per cent return was achieved against a comparator performance of 8.4 per cent for 2012. Over the past 10 years, total returns averaged 9.1 per cent per year, against the comparator group’s 8.3 per cent per year. Over the past 20 years, the Commissioners outperformed the comparator group with an average annual return of 9.9 per cent against 7.8 per cent.
The Commissioners manage their investments within ethical guidelines with advice from the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group.
The fund is held in a broad range of assets. Returns contribute to the ministry of each of the Church’s 44 dioceses by: paying for clergy pensions for service up to the end of 1997; supporting poorer dioceses with the costs of ministry; funding some mission activities; paying for bishops’ ministries and some cathedral costs; and funding the legal framework for parish reorganisation.
In 2012, the Church Commissioners continued to provide significant support to encourage the growth of the Church’s existing ministries and new opportunities. Along with the Archbishops’ Council the Commissioners have earmarked £12 million (2011-2013) for research and development funding to help understand better which parts of the Church are growing and why, and to seek to develop that growth.
The main items of expenditure were (with 2011 figures in brackets):
Watch the video on the work of the Church Commissioners and the 2012 annual results.
** as measured overall these time periods by the WM All Funds universe.
The Church Commissioners picked up two awards at last month’s Portfolio Institutional awards: Best charity/endowment/foundation and Best investor in property -
Three papers write about what the report has to say about Barclays Bank.
Hannah Kuchler in the Financial Times Barclays let down society, says Church
Jill Treanor in The Guardian Barclays has ‘repeatedly let down society’, says Church of England
Victoria Ward in The Telegraph Church accuses Barclays of “letting down society”
A number of amendments have been filed, in the name of Maria Miller, the chief sponsor of this bill.
Also today, the Joint Committee on Human Rights took evidence from Maria Miller and also the Pensions Minister, Steve Webb. There is a video recording of that session here.
An updated consolidated list of amendments has been published, with many names of MPs added to some of them. See this PDF file here.
The amendments include a number of new clauses including provisions for:
- a referendum to be held before the bill can become law
- conscientious objection on religious grounds for all existing registrars
- religious schools under no obligation to promote a new definition of marriage
- those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage not to be discriminated against in various ways
One of the latter is the addition of these words to the Equality Act 2010:
The protected characteristic of religion or belief may include a belief regarding the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman
There are also amendments/new clauses from other MPs dealing with topics previously raised, such as provision for humanist marriage ceremonies, opening civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples, the repeal of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, etc.
Bishop Wallace Benn, who was Bishop of Lewes until October last year until his retirement, has this morning issued a public statement (dated 11 May) concerning the dismissal of complaints made against him under the Clergy Discipline Measure.
The full text of his statement is copied below the fold, and is also available here.
PUBLIC STATEMENT by Rt. Revd. Wallace Benn
Bishop of Lewes between June 1997 and October 2012
Dismissal of all actual and attempted Clergy Discipline complaints
As of 10 May 2013, all complaints against me under the Clergy Discipline Measure have come to an end without any misconduct of any kind having been established. No complaint against me has been allowed to proceed beyond the preliminary stages of the process.
Since November 2011, the Safeguarding Advisory Group of the Diocese of Chichester, its Chairman (Mr Keith Akerman) and the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser (Mr Colin Perkins) have tried to make a number of complaints against me under the Clergy Discipline Measure.
All their efforts were misconceived and unjustified, as has now been established. The decisions that none of the complaints should be allowed to proceed have been made in part by the Archbishop of York and in part by the Right Honourable Lord Justice Mummery, sitting in his capacity as President of Tribunals. Some of the complaints have been dismissed on their merits and the rest on the basis that they have been made outside the time allowed under the Clergy Discipline Measure and where no good grounds exist for any extension of time.
All the facts relating to my conduct about which complaint was sought to be made were known to the Diocesan Bishop or Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor in office at the time of the conduct in question or both, yet nobody saw any grounds for complaint at the time, either against me or against any other Diocesan official.
Comments on media reporting
Since the first attempt to complain against me was made in November 2011, I have declined to make any substantive public or press comment on the matter. I have done so on legal advice and in light of the Code of Practice issued under the Clergy Discipline Measure, which states (at para 264):
The media may be particularly interested in complaints of misconduct against the clergy. Unfortunately, media coverage in advance of any determination of the complaint can be speculative and misinformed, which can damage not only the complainant and the respondent, but also the local church or community and the wider church. For this reason, it is advisable for anyone involved in a complaint who is approached by the media to refer the enquirer straightaway to the appropriate communications officer…
It is a matter of deep regret that some of those with knowledge of the fact of and the substance of the complaints against me have repeatedly chosen to leak information, much of it partial and inaccurate, during the formal legal process.
Apart from an admission by Lambeth Palace in November 2011 of a leak to a journalist by a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff, the source of the leaks has not been identified amongst the small group privy to the relevant information. After November 2011, the leaks did not stop. This has led to repeatedly unfair media reporting, in circumstances where, on advice, I have been unable publicly to defend myself.
The media coverage during the process did not escape the attention of Lord Justice Mummery. With the process complete, I can now quote from Lord Justice Mummery’s decision letter dated 29 January 2013 addressed to Mr Akerman and Mr Perkins by which he refused to allow the bulk of their complaints to proceed. He said this, under the heading “Coverage in the media”:
“I should add that this letter is sent only to the persons directly concerned with its contents. It is an impartial judgment on disciplinary matters. It is made by an independent judge. The decision is based on a full and careful consideration of the relevant evidence submitted and the legal arguments advanced.
I cannot emphasise too strongly that this is not an interim, final or comprehensive report prepared for publication, such as would follow a full public inquiry.
In particular, the decision is not intended to be used to further the one-sided and unjust process of trial in the media by the dissemination of unproven, possibly unfounded, allegations. It is absolutely contrary to basic principles of justice that the media should be used to judge the cause; that anyone, however well intentioned, should be a judge in their own cause; and that any person should be condemned in the media or elsewhere without being heard.
However, I write and send this Decision Letter on the realistic assumption that, in some form or other and by some means or other, it is likely to receive a degree of media exposure, possibly selective. Indeed, I have very recently been informed by you, when inquiring into the progress of your applications, that you are “aware of a number of pending and new cases, which may result in extensive media coverage in the very short term with the potential for adverse consequences for the Church.”
I do not know who is responsible for the media coverage. As there is a fundamental right to freedom of expression there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. Those responsible for the “extensive media coverage” of unproven allegations may wish to consider at some point how they would react if they were on the receiving end of the full glare of a media circus.”
From my perspective, these last 18 months have certainly involved, as Lord Justice Mummery described it, a one-sided and unjust process of trial by media. I and, at times, my family have indeed been on the receiving end of a media circus, orchestrated by unknown people with, it seems, no interest in the truth or the ministry of the church.
Comments on the complaints
Lord Justice Mummery commented that the various applications made to him by and on behalf of the Safeguarding Advisory Group were “the most time-consuming matters brought under the Clergy Discipline Measure since it was introduced.”
The incoherence and complexity of the Safeguarding Advisory Group’s attempts to mount complaints against me served to delay the resolution of even the preliminary stages of the matter and to obscure the fundamental absence of any evidence of misconduct on my part.
To expose with clarity the unfairness of the complaints against me and the absence of any misconduct on my part was a task which occupied my legal team for many hours and I am grateful to God for their efforts and for the success of those efforts.
In a recent private letter to a survivor of sexual abuse by Reverend Roy Cotton, which was made public by the BBC, the Bishop of Chichester said that there was “deception and cover-up” and “ineptitude and irresponsible lack of professionalism” in the Church’s handling of Mr Cotton. I agree; and it is a matter of great regret.
The Bishop of Chichester has confirmed publicly and in writing to me that he did not, and did not intend to, refer to me or any conduct on my part. I have never met with Mr Akerman or the Safeguarding Advisory Group – despite my requests to do so. I regret their decision to seek to pursue misguided disciplinary complaints against me without first taking the trouble to invite me to address their concerns at a meeting.
The actions of clergy who have engaged in the abuse of children appal me and the ongoing effect on survivors is of the highest concern to me.
Throughout my time as Bishop of Lewes I have at all times tried to assist the Diocese to deal appropriately with safeguarding issues. I have also welcomed and given my full support to the efforts made and being made to improve the practices and procedures within the Diocese for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
But none of what has happened in the past can justify the attempts which have been made to cast me in the role of a scape-goat without regard to where the truth lies and where the blame ought to lie.
11 May 2013
Lucy Kellaway has interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Financial Times: Lunch with the FT: Justin Welby. “The Archbishop of Canterbury talks to Lucy Kellaway about baiting bankers, trusting God over Google and having pizza delivered to Lambeth Palace.”
It’s well worth reading.
The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue is “a fluid group of bishops from Canada, the U.S., and various African countries. Together they seek to build common understanding and respect among parts of the Communion that have been in conflict.”
The latest report from the Consultation is now available: A Testimony of Hope.
Updated Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning
Madeleine Davies reports in the Church Times on a joint investigation by The Times and The Australian: C of E accused of cover-up over child abuse.
The Times story is behind its paywall, but other UK media have online reports.
David Batty in The Guardian Church of England facing new child abuse allegations
Rob Williams in The Independent Former Archbishop of York accused of covering up allegations of Church of England abuse
Alice Philipson in The Telegraph Former Archbishop of York accused of covering up abuse allegations
BBC Lord Hope denies abuse claim ‘negligence’
The Archbishop of York has issued the following statement.
Robert Waddington - Independent Inquiry To Be Established
Saturday 11th May 2013
A statement from the Office of the Archbishop of York regarding allegations relating to the late Robert Waddington follows…
‘The Archbishop of York is in the process of setting up an Independent Inquiry specifically into the issues surrounding the reports relating to alleged child abuse by the late Robert Waddington. When any church related abuse comes to light the Church’s first concern must be for the victim offering support and apologising for the abuse, acknowledging that the effects can be lifelong. When the Inquiry makes its report the Archbishop will make its findings public. The Church of England continues to review its Child Protection and Safeguarding policies regularly to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all. Child abuse is a heinous and personally damaging crime, it is therefore incumbent on the Church to treat such matters with the utmost seriousness.’
Notes to Editors:
1. The Terms of Reference and membership of the independent inquiry will be announced in due course.
2. The Archbishop of York is not available for further comment on this matter at the current time.
The Sunday papers carry reports of the setting up of an inquiry.
Jamie Doward in The Observer Church to set up inquiry into claims of abuse by former dean of Manchester
Josie Ensor in The Telegraph Archbishop of York to launch inquiry into Church sex abuse claims
BBC News Inquiry into CofE cleric abuse claim set up
These two articles have inspired Archdruid Eileen to write If We Wrote the Church Welcome Leaflet Like a Child.
Zachary Guiliano writes for The Living Church about Two Anglo-Catholic Moments.
Jody Stowell writes about the Death of a Dean.
Episcopal News Service reports: Court orders return of Newport Beach property to Los Angeles diocese
Orange County Superior Court Judge Kim G. Dunning today reaffirmed her May 1 final orders that property occupied by St. James Church, Newport Beach, is held in trust for the current and future ministry of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the wider Episcopal Church.
“All the church property acquired by and held in the name of St. James Parish is held in trust for the Episcopal Church and the diocese, which have the exclusive right to possession and dominion and control,” Judge Dunning ordered. “The diocese is entitled to enforce the trust in its favor and eject the current occupants.”
This is the fourth and final case involving congregations in which a majority of members, having voted to disaffiliate from the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Episcopal Church, sought to retain church property for themselves. In each instance, however, courts have ruled that the property rightfully belongs to the diocese and Episcopal Church…
Anglican Mainstream issued this Letter of support to St James Newport Beach:
The following letter was sent to the rector and congregation of St James’ Newport Beach and read out at the three main services on Sunday May 5.
To the Rev Richard Crocker and people of St James, Newport Beach
Dear Friends and Fellow Christians
We were very disturbed and saddened to read the news that legal proceedings against you by other Anglicans mean that you may soon be deprived of your property at St James and have to find alternative accommodation.
We wish first to assure you of our fellowship with you as you continue to take your stand on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching. We share with you a passion to proclaim the gospel of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and affirm you in your faithful discipleship.
Although we have not experienced the depth of hostility that has led some people with responsibility in the Church of Christ to act in this way against you, we do want to assure you of our love, our prayers and our support. You are not alone: anyone who touches you, touches us.
This further evidence of continuing litigious acts against those whose only “wrongdoing” is to stand firm on biblical and orthodox Anglican teaching should convince all those in authority in the Churches of the Anglican Communion that your stance is the mark of authentic Christian discipleship and fellowship. For this reason we are copying our letter to Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Eliud Wabukala.
With warmest greetings in our risen victorious Lord
Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor, Anglican Mainstream)
Bishop John Ellison (Chairman, Anglican Mission in England Panel of Bishops)
Rev Paul Perkin, (Chairman, Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland))
Canon Dr Chris Sugden (Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream)
The final event in this year’s Westminster Faith Debates series took place last week. The debate itself is reported here.
As explained in the advance press release
A YouGov poll commissioned for the final 2013 Westminster Faith Debate on assisted suicide this Thursday sheds light on the reasons people have for supporting or opposing a change in the law on assisted suicide – a change which would make it possible to help someone with an incurable disease die without risk of prosecution for doing so.
And it continues with this:
Most religious people ignore their leaders and support a relaxation of the law.
An absolute majority of religious adherents – i.e. those who identify with a religious tradition – support assisted suicide: 64% of religious people support a change in the law on euthanasia, 21% think the law should be kept as it is, 14% don’t know (sums to 99 due to rounding).
The only constituencies for which this is not true are Baptists, Muslims and Hindus. (See Appendix 3)
Adherents of all other traditions favour a change in the law. In doing so many are rejecting the official message given by their religious leaders.
- Anglicans are in favour of change by a margin of 57% (total in favour 72%) - which is greater even than the general population at 54% (total in favour 70%). Only those who say they have those “no religion” show greater support – by a huge margin of 72% (total in favour 81%).
- Roman Catholics are in favour of change by a margin of 26%,
- Jewish people are in favour of change by a margin of 48%
- Although many Hindus don’t know, those with a view are in favour of change by a margin of 8%.
Those who actively participate in a church or other religious group – rather than merely identifying with a religion – also support change (49% support, 36% against, 15% don’t know; see Appendix 3 for a breakdown by tradition)
Those who say they have “no religion” are most likely to support a change in the law – 81% for, 9% against. The vast majority (87%) do so because they believe in a person’s right to choose when to die.
The full results of that survey are available (PDF).
The survey is discussed in some detail by Clive Field in an article at British Religion in Numbers titled Assisted Dying and Other News
The British public overwhelmingly (70%, with just 16% in disagreement) favours a change in the law to enable persons with incurable diseases to have the right to ask close friends or relatives to help them commit suicide, and without those friends or relatives running the risk of prosecution (as is currently the case). Moreover, while those who profess no religion are especially likely (81% versus 9%) to support reform, even people of faith back it overall (64% versus 21%), with the conspicuous exception of Muslims, who take the contrary line (by 55% to 26%). A plurality (49%, with 36% against) of individuals who actively participate in a religious group also wants to see the law amended. Not until we reach the ‘strict believers’ – the 9% of the population who take their authority in life from religious sources, who certainly believe in God, and who actively participate in a religious group – is there a religious core hostile to legalizing assisted dying and thus in tune with the teaching of many mainstream faiths and denominations. These believers’ motivations are that ‘human life is sacred’ (80%) and/or ‘death should take its natural course’ (69%).
… Assisted dying has been a contested matter for decades. The campaign organization now known as Dignity in Dying was founded as the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society as far back as 1935. Soon afterwards, in 1937, Gallup conducted the first opinion poll on the subject, asking its sample whether ‘doctors should be given power to end the life of a person incurably ill’, and finding that 69% thought that they should. The proportion in favour of physician-assisted suicide has grown since, hovering around four-fifths in six British Social Attitudes Surveys from 1983 to 2008; in 2008 it stood at 82% (90% for those of no religion, 85% for Anglicans, 75% for Catholics, 70% for other Christians, and 63% for non-Christians). Endorsement of non-doctor-assisted suicide has run at a somewhat lower but still high level; a question worded not dissimilarly to that in the Westminster Faith Debates poll, asking about a change in the law to enable friends and relatives to assist in a suicide, was posed by YouGov on five occasions between 2008 and 2012, recording majorities for legislative reform of between 68% and 74%. However, it should be noted that the public is less approving of suicide in instances where an incurable disease does not exist; indeed, in the most recent (January 2013) Angus Reid poll only 29% of Britons deemed suicide in general to be morally acceptable.
Today’s Church Times publishes a letter from Professor Linda Woodhead under the headline Unhelpful comments from Church House in which she says that “the Church of England’s Communications Office is making the C of E look ridiculous”.
…The C of E Communications Office simply attacked the survey (which it did not ask to see), and concluded: “This survey adds nothing of value to the current complex debate on assisted suicide, but seeks to reduce to ‘sound-bites’ issues that deserve proper and full consideration.”
In fact, the survey adds considerable new knowledge. Its findings were extensively debated at the Westminster Faith Debate on euthanasia last week. It was also featured in The Times, the Telegraph and Guardian, BBC News Online, The Washington Post, the BMJ, on Radio 4, and elsewhere.
Last week, another large poll reported in The Independent found that many single Christians felt isolated and out of place in their congregations. A C of E spokesperson (unnamed) commented: “If the church doesn’t fit then try another one.”
“Get lost” is not a good message for the Church to give, whether directed at serious research, or at the Christians whose views it reports.
In the Independent today there is an article by Frank Field MP titled The new Archbishop should stop this gesture politics. It begins:
It is about time the Church became serious about politics. The debacle over its opposition to the Government’s welfare reform programme offers the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a God-given opportunity to totally reshape the role of bishops in the House of Lords.
A week before the House of Lords voted on key aspects of the Government’s welfare cuts [in March], 43 bishops issued a statement to the effect that this was the most vicious attack on children since Herod slaughtered the innocent. The welfare cuts are serious in the impact they will have on the living standards of some families, but let’s leave aside the judgment as to whether the cuts were almost of a criminal nature. What did the bishops do?
And it continues with this:
…Why doesn’t the Archbishop introduce his own House of Lords Reform Bill? It would surrender most of the bishops’ places that lie unused which should then be redistributed to the different denominations. This bill should give the Archbishop the power to appoint bishops and senior women to the places that would be designated to Anglicans.
Included in the redistribution of seats should be those groups who assert that they have no faith in a Godly presence, but have shown themselves to be concerned about the ethical standards by which individuals and groups live their lives. It would be up to those groups to elect their representatives. If they fail to do so they will find that the political tide runs strongly against them.
Such a move would set both the temper and basis for further reform. It would speak loudly on how voters regard representation as being a fundamental part of our democracy. It would also set in hand how the new House of Lords would be elected, but not on absurd party lines…
The Independent also has a news report about this, Exclusive: Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, urged to scrap most bishops’ seats in House of Lords
A Church of England spokesman said: “This article is an interesting contribution to debate but it does not look as if there is a favourable political context for returning to the subject of constitutional reform just at the moment.” Lambeth Palace did not comment.
Some Church figures believe that Mr Field has misunderstood the way the bishops in the Lords work, saying they do not “vote as a bloc”. They said six bishops voted a total of 14 times on welfare on 19 March.
And an editorial: Editorial: The bishops in the House of Lords are the least of the problem.
There is a curious mistake running through all three of these pieces, namely that the number of seats for bishops is misstated. The correct number is 26.
Updated Friday evening
The Bill has been carried over to the 2013-14 session. The Bill is due to have its report stage and third reading on 20 and 21 May 2013.
A list of proposed amendments and new clauses has been published.
New copies of the bill and the explanatory notes are published here (the bill has a new serial number).
And a further amendment here.
David Pocklington has now written at Law & Religion UK about the Redefinition of Marriage – New Clause 9. The whole article, although long, is worth reading.
…MPs David Burrowes, Tim Loughton and Jim Shannon laid the New Clause 9, nine-point amendment on 12 March this year, which calls for a referendum “on the issue of same-sex marriage”. The critical part is the question that is to appear on the ballot papers, viz.
“At present, the law in England and Wales defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Should the law be changed to define marriage as the union of two people—whether a man and a woman, or woman and a woman, or a man and a man?”, [emphasis added].
Wales Online reports tonight that First female Dean of Llandaff Cathedral quits after two months.
The first woman Dean of Llandaff Cathedral has resigned just two months after she was installed in the post.
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said he had accepted Janet Henderson’s resignation “with enormous sadness”.
Church in Wales sources have told WalesOnline that Dean Henderson had had “a “difficult time” since her appointment, with some clergy resenting the appointment of a woman…
Updated Thursday afternoon and evening
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has announced that the Dioceses Commission Draft Reorganisation Scheme for the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds, and Wakefield will be put to General Synod. Because the Diocese of Wakefield voted against it, the scheme could only be sent to General Synod with the authorization of the Archbishop.
The full statement from the Archbishop is here. This includes the text of the paper which will be sent to General Synod members to explain his decision to authorise the Dioceses Commission to lay the draft scheme before the General Synod.
The Church of England communications office has released this Statement from Dioceses Commission.
Of the three dioceses, only Bradford has so far published anything on its website: Diocesan reorganisation referred to General Synod.
The Diocese of Ripon and Leeds has now responded: Welcome for Archbishop’s decision on Diocesan Reorganisation.
And so has Wakefield: Archbishop of York decides to take super diocese proposal to General Synod.
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has been looking at the requirement that some votes at General Synod require a two-thirds majority. She argues that this requirement should be applied earlier in the synodical process, and not left to the very end as at present. Read her argument here: Synod voting and 2/3 majorities: A discussion paper.
Updated Tuesday night
There are several reports in this morning’s national press.
Sam Jones in The Guardian Church of England reports rise in Christmas worship
BBC Church of England attendances ‘stabilising’
Huffington Post UK Church Of England Christmas Attendance Up But It’s Not Good News For Archbishop Of Canterbury
Steve Doughty in the Mail Online Hark! The flock’s back: Church attendances up… but it’s only at Christmas
Archbishop Cranmer comments in his blog: CofE annual statistics 2011 - good news and bad
Several local papers and websites report on their local figures, for example:
The Northern Echo Church attendance down by 8 per cent in Durham diocese but up by 7.4 per cent in Ripon and Leeds
Network Norwich and Norfolk Norwich fights back on ‘Most Godless City’ tag
Portsmouth News Church figures show decline in Portsmouth attendance
Statistics for earlier years can be found here.
Clive Field of British Religion in Numbers has a more balanced analysis: 2011 Anglican Statistics and Other News.
Andrew Brown looks at the figures for The Guardian: Anglican faith in church attendance is not enough.
Church annual statistics for 2011
07 May 2013
The Church of England today released its annual statistics for 2011 revealing a strong growing trend for Christmas attendance, an increase in child and adult baptisms and a growing stability in weekly service attendance.
Christmas 2011 drew 14.5% more worshippers to Church of England services than attended in 2010, reaching a total of 2,618,030. Whilst one of the factors for such a high annual increase include the poor weather on Christmas Day in the previous year 2010, initial returns from 2012 suggest a further increase in Christmas attendance on these high 2011 figures revealing a growing trend for church going at Christmas.
The number of christenings increased by 4.3% and was accompanied by a rise of just over 5% in adult baptisms with a combined total of 139,751 baptisms - meaning that the Church of England conducted an average of over 2,600 baptisms each week during 2011. Thanksgivings for the birth of a child also rose; an 11.9% increase taking numbers to 6,582.
Average Weekly Attendance nationally fell by less than half of one per cent (0.3%) to 1,091,484 a stabilising of average weekly attendance figures. Almost half of the Church of England’s regional areas saw growth in Church attendance, with 20 out of 44 dioceses showing increases. Nationally there was a 1.2% increase in children and young people attending to 216,928.
Weddings saw a slight decrease of 3.6% in 2011, to 51,880, whilst the number of wedding blessings (Services of Prayer and Thanksgiving following a civil ceremony) was up by 4.5%. The wedding figures confirm the trend of the past decade where the Church of England married an average of 1,000 couples every week.
Church of England Clergy and lay ministers conducted 162,526 funerals in 2011, a fall of 2.8% on the previous year, reflecting figures from the Office for National Statistics which showed a fall of 1.8% in deaths in England and Wales in 2011. On these figures the Church of England conducted an average of over 3,000 funerals every week in 2011 - over 400 every day.
Welcoming the publication of the statistics, the Rt. Revd. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said:
“These figures are a welcome reminder of the work and service undertaken by the Church of England annually. 1,000 couples married, 2,600 baptisms celebrated and over 3,000 funerals conducted every week of the year.
“The attendance figures are heartening, especially the very strong growth in Christmas day attendance. The encouraging news of further growth to come even on these high figures is very welcome and points to a growing trends. Also welcome is the stabilising of the numbers of those who attend church services on a weekly basis. With almost half of our dioceses showing growth, there is a quiet confidence underlying these figures.
“The growth of the numbers of children and young people attending is an encouragement and reflects the investment made by churches across in the country on youth and children’s workers to serve not only the church but the whole parish.”
“The increase in the number of adults being baptised and those families bringing their children to be Christened is also good news showing growth in the numbers of those both coming to faith and reflects the wide nature of the ministry offered by the Church - for all of life from the cradle to the grave.”
Alan Wilson writes in The Spectator that It’s time for the Church of England to drop the culture wars.
Laura Toepfer writes for the Daily Episcoplian about If we did wedding preparation like confirmation preparation.
Bosco Peters writes the wrath of God was satisfied?
Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that I want to be a burden on my family as I die, and for them to be a burden on me.
John Bingham in The Telegraph reports: Beware the wrath of the church organist – musical revenge is sweet.
Updated Friday night
Lambeth Palace announced this evening that the final report for the enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester had been published.
The full text of the report (a 4.8 MB pdf file) is available for download.
Here is the accompanying press release.
Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation – Final Report Published
Friday 3rd May 2013
The final report for the enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester has today been published.
The report was written by Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC who were appointed in 2011 as the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s commissaries to carry out the enquiry.
In responding to the final report, Archbishop Justin has made the following statement:
“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to not only the Commissaries for their care and concern in the course of carrying out this Visitation, but also to the survivors of abuse who have been able to share their experiences. The hurt and damage that has been done to them is something the Church can never ignore and I can only repeat what I have said before - that they should never have been let down by the people who ought to have been a source of trust and comfort and I want to apologise on behalf of the Church for pain and hurt they have suffered. I remain deeply grateful for their cooperation in the work of the Visitation.
I would also like to thank Bishop Martin and diocesan staff for their assistance and cooperation with the Visitation, and their continuing work with the police and statutory authorities in helping to turn around safeguarding in the diocese.”
In December 2011 the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to carry out the enquiry. They were tasked with advising the Archbishop on any steps that need to be taken to ensure the highest possible standards of safeguarding in the dioceses. This involved examining current child protection arrangements as well as making recommendations for the future.
The Commissaries recommendations were published in an interim report in August 2012 and the full text of that report can be read here.
We would encourage anyone who has suffered abuse to come forward – their privacy and wishes will be respected. A special helpline has been set up in conjunction with the NSPCC on 0800 389 5344. Victims can also make a report to police.
We would urge anyone with any concerns about a child protection issue to contact the police.
The Church of England press office has issued this statement.
Response to Final Report of the Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation
03 May 2013
The Bishop of Southwell and Notts, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee, said: ” The publication of the Commissaries Final report encourages both the Diocese of Chichester and the National Church to move forward in responding to the mistakes made and the lessons learned. Nationally we have been working hard behind the scenes on turning the recommendations made into action; this work continues. In Chichester itself whilst there have been terrible failures in the past and there is much work to be done I am confident that Bishop Martin and the Safeguarding Team are well placed to ensure that the diocese is safe in its practices now and in the future. I would also like to repeat the statement I made at the publication of the interim report last summer.”
And there is a statement from the current Bishop of Chichester.
Bishop Martin responds to the Archbishop’s Visitation report
“We welcome the Final Report that brings the Archbishop’s Visitation to a formal conclusion. This is the moment for us to record our profound thanks to Dr Rowan Williams, who instituted the visitation while he was Archbishop, to the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev’d and Rt Hon Justin Welby, and to the Commissaries themselves, the Rt Rev’d John Gladwin and His Honour Judge Rupert Bursell QC.
“The Visitation has enabled us to comprehend the damage done to so many people’s lives. I hope that all victims and those affected recognise in the words of the Interim and Final Reports that their concerns have begun to be heard, their determination recognised, and their extraordinary courage honoured.
“We believe that there may be many more victims of abuse who have never come forward to report their experiences. We wish to reassure them that we will listen to and respond in any ways that are appropriate to a report of abuse by priests or Church workers.
“Finally, we welcome the attention drawn in the Interim and Final Reports to the scope of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. It is vital that our procedures engender trust and confidence among our partner agencies, among survivors and their families.”
Update - early press reports
Madeleine Davies in the Church Times: Chichester Visitation concludes with warning against complacency
BBC Diocese of Chichester child abusers ‘may have gone unrecognised’
Victoria Ward in The Telegraph Church of England urged to take ‘urgent’ action on child abuse
Ben James in The Argus (a local paper published in Brighton, in the diocese of Chichester) More church child abuse cases may yet to be uncovered
As previously mentioned, last week’s Church Times carried an article by Jane Shaw titled Men, women, and difference. This is reproduced below, with the permission of both the author and the Church Times.
Men, women, and difference
The ‘complementarity’ of the sexes is a comparatively new invention, argues Jane Shaw
I shall never forget the comment of a senior English churchman: that he could envisage Adam and Eve sitting across the camp-fire from each other, just as he and his wife did in their drawing room. An image of a man and woman wearing fig leaves, but sitting in chintz-covered armchairs, drinking sherry, immediately sprang to my mind.
The churchman’s comment exemplifies the kind of ahistorical thinking in the new report by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, Men, Women and Marriage (News, Leader Comment, 12 April). It has received almost universal condemnation, not only for its content (or lack thereof), but also for its poor argument.
The leader comment in this paper advised readers to ignore it, and most will. Nevertheless, its publication opens the opportunity for some real education on the subjects about which it purports to inform us. As the leader said, the report “speaks of a unique relationship between a man and a woman without ever explaining this contention. Seldom clear, the text adopts a particular obscurity whenever a contentious matter is touched upon, such as the complementarity of the sexes.”
The report provides no history of sexual difference, nor of its accompanying bugbear: the “complementarity” of men and women. Under the sweeping assumption that both sexual difference and gender-complementarity are universal and timeless concepts, the possibility of same-sex marriage is rejected. Yet, for the past several decades, historians of medicine have convincingly shown that both are modern concepts, emerging in particular political and social circumstances in the West.
Before the modern period, scientists - still relying on ancient sources such as Aristotle and Galen - understood woman as an imperfect version of man. They believed that there was “one sex”, hierarchically arranged. Women and men were seen as having the same sexual organs; it was just that women’s were on the interior.
The point is illustrated by the French essayist Montaigne’s retelling of a folk tale about a woman, Marie Germain, who jumped over a ditch while chasing pigs through fields: her genitals dropped - and she became a man.
This “one-sex” idea was challenged in the Enlightenment, in part through science; but that science was driven by political change. The old hierarchies were being questioned. Universal rights were being championed, but was everyone really equal? The answer was sought in the supposed “facts” of biology.
The search for anatomical sexual differences was driven by an increased sense that women were intrinsically different from men - and, on those grounds, should not receive the same rights. The result was the articulation of two sexes.
But, you might say, despite all this, sexual difference is true. Yes and no: it is less clear-cut than we might imagine, as medical cases of those who find themselves biologically between the sexes illustrate. But the important point is that sexual difference was imbued with political ideology from the beginning.
Out of all this came the notion of the complementarity of the sexes. This is the idea that women and men have distinctly different qualities (rooted in biology), and that this suits them for different (but “complementary”) roles in life.
This suited the economic climate of newly industrialised Britain very well. As work became separated from home, the middle and working classes emerged. Separate spheres for work and home developed, and home came to be seen as the special domain of women - at least, middle-class women - whose “natural” characteristics of gentleness and passivity made them keepers of morals and preservers of the hearth.
Preachers took on gender complementarity with enthusiasm, especially those of the Evangelical Revival. New ideas about the differences between men and women were given a theological grounding, and blended with old ideas about the subordination of women.
Women were seen as spiritually equal, but, in practical terms, socially subordinate. These ideas were taken around the world by missionaries and imperialists alike, and imposed on completely different cultural arrangements of the sexes and kinship relations.
These ideas did not go uncontested. Women argued for their admission to higher education and for universal suffrage, for example.
YET such ideas continued to have an impact on theology, most notably in the work of Karl Barth, who insisted that the “distinctive natures” of men and women were “the command of God”. For Barth, these distinctive natures led to sex-differentiated functions, which were absolutely rigid. As he wrote: “The sexes might wish to exchange their special vocations, what is required of the one or the other as such. This must not happen.”
One of the great problems of all this thinking is that concepts of sexual difference and complementarity that our ancestors would barely have recognised 300 years ago, let alone 3000 years ago, are regularly mapped back on to the Hebrew scriptures, especially the creation stories in Genesis 2.
Unfortunately, the new report on marriage appeals to just this sort of ahistorical thinking. And that does no one any favours at all.
Many people have suggested that we need a history of marriage, which the new report does not provide. I agree; but we also need to understand how gender relations in the modern period have been powerfully shaped by particular ideas about sexual difference and gender complementarity, which are relatively new, and have never been universally accepted.
The ideas about women and men which emerged with the notion of sexual difference were made to fit a particular kind of middle-class fam-ily arrangement. Some found that it suited them; some did not. This is why Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique 40 years ago, and this is why movements for the liberation of women and of gay people followed.
None of this is to question the clear value of marriage as a building-block of society. It is to suggest that, in thinking through a distinctly Christian view of marriage, we need to recognise that ideas about gender relations have always been specific to context, and always will be.
The Very Revd Dr Jane Shaw is the Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, in the United States.
The Revd Lucy Winkett spoke at the London WATCH Meeting at St James’s Piccadilly on 17 April 2013.
Here is the text of her address: ‘I used to be Snow White..’
“I gave a talk recently in Winchester about women and Christianity. It was for a general audience and so I’d used as the title of the talk not a Bible verse or a line from a saint. It wasn’t even themed on Mary Magdalene or a feminist theologian. My text came from the Hollywood star Mae West, who memorably said “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted”.
It is a secular expression of a spiritual truth I think; that human beings move between innocence and culpability, perpetrator and victim as easily and delicately as a flake of snow.
I don’t intend to rehearse the history you all know, but for women, particularly women in religion, the movement has historically been one way and permanent. In this church, consecrated in 1684, as in churches throughout this city, women have lived and died listening every Sunday to preachers tell them they are responsible as Eve’s inheritors, of all the sin in the world.
In the UK in our own day however, I don’t think this is the primary problem for Christian women. From a position of historic exclusion, things have moved quite rapidly for women in a large range of areas of public life; politically, socially, and even in religion. In the UK now, the only areas of public life from which women are excluded are those protected by organised religion and, my main point this evening, women in the church are often stuck between the myths that are told about us, even those we sometimes tell about ourselves. Historically the place of women in Christianity has been polarised by the two Marys; virgin or whore. And in the debates about women and ordination, a similar, less sexualised but no less powerful polarisation happens; we are either heroines or witches, either cast as potential saviours of the Church of England or a symptom of all that is wrong with it. Complex myths, stories and assumptions are at work here and the debate as it is currently couched has often got stuck.
And like many of you, I have given many talks on this subject over the years; we have made our case, we have developed our own liturgies, we have done our own Bible interpretation, we have legislated, discussed “concessions”, we have drafted letters, crafted motions for synods at every level. Some of you will have been involved from the MOW days and will have been sending letters, now emails to your elected representatives both church and state for over 30 years.
But we meet now, twenty six years after women were ordained deacon, and six months after the General Synod rejected the legislation to consecrate women And I want to say, before anything else, what I have heard many of you say: that we are tired. We are tired of the row, tired of the endless meetings, committees, synods, tired of hearing the same words not only coming from the mouths of those opposed to women’s ordination but from our own mouths. We are tired of seeing the disappointment in the faces of those opposed to our ordination, when they wish with all their hearts that we were not here and that that the church could be as it was.
There is, it seems to me, what we might call a stuckness of spirit – that the new Archbishop of Canterbury is attempting to unstick by using professional mediators, trained to ask different questions, trained to get us to name what it is in our guts that gives us hope but what also grieves us.
After the vote last November, I and I heard this from many others, was surprised by the strength of my feelings. I was told of the result on my mobile phone in this courtyard in the rain, moments before the beginning of a large service at which I was preaching. Sadness, some feelings of humiliation, and, dressed as I was in my cassock and surplice ready to process into church, stuck in a bewildered loyalty to an institutional church that had detonated its credibility. I like many of you ordained and lay, heard this news, cried briefly, and walked back into church again. And over the past months, some very difficult things have been said that have their roots in very difficult feelings and reactions.
I was challenged by a woman who has been part of MOW for years; after years of campaigning, she wanted to challenge us because the church had not been transformed as she’d hoped. Had all that work been worth it, she wondered aloud?
I was challenged by a priest in a Deanery Synod debate because he genuinely believes that if legal separation is not afforded him to ensure sacramental security, then promises made to him at his ordination will have been broken and while he couldn’t bring himself to blame me personally publicly, the blame was undoubtedly there fuelling his distress.
It seems hard to find the taboo breaking, transgressive, poetic soul of Jesus of Nazareth in the points of order, the agendas and debates.
The Christian Church has for centuries had a problem with ungoverned female energy (Marina Warner Six Myths for our time p7). It is a feature of all world faiths that part of the apparatus of religion pertains specifically to women and their treatment and behaviour. As an agent of social control, Christianity in the West has been effective in developing sets of behavioural rules to control women’s energy and sexuality.
Because of this, Christian women have had a mountain to climb. From our invisibility in the Scriptures to the clear teaching of their responsibility for sin, there have been limited options for women to find ways to express their faith in Jesus Christ and their passion for making the world a better place. In reality of course, in contradiction to St Paul, women have always taught men: mothers have taught their sons the Lord’s Prayer, and have within the home, often been the prime arbiter of right and wrong when guiding their children. Women have therefore exercised power in a hidden and unacknowledged way. It is the role of women in public religion that has caused these reflections. Professor Sarah Coakley has commented that the ordination of women and therefore the presence of women at the altar celebrating the sacraments has caused a cosmological disturbance. (Transformations Conference Lambeth Palace 2012). Something new is unfolding and our theological task is to continue to reflect on what that newness is, and what it teaches all of us, lay and ordained, about God and the world.
For our theological reflections to have roots in spiritual reality, then it has to start not with us, but with God.
First, in a recognition that for every person, male, female, lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual, black brown white our identity is not primarily located in our relationships with each other – which are secondary, but in God’s relationship with us.
Another reflection that follows from this, particularly with reference to our gender is that our identity is embodied. As the former Archbishop noted in his Theos lecture of 2012, we notice that our bodies are different from one another, that they wear out, and that we are going to die.
As a result of our noticing our gendered bodies, we are called to accept difference, to expect change and expect death.
Does this give us a way into a theology of gender that recognises difference, expects change over time and accepts death, and that knows ourselves to be ourselves only in relation to others when we know ourselves to be ourselves first in relation to God?
After the vote last November, I discerned a collective desire to have a “duvet day”. The impulse after an event like that is to put our head down, hunker down, don’t engage; go and do something that I can see what it’s for.
This means too that we move from bafflement – I don’t understand men/women – through tolerance – I accept that you’re different and we’ll agree to disagree – through to respect – still implying distance but with more emotional commitment – through to attentiveness.
I as a woman see this man, different from me, exercising usually more power than me, as first of all someone in relationship with God, before he is in relationship with me. As ++Rowan has commented elsewhere, the meaning of the incarnation can be described as the revelation that another person is someone from whom God cannot bear to be parted. Primarily that.
Discussions about gender in the church induce weariness because the discussions are so narrow, and are freighted with our fear about who we are, who the other is, and how far we are expected to go to accommodate their difference. They are also freighted with a history of exclusion, sometimes prejudice dressed up as theology, and a frustration with the church structures that persistently seem to be creaking and grudging in their celebration and acceptance of women in authority. Some of the tiredness is because we are in deep waters here, and the murky mixed motives that are always present when power is part of the equation, can confuse and misdirect our energies.
But theologically, alongside social change, I want to suggest that the need for our half-changed world to change further is urgent. Men and women have their vital and different roles to play in imagining this change. Because the prize is very great. Today, the traditional Christian categories of virgin and whore do not have to confine or define modern female scientists, philosophers, mothers, theologians, plumbers, company directors and this is a cause for rejoicing for proponents and opponents of women’s ordination alike.
One of the main points of contention it seems to me is whether the principle of justice is applicable in this debate. Supporters of women’s ordination say yes: and it’s true to say that for most people who live their lives without reference to organised religion (the majority of people in the UK) this is also the case. An innate sense of “fairness” leads most people to say “well if they want to, why shouldn’t they be able to. After all, we’ve had a woman Prime Minister and the Head of the Church of England is a woman”.
Opponents will address this issue of justice with the adage “equal but different”. That it is not about whether women are equal to men or made in the image of God: of course they are: but this has no bearing on whether or not we should be ordained or consecrated bishop.
This is a fundamental mis-communication and is why, when those supporting women’s ordination make analogies across other campaigns, such as the anti apartheid movement, or the civil rights movement, such fury is provoked from opponents who do not want to be cast as allies of those who opposed heros such as Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King.
I understand this reticence on behalf of those who do not believe women should be ordained: and I’m very wary of the potential for self righteousness among those of us making our kind of argument. I’m also wary of the dangers of self understanding as a persecuted minority that is just under the surface for any of us (most recently articulated by George Carey whose observations I think were insulting to Christians who really are persecuted in countries like Nigeria and Iran.)
But I want to say unequivocally that justice is a theological issue. Fairness, the value much loved of politicians, is, to be frank, not so much, but justice is. This doesn’t mean “sameness” or “wanting to be included” or even, to borrow a phrase from the Northern Ireland peace process “power sharing”, although all of these motivations make an appearance of course.
Women bishops are the presenting issue at the moment but it is about much more than this; it is about the liturgical proclamation of a new future in the celebration of the eucharist. The just relationships rehearsed at the eucharist are nothing less than the foretaste of the heavenly banquet; the inauguration of the mysterious “basilea” , the kingdom, or new realm of God. This is highways and byways theology where all are welcome and each member of the body is able to fulfil their God given role in that body. The argument I’m making is that because of the incarnation, unless we believe in imitation rather than discipleship, there is theologically no category of humanity, based on ontology, that should be restricted in the way that women are currently in the Christian church.
So without intending any insult to those who oppose our presence in the church, I have no shame in drawing inspiration from Rosa Parks, who when she refused to give her seat on the bus to a white man in Alabama in 1955, said “the only tired I was, was tired of giving in”.
And I pray too that the rather bewildered loyalty we have talked about tonight turns into something more healthy, and that our collective desire to hunker down and leave it all to someone else is not the last word.
The call of the new future is, in the end, an expression of deep and living hope, which is described by the American theologian Walter Wink in the most wonderful way and with which I end this address. This is why we must organise, and show up to meetings in the evening after a long day. This is why we have to encourage one another because the church, as we saw from the public reaction after the vote last year, is a signifier, a lightning conductor still in a secularised society, for the deep hopes implanted in humanity for a better and more just world.
Hope imagines the future and then acts as if that future is irresistible.
May it be so.”