Saturday, 29 November 2014

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Oxford Faith Debate on Diversity

Debate 3 was reported here.

A press release was issued just prior to Debate 4. This was heavily criticised by Ian Paul in The state of the (Westminster) debate.

The debate took place on 20 November and the full audio recordings are now available here.

Several who were there have blogged about it:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 5:20pm GMT | Comments (14)
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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests

The arrangements under which Church of England parishes can now, on grounds of theological conviction, seek the priestly or episcopal ministry of men are contained in the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests which was made by the House of Bishops in May 2014. There is also a grievance procedure if PCCs are not satisfied with the arrangements offered. This procedure could only be officially put in place after the new Canon allowing women to become bishops was promulged at General Synod on Monday 17 November, and the House of Bishops did this that evening.

The Declaration, together with a guidance note, and the Grievance Procedure are available online.
Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (GS Misc 1076)
Guidance Note (GS Misc 1077)
Grievance Procedure: Regulations made by the House of Bishops under Canon C 29 (GS Misc 1087)

It should be noted that drafts of the Declaration and Grievance Procedure (GS 1932) were presented to, and “welcomed” by General Synod in February 2014, so none of this was new this month.

it was also announced before the November meeting of Synod that Sir Philip Mawer would be the first Independent Reviewer for the grievance procedure (GS Misc 1090).

This is all available on the Church of England website, along with a summary of how to bring a grievance: Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests.

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Cathedral Statistics 2013

The Church of England has issued its Cathedral Statistics 2013 today, along with this press release.

Cathedrals offer place of peace and prayer in busy lives, reveal new stats
24 November 2014

The number of people attending midweek services at cathedrals has doubled in the past 10 years, show new figures published today from the Church of England’s Research and Statistics department. One of the factors attributed is the need for a place of peace in increasingly busy lives.

Midweek attendance at cathedrals was 7,500 in 2003 rising to 15,000 in 2013 (compared to 12,400 in 2012). In a Church of England podcast published today the Dean of Lichfield, Adrian Dorber, said he has seen the need for people wanting a short snatch of peace midweek in what are now very pressurised lifestyles. “At the weekend you’ve got commitments with children doing sport, shopping, household maintenance - life’s run at the double these days and weekends are very pressurised and committed. Taking out half an hour or an hour every week is much more negotiable.”

Anecdote to Evidence research published earlier this year showed that that the highest motivating factors for Cathedral attendance were peace and contemplation, worship and music and friendly atmosphere.

The Dean of York Minster, Vivienne Faull, commented: “We do have the opportunity of allowing people to come in from the edges. If I take a eucharist at 12.30 in the middle of the week in the nave of York Minster there’ll be a lot of people who just slide in from the side. It’s not so much about anonymity, there’s the feeling there’s a journey you can travel which doesn’t require huge steps - it just requires one little step.”

Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, said: “Patterns of church attendance are different now. Cathedrals are uniquely placed to be providing greater opportunities for worship and that includes during the week.”

The Stats also show that attendance at Christmas cathedral services had increased rising from 117,200 in 2012 to 124,300 in 2013 with many cathedrals putting on new services.


More information on Lichfield Cathedral can be found here.
More information on York Minster can be found here.
More information on Gloucester Cathedral can be found here.

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Questions about leaks from the Crown Nominations Commission

The following questions were put to the Archbishop of Canterbury during Questions at General Synod on Monday evening by Dr Jo Spreadbury (St Albans).

Has the Commission considered why one name consistently appears in the media as having been under consideration by it and whether, when such reports appear, the Commission might in the interests of fairness release the names of all those who were in fact on the shortlist for the appointment concerned?

The Archbishop, speaking as Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission, replied:

Those who take part in Crown Nominations Commissions or who are involved in the process for selecting suffragan bishops are bound by requirements of confidentiality, something that we repeat at each CNC at the beginning of the process. There are strong arguments both for transparency and for confidentiality. It is a question which is discussed from time to time, and the Archbishop of York and I keep it under review, as he has already said.

It is, however, precisely because selection processes are meant to be confidential - in the interests of all concerned - that it is so damaging when reports appear in the press purporting to give inside information and naming an individual. The harm is done whether these are true, false or wholly speculative. It is unkind, hurtful and unjust to the person concerned and simply should not happen.

Supplementary question:

Given the damaging reports that you refer to, what steps will be taken to revise the CNC process, both to call to account members who breach the declaration of confidentiality they make, and to prevent undue influence in the process, even say by the Archbishop of Canterbury, even say in the interests of the Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop replied:

We will continue to keep the way that we operate under close review, and to ensure that it is carried out in line with the Equality Act, wherever that applies.

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What Tim Allen said about discrimination in CNC appointments

During the debate on the Business Committee report, Mr Tim Allen (St Edmundsbury and Ipswich) made a speech in which, while requesting further action from the archbishops in relation to the selection of women for episcopal appointments, he mentioned specifically:

…their formidable powers of process control, leadership, and forceful persuasion to ensure (I am putting it very politely) that the CNC moves boldly with all speed and determination to the appointment of as many as possible of the best of the Church of England’s excellent senior women as diocesan bishops, preferably with seats in the House of Lords…

He later continued:

…And there is a closely related matter, on which I hope Archbishop Justin will also respond. For it is not only women who were excluded in a discriminatory and prejudiced way from the House of Bishops. So too were, and still are, those gay men who do not hide their sexuality in the closet. Those who are honest and frank enough to live openly in a civil partnership while behaving in the chaste way required by church law are it seems, from all the evidence de facto excluded from the House of Bishops, even when they are eminently qualified to be a bishop.

To make bishops of women required today’s change in the law of the church. But it is not law, it is simply prejudice which keeps out of the House of Bishops these men who are gay, chaste and honest. Such prejudice and discrimination is wrong, even when it is dressed up as a necessary tribute to certain homophobic elements of the Anglican Communion. Such prejudice and discrimination will increasingly be seen to be wrong by much of the nation which the Church of England seeks to serve, especially the younger people, who have shown for example by their sympathy for Alan Turing the gay wartime codebreaker [to] utterly reject the persecution of homosexual people.

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Saturday, 22 November 2014


Miranda Threlfall-Holmes 5 Things I miss about being Laity

Cathy Newman interviews Rose Hudson-Wilkin for The Telegraph Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin: The truth? We’re all fearful for the first female bishops

Rupert Christiansen The Telegraph Why do Christmas carols make the church feel nervous?

Erasmus The Economist Hello ladies, goodbye Communion?

Lucy Ward The Guardian Una Kroll: ‘Public protest is still very important’

Sam Wells The Christian Century Dressed for the moment

Bosco Peters A Bishop is not a Priest

Isabel Berwick Financial Times From atheist teenager to lady of the parish

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Women bishops legislation: Isle of Man & Channel Islands

Updated on Sunday to add the two supplementary questions

The Questions on Monday evening at General Synod included this question and answer:

The Revd Rosalind Rutherford (Winchester) asked the Secretary General:
Q What steps need to be taken to ensure that all the components of the legislative package for Women in the Episcopate will apply fully in the Isle of Man and in all the Channel Islands; and can you confirm that these steps have been taken so that the legislation can come into force on the same day as that on which it is expected to come into force in England (17th Nov 2014)?

Mr William Fittall replied:
A The legislation that has come into force today in England cannot come into force in the Crown Dependencies until the usual processes involving the civil authorities of those distinct jurisdictions have been completed. In the case of the Isle of Man a draft Measure has been prepared, for consideration by the diocesan synod at the earliest possible opportunity on 13 January, and will then need to be submitted to Tynwald. In the case of the Channel Islands a scheme needs to be drawn up in consultation with the deanery synods of the Islands, communicated to the States General for comment, approved by the General Synod and then confirmed by Order in Council. I understand that process is about to begin but it is a little too soon to predict the timescale.


Rosalind Rutherford asked a supplementary question:
Q I think many members will think it’s regrettable it’s not possible to give a specific date for the Channel Islands, but could you assure Synod that active and practical encouragement will be given to those responsible for the process to ensure that it will take significantly less time than the extra six years it took the 1992 Measure to be applied in the Islands.

Mr Fittall replied:
A Well we have just broken the land speed record in getting the legislation through the Ecclesiastical Committee in about eight days and through the two Houses of Parliament very speedily after the recess. In relation to the civil authorities in the Channel Islands it would be very good if we could similarly create a new record, but I am afraid I cannot guarantee because that is not ultimately in my hands or indeed in the hands of the General Synod.

The Bishop of Dover asked:
Q Would the Secretary General find it helpful to know that letters have gone to the deaneries of Jersey and Guernsey to actually start the process already?

Mr Fittall replied:
A That is very encouraging.

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich

Press release from the Prime Minister’s Office

Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich: Martin Alan Seeley

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
First published: 20 November 2014
Part of: Arts and culture

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Martin Alan Seeley for election as Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Martin Alan Seeley, MA, STM, Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge in the Diocese of Ely, for election as Bishop of Saint Edmundsbury and Ipswich in succession to the Right Reverend William Nigel Stock, BA, on his translation as Bishop at Lambeth on 13 November 2013.

Notes for editors
Martin Seeley is 60, and read geography and then theology at Jesus College, Cambridge, before a year at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. He was awarded the English Fellowship at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and continued his ministerial training there. He served his title at the parish of Bottesford with Ashby, Scunthorpe in Lincoln Diocese from 1978 to 1980. He then returned to New York City where he served as curate at the Church of the Epiphany and Assistant Director of Trinity Institute, Trinity Wall Street, from 1980 to 1985. From 1985 to 1990 he was Executive Director of the Thompson Center, an ecumenical lay and clergy education programme in St Louis, Missouri. He returned to England in 1990 and until 1996 was a Selection Secretary at the Advisory Board of Ministry and Secretary for Continuing Ministerial Education. From 1996 to 2006 he was Vicar of the Isle of Dogs, Tower Hamlets, in the Diocese of London. Since 2006 he has been Principal of Westcott House, Cambridge and also from 2008 Honorary Canon at Ely Cathedral. He has also served as President of the Cambridge Theological Federation for the past 2 years.

He is married to the Reverend Jutta Brueck, Priest in Charge of St James’, Cambridge and they have two children, Anna, 14 and Luke, 11. He is a keen and able cook, and a keen, but less able saxophonist.

The diocesan website has more details: Next Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Why unity eludes the Church of England

Press Release from Westminster Faith Debates

In his presidential address to General Synod this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of divisions within the Anglican Communion, and of the prize of being able to develop unity in diversity. Closer to home, he is supporting ‘facilitated conversations’ in the CofE as a way of healing rifts over the issue of gay marriage. What’s the chance of success?

A recent survey of CofE clergy by YouGov, commissioned by the Westminster Faith Debates, reveals a major obstacle in the way of the Archbishop’s goal of ‘disagreeing well’: a relatively small group of the most evangelical male clergy.

Evangelical profile

When asked where they fall on spectrum from evangelical to catholic, roughly a third of all clergy say they are at the evangelical end, a third at the catholic end, and a third in the middle. The third at the evangelical end hold some distinctive and pronounced views.

For instance, a full 88% of these evangelicals say that same-sex marriage is wrong, compared with just over a third of the rest of the clergy. Similarly, 31% of evangelical clergy would ban abortion altogether, a figure which falls to 16% among Anglican clergy overall.

These differences are not a block to unity – if those who hold them are happy to tolerate different views within the Church. But here comes the rub.

Evangelical men beg to differ

The survey of 1,500 Anglican clergy asked about the most appropriate approach to unity in the Anglican Communion. While the majority of clergy support the aim of ‘maintaining unity by being more tolerant of diverse views,’ two thirds of the evangelical clergy disagree, contending either that the Church should seek greater uniformity of views or else that it should not be afraid of separating amicably along doctrinal and ethical lines.

What the survey also finds, however, is that it is evangelical men not evangelical women who are opposed to the Archbishop’s goal of ‘disagreeing well.’ Most evangelical women clergy (61%) agree with the majority of clergy who support greater toleration. But 68% of evangelical male clergy disagree.

The typical view of evangelical male clergy is both to oppose gay marriage and not to wish the Church to embrace diverse views. Overall this combination of views is held by about 25% of clergy, the majority of whom are male evangelicals. These are a major block to the Archbishop’s dream of unity in the CofE—- clergy who don’t think it a goal worth pursuing—-especially because so many of them belong to the same clergy “tribe”.

The good news for Justin Welby is that he doesn’t have to worry about the majority of clergy. They support his goal. The bad news is that his opponents are not likely to change their minds. His success depends on finding a solution – something which eluded his predecessor Rowan Williams.

Professor Linda Woodhead comments:
These findings are both good and bad news for the Archbishop – good in that his battle is won with most of the clergy and almost certainly an overwhelming majority of lay Anglicans. Bad, in that there is a significant group of male clergy who do not share his vision for the CofE and the Anglican Communion.

Future of the Church Debate

This Thursday the next in the current series of national debates on the Future of the Church of England delves into this issue, asking what kind of unity is appropriate for the Church and how Archbishop Justin’s goal of unity in diversity can be achieved.

Speakers at this public debate in Oxford include Canon David Porter, the Archbishop’s Director of Reconciliation, Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson, Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream, the Very Revd June Osborne and Rt Revd Dr Trevor Mwamba.


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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Retiring Bishops

Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, announced today that he will retire on 11 July 2015.
From the diocesan website: Bishop Tim announces retirement

Ripon College Cuddesdon announced today that Humphrey Southern, suffragan Bishop of Repton in the Diocese of Derby, has been appointed its principal, with effect from 1 April 2015.
From the college website: Appointment of new Principal

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Priests ordained by women bishops abroad

The Questions yesterday evening at General Synod included this question and answer:

Mrs Christina Rees (St Albans) asked the Secretary General:
Q Is there any longer a bar on a man or woman who, having been ordained to the priesthood by a bishop who is a woman in another province of the Anglican Communion or in another Church with which the Church of England is in communion, being given to permission to officiate under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967, so as to make them then to be as a priest in the Church of England, given a Licence or Permission to Officiate?

Mr William Fittall replied:
A The decision taken by the Synod this afternoon means that it is now lawful for women to be consecrated as bishops in England. The rationale for the bar which the Archbishops have operated up to now under the 1967 Measure has therefore disappeared. The gender of the consecrating bishop will be no longer relevant when applications for permission to officiate are considered.

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Bishops - the morning after

More news and comment on yesterday’s final decision to allow women to be bishops in the Church of England

Giles Fraser The Guardian Hallelujah, the long wait for female bishops is over at last

Telegraph leader Women bishops: a new chapter for the Church of England

Caroline Wyatt BBC Female bishops: Anglicans preparing for first appointment

There was other business at General Synod yesterday:

Official Summary of Monday’s business: General Synod: Monday PM

Press release: Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy

Audio part 1
Audio part 2

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 11:16am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Monday, 17 November 2014

More on the Women Bishops legislation

Early press reports:

Tim Wyatt Church Times From today, women can be bishops in the Church of England

Caroline Wyatt BBC Church of England formally approves plans for women bishops

Andrew Brown The Guardian Church of England clears way for female bishops

John Bingham and agency The Telegraph Church of England approves historic change in law to allow women bishops

Kashmira Gander The Independent Church of England shatters ‘stained-glass ceiling’ by allowing female bishops

Carey Lodge Christian Today Final approval given to women bishops at General Synod

… and from the Archbishop of Canterbury Women bishops: Archbishop hails “new way of being the church”

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 17 November 2014 at 5:58pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Archbishop Justin's presidential address to the General Synod

Updated Tuesday

From the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website.

Archbishop Justin’s presidential address to the General Synod
Monday 17th November 2014

In his presidential address to the General Synod today, Archbishop Justin spoke about the issues faced by the Anglican Communion and possible ways forward.

Read the full text of the address below:

During the last eighteen months or so I have had the opportunity to visit thirty-six other Primates of the Anglican Communion at various points. This has involved a total of 14 trips lasting 96 days in all. I incidentally calculated that it involves more than eleven days actually sitting in aeroplanes. This seemed to be a good moment therefore to speak a little about the state of the Communion and to look honestly at some of the issues that are faced and the possible ways forward…

The full text is here.


Madeleine Davies reports on the address for the Church Times Anglican Communion ‘flourishing’, and attached to Canterbury, Welby reports

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Legislation on Women Bishops Becomes Law at General Synod

York signs

The Archbishop of York signs the Instrument of Enanactment.

Press release from Church House

Legislation on Women Bishops Becomes Law at General Synod
17 November 2014

The General Synod has today enacted the measure enabling women to be ordained as Bishops in the Church of England.

The formal enactment of the legislation - Amending Canon 33 - followed the vote on final approval by the Synod at its meeting in July of this year. Since that time the legislation has been approved in Parliament and received Royal Assent.

The final legislative requirements took place during a session chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, on the first day of the Synod’s meeting in London.

With the Instrument of Enactment having been read to Synod the motion was put without debate, with only a simple majority required for approval. Following the item being passed the legislation was signed into law by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York before the whole Synod.

Following the vote Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said:

“Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together. We will also continue to seek the flourishing of the church of those who disagree.”


The text of the amending canon and instrument of enactment can be seen here

The following dioceses are currently vacant and are waiting to appoint a diocesan bishop:

Southwell & Nottingham
The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich were the last diocese to select a Bishop under the former rules.

The following suffragan (assistant) bishop posts are currently Vacant and are awaiting appointment:

Any of the above vacant posts may now be filled by a male or female priest.

After the vote the Archbishop of Canterbury confirmed that the CNC for Southwell & Nottingham (which has had its first, but not second meeting) had been allowed to consider women.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 17 November 2014 at 4:11pm GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Amending Canon No 33


The General Synod of the Church of England has today, by clear show of hands, passed a motion enacting Amending Canon No 33. The effect of the amendment is to enact that:

A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of Bishop.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 17 November 2014 at 2:53pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Oxford Faith Debates discuss People and Diversity

The Oxford Faith Debates are continuing every fortnight and there are two more to go. Full details of the programme are here.

Debate 3 titled People – how can Anglicans of all kinds be engaged in the Church of the future? included contributions from four panelists and another four “provocateurs” including one of the editors of this website. Recordings of the entire proceedings are available here. (My bit is close to the end at minute 41 of the discussion.)

Lorraine Cavanagh another of the Provocateurs last week has written this article: The Church of England must remain credible as well as viable also available over here.

Both she and I will be returning for Debate 4 this coming Thursday when the subject is Diversity - what kind of unity is appropriate nationally and internationally, how can diversity become a strength?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 15 November 2014 at 3:12pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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updated Saturday night

Frederick Schmidt What is a seminary faculty?

These three articles look at the Church of England statistics issued on Monday.

David Keen New CofE stats: we did better than UKIP, but still not well enough
Norman Ivison The clock is ticking
Bev Botting New Stats, New Findings
Giles Fraser The Guardian The Church of England is actually holding up pretty well in an adverse market

Angela Denker Sojourners 3 Ways ‘All Are Welcome’ Is Hurting the Church

Leading article in The Spectator Thank heavens for Justin Welby!


David Keen has also published Latest CofE stats: Attendance by Diocese 2009-13.

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Monday, 10 November 2014

Statistics For Mission 2013

The Church of England has published its Statistics For Mission 2013 today, along with the following press release.

New statistics for 2013 show average of one million people attend services each week
10 November 2014

New Church of England statistics for 2013 published today show that an average of one million people attend services each week, down about 1% on the previous year.

The one million figure relates to regular weekly parish and cathedral services and does not include other core services carried out by the Church of England on a regular basis. With some 2,000 baptisms, 1,000 weddings and 3,000 funerals conducted every week it is estimated that a further half a million people attend a service conducted by a Church of England minister every week. In addition the count (which takes place in October) does not include the many carol and nativity services during Advent and many other regular services responding to community need. The services carried out by the Church of England’s chaplains in hospitals, prisons, schools, universities and military bases are also excluded from the attendance totals. Figures for Christmas attendance show a stable trend, with 2.4 million people attending services on Christmas Eve and Day - where figures have hovered around the 2.5 million mark over the past decade.

Speaking on the publication of the statistics, the Bishop of Sheffield, The Rt. Revd. Steven Croft, said:

“These figures show the Church of England continues to serve the nation with a core of 1 million activist members who worship faithfully each week.

“At a time when membership of political parties is at an historic low and in a society which feels increasingly time squeezed, it is conspicuous that the Church of England’s committed weekly base of parish worshippers remains a million strong with the last Census showing many millions more identifying with the Church.

“In addition to the regular worshipping core the Church continues to serve all those who look to us to mark the most important events of their life journey through weddings, baptisms and funerals. Through these services alone we estimate that a further half a million people attend Church every week of the year, many of whom will be only fringe or occasional visitors.”

A new part of the 2013 research reveal that nearly half of the 67,000 new joiners to churches are coming for the first time rather than from another church. This was the first time a split was introduced in the joiners and leavers section to measure those moving to or from other local churches.

There was also new research on attendance at advent services including nativity and carol services - outside of usual Sunday services. Although not every church gave figures, attendance at special services during advent is estimated to be around 5 million.

A change in baptism trends shows that adult baptisms are on the increase over the past decade - from 8,000 per year to 11,000 per year, an increase of 32% over the last 10 years.

The statistics are available at:

Earlier statistics are available here.

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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships

book cover
Anglican Social Theology: Renewing the Vision Today London: SCM Press, 2014 ISBN 978-0-3340-5188-6. pp. xvii + 111. £16.99 pbk.

Jeremy Fletcher reviews ‘Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships’

Robert Song is Professor of Theological Ethics at Durham University. He was an adviser to the Church of England House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, chaired by Joe Pilling, and therefore had a role in that group’s report, which he signed. Song says that the group ‘provided the context in which the thoughts in this book germinated’.

Covenant and Calling is fully aware of the wider context: that the Pilling Report contained its own ‘Dissenting Statement’ from the Bishop of Birkenhead; that it could only outline an indication of the processes to come, and could not make clear and unambiguous statements about same-sex relationships; that different views on same-sex relationships choose very different foundations on which to construct their arguments; and that such varying views rarely contain the tools for reconciliation to be achieved.

Others will be able to review Covenant and Calling using their expertise in biblical interpretation, in theological ethics, in systematic theology and in the study of eschatology. All of these are required fully to engage with what is a deceptively slim volume. My starting point is as a jobbing vicar who exercises a pastoral ministry recognisable to most Anglican parish clergy. My practical engagement with theological ethics is at the level of the remarriage of the divorced and what to do with the faithful Christian same-sex couple for whom the most natural thing in the world is to come to church following their civil partnership.

From this perspective, Covenant and Calling offers very little specific help, and it does not pretend to. It does not offer a magic bullet which will instantly transform what will be dreadfully painful ‘facilitated conversations’, soon to begin. Neither will it unite the Primates of the Anglican Communion joyfully around a solution to the intractable problem that in one province not to bless same-sex unions is an offence to the gospel, and in another province to bless them gives the same offence.

But … it does offer a starting point which may offer some common ground to those who are in disagreement. Song does not begin with the battleground of Scriptural texts, nor the claims of contemporary culture, nor an anthropological analysis of the role of marriage in society, but with eschatology. If, as Luke 20, Matthew 22 and Mark 12 state, there is no marriage or giving in marriage in the age to come, then how is our status as those ‘in Christ’ affected by the present experience of our future hope? As Song puts it “a created world of which marriage and the birth of children are crucial defining features will be fulfilled in a resurrected world in which neither is present” (p. 16). “The coming of Christ resituates marriage” (p. 23)

Song deliberately takes a conservative view on the temporal ‘goods’ of marriage, notably that, as a creation ordinance, marriage is defined by, or at least ‘open to’ procreation, and therefore has an inextricable relationship with differentiation of gender. He also recognises celibacy as an eschatological calling for some. What he proposes is a third possibility, equal in status to both marriage and celibacy: ‘covenant partnership’ which echoes the ‘goods’ of marriage insofar as they express the values of or future calling, but does not require procreation, since in the realm where there is no death there needs to be no birth. Song’s contention is that, just as most recognise that not every marriage requires procreation for its validity, so there can be a new set of faithful covenanted relationships which do not need to be defined as marriage in order to express our future calling and our present experience of the Trinity.

Crucially this does not need the situation of same-sex couples to be its starting point, in that deliberately childless marriages are of the same category. But it is clearly a framework which can see the faithful and permanent love of a non-procreating couple as an expression of the love of God, and that sexual expression not leading to procreation can be a physical expression of that covenant relationship. This would apply as much to same-sex as to heterosexual couples.

Song approaches this from various angles, including a view of Scripture which does not shy away from a ‘conventional’ reading of the six or so main texts, but allows for a recognition of a ‘direction of travel’ in the Bible which might allow for a reframing of relationships in the way he proposes. In that regard his treatment of Biblical interpretation and the issues of slavery and just war theory were very instructive to this ethical amateur.

Covenant and Calling has no direct answers to aid the Vicar responding to a same-sex couple who would like to marry. Rather, stepping back, it asks for a “major reimagination of the churches’ relations to the culture”, and guards against both an “endorsement of current trends” and a “reactionary response which condemns the sexual revolution out of hand” (p. 97). Robert Song offers some tools for engaging in this debate which I have not been offered before, and does so in a way which takes Scripture, tradition and contemporary society seriously, while seeking to transcend them all in an eschatological perspective I had not seen articulated in quite this way.

Song himself says that much of the approach is “tentative”, not least how to relate covenant partnerships to existing modes of civil partnership and marriage, and whether these can be expressed legally and liturgically. But there is enough here for those at the sharp edge of the debates to gather around, and at least to express their common understandings of the nature of their disagreements. And there is a future hope around which to gather too, for in the end all our understandings based in the experience of the created order will be taken up into the new age, and everything will be transformed.

Stanley Hauerwas’s blurb for the book talks about Robert Song opening up “a new space for discussions and questions”. It was certainly new for me, and was a welcome relief from the Prime Minister’s Question Time nature of much of the current debate. For that I’m grateful. Whether it will help in the next two years of facilitated conversations remains to be seen. And I’ll be fascinated to read what those coming from a conservative position make of it all.

Should you read it? Yes.

Jeremy Fletcher is the Vicar of Beverley Minster in the diocese of York.

Posted by Jeremy Fletcher on Sunday, 9 November 2014 at 9:56pm GMT | Comments (80) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 8 November 2014


Rachel Harden, the Church of England’s Deputy Director of Communications, writes about Blogging Faith.

Alex Willmott If you can’t lead a church, don’t lead a church

Kevin P Emmert Christianity Today New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies

Kelvin Holdsworth Becoming a Welcoming Cathedral

Pat Henking “Priestly Formation” is a Term that Really Bugs Me!

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

suffragan Bishop of Burnley


It has been announced from 10 Downing Street this morning that the Revd Philip North is to be the next Bishop of Burnley in the diocese of Blackburn:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Philip John North, MA, Team Rector of the Parish of Old Saint Pancras, in the Diocese of London, to the Suffragan See of Burnley, in the Diocese of Blackburn, in succession to the Right Reverend John William Goddard, BA, on his resignation on 31 August 2014.

A press release from Forwad in Faith comments:

Forward in Faith is delighted at the news that Fr Philip North is to be the next Bishop of Burnley, in succession to Bishop John Goddard.

Fr North is well known for his pastoral gifts, his zeal for mission and evangelization, and his commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel, especially amongst the poor.

We are proud to welcome a new episcopal member of Forward in Faith, and we pray for Fr North as he prepares for his move, and for the whole people of God in the Diocese of Blackburn.

Update (Friday afternoon)
Blackburn diocese is now also carrying this news: next Bishop of Burnley to be the Reverend Philip North and quoting the bishop-designate:

“Some of you might be aware that I withdrew from an appointment as Bishop of Whitby. The fact that I have been invited and have agreed to serve as a Bishop again is testimony to the very different mood across the Church of England since the understandable disappointment that followed the failure in 2012 of the legislation to enable women to be bishops.

“The Church has stated afresh its commitment to enabling all traditions to flourish within its life and structures, and I hope that my appointment will be seen as evidence of that pledge.”

And the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, is quoted:

“I want to make it clear that I see Philip’s appointment as a clear sign the Anglican Church in Lancashire is living out these five guiding principles.

“I wanted to have an episcopal colleague who is from the traditionalist catholic constituency and Philip fulfils that role well. He comes to serve the whole Diocese. He will also have particular care for those people who cannot accept the ministry of women as Bishops and Priests in the Church — and he will have my wholehearted support in carrying out this important work.”

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Friday, 7 November 2014 at 11:59am GMT | Comments (83) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Future composition of the Lords Spiritual

David Pocklington has written for Law & Religion UK about the Future composition of the Lords Spiritual.

The announcement to both Houses of the Royal Assent to the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure completed the parliamentary stages of the legislation and brought to the fore the issue of “fast tracking” women in the episcopate to the Lords Spiritual…

The issues that remain, therefore, are: how this is to be accomplished; and what form this fast-tracking/positive discrimination will take…

He goes on to explain why this will require an Act of Parliament rather than a Church Measure. He then looks at what might replace the present “Buggins’ turn” method of appointing the most senior diocesan bishops and allow women more quickly to join the Lords Spiritual.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 1 November 2014 at 11:18am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Michael Sadgrove Extraverts and Introverts: a plea for understanding

David Keen Vicars - A Great Resource Squandered?

Brother Ivo Defending Lord Hope -different times, different understandings

Kelvin Holdsworth Beware of the Celibate

Giles Fraser The Guardian Superstition can’t be exorcised just by simply turning off the God switch

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 1 November 2014 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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