Friday, 28 February 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 6

Updated yet again Saturday morning

First of all, a roundup of links on the story so far. Episode 5 was here. Earlier episodes all linked from there.

Since our original publication of Linda Woodhead’s article An error in the House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage we had a follow-up in More about historical error in the House of Bishops statement.

And we have also reported that the LGBTI Anglican Coalition sends open letter to House of Bishops and Bishop of Oxford writes to his clergy on same-sex marriage.

Now the new items.

Today in the Church Times there is Sexuality ‘fudge’ sticks in critics’ throats by Tim Wyatt and Gavin Drake. This quotes the Archbishop of York:

Dr Sentamu, speaking at a meeting of Jewish and Christian students in Durham in the middle of last week, said that the Church of England’s position was that “a clergy person has a right, an expectation, to live within the teaching of the Church, but for lay people and others they should be welcomed into the Church.

“Immediately, when you say that, people say that I’m homophobic. You can’t win on this one. How can I, on one hand, uphold the teaching of sexuality as I see it in scripture, and yet, at the same time, say - this is Anglican fudge - that people’s sexual orientation cannot lead to discrimination because they’re human beings just like anybody else, and God loves them deeply?

“As far as I’m concerned, whatever the sexual orientation, gay people are people, and they need to be given the same protection.”

The story also reports that:

In addition, a group of 21 academics has stated that a statement in the Bishops’ guidance “is wrong”. The guidance suggested that the legalisation of gay marriage meant that, “for the first time” civil law and C of E doctrine of marriage diverged.

The academics, who include Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor David Martin, and Professor Linda Woodhead, call this “inaccurate and misleading”, arguing that the Church’s understanding of marriage has differed from civil law since at least 1857, around questions of divorce and second marriage.

In reply, the secretary to the House of Bishops, William Fittall, wrote this week that the bishops knew that canon law and statute law had not been identical for years.

He maintained, however, that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex partners was of a different order of disagreement.

He also said that the point about a divergence between canon and statute law was not essential to the bishops’ theological case.

The full text of the letter, which has now been sent to all members of the House of Bishops, is available below the fold.

Update 1 The CofE Communications Office on Friday afternoon published Full Correspondence with Professor Linda Woodhead on Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance.

Update 2 Alan Wilson has published Who’s fooling who about history?

…It seems to me vastly unfair on those who struggled against Deceased Wife’s Sister marriages between 1842 and 1907 to suggest that a marriage setup that ran counter to Leviticus 18:18 should be a minor matter of “accidents” whilst one that potentially breaches Leviticus 18:24 should be a fundamental, matter of “substance.”

What really intrigues me about the whole rhetoric of “redefinition” developed by the Moral Majority on the West Coast in the 1990’s is how appealing it is to those who don’t want to allow gay people to marry, but how completely ineffective it has been with everyone else. Not only did it pancake seriously in both houses of the UK parliament, but all those right wing websites that swore to carry on the struggle after the legislation went through last year seem to have packed up and gone home. I wonder why?

Update 3 It appears that Update 1 left out one of the emails received by Linda Woodhead.

[Original article continues]

And there is an analysis of the Bishop of Oxford’s letter by David Pocklington here: Oxon Ad Clerum: Bishops’ Pastoral Statement

The Church Times also carries a very interesting article by Will Adam titled Breaking the rules on gay marriage but this is available only to subscribers.

The Bishop of Salisbury issued this statement: Bishop Calls Attention to Same-Sex Marriage Guidance.

27th February 2014
Dear Bishop,

Error in the Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriages

We write to alert you to the fact that an important statement in the Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriages issued on 14th February is wrong.

The guidance claims that: “There will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.” - House of Bishops, 14th Feb 2014, Appendix, para 9.

This is inaccurate. Civil law and church teaching have diverged before, on at least two occasions. The first was in relation to the marriage to a deceased wife’s sister, the second in relation to the remarriage of divorcees.

There has been a robust discussion of this topic between experts on ecclesiastical history, law and sociology which Dr Scot Peterson summarises here.

We are all in agreement that the statement in the Bishops Guidance is mistaken and misleading. Since it forms an important part of the case which is being made, we felt it was right to draw the mistake to your attention. We respectfully ask that it be corrected.

Our attempts to resolve this matter by writing to Mr Arora and Mr Fittall have failed. There is growing concern amongst the academic community about the situation.

Looking to the future, some of us are anxious to improve channels of communication with the Church, so that our research and scholarship can be used constructively. If you would be interested in a meeting to discuss this issue, we would be very grateful if you would reply to Professor Woodhead.

Yours truly,
Professor Callum Brown FRSE, University of Glasgow
Professor Arthur Burns, King’s College London
The Revd Dr Mark Chapman, Ripon College Cuddesdon
Professor Grace Davie, University of Exeter
The Revd Duncan Dormor, St John’s College, University of Cambridge
Professor Kenneth Fincham, University of Kent
Professor Sarah Foot, Christ Church, University of Oxford
Dr Matthew Guest, University of Durham
The Revd Dr Carolyn Hammond, Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge (member of FAOC)
Professor Gerard Loughlin, University of Durham
Elizabeth MacFarlane, St John’s College, University of Oxford
The Revd Dr Judith Maltby, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford
Professor Iain McLean FBA, Nuffield College, Oxford
Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch FBA, Saint Cross College, University of Oxford
The Revd Professor David Martin FBA, London School of Economics
Dr Charlotte Methuen, University of Glasgow (member FAOC)
The Revd Dr Jeremy Morris, King’s College, University of Cambridge
Dr Scot Peterson, Balliol College, University of Oxford
Professor Alec Ryrie, University of Durham
The Revd Dr Robert Tobin, Oriel College, University of Oxford
Revd Dr William Whyte, St John’s College Oxford
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham
Professor John Wolffe, The Open University, President of the Ecclesiastical History Society
Professor Linda Woodhead, University of Lancaster

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 28 February 2014 at 9:18am GMT | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Statement from the Church Commissioners on Wells Palace

Statement from the Church Commissioners on Wells Palace

27 February 2014

The Bishop’s Palace at Wells was discussed by the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners at its meeting last Tuesday (25th February). This was the first meeting of the Board since it made its decision at the end of November last year.

At the meeting the Commissioners were given an opportunity to read the correspondence received and examine the petition recently presented to the Secretary to the Commissioners. They were also provided with a report of the public meeting attended by Sir Tony Baldry MP.

During their discussion the Commissioners discussed the views of those opposed to their decision and acknowledged the strong feelings that the decision had aroused within the diocese. It was noted that there were also voices of support for the decision.

The Commissioners reiterated their understanding that the ministry of the new Bishop should not be encumbered or restricted by being housed in a place with a high level of public access which is guaranteed and even encouraged in relation to which he might be expected to fulfil a significant role.

Reference was made to the statement of needs for the new Bishop of Bath and Wells which recommended that “the bishop will need to develop a new, and less demanding, relationship with the Palace Trust, in order to be able to focus better on the life of the wider diocese.”

The Commissioners also reiterated their support for the Bishop’s working arrangements and the shared offices of the Bishop of Bath & Wells and the Bishop of Taunton situated in the north wing of the Palace and for the Bishop’s Chapel which will continue to be used for daily prayer, a weekly staff Eucharist, and other services.

The Commissioners agreed that a group would investigate and consult on alternative uses for the Bishop’s apartment in the Palace which would be consonant with the continued rhythm of work and worship at the heart of the Palace.

In reaffirming their decision the Commissioners also confirmed their intention to write formally to the standing committee of the Bishop’s Council in the Diocese of Bath and Wells with notice of their intention for the Bishop’s residence to be moved from the Palace to a new temporary residence.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 27 February 2014 at 11:17am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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GAFCON chairman criticises CofE bishops for support of same-sex marriages

The Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, writes in his capacity as Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council to the “Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends”. The letter includes the following passage:

…After the praise that greeted the news that Oxford University is to honour the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States with an honorary Doctorate in Divinity, it was helpful to be reminded of the sober facts in the Statement issued by the Global South Primates Steering Committee last week. It was recognized that ‘the fabric of the Communion was torn at its deepest level as a result of the actions taken by The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada since 2003’ and the Communion’s London based institutions were described as ‘dysfunctional’.

The breadth of the wide gate can be dangerously appealing as an easy choice, avoiding the need for theological discernment and church discipline. This is why I have already written a response ( earlier this month to the Statement of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about pastoral care for people who engage in same sex relationships.

Sadly, the lack of clarity in that statement about the biblical understanding of such relationships has been repeated in the pastoral guidance issued subsequently by the Church of England’s House of Bishops as same sex ‘marriage’ becomes legal in England and Wales next month. While the Church’s official teaching on marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman is affirmed, it is effectively contradicted by the permission given for prayers to be said for those entering same sex ’marriages’…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 27 February 2014 at 10:27am GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Bishop of Oxford writes to his clergy on same-sex marriage

From the Diocese of Oxford website: Bishop John writes to clergy on same-sex marriage.

In a letter to the clergy in the Diocese of Oxford today (26 February 2014), Bishop John writes about the recent statement by the House of Bishops on same-sex marriage.

“This is a very difficult part of the letter to get right. I know that what I write will be unacceptable to gay clergy who despair of the Church of England, and to conservatives who will see compromise looming. But I can’t not write about the Pastoral Letter and Appendix on Same Sex Marriage which emerged recently. I wish I could talk individually to everyone in order to engage properly and personally, but we all know this is impossible. I sit amongst many different loyalties and seek to honour as many of them as possible.

“First I apologise for the tone of the letter (or rather the Appendix). It was written by committee and that is always bad news. This is a deeply personal issue, indeed a visceral one, and every word and inference is capable of harm. I hope it’s common ground that we are part of a Church which is called to real repentance for the lack of welcome and acceptance extended to gay and lesbian people. Nor have we listened well to those whose voice has not been heard, including the experience of those called to celibacy, those in committed same sex relationships, and clergy who have lovingly and sensitively ministered to gay couples over the years.

“It was never going to be likely that the House of Bishops would change two thousand years of teaching during a day in February at Church House Westminster. The intention was to respond to a new legal situation in the context of a longer conversation in the Church about an issue which has theological, biblical, ethical, missiological and ecclesiological implications. This longer conversation is what the Pilling report has asked us to do and to which the College of Bishops is committed.

“The House was also aware of a huge level of interest and concern from other parts of the Anglican Communion, and from other denominations and faith traditions. The Archbishop told us how in the previous few days, literally in the midst of corpses and tales of systematic rape, he had been quizzed by his African episcopal hosts about the Pilling Report, such was their anxiety.

“The resulting letter and appendix is supposed to be a holding statement on the logical position of the House in the new situation, given the Church’s history and teaching – while the longer conversation goes on. The fact that this was done in a way which has caused dismay is a source of huge regret to me but that’s back to my first point above.

“The longer conversation is one on which David Porter, the Archbishop’s Adviser on Reconciliation, is to give advice in three or four months, having worked on the task with a well-chosen group.

“I appreciate that some are unwilling to participate in this process on the grounds that they believe the scriptural position is perfectly clear and ‘facilitated conversation’ can only mean an intention to change, while conversely others will be wary because they believe that to have participated in a process that didn’t in the end change anything might expose them to adverse treatment by bishops and/or others. Nevertheless, I dare to ask that we do enter the conversation with integrity and trust because we do need to seek God’s mind and heart, and we can’t do this without all of us being round the table and being honest with each other.

“I also know that many will be reluctant to examine the biblical material yet again. But the Bible is our core authority and issues of both exegesis and hermeneutical method are crucial. Let me be absolutely honest here. I don’t expect that many people will change their mind through this biblical exploration. I hope some might, because we must have the highest loyalty to truth, but in reality I don’t expect many to change their basic position.

“What I do very much hope, however, is that we can get to a point where we can respect the integrity of the biblical interpretation of others. I hope we can come to understand deeply why others take a different view, and to respect that conviction even though we disagree, perhaps profoundly. None of us is taking a cavalier attitude to biblical authority, but thoughtful, honest people can thoughtfully, honestly disagree.

“The task then becomes twofold: to discover how much we can agree on, and to learn how to disagree well on what we can’t agree on. Archbishop Justin often uses that phrase ‘disagree well’. So then the third question becomes whether we want to affirm that spectrum of honest belief or detach ourselves from it. I dearly want to keep intact the range and scale of the Church of England’s theology, and we will be grievously hurt by the loss of any from the richness of our calling and our reach in the nation’s life.

“As you will know from my statement EQUAL MARRIAGE LEGISLATION Dec 2012 I have been very happy to affirm civil partnerships as a positive development which gives same sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples. As that statement says, such relationships ‘are capable of the same level of love, permanence and loyalty as marriage, and I believe God delights in such qualities’.

“Nevertheless I believe that to say that civil partnership is the same thing as marriage is a category confusion. To use a musical image, nature has its ‘theme and variations’, both part of the music, but not the same thing. I have therefore looked for different ways of recognising two different patterns of relationship. I realise that that puts me at odds with most people on both ‘sides’ of the argument! And society has largely gone past that argument now anyway. The issue has become same sex marriage, though some may still want to opt for a form of civil partnership.

“So where do we end up? That’s just the point – we don’t know. The Pilling Report urges us to talk, and although it makes at least one recommendation about the recognition of a same sex relationship in a public service, its main recommendation is to talk and listen so that God may be heard. And that voice of God will undoubtedly be a gracious, gentle and challenging voice, just as I trust our conversations with each other will be marked by humility and grace.

“It’s quite clear that these conversations take place in a wider context of deep sexual confusion in society with everyone making up their own script, and the result is much chaos and pain. We have a responsibility to model something better in the way we handle principle and practice, disagreement and hope.

“As I wrote at the start, I’m sorry that the attempt by the House of Bishops to hold the ancient borders while the conversation goes on has proved so divisive in itself. The train crash was probably inevitable; the only question was when, where and involving how many. But be sure of this – there will be no witch-hunts in this diocese. We are seeking to live as God’s people, in God’s world, in God’s way. And we do that best as we stand shoulder to shoulder and look together at the cross, and at its heart see an empty tomb.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 at 10:40pm GMT | Comments (55) | TrackBack
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LGBTI Anglican Coalition sends open letter to House of Bishops

As a follow-up to the press release issued last week in response to the House of Bishops Pastoral Statement, the LGBTI Anglican Coalition has sent an open letter to all members of the House of Bishops.

The statement on the Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, issued by the House of Bishops 14 February 2014 has caused a great deal of anger and dismay amongst the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Communities, not least because its tone and action has foreclosed on many of the issues which should be the subject of the facilitated discussions called for in the Pilling Report. We remain committed to these discussions but given the breakdown in trust which has resulted from recent actions it is now even more important that these conversations take place in a way which is not only impartial, but which is seen to be impartial by all of the bodies that are concerned.

We look forward to the opportunity of continued debate, and the open letter, attached, which has been sent to the House of Bishops of the Church of England is intended to help to rebuild some of the ground upon which the debate may take place…

The full text of the letter can be read here.

A blog article which conveniently summarises the letter has been published by Ekklesia: Savi Hensman Bishops face searching questions on same-sex marriage guidance:

…Emphasising “the traditional Anglican ‘insistence upon the duty of thinking and learning as essential elements in the Christian life’ (Lambeth Conference 1930) and ‘facing with intellectual integrity the questions raised by modern knowledge’ (Lambeth 1958)”, it asks how the House of Bishops has informed itself of the work of theologians arguing for greater acceptance from 1940 to the present.

Three-and-a-half decades after the start of a formal process of studying sexuality, including dialogue with lesbian and gay people, it asks how the findings have informed the thinking of the House of Bishops.

The letter also makes the point that “there are many LGBTI clergy who, in good conscience seeking to model their household according to the way of Christ, are intending to marry or to convert their civil partnership to marriage”, and asks “How will you ensure that these clergy can contribute fully and equally to the proposed discussions, without fear of sanction?”

In addition “we would ask how you intend to resolve the issues of the presumed bipolarity of male and female in gender and sexual orientations and in their relationships in the light of the latest scientific and theological knowledge” so that all “who seek to enter committed, loving and faithful relationships can find their rightful place within a renewed church which draws its teaching from the New Covenant and the unconditional love of Christ?”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 at 12:18pm GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Bishops and welfare reforms

Updated Thursday morning

Since I published Bishops slam David Cameron’s welfare reforms last Thursday a number of more or less related articles have appeared.

Andrew Brown The Guardian Christians less generous than their clergy and everyone else
[see update below]

John Bingham The Telegraph Church of England bishops do not speak for own flock on welfare, study suggests

Tim Wyatt Church Times War of words between bishops and Government

Two retired archbishops have their say.
Rowan Williams Daily Mirror Food bank users are not scroungers and this isn’t a hiccup - it’s a serious crisis
George Carey Daily Mail Bishops are naive over cuts, warns former Archbishop of Canterbury Carey

John McDermott Financial Times A different banking crisis

Jessica Elgot Huffington Post UK Welfare Cuts: Have Christian Leaders Become The New Voice Of The Left?

The future of welfare: a Theos collection

Linda Woodhead Westminster Faith Debates
Churchgoers favour reduction in the welfare budget
What British People Really Believe

Jonathan Clatworthy Modern Church The bishops: the real opposition?

It’s been announced Bishop to Lead Parliamentary Inquiry into Foodbanks and Food Poverty.


Following representations from Theos The Guardian has amended the article by Andrew Brown linked above, changed the headline to Christians more hostile to benefit claimants than their clergy and added this note at the end:

This article, including the headlines, was amended on 26 February 2014 to clarify that research which suggested that large numbers of Christians believed spending on social security should be reduced was not done by the Christian thinktank Theos.

Gillan Scott comments on his Politics & Religion in the UK blog Are Christians really more hostile to benefit claimants than their bishops?

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 at 10:21am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Monday, 24 February 2014

More about historical error in the House of Bishops statement

Following the publication here of Linda Woodhead’s article titled An error in the House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage some further discussion continued at Law and Religion UK where Frank Cranmer wrote An error in the House of Bishops’ Guidance on Same Sex Marriage? – perhaps not.

Now, Scot Peterson has published Generalizations, Just-So Stories and Marriage Law and Doctrine. He reviews the discussion so far, explaining that:

..As Iain McLean and I have written in our recent book, Legally Married, the law of marriage in the UK has changed frequently. Here, the question is whether the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 is ‘the first time’ there has been a divergence between

the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law
the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.

After laying out the facts he is in no doubt about the outcome, finishing with:

…Conclusion: Woodhead’s argument is correct, and Arora and Cranmer are mistaken. The House of Bishops’ statement is in error. The civil law in England and Wales (and elsewhere) has frequently diverged from religious rules about marriage. Social norms about marriage have moved ahead, public policy about marriage, expressed in laws, has evolved, and so has church doctrine, but not always at the same rate. It would be honest of the Church of England, and its bishops, to admit that fact and get on with it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 24 February 2014 at 7:44am GMT | Comments (67) | TrackBack
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Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 5

Updated Monday afternoon

Links to Episode 4 and to earlier items here.

Two articles have appeared that deal with the question of what sanctions, if any, are available to the bishops for dealing with those clergy who themselves enter into a same-sex marriage.

At Law & Religion UK David Pocklington asks: Tougher sanctions against clergy who marry same-sex partner?

At Ecclesiastical Law Philip Jones writes at considerable length: Clergy Discipline and Same Sex Marriage: Inappropriate Conduct?

…The obvious legal solution to the pastoral difficulty is to amend the law, and so bring clergy discipline into alignment with the Church’s teaching. This would require new legislation making it a specific ecclesiastical offence for clergy to enter into same sex marriages.

Any amendment of the Clergy Discipline Measure to include such an offence would, of course, require the approval of Parliament, which might not be forthcoming in the present climate of opinion. However, the General Synod has a common law power to legislate by canon, inherited from the Convocations, which does not require parliamentary approval (see Synodical Government Measure 1969)…

Gillan Scott has Unpacking the ‘doublespeak’ of the C of E’s latest statement on same-sex marriage

Two more statements from individual dioceses:

  • Diocese of Guildford (from the Bishop of Dorking) by email (not yet appeared on diocesan website):

You will no doubt have heard through the media news of the Pastoral Letter which the House of Bishops has issued as guidance concerning the Same Sex Marriage Act which comes into force at the end of March this year. Inevitably, the media have highlighted what is seen as the negative outcome rather than the many positive things which the Guidance has to say. The Letter and the accompanying advice contained in the Appendix are available online on the Church of England website. Please read all of it very carefully.

You will notice, and this is what Bishop Christopher and I were keen to point out in our earlier letter to the clergy, that a pastoral response of prayers is encouraged, where appropriate, to gay couples who may enquire about the possibility of some form of service. This would not be any fomal rite or liturgy but, as paragraph 22 of the Appendix states, a ‘more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of circumstances’. My own view is that this might be best done in the couple’s home.

Yours in Christ



The Bishop of Blackburn has issued this statement:

Statement by the Bishop of Blackburn on the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement – 24.02.14.

(Broadcast on BBC Lancashire Breakfast)

Bishop Julian declined the invitation to take part in the broadcast, but issued the following statement:

“In the light of the sensitive nature of the discussions within the Church, I am reluctant to be drawn in to public discussion at this stage. There are strongly held views in totally opposing directions while the Church seeks to resolve those differences. The two year process of consultation agreed by the Church would be a time to listen to one another and study the Scriptures as together we seek to discover the mind of Christ.”

Fulcrum has issued a statement:

Fulcrum response to the HoB Pastoral Statement on same-sex marriages

Fulcrum is grateful to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the House of Bishops for their careful pastoral letter and statement. It is appropriate that the House of Bishops should uphold the present doctrine of the Church in advance of the facilitated conversations on which assurances have been given that they have no pre determined outcome. They are simply sworn to do that by their office. Any other outcome would have been prejudicial to those conversations taking place. We recognise that their statement is not universally welcomed, but hope that it may create space in which the conversations can begin and end in Christ.

We are also aware that any statement they made was sadly likely to be challenged legally, which will be a costly thing in mission, pastoral emotion, money, and reputation of the whole body of Christ. We hope that others will join with us in praying that our focus for mission as the Church of England may go forward without such distraction; but in doing that we also recognise those of the LGBTI community who will experience most sharply the Bishops’ call for restraint.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 24 February 2014 at 7:08am GMT | Comments (37) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 23 February 2014

Progress on implementing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act

A second commencement order has been made:
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (Commencement No. 2 and Transitional Provision) Order 2014
The explanatory note includes:

…This Order brings into force the majority of the provisions of the Act extending marriage to same sex couples under the law of England and Wales.

…Article 3 brings into force on 13th March 2014 the majority of the Act extending marriage to same sex couples, allowing notice of such marriages to be given from that date. The provisions which are commenced exclude those relating to where a spouse changes legal gender under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (c. 7) and those relating to conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage under section 9 of the Act…

The results of the consultation on the Shared Buildings Regulations are published here.

The following items have already been approved by Parliament:

Six items of secondary legislation are now before Parliament for approval:

And there are others in the pipeline:

  • The Social Security (Graduated Retirement Benefit) (Married Same Sex Couples) Regulations 2014.
  • The National Health Service Pension Scheme Additional Voluntary Contributions, Compensation for Premature Retirement and Injury Benefits (Amendment) Regulations 2014
  • The Police Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2014

See also David Pocklington Same-Sex Marriage – Update

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 23 February 2014 at 8:25am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Women Bishops: electronic voting results

The electronic voting results from this month’s General Synod are now available as pdf files. As all were votes of the whole synod they are arranged by vote (for/against/abstain) and then alphabetically by name.

For convenience I have put the results relevant to women bishops into a spreadsheet arranged by synod number (which brings members together by diocese) for each house and added absentees and vacancies.

There were two votes:

  • Item 515: That Clauses 1-6 stand part of the Canon
    Many Synod members would have viewed this as a vote on the principle of allowing women to be bishops.
    This was carried with 304 votes in favour and 33 against. 45 abstentions were recorded.
  • Item 10: a motion to suspend Standing Order 90(b)(iii)
    This motion was to allow the reference to the dioceses to be completed in less time than usual so that final approval can be taken at the July 2014 Synod.
    This was carried with 358 votes in favour and 39 against. 9 abstentions were recorded.

From the voting lists I have counted the votes in each house.

item 515 ForAgainstAbstention


item 10 ForAgainstAbstention

At final approval a two-thirds majority will be required in each house for the Women in the Episcopate legislation to be carried.

Here is the full set of electronic voting results:

Tuesday 11 February

Item 515 - Draft Amending Canon No.33 (clauses 1-6)
Item 10 - Motion to suspend SO 90(b)(iii)
Item 519B - The Church Representation Rules Amendment Resolution

Wednesday 12 February

Item 13 - Southwark Diocesan Synod Motion Environmental Issues
Item 27 - Girl Guides’ Promise

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 22 February 2014 at 3:13pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Kevin Hart at ABC Religion & Ethics asks Who, then, shall be saved? The Lord’s Prayer and religious pluralism.

Maggi Dawn blogs 40 ways: keeping a joyful, thankful, holy Lent and Church and Theological Jargon

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes The Guardian George Herbert: the man who converted me from atheism

Sally Newall The Independent A new generation of vicars: More and more young people are choosing a life of wing tips and clerical collars
[Wing tips appear to be a type of brogue.]

Richard Beck at his Experimental Theology blog Search Term Friday: Jesus Crucified Over Adam’s Grave

Steve Cornforth blogs So am I a Christian or not?

Giles Fraser The Guardian Yes, the church is bloody angry about these attacks on the poor, and rightly so

Vicky Beeching Church Times Christian feminism is not an oxymoron

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 22 February 2014 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Friday, 21 February 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 4

The Bishop of Norwich has issued a letter to his clergy, but to date I have not been able to find it on the diocesan website. So here is a local copy of it.

The Suffragan Bishop in Europe has published a guest article on his blog by The Revd Canon Dr Jack McDonald.

Christian Concern has issued a lengthy letter to its supporters urging them to write to their bishops. See ACTION ALERT: Challenge Bishops and Archbishops to tell the truth about marriage.

The Barnet and Potters Bar Times reports that the Parish of St Mary’s in East Barnet to make stand against Church of England leaders on same-sex blessings.

…Members of the St Mary’s Church council now plan to meet and formulate a statement in response to the House of Bishop’s latest refusal to be moved on the subject.

Church rector James Mustard said he expects his parish to release the statement in the coming weeks and says it is an important subject for the image and ministry of his church in the area.

He said: “The feeling is that this ongoing prohibition on blessing same-sex couples is harmful to our relationship with the community, whether they come to the church or not.

“I think it is important that churches in favour of supporting same-sex couples with blessings should speak out, and we’re preparing to issue a statement opposing the House of Bishops’ decision.”

This week’s Church Times has several items:

News articles by Madeleine Davies
Bishops’ same-sex-marriage statement provokes anger and defiance and
Disobedient clergy risk rebuke

…On Tuesday, the Revd Will Adam, Vicar of St Paul’s, Winchmore Hill, in north London, who edits the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, said that it could be argued that clergy had to comply with the prohibition on same-sex marriage because they had sworn the oath of canonical obedience.

If defiance was deemed to be a doctrinal offence, the case would have to be taken up by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved. “It’s a panel who are, or have been, very senior judges or diocesan bishops. So it’s pretty big. Would a bishop be brave enough to bring such a case?” He said that it had met only twice since it was established.

A case could be brought under the CDM, Mr Adam suggested, if the offence was defined as sexual misconduct. The House of Bishops was on “pretty safe ground” with regard to equality legislation, he believed, given the exemptions that applied to religious organisations…

Leader Comment: Same-sex marriage

…Given their consistent opposition to same-sex marriage, the St Valentine’s statement was predictable. It would help greatly, though, if it were acknowledged for what it is: a holding position. We do not think it will hold for long; nor can it, unless congregations feel no responsibility for what is clearly a pastoral disaster, or are willing to be seen as “akin to racists”. Archbishop Welby spoke of “courageous Churches”. It ought not to take courage to treat LGBT people more lovingly. But perhaps courage is precisely what the Bishops lack, since to treat someone lovingly is to treat him or her equally.

Letters to the Editor: Gay marriage: the Bishops and public opinion

…We do not all agree about same-sex marriage, nor about how the Church of England should respond. But we are all of a mind on this: if the Church of England is serious about intentional evangelism to a generation that regards us with a mixture of apathy and contempt, and if we are to reverse our fast institutional retreat from relevance in the life of this nation, we need urgently to change the tone and manner of our discussions on matters relating to human sexuality…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 February 2014 at 9:00am GMT | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bishops slam David Cameron's welfare reforms

Updated Friday morning

Today’s (Thursday’s) Daily Mirror carries this article by Jason Beattie: 27 bishops slam David Cameron’s welfare reforms as creating a national crisis in unprecedented attack.

The bishops (and other church leaders) have sent this letter to the Daily Mirror.


Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.

Half a million people have visited foodbanks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.

One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children, and even more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards.

We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.

Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using foodbanks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.

On March 5th Lent will begin. The Christian tradition has long been at this time to fast, and by doing so draw closer to our neighbour and closer to God.

On March 5th we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain. We urge those of all faith and none, people of good conscience, to join with us.

There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support foodbanks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to.

We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.

Join us at

It is signed by 27 Anglican bishops (25 Church of England and two Church in Wales), ten Methodist chairs of districts, three United Reformed Church Moderators and two Quakers.

There is already a lot of online news and comment.

The Telegraph
Keith Perry Bishops condemn Government welfare reforms
Matthew Holehouse Clegg hits back at bishops: We spend billions and billions on welfare
Benedict Brogan Church vs State: is David Cameron facing a crusade?
John Bingham and Matthew Holehouse Welby: churches know what they are talking about in benefits warning

The Guardian
Nicholas Watt Bishops blame David Cameron for food bank crisis
Steve Richards Comment is free It’s no wonder David Cameron has alienated the church
Andrew Brown Christian conservatism takes radical position against welfare cuts

BBC News
Church of England bishops demand action over hunger
Clegg hits back at bishops’ welfare reform criticism

Channel 4 News Heat or eat? Church of England bishops’ hunger plea

Financial Times Editorial Britain’s bishops deserve a hearing

Adam Withnall The Independent Britain faces food poverty ‘national crisis’ because of Government welfare reforms, bishops warn

Nick Baines blogs Bashing the bishops

Tim Wyatt Church Times Empty plates: campaigners ask Christians to go hungry


The End Hunger Fast campaign issued this press release: Church leaders call national fast for UK’s hungry as “End Hunger Fast” campaign planned for Lent. The copy of the open letter on their website has slightly fewer signatures than the copy in the Daily Mirror, which may explain the discrepancies in the number of bishops quoted in the press articles.

Helen Warrell and Jim Pickard Financial Times Clergy preach to Cameron on benefit reform

The Guardian
Editorial Food poverty: government in denial
Patrick Butler Families turn to food banks as last resort ‘not because they are free’

Charlotte Leslie MP The Telegraph Haven’t the Bishops heard? Charity begins at home

Daily Mail
Tamara Cohen and Steve Doughty What hunger crisis? Bishops are so wrong on welfare, says Clegg: Deputy PM reacts angrily to claim ‘safety net’ has been removed
Editorial Preaching the sermon according to Labour
Simon Heffer Will the Church ever learn there is nothing moral about welfare dependency?

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 8:53pm GMT | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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Statement from some Global South Primates

Statement from the Global South Primates Steering Committee, Cairo, Egypt 14-15 February 2014

The Nigerian representative at the meeting abstained from signing, I have no idea why. The main body of the statement is copied in full below. Emphasis as in original.

Go to the original and scroll down to read an FAQ – The Global South of the Anglican Communion.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3).

1. The Global South Primates Steering Committee met at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014. We were delighted to have The Most Rev. & Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, the Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA), and Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, as guests joining this important meeting in which we discussed the way ahead for the Anglican Communion and other matters. The Most Rev. Dr. Eliud Wabukala, the Primate of Kenya, and The Most Rev. Henri Isingoma, the Primate of Congo, apologized for not being able to attend.

2. We thank God for the times of fellowship, Bible study and prayer together. We also appreciated the frank discussion, open sharing, and spirit of unity among us. We are also encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s emphases on renewal, mission and evangelism within the Church of England and the rest of the Anglican Communion.

3. As we reviewed the current situation, we recognized that the fabric of the Communion was torn at its deepest level as a result of the actions taken by The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada since 2003. As a result, our Anglican Communion is currently suffering from broken relations, a lack of trust, and dysfunctional “instruments of unity.”

4. However, we trust in God’s promise that the “gates of hades will not overcome” the church. Holding unto this promise, we believe that we have to make every effort in order to restore our beloved Communion. Therefore we took the following decisions:

a) We request and will support the Archbishop of Canterbury to call for a Primates Meeting in 2015 in order to address the increasingly deteriorating situation facing the Anglican Communion. It is important that the agenda of this Primates Meeting be discussed and agreed upon by the Primates beforehand in order to ensure an effective meeting.

b) We decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dromantine in 2005 and Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.

c) We realize that the time has come to address the ecclesial deficit, the mutual accountability and re-shaping the instruments of unity by following through the recommendations mentioned in the Windsor Report (2004), the Primates Meetings in Dromantine (2005) and Dar es Salam (2007), and the Windsor Continuation Group report.

5. We appreciate the costly decision of the House of Bishops of the Church of England, as well as the pastoral letter and pastoral guidance of The Archbishop of Canterbury and The Archbishop of York, in regard to the decision of the Westminster Parliament for same-gender marriage. The faithfulness of the Church of England in this regard is a great encouragement to our Provinces, and indeed the rest of the Communion, especially those facing hardships and wars.

6. We stand in solidarity with The Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul and the people of South Sudan and Sudan, calling for the cessation of fighting, an end to violence, and for a process for peace and reconciliation. We call upon the international community to give every help and support to those displaced as a result of fighting. We commit ourselves to pray for the people of Sudan.

7. We were encouraged to learn about the new constitution of Egypt and how the interim government is achieving the roadmap that was decided by its people on the 3 July 2013. We support the people of Egypt in their efforts to combat violence and terrorism.

8. We decided to activate the Task Forces established at the 4th Encounter of the Global South, which are: Economic Empowerment (coordinated by Archbishop Eliud Wabukala), Theological Resourcing (coordinated by Archbishop Bolly Lapok), Emerging Servant Leaders (coordinated by Archbishop Ian Ernest), and Inter-faith Relations (coordinated by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh).

9. We decided to hold the 5th Encounter of the Global South in 2015 and also organize a seminar for Global South leaders on “How Africa shaped Anglicanism”.

This statement is approved by:

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt and Chairman of Global South
The Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean and General Secretary of Global South The Most Rev. Stephen Than Myint Oo, Primate of Myanmar
The Most Rev. Hector “Tito” Zavala, Primate of the Southern Cone
The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of Burundi and the Chairman of CAPA
The Rt. Rev. John Chew, representing the Primate of South East Asia
The Rt. Rev. Francis Loyo, representing the Primate of All Sudan

This statement was abstained by:
The Most Rev. Nkechi Nwosu, representing the Primate of All Nigeria

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 20 February 2014 at 3:44pm GMT | Comments (30) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

An error in the House of Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

An article by Linda Woodhead who writes in a personal capacity.

“There will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.” (House of Bishops, 14th Feb 2014, Appendix, para 9)

“For the first time in the history of the Church of England has the law of the State been brought on one specific point into direct, open, overt contrast with and contradiction of the specific and defined law laid down in the authoritative regulations of the National Church.” (Archbishop Randall Davidson, on the passage of the deceased wife’s sister legislation, Hansard, 1907)

The fact that many in the Church of England contested the recension of the Deceased Wife’s Sister Act (1835) until defeated in 1907 sounds ridiculous to us. And that’s the point. What to contemporary generations seems an unsupportable divergence between the law of the land and the Church’s teaching on marriage (the BCP’s Table of Kindred and Affinity in this case) seems a storm in a teacup for later generations for whom it is established social fact.

The same is true of the Church’s long and deep resistance to the remarriage of divorcees. Princess Margaret’s romance was sacrificed on this altar, and within living memory many clergy who sought remarriage were skewered on it, for it was only in 2002 that Church practice finally came into line with civil law. As Dr Robin Ward reminded me yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury during the (1820) trial of Queen Caroline explained to the House of Lords that although Our Lord allowed remarriage after divorce, the British Constitution wisely forbad it.

This is why Archbishop Lang viewed the 1937 Matrimonial Causes Act, which liberalised divorce, as a serious divergence between English law and church teaching on marriage. He explained his decision not to vote for it by saying that he had come to the conclusion “that it was no longer possible to impose the full Christian standard by law on a largely non-Christian population, but that witness to that standard, and consequent disciplinary action towards its own members or persons who sought to be married by its rites, must be left to the church” (JG Lockhart, Cosmo Gordon Lang, p. 235).

So the fact that the House of Bishops’ statement above is in error matters a great deal. It matters because errors of fact should not occur in a statement of such gravity, and it matters because it reveals a wider mindset amongst the bishops and their advisors which is forgetful of the church’s own history and therefore proverbially condemned to repeat it. The bishops are in a false position because they believe that the scale of the challenge which gay marriage presents to the Church is much greater than it really is. The error speaks of an episcopate closed in on itself, trapped in the present, unwilling to accept advice from experts, and acting out of fear.

“The sky is falling in,” said Chicken Licken. “The sky is falling in,” said Archbishop Davidson. “The sky is falling in,” said Archbishop Lang. “The sky is falling in,” said Archbishop Welby. But this time, hardly anyone believed it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 at 4:00pm GMT | Comments (57) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Women bishops reference to dioceses

Update Wednesday afternoon The links are now all correct.

The papers sent to dioceses for the Article 8 reference regarding women bishops are now available online. This is copied below.

Women bishops reference to dioceses

The Article 8 process regarding women bishops is outlined and explained in a note from the Business Committee of the General Synod. Click here.

The Business Committee has also circulated four other documents: a report from the House of Bishops (GS 1932) which includes the texts of the draft House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (in Annex A) and the draft Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations (in Annex B); a background note on the new package of proposals (A8(14)1); the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure (A8(14)2); the draft Amending Canon No. 33 (A8(14)3); and an Explanatory Memorandum relating to the draft legislation (A8(14)4).

The General Synod voted on Tuesday 11 February to suspend Standing Order 90 until the end of the Group of Sessions to be held in November 2014. This enables a shortening of the deadline for Diocesan Synods to vote on the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops. Reporting forms, recording the votes of Diocesan Synods, should be returned to the Clerk to the Synod to arrive by midnight on Thursday 22 May 2014.

A background note produced by the Business Committee in 2010 on the history of the legislative proposals can be viewed by clicking on the link below.


Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 7:00pm GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 3

Updated Tuesday evening

Previous episodes can be found here, and then over here. And this one has its own article.

New items:

Ekklesia Savi Hensman Love, grace and the bishops’ pastoral guidance

Changing Attitude Colin Coward
Bishop of Blackburn acts on House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement and
Diocese of Lincoln – Ad Clerum about the Pastoral Statement

Bishop of Oxford Bishop of Oxford speaks on Same Sex Marriage statement

Anglican Mainstream
Fidelity, Naivety and Integrity: the C of E House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage by Dermot O’Callaghan and also
Untheological, incoherent, unhelpful – Bishops, think again! by Thurstan Stigand

Peter Ould The Opening Shots


Anglican Mainstream has more items:
Andrew Symes The last six days: the story so far and the implications
Michael Nazir-Ali A Response to the House of Bishops Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

Law and Religion UK David Pocklington House of Bishops’ Statement on Same-sex Marriage
This contains a detailed analysis of the statement from a legal viewpoint, and is worth reading in full.

Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Christianity CoE Bishops’ Statement on UK Same Sex Marriage – Not Truly “Pastoral” full text below the fold.


CSCS calls on pro same-sex marriage Bishops to speak out

The Centre for the Study of Christianity (CSCS) supports, unequivocally, the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which enables same-sex couples to celebrate equal civil marriage with effect, in England and Wales, from 29 March 2014. CSCS rejoices with sisters and brothers in Liberal and Reformed Judaism, the Society of Friends, and Unitarian Free Christian Churches who have opted-in, to enable such marriages to be celebrated on their premises. CSCS also recognises that amongst people of faith and none, diverse theological and ideological positions might be held regarding same-sex marriage.

Following its Annual Conference, Redefining Marriage?, held in Birmingham on 15 February 2014, CSCS expresses serious concern at the possible impact of Church of England House of Bishops so-called ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’. This, and the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, appear to pre-empt the process of facilitated conversation, listening and reflection, called for by the Pilling Report and referred to in the 27 January 2014 Statement from the College of Bishops. The House of Bishops latest statement sets down answers, even before many of the questions have been asked.

Any true pastoral process in the LGBT context should begin with a listening to, and analysis of, the lived experience of people of faith, particularly its LGBT members, their parents, spouses, and families. It should then proceed to reflect on this in the light of developing, and not fixed, understandings of scripture, tradition, and reason. The latter should not rely on un-reformed views of natural law but, discerning the signs of the times, encompass the insights of contemporary thinkers in the fields of gender, sexuality, anthropology and other human sciences. The House of Bishops’ Statement, and indeed the Pilling Report show little evidence of such engagement.

The Bishops’ Statement, if taken as authoritative even for the time being, could lead to pastoral chaos, as well as unwarranted intrusion into the lives and consciences of Church of England laity and clergy. We call upon those Bishops of the Church of England who have hitherto expressed support for same-sex marriage to come out and clearly state whether the House of Bishops Statement of the 15 February 2014 is issued in their name and with their support. If it is not we urge them to disassociate themselves from the Statement, declining to implement its proposed policies and procedures in their Dioceses.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 12:56pm GMT | Comments (30) | TrackBack
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Petitioning Bishops of the Church of England

A petition has been initiated on

To rescind their opposition to equal marriage. To take back their recent Pastoral Guidance. To create a Church where all are welcomed.

On Saturday the 15th of February 2014, the bishops of the Church of England released Pastoral Guidance in relation to equal marriage. This document is an attempt on their part to hinder the movement of God’s Spirit in relation to the full inclusion of all God’s children in the Church of England. This document must not go unchallenged. By signing this petition, you are part of the ongoing struggle for change in the Church of England…

At the time of posting this, the petition has reached 2000 signatures.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 at 10:59am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Monday, 17 February 2014

Forward in Faith: Reference to the Dioceses

Women in the Episcopate: Reference to the Dioceses

The diocesan synods will shortly be voting on the Women in the Episcopate legislation – a draft Measure and a draft Canon.

This legislation forms part of a package which also includes a House of Bishops’ Declaration (containing provisions that will replace Resolutions A and B and the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod) and a Resolution of Disputes Procedure, both of which we warmly welcome.

Only the Measure and the Canon will be the subject of formal voting in the diocesan synods. When legislation is referred to the dioceses because it touches the sacraments of the Church, Forward in Faith believes that synod members should give their votes according to principle and conscience. For members of Forward in Faith that is likely to involve voting against the Measure and the Canon because, for reasons of theological conviction, we cannot endorse the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. This will be the only opportunity for members of diocesan synods to vote on the principle in accordance with their theological convictions.

We wish to underline that in making this recommendation we are not seeking to hinder progress towards a final resolution of this issue. It is important that this is made clear in diocesan synod debates. We are conscious that at this stage in the process only simple majorities are required.

We were encouraged that, when members of the General Synod voted against the relevant parts of the legislation at the February group of sessions, the fact that they felt obliged to do so as a matter of integrity was widely accepted. We trust that similar understanding will be shown in the diocesan synods.

On behalf of the Council:

The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker Dr Lindsay Newcombe The Revd Ross Northing
Chairman Lay Vice-Chairman Clerical Vice-Chairman

17 February 2014

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 5:09pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Rwandan bishop in UK faces probe over allegations of role in 1994 genocide

The Observer yesterday carried these two stories by Chris McGreal.

Rwandan priest in UK faces probe over allegations of role in 1994 genocide
How ‘accomplice’ to Rwanda genocide turned up in a rural English pulpit

The first of these begins:

The Church of England is investigating a Rwandan bishop who is now serving as a parish priest in Worcestershire over “disturbing” allegations that he was a propagandist for leaders of his country’s 1994 genocide and complicit in sending Tutsis to their deaths.

The Diocese of Worcester issued this press release in response: Statement in response to allegations about Bishop Jonathan Ruhumuliza.

Other websites have subsequently published their own articles on this story.

Shari Miller Daily Mail Church of England investigates bishop accused of ‘collaborating’ in Rwandan genocide who is now a parish priest in Worcestershire

Edwin Musoni All Africa Rwanda: UK Church Probes Rwandan Bishop Over 1994 Genocide

A number of other African websites have republished the articles from either The Observer or the Daily Mail.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 17 February 2014 at 11:26am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 16 February 2014

LGB&TI Anglican Coalition Response to the House of Bishops

Press Release

The LGB&TI Anglican Coalition is appalled by the House of Bishops’ recently-issued Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, especially in the light of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address in which it was stated that differing views should be accepted in a spirit of ‘good disagreement’. In this document we see no acceptance of disagreement at all, but instead a heavy-handed and legalistic imposition of discipline.

The new guidance emphasises the well-known fact that same-sex couples will not be able to marry in Church of England churches even when equal marriage takes effect. Furthermore, despite the recommendation of the Pilling Report, the prohibition on blessing same-sex couples is reinforced. While these iron exclusions are in place it is simply ludicrous to speak of the Church ‘Welcoming’ lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGB&TI) people, or to pretend that this statement is in any sense ‘pastoral’.

The guidance also excludes people married to members of the same sex from ordination, and forbids LGB&TI clergy to marry same-sex partners. This is cruel and unjust to clergy who have faithfully served the church, hitherto with the full knowledge and support of their bishops, and it will impoverish the ministry by driving away LGB&TI ordinands. Only those who are prepared to lie will remain.

The statement was made without any consultation with openly gay people, and fails to acknowledge that some of the bishops who are signatories are understood to be gay themselves. This heightens the corrosive sense of hypocrisy and cynicism with which this issue is surrounded in the Church.

We are aware that the position taken in this statement was partly or even mainly driven by fears about the unity of the Anglican Communion, and that bishops who wished to take a less harsh line were told that the Communion would not stand for it. In some large African provinces which are threatening to secede over this issue the Anglican Church helps supply the theology which backs the violent persecution of LGB&TI people. We believe that it is simply immoral for the Church of England to appease these provinces by sacrificing the rights and freedoms of LGB&TI people in this country or any other, or to place the cause of institutional unity above the cause of justice and humanity.

This guidance is wrong in tone and content, and will further damage the Church’s mission, not only to LGB&TI people, but to all people of goodwill who respect justice and truth. It may seek to carry disciplinary authority, but it has no moral authority and cannot command respect. We hope and pray that it will be swiftly withdrawn.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 11:23pm GMT | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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More reactions to the House of Bishops statement

Updated third time Monday evening

Earlier items are in the preceding article.

Changing Attitude Transcript of Bishop Steven Croft on R4 ‘Sunday’ on church penalties for same sex marriage

Cif belief Andrew Brown Gay marriage: I don’t dismiss bishops’ dishonest compromise out of hand

Bosco Peters When is blessing not a blessing

Modern Church Jonathan Clatworthy Gay marriage: the bible is not perspicuous

Jeremy Fletcher Same Sex Marriage and the House of Bishops

Archdruid Eileen Painted into a Corner

Peter Ould Some Thoughts on the Statement

Tobias Haller Incoherent Hypocrisy


The Suffragan Bishop in Europe writes about the application of this statement in that diocese: House of Bishops on Same Sex Marriage. He notes, inter alia, that

…We in the Diocese in Europe have lived for a number of years with the reality of same-sex marriage in many of the countries where we serve, in Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, for instance, (even though in very few countries are our clergy legally permitted to conduct marriages)…

Sam Norton The Lego movie and the House of Bishops Statement on gay marriage

Christina Beardsley ‘One of gayest churches in Christendom’?

Pink News How can the Church of England be ‘welcoming’ when it bans priests from marrying gay people?

Ian Paul The real challenge after Pilling that no-one is talking about

Anglican Mainstream Statement commenting on the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

Church Society Lee Gatiss responds to House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

Peter Saunders C of E Bishops say church members should ‘welcome’ ‘married’ same-sex couples into the church community

Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement LGCM appalled by the House of Bishops Pastoral Letter

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) tentatively welcomed the Pilling Report recognising the positive recommendations contained therein and was pleased that it was positively received by General Synod, in a discussion which recognised the need to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) people more fully. This was further supported by Archbishop Justin Welby’s presidential address.

It is hard to believe that following on from these events that the House of Bishops could publish a document called ‘Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage’ which is anything but pastoral.

The House of Bishops needs to wake up and realise that it can not recommend blatant discrimination and expect lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people to feel welcome in the church.

The Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive, said ‘Church of England leaders are under pressure from some in their church and wider Anglican Communion to continue to discriminate, but this should be set against the demands of the Gospel. Whilst it is positive that clergy can pray publicly for same-sex partners following civil partnership or marriage registration, it is a pity that the House of Bishops letter takes such a negative stance, fails to show appreciation for the ministry of LGB&T clergy and seems unaware of the powerful theological and pastoral arguments put forward in recent decades for celebrating committed loving relationships, including marriage.’

She continued: ‘However, in the Church of England and other churches, Christians committed to full inclusion will continue to work towards this, so that the good news of Christ can be more effectively embodied and shared.’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 16 February 2014 at 10:54pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Reports and reactions to House of Bishops statement

Media reports:

Telegraph John Bingham Church offers prayers after same-sex weddings – but bans gay priests from marrying

Church Times Paul Handley No blessings, no same-sex marriages for clergy: Bishops keep the door shut as Act comes into force

Independent Lizzie Dearden Church of England offers prayers after gay weddings but no same-sex marriage for vicars

BBC Gay couple blessings ruled out by Church of England bishops

Diocesan statements:

Bishop of Manchester Bishop’s pastoral statement


Archbishop Cranmer House of Bishop’s same-sex dog’s breakfast

Bishop Alan Wilson We come in Peace — Shoot to Kill?

Changing Attitude Colin Coward House of Bishops prioritise discipline not love

Rachel Mann Personal Response to the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 3:00pm GMT | Comments (40) | TrackBack
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Ian Paul Vicars are a bunch of self-interested, southern softies
Joanna Moorhead The Guardian Vicars needed: the Church of England’s fight to fill its vacancies in the north

George Arnett The Guardian How much of the Church of England clergy is female?

Kate Cooper The Guardian Female bishops: be wary of crude interpretations of biblical Christianity

Peter Stanford of The Telegraph has been talking to the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin: Will Rose Hudson-Wilkin be the first woman bishop?

Jemima Thackray The Telegraph We Christians must face it: the Bible is hugely misogynistic

Rachel Held Evans If men got the Titus 2 Treatment…

David Simmons Preaching from the Rood Screen - Or How I Learned To Stop Snarking and Love the Screen

Part three of the Church Times series on the health of the Church of England includes these three articles available to non-subscribers:
Linda Woodhead Measuring the Church’s social footprint
Dennis Richards A golden age for church schools?
Malcolm Brown Living in an old country

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 15 February 2014 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

The House of Bishops issued the statement below today (Saturday 15 February 2014).

House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

Following their meeting on February 13th 2014 the House of Bishops of the Church of England have today issued a statement of Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage.

The statement comes as an appendix to a pastoral letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York addressed to the clergy and people of the Church of England.

The text of the letter and the statement is reproduced below

15 February 2014

To the Clergy and People of the Church of England

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

We write as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ who are called to love one another as Christ has loved us. Our vocation as disciples of Christ in God’s world is to hold out the offer of life in all its fullness. God delights always to give good gifts to his children.

The gospel of the love of God made known to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest of these gifts. The call of the gospel demands that we all listen, speak and act with integrity, self discipline and grace, acknowledging that as yet our knowledge and understanding are partial.

As members of the Body of Christ we are aware that there will be a range of responses across the Church of England to the introduction of same sex marriage. As bishops we have reflected and prayed together about these developments. As our statement of 27th January indicated, we are not all in agreement about every aspect of the Church’s response. However we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged.

We are conscious that within both Church and society there are men and women seeking to live faithfully in covenanted same sex relationships. As we said in our response to the consultation prior to the same sex marriage legislation, “the proposition that same sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. Same sex relationships often embody genuine mutuality and fidelity…., two of the virtues which the Book of Common Prayer uses to commend marriage. The Church of England seeks to see those virtues maximised in society”.

We have already committed ourselves to a process of facilitated conversations across the whole Church of England in the light of the Pilling Report. These conversations will involve ecumenical and interfaith partners and particularly the wider Anglican Communion to whom we rejoice to be bound by our inheritance of faith and mutual affection. They will include profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application of scripture to which we all seek to be faithful. They will involve particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. We believe that Christian understandings of sexuality have a vital contribution to make in our society’s conversation about human flourishing.

The introduction of same sex marriage in our country is a new reality and has consequences for the life and discipline of the Church of England. We seek to model a distinctive and generous witness to Jesus Christ in our pastoral guidance to the Church at this time which is set out in the Appendix to this letter.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people in all times and situations. We continue to seek God’s grace and the prayers of the whole Church as we seek to proclaim that faith afresh in this generation.

+ Justin Cantuar               + Sentamu Eboracensis

On behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England


The Church of England and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

The Church of England’s teaching on marriage

1. The Church of England’s long standing teaching and rule are set out in Canon B30: ‘The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

2. The Book of Common Prayer introduces the Solemnisation of Matrimony by saying, ‘Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee…

3. The Common Worship marriage service, consistently with the Book of Common Prayer, says, ‘The Bible teaches us that marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means to grace, a holy mystery in which man and woman become one flesh…’ The House of Bishops teaching document of 1999 noted that: “Marriage is a pattern that God has given in creation, deeply rooted in our social instincts, through which a man and a woman may learn love together over the course of their lives.

4. The Lambeth Conference of 1998 said ‘in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage’ (resolution1.10) This remains the declared position of the Anglican Communion.

5. The same resolution went on to acknowledge ‘that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’ It went on to ‘condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex.’

6. In February 2005 the Dromantine Communique from the Primates of the Anglican Communion again affirmed the Anglican Communion’s opposition to any form of behaviour which ‘diminished’ homosexual people.

7. It stated: ‘We …. wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of the moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people. The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by him, and deserving of the best we can give of pastoral care and friendship.

8. It was on the basis of this teaching that the then Archbishops published in June 2012 the official Church of England submission in response to the Government’s intention to introduce same-sex marriage. They arguments in it were based on the Church of England’s understanding of marriage, a set of beliefs and practices that it believes most benefits society. During the legislation’s passage through Parliament, no Lord Spiritual voted for the legislation.

The effect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

9. The Government’s legislation, nevertheless, secured large majorities in both Houses of Parliament on free votes and the first same sex marriages in England are expected to take place in March. From then there will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.

10. The effect of the legislation is that in most respects there will no longer be any distinction between marriage involving same sex couples and couples of opposite genders. The legislation makes religious as well as civil same sex weddings possible, though only where the relevant denomination or faith has opted in to conducting such weddings. In addition, the legislation provides that no person may be compelled to conduct or be present at such a wedding.

11. The Act provides no opt in mechanism for the Church of England because of the constitutional convention that the power of initiative on legislation affecting the Church of England rests with the General Synod, which has the power to pass Measures and Canons. The Act preserves, as part of the law of England, the effect of any Canon which makes provision about marriage being the union of one man with one woman, notwithstanding the general, gender free definition of marriage. As a result Canon B30 remains part of the law of the land.

12. When the Act comes into force in March it will continue not to be legally possible for two persons of the same sex to marry according to the rites of the Church of England. In addition the Act makes clear that any rights and duties which currently exist in relation to being married in Church of England churches do not extend to same sex couples.

13. The legislation has not made any changes to the nature of civil partnerships though it paves the way for a procedure by which couples in civil partnerships can, if they choose, convert them into a marriage. The Government has indicated that it will be later this year before the necessary regulations can be made and the first conversions of civil partnerships into marriages become possible.

14. There are three particular areas on which some guidance is necessary on the implications of the new legislation in relation to our common life and ministry in England.

Access to the sacraments and pastoral care for people in same sex marriages

15. In Issues in Human Sexuality the House affirmed that, while the same standards of conduct applied to all, the Church of England should not exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and who, instead, chose to enter into a faithful, committed sexually active relationship.

16. Consistent with that, we said in our 2005 pastoral statement that lay people who had registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and holy communion, or being welcomed into the life of the local worshipping community more generally.

17. We also noted that the clergy could not lawfully refuse to baptize children on account of the family structure or lifestyle of those caring for them, so long as they and the godparents were willing to make the requisite baptismal promises following a period of instruction.

18. We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships to have a formal status. These include the joys of exclusive commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship. To that end, civil partnership continues to be available for same sex couples. Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.

Acts of worship following civil same sex weddings

19. As noted above, same sex weddings in church will not be possible. As with civil partnership, some same sex couples are, however, likely to seek some recognition of their new situation in the context of an act of worship.

20. The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who registered civil partnerships. The House did not wish, however, to interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances. The College made clear on 27 January that, just as the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice also remains unchanged.

21. The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it. Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.

Clergy and ordinands

22. The preface to the Declaration of Assent, which all clergy have to make when ordained and reaffirm when they take up a new appointment, notes that the Church of England ‘professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.’ This tension between the givenness of the faith and the challenge to proclaim it afresh in each generation, as the Spirit continues to lead the Church into all truth, stands at the heart of current debates about human sexuality and of what constitutes leading a life that is according to the way of Christ.

23. At ordination clergy make a declaration that they will endeavour to fashion their own life and that of their household ‘according to the way of Christ’ that they may be ‘a pattern and example to Christ’s people’. A requirement as to the manner of life of the clergy is also directly imposed on the clergy by Canon C 26, which says that ‘at all times he shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.

24. The implications of this particular responsibility of clergy to teach and exemplify in their life the teachings of the Church have been explained as follows; ‘The Church is also bound to take care that the ideal is not misrepresented or obscured; and to this end the example of its ordained ministers is of crucial significance. This means that certain possibilities are not open to the clergy by comparison with the laity, something that in principle has always been accepted ’ (Issues in Human Sexuality, 1991, Section 5.13).

25. The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.

26. Getting married to someone of the same sex would, however, clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. The declarations made by clergy and the canonical requirements as to their manner of life do have real significance and need to be honoured as a matter of integrity.

27. The House is not, therefore, willing for those who are in a same sex marriage to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry. In addition it considers that it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives.

28. The Church of England has a long tradition of tolerating conscientious dissent and of seeking to avoid drawing lines too firmly, not least when an issue is one where the people of God are seeking to discern the mind of Christ in a fast changing context. Nevertheless at ordination clergy undertake to ‘accept and minister the discipline of this Church, and respect authority duly exercised within it.’ We urge all clergy to act consistently with that undertaking.

House of Bishops
15 February 2014


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Friday, 14 February 2014

General Synod: Questions on Pilling Report

The Bishop of Sheffield replied to three questions taken together.

Mr Clive Scowen (London) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q12 With regard to the College of Bishops‟ request to the Archbishops to commission the design of (i) a process for facilitated conversations on the subject of sexuality, involving profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture, and (ii) additional materials to support and enable them, will the Chair of the House of Bishops give assurances that the design will ensure that:
• the process will not be a “one way street” intended at the outset to lead to a change in the church‟s teaching or pastoral practice concerning sexuality or marriage;
• the primary purpose of the conversations will be to enable participants‟ views to be clearly articulated, heard and understood, rather than to change participants‟ views;
• the conversations will be professionally facilitated in a way which does not steer them to any particular conclusion;
• the conversations will not be premised on the proposition that scripture is not clear about these matters; and
• participants who believe that scripture clearly teaches that having sexual relationships, otherwise than within the marriage covenant between one man and one woman, is not consistent with Christian discipleship will be free fully to articulate and explain that view?

Mrs Andrea Minichiello Williams (Chichester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q13 Why, in light of the Statement on the Pilling Report by the College of Bishops (issued 27 January 2014) which emphasises upholding the Church of England‟s commitment to biblical orthodoxy on God‟s purpose for sexual expression (within marriage between one man and one woman), is a two-year process of facilitated conversation taking place, if such a process is not intended to change the orthodoxy?

The Revd John Cook (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q14 Given the College of Bishops‟ request to the Archbishops to commission the design of a process for facilitated conversation on sexuality, can the Chair of the House of Bishops give an assurance that the process and additional materials will focus first on scripture and its perspicuity, so that experience and culture are responded to in the light of a clear understanding of Scripture?

The Bishop of Sheffield replied:

The Church Times’ headline - ‘Pilling report-Bishops accept recommendations’ - would have been less inaccurate if it had said ‘accept recommendation [singular] for facilitated conversations.’

There is no predetermined outcome to these conversations nor is there any intention on the part of bishops collectively to steer them to a particular conclusion. In our statement of 27 January the one aspiration we articulated was for ‘good disagreement that testifies to our love for one another across the church in obedience to Christ’.

The statement made clear that the Church of England’s ‘pastoral and liturgical practice remains unchanged during this process of facilitated conversation’ and that ‘no change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged’. It also stresses that our task, in taking counsel together, is ‘to read and reflect upon the Scriptures and to continue to discern together the mind of Christ.’

What is the point of all this reflection and conversation, some ask, if Scripture is clear and the truth unchanging and unchangeable? The answer is that the substantial shift in attitudes in society to same sex relationships inevitably raises significant questions for the Church of England. In every generation the Church is called to proclaim the faith afresh, not refashioning it but nevertheless wrestling with the interpretation and application of Scripture as the Spirit who inspired it continues to lead us into all truth.

Mr Scowen asked a supplementary question:
May I take it therefore that the answer to each of the five points of my question is Yes?

Answer: i think I would refer Mr Scowen to the answer I have already given, if I may. I think it is fair to say that there was some wrestling in the College of Bishops meeting about whether we should use the term ‘facilitated conversations” for the process which we had in mind, and which we agreed to take forward. Partly because it was pointed out within the conversation, that the only experience we have had corporately of facilitated conversation, is of a process which is designed to lead to a particular outcome, and set of conclusions. A counterargument was that the term is one used by the Pilling process and the Pilling report, it’s not… and we couldn’t easily think of a better substitute for it. But we did want to find a way to communicate clearly that no two sets of facilitated conversations are exactly the same, and that this set is not designed to reach a premeditated, already determined conclusion.

There was a further supplementary question (or was it two?) asked by Professor Richard Burridge about the involvement of Scripture scholars in the process.

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Church Commissioners Questions

Sir Tony Baldry answered Church Commissioners questions in the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday). He prefaced his first answer with remarks on the progress made at General Synod towards allowing women to be consecrated as bishops.

Church Property (Community Use)

1. Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): What plans the commissioners have to make their buildings and other church property available for wider community use. [902578]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): With your permission, Mr Speaker, before I answer this first question, it may be convenient to the House if I make a short comment on the progress made by the General Synod this week on the Church of England being able to consecrate women as bishops. On Tuesday, the General Synod completed the revision process for a new draft measure to enable women to become bishops. The Synod also agreed to shorten the consultation period with the diocese to consider this new measure, so the measure is now likely to come for final approval at the July meeting of the General Synod. If the measure is approved then, I would hope that the Ecclesiastical Committee would be able to give it early consideration and that both Houses would then separately consider it so that, if it is approved, the Synod might then be able to promulge the canon in November. That would mean that it would be possible for the first woman to be nominated as a bishop in the Church of England this year.

Turning to my hon. Friend’s question, the Church of England has changed legislation to make it much easier for church buildings to be used for a wide range of community and cultural uses. The Church of England encourages all parish churches to be open where possible for as long as possible.

Laura Sandys: Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the congregation of volunteers at St Peter’s church in Broadstairs? He very kindly visited an award-winning tourism project called the St Peter’s village tour. Will he encourage other churches to use their facilities in order to open up to the community and develop tourism propositions?

Sir Tony Baldry: I much enjoyed my visit to my hon. Friend’s constituency. She is absolutely right. The church of St Peter’s in Broadstairs is an excellent example of a church that is a hub of the community, hosting local clubs and services to the elderly, as well as toddlers groups and young people’s clubs, and, as my hon. Friend says, organising popular tours of the village for visitors to Broadstairs. May I also draw the House’s attention to Holy Trinity Margate, which is another fantastic example of a church delivering almost 24/7 social action?

Flood Relief Fund

2. Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): If the Church Commissioners will consider creating a Church of England relief fund for flood victims to which the public could contribute.

Sir Tony Baldry: Last Friday the Bishop of Taunton wrote to all parishes in the Bath and Wells diocese, giving details of how parishioners could both provide and access much-needed financial and practical support. On the wider question of a relief fund for flood victims, I think my hon. Friend was present on Monday when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government told me that a number of charities were offering help for flood victims and promised that the Government would do more to signpost those voluntary organisations to help people in distress.

Mr Speaker: I think we have time for the questions; it is hoped that we have time for the answers.

Miss McIntosh: When we had severe flooding in 2000, the then Archbishop of York, Lord Hope, created a Church of England relief fund, through which we were very humbled to receive not just national donations, but donations from Mozambique, which is a very poor country, but it wished to show solidarity. I hope my right hon. Friend will use his good offices to create such a fund through the Church of England, to which both national and international donors will be able to contribute, if they wish to do so.

Sir Tony Baldry: Every parish in flood-affected areas is, where possible and practical, giving help to those affected by the floods, including making churches available for people who have been evacuated, providing drop-in centres, visiting housebound people and delivering food parcels. On the question of an overall fund, there is a feeling that there are already a number of national funds available to help flood victims and that the Church setting up a further fund may confuse rather than help.

Credit Unions

3. Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): What guidance the Church Commissioners are providing to church congregations on supporting local credit unions.

Sir Tony Baldry: Substantial material on the Church of England’s website is publicly and readily available to church congregations to download to assist them in supporting local credit unions. The Archbishop of Canterbury has written to all clergy to encourage them and their parish churches to support the new resources, working with their local credit union and continuing to assist those in need.

Andrew Selous: The Dunstable deanery wants to set up a credit union, and the Money Matters credit union—I save with it myself—is working with Leighton-Linslade town council to set up a credit union in Leighton Buzzard. Churches can help there too. Do the Church Commissioners agree that we need more saving as well as more affordable lending?

Sir Tony Baldry: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Ever since the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated that the Church hopes over time to help compete payday lenders out of business, there has been considerable interest from parish churches right across the country about helping to support credit unions in their local areas and dioceses.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Second Church Estates Commissioner take on board the fact that although many of us support credit unions, if we are to move with the times it is crowdfunding and crowdsourcing that are appropriate to local communities and congregations? That is being pioneered in some areas, so will he consider it?

Sir Tony Baldry: As the last debate on this subject in the House demonstrated, there are a number of responsible ways to help people in difficulties to access credit, other than recourse to payday lenders.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): Not just church congregations but individual members can use credit unions. Now that the law has been changed, organisations can set up community accounts. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that churches ought to look at investing their own funds in credit unions?

Sir Tony Baldry: Yes. Indeed, many churches are already doing so. I can send the hon. Lady details of a number of diocesan-led initiatives that are doing exactly that.

Bishop of Bath and Wells: Residence

6. Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): What recent discussions the Church Commissioners have had on further consultation on the decision to relocate the residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): At the invitation of my hon. Friend, I visited Wells on 25 January to attend a public meeting and listen to the views of local people. I promised that I would report those views to the governors of the Church Commissioners, which I shall do at their next meeting later this month. She also presented a petition at General Synod earlier this week. A number of questions on this matter were also asked and answered at General Synod.

Tessa Munt: Bearing in mind that there is unity between churchgoers and those who are not churchgoers, I will quote from a letter that I received last night, which said of the Church of England:

“It is most depressing to see it damaged by its own corporate actions… There are times when I look into the internal workings of the Church of England and despair.”

People understand that the investment arm can make a return on the latest asset of the Church Commissioners, the Old Rectory at Croscombe, by renting it out on the ordinary market. However, may I make a plea for a graceful and sensitive response to the thousands who have registered their disagreement with allowing the new bishop to move in, and for there to be real consultation?

Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend has made her views on this matter very clear. I have promised that I will report those views to the governors of the Church Commissioners later this month. I am sure that they will reflect carefully on all the representations that have been made on this matter.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Lady has not merely asked a question, but offered the House a treatise. Some might even judge it to have constituted a sermon.

Archbishops of Canterbury and York: Visits

8. Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): What reports he has received on the recent visits to South Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have both been overseas in the past month. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent visit to South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were part of his programme of visits to all parts of the Anglican communion. He saw at first hand the devastating impact of conflict and the huge difficulties that are faced by the Church and the wider population in areas of conflict and instability, as well as the key role that is played by the Church and the urgent need for far-reaching efforts towards reconciliation.

Fiona Bruce: The persecution of Christians and those of other faiths is increasing in the regions that have been visited by both archbishops. What work is the Church of England doing with churches on the ground to promote peace and stability in those areas?

Sir Tony Baldry: It is difficult, in the time that is allowed, to encapsulate the seriousness of this issue. The churches are keen to help rebuild their countries by strengthening communities through reconciliation, healing and the overcoming of fear. As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, reconciliation requires people to face reality and to tell the truth about the suffering that has been experienced and the harm that has been done. He said:

“When there is enough confidence to meet each other, then honest talking is possible.”

He also stressed the importance of caring for those who have suffered. In each of those war-torn and conflict-stricken countries, one hopes and intends that the Church will be present, helping to bring reconciliation.

Mr Speaker: I hope that we all feel uplifted by the voice of Sir Tony. I feel sure that we do.

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General Synod - Church Times reports

Today’s Church Times has these two reports.

Dioceses given three months to vote on women bishops

Oil-less future looms for Synod

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Thursday, 13 February 2014

General Synod: Pilling Report

The audio recording of the final session on Wednesday dealing with the Pilling report is now available here.

The official report of the session says:


Sir Joseph Pilling made a presentation to the Synod on the report from the House of Bishops’ Working Group (GS 1929).

The Bishop of Sheffield, Steven Croft, then spoke to the Synod about the process on the basis of the report.

Synod then asked questions to the process, which were answered by Bishop Steven Croft and Sir Joseph Pilling.

Earlier, on Monday, a number of other Questions relating to the report were answered by Bishop Steven Croft.

Answers given will be transcribed from the Monday afternoon audio recording soon.

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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

General Synod - Wednesday - press reports

John Bingham The Telegraph
Welby tells Church refusing gay blessings will be viewed like racism
[The headline on this article was changed after publication to “Justin Welby says ‘Church viewed liked racists over homosexuality’”.]
Girl Guides offers concession to Christians in row over dropping God from pledge

David Pocklington of Law &Religion UK The Church and the Environment

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England vows to fight ‘great demon’ of climate change

Michael Trimmer Christian Today Climate change is ‘great demon of our day’

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Church Society calls for 12 Conservative Evangelical Bishops

Church Society issued a press release this afternoon. In it the director of Church Society calls for the appointment of 12 Conservative Evangelical Bishops.

News Release from Church Society
12 February 2014

Lee Gatiss looks to Archbishop for credible action after positive words

‘I welcome Archbishop Justin Welby’s Presidential Address to General Synod this morning, particularly his important reminder to us all that ‘where God is involved, there is no limit to what can happen, and no limit to human flourishing.’ He is absolutely right that if the Church of England is to live out its commitment to see conservative evangelicals flourish ‘there is going to have to be a massive cultural change’ that some may find threatening. I deeply sympathise with him when he confesses that this may be a hard course to steer, but am heartened when he says ‘Yet I know it is right that we set such a course and hold to it through thick and thin.’

After this candid speech, we are looking to him, in a positive and hopeful way, to make the claim that he wants evangelicals like us to flourish in the Church truly credible. He could do that in two ways: first, by engaging conservatives in real dialogue, listening in detail to our concerns; and second, encouraging and ensuring the appointment of 12 Conservative Evangelical Bishops.

A commitment in this area would convince us, including many young evangelicals exploring vocations, of the sincerity of the House of Bishops’ claim that they wish to provide for our flourishing. It would be a welcome game-changer in creating trust from our constituency. In an episcopal system, to which we are happily committed, this would be a very persuasive sign that we have a future.’

Lee Gatiss
Director, Church Society.

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General Synod - Wednesday

Order paper for the day

Official summary of the morning’s business: General Synod - Wednesday AM

Official summary of the afternoon’s business: General Synod - Wednesday PM

Press release on the environmental issues debate: General Synod re-affirms the Church of England’s commitment to play a leading role in the effort to prevent dangerous climate change

Press release on the girl guides promise debate: Synod approves motion to support girl guides promise action

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WATCH and Forward in Faith respond to yesterday's votes on women bishops

WATCH press release

Women and the Church (WATCH)

Press Release Tuesday 11 February 2014 2.00pm

Women in the Episcopate Legislation

WATCH is very pleased that the legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England is now proceeding. We look forward to having the first woman bishop being nominated by the end of the year.

Hilary Cotton, Chair of WATCH, said, “There was a real sense of wanting to move forward today”.

Forward in Faith statement

The Act of Synod and the House of Bishops’ Declaration
Feb 12, 2014

As part of the package of proposals regarding the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England, the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 is to be replaced by a House of Bishops’ Declaration and a Resolution of Disputes Procedure (to be established by Regulations made under a new Canon).

Yesterday the General Synod welcomed the draft Declaration and Regulations and included the text of the new Canon in the legislation that will now be referred to the diocesan synods for approval. It also voted in favour, at the preliminary stage, of the draft Act of Synod that will eventually rescind the existing Act of Synod. We note that this will only come into force when the new Canon is promulged, thus ensuring continuity.

We welcome the fact that the new House of Bishops’ Declaration refers to the Sees of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough by name. It notes that they will remain in existence as one of the means by which episcopal ministry is provided to parishes that pass resolutions under the Declaration.

We welcome the following statement by the House of Bishops in paragraph 23 of its most recent report (GS 1932):

‘The title and role of the “provincial episcopal visitor” are currently set out in the 1993 Act of Synod. There is no reason why these – or the financial arrangements for the three sees – should change when the 1993 Act of Synod is rescinded, given the House’s wish for there to be continuity. As noted in paragraph 30 of the Declaration, the three sees and their occupants remain an integral part of the new dispensation.’

We welcome the fact that, once the new Declaration has been finalized, the House of Bishops will only be able to amend it if the amendment has been approved by two-thirds majorities in each House of the General Synod. This gives us assurance as we approach the new era that the legislation will initiate.

The Act of Synod has served the Church of England well. We are confident that the Declaration will enable us to flourish within its life and structures for generations to come.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker

Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Lay Vice-Chairman

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 at 12:20pm GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Synod votes to bring forward draft safeguarding legislation

Press release following this morning’s General Synod debate on Safeguarding

Synod votes to bring forward draft safeguarding legislation
12 February 2014

Synod voted today that proposals for draft legislation to enable the Church of England to deal more effectively with safeguarding issues be brought forward.

General Synod last July voted to endorse work on legislative and non-legislative changes to enhance the Church of England’s safeguarding arrangements following on from the Chichester Commissaries’ interim and final reports.

The proposals take into account not just the recommendations of the Commissaries but also other submissions made in the course of the Archbishops’ Council’s consultation. The intention is to introduce legislation in July 2014.

The proposed draft legislation outlined in full detail here will:

Tighten up procedures around temporary permissions to officiate in a local parish

Prevent clergy robing during a service when prohibited or disbarred

Give bishops power, where appropriate, to direct clergy to undergo a risk assessment (this is currently voluntary)

Prevent anyone who is on a barred list from serving as a churchwarden or as a member of a PCC, district council or synod

Prevent anyone with certain convictions in relation to children from serving as a member of a PCC, district council or synod.

Give bishops the power to suspend people from these posts and bodies if arrested on suspicion of committing certain offences against children.

Introduce similar provision covering lay workers and Readers.

Remove the 12 month Clergy Discipline Measure limitation period for bringing a complaint about sexual misconduct committed against children or vulnerable adults.

Extend the bishop’s power of suspension.

Three additional suggestions for reform include:

(i) The imposition of a duty on relevant persons to have due regard to the House of Bishops’ current safeguarding policies

(ii) The imposition of a duty on all diocesan bishops to appoint a diocesan safeguarding advisor

(iii) The imposition of a duty on relevant persons to undergo safeguarding training when required to do so by the bishop.

The Bishop of Durham Paul Butler, Joint Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee said: “This is just one step towards the Church making itself a safer place for all while acknowledging that effects of abuse on survivors can be lifelong. We are determined to improve our procedures and policies. We recognise that simply changing these does not transform our DNA but is an important start. We can never be complacent and we continue to urge any victims or those with information about church-related abuse to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.”


July 2013 Synod safeguarding debate

May 2013 Response to Final Report of Archbishop’s Chichester Visitation

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Archbishop's Presidential Address to the General Synod

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave his presidential address to General Synod this morning. The text is available here: Archbishop’s Presidential Address to the General Synod preceded by this remark “In his presidential address to Synod today, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby spoke of the need for ‘massive cultural change’ within the Church of England so that people can flourish together despite deeply held differences on issues such as sexuality and women bishops”.

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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

General Synod: Questions about ACNA

The Revd Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:

Q. Has an assessment been made of any implications of the appointment of the Revd Tory Baucum as one of Canterbury Cathedral’s Six Preachers from the point of view of the relationship between the Church of England and ACNA (with which the Church of England is not currently in communion)?

The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply as Chair of the House of Bishops:

A. Careful thought and assessment has certainly been given to the appointment of Dr Tory Baucum from the point of view of the relationship between the Church of England and ACNA and also the relationship with The Episcopal Church of course with which the Church of England is in communion, and for that matter with the relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada who feel implicated in this, and also by a number of other churches around the Communion, particularly in the group known as the Global South. An invitation to be a Six Preacher is a personal appointment of the Archbishop and has no implications in itself as to ecclesial relationships. However this particular appointment is of a person who has a distinguished ministry in reconciliation, which he exercises carefully in his context. There was consultation with a number of people and the appointment has been enthusiastically welcomed by the local bishop of The Episcopal Church, bishop, Shannon Johnston, the Bishop of Virginia.

Supplementary question from Canon Goddard:

… Could you just say what steps have been taken to ensure that this appointment is not taken to mean that clergy ordained in this country by overseas bishops, without the permission of the diocesan, are nevertheless recognised in the Church of England.

A. Thank you. I’m straying slightly onto thin ice here. It is true that permission would need to be given under the 1967 Measure, which is presumably what you are thinking about, in order for Tory to preach here. But it will not be breaking new ground, because Tory having been ordained in The Episcopal Church, the permission can be given under Section 1 of the Measure. That is, on the basis that he has been ordained by a bishop of a church in communion with the Church of England. It will not therefore be based upon the recognition and acceptance of the orders conferred by the ACNA.

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Women bishops - press reports

BBC Women bishops: Church backs plan to fast-track scheme

John Bingham The Telegraph Women bishops plan fast-tracked after warning change ‘urgently needed’

Madeleine Davies and Tim Wyatt Church Times Women-bishops package makes brisk progress

Michael Trimmer Christian Today Church of England paves way for first women bishops

Penny Marshall ITV News Church of England moves closer to a vote on women bishops - but it’s not over yet

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has written this helpful summary: Women in the episcopate – further progress.

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General Synod - Tuesday afternoon

Here is the official summary of this afternoon’s business: General Synod - Tuesday PM and the order paper.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 at 10:05pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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General Synod approves next steps on Women in the Episcopate

Updated Wednesday morning
The paragraph italicised (by me) below originally referred the voting figures to the wrong item. It has now been amended by Church House.

Press release from the Church of England following today’s debates.

General Synod approves next steps on Women in the Episcopate
11 February 2014

The General Synod of the Church of England has today voted to pave the way for the legislative process to enable Women to become Bishops to be completed this year.

In a series of interrelated legislative and procedural items the Synod held four debates dealing with differing aspects relating to women in the episcopate.

The first synod discussion related to the House of Bishops draft Declaration and Disputes Resolution Procedure regulations - GS 1932.

Both the proposed declaration and accompanying regulations were drawn up by the House of Bishops at the invitation of the last meeting of the Synod.

The debate was opened by the Rt. Revd. James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, Chair of the Steering Committee, who moved “That this Synod welcomes the draft House of Bishop’s Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and the draft Resolution of Disputes Procedures Regulations as set out in GS 1932”
The motion was passed by the Synod.

The second debate dealt with the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure - GS 1925A - and Draft Amending Canon No.33 - GS 1926A. At its meeting in November the General Synod voted to dispense with a Revision Committee Stage for the new legislation so that the Synod could conduct the Revision Stage in Full Synod.

After debate the revision stage for both the measure and the canon were completed without any amendments being made.

The Synod then gave preliminary consideration to the draft Act of Synod to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 - GS 1934.

The measure was accepted by Synod; and the amending Canon no.33 was passed by Synod by 304 votes to 33 with 45 abstentions.

The final debate on women in the episcopate in this session took the form of a procedural motion suspending Standing Order 90(b) (iii) so that the reference of the draft Measure and draft Canon to the Dioceses under Article 8 of the Synod’s Constitution can be concluded within 3 months rather than the 6 months stipulated under the standing order.

After debate the motion, requiring a 75% majority of the whole Synod, was approved by 358 votes to 39 with 9 abstentions.

The legislation now goes to the dioceses for approval. Provided a majority approve it by the 22 May deadline the General Synod will be able to hold the final approval debate in July, less than 20 months after the failure of the earlier legislation to secure the necessary two-thirds majorities in November 2012. If passed the legislation would then go to Parliament for approval and could be in force before the end of the year.

An audio interview with the Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, about the latest approval of legislation towards seeing Women in the Episcopate is available here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 at 4:46pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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General Synod - Women in the Episcopate debates

Today (Tuesday) General Synod is holding a series of debates on the legislation on Women in the Episcopate. This article will be updated as the debates proceed.

The order paper for all the debates is here and includes the text of all motions before Synod.

First debate

Synod debated and passed this motion:

That this Synod welcome the draft House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and the draft Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations as set out in GS 1932

Second debate

This was the revision stage of the draft Measure (GS 1925A) and Canon (GS 1926A). The draft measure was considered clause by clause.

Clause 1 is the clause that allows women to be bishops. After a short debate Synod voted to include it in the measure.

The amendment to Clause 2 was withdrawn, and Synod voted to include the clause in the measure.

The insertion of the proposed new Clause 3 was defeated.

Synod then quickly proceeded to accept the remainder of the draft measure. this completed revision (without amendment) of the draft measure GS1925A.

Third debate

After a very short debate a division of the whole synod was called on the draft amending canon. There were 304 votes in favour of the canon, 33 against and 45 recorded abstentions.

Fourth debate

The final part of the package is the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993. This requires another Act of Synod. Synod voted in favour of this new Act (which will require final approval at a later Synod).

At this point Synod broke (a little early) for lunch.

The official summary of the morning’s business is here: General Synod - Tuesday AM.

Fifth debate

The draft measure must be referred to dioceses (and a majority of them must vote in favour) before the legislation can proceed to final approval. Synod’s standing orders require dioceses to be given a minimum of six months to respond. But Synod was asked after lunch to agree to a suspension of the relevant standing order so that dioceses could be required to respond in time for final approval to be taken in July 2014.

The suspension of the standing order was carried with 358 votes in favour and 39 against, with 9 recorded abstentions. Motions of this sort require a 75% majority, which was comfortably met.

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General Synod - Tuesday morning press reports

BBC Women bishops law: Church asked to back fast-track scheme

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England admits selling Wonga stake will take a ‘little while’.

Reshma Rumsey ITV News Church of England Synod to vote on women Bishops

BBC Hundreds sign petition against Bath and Wells bishop move

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Monday, 10 February 2014

General Synod - Monday

General Synod opened its February group of sessions at 2.00 pm today. This page will be updated with notes on the business transacted.

There is a live video stream here.

The last item of business today is Questions (and answers). The questions themselves have been published here.

There was an Ethical Investment Advisory Group presentation to Synod.

Synod debated gender-based violence and passed this motion.

That this Synod, believing that all people are made in the image of God and that all forms of violence based on gender represent an abuse and violation of that image:
(a) affirm work already undertaken in dioceses, deaneries, parishes and Church of England schools in raising awareness and caring for survivors of gender-based violence in all our diverse communities;
(b) support measures to bring perpetrators to account and provide support for changed lifestyles;
(c) encourage boys and men to stand against gender-based violence; and
(d) commend Anglican Consultative Council Resolution 15:7 on preventing and eliminating gender-based violence to dioceses, deaneries and parishes and urge them to seek practical approaches to its implementation.

A press release was promptly released after the debate: Synod approves motion to affirm work in combating Gender-based violence.

Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod - Monday PM.

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Statement from Church Commissioners on Bishop's Palace, Wells

The Church Commissioners issued this statement this morning.

Statement from Church Commissioners on Bishop’s Palace, Wells
10 February 2014

As the providers of housing for all Diocesan Bishops in the Church of England, the Commissioners consider that the sustainability of the ministry of each bishop to be of crucial importance. This means that every Bishop should be housed appropriately and that their homes are properly places of rest and privacy in the midst of ministries which are increasingly demanding in terms of leadership and management, civic engagement and pastoral support of the whole diocese.

In arriving at their decision the Commissioners held two meetings with senior members of the Diocesan leadership team, including Bishop of Taunton, prior to any decision being taken and kept them informed of the progress of the matter through the Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee and the Board of Governors. We listened carefully to their concerns. The fact that they do not agree with the decision that was ultimately made is not evidence of a lack of consultation.

The provision of housing inevitably involves choices and on occasion making hard unpopular decisions. In recent years similar decision have been taken in Durham Diocese and Carlisle Diocese. In every case the provision of housing appropriate to the local context. In Wells the Bishop’s Palace is currently celebrating record 2013 visitor figures of 61,100; a 39% increase compared to 2012 (44,100 visitors). In addition 53 events were held at the Palace (an increase on the 47 held in 2012), including festivals, fairs, medieval falconry, outdoor theatre, hands-on workshops and family trails.

The Church Commissioners share with the Palace Trust, who continue to be responsible for the day to day running of the palace, the hope that this increase in visitor numbers and activity will continue in the years to come. The Commissioners do not share the view that the future of the Palace as a viable attraction is dependent upon the Bishop residing in the building.

In light of such activity it is right and proper that considerations such as appropriate privacy for any new Bishop are considered and whether it is sustainable for a diocesan bishop and his family to live in the midst of an increasingly busy tourist attraction. The Commissioners believe that it is not. Inevitably such decisions are hard choices and in this instance the Commissioners are aware that their decision has not been popular. It must however be balanced against wider considerations, not least where the welfare of those who by virtue of their calling find themselves in demanding positions of responsibility.

The Commissioners believe that by living in the palace the Bishop will in practice find it very difficult to avoid devoting significant amounts of time to its maintenance, operation and upkeep. The experience of the last bishop bears this point out. It remains the commissioners view that any incoming bishop should not find his ministry restricted in this way before his ministry commences.

The new Bishop played no part in the decision with the consultations with the senior leadership team taking place before the bishop’s appointment. Going forward the issue of the Bishop’s housing is not something which should overshadow the Bishop’s ministry. We agree with the diocese that it would be unhelpful for this issue to be one in which the Bishop himself is expected to become involved.

In the short term the Commissioners have invested in a property in Crosscombe which they believe will enable the Bishop to carry out his ministry whilst the search continues for a more permanent home. The property was formerly owned by the Diocese and not by the Commissioners contrary to some media reports. The Diocese sold the property to a purchaser who invested considerably in repairs and upgrades to the property. The Church commissioners have subsequently completed their purchase of this property. No funds from the diocese, the monies given by parishioners on a regular basis, was involved in the purchase of the property which will be part of the property portfolio held by the commissioners for investment purposes.
The office of the Bishop of Bath and wells will remain at the Palace where he will continue to be based with his staff and the Bishop of Taunton. The Bishop’s chapel will also continue to be used as a regular place of prayer by the Bishop and his staff.

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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Pre-Synod press roundup

Updated Monday morning

The General Synod meets in London for three days, starting tomorrow (Monday). Here are some online news and comment articles about items on the agenda.

Church Times
Paul Handley Poll: lack of trust in Synod
Angela Tilby The Synod must get real on gay sex
Gavin Drake Churches urged to tackle domestic violence

These three refer to a diocesan synod motion on environmental issues.
Gillan Scott God & Politics in the UK The Church of England mustn’t waste this opportunity to address the ravages of climate change
David Pocklington Law & Religion UK Fracking and the Church of England
Independent Catholic News A ‘Beyond-Lightbulbs-Moment: CoE Synod to debate environment

John Bingham The Telegraph Final hurdle for women bishops to overcome

Kate Cooper blogs on Girl Guides and Female Bishops – The Plot Thickens.

Stephen Lynas blogs QUESTION: “Why do we never get an answer?”

There are links to the papers for the women in the episcopate legislation here, and to the agenda and other papers here.


Tina Rowe Western Daily Press Petition to save role of Wells’ Bishop’s Palace goes to General Synod

Alice Collins Christian Today Women bishops legislation dominates Church of England General Synod

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Saturday, 8 February 2014


Norman Ivison guest blogs at God and Politics UK about Building churches fit for the future – 7 lessons that need to be learnt.

Jayne Dawson of the Yorkshire Evening Post has been talking to Nick Baines: New Bishop of Leeds is the spy who loved God.

Michael Northcott writes in the Church Times about The argument against fossil fuels.

Part two of the Church Times series on the health of the Church of England includes these two articles available to non-subscribers:
Linda Woodhead Not enough boots on the ground
Abby Day Generation A — the dwindling force

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred mysteries column in The Telegraph about The mermaid on the church roof.

Malcolm Clemens Young writes for the Huffington Post about Our Common Identity.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 8 February 2014 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Friday, 7 February 2014

Jane Hedges to be Dean of Norwich

Press release from the Prime Minister’s office

Dean of Norwich: Jane Barbara Hedges
7 February 2014

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Jane Barbara Hedges, BA, Sub-Dean, Canon Steward and Archdeacon of Westminster, to be appointed to the Deanery of the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Norwich, on the resignation of the Very Reverend Graham Charles Morell Smith, BA, on 31 October 2014.

Notes for editors

The Venerable Jane Hedges (aged 58) was educated at Durham University and Cranmer Hall, Durham and has an Honorary Doctorate from Portsmouth University.

She served a curacy at Holy Trinity with St Columba, Fareham from 1980 to 1983. She then became Team Vicar in the Southampton City Centre Team Ministry from 1983 to 1988 before becoming Diocesan Stewardship Adviser in Portsmouth diocese for 5 years. From 1993 to 2001 she was Canon Pastor at Portsmouth Cathedral. From 2001 to 2003 she was Priest-in-Charge of the Honiton Team Ministry in the Diocese of Exeter, becoming Team Rector in 2003 and also Rural Dean. In 2006 she was appointed Canon Steward at Westminster Abbey and Archdeacon of Westminster, also becoming Sub-Dean in August 2013.

Jane Hedges is married to Chris and they have two sons, Jonathan and Adam. Her interests include travelling, sport, walking, animal welfare and entertaining.

The Norwich diocesan website has First female Dean of Norwich appointed.
Norwich Cathedral has New Dean of Norwich Appointed.

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Living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells - 2

This is an update to our earlier article here.

Archbishop Cranmer blogs that Tessa Munt MP intends to gate-crash General Synod on behalf of the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Arun Arora, Director of Communications, Church Commissioners, has written to The Telegraph: When palaces are unsuitable for modern life.

John Bingham writes in The Telegraph today that Churchgoers fear secret plan to sell bishops’ palace, says former Dean, referring to a letter from Richard Lewis also in The Telegraph: Evicted Bishop of Wells.

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Thursday, 6 February 2014

Scottish Roman Catholic adoption agency wins its appeal

The Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has overturned the ruling of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in the case of St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.

The full text of this decision is available online here.

Analysis of the case by Frank Cranmer can be found at Law & Religion UK under the title Adoption, sexual orientation and charitable status: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.

Frank comments towards the end of his article:

…The first and most obvious point is that it would be quite astonishing if this decision were not appealed. The second is whether or not the Panel was correct to find that the discrimination complained of was indirect (and therefore capable of justification) rather than direct.

As to the second point, it is undoubtedly the case that St Margaret’s is not a public authority and that it does not operate under a contract with a public authority. The most interesting question, however, is how the case is to be distinguished from the Catholic Care litigation in England and Wales…

Neil Addison has also written about this case: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society (3) SCAP Judgment and he comments:

…How the future will lie for St Margarets is difficult to say. it is likely that OSCR will decide not to Appeal because the Panels decision on the very narrow point of “public Interest” was, legally speaking, the crucial point in relation to the powers and the actions of OSCR and the Panels decision on that point seems unassailable. St Margarets may however be faced with further legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and no doubt from the troublemakers of the National Secular Society. What really gets to me is that the NSS don’t do anything themselves to help Children or indeed to help anyone they simply criticise and try to change the good works done by others.

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Oxford University to award honorary degree to Presiding Bishop

Updated Friday

Press release from Oxford University:

Six leading figures from the worlds of science, the arts and religion are set to receive honorary degrees from the University of Oxford this year, subject to approval by Congregation.

The degrees will be awarded at Encaenia, the University’s annual honorary degree ceremony, on Wednesday 25 June 2014.

Degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa:

The Most Reverend Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, PhD, is Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and 16 other nations. Over the course of her nine-year term, Bishop Jefferts Schori is responsible for initiating and developing policy for the Episcopal Church and speaks on behalf of the church regarding the policies, strategies and programmes authorised by General Convention. Bishop Jefferts Schori’s studies for the priesthood, to which she was ordained in 1994, were preceded by her career as an oceanographer. She holds a BSc in biology from Stanford University, an MSc and PhD in oceanography from Oregon State University, an MDiv from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and several honorary doctoral degrees…

Update Lambeth Palace has issued this:
Archbishop congratulates Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on honorary Oxford degree

Friday 7th February 2014

Archbishop Justin has welcomed news that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the University of Oxford

Archbishop Justin said: “I am delighted by the news that the Most Revd Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori is to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford. This award, richly deserved, reaffirms Bishop Katharine’s remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion, which she has dedicated to the service of Christ.

“Prior to becoming ordained, Bishop Katharine pursued a career in oceanography, and her enduring deep commitment to the environment has evolved into a profound dedication to stewardship of our planet and humankind, especially in relieving poverty and extending the love and hospitality of Christ to those on the edges of society. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said of Bishop Katharine, ‘In her version of reality, everything is sacred except sin.’

“It must be noted, too, that Bishop Katharine’s achievements serve – and will continue to serve – as a powerful model for women seeking to pursue their vocations in the church.”

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Church of England Funded Pension Scheme valuation

Updated Wednesday

The Church of England Pensions Board issued this statement last month.

The Church of England Funded Pension Scheme valuation
21 January 2014

In response to the claims in the media by Mr John Ralfe in relation to the Church of England Clergy Pensions Scheme, the pensions board has issued the following statement:

John Ralfe’s claim that there is a big hole in the clergy pension scheme is simply inaccurate. At the last valuation of the scheme, on 31 December 2012, the funding deficit was 25%, and we are on target to be fully funded over the next decade. Had the valuation been carried out at the end of 2013, we might have expected the funding deficit to be closer to 15%.

Mr. Ralfe says that the clergy pension scheme’s discount rate was increased by 0.5% without an explanation. The pensions board made the assumptions for the valuation based on their assessment of the strength of the responsible bodies’ financial covenant, the fall in yields on fixed interest gilts, market expectations for future RPI inflation and up to date mortality expectations. The discount rate is in line with advice from an independent actuary and with the requirements of the pensions regulator.

Mr. Ralfe has raised these sorts of issues in the past, but has refused numerous offers by the Church of England Pensions Board to meet to discuss this matter.

Our return-seeking funds have returned 20.8% over the three years to the end of 2012, and provisionally, 27.7% over the three years to 2013, improving the funding position of the scheme.

Mr Ralfe also fails to take into account that, unlike most other defined benefit schemes, this scheme is still quite immature and is still open to new members giving it a healthy contribution inflow. A bond heavy investment policy is not normally seen as either necessary or desirable for relatively immature schemes, and would make them unnecessarily expensive.

Robert Peston, the business editor of the BBC published this article on the same day: An unholy pension hole.
The following day Simon Read wrote in The Independent: Vicars’ retirement savings in jeopardy, says pension expert

John Ralfe has now published an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Financial Times: Dear Archbishop, the Church of England is in pension denial and on his website. [Registration (free) required in both cases]


Following Ralfe’s release yesterday of his letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pensions Board has today issued the letter that it sent in reply; read it here. It goes into much more detail than the press release above.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 4 February 2014 at 6:13pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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new Bishop of Leeds announced

It has been announced this morning from 10 Downing Street that the first Bishop of Leeds, serving the new diocese in West Yorkshire and the Dales, is to be the outgoing Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines.

The press release from Number 10 reads:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, BA, Bishop of Bradford, for election as the new Bishop of Leeds, following the restructuring of the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield into the Diocese of Leeds (West Yorkshire and the Dales).

Biographical notes on Nick Baines appear below the fold.

The website for the proto-diocese carries this story Bishop of Bradford Announced as First Bishop of Leeds for the new Diocese

The Archbishop of York has issued his own lengthy press statement.

Nick Baines has blogged about his own appointment here.

There is a video in which he speaks about this too.


The Right Reverend Nicholas Baines (aged 56) studied Modern Languages at the University of Bradford, worked as a linguist specialist at GCHQ, Cheltenham, and trained for ordination at Trinity College Bristol. He was ordained Deacon in 1987 and Priest in 1988.

From 1987 to 1991 he served as assistant curate at St Thomas Kendal and from 1991 to 1992 as assistant priest at Holy Trinity with Saint John, Leicester. In 1992 he was appointed Vicar of St Mary and Saint John, Rothley in Leicester Diocese where he remained until 2000 when he became Archdeacon of Lambeth.

In 2003 to 2011 he was appointed Area Bishop of Croydon. Since 2011 he has been Bishop of Bradford. He was a Member of the General Synod from 1995 to 2005 and was a Director of the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group from 2002 to 2010. A regular broadcaster, he also chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust. He is the Anglican Co-chair of the Meissen Commission and represents the Archbishop of Canterbury at global interfaith conferences. He has written 6 books and writes a popular blog.

He is married to Linda and they have 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren. His interests include the shaping of the church to face the challenges and opportunities of the twenty first century, particularly engagement with people outside the church. Other interests include reading, music and sport (particularly Liverpool FC).

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 4 February 2014 at 10:02am GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Monday, 3 February 2014

Bishop of Gloucester to retire

Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, has announced that he will retire on 21 November 2014.

The diocese joins the queue for the Crown Nominations Commission, which has no free slots before 2015.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 3 February 2014 at 11:07am GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 1 February 2014


James Langstaff, the Bishop of Rochester, has been interviewed by Marijke Cox of Kent News: Bishop of Rochester opens up about women bishops, his new prison role and dinner with The Queen.

Simon Jenkins (the one who edits Ship of Fools) writes for Reform Magazine about Between hairiness and holiness.

John Packer, who retires as Bishop of Ripon and Leeds next week, reflects on his seven years in the House of Lords.

David Runcorn, writing for Fulcrum, asks And how do I know when I am wrong? Evangelical faith and the Bible.

Andrew Brown explains on his blog Why I am not a Christian. The Church Times has published this under the title Help thou mine unbelief.

The Church Times starts a major series on the health of the Church of England this week. Much is only available to subscribers, but these three are free to all.
Leader comment Near-decimation
Linda Woodhead Time to get serious
Vicky Beeching What gets me out of bed on Sunday

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 1 February 2014 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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