Sunday, 30 June 2013

Looking ahead to General Synod

Sam Jones previews next weekend’s meeting of General Synod in The week ahead: the Church of England’s General Synod and asks “Will it be another Anglican bunfight or will new archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby hold the communion together?”

John Bingham writes in The Telegraph Church of England set to bury Synod homosexuality debate. “The Church of England is set to bury a potentially explosive debate on homosexuality at its General Synod later this week – amid claims bishops are privately considering sanctioning blessing services for gay couples.”
This refers to the Business Committee’s decision not to schedule any private members’ motions for debate this time. Their stated reason for this is in their report to Synod.

9. Two Private Members’ Motions have attracted more than 100 signatures (which is the required threshold for debate): Mrs Andrea Minichiello Williams’s PMM on the Public Doctrine of Christian Marriage and Mr John Ward’s PMM on the Registration of Civil Partnerships. The Business Committee has taken the view that it would be helpful for the two PMMs to be debated at the same group of sessions and that the July group of sessions will not be the right moment for scheduling them given both the pressure on the agenda and the sensitive nature of the other matters to be resolved.

The text of the two PMMs, and others that have not (yet) reached 100 signatures, are here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 30 June 2013 at 8:11pm BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 29 June 2013

opinion

Tabatha Leggett signs up to “Christianity’s most successful recruitment programme” for the New Statesman: Inside Alpha: An atheist’s foray into Christianity.

Matthew Engelke writes for The Guardian that Christianity and atheism are two sides of the same coin. “Those of us with no faith have a lot to learn about the value of halting the normal rhythms of life and stopping to reflect.”

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that Our fear of boredom is simply a fear of coming face to face with ourselves. “The Sunday morning hour, like the therapeutic hour, is a place to contemplate our capacity to deal with the fear of emptiness.”

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that Evangelical sex activists are no better than religious moralists.

Steve Hollinghurst writes on his blog about exposing the Church of England plan to recruit Pagans using a Pagan church.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 29 June 2013 at 11:00am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Friday, 28 June 2013

Churches welcome EU guidelines on religious freedom

Frank Cranmer reports that:

On 24 June the EU Council of Ministers adopted new Guidelines on promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief in EU external action and human rights policy. The guidelines are based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination and universality and are intended to provide practical guidance to officials of the EU and Member States in their relations with third countries and with international and civil society organisations. The guidelines go further than the previous Council conclusions on freedom of religion or belief which were adopted under the Swedish Presidency in 2009 and take into account most of the text adopted by the European Parliament on 13 June; but they are not as detailed as the EP text in relation to monitoring and assessment requirements.

Today, the Church of England issued a press release that the Bishop [of Derby] welcomes EU guidelines on freedom of religion.

Frank Cranmer’s post gives some detail on what is in these guidelines and how they developed from earlier EU documents. He notes that they were also welcomed by the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches and with some reservations also by the Commission of the [Roman Catholic] Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.

The full text of the guidelines is here: EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief (PDF).

The official report of the meeting summarised this item as follows:

The Council adopted EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief. While the EU is not aligned with any specific religion or belief, the guidelines reflect the EU’s determination to promote, in its external human rights policy, freedom of religion or belief as a right to be exercised by everyone everywhere.

At the same time the EU Council of Ministers adopted another set of guidelines: Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons (PDF)

The official report summary reads:

The Council adopted guidelines on the promotion and protection of all human rights of LGBTI persons, on the basis of existing international legal standards in this area. The guidelines are intended to enable the EU to proactively promote the human rights of LGBTI persons, to better understand and combat any structural discrimination they might face and to react to violations of their human rights.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights reported: EU foreign affairs ministers adopt ground-breaking global LGBTI policy:

Today the EU’s 27 foreign affairs ministers adopted a ground-breaking global policy. The LGBTI Guidelines instruct EU diplomats around the globe to defend the human rights of LGBTI people.

The Council of the European Union, the body that represents the 27 national governments in the EU, had already adopted a non-binding toolkit to promote LGBT people’s human rights in June 2010.

Three years later, foreign affairs ministers have now upgraded the document to these new Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons…

If I find any endorsements of these latter guidelines from religious organisations, I will let you know. So far I can find no mention of them from religious sources.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 28 June 2013 at 4:00pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Dancing in the aisles

Updated

Gary and Tracy Richardson got married in St Mary and St Martin, in Blyth, Nottinghamshire on 15 June. There was dancing, and it was in church.

Gary and Tracy Richardson’s Wedding Flash Mob 15/06/2013

News reports include:

Church Times Disco-dancing vicar becomes web sensation
BBC Flash mob wedding dance: Tracy Richardson on ‘amazing’ reaction
Leon Watson for Mail Online Let us dance! Vicar leads wedding congregation with hilarious routine for flashmob video

And there was comment:

Vicky Beeching in The Independent that The ‘viral vicar’ who led wedding dance flash-mob is a great example of how to make religion interactive.
Andrew Brown in The Guardian This vicar’s disco dance gives hope to the Church of England
Church Times leader Dancing in the aisles

Update
Kate Bottley, the vicar who conducted the service, has been interviewed by Arun Arora, the CofE’s Director of Communications. Download the podcast from here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 28 June 2013 at 2:33pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Church Growth

Next week’s meeting of General Synod won’t just be about women bishops. After dinner on Saturday Synod will have a take note debate on this report: GS 1895 Challenges for the Quinquennium. The Business Committee in their report (GS 1889) preview this.

Progress on Meeting Challenges for the Quinquennium

22. The take note debate will be an opportunity for the Synod to review progress on the three themes set at the start of the quinquennium. The Synod will have before it a report from the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council (GS 1895).

23. The debate will allow members to assess and critique the ways in which the three goals are being pursued, to contribute local insights and experiences which could help inform the work through the rest of the quinquennium, and to reflect in particular on the mission challenge facing the Church of England, which Synod debated in July 2011 and on which a separate paper – Making new Disciples – is being circulated (GS Misc 1054). There will be further debates on themes from the quinquennial report at future groups of sessions.

The three themes are:

contributing as the national Church to the common good;
facilitating the growth of the Church;
re-imagining the Church’s ministry.

David Keen writes about this on his blog General Synod: Sneaking in a radical growth strategy whilst everyone is looking at women bishops. He emphases that church growth must be the top priority, as this extract from GS 1895 makes clear.

The opportunities for contributing to the common good at a time of considerable social and economic distress are enormous. But the Church of England’s capacity will be less than it would wish unless it can also make progress in reversing the long term decline in numbers and increase in the age profile of its membership.

Keen also looks at the companion paper (GS Misc 1054 Making New Disciples: the Growth of the Church of England), which, he says, “makes the theological and practical case for prioritising church growth in the CofE”.

It’s not mentioned in the Synod papers, but my own diocese of Liverpool has had a growth agenda since 2009.

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government has today introduced a bill into the Scottish Parliament. This follows two consultations.

Consultation reports are linked from this page.

The draft bill, explanatory notes, a policy memorandum, and a delegated powers memorandum can all be found here.

Other associated documents are linked on this page.

Of particular interest outside Scotland, there is this statement agreed with the UK Government about amendments to the Equality Act 2010. The statement itself is available as a PDF file.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 27 June 2013 at 7:15am BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

American church responses to Supreme Court decisions

Updated

The Supreme Court of the United States today issued two decisions relating to the marriage of same sex couples. The Guardian summarised it this way:

A landmark supreme court ruling struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory on Wednesday to campaigners who fought for years to overturn it.

The court also dismissed a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.

Together, the two rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment…

The Federal DOMA opinion is here. The California Proposition 8 opinion is here.

Numerous statements in response were made by bishops of The Episcopal Church and other senior church officials. Here are some links:

Update

Church leaders outside The Episcopal Church expressed contrary views:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 at 7:50pm BST | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Reform appoints its first full-time Director

Reform Media Statement June 25th 2013: Reform appoints Susie Leafe as its first Director

The chairman of the Anglican evangelical campaigning network Reform today announced the appointment of Reform’s first full-time director, Mrs Susie Leafe.

Speaking at its annual prayer meeting at St Botolph’s Church, London, today (25th June) Prebendary Rod Thomas made the announcement and led the expected 150-strong gathering in prayer as he commissioned Susie Leafe for the work.

Susie Leafe is a member of the General Synod and played a prominent role in the debate on women bishops. Organising a campaign under the banner ‘Proper Provision’, Mrs Leafe gave voice to over 2000 female lay members of the Church of England who believed that the now failed legislative proposals on women bishops did not make adequate provision for those who had theological objections to this development. Prebendary Rod Thomas said ‘This appointment marks a new step forward for Reform. There has never been a greater need for the Church of England to proclaim and explain the gospel, yet in many respects it is ill-equipped to do so. Reform needs to engage many more people in its work to change that situation and I am delighted that Susie is going to be directing our effort to make that possible. She has very considerable theological, organizational and communication gifts from which our network, and the wider church, will benefit hugely…’

…Note. Reform has about 1700 members drawn from several hundred churches. The Reform Covenant explains the purpose of Reform being ‘to uphold, defend and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the doctrine of the Church of England’.

With regard to women’s ministry the Covenant states: Our understanding of God’s way of life for his people includes: .. The unique value of women’s ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate.

The new Director of Reform will seek to promote the unique value of women’s ministry in keeping with the Reform Covenant. Reform is committed to promoting and valuing women’s ministry, and also to communicating the biblical idea of complementarity in ministry.

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Amnesty report on Homophobia in Sub-Saharan Africa

Amnesty International has published a report: Making love a crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thirty-eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct. Underpinning these laws are deeply entrenched discriminatory social attitudes. This report examines the effects of the criminalization laws on, and discriminatory social attitudes towards, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Amnesty International is urging governments to repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct and to enact and enforce laws protecting LGBTI individuals from discrimination, harassment and violence, in accordance with their obligations under international law.

The full report is available as a PDF here.

There is also this press release: Rising levels of homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa are dangerous and must be tackled, says Amnesty in new report

Homophobic attacks and harassment across sub-Saharan Africa are reaching dangerous levels, Amnesty International warned in a new report out today.

Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa looks at how “homosexual acts” are being increasingly criminalised across Africa as a number of governments seek to impose draconian penalties or broaden the scope of existing laws, including by introducing the death penalty.

Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s director of Law and Policy, said:

“These attacks – sometimes deadly – must be stopped. No one should be beaten or killed because of who they are attracted to or intimately involved with.

“In too many cases these attacks on individuals and groups are being fuelled by key politicians and religious leaders who should be using their position to fight discrimination and promote equality.”

Homosexuality, often characterised as “unnatural carnal acts” or “acts against the order of nature”, is currently a crime in 38 countries in Africa.

In the last five years South Sudan and Burundi have introduced new laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct. Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria all currently have Bills seeking to increase existing penalties pending before Parliament.

The report reviews the current state of legal provisions across the continent and how these laws adversely affect LGBTI Africans. Individuals interviewed by Amnesty spoke of their daily struggle to survive discrimination and threats. The report contains specific cases from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon…

And there is this fact sheet.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 at 5:37pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Staff changes at Lambeth Palace

From the Lambeth Palace website:

Announcement of staff changes in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff at Lambeth Palace

Tuesday 25th June 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury today announced the following changes in staffing at Lambeth Palace which will take place in October:

Chris Smith, Chief of Staff to the Archbishop since 2003, will move on to pursue other interests in October after 10 years of service at Lambeth. Archbishop Justin today praised Chris’s contribution in the role: “I would like to thank Chris on behalf of my predecessor and the many others who have benefited from his years of loyal service to the Church. I am particularly grateful to Chris for remaining at Lambeth during the changeover of Archbishops, ensuring a smooth handover during this period of transition.”

The Rt Reverend Nigel Stock, currently Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, will join the Archbishop’s staff in October as Bishop at Lambeth, with responsibility for supporting the Archbishop’s work in the House of Bishops, the Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, and being a key point of contact at Lambeth Palace for Bishops. Speaking about the appointment, Archbishop Justin said “I am delighted Bishop Nigel has agreed to come and join us at Lambeth to carry out this important new role and I look forward to working with him”.

Arrangements will be made in consultation with the Bishop’s Council to cover the vacancy in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich until a new diocesan bishop is appointed to replace Bishop Nigel.

Kay Brock, currently Secretary for Public Affairs and Deputy Chief of Staff, will become Chief of Staff in October, implementing the Archbishop’s strategy, managing Lambeth Palace and having responsibility for the Archbishop’s engagement with public life.

From the St Edmundsbury diocesan website:

Bishop Nigel set for new role at Lambeth

Bishop Nigel spoke of mixed feelings as he announced that he will be leaving the county he loves later this year to take up a senior role.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to take up this role which will take effect in late October. The purpose is to support the Archbishop’s ministry with the Bishops and the National Church Institutions, General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council. This will mean being a collegiate member of the Archbishop’s senior team, which works with him to develop and implement strategies for every area of the ministry to which God has called the Archbishop.”

“As Bishop of Lambeth, I will be the main point of contact at Lambeth for Bishops of the Church of England, building and strengthening the Archbishop’s relationship with them. I will also be engaged with ecumenical and interfaith work, and have oversight for other sections of those working within Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop is aiming to work with a smaller staff at Lambeth, but is looking to make it a responsive, courteous and hospitable place from which to conduct his ministry.”

“The Archbishop is working on three priorities for his ministry: a renewal of prayer and the religious life within the country; reconciliation within the Church and the nation; and evangelism.”

“This will be a demanding, challenging, exciting, daunting and certainly unexpected prospect. I am of course only too well aware that this is a very awkward time for the Diocese to be without a Diocesan Bishop. Quite apart from the absence of a Suffragan Bishop there are also the centenary celebrations next year. However in consultation with the Bishop’s Council there will be an appointment of a bishop with full delegated powers to cover the vacancy and an announcement about that will be made shortly. This will be a temporary arrangement, and the processes for the appointment of the next Bishop will proceed as normal. In the light of this vacancy, the See of Dunwich will not be filled until a Diocesan Bishop is appointed…”

  • Bishop Nigel, 63, has held the post of Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich since 2007 and entered the House of Lords as a Lord Spiritual during March 2011. He was educated at Durham University and studied for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon. From 1976 to 1979, he was a curate at St Peter’s Stockton in the Diocese of Durham. From 1979 to 1984, he was priest-in-charge of St Peter’s in Taraka in the Diocese of Aipo Rongo, Papua New Guinea. From 1985 to 1991, he was vicar of St Mark’s Shiremoor in the Diocese of Newcastle, moving to become Team Rector of North Shields from 1991 to 1998. He was also Rural Dean of Tynemouth from 1992 to 1998 and an honorary canon of Newcastle Cathedral from 1997 to 1998. He was a canon residentiary of Durham Cathedral from 1998 to 2000 and also Chaplain of Grey College, Durham in 1999 and 2000. He became Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester in 2000 before moving to Suffolk as Bishop six years ago this October.

Some background on Kay Brock

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House of Lords: final day in committee on the Marriage bill

Updated

The Hansard record of the committee proceedings on Monday 24 June starts here, and later continues here. The debate continued until 12.22 am!

The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.

Three bishops made interventions:

The Bishop of Guildford starting here.
The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds starting here, and later continuing here where he moved Amendment 46B.
The Bishop of Leicester starting here where he moved Amendment 46C.

David Pocklington has published Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee, 3rd Day Summary.

The text of the bill, as amended by the Committee stage, is now available here, and in PDF format here.

The dates for Report stage were announced previously as 8 and 10 July. The date for Third Reading has now been announced as 15 July.

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Monday, 24 June 2013

Diocesan reorganisation in Yorkshire

The General Synod will be asked next month to approve a proposal, from the Dioceses Commission, to unite the existing dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield, to form a single new diocese, to be known formally as the Diocese of Leeds.

The draft legal document can be read: The Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield Reorganisation Scheme 201-, and the usual explanatory memorandum is here.

Standing orders do not allow the synod to now amend the scheme as drafted. It can either approve it as it stands, reject it outright, or pass a motion for reconsideration of specific points in the scheme by the Dioceses Commission. The latter course of action will cause a significant delay before it comes back to synod.

The situation is not entirely straightforward because one of the three dioceses involved, Wakefield, voted in its diocesan synod to reject the scheme by a decisive margin. The other two dioceses, plus Blackburn and Sheffield (each of which is marginally involved due to proposed transfers of a small number of parishes out of either Bradford - to Blackburn or Wakefield - to Sheffield) all voted very strongly in favour of the scheme. The Archbishop of York was therefore obliged to make a decision whether or not to bring the scheme to the General Synod, despite the Wakefield rejection.

He did make a decision to do so, as explained in GS Misc 1050.

To understand what this dispute is all about, on the one hand there is a series of documents published by the Dioceses Commission. On the other hand the Diocese of Wakefield has a special website that contains another series of documents. The latter was announced in a dramatic full page advertisement on page 27 of last week’s Church Times.

Dioceses Commission background documents:

GS Misc 1049A - Moving Towards a New Dioceses for West Yorkshire and the Dales
GS Misc 1049B - The New Diocese and the Mission of the Church
GS Misc 1049C - Yorkshire Scheme for Financial Estimates

Minutes of diocesan synod meetings:
Blackburn
Bradford;
Ripon & Leeds;
Wakefield

Diocese of Wakefield background documents:

The leaflet: Why Wakefield voted against the proposals from the Dioceses Commission

The Minutes of the Diocesan Synod on 2 March when Wakefield rejected the proposals by 76 votes to 40 (same file as published by the Dioceses Commission)

Dioceses Commission - An Alternative Vision

An Assessment of The Dioceses Commission’s “Estimate of the Financial Effect of the Proposals” by the Chairs of the Boards of Finance of the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield

and there are several further papers linked on the Wakefield site.

Three further documents that are helpful in understanding the proposals:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 24 June 2013 at 8:43am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Pete Broadbent and women bishops

Pete Broadbent writes on his blog today what he calls “A personal view on GS 1886”: Women Bishops – where are we now?. He is the Bishop of Willesden (in the diocese of London) and one of the elected suffragan bishops in the House of Bishops. He concludes:

Of the four options in the HoB paper, only Option 1 has any chance of success. I would urge opponents to adopt realpolitik on this matter. It really is no good any more to argue for provision enshrined in law. The game is up.

But do read it all.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 23 June 2013 at 5:36pm BST | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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Welfare Reform and the Church

On the evening of Sunday 7 July General Synod will debate this motion, to be proposed by Philip Fletcher, on behalf of the Mission and Public Affairs Council (MPA) of the Archbishops’ Council.

That this Synod, recognising that in times of austerity hard choices must be made between competing priorities, and acknowledging that reform of welfare systems is essential:
(a) affirm the need for a renewed settlement between the state, the churches and civil society in pursuit of social solidarity and the common good;
(b) call for close attention to the impact of welfare cuts on the most vulnerable, and for support for those not in a position to support themselves;
(c) decry the misleading characterisation of all welfare recipients as ‘scroungers’; and
(d) commend those across the churches who are working to support those most in need.

Synod members have been sent GS 1897 - Welfare Reform and the Church as background to the debate, along with two annexes prepared in partnership with the Church Urban Fund: Annex 1 It all adds up: the cumulative impact of welfare reform and Annex 2 Guide to welfare reforms 2010–2017.

The Business Committee’s report for this group of sessions (GS 1889) includes these paragraphs.

Welfare Reform and the Church

32. The Coalition Government’s goals of simplifying the welfare system and incentivising work have received broad support in principle across the Churches, but the practical measures and accompanying rhetoric of ‘strivers and scroungers’ have also caused disquiet. Clergy have daily experience of the problems parishioners face as a result of the impact of benefit changes and the vicarage doorstep is still a last resort for many who fall through the net. Benefit claimants are members of many church communities. In this context, both clergy and laity are alarmed at not only at the impact of changes on the vulnerable but also about the way in which such people are often characterised in political debate. The debate will give the Synod a chance to consider these pastoral concerns.

33. This short report from MPA (GS 1897) explores some of the theological and historical reasons for the Church’s interest in social welfare, seeks to place the debate within the context of the Synod’s earlier work on the financial crisis, and draws on the 2010 debate on The Big Society, to argue that serious welfare reform requires the rebalancing of responsibilities between the individual, the state and wider civil society, including new thinking about the proper role of the churches.

34. The aim is to help the Synod think more deeply and strategically about the Church’s potential and responsibilities without getting caught up in the party politics or simply engaging in hand-wringing. The short report is accompanied by two papers already produced by MPA in partnership with CUF – Annex 1 sets out welfare changes that are happening, and Annex 2 assesses their impact on claimants and their families.

John Bingham reports on this in The Telegraph today with Church of England faces fresh clash with ministers over welfare reform. It starts:

In a highly critical analysis of the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s overhaul of the benefits system, the established Church questions the “moral” case for such reforms in a time of austerity.

The poor and vulnerable, it claims, are bearing a “disproportionate share of the burden” from recession yet being “squeezed” ever tighter by the Government - while the rich are allowed to escape “largely unscathed”.

At the same time the Government has deliberately stoked up rhetoric characterising benefit claimants as “scroungers” and workers as “strivers” to gain “political capital”, it insists…

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 23 June 2013 at 5:14pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 22 June 2013

opinion

Mark Brett writes for ABC Religion and Ethics about Asylum seekers and universal human rights: Does the Bible still matter?

Jonathan Clatworthy for Modern Church looks at the phrase Unable on grounds of theological conviction.

Peter Doll writes for the Church Times about The only defence against unaccountable power. “An Established Church guards against tyranny.”

David McIlroy asks for Theos: Is Secular Law possible?

Diarmaid MacCulloch reviews Our Church by Roger Scruton for The Guardian. “What makes the C of E special? This account of Anglicanism is full of cliches and misrepresentations.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 22 June 2013 at 11:00am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Friday, 21 June 2013

Safeguarding: follow-up to Chichester

Next month General Synod will consider a range of actions to improve Safeguarding of children and of vulnerable adults, mostly in direct response to the reports issued in August 2012 and in April 2013 by the Commissaries who conducted a visitation of the Diocese of Chichester.

The motion to be debated on Sunday afternoon has several parts. Here’s the full text:

‘That this Synod

(a) endorse the Archbishops’ statement in GS 1896 expressing on behalf of the Church of England an unreserved apology for the failure of its systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others; and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused;

(b) invite –

(i) the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council to pursue as a matter of urgency the programme of work set out in GS 1896 to enhance the Church of England’s safeguarding arrangements; and

(ii) the Business Committee to schedule First Consideration of the necessary draft legislation as soon as the responses to the consultation document have been assessed, with a view to its securing Final Approval in the lifetime of this Synod; and

(c) invite the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council to report back to the Synod by February 2014 on what action is to be taken to secure the more effective delivery of the ‘Responding Well’ policy across the Church in the interests of survivors.’

The document for this is GS 1896 (A PDF version of this is contained in the zip file for the first distribution of papers). This is a 16 page document, and it contains more detail on each of the items mentioned below.

Part (a) is uncontroversial. In GS 1896 the archbishops write:

…It is right, therefore, that the General Synod should… be able to identify with the apology that we wish to offer unreservedly for the failure of the Church of England’s systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused. The sexual and physical abuse that has been inflicted by these people on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame for years to come.

As the Commissaries rightly observed: “All contemporary safeguarding policies and procedures in the Church should be a response to what we learn and see in Jesus himself… In witness to this faith and to our sense of obligation to children who are brought to Jesus through the care of the Christian community, the Church should set for itself the highest standards of care available to our society today. If that is true especially in relation to children, it ought also to be true for the care we offer to some of the most vulnerable adults in the modern world.”

We cannot overestimate the importance of responding appropriately today. Sadly for many this comes far too late. History cannot be rewritten, but those who still suffer now as a result of abuse in the past deserve this at least, that we hear their voices and take action to ensure that today’s safeguarding policies and systems are as robust as they can be. This work is an essential and prior Gospel imperative, for any attempts we make to grow the church, to seek the common good, and to reimagine the Church’s ministry.

Part (b) seeks synod approval for a comprehensive programme to improve the church’s safeguarding systems. The extent of these actions clearly indicates that the existing systems are inadequate in numerous ways. Several will involve spending more money than now, both at central and at diocesan level.

One part of this is to make a series of changes that require legislation, and to do so as quickly as possible, which in this case means bringing the legislation to the Synod in February 2014 and for the entire approval process to be completed by July 2015.

Before discussing the details of the legislative proposals, it should be noted that there are many other non-legislative actions planned, some of which will take years, and which can be summarised briefly as follows:

  • Changes to the culture of the Church - Implementing cultural changes to any organisation is a complex task and does not happen quickly. However, this process can be facilitated by identifying areas where cultural change should happen. The proposal for an audit of diocesan safeguarding is intended to address both the more and less obvious areas where cultural change needs to happen.
  • Ensuring that existing and new safeguarding policies are properly implemented at diocesan level
  • Ensuring that every diocese has adequate safeguarding expertise with a professional adviser and an effective safeguarding group
  • The roll-out of a national programme of safeguarding training
  • Introduction of best practice guidance on responding to serious situations
  • Development of guidance on safe working practices
  • Review of risk assessment processes – this will need to be developed and agreed at national level before it is rolled out at diocesan level
  • Improved policy and practices on responding well to survivors
  • Safeguarding standards for ministers from other denominations – This is dependent on the implementation of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012
  • Further clarity on the issue of confidentiality, including with regard to the Confessional, where some additional guidance may be needed

Returning to the legislative proposals, a consultation on these is to be launched immediately with all responses to be submitted by the end of September. There are six areas where modifications are proposed, which are summarised in GS 1896 as follows:

1: Amending the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) to remove the limitation period for a complaint alleging misconduct of a sexual nature involving a child- and possibly vulnerable adults as defined in GS Misc 837, so that a complaint may be made notwithstanding more than 12 months has lapsed since the misconduct occurred.

2: Amending the CDM so that the bishop has power to suspend a priest or deacon whenever a written application seeking permission to make a complaint out of time is submitted by a complainant to the President of Tribunals, provided the bishop forms the view that suspension is necessary pending the President’s decision.

3: Amending canon law to enable the bishop to direct that a priest or deacon must submit to a risk assessment to determine whether there is a significant risk that the cleric may commit in the future misconduct of a safeguarding nature; failure to comply with the direction without reasonable excuse would be misconduct under the CDM.

4: Amending canon law to prevent clergy from robing in church during the time of divine service when they are prohibited under the CDM from exercising any of the functions of their Orders and to prevent clergy with the cure of souls from allowing them so to robe. In addition the Council would be grateful for views on whether it should be unlawful for suspended clergy to robe during divine service.

5: Amending Canon C 8 so that

(i) only clergy with a bishop’s licence or permission may be invited by a priest with the cure of souls to officiate, and

(ii) clergy who have a cure of souls shall not allow clergy without a bishop’s licence or permission to robe or officiate within their own church or chapel.

6: Amending the Churchwardens Measure 2001 and the Church Representation Rules so that:

(i) a person who is on a barred list under the SVGA is disqualified from serving as churchwarden or as a member of a PCC, district council or synod;

(ii) any person convicted of an offence mentioned in section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is disqualified from being a member of the PCC; and

(iii) a bishop has power, pending criminal proceedings, to suspend a churchwarden or member of a PCC who is arrested on suspicion of committing an offence mentioned in schedule 1 to the Children and Young Persons Act.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 June 2013 at 10:16pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Martyn Percy delivers first Inclusive Church annual lecture

From the Inclusive Church website:

The Annual Inclusive Church lecture was inaugurated in 2013, marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of Inclusive Church.

The lecture is part of Inclusive Church’s commitment to articulate a coherent gospel theology of inclusion.

The inaugural lecture entitled ‘On Being Together: the Possibility of Church’ was given by Martyn Percy at Southwark Cathedral, with 200 guests.
Some earlier parts of this paper were initially explored in Anglicanism: Confidence, Commitment and Communion (Ashgate, 2013), Thirty-Nine New Articles: An Anglican Landscape of Faith (SCM-Canterbury, 2013), a lecture given at St. John’s College, Auckland, New Zealand , April 2013…

The full text of the lecture can be downloaded as a PDF file, from here.

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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Hong Kong Anglican Church adopts the Covenant

The Anglican Communion News Service reports today that

Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church, has adopted the Anglican Communion Covenant.

The Province’s General Secretary, the Revd Peter Koon, wrote to the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon informing him of the decision by HKSKH’s Sixth General Synod held from 2 to 5 June.

Hong Kong is the seventh Province to adopt the Covenant, the others are La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico, The Church of the Province of Myanmar, the Church in the Province of the West Indies, Church of the Province of South East Asia (with their own preamble), the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, and La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.

The Church of Ireland has subscribed it, and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has adopted it subject to a ratification at its next Provincial Synod.

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod defeated a resolution to agree in principle to adopt the Covenant in June 2012.

The Anglican Communion Covenant, a document that outlines the common life and values of the Communion, was described by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams as “Something that helps us know where we stand together and also helps us to intensify our fellowship and our trust.” It includes a section that proposes how to address significant disagreements within the Anglican Communion.

The idea of a Covenant was first raised in 2004 and member churches are currently reviewing the latest and final version.

For more on the Covenant visit http://aco.org/commission/covenant/index.cfm.

Readers will notice that there is still no mention of the fact that the proposal to adopt the Covenant in the Church of England was defeated when a majority of diocesan synods voted against.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 4:52pm BST | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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Elections Review Group - part 2

The second part of the Business Committee’s response to the Election Review Group’s report is in GS 1906. The group’s report itself is in GS 1901.

This second part considers

  • changing the electorate for the House of Laity; and
  • introducing an online facility for nominations and voting in respect of elections to the General Synod.

Unlike the topics in the first part, where the Business Committee is bringing draft legislation to Synod, the committee is initiating a debate to seek Synod’s views on whether any changes should be made, and if so what form the legislation should take.

Electorate for the House of Laity

At present General (and diocesan) Synod lay members are elected by lay members of deanery synods. The Bridge Commission in 1997 proposed instead a specially elected electoral college, although it should be noted that as they proposed the abolition of deanery synods in their present form they had to propose some alternative electorate. But General Synod at the time rejected both these proposals.

In 2011 Synod passed a motion asking for alternatives to be considered.

As a result the Election Review Group looked at five options. Apart from the fourth option (which nobody in the group supported), the same electorate would also be used for elections to diocesan synods.

  1. present system - all elected lay members of deanery synods
  2. electoral college - members to be elected by parishes at their annual meetings
  3. all elected lay members of PCCs
  4. all lay members of diocesan synods
  5. universal suffrage - all members of parish electoral rolls

The Group’s report (in GS 1901) lists the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Business Committee’s preference is for an electoral college (option 2 above) and the motion before Synod asks for legislative proposals to be brought forward. But if Synod prefers another option it can amend (and pass) the motion.

If any changes to the present system are agreed they could not come into effect in time to be used in the 2015 elections to General (and diocesan) Synod, and it is likely that they would be first used in 2018 for diocesan synods and in 2020 for General Synod.

Online elections

At present elections to General Synod are almost entirely paper based. Although nominations can be submitted by fax they must be confirmed by submitting the paper original within three days of the closing date. Voting is by paper ballot. The Business Committee had been advised that it is technically feasible to conduct the whole process online. Email nominations could be in place in time for 2015, but electronic voting would take longer to put in place, and could not be used until 2020. The motion from the Business Committee will ask Synod to endorse these proposals.

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Elections Review Group - part 1

The Business Committee of the General Synod set up an elections review group in 2011. This group has now reported and its proposals will be considered at next month’s meeting of Synod. There are two reports and this article deals with the first of these.

The papers sent to members are all available online. GS 1901 contains the full report of the Elections Review Group. The Business Committee has divided its response into two reports (GS 1901 and GS 1906). This post looks at only the first of these; there will be a later posting on GS 1906.

GS 1901 - The work of the Elections Review Group: First Report by the Business Committee
GS 1902 - Draft Amending Canon No.32
GS 1903 - Draft Convocations (Elections to Upper House) (Amendment) Resolution
GS 1904 - Draft Clergy Representation (Amendment) Resolution
GS 1905 - Draft Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution
GS 1902-05x - Explanatory Memorandum

Amongst what the Business Committee considers to be non-controversial proposals are these two.

  • Suffragan bishops will be allowed to submit nomination papers by fax, as is currently allowed for laity and clergy. [For younger readers, fax is an obsolete technology for sending low resolution scans of documents over phone lines.]
  • Returning Officers will be required to post lists of candidates and election addresses online before voting papers are issued.

I will now look at the more controversial proposals, which all concern the membership of General Synod.

Allocation of seats between the two provinces

In 2010 the allocation was calculated on the basis of a 70:30 split between the Provinces of Canterbury and York, which resulted in a slight weighting in favour of York in both Houses. If there were no weighting the split would be 72:28 in both houses. Synod will be given the opportunity to remove the fixed 70:30 split.

Diocese of Europe

At present this diocese is treated as being too small to justify the normal minimum of three clergy and three lay seats in Synod, and has two of each. It now has more clergy and members of electoral rolls than some English dioceses, and Synod will be asked to give it the same minimum of three members in each house as all English dioceses.

The only other diocese with fewer than the normal minimum number of members is Sodor and Man, but the review group found no reason to change this.

Seats for Suffragan Bishops

There are currently four elected places for southern suffragans on Synod. It is proposed to increase this to five. The number of northern suffragans would remain at three. Although the main reason for the change is the desire to increase representation of minority views in the House of Bishops, there is another curious reason given. This is that if the proposals for reorganisation of dioceses in Yorkshire goes ahead, the number of diocesan bishops will be reduced by two, and the net effect would actually be a reduction in the size of the House of Bishops. To me this seems like a reason to increase the number of northern suffragans. [I should declare an interest here as I live in a northern diocese.]

Universities constituencies

There are currently six places for clergy who work in universities: one each from Oxford, Cambridge, London, other southern universities, Durham & Newcastle, other northern universities. There are a number of perceived difficulties with these places.

  • It is impossible to compile accurate lists of electors (who are also the eligible candidates for election) as this relies on the co-operation (which is not always forthcoming) of university administrators over whom the Church has no control. It is thought that these problems are so serious that the validity of the elections could be subject to legal challenge.
  • Some of the constituencies are very small.
  • Most importantly the object of these seats is to supply theological expertise to Synod, but there is no requirement for those elected to have any particular expertise. Places are not restricted to academic theologians. Most of the theologians hold the bishop’s licence and could offer their expertise by standing for election in their diocese instead.

The Business Committee therefore proposes to abolish the university places. However, Synod rejected the same proposal in 2004 and the Business Committee recognises that this might happen again. So there are alternative proposals to substantially reform the arrangements for these places. Details are in GS 1901.

Co-option of ethnic minority individuals

The review group considered a proposal to co-opt some ethnic minority individuals to Synod because of their under-representation amongst elected members. The proposal was rejected. The view was taken that more effort should be put into encouraging members of ethnic minorities to stand for election.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 20 June 2013 at 1:41pm BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

House of Lords: Wednesday in committee on the Marriage bill

Updated

The Hansard record starts here, and later continues here. The debate continued until 12.30 am!

The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.

The Bishop of Guildford engaged in the debate. His interventions start here. And continue, late in the evening, here.

Updates
David Pocklington has again written up the day, in Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee, 2nd Day.

Gavin Drake reports on Monday’s debate, and related events earlier in the week, in the Church Times Bishop seeks registrar opt-out.

The committee stage completes next Monday. And there is one more amendment filed.
A Third Marshalled List of Amendments is now here.

Two dates for the Report stage have been announced: 8 and 10 July.

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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

House of Bishops - senior women clergy representatives

I reported here on the rules that had been made for the election of senior women representatives to attend meetings of the House of Bishops. The rules contained a few errors

  • Chelmsford was accidentally included in two regional electoral colleges
  • The first regional electors did not come into office until after the first elections

and these have now been corrected.

The amended rules (dated 14 June 2013) can be downloaded from here. I have amended my webpage version to show both the original text, and the amendments made to it.

The date by which the first elections must be completed remains 1 October 2013, so the first representatives will be able to attend the next regular meeting of the House of Bishops, which is in December.

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House of Lords: Monday in committee on the Marriage bill

Updated again Wednesday morning

The Hansard record starts here, and later continues here.

The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.

Two bishops engaged in the debate, the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Hereford.

The archbishop’s two interventions start here.
The bishop’s three interventions start here.

The debate continues on Wednesday. There is already a Second Marshalled List of Amendments here. There is now a Revised Second Marshalled List.

Updates

David Pocklington has listed out what happened yesterday to each amendment that was discussed, see Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee Stage, 1st Day.

Andrew Brown has written John Sentamu and the Church of England’s slow retreat on gay marriage.

…The archbishop, John Sentamu, asked: “What do you do with people in same-sex relationships that are committed, loving and Christian? Would you rather bless a sheep and a tree, and not them? However, that is a big question, to which we are going to come. I am afraid that now is not the moment.”

No. It isn’t. That moment passed years ago, when civil partnerships were first brought in, and the archbishop’s was one of the loudest voices demanding that the Church of England have nothing to do with them. The bishops still don’t realise what damage they did then…

Paul Johnson has written at ECHR Sexual Orientation blog Same-sex marriage in England and Wales - more references to the ECHR.

David Pocklington has written again, Clarifications from withdrawn amendments, Same Sex Marriage Bill, Day 1 which adds a lot of useful explanation about the various amendments discussed.

Chris Sugden has written an Update for the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans.

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Monday, 17 June 2013

Joint Committee on Human Rights reports on Marriage bill

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

The full text can be found here, as a PDF file.

The uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the committee is available here as a PDF file.

The Telegraph has a news article based on what is said in this report, here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 June 2013 at 11:21pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Marriage Bill: Committee stage starts today in the Lords

Updated Monday evening

There is a revised Marshalled List of amendments.

David Pocklington has written another very helpful article at Law & Religion UK entitled Same-Sex Marriage Bill – further legal issues. He comments:

… With the exception of the amendments relating to holding a referendum on the Act, (which would take place after the Act had gained Royal Assent, but before its other provisions come into force), the majority concern the clarification of issues specific to groups who are likely to be impacted by its provisions: followers of Judaism, [clause 5, amendment 21]; or Sikhism [clause 5, amendment 22]; or by challenges to their actions in relation to these and various equality provisions; publicly held appointments, [clause, amendment 5]; registrars, [clause 2, amendment 15 to 18]; teaching, [clause 7, amendment 23].

A number of amendments refer to “exercising a function that is a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998”, one of the “grey areas” of particular interest to the Church of England which was discussed at length in the ‘Prayer to Annul’ debate on 15 December 2011 and is reported here. Other proposals seek to identify and protect the concept of “traditional marriage”, [clause 1, amendment 7], or “matrimonial marriage”, [clause 12, amendment 46].

In addition, potential new provisions include requirements for the Secretary of State to: create a statutory list of religious bodies owning or controlling premises that they do not wish to be eligible to undertake an opt-in activity, [clause 1, amendment 6]; and review the operation and effects of the Act to be reviewed, two years and five years after it is passed, [clause 15, amendment 47]…

The earlier article linked in the above extract, Same-Sex Marriage Bill – some legal issues, was included in our previous roundup.

Other comments, from different perspectives, can be found here (Colin Coward) and over here (Peter Ould).

Update

The Archbishop of York spoke in this debate, and has published his text here.
There is a news report in the Telegraph Archbishop of York: would the church rather bless sheep and trees than gay couples?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 June 2013 at 8:36am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Civil partnerships review – terms of reference and timetable

The Government Equalities Office has published a policy paper which sets out the terms of reference and timetable for a review of the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) in England and Wales.

See this announcement dated 13 June: Future of Civil Partnerships review to start in autumn 2013

Terms of Reference published for a formal review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004

The Government has today announced its intention to launch a full public consultation in the autumn to kick start a review of the future of Civil Partnerships in England and Wales.

During a debate in the House of Commons of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, concerns were raised by MPs over the issue of civil partnerships and their role in light of same sex marriage legislation.

To ensure these issues are fully understood the Government tabled an amendment to the Bill which would allow for a formal review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Read the Terms of Reference for a formal review of the Civil Partnership Act. [Full text copied below the fold]

Civil partnerships review – terms of reference and timetable

Purpose

To review the operation and future of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA) in England and Wales.

Objectives

To carry out a full public consultation, assess the evidence and publish a report on

  • The functioning and operation of the CPA in England and Wales;
  • The future of civil partnerships in England and Wales, including whether they should apply to all couples; and
  • Options and recommendations for changes to civil partnerships in England and Wales.

Scope

The review of the CPA will cover England and Wales and will

  • Examine evidence about how well the current arrangements for civil partnerships are working, drawing on views from the public and organisations with an interest and international comparisons
  • Assess the need and demand for civil partnerships when marriage is available to all, and whether any changes to civil partnership arrangements are necessary
  • Identify all the implications of and issues raised by the identified options (including risks and devolution issues)
  • Assess the costs and benefits of the options
  • Make recommendations for any changes to the operation and future of the CPA.

Timetable

We are currently conducting policy analysis and gathering evidence to inform the document we intend to publish for full public consultation after the summer recess, subject to Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. This consultation will seek views from stakeholders and the public and will run for approximately twelve weeks. We will also commission research where necessary to fill any gaps in the evidence base. We will then analyse responses to the consultation and all other evidence obtained to inform decisions, and publish a report of the outcome as soon as a decision is taken. We anticipate that this will happen by winter 2014.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 10:49pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Welsh disestablishment

Although the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1920, disestablishment was not complete (for example in the area of marriage law). The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee of the National Assembly for Wales has been inquiring into Law-making and the Church in Wales and their report was published yesterday. It recommends “that the Church in Wales should be fully disestablished”.

There are links to the report of the inquiry and to the evidence given to it by Professor Norman Doe, Professor Thomas Glyn Watkin, and the Archbishop of Wales here.

Frank Cranmer of Law & Religion UK explains it all in Disestablishing the Church in Wales – at last?

The Church in Wales has responded with this: Church responds to National Assembly law report.

Press reports inlcude

BBC Calls to cut Church in Wales’ ties with Parliament
Wales Online The Church in Wales should be granted fully disestablished status to solve ‘legislative limbo’, says Assembly committee

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 11:25am BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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opinion

George Pitcher writes in the New Statesman that For the new Power Christians, God is the new CEO.

Diarmaid MacCulloch writes in The New York Times that Same-Sex Marriage Leaves the Bishops Behind.

William Oddie writes in the Catholic Herald that On Friday, the Pope will meet Archbishop Welby. So, why do we continue talking to the Anglicans after they have so wilfully made unity impossible?

The OUP blog speaks (in six YouTube videos) to Brian Cummings about The origin and text of The Book of Common Prayer.

Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church asks Was there an original Revelation?

Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian about From the Golden Calf to Gezi park: religious imagery and modern protest

Theo Hobson writes the second of his two articles on liberal Christianity for The Guardian: What would a new liberal Christianity look like?. The first is here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 11:00am BST | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Friday, 14 June 2013

Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010 (revised)

TA readers may recall that back in June 2011, a document was published by the Church of England, which was numbered GS Misc 992 entitled Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010. We reproduced the full text of this document here at the time and it attracted some comment then.

In fact the identical document had been leaked to the Guardian newspaper the previous month when it attracted quite a lot of media comment.

Today, the Church of England released a new document, numbered GS Misc 1044, which is described as an update to the earlier one, but whose content is in some respects quite different. The cover note observes that the update has been made to take account of the decision taken by the House of Bishops in December in relation to civil partnerships and the episcopate.

We reported on that in House of Bishops decisions taken in December, and then again here, and finally, when in January the Church of England eventually issued a press release, in Civil partnerships and eligibility for the episcopate in the CofE.

The new document is now reproduced in full here.

The old document is still available here, and readers may find it instructive to look at the two side by side.

PDF originals are here (old), and then here (new).

John Bingham has written today in the Telegraph about this document, see Archbishops to ask clergy: ‘Are you having gay sex?’

Update Friday 21 June
Today, Gavin Drake reports on this for the Church Times in Assurances of celibacy may not be enough to qualify for a bishopric.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:26pm BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Archbishop meets Pope in Rome

Updated Friday evening and Sunday lunchtime

Now that today’s meeting has taken place, the archbishop’s website reports that Archbishop Justin meets Pope Francis in Rome.

In their first meeting, Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis both spoke this morning of the bonds of “friendship” and “love” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

The two leaders agreed that the fruits of this dialogue and relationship have the potential to empower Christians around the world to demonstrate the love of Christ.

The Archbishop and the Pope agreed on the need to build an economic system which promotes “the common good” to help those suffering in poverty.

Archbishop Justin said that Christians must reflect “the self-giving love of Christ” by offering love and hospitality to the poor, and “love above all those tossed aside” by present crises around the world.

The Pope said those with the least in society “must not be abandoned to the laws of an economy that seems at times to treat people as mere consumers”.

They also agreed on the need for Christians to act as peacemakers around the world, which they acknowledged could only be done if Christians “live and and work together in harmony,” the Pope said…

The article includes the texts of the addresses that the two men gave in public after their private conversation.

Ed Thornton of the Church Times writes that Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis speak up for the poor at first meeting

The Telegraph reports that Pope Francis tells Archbishop of Canterbury to stand firm on traditional family values.

Martha Linden writes for The Independent that Pope Francis meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Rome.

BBC News has Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope meet for first time.

The Washington Press carries this piece from Associated Press Pope meets Archbishop of Canterbury, seeks to promote marriage as UK heads to gay marriage.

Catherine Hornby of Reuters writes Pope Francis and new Anglican leader meet, note differences. The Huffington Post carries the same article under the headline Pope And Archbishop Of Canterbury Meet, Note Differences On Women Ordination, Gay Rights and adds a gallery of photographs.

Updates
Lizzie Davies of The Guardian, who is in Rome, writes that Pope and archbishop of Canterbury find common ground at talks in Rome.
Gerard O’Connell of Vatican Insider writes that Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury have very friendly and successful first meeting.

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Agenda for the July 2013 General Synod

Updated Friday afternoon twice

The usual pre-synod press release has been issued by the Church of England today, and is copied below. It provides a summary of the business to be transacted.

I have listed the available online papers here.

Agenda for the July 2013 General Synod

The General Synod meets in York on 5th - 9th July for the first time since the rejection of the draft legislation on Women Bishops last November. A large period of time on the Saturday will be devoted to work on this issue with a debate on the Monday. The Friday afternoon will see the first Presidential Address by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, which will be an opportunity for him to outline the main challenges facing the Church of England over the coming period.

The meeting of Synod will also include debates on Safeguarding following the Chichester Commissaries’ reports and Welfare Reform and the Church. There will also be a vote on the Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation Scheme.

The agenda provides for the Synod to meet in private on the morning and afternoon of Saturday 6 July for reflection and facilitated discussion on the issue of Women Bishops. Some of this time will be spent in groups and some in plenary. The group work will take the form of 24 groups of 20 people with a trained facilitator, with Synod members from each House in the groups. On Monday morning there will be a debate on a motion from the House of Bishops which proposes that draft legislation be prepared and introduced at the November group of sessions on the basis of option one in the report from the working group. Synod members will have until 10am on Sunday to table amendments to the Motion.

On Sunday afternoon at 5pm there will be a debate on a Motion on Safeguarding as a follow-up to the reports of the Commissaries appointed by the former Archbishop of Canterbury to conduct a visitation into safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester. This will take the form of motion endorsing an apology by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York for past errors within the Church of England and agreeing plans to take further legislative and non-legislative steps to improve the Church’s policies and practices on safeguarding. These include planned changes to the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) which will be consulted on over the summer and brought to the Synod in draft legislation in February 2014. In addition there are plans to carry out an audit of diocesan safeguarding resources and practices, and to do more work at national level on developing and implementing safeguarding policies and supporting dioceses with training and roll-out of these polices.

On Sunday evening there will be a debate on Welfare Reform and the Church. This will be an opportunity for Synod members to discuss how the Church is and should be responding to the changes to the welfare system being introduced by the Department of Work and Pensions and in particular how the impact on low income households is being felt at parish level.

Saturday evening will see a debate on Challenges for the Quinquennium. It is exactly half-way through the Synod’s current five-year term (Quinquennium) and this will be an opportunity for the Synod to take stock of how the goals set at the beginning of this period are being met and any further areas of work required. The main themes are:

Contributing as the national Church to the common good
Facilitating the growth of the Church
Re-imagining the Church’s ministry

The debate will be an opportunity for Synod members to add their own views on how the Church is responding to these overall themes and to prepare the way for more focused debates on each of them in future.

Legislative business will be taken on Saturday afternoon, Monday morning and afternoon and Tuesday morning. A key item, for the Monday afternoon, will be the proposed Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation Scheme which aims to bring together the existing Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield and create a new Diocese of Leeds (also to be known as the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales). The Archbishop of York has authorised the Diocese Commission to lay the draft Scheme before the General Synod, even though the Diocese of Wakefield has not given its consent to the scheme.

Other items of legislative business arise from the work of the Elections Review Group, a sub-group of the Business Committee, relating to how members of the General Synod are elected. The Synod will also be debating a second report from the Elections Review Group on possible changes to the electorate of the House of Laity and the options for using online voting in future.

Contingency business takes the form of a Diocesan Synod Motion (DSM) from the Diocese of London on the Review of the Workings of the General Synod. This calls for the Business Committee to look at a number of areas including the frequency and length of groups of sessions, the ways in which debate takes place and decisions are made and whether the current synodical framework and structures are still fit for purpose. This DSM will be taken if there are any gaps in the Synod agenda.

ENDS

Notes

The General Synod will meet at York University from 4.15 on Friday 5 July until lunchtime on Tuesday 9 July.

Read the full Agenda.

Update
Madeleine Davies reports on this morning’s press briefing in the Church Times: Synod: ‘There will be arguments’ despite group talks.
Sam Jones writes for The Guardian: Church of England synod told not to delay over women bishops

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General synod - July 2013 - online papers

Updated Friday 21 June

Online copies of the papers for the July 2013 meeting of General Synod are now available online; they are listed below, with links and a note of the day they are scheduled for debate.

In addition three zip files of the papers are available.

all papers contained in the 1st circulation
all papers contained in the 2nd circulation
papers from both the 1st and 2nd circulation

The Report of the Business Committee (GS 1889) includes a forecast of future business, and I have copied this below the fold.

The Church of England’s own list of papers is presented in agenda order.

Papers for debate

GS 1866A - Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure
GS 1877A - Draft Amending Canon No.31
GS 1866Y-1877Y - Report by the Revision Committee [Sunday]

GS 1886 - Women in the Episcopate [Monday]

GS 1887 - Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2013
GS 1887x - Explanatory Memorandum [Sunday]

GS 1888 - Full Synod Agenda

GS 1889 - Report by the Business Committee [Friday]

GS 1890 - Appointment of the Clerk to the Synod [Friday]
GS 1891 - Appointment of the Chair of the Appointments Committee [Friday]
GS 1892 - Appointment of the Chair of the Finance Committee [Friday]
GS 1893 - Appointment of the Chair of the England Pensions Board [Friday]
GS 1894 - Appointment of the Auditors to the Archbishops’ Council [Friday]

GS 1895 - Progress on meeting challenges for the Quinquennium [Saturday]

GS 1896 - Safeguarding: Follow-up to the Chichester Commissaries’ Reports [Sunday]

GS 1897 - Welfare Reform and the Church plus Annex 1 and Annex 2 [Sunday]

GS 1898 - Draft Scheme for Approval [The Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield Reorganisation Scheme] [Monday]
GS 1898x - Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1899 - Draft Resolution for Approval [Transitional Vacancy in See Committee for the Diocese of Leeds] [Monday]

GS 1900 - The Archbishops’ Council’s Draft Budget and Proposals for apportionment for 2014 [Monday]

GS 1901 - The work of the Elections Review Group: First Report by the Business Committee [Tuesday]
GS 1902 - Draft Amending Canon No.32 [Tuesday]
GS 1903 - Draft Convocations (Elections to Upper House) (Amendment) Resolution [Tuesday]
GS 1904 - Draft Clergy Representation (Amendment) Resolution [Tuesday]
GS 1905 - Draft Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution [Tuesday]
GS 1902-05x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1906 - The work of the Elections Review Group: Second Report by the Business Committee [Tuesday]

GS 1907 - Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Rules 2013
GS 1908 - Clergy Discipline Appeal (Ammendment) Rules 2013
GS1907-08x - Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1909 - Amending Code of Practice under the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003
GS 1909x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1912 - Scheme Amending the Diocese in Europe Constitution 1995
GS 1912x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1913 - Archbishops’ Council’s Annual Report [Monday]

Church Commissioners’ Annual Report [Monday]

Contingency Business

Diocesan Synod Motion: Review of the Workings of the General Synod
GS 1914A - A note from the Diocese of London
GS 1914B - A note from the Acting Clerk to the Synod

Other Papers

GS Misc 1044 - Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act

GS Misc 1048 - Simplification Group Report

GS Misc 1049A - Moving Towards a New Dioceses for West Yorkshire and the Dales
GS Misc 1049B - The New Diocese and the Mission of the Church
GS Misc 1049C - Yorkshire Scheme for Financial Estimates
GS Misc 1050 - Statement from the Archbishop of York
Annex 1 - Blackburn Diocesan Synod notes
Annex 2 - Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Synod notes
Annex 3 - Draft Wakefield Diocean Synod notes
Annex 4 - Bradford Diocesan Synod notes

GS Misc 1051 - Clergy Discipline Rules as amended by CD Rules July 2013
GS Misc 1052 - Clergy Discipline Amendment Rules as amended by CDA Rules July 2013
GS Misc 1053 - Code of Practice amended July 2013

GS Misc 1054 - Making New Disciples
GS Misc 1055 - Clergy Discipline Commission Annual Report 2012
GS Misc 1056 - Activities of the Archbishops’ Council
GS Misc 1057 - Mission Development Funding plus Annex 1 and Annex 2
GS Misc 1058 - Audit Committee Annual Report
GS Misc 1059 - Members of Committees

The Church and Community Fund Annual Review

House of Bishops Summary of Decisions

1st Notice Paper
2nd Notice Paper
3rd Notice Paper

Forecast of future General Synod business

This forecast should not be read as more than a broad indication of business that may come to the Synod in 2013 and 2014. Timings are therefore approximate and not a guarantee that they will be dealt with at the Synod session indicated.

One or more reports are usually taken at each group of sessions.

One or more Diocesan Synod Motions and one or more Private Members’ Motions are customarily included in the Agenda for each group of sessions (see Special Agendas III and IV).

Legislative business

November 2013

  • MPM / Amending Canon No 31– Final Drafting and Final Approval
  • Women in the Episcopate legislation – First Consideration
  • Measure making changes to the faculty jurisdiction – First Consideration
  • Measure amending the PCCs (Powers) Measure etc – First Consideration
  • Amending Vacancy in See Committee Regulation (to give effect to Bradford DSM)
  • Amendments to the Church Representation Rules proposed by the Simplification Group

February 2014

  • Amending Canon No. 32 and Amending Resolutions relating to GS elections etc – Revision Stage
  • Measure and Amending Canon in relation to the Chichester Visitation recommendations – First Consideration
  • Pensions (Amendment) Measure [to extend CC’s power to resort to capital for pensions liabilities] – First Consideration
  • Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order
  • Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order

July 2014

  • Women in the Episcopate legislation – Revision Stage
  • Amending Canon and Amending Rules relating to GS elections etc – Final Drafting / Final Approval
  • Measure and Amending Canon in relation to the Chichester Visitation recommendations – Revision Stage
  • Measure making changes to the faculty jurisdiction – Revision Stage
  • Measure amending the PCCs (Powers) Measure etc – Revision Stage
  • Pensions (Amendment) Measure – Revision and Final Drafting/Final Approval
  • Payments to the Churches Conservation Trust Order
  • Usual fees orders

Liturgical business

  • Additional Texts for Holy Baptism

Reports

  • Quinquennium Goals – follow-up report on Evangelism and Church Growth
  • The Church School of the Future (Education Division)
  • Fresh Directions in Local Unity in Mission (Council for Christian Unity)
  • Re-imagining Ministry (Ministry Division)
  • Debate on the Economy (Mission and Public Affairs Council)
  • Anglican-Methodist Covenant: Report from the Joint Implementation Commission
  • Aspects of Rural Church Life (Mission and Public Affairs Council)
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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Marriage Bill: House of Lords moves to committee stage

Updated Friday morning

Three days have now been allocated for the committee stage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Monday 17th, Wednesday 19th, and Monday 24th June.

So far, three pages of amendments have been tabled, all can be reached via this page.

Update a Marshalled List is now available here. Several amendments include bishops as sponsors.

Update
David Pocklington at Law & Religion UK has an informative post: Same-Sex Marriage Bill – some legal issues.

Conservative Christian opposition to the bill continues, see The House of Lords, Church of England Bishops and the Same-Sex Couples bill by Chris Sugden at Anglican Mainstream.

The statement by the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual was reported here.

The Church of England Briefing Note issued for the Second Reading of the bill can be found here. It indicates the type of amendments that may be pursued by the bishops.

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Pope and Archbishop to meet

The Archbishop of Canterbury will be meeting Pope Francis for the first time tomorrow.

The Guardian has two articles looking forward to this visit.
Sam Jones Justin Welby and Pope Francis meet in hope of finding common ground
Andrew Brown Shift in style as outsiders Justin Welby and Pope Francis get together

The Tablet reports that Welby and Pope meet to review relations between Churches.

Alessandro Speciale of Religion News Service writes Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury to meet for the first time.

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New website for Anglican Communion News Service

From the new website

New website for Anglican Communion News Service
Posted on: June 13, 2013 1:53 PM

By ACNS staff

The news service of the Anglican Communion has today launched its first ever purpose-built news website AnglicanNews.org

The site comes almost 20 years after the electronic news service was first launched. Since then subscribers around the world have received thousands of news articles via email.

“This site brings the Anglican Communion’s ability to share its stories of life and mission to a whole new level,” said Jan Butter who is the Director for Communication at the Anglican Communion Office.

“Until now we’ve been restricted to sending news stories to people’s email inboxes. Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world can visit the new site for, not just news, but also comment, feature stories, podcasts, videos and photos. We hope that the diverse content helps to reflect the richness and variety found across our Anglican Communion.”

Mr Butter added, “Existing subscribers will still receive email alerts, but just one a day summarising the newest content on the site.”

In a comment piece written exclusively for the new website, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby highlighted the importance of effective, grace-filled communication between Anglicans, saying it was part of the gift of the Anglican Communion.

“If the Communion is a gift, then communication between us is part of that gift. This means sharing insights into what God is calling us to do, wherever we are. It means sharing our witness and our inspiration.”

He added, “There have been times [members of the Anglican Communion] have used communication as a tool to hurt each another. But we must remember that above all we are called to share the love of Christ with the world. That means nothing less than communicating in a way that reflects Christ – a way that is loving and generous, patient and forgiving.”

Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Kenneth Kearon said he was excited about what this site would mean for the Churches of the Anglican Communion.

“It has been suggested that the theology of Web 2.0 is Body of Christ theology,” he said. “If so, then good communications is the lifeblood that allows that body to work together to fulfil God’s mission.

“I am delighted that we are able to offer this resource to the people of the Anglican Communion and I invite them to contribute content that they think will be of interest to their brothers and sisters around the world.”

The site was made possible thanks to funding from The Compass Rose Society and the Church Mission Publishing Company, and to support and guidance from members of Anglican Communion worldwide. It was built by Zebedee Creations Ltd.

It is part of a broader communications strategy that includes the relaunched Anglican World magazine (available at http://shop.anglicancommunion.org) and a new website for the Anglican Communion due in 2014.

Visit the new website at http://www.anglicannews.org.

Read Archbishop Welby’s article in the comment section.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

WATCH responds to Bishops' proposals on women in the episcopate

WATCH have today issued their response to the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886.

First there is this press release.

Press Release
Tuesday 11 June 2013 12noon

WATCH (Women and the Church) Response to the House of Bishops’ report GS1886

Press Release Summary of WATCH’s response:

WATCH is very encouraged by this report by the Archbishops with its very welcome commitment to opening all orders of ministry to women without equivocation. The proposals that they are asking General Synod to support in July are, in essence, ones that WATCH can fully endorse. We are particularly heartened by paragraph 21 which says: “The conviction of the House [of Bishops] is that the Church of England should now commit itself fully and unequivocally to all orders of ministry being open to all, without reference to gender. It would, in the view of the House sit very uncomfortably with that if the [General] Synod were to enshrine in legislation a series of rights, duties and definitions that would inevitably be seen as qualifying that commitment.” We agree wholeheartedly with their conclusion that Option One offers the best way forward. WATCH’s full response can be found on the attached document. The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said: “It is very heartening to see the House of Bishops give such a strong lead to enable the Church to open all orders of ministry to women without equivocation. The gifts of ordained women should be welcomed and celebrated by the Church and all the signs are that the Bishops are now committed to making that happen.”

And then there is this detailed response.

WATCH response to GS 1886 ‘Women in the Episcopate – New Legislative Proposals’

WATCH is very encouraged by this report by the Archbishops with its very welcome commitment to opening all orders of ministry to women, without equivocation.

The proposals that they are asking General Synod to support in July are, in essence, ones that WATCH can fully endorse.

(1) Following the meeting of the House of Bishops on 20-21 May, the report of the Working Party on Women in the Episcopate, together with a report by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on behalf of the House, was issued on 25th May. The WATCH committee has taken time to consider the implications of the report, before issuing this response.

(2) We wish to register our thanks to the House of Bishops and the Working Party for seeking an early resolution within the Church’s own processes to a situation which is undesirable and untenable for the Church of England, and which hinders our mission and credibility in society at large.

(3) Members of General Synod will devote a significant proportion of the July group of sessions to discussion of the matter, and we urge General Synod to support the motion as proposed in the report, following the House of Bishops’ guidance in seeking to frame legislation within the parameters of the Working Group’s ‘option one’.

(4) The Archbishops’ report displays a significant change in tone towards the prospect of having women in the episcopate, and we are greatly encouraged by the positive commitment to this now being demonstrated by the House of Bishops. This, we hope, may go some way to repairing the damage done by the outcome of the Synod vote in November, which is noted in paragraphs 1 and 2 of the report.

We are particularly heartened by paragraph 21 which says: “The conviction of the House [of Bishops] is that the Church of England should now commit itself fully and unequivocally to all orders of ministry being open to all, without reference to gender. It would, in the view of the House sit very uncomfortably with that if the [General] Synod were to enshrine in legislation a series of rights, duties and definitions that would inevitably be seen as qualifying that commitment.”

(5) The principles underlying the Working Party’s thinking (namely, simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality [Annex para. 32f]) seem to us broadly good ones, and we recognise the challenge inherent in moving from principle to legislation.

(6) We welcome particularly the Working Party’s recognition that support for women’s ministry is grounded in theological conviction (Annex paras 37 and 53), something which seems often to have been regarded as the preserve of opponents of the ordained ministry of women.

(7) In this vein, we welcome the commitment to avoiding ‘unacceptable theological or ecclesiological confusion for the whole Church of England’ (Annex para. 31) as we regard such confusion as detrimental to the health and mission of the whole Church of England.

For this reason, we are pleased to see noted as elements of the vision in Annex para. 24 (copied in the Archbishops’ report para. 12) that: • Once legislation has passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being equally open to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to the office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience; Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter. It seems to us very important that, as Annex para. 39 notes, ‘There should no longer be any dioceses where none of the serving bishops ordains women as priests.’

(8) Should General Synod follow the House of Bishops’ leadership in commending Option One, the question will arise as to what should be the nature of the provision for those unable to accept the ordained ministry of women, a House of Bishops’ Declaration or an Act of Synod. It seems to us that there would be merits and drawbacks to each, and that (as for all parties) the detail of the content would be paramount.

(9) We were encouraged to see that there was little support in the House of Bishops for Options 3 and 4, and we would find ourselves unable to support Option 2. The strong support among laity and clergy alike at every synodical level for the previous draft legislation, together with the 2/3 majority achieved in Synod last July in favour of the adjournment of the debate to allow reconsideration of the first iteration of Clause 5(1)(c), convince us that there is no appetite in the Church at large for enshrining discrimination in statute. Even if such discriminatory provision could command the requisite majorities in any General Synod, it is clear that the Ecclesiastical Committee would be unable to recommend such a Measure in Parliament.

We are therefore convinced that the wisest course would be for Synod to follow the House of Bishops’ lead in eschewing any discrimination in law, and thus to allow the Church of England to resolve the matter via her own processes.

(10) Encouraged as we are by the positive tone of the Archbishops’ report, we nevertheless retain some concerns about assumptions. In particular, we again wish to highlight the use of ‘majority/minority’ as shorthand for ‘support/opposition’ to the ordination of women. It is clearly true that, in numerical terms, these are equivalent; however, as we have previously pointed out, ordained women constitute a cultural minority within the Church of England, particularly as regards senior and stipendiary posts. Moreover, we are concerned that such shorthand pays little regard to those – most especially lay people – in favour of women’s ministry in areas where the diocesan hierarchy is predominantly opposed. It seems to us that any pastoral care for ‘minorities’ must, on the basis of reciprocity, take this into serious account. In this connection, we note with concern the overwhelmingly clerical emphasis of the Working Party’s report.

(11) We are interested by the recurrent language of ‘mutual flourishing’. ‘Flourishing’ is, we note, a word with uncertain biblical and liturgical resonances, normally indicating (as in the Prayer Book and Common Worship burial and funeral orders!) impermanence and transience.

We wonder whether it might be more helpful and hopeful for all parties to consider the health of the whole Church, growing together: such growth together in Christ demands coherence of orders, necessitates proper regard for weaker and more vulnerable members (determined on bases other than simply numerical ones) and would enable us to be more credible and more effective for the society we all seek to serve.

WATCH National Committee 10th June 2013

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Monday, 10 June 2013

More speeches from the House of Lords debate on the marriage bill

Some speeches in the Lords debate from peers who are not bishops also make instructive reading. Here are a few of them.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

…Finally, I return to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. I hope that he will not feel it is unfair if I call him my “old friend”, as indeed he is. I have come to the firm conclusion that there is nothing to fear in gay marriage and that, indeed, it will be a positive good not just for same-gender unions but for the institution of marriage generally. The effect will be to put right at the centre of marriage the concept of a stable, loving relationship. As a practising Christian, perhaps I may make the point to the Bishops’ Benches, including to the most reverend Primate, that there is every reason why, in time, the Anglican Church should come to accept that, although I recognise that it may take some time. The character of love which marriage reflects—that it is faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional—is the same character that most Christians see in the love of God. Marriage is therefore holy, not because it is ordained by God, but because it reflects that most important central truth of our religion: the love of God for all of us.

Lord Black of Brentwood

My Lords, I am a passionate supporter of the Bill. I support it because I believe in the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of society and should be open to all. I support it because I believe in the values of the family, and the Bill will, in my view, strengthen them. I support it because I am a Conservative. Respect for individual liberty is at the core of my being and this is a Bill that will add to the sum of human freedom. I support it because I am a Christian and I believe we are all equal in the eyes of God, and should be so under man’s laws. I support it because I am one of those people who I fear were rather glibly derided by the noble Lord, Lord Dear, as being part of a tiny minority and, I think, were praised by my noble friend Lady Knight as being delightful, in that I am gay. I am in a civil partnership with somebody with whom I have been together for nearly a quarter of a century. I love him very much and nothing would give me greater pride than to marry him. I hope noble Lords will forgive that personal pronouncement, but it seems to me that my experience goes to the heart of this debate…

Lord Blair of Boughton (formerly Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police)

…It is rather odd that I am speaking between the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester. Nearly 50 years ago, I sat in a room in Chester Cathedral taking my common entrance exam in order to go to Wrekin College, where the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was a teacher. We are in a different country to that of 1965. No Member of your Lordships’ House could then have made the speeches that we have heard today about being gay. When I took that exam, abortion was illegal, capital punishment was on the statute books, homosexual acts in private were matters for criminal law, and there was no race relations legislation whatever. We are in a much better country, and the tide of history is running in only one direction.

The Bill represents a great and noble cause—what the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, described as a moral cause. I suggest that, for a non-elected House to object to the Bill in this way, particularly after the events of this last weekend, would damage the reputation of this House.

My last point relates to the quadruple lock. I received many letters—as did all noble Lords—one of which I have one in my hand. It is from a young Christian gay man and it is in ink, so I cannot imagine that he sent it to 850 people, though some other noble Lords may have had it. In it he wrote that he was unable to reconcile his Christianity with his sexuality, and the fact that the Bill was being considered at all was helping him combine those two facets.

St Paul wrote to the Galatians that in Jesus Christ there is neither male or female, gentile or Jew, slave or free. I do not think that that was a coded message that everybody was okay except gays. It was an inclusive statement. As a member of the Anglican world, I hope that one day, before I die, I will see the Anglican Church unlock that quadruple lock from the inside…

Lord Deben (formerly Mr John Gummer MP and at one time a prominent Anglican but now a Roman Catholic

My Lords, it seems to me that one of the difficulties we have when faced with something that appears to be so new is that we cannot quite imagine what it must have been like when something like this happened in the past. However, there is a direct 19th century parallel to the debate we are having here. It was the argument about the right of a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister. That battle was horrendous. The Table of Kindred and Affinity, that schoolboy refuge from boring sermons, specifically forbids such a union. It is the same chapter of Leviticus that condemns gay sex, and it called marriage with your dead wife’s sister an abomination. On that basis, your Lordships’ House stopped reform from 1835 right up to 1907. Last week, I reread the arguments of
those who scuppered the reform, and I fear that I have heard them all again today. Your Lordships then complained about rushed legislation. They said that it would be the end of marriage and that it would encourage incest. They hinted at polygamy. They said in particular that for 2,000 years such an outrageous thing had never been contemplated, and yet, once passed, that most controversial of Acts was wholly accepted. The Church of England revised the Table of Kindred and Affinity so that what was once an abomination is now holy matrimony.

It was the science that did it. Once we understood consanguinity, we distinguished between relationships that were genetically dangerous and those which were simply culturally arguable, and so it is with gay marriage. Once we understand scientifically that some people are solely attracted to their own sex, we realise that homosexual practice is not heterosexuals behaving badly, but gay people behaving naturally. That automatically means that the state can no longer exclude this minority. As a result, in my lifetime we have moved from criminalisation almost to equality. Today, we have the chance to complete that journey, to accept the science, and to allow civil marriage for all.

This is civil marriage. State marriage has diverged from church teaching for more than 150 years; some would even say since Henry VIII rigged the rules to his own advantage, but that would be an embarrassment to some Members of this noble House. As a convert Catholic, I have chosen to accept that Christian marriage is about procreation, that it is indissoluble, and that there is no such thing as divorce. Yet, as a parliamentarian, I cannot demand that non-Catholics should accept that definition. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, has reminded us on other occasions, marriage is owned neither by church nor state. Otherwise, I have to say to the noble and right reverend Lord that I am worried about the basis of his theology. It seems to be stuck in an earlier age. There are no echoes of René Girard, one of the greatest theologians of our time. There is no word from Dom Sebastian Moore, not a touch of James Alison. It remains a theology that has not come to terms with Freud. In that it is a precise parallel with the 19th-century bishops who spoke here in that debate and who like Samuel Wilberforce had a theology that could not admit of Darwin.

There are, of course, those who say, “Why can’t these homosexuals make do with civil partnerships?” That is entirely to miss the point. Civil partnership is a means of protecting legal rights. Marriage is a public affirmation of love. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, says that marriage is at the heart of love. He is saying that this House should say to homosexuals that they may not express their love in that way. Married for 37 years, I find that offensive. As a parliamentarian, I cannot say that to fellow citizens. I cannot accept a society that will not go that far…

Lord Alli

…Many to whom I have spoken in the Church of England have argued that allowing same sex couples to marry would risk the breakdown of the Anglican communion—the African churches would pull away. Last week in Nigeria, a law was passed prohibiting gay marriage and banning gay organisations with a 14-year prison sentence for anyone who advocates gay marriage—that is, people like me making arguments like these. The church should not be opposing same-sex marriage because of the African churches; the church should be supporting it because of African churches.

I want them to show the same leadership that they have shown on issues such as tackling debt and poverty. That is a fight well worth fighting. If the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and others on the Benches Spiritual support civil partnerships, then I, like many gay people, wait with bated breath for the liturgy to allow civil partnerships to be blessed in churches. They have talked the talk; it is now time to walk the walk…

Lord Norton of Louth

…What are the grounds for saying that Parliament should not exercise its rights to extend the provision of marriage? It is claimed that permitting same-sex marriage devalues marriage. That is not an argument but rather an assertion of moral superiority. It rests in good measure on a rewriting of history—a point well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, and indeed the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross—and on biblical text. The Bible has been used to justify all sorts of discrimination that we now regard as morally abhorrent. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury has noted, the text of the Bible has not changed, but our understanding has. In every sphere of life we are constantly learning, except, apparently, in this one respect, where we cling to a view held 4,000 years ago.

Much of the debate has been conducted as if we were the first nation contemplating the introduction of same-sex marriage. We can learn from what has happened elsewhere. Most of the nations that permit same-sex marriage are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights. Their churches have not been forced to do anything by the European Court of Human Rights that they do not wish to do. We have heard assertions in this debate that the introduction of same-sex marriage has led to a decline in heterosexual marriage. I have the figures here, which are readily available in the briefing paper produced by the House of Commons Library. Some countries have seen a decline in traditional marriage, notably Portugal and Spain, but in Portugal that was happening before the introduction of same-sex marriage. In Belgium the figures for traditional marriages went up, not down. A study of the Netherlands found that trends in marriage and divorce did not change. In nations where it has been introduced, support for same-sex marriage has increased, and none of the dire consequences predicted as a result of the passage of this Bill appear to have been experienced. Of course, if anyone can show otherwise, they can bring it up in Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said, “What next?” Well, nothing, unless we will it. Things will not happen unless Parliament decides that something should happen. That is a key point. Nothing is suddenly going to translate from this action unless Parliament wants any further action to be taken. It is in our gift.

I end with the words of Paul Parker of the Quakers in Britain:

“For us marriage is not a mere civil contract, but a religious act. While we don’t seek to impose this on anyone, for us this is an issue of religious freedom”.

The principled case for supporting the Bill is, to my mind, compelling.

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Sunday, 9 June 2013

more comment on the Lords debate and the bishops

The Dean of Durham wrote on The Bishops and Same-Sex Marriage

…As to what the bishops say about marriage, I agree that the proposals are not nearly strong enough on marriage as a covenanted relationship of fidelity. In this respect, the Archbishop is right: same-sex and other-sex marriages would not be entirely equal. But for this reason, I don’t think it is correct to speak about the measure as ‘redefining’ of marriage. The public covenant between two people who love and wish to belong to each other can and should be precisely the same in both. It’s no more a redefining of marriage than the remarriage of divorced people. In some ways, that is the more radical step to take because it entails considering in what way a covenant that has been broken for whatever reason could be entered into a subsequent time with another partner. So if the church is (largely) content to bless and even solemnise such marriages, this next step of making the institution more inclusive should not necessarily pose new difficulties. To enlarge the scope of an institution is not the same as changing its essential meaning.

There is something worryingly familiar about the bishops’ statement however. It is too often the case that the church is on the back foot, at first resisting social change that is wanted by the majority, then coming round to it slowly and grudgingly. This was precisely the case when artificial contraception was being debated in the early 20th century. Lambeth Conferences were root and branch opposed to the idea that sex could be for recreation as well as procreation. It would have been better to adopt the Gamaliel position of saying ‘let us wait and see whether this might be of God’. Much the same can be said about women as priests and bishops in the church.

If you scroll down my blogs on this Woolgathering site, you’ll find my piece on Gamaliel and equal marriage. It’s clearer now than then which way history is moving. It’s not too late for the Church of England to be on the right side of it this time. Without grudge.

Michael Portillo is reported to have said this on a television programme:

“I think it is a good moment to reflect on the fact that whilst this has been presented as an issue that has caused enormous problems for David Cameron and splits within the Conservative Party – actually the problems are really with the Church of England and indeed with the Catholic Church.

“[They] just do not know how to deal with the issue of homosexuality and gay priests and gay bishops and so on. And that is where the division is and the churches are haemorrhaging membership like water disappearing from a bath and they don’t have any way of dealing with this problem.”

Savi Hensman wrote at Ekklesia Church of England’s stance on marriage and sexuality still unclear

Some people may be understandably confused about the Church of England’s position on same-sex partnerships and equal marriage. Official statements, the publicly-voiced views of senior clergy and broader opinions among church members point in different directions. Part of this is to do with realism, but shifts in understanding also play a part.

At the beginning of the week of a House of Lords debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, proposing marriage equality in England and Wales, it might have seemed that the ‘party line’ was clear. Policy and study documents suggest that, while lay Anglicans may conscientiously believe that physically intimate same-sex partnerships can be right, they are in fact wrong, and lifelong celibacy is preferable for those attracted mainly to the same sex.

Issues in human sexuality, a statement by the House of Bishops in 1991, took this line, and urged that clergy abstain from sexual relationships with members of the same sex, though hostility to lesbians and gays was deplorable and intrusive questioning about private lives was discouraged…

Gerry Lynch wrote A Farewell Discourse: The Hard Truths That Set Us Free

…I’ll briefly review the Church of England’s record on LGBT issues, and then I’ll review Justin’s record, which is typical of most Evangelical clergy and pretty much every Evangelical bishop of his generation. I could write an equally critical article about Liberal Catholic bishops, but it would be involve different criticism and, let’s be honest, that’s not who has been driving the agenda on sexuality issues in the Church of England for a long time.

This is, unfair as it may seem, the sum total what you have managed to communicate to LGBTs over the past two decades. It may not be what you wanted to communicate, but it’s what you did.

Over the past 15 years, there has been a revolution in how same-sex relationships have been treated in law in the United Kingdom, as in most Western societies. The Church of England opposed nearly every step of that process, and in the few cases where it didn’t do so formally as a denomination, its Evangelical wing did so vociferously in the media, usually led in the public charge by Archbishop Carey and other senior bishops. And I mean every step – the equalisation of the age of consent; the abolition of the hateful Section 28; the granting of adoption rights to same sex couples; same-sex marriage. The introduction of civil partnerships was accompanied by an attempt to strip them of any social or spiritual meaning and constant denigration of gay and lesbian relationships; it remains forbidden to give civil partnerships any blessing in church. The outlawing of discrimination in employment saw the Church of England attempt to carve out as wide a scope as possible where it could continue to discriminate against queers. And, yes, it was about orientation rather than practice – ask Jeffrey John.

That is the record. There is no point in trying to minimise or obfuscate it. A couple of hours with Google and Hansard will reveal it in almost every detail…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 8:00am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 8 June 2013

Enough Food for Everyone

The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign held a rally in Hyde park, London this afternoon. The Archbishop of Canterbury sent this video message to the rally.

Earlier in the day the Archbishop addressed an ecumenical church service at Methodist Central Hall via this video to mark the commitment of the faith communities to ending hunger.

Liz Ford reports on the Hyde Park rally in The Guardian: G8 urged to act on hunger after 45,000 gather in London’s Hyde Park.

Huffington Post UK has this report: Enough Food For Everyone If: Danny Boyle, David Beckham, Bill Gates, Speak At Anti-Hunger Rally.

Here are transcripts of the Archbishop’s two messages.

Hyde Park Rally

“It’s amazing that you’re here today. It’s absolutely wonderful that you’ve come together. We’ve come to celebrate the opportunity we have to end hunger in our lifetimes. The only way that’s going to happen is by mass movements of people, like yourselves, getting together, encouraging governments to go on doing what they’re doing well. And a lot of things are being done very well. We’ve seen that in our own country. One of the great things we can celebrate is giving away 0.7% of our national income to help those run the world who need it. I encourage you, keep the pressure on. We can change the world in our own lives.”

Ecumenical Service

“I’m very pleased to be able to welcome you, most warmly, to this service today - to the celebration of the generosity that Jesus Christ has shown us, which we’re called to share with others round the world.

The G8 is the centre of financial resource and power in all kinds of ways. Many members of the G8 are increasingly deeply committed to using that power for the global good. Our own Government is one that has very courageously, at a time of austerity, increased its giving in aid. But it’s important that we put before them the needs of the global community in which we live and with which we are inter dependent.

One of the biggest issues we face is around how aid is used. The issues of tax transparency are increasingly at the top of the agenda and are really, really important.

One of the things that most excites me as a church leader is the role that the church has in ending global hunger and poverty. In many parts of the world, the churches are the most effective networks, through which generosity from other people can be used most effectively and without actually displacing or diminishing the work of the people on the ground locally - local people developing their own countries.

My prayer would be that in this country and across the world, that we are deeply committed to enabling people to be self-sustaining, so that global hunger can be ended in our lifetimes.”

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opinion

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that Justin Welby reveals his inner Tory.

Andrew Lilico writes a guest post on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog: Is Anglicanism still the State Religion in England?

Frank Cranmer of Law & Religion UK asks Are human rights “Christian”? – a reflection.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that Greed is good – well, almost. But it must not be the dominant thing.

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph about The day Hereford tower fell down.

Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church asks What’s an integrity?

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Friday, 7 June 2013

Church leaders call on Government ministers to apologise

Press release from Methodist Church House

07 June 2013

Bishops and Church leaders call on Government ministers to apologise

  • 1 Churches, 4 nations, 1 message

An alliance of Churches representing Christians from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland has written to the Prime Minister asking for an apology on behalf of the Government for misrepresenting the poor.

Church leaders, including the Right Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, and the Right Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford, pointed out that in recent weeks senior members of the Government have given out misleading and inaccurate information about people on benefits. Outlining the inaccuracies, they asked for them to be corrected and for an apology to be offered to those who were misrepresented.

“We are concerned that these inaccuracies paint some of the most vulnerable in our society in an unfavourable light, stigmatising those who need the support of the benefits system,” the letter states. “No political or financial imperative can be given to make this acceptable.”

April saw some of the most controversial and wide ranging changes to the benefit system in a generation. In their letter, Church leaders, including the leaders of the Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church, said that while they hold no common view on welfare reform, they all share the belief that that those in receipt of benefits are loved and valuable.

“What unites us is the belief that the debate around these reforms should be based on truthful information,” they write. “We ask you, as Prime Minister and as leader of the Conservative Party, to ensure that the record is put straight, and that statistics are no longer manipulated in a way which stigmatises the poorest in our society.”

ENDS

Notes:

The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Appendix one to the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

Appendix two to the letter to the Prime Minister is available here.

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Women bishops latest

Madeleine Davies of the Church Times has a round-up of opinions in Traditionalists slam women-bishops plan (although it’s not just about the “traditionalists”).
We have already published the full texts of the responses from Reform, Affirming Catholicism, Forward in Faith and the Catholic Group in General Synod.

Other recent articles include:

Jonathan Clatworthy of Modern Church asks Should bishops fly?

Chris Sugden writes for the American Anglican Council: Let’s be inclusive about this.

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House of Bishops - senior women clergy representatives

Update The rules for electing the regional representatives were amended on 14 June 2013. Full details are in my article here.

At its meeting of 7 February 2013 the House of Bishops decided that eight senior women clergy, elected regionally, will participate in all meetings of the House until such time as there are six female members of the House. The necessary changes to the House’s Standing Orders were made at its meeting in May 2013.

The rules for electing these Regional Representatives are online here as a Word document, and I have converted them into a webpage.

Also available is the official summary of decisions made by the House at its May meeting.

Further information about the House of Bishops is available here.

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More about the bishops in the House of Lords debate

First, a statement from one of the bishops who was not present in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Gloucester has issued this The Marriage (same Sex Couples) Bill.

… I accept that the bill has now received overwhelming support in both Houses of Parliament and that the task of the Church, through the bishops, is now to respect the view that has been so clearly endorsed and to argue for any amendments that might make the legislation more acceptable to those whose consciences are troubled.

I share the view expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the debate that the Church has not often served the LGBT communities in the way it should. I hope we shall be more affirming and supportive for the future and in particular that the House of Bishops Working Party on Human Sexuality, of which I am a member, will be able to help the Church towards a more positive valuing of committed and faithful homosexual partnerships.

In the light of the suggestion in the Telegraph that bishops had been put under pressure by Church of England officials to abstain from voting on the Bill, I need to say very firmly that no such pressure was put on me (nor, I think, on any bishop). The pressure that we have experienced has been an unprecedented campaign of letters, emails and phone calls from those urging us to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill…

And before the vote the Bishop of Lichfield had published this: Bishops in the House of Lords & the Marriage Bill.

Today, the Church Times carries a report of the debate by Madeleine Davies Bishops gather in Lords to vote against gay-marriage Bill which also notes that several Christian peers spoke in favour of the bill.

And there is a leader article, signed by Paul Handley, under the title More than one voice. This should be read in full, but it concludes this way:

…No legislation framed at such a juncture is going to be perfect. But, whatever the flaws of this Bill, it is important that the present debate is seen for what it is: a test of the Church’s ability to address people who are, by and large, more compassionate and accepting than the Church is currently perceived to be. The general population sees marriages that do not look like marriages, cohabitations that do, and same-sex relationships that can look like either. For their part, many in the Church see only an ideal - which is odd, given the pastoral encounters that churchpeople have, and the range of relationships that exist in most congregations.

Once the legislation is passed, as we assume it will be, there will not be an opportunity for a clearer, more nuanced debate. This is it. Hereafter, the Church’s pronouncements on marriage will be coloured by the reputation it gains now. At present, this appears to be censorious, and out of touch with reality. Its criticisms of poor legislation are interpreted as simple prejudice. In reality, the Church is divided on this issue, and it is vital that those who have a more confident view of marriage, and a more open view of sexuality, make their voices heard.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bishop of Leicester issues statement on behalf of the Lords Spiritual

Updated Thursday afternoon

Church of England press release
Statement from the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

05 June 2013

“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape. The concerns of many in the Church, and in the other denominations and faiths, about the wisdom of such a move have been expressed clearly and consistently in the Parliamentary debate. For the Bishops the issue now is not primarily one of protections and exemptions for people of faith, important though it is to get that right, not least where teaching in schools and freedom of speech are concerned. The Bill now requires improvement in a number of other key respects, including in its approach to the question of fidelity in marriage and the rights of children. If this Bill is to become law, it is crucial that marriage as newly defined is equipped to carry within it as many as possible of the virtues of the understanding of marriage it will replace. Our focus during Committee and Report stages in the coming weeks and months will be to address those points in a spirit of constructive engagement.”

Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester
Convenor of the Lords Spiritual

The statement published above has been reported in the Telegraph by John Bingham in this way: Church of England gives up fight against gay marriage

The Church of England has effectively accepted defeat over gay marriage signalling that it will no longer fight against a change in the law.

In a short statement, the established Church said that the scale of the majorities in both the Commons and Lords made clear that it is the will of Parliament that same sex couples “should” be allowed to marry.
The Bishop of Leicester, who leads the bishops in the House of Lords, said they would now concentrate their efforts on “improving” rather than halting an historic redefinition of marriage.
It represents a dramatic change of tack in the year since the Church insisted that gay marriage posed one of the biggest threats of disestablishment of the Church of England since the reign of Henry VIII.
And it comes despite a warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, that the redefinition of marriage would undermine the “cornerstone” of society…

…And he [Bishop of Leicester] made clear that the bishops would look not only at strengthening opt-outs for those who oppose a new definition of marriage but at the future practicalities for people in same-sex unions.
He signalled that bishops would seek to introduce a notion of adultery into the bill and extend parental rights for same-sex partners.
Under the current bill people in a same-sex marriages who discover that their spouse is unfaithful to them would not be able to divorce for adultery after Government legal experts failed to agree what constitutes “sex” between gay or lesbian couples.
The bishops are also seeking to change a provision which says that when a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage has a baby her spouse is not also classed as the baby’s parent.
The result is that in some cases children would be classed as having only one parent…

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Roman Catholic bishops issue statement about marriage bill

Press Release
Comment on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords

The House of Lords has spent two days debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. On Tuesday, 4 June, the House rejected an amendment tabled by Lord Dear, a crossbench peer and former West Midlands chief constable, opposing the Bill - 390 votes to 148.

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said:

“The Church’s principled objection to the legal re-definition of marriage is consistently and clearly set out.

“Following the Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords, the Church’s aim is to ensure the Bill, as it goes to committee stage, is amended so that it effectively delivers the protections that the Government promised to provide for schools, religious organisations and individuals.”

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Reform responds to plans for women bishops

Reform have today issued their response to the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886 under the heading “Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry”. Here it is in full.

Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry

New proposals for introducing women bishops run counter to the Church’s desire to see those on both sides of the debate flourish in the Church of England, according to Reform, the evangelical Anglican campaigning network.

Speaking after a meeting of the Reform trustees, chairman Prebendary Rod Thomas said today (5th June) that the paper which will be considered by next month’s General Synod, contained some very encouraging sentiments, but these were not reflected in the substance of the proposals.

Preb. Rod Thomas welcomed the vision articulated in the paper for mutual flourishing; the re-iteration of the Lambeth1998 statement that both those in favour of women bishops and those who had theological objections to their introduction were loyal Anglicans; and the recognition that it would be wrong to make such meagre provision for opponents that they would see themselves as being treated on sufferance. He said that Reform members would also be likely to welcome the proposal that provision for opponents should be consistent across all dioceses and that there should be a clear process for dispute resolution.

However, by presenting a motion to next month’s General Synod that committed the future legislative process to the least generous of the options outlined in the paper, the legitimate concerns of many evangelicals were likely to be overlooked. In particular, the proposal for unqualified changes in both legislation and canon would leave many evangelicals in an impossible situation. Clergy who believe the Bible teaches male headship would be unable to take vows of canonical obedience to female bishops and this would effectively prevent them from undertaking much parish ministry.

Other concerns identified by Reform were:

  • The requirement for General Synod to vote on a way forward without having sight of the proposed provisions for those who were opposed on theological grounds to the Episcopal oversight of women;
  • The insecurity of the proposed methods for making provision (ie either an Act of Synod or a declaration by the House of Bishops) which can be changed at any stage in the future by a simple majority vote of the General Synod or House of Bishops; and
  • The proposed removal of the current legislative provisions by which parishes can request the appointment of male priests. This could leave them vulnerable to legal challenge under Equality legislation in the future.

Prebendary Rod Thomas, who took part in the facilitated discussions with the House of Bishops Working Group earlier this year, said that the Church’s synodical process left little room for substantive changes to the proposals. The majority, who favour the introduction of women bishops, are likely to vote the proposals through by simple majority until the time comes for a vote on final approval. Only then, when the majority required in each House of Synod is 2/3, will the views of the minority really count. ‘I have to hope that Synod agrees to amend the motion before it in July’, Preb Thomas said. ‘Failure to do so will make our efforts to find an agreed way forward very much more difficult to achieve.’

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 4:15pm BST | Comments (66) | TrackBack
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Some comments on the marriage bill debate and religion

Before the voting yesterday Andrew Brown had written at Cif belief The rump church opposition to gay marriage is naked patriarchy with the strapline:

It’s not the bill but evangelical opposition to it that weakens the status of the church and diminishes Christianity’s role in society

Andrew concludes this way:

…The fiasco over gay marriage is part of a general defeat for conservative Christians right now. The other wing, often involving the same people, is the collapse of resistance to women bishops in the Church of England. When I read that Conservative evangelicals are outraged at the prospect of admitting that women are lawfully bishops and their superiors and feel that they will have to lie or leave the church, as a recent press release stated, I want to break out the world’s smallest violin and play a jig on it.

All of their arguments have broken down into naked patriarchy, and that really isn’t an attractive sight, as the story of Noah makes clear.

There will always be conservative Christians, of course; and there will always be silly liberal policies which they are right to resist. But for the foreseeable future there won’t be any credible conservative Christian organisations to voice their fears.

And Paul Johnson had written on his ECHR Sexual Orientation Blog about UK Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and the ECHR:

…At the heart of legal arguments made by religious opponents of the Bill is the now regularly expressed fear that the rights of religious organizations are being trampled on by homosexuals in Strasbourg. Yet the reality is the opposite of this and the Court has repeatedly held that, in the sphere of relationship rights, it is for the member state to determine its own legal landscape. In this respect it is worth recalling the opinion of David Thór Björgvinsson (judge for Iceland, a member state that permits same-sex marriage) in Burden v the United Kingdom which, in reflecting on the development of civil partnership legislation in the UK, stated:

…it is important to have in mind that each and every step taken in this direction, positive as it may seem to be from the point of view of equal rights, potentially has important and far reaching consequences for the social structure of society, as well as legal consequences […] It is precisely for this reason that it is not the role of this Court to take the initiative in this matter and impose upon the Member States a duty further to extend the applicability of these rules with no clear view of the consequences that it may have in the different Member States. In my view it must fall within the margin of appreciation of the respondent State to decide when and to what extent this will be done.

After the vote, there were some positive religious responses;

Some other comment articles:

Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has written Christians divided as Lords back equal marriage Bill.

Damian Thompson wrote at the Telegraph Gay marriage is not a faith issue, says Archbishop of Canterbury. That sounds like a pretty big concession to me.

Stephen Hough writes in the Telegraph Equal marriage: could Justin Welby’s support save the Church of England?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 12:22pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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David Walker to be next Bishop of Manchester

The Prime Minister’s Office has announced that the next Bishop of Manchester is to be the Rt Revd David Walker, the suffragan Bishop of Dudley in the diocese of Worcester.

Approval of the nomination of the Right Reverend David Stuart Walker, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Dudley, for election as Bishop of Manchester.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend David Stuart Walker, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Dudley, for election as Bishop of Manchester in succession to the Right Reverend Nigel Simeon McCulloch, MA, on his resignation on 17 January 2013.

Notes for editors

The Right Reverend David Walker (aged 56) studied theology at Queen’s College, Birmingham. He served his first curacy at St Mary Handsworth, Sheffield from 1983 to 1986. From 1986 to 1991 he was Team Vicar and Industrial Chaplain at Maltby Team Ministry, Sheffield. From 1991 to 1995 he was Vicar of Bramley and Ravenfield, Sheffield before becoming the Team Rector of Bramley and Ravenfield with Hooton Roberts and Braithwell. He was made Honorary Canon of Sheffield Cathedral in June 2000. Since 2000 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Dudley in the diocese of Worcester. He has held a number of significant governance roles within the social housing movement as well as serving on Equality and Diversity Panels for the Homes and Communities Agency and the National Policing Improvement Agency.

David Walker is married to Sue and they have two children. His interests include politics, cricket, rambling, mathematical puzzles, reading and communications. He is an active researcher, using statistical methods to investigate the beliefs and practices of churchgoers.

The Diocese of Manchester has its own announcement here, which is copied below the fold.

John Bingham of the Daily Telegraph anticipated the official announcement by several hours with this piece: Outspoken cleric set to become Bishop of Manchester.

Charlotte Cox of the Manchester Evening News writes that New Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker, is outspoken critic of Government reforms.

Ed Thornton of the Church Times writes that Bishop of Dudley to move to Manchester.

Announcement from the Diocese of Manchester

The new Bishop of Manchester
Published: 05 June 2013

The Prime Minister has announced that the next Bishop of Manchester will be the Rt Revd David Walker. He is currently the Bishop of Dudley.

An experienced and highly regarded spiritual leader, Bishop David is passionate about issues that affect social housing, asylum seekers and the benefit cuts. In early 2013 he questioned both the content and presentation of government policy. Bishop David grew up in Greater Manchester and went to Manchester Grammar School.

Bishop David said; “I feel very honoured to have been asked to be the next Bishop of Manchester. I was born and grew up here and I’m delighted that I will now have the opportunity to give something back to the place that gave me my start in life. I am looking forward to working with the people and communities of what is one of the most richly diverse places in the world. I believe that the Christian faith and the Church of England have a great contribution to make to that richness and I am thrilled at being given a role that will allow me to be part of that.

“I ask the people of Manchester to hold me in their prayers as I prepare to take up my new role here.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Manchester said; “Four candidates were interviewed for this post. During interviews, Bishop David emerged as the ideal choice to be the next Bishop of Manchester. Following prayer and reflection it was agreed to ask the Prime Minister to appoint Bishop David and we are delighted that he has agreed.”

Biography

David Stuart Walker was born on 30 May 1957 and educated at Manchester Grammar School and King’s College, Cambridge. He took part in the International Mathematical Olympiad - the pinnacle of mathematical competition among high school students - in 1975.

After a period of study at Queen’s College, Birmingham he was ordained in 1983. His career began with a curacy at St Mary Handsworth, after which he was Team Vicar at Maltby, then Bramley before becoming a bishop. He has been Bishop of Dudley since 2000. He is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Glyndwr University.

David is married to Sue and they have two children.

Bishop David’s interests

Housing

Bishop David has particular experience in Social Housing, having served on the Board of the National Housing Federation from 1996 to 2002. He is a former Chair of South Yorkshire Housing Association and of Safe Haven (a non-profit asylum seeker accommodation service provider).

He currently chairs a small Special Needs Housing Association in Dudley which works particularly with faith based groups. He served on the Housing Management Policy Action Team set up by the Social Exclusion Unite, and wrote a regular column in Housing Today. Until 20120 he was Chair of HACT (Housing Authorities Charitable Trust) which is one of the leading national charities, working with the voluntary sector to help housing providers better meet the needs of tenants. He was also chair of CHADD (Churches Housing Association of Dudley and District) - Church-based special needs housing associations.

Diversity

Bishop David served on the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights panel for the College of Policing and until recently was on a similar body for the Homes and Communities Agency.

Immigration

Bishop David recently questioned the way politicians were exaggerating the negative impact of immigration, which he said was “wholly disproportionate” to the real threat.

www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/mar/23/immigration-fears-stoked-politicians-bishop

www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/03/24/bishop-cameron-has-betrayed-easter

Benefits

Bishop David was one of 43 bishops who signed a letter arguing that benefit cuts would have ‘deeply disproportionate effect’ on children.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21734140

How the bishop was chosen

Hundreds of people attended meetings to help identify the type of person the next Bishop of Manchester needed to be and to help explore what the task was for the next decade. From this process a Statement of Need was drawn up. A shortlist of candidates was drawn up and four candidates were interviewed.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 11:31am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

House of Lords defeats Lord Dear by large margin

The vote in the House of Lords on Lord Dear’s fatal amendment was 148 in favour of the amendment, i.e. to deny the bill a Second Reading, and 390 against the amendment. Accordingly, the bill was approved on Second Reading by a voice vote.

There were 14 Church of England bishops present and voting, of whom 9 supported the Dear amendment and 5 abstained. We will publish the names of the bishops as soon as they are available.

Bishops who supported the Dear amendment:

Birmingham
Bristol
Canterbury
Chester
Coventry
Exeter
Hereford
London
Winchester

Bishops who abstained:

Derby
Guildford
Leicester
Norwich
St.Edmundsbury & Ipswich

The Hansard record of the second day of debate begins here. An index of Tuesday’s speakers is here (scroll down to 3.06 pm). The Division occurred at 6.24 p.m.

The official analysis of the voting can be found here:

Contents: 148 | Not Contents: 390 | Result: N/A

Contents Total: 148
Bishops 9
Conservative 66
Crossbench 46
Labour 16
Liberal Democrat 2
Other 9

Not Contents Total: 390
Conservative 80
Crossbench 68
Labour 160
Liberal Democrat 73
Other 9

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 8:34pm BST | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Affirming Catholicism responds to plans for women bishops

Affirming Catholicism has today welcomed the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886. There is this brief press staement

The Board of Affirming Catholicism issues a strong welcome for the House of Bishops new legislative proposals to admit Women in the Episcopate of the Church of England (GS1886): simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality - and support for Option One.

and an accompanying paper setting out their views in detail. This is copied below.

Affirming Catholicism
Statement on the new Legislative Proposals to admit Women in the Episcopate of the Church of England (GS 1886)

Affirming Catholicism welcomes the publication of the new Legislative Proposals to admit Women in the Episcopate of the Church of England and the associated Report from the House of Bishops
(GS 1886).

We believe that the five elements of the underlying vision (laid out in § 24 of the proposals), as amended by the House of Bishops (presented at § 12 of their report), offer a very good basis for the drafting of new legislation:

  • Once legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
  • Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;
  • Since it will continue to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;
  • Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and
  • Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.

Affirming Catholicism particularly welcomes the first and second of these general principles, which make it clear that there can be no ambiguity over the ordination or consecration of women. We also endorse the continued commitment to the minority within the Church of England who cannot recognise these ordinations, expressed in the fourth and fifth, and share the concern for the ecumenical context expressed in the third.

This vision is helpfully elaborated in §§ 32-43 which set out the underlying principles which must govern any legislation: simplicity, reciprocity, and mutuality.

The principle of simplicity affirms that “the existing, already complex, structures of the Church of England will not be changed” and in particular that “the position of each diocesan bishop as Ordinary will remain unaltered.” In consequence, “all licensed ministers will continue to owe canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop in all things lawful and honest and take an oath to acknowledge this duty” (§ 33).

In our view, this principle ensures the preservation of the Church of England’s catholic ecclesiology; it is vital that should underlie any proposals for legislation. We note the similarity of the oath “of canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop in all things lawful and honest” to the oath of allegiance sworn to the Queen (arguably a consecrated woman!) at ordination.

The principle of reciprocity affirms the willingness of all members of the Church of England, regardless of their views, to cooperate in mission and ministry (§ 35). It also recognises the importance of – where necessary – making special arrangements both for those who cannot receive the priestly or episcopal ministry of women, and for those who affirm that ministry.

We welcome the assertion that “once the Church of England has admitted women to the episcopate … there should no longer be any dioceses where none of the serving bishops ordains women as priests” (§ 39) and the suggestion that “In dioceses where the diocesan bishop does not ordain women it will be particularly important that a bishop who is fully committed to the ordained ministry of women is given a role across the whole diocese for providing support for female clergy” (§ 40), noting however, that support for laity and male clergy who affirm the ordination of women may also be appropriate and necessary.

The principle of mutuality “will mean that the majority and the minority will be committed to making it possible for the other to flourish”; it articulates an ongoing commitment to the appointment of traditionalist clergy to senior posts, including as bishops (§§ 41, 43).

We applaud the recognition of the need for an on-going relationship between those who hold the majority and the minority opinions, which we believe to be vital to the mission of the Church of England.

Taken together, these principles reveal the Church of England’s strong commitment to holding all groups together under common episcopal authority whilst respecting their differences. This seems to us a very positive set of principles on which to proceed.

Affirming Catholicism also welcomes the suggestion that the legislation should “deliver new Canons C 2 and C 4 which deal with the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate without the need for separate canons which are gender specific” (§ 54) whilst offering provision for the minority which allows them to continue to flourish. The precise form of this provision will depend on the way forward agreed by General Synod.

The working party suggests four possible ways forward:

1. This, the simplest way forward, would involve: a measure and amending canon which would made it lawful for women to become bishops; the repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the 1993 Measure, together with the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod; a formal declaration by the House of Bishops and/or by the making of a new Act of Synod making provision for those who do not recognise the sacramental ministry of women; and provision of monitoring body and a dispute resolution procedure to ensure fair treatment under these provisions. (§§ 79-88; HOB Report §§ 14, 28)

2. This would look like option 1, but would include a provision in the Measure to couple it with an Act of Synod agreed by the Synod before final approval of the Measure; it might also include a requirement requiring that neither the Act of Synod nor the Measure could not amended or repealed without two-thirds majorities in each House. (§§ 89-95)

3. This would put in place a House of Bishops’ declaration or Act of Synod in relation to episcopal ministry and would also retain some elements of the 1993 Measure in relation to priestly ministry. (§§ 96-109) The working party is uncertain of the wisdom of this way forward, and in the House of Bishops it found only limited support.

4. The final option is to include more detail in the measure, as in the draft measure which was defeated in November. (§§ 110-120) Neither the working group nor the House of Bishops favours this route.

The House of Bishops has indicated its preference for the first of these options. Affirming Catholicism strongly endorses that preference. We recognise that the details of the provisions for the minority through an associated Act of Synod and/or declaration by the House of Bishops, still need to be worked out, and these must be clear before General Synod is asked to proceed. While we note that in law there is little distinction between an Act of Synod or a Declaration by the Bishops, and that neither can create “enforceable rights and duties”, we would welcome the provision of a dispute resolution procedure overseen by a monitoring body; this, we believe, would guard against failure to comply and against divisive use, whilst fostering trust. Moreover, we believe that Option 1 will best preserve the catholic nature of the Church of England, by encouraging all groups to recognise each other and to work together in a spirit of trust and generosity.

Finally, Affirming Catholicism applauds the bishops’ sense of urgency. Much damage has been done by General Synod’s rejection of the draft legislation in November 2012 and it is important to find a way forward before more people leave the Church of England. For the well-being of the church, we would not wish to cede the initiative to Parliament.

Affirming Catholicism, June 2013

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Forward in Faith responds to plans for women bishops

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Forward in Faith have issued this statement on the House of Bishops report GS 1886 Women In the Episcopate - New Legislative Proposals. They do not like the bishops’ proposals.

WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE: NEW LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS
STATEMENT FROM FORWARD IN FAITH

We are grateful for the work of the working group whose report is annexed to the House of Bishops report GS 1886 (‘Women in the Episcopate – New Legislative Proposals’). We strongly welcome the House of Bishops’ endorsement of the group’s five-point vision (para. 12 of the House’s report).

However, we are puzzled by the conclusions that the House has apparently drawn from the working group’s report.

We continue to believe that a solution to address the new reality of women bishops will need to build on the existing framework which has enabled us to live together in the Church of England over the last twenty years. We agree with the view that there can be ‘no cheap trust’. Our future can only be based on a mutually trusting relationship. The proposal of legislation which sweeps away existing legal security damages trust.

In November, an attempt to push through a Measure with legal provisions which no representative of the minority recognized as remotely adequate failed – after much prayer and invocation of the Holy Spirit. We are puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals, which would involve no legally binding provision at all, are more likely to gain the necessary majorities.

As an organization whose members are overwhelmingly lay, the fact that the House of Bishops’ proposals would involve a significant shift of power in favour of incumbents and bishops is of particular concern to us. So too is the fact that the proposals would expose lay representatives, as well as incumbents and priests in charge, to the risk of incurring significant costs in defending themselves against legal challenges.

We still hope that the ‘new way forward’ promised in February will involve prayer, reconciliation, mutual respect and consensus. We welcome the facilitated conversations as a means of moving towards this end. We do not believe that the House of Bishops’ preferred option (Option 1) represents the mind of the whole Church of England.

We therefore hope that the General Synod will choose a way forward which builds on the existing arrangements rather one which destroys them. Such legislation would be far more likely to secure final approval in the shortest possible time.

Our comments and questions are set out in more detail in the document which accompanies this statement.

+ JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
Chairman

LINDSAY NEWCOMBE
Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Vice-Chairman

4 June 2013

The comments and questions are below the fold.

GS 1886 – COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS FROM FORWARD IN FAITH

1. In commenting on the ‘Report from the House of Bishops’ on new legislative proposals, we begin by reiterating that we are not trying to prevent women from becoming bishops in the Church of England.

2. Rather, we are trying to ensure that new legislation will provide a firm basis for those who uphold the traditional understanding of the Church and its ministry and sacraments to continue to flourish within the Church of England. We cannot see that the House of Bishops’ proposal would achieve this.

3. The Secretary General’s note about ‘a new way forward’ (GS Misc 1042), circulated in February with the agreement of the House of Bishops, reported that the facilitated conversations revealed ‘strong support for giving the highest priority to finding a solution which will enable legislation to be approved by Synod on the fastest possible timetable’ (para. 9) – involving final approval by the present Synod. We are puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals will achieve this.

4. The House of Bishops’ proposal would transfer power from the laity (who currently have the ability to pass the legally binding Resolutions A and B) to bishops, patrons, and incumbents or priests in charge, who would be free to take ‘discretionary decisions’ (GS 1886: Annex, para. 88) about appointments and ministry in parishes, ‘taking such account as they wished of any statements declarations or guidance that the House of Bishops might have made nationally’ (Annex, para. 83). As the great majority of Forward in Faith’s members are laypeople (including very large numbers of lay women), we note this with particular concern. We are also puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that this new proposal is more likely to commend itself to the House of Laity than the Measure which failed in November.

5. Reference is made to the legal right of representatives of the laity to veto parochial appointments. However, we note that if the Bishop suspends presentation to the living, as happens in a great many cases, parish representatives have no legal right to veto the appointment of a priest in charge.

6. We note with concern that, as the report admits, there would be a possibility of litigation against lay representatives exercising their veto on the presentation of an incumbent, in which case they would be ‘personally exposed to having to defend (at their own cost) their decision’ (Annex, para. 133). Again, we are puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that this new proposal is more likely to commend itself to the House of Laity than the Measure which failed in November.

7. We further note with concern that an incumbent or priest in charge who declined to nominate a female curate ‘would be in a similar position’ (Annex, para. 134).

8. GS 1042 included four propositions from the working group which ‘commanded a wide measure of endorsement’ in the facilitated conversations (para. 17). The fourth of these (paras 28-9) was that any new package would need to fulfil two objectives:

  • to produce a shorter, simpler measure than the one that was defeated;
  • to provide, through the totality of the elements in the package, a greater sense of security for the minority as having an accepted and valued place in the Church of England while not involving the majority in any new element of compromise on matters of principle.

The House of Bishops’ new proposal is to repeal the 1993 Measure (including Resolutions A and B) without replacing them with any legal provision at all. This cannot fulfil the objective of providing ‘a greater sense of security for the minority’ than the Measure which failed in November.

9. While trust and grace are obviously important elements in the life of the Church, we agree with the Church Times in noting:

  • that ‘the Church never relies on grace alone: hence canon law’,
  • that the current lack of trust can be attributed to ‘a failure to embrace the spirit of the legislation of 1992-93, compounded by the movement to repeal it’, and
  • that, in short, there can be ‘no cheap trust’.

10. The 1993 settlement included elements that are difficult for female priests and their supporters. It also included elements that are difficult for us. That is the nature of compromise. Despite those elements of difficulty, we continue to believe that the 1993 settlement has essentially worked and that only a solution which builds on it rather than destroying it stands any chance of commending itself to a sufficiently broad range of members of the Church of England and of the General Synod.

11. In November 2012 a legislative process that had begun six years earlier (with the appointment of a legislative drafting group) ended in failure. At no stage in the process had there been any evidence that the legislation would command the support of the necessary two-thirds in the House of Laity. The fact that the legislative process was nevertheless pursued to its predictable conclusion has been hugely damaging for the Church of England’s credibility. To embark upon a fresh legislative process on the basis of proposals that would appear to stand even less chance of commanding the necessary breadth of support would be highly irresponsible.

12. We continue to be committed to playing our full part in working to identify a way forward that is based on consensus and will command the necessary breadth of support.

4 June 2013

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CofE House of Lords Second Reading briefing

The Church of England issued this briefing note to members of the House of Lords in preparation for the Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It includes a Q and A section which goes into a number of details.

For convenience of comparison, here is a link to what was issued at the time of the Report/Third Reading in the House of Commons.

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House of Lords debate Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Updated Tuesday lunchtime

The Hansard report of the first day of debate is now available starting here at 3.10 pm, and continuing at 6.01 pm, after a half hour interruption for other urgent business, over here. The debate adjourned at 10.46 pm. It will resume today at around 3 pm.

A full index of speeches by speaker is here (scroll down).

Links to speeches by bishops and former bishops:

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s own record of his own speech can be found on his own website.

In his speech Hansard says he said that:

…Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the passage of the Civil Partnership Act through your Lordships’ House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should…

Whereas in his own transcript he says that he said:

Although the majority of Bishops who voted during the whole passage of the Civil Partnerships Act through your Lordships’ House were in favour of civil partnerships a few years ago, it is also absolutely true that the church has often not served the LGBT communities in the way it should. [emphasis added]

Update Hansard has been modified, and the word “whole” has been [re-]inserted in the sentence in the official record. Those who have studied the analysis linked below will see why the inclusion of this word is so significant.

TA readers will recall that back in June 2012 we published this detailed analysis of how the bishops spoke and voted on this matter, prepared by Richard Chapman: The Lords Spiritual and Civil Partnerships Legislation.

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Monday, 3 June 2013

Catholic Group in General Synod responds to plans for women bishops

Updated Thursday 6 June

The Church Times is reporting: Traditionalists saddened by latest women-bishop proposals. The traditionalists referred to are the Catholic Group in General Synod.

THE House of Bishops preference for the provision of women bishops, “option one” (News, 31 May), has been severely criticised by the Catholic Group in General Synod as a “step backwards”.

In the first detailed traditionalist response, the group’s chairman, Canon Simon Killwick, says that they are “saddened” by the Bishops’ preference, accusing them of “closing down debate before it has started”.

The statement is not yet on the Group’s own website, but can be read at the end of the Church Times article.

Update

The Group has now sent us a copy of their statement and this is copied below the fold.

Statement on behalf of the Catholic Group in General Synod

ONE STEP FORWARD ~ ONE STEP BACK

We welcome the report of the Working Party set up by the House of Bishops (annexed to GS 1886) as a significant step forward towards legislation for women bishops in the Church of England.

The Church of England needs a settlement which will provide both for women bishops, and for those who are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops, on grounds of theological conviction – convictions which are supported by Holy Scripture, and the consensus of the wider Church. We recognise in the five propositions in the report, taken together, the possible basis for a settlement - with the exception of the reference to canonical obedience.

What is needed now is the building of a sufficiently large consensus behind legislative proposals that they are capable of comfortably receiving the necessary two-thirds majorities in all three Houses of the Synod.

We are saddened by the selection of option one (the simplest possible legislation) by the House of Bishops at this early stage. This feels like a step backwards in the process, closing down debate before it has started, and rendering facilitated conversations between Synod members pointless. Option one will not help to achieve a consensus; it will not create legislation capable of achieving the required majorities. It would tear up the current settlement over women priests, and replace it with arrangements which no one would be obliged to follow. The effects would be felt most by the laity, who would not only lose their existing legal rights, but could also be open to legal challenge under the Equality Act. Option one would unbalance the five propositions, giving most weight to the first two, and less weight to the other three.

The option preferred by the bishops relies simply on trust to provide for those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops and priests. We regulate other areas of church life in great detail by law – measures, canons and regulations – and we see no justification for abandoning that approach in relation to one of the most controversial areas of our church life. Were option one to be accepted, we would be in the strange situation that who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist would be governed by grace and trust, while who administers Holy Communion would be determined by regulations made under canon.

We believe that the way forward lies in holding together all of the five propositions, without giving any of them more prominence than the others. The retention of Resolutions A and B from the current settlement would provide the essential underpinning for any future arrangements to honour the last three propositions; the arrangements need to be secure, and not dependent on the discretionary decisions of individual bishops, clergy, PCCs, patrons and parish representatives. Further consideration still needs to be given to issues concerning the jurisdiction of diocesan bishops, and oaths of canonical obedience – consideration which had the support of majorities of the General Synod and the Revision Committee at different times in the past.

We will continue to reflect and pray, and consult with others, before deciding what amendments to propose to the Synod in July, in order to move the process forwards and build consensus.

Canon Simon Killwick
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

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Why supporting Lord Dear's amendment could be a disaster for the CofE

Bishop Alan Wilson has published an analysis of the constitutional implications of bishops supporting Lord Dear’s fatal amendment under the title Perils of the Aristocracy: A Political Scientist Writes…

The political scientist in question is Dr Iain McLean, Professor of Politics at Oxford University, Fellow of Nuffield College, and Vice President for Public Policy of the British Academy.

His analysis is reproduced in full below the fold.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary advisers to the bishops who tweet at @churchstate have denied that any advice to abstain etc. has been issued to bishops as described by John Bingham in the Telegraph.

There are reports that the Lords Spiritual, or some of them, will support Lord Dear’s “fatal motion” to deny the Bill a second reading. This would be disastrous to the mission of the Church of England. The Bishop of Leicester, as Convener of the Lords Spiritual, should do all in his power to ensure that at least a majority of the bishops present do not support the fatal motion.

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 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 (Church Times 24.05.13)

The Bishops of Leicester and Chester have put their names down to speak in the debate, as have Lord Carey of Clifton and Lord Harries of Pentregarth.

Six reasons why supporting the fatal motion would be disastrous for the C of E’s mission.

  • The core proposal is to allow same-sex civil marriage. The elected house of Parliament supports this by a majority of 2 to 1. The people support it by a stable majority. Although religious people are less supportive than non-religious people, Anglicans are close to evenly divided. The unelected house needs to move very cautiously in the face of these figures. The statutory regime for civil marriage in England & Wales was created in 1753 and has been changed numerous times, with civil divorce being permitted since 1857. The civil marriage regime is not a creature of canon law, despite a recent mistaken claim by the Archbishop of York.
  • Success of the fatal motion would violate the religious freedom of those who in conscience wish to solemnize same-sex weddings: currently the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarians, Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism. All of these have suffered from religious discrimination in the past. British Quakers came to unity in 2009 in support of same-sex marriage in Meetings according to the usage of Friends. The Quaker method relies on discernment of the inner Light, not on majority rule. If there is not unity as to the leadings of the Light, Quakers do not take a position. Their position on this matter should therefore be given considerable deference. An explanation of the Quaker theology behind it is here.
  • As the bishop of Leicester’s reported remarks acknowledge, the Government has put very substantial protections in place for the religious freedom of those whose conscience does not permit them to approve of or take part in same-sex religious weddings. If the fatal motion succeeds, the Lords Spiritual will have no further opportunity to improve the protection of conscientious objectors because the bill will be enacted under the Parliament Act without Lords’ consent (see below).
  • The Church of England often states that the role of the Lords Spiritual is to provide a religious perspective on current moral issues. But on this subject religious opinion is divided. See above; also the http://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news/bishop-restateshttp://www.salisbury.anglican.org/news/bishop-restates from the Bishop of Salisbury to Lord Alli. When religious opinion is divided, the only proper course for a religious representative in the legislature is to plead for freedom of conscience. That must mean, equally, the freedom of Quakers to conduct same-sex marriages, and the freedom of Anglicans to refuse to conduct them.
  • Opposition to the will of the Commons (on this matter, and on the matter of women bishops) imperils the future right of bishops to sit in the legislature. If the bishops, or their convener, support the Dear motion, it is extremely likely that a proposal to remove them from the legislature will be in both the Labour and the Liberal Democrat General Election manifestos for 2015.
  • If carried, the Dear motion will lead only to the Commons’ use of the Parliament Act 1949 to pass the Bill without Lords’ consent. Even if the Prime Minister does not want to invoke the Parliament Act, there is a sufficient majority in the Commons to ensure that it will be invoked if needed. The Lords Spiritual should consider what happened in 1832 and in 1911.
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Sunday, 2 June 2013

Lord Alli speaks about the marriage bill and the bishops

Oliver Wright in the Independent has an interview with Labour peer Lord Alli: Lord Alli: ‘I was called sinful and dirty. And that was in a Lords debate’. It includes the following comments on the bishops:

…He divides the opponents of gay marriage into two distinct categories. “There are those who have deeply held religious views and then there is a second group who oppose now but will probably repent later.

“They were the type of people who voted against the equalisation of consent and regretted it. They are the people who voted against civil partnerships and regretted it. And I’ll believe they’ll vote against gay marriage and they’ll regret it in five years’ time.

“I telephone them, I write to them I text them I try and make them turn up. I try and discuss the issues that worry them. It’s all the things you would expect me to do.”

But he is also attempting to persuade the Bishops – 26 of whom have seats in the Lords – not to present a unified front against gay marriage and to recognise that they do not speak for the whole Church when they oppose it.

To this end he recently had a meeting with the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that led to a rather remarkable public letter from the Bishop of Salisbury that challenged Church of England orthodoxy.

“I said that I knew there were people in the Church – such as the Bishop of Salisbury – who were supportive of gay marriage and I asked him [that] if I went to see him and asked him to do a piece would he have your blessing? He said ‘Absolutely. And that goes for any bishop.’”

So that’s what Alli did; leading to a 1,200-word letter from the Bishop, now being sent to every peer, in which he explains why he does not agree with the current orthodoxy.

Alli thinks there are more who share the view of the Bishop of Salisbury but for political reasons find it harder to speak out. “You go to a meeting and they give their position and their eyes almost roll as they are leaving the room,” he says.

“Some of them don’t fundamentally believe their own position on this.”

He also points out the inherent contradiction in the Church of England’s position – that while they are protected from having to conduct gay marriages they don’t want to give other groups the freedom to do so.

“They argue religious freedom except where they don’t like it. They don’t want gay marriage – so that means the Quakers can’t have it or the liberal Jews can’t have it. They’re in a pretty hypocritical place.”

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Pressure on bishops to abstain in House of Lords debate

John Bingham reports in the Telegraph Bishops under pressure to abstain in gay marriage vote.

Despite vocal opposition from the Church to the Government’s plans to allow same-sex couples to marry, it is understood that senior officials have personally urged bishops to stay away from this week’s vote.

They fear that a large bloc of clerics turning up to vote down the bill could rebound on the Church, reopening questions over the right of bishops to sit in the Lords and even raise the prospect of disestablishment.

They have also told bishops privately that they are convinced the bill, which includes legal “locks” to prevent clergy being forced to carry out same-sex weddings against their beliefs, is the “best” they could hope to achieve…

And this:

…In a letter to be handed in to Lambeth Palace this morning, 30 leaders of independent churches, including a string of so-called “black majority” churches, warn that the church of England faces a “defining point” over the issue of same-sex marriage.

It is understood that the Archbishop intends both to speak and vote against the bill. But officials are anxious not to be seen to be taking on the Government over the issue. Last night Lambeth Palace confirmed that Archbishop Welby would attend but declined to comment on how he would vote.

A recent Church of England briefing note to MPs warmly praised the Government for introducing legal protections for clerics.

A total of 26 bishops are entitled to sit in the Lords - although the bishops’ bench is currently reduced with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, recovering from a cancer operation, and the see of Durham left vacant by Archbishop Welby’s promotion to Canterbury.

But under current convention they take turns to sit in the Lords, with usually only two bishops in attendance for most debates.

Officials in Church House are said to have urged bishops to limit their numbers to around six at the most for the controversial debate. It is thought that up to 10 of them could defy the advice and vote against the bill.

The officials are said to be afraid that were the bill to be defeated by a handful of votes, the bishops would be singled out for blame.

One senior source said that officials in the Church had begun to “call the shots more and more” during the last 10 years, under the tenure of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams.

“What they are scared of is that this goes down by a few votes and then the bishops are seen as having swung the vote,” said one…

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Saturday, 1 June 2013

opinion

Theo Hobson writes the first of two articles for The Guardian: Eureka! My quest for an authentic liberal Christianity.
And Dave Marshall of Modern Church also writes about liberal theology in No need to whisper.

Nick Duerden of The Independent interviews the Rev Richard Coles: ‘I don’t have any concerns that God is cross with me for being gay and eventually the Church won’t either’.

T M Luhrmann writes for The new York Times that Belief Is the Least Part of Faith.

Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that Wickedness, allied to the ‘truth’ of religious belief, can lead us to evil acts.

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More articles for and against same sex marriage

Civitas has published a set of essays from a very wide range of viewpoints. See Gay marriage: the debate for an explanation.

With the row over gay marriage set to reach the House of Lords on Monday, Civitas today publishes a wide-ranging collection of essays from the leading figures on both sides of this most polarised of debates.

The Meaning of Matrimony: Debating Same-Sex Marriage is edited by our deputy director Anastasia de Waal who, while herself strongly in favour of the reform, has sought to bring under one roof all of the arguments - for and against - to provide a definitive guide to the debate.

Most striking is the vehemence of opinion among so many intelligent, rational people with such different – often diametrically opposing – views…

The essays are in this PDF file: The Meaning of Matrimony.

Also, Andrew Goddard has written Misrepresenting same-sex marriage: The Bishop of Salisbury.

On the other hand, the Chief Executive of Barnardo’s is urging peers in the House of Lords to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couple) Bill and says “equal marriage will have a positive effect for children growing up in a gay household.” See this article by Anne Marie Carrie.

Update

There is a commentary on one of the Civitas articles in this piece at Ekklesia by Savi Hensman Carey’s scaremongering on equal marriage, polygamy and incest.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 June 2013 at 7:51am BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation