As we kneel on Ash Wednesday to allow a cross to be traced on our foreheads in the ashes of last year’s palm crosses, Isaiah uncomfortably reminds us that we could be missing the point of Lenten observance.
Percy Dearmer’s paraphrase in his carol ‘White Lent’ brings the message home.
To bow the head, in sackcloth or in ashes, or rend the soul, such grief is not Lent’s goal;
but to be led to where God’s glory flashes, his beauty to come nigh,
to fly where truth and light do lie.
Lent is a time to draw closer to God and be transformed by the experience, discerning, as Dearmer puts it, God’s beauty. Dearmer is of course most remembered for his delight in beauty: beauty in worship, through The Parson’s Handbook, and in music, through The English Hymnal and Songs of Praise. But he was also a lifelong socialist who gave up his parish during the First World War to be a chaplain to the Red Cross in Serbia, where his wife, who had gone to work with their ambulance unit, died of fever. For the next 15 years he had no church appointment, but after being made a canon of Westminster in 1931 he used the position to open a canteen for the unemployed.
The socialist Dearmer would have appreciated Isaiah’s charge against the people of God (38.3) ‘Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, and oppress all your workers.’ And the prophet’s warnings appear designed for today when he calls us to ‘share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house’. Isaiah has a firm conviction that we come closer to God through social action than through any act of piety.
The mood Dearmer’s carol creates fits perfectly with Jesus’s advice ‘Do not look dismal’. However sombre a mood we try to create by removing displays of flowers from our churches and veiling anything which might delight the eye, nature will not be denied. Successive waves of spring bulbs assure us that the darkness of winter is over, and new life is emerging. It calls us to thankfulness, and with it, the response of our love in action.
I wish you a joyful and blessed Lent.
Tom Ambrose is a priest in the diocese of Ely.
John Wraw is Bishop of Bradwell, in the Chelmsford diocese. A letter from him has been published on the diocesan website, prefaced by this note:
John Wraw took up his role as Bishop of Bradwell in the Diocese of Chelmsford five years ago. He was diagnosed with cancer two years later. The type of cancer he has is incurable.
Bishop John has always been open and honest about living with his condition.
Writing a moving letter to the Clergy of the diocese today about his prognosis, he reviews developments in the Church and Diocese, and he discusses his hopes for a well-founded theology of relationships, friendship and marriage leading in time to a full acceptance of same sex marriage.
The letter can be read via this link. I do recommend reading it all, as it is very moving. But the last few paragraphs read as follows:
…However, the current debate in the Church, which has become almost totally focused on same sex marriage, means we have not championed the fundamental and core values of commitment, fidelity, openness, trust, intimacy and indeed faithfulness, both within the Church and more widely in society. This has severely weakened our contribution to the life of the nation and those conversations have suffered through the lack of our voice.
There are very differing views on this within the Church of England and across the Anglican Communion, but there is much more we hold in common. Unity in Christ is a fact, a command, a promise; not simply something we can opt in and out of as we pick and choose. We need to live with our differences, not simply listening to those who see differently but offering true
attentiveness. That was the value of the Shared Conversations, but not clearly reflected in the Report from the House of Bishops as reflected in the Synod Vote.
I have no desire to criticise my fellow Bishops and recognise the reflection, prayer and care that has been given to offering leadership and teaching in this. However, there is still a lack of pastoral understanding and care shown in public pronouncements and a lack of venturesome and creative theological reflection on the nature of relationships and the place of marriage within that.
More time does need to be given to a well-founded theology of relationship, friendship and marriage which I hope will lead in time to a full acceptance of same sex marriages in the Church of England. That will take time. However, that should not hold us back in the immediate from proper recognition through prayers, blessing, celebration and affirmation of all that is good and wholesome in a wide variety of relationships including stable, faithful, committed and God given same sex relationships.
Easter and ordinations are very much about new beginnings, born out of journeys which are often very challenging but ultimately held under God. I pray for a Church rediscovering its calling under God as herald and first fruits of God’s Kingdom lived out in that pilgrimage through the challenges of Holy Week, the defeat and desolation of Good Friday and the renewed joy and hope of resurrection we celebrate week by week, which is founded on Jesus rising to new life that first Easter Sunday.
There is also an interview with the bishop on BBC Essex which can be found via this link.
Updated yet again on Wednesday - scroll down for new items
See our original report here.
The Archbishop of York wrote an opinion article for the Yorkshire Post this morning: John Sentamu: Your have my word – female clergy will not be undermined by new Bishop of Sheffield.
It also has this article by Sue Hammersley Sheffield Speaking Out—What Do We Want?
…What do we want? We want to break the silence of misunderstandings.
We want to understand the process which led to Bishop Philip’s nomination, why the Vacancy in See Committee left the diocese wide open to receiving someone who would not ordain women. This was never checked out within the parishes. Was it deliberate or was it because we all assumed that there was a direction of travel within this diocese? We weren’t expecting this.
We want to understand the relationship between Bishop Philip and the many societies he represents, The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda and Forward in Faith being the most relevant. How free is Bishop Philip to make up his own mind about women priests? How appropriate is it for a diocesan bishop, not a suffragan bishop, to be aligned with a group which denies the priestly orders of women?
We want a thorough review of the theology, efficacy and use of the five guiding principles which are currently being used to keep us silent.
We want to find a voice of dissent which is also a voice of love and compassion, of truth and justice and equality. We want to ask, what would Jesus do?
Thomas Matthew Sharp has written: Man from a Woman Bishop’s Rib: a Man’s Perspective on Mutual Flourishing? which discusses the general issue, apart from the Sheffield specific instance.
There is another roundup of coverage from SAME over here.
And Archbishop Cranmer (Adrian Hilton) has this: If Philip North can’t be Bishop of Sheffield, the Church of England ceases to be catholic.
This article by Alice Whalley is well worth reading: The Bishop of Sheffield and Mutual Flourishing: a Guest Blog
The Yorkshire Post has published a response by Martyn Percy to the Archbishop of York’s article: Martyn Percy: Bishop’s views mean he should decline job.
The article as published is significantly shorter than the original as written. You can read the latter version over here:Finding the Wisdom of Solomon.
The Church of England has published 5 Guiding Principles On Women And The Episcopate – A User Guide. Here’s the first part of it:
Since the ordination of women began in 1994, there have been a number of diocesan bishops who have not ordained women. Currently in the Church of England the Bishop of Chichester does not ordain women as priests, and Bishop Richard Chartres, who has just retired after twenty years’ service as Bishop of London, also did not ordain women as priests. Both those bishops have supported the vocation and ministry of women within their dioceses.
It has been established for over two decades, both within the Church of England and within the Anglican Communion that both positions, those who support the ordination and consecration of women, and those who in conscience cannot support that, are fully Anglican.
For many years the Church of England wrestled with how to accommodate this commitment to supporting both positions while also permitting the consecration of women as bishops. The Church’s first formal attempt to do this failed when the General Synod rejected the relevant legislation in November 2012.
At the second time of asking, the Church of England did pass legislation to permit the consecration of women as bishops in July 2014, after a process of reflection and dialogue to learn the lessons of its previous failure. The package that was agreed, and passed into law, in 2014, was founded on a declaration by the House of Bishops, approved by the General Synod. The declaration comprised five guiding principles, and above all a commitment to “mutual flourishing” for all traditions within the Church. That declaration forms a key part of the package which permitted the 2014 legislation, and enabled the consecration of the first women bishops (now ten, by February 2017) within the Church of England.
The declaration specifically provides that:
- A diocesan bishop may be either a bishop who does, or who does not, ordain women;
- A diocese may express a view, prior to a diocesan see being filled, as to whether the diocesan bishop should be someone who does or does not ordain women;
- In every case where the diocesan bishop does not ordain women, there should be at least one bishop in the diocese who does ordain women;
- Senior leadership roles within dioceses should continue to be filled by people from across the range of traditions.
Those provisions are part of the “mutual flourishing” that is central to the declaration and to the package. The declaration also recognises that “there will need to be sensitivity to the feelings of vulnerability that some will have that their position within the Church of England will gradually be eroded and that others will have because not everyone will receive their ministry.” It appreciates that the practical working out of these arrangements may not be easy, for the Church as a whole or for individuals.
The nomination of Bishop Philip North was made by the Crown Nominations Commission, a group comprising six representatives from the diocese itself, six from the national Church, and the two Archbishops. The process of selecting Bishop Philip was made entirely in line with the provisions of the House of Bishops declaration. His nomination for the see of Sheffield is therefore also in line with the provisions that made it possible for women to be consecrated as bishops.
The argument against Bishop Philip’s nomination is based on a rejection of the five guiding principles in the House of Bishops’ declaration. Some critics of the nomination have made clear that they do not believe in the five guiding principles. Instead, they would like to reopen the settlement made by the Church of England in July 2014 which enabled both supporters of women’s consecration, and those who opposed it, to flourish alongside each other within the Church…
The Bishop of Wakefield has issued this statement on behalf of the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda:
The See of Sheffield
The Bishop of Wakefield has issued the following statement on behalf of the Council of Bishops of The Society.
We are confident that the ministry of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield will make a very significant contribution to the life and mission of the Church. We have been delighted by the welcome that his nomination has received from representatives of a wide range of traditions in the Diocese of Sheffield and in the Church of England more widely. The support expressed by many female clergy who have experience of his ministry and gifts is especially encouraging. Their response gives grounds for hope that the Five Guiding Principles and the spirit of mutual flourishing that they embody have begun to permeate through the Church of England.
We have also noted critical comments. Some of them have referred to the cards that are issued to Priests of The Society. The card merely states, ‘Fr John Smith is a Priest of The Society’, and that it is only valid while the priest holds a benefice, licence or permission to officiate in the Church of England. The cards are no different from the membership cards that are issued by many organizations. They are not available to priests who have not chosen to become Priests of The Society. We understand that the way in which the cards have been described has created a different impression, and wish to express our regret at the offence that this has caused.
In our 2015 statement ‘A Catholic Life in the Church of England’ we said: ‘We reject any so-called “theology of taint” whereby a bishop who ordains women to the episcopate or the priesthood thereby invalidates his own orders and renders invalid the orders of those whom he subsequently ordains.’ We made it clear that priests ordained by such bishops are welcomed as Priests of The Society. We are disappointed that our beliefs continue to be misrepresented.
One of the many aspects of Bishop Philip’s ministry which is exemplary is the fact that he values, and works happily with, both female and male clergy of different traditions. As bishops of The Society, we expect its clergy and people to respect all whom the Church of England has ordained and appointed to office, and to work with them in a spirit of mutual flourishing. The Five Guiding Principles, to which we are wholeheartedly committed, require this not only of the rest of the Church of England but also of us.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has described the House of Bishops’ Declaration as ‘a promise to love one another’. We call on all involved in the discussions that have arisen to recommit themselves to that promise, as we do ourselves.
Tomorrow sees the beginning of Lent – a season of prayer, reflection and spiritual renewal. We hope that throughout this season people will continue to pray for Bishop Philip and the people of the Diocese of Sheffield.
The Right Revd Tony Robinson
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
There is a further news article in the Sheffield Telegraph New Sheffield bishop ‘getting on with his job’ amid objections.
And there is a further blog article, by Ian Paul titled Agreeing to disagree in Sheffield…?.
Lorraine Cavanagh Modern Church In our right minds
Lucy Gorman Synod Scoop Bishops, friends and radical inclusion.
Andy Bryant withthecollaroff Dethroning the mythology for a richer vision of marriage
Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Watershed moments
Theo Hobson The Spectator The Church of England should be agnostic towards homosexuality
Mark Woods Christian Today Why The Church Needs To Rethink Its Attitude To Marriage
Linda Woodhead Prospect The Church of England has reached a turning point on gay marriage
David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer Law & Religion UK Banns of marriage – their development and future
Chris Stokel-Walker BBC How smart phones and social media are changing Christianity
and in response: Archdruid Eileen The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Atomised Bible for a Hyperconnected World
The official Church in Wales statement: No result from the Bishop of Llandaff election.
After a three-day meeting of the Church in Wales’ Electoral College to elect a Bishop of Llandaff, none of the candidates considered received the number of votes required for election – a two-thirds majority.
The business of the College was rooted in prayer, worship and quiet reflection, as well as open and friendly debate and discussion.
Under the terms of the Constitution of the Church in Wales the responsibility of filling the vacancy falls to the Bench of Bishops.
The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, who is President of the Electoral College, said the process leading up to an eventual appointment would include a wide-ranging consultation of both the laity and the clergy from across the Church in Wales.
Harry Farley at Christian Today has a more detailed report: Leading Gay Cleric Jeffrey John Narrowly Rejected As Bishop In Wales.
A leading gay cleric has narrowly missed out on becoming a bishop after his appointment was rejected for the fourth time.
Very Rev Jeffrey John, who has twice been turned down for senior roles over his sexuality, was in the running to be Bishop of Llandaff, Christian Today understands.
But despite winning support from more than half of the nominating body, he just missed on the two-thirds majority required.
Christian Today understands Dr John’s long-term civil partnership with Grant Holmes, another Anglican priest, was a factor in his rejection by traditionalists.
After three days of discussions the electoral body of 47 people, made up of locals from the diocese, bishops and the official nomination committee, failed to agree on any candidate. The final decision will now be down to senior bishops despite Dr John winning strong support among electors in the mainly Anglo-Catholic region of Llandaff.
Neither the Church in Wales nor the Church of England are opposed to clergy being in civil partnerships as long as they vow to remain sexually chaste, which Dr John has done.
Currently Dean of St Albans, Dr John was previously nominated to be Bishop of Reading in 2003 but was forced to withdraw himself under intense pressure from traditionalists.
He was later in the running for Bishop of Bangor in 2008 and then again for Bishop of Southwark in 2010 but was both times turned down with conservatives threatening a split in the Church.
But Dr John’s latest rejection to be Bishop of Llandaff is particularly striking because of the strong support he received among local clergy and parishioners in the largely liberal diocese…
From the Accepting Evangelicals website:
Do scroll down from that link and read the Modern Parable for the Church of England… which is mentioned in the statement.
Following the defeat of the ‘Take note’ motion on sexuality at General Synod last week, Accepting Evangelicals wishes to assure the House of Bishops of our prayers as you seek a way forward for the whole Church of England.
It must be said that we were disappointed by the House of Bishops’ report which was the substance for the debate. The report followed three years of ‘Shared Conversations’ which had been entered into by LGBT Christians in good faith and not insignificant courage.
Our disappointment centred around two areas:
That after such a careful and lengthy process of Shared Conversations, the voices of LGBT Christians were still not adequately voiced in the report.
That its central proposal of maintaining the status quo in terms of law, liturgy and doctrine, while seeking to allow ‘maximum freedom’ within Church Law was inadequate and flawed.
The first of these has been well articulated by the retired Bishops’ letter which preceded the debate and we would not want to add to that.
The second point however, does require the further explanation:
Very few people expected that this report would signal a rapid change in the Church of England’s Doctrine of Marriage. We understand that determining if or when this is appropriate will be a lengthy process. What was hoped for by many however, was a clear sign that the recent statements about radical welcome for LGBT people and repentance of the way they have been treated, would lead to concrete moves towards creating a liturgy of blessing of thanksgiving for those in Civil Partnerships and same-sex marriage.
Such a development would not require a change in doctrine on marriage, just as the introduction of a liturgy of thanksgiving for people who have remarried after divorce did not require a change in doctrine to exclude the understanding of marriage as a lifelong commitment.
We believe that the creation of such a liturgy is essential if LGBT people are to feel they have a place in the Church of England. The present pastoral accommodations do not give that assurance. They lead to LGBT people feeling tolerated at best, problematic at times, and ultimately unwelcome – even in many parish churches which would like to be fully welcoming of LGBT people.
As is often said, the heart of the Church of England is found and expressed in its liturgy. As long as there is no provision for the celebration of loving, committed LGBT relationships, LGBT people and especially couples, will feel that they are marginalised or excluded from the life and worship of the Church at a fundamental level – that of their relationship with a person they deeply love.
Thus, the report is both inadequate in that its proposals do not address this vital area and flawed because without movement of this kind, all positive statements by the Church of England towards LGBT people will be seen as mere empty words.
If the Church of England is genuinely serious about recognising and welcoming the faith, life and ministry of LGBT women and men, this cannot be omitted.
Our misgivings and disappointment mean we are pleased that the ‘Take note’ motion at Synod was lost last week, as we hope that this defeat will cause the House of Bishops to reconsider its approach and its leadership of the Church of England in this matter.
We also hope that the defeat of the motion will lead to a greater recognition of changing attitudes within the Church of England towards recognition of LGBT people as our sisters and brothers, made in the image of God, and not problems or issues (as the Archbishops’ letter makes clear).
Evidence of this change can be clearly seen in the opening speech by Ven. Nikki Groarke, who, as an Evangelical, spoke in support of the introduction of a pastoral liturgy for the blessing of gay couples in committed partnerships, despite her continuing concerns about marriage.
Evidence for these changing attitudes can also be found in the election of Canon Simon Butler, (also an Evangelical) as Prolocutor of the Province of Canterbury even though he is openly gay with a same-sex partner.
In the light of the Shared Conversations and the debate at General Synod, we would want to endorse strongly the need for a substantial re-evaluation of the House of Bishops’ response and leadership, towards the genuine inclusion of LGBT people in the Church of England.
In conclusion, we would like to commend to the House of Bishops a modern day parable, written by one of our Trustees. We would humbly suggest that consideration of this parable and the questions it raises, should be included in the meeting of the House of Bishops in May.
We would like to assure you of our prayers for you in charting a difficult, yet vital path for the Church of England. ‘Maximum freedom’ under our current rules will not resolve the impasse. We need to find a place for our LGBT brothers and sisters in the heart of the Church of England – in its liturgy.
Co-Chairs of Accepting Evangelicals.
Updated again 6 pm Friday
The Guardian carries this report by Harriet Sherwood
Opponent of female priests urged to decline bishop of Sheffield post
A senior Church of England theologian has called on the newly appointed bishop of Sheffield to stand aside ahead of his consecration, saying his opposition to female priests will “cause significant pastoral and public damage to the church”.
Martyn Percy, the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, urged Philip North to either renounce his membership of the Society, a C of E organisation that rejects female priests, or decline his nomination as bishop of Sheffield, which was announced last month.
Percy claims there is a “substantial amount of resistance building up” to North’s appointment, which he says would “represent the toleration of gender-based sectarianism”.
The full press release from Modern Church is available here: Oxford theologian invites bishop-designate of Sheffield to decline nomination and is copied below the fold. Follow the link at the end of the original press release to download the full essay as a PDF.
WATCH has issued this: The Five Guiding Principles: Whose Flourishing do they serve?. Scrolling down leads to this section:
The Sheffield situation
Recently the announcement of the new Bishop of Sheffield was made. The press release made no comment about the fact that he is a bishop who cannot accept the ministry of women and will not ordain them as priests. In fact, those of us who have raised concerns that this bishop will now be presiding over a diocese where nearly a third of the clergy are women, have been told that his views on women are unimportant. Worse, we have been consistently told that this is a working out of the five guiding principles; mutual flourishment in practice.
So the question is, how is his appointment to a diocese, where nearly third of the incumbents are women, promoting mutual flourishing? For twenty years this has been a diocese in which women are ordained. These women have up until this point simply been priests in the diocese, regardless of gender. Now they are women priests. The incoming Bishop reassures them that he will work to the utmost limits of his theological position where they are concerned but, this is little comfort to those who are used to being treated in the same way as their male colleagues; as those whose priesthood their bishop truly recognises.
The women of the diocese were not asked how this would help them flourish. Neither of the Archbishops has offered any kind of support to them as they deal with the sense of hurt and disillusionment as, yet again, the Church of England expects women to be the ones who accept discrimination in the name of theological conviction.
The House of Bishops Declaration, which lays out clear guidelines for the provision necessary for those who cannot accept the ministry of a woman bishop, has nothing coherent to say to the women clergy of Sheffield diocese as they struggle to come to terms with the prospect of a Bishop who cannot fully accept their ministry. It seems that the hierarchy of the church has deep pastoral concerns for those who cannot accept the ministry of women and no real pastoral care for women who find their ministry fundamentally undermined by the theological views of the one with whom they are to share a cure of souls.
There is no provision for the male clergy who are deeply committed to a church in which men and women minister as equals. No provision for the lay members of the diocese who value the ministry of women clergy. Those many, many clergy and laity in the diocese who are theologically committed to the full inclusion of women in the church will no longer have a diocesan bishop who shares their theological conviction…
The Church of England has issued this: Statement on Bishop Philip North
In response to an enquiry from the Guardian on 23 February 2017 on an article concerning Bishop Philip North the Church of England’s Communication office provided the following response:
“Many if not all of Martyn Percy’s arguments were raised and presented during and before the General Synod debates on this issue in 2014. In supporting the ordination of Women as Bishops the Synod overwhelmingly rejected these arguments and favoured a position of mutual flourishing for all in the Church.
As Martyn Percy’s article makes clear Bishop Philip has stated in a meeting to women clergy in the diocese that he is favour of women’s leadership and would actively promote it.
The beauty of the Church of England is its theological breadth and its ability to hold together disparate views across a range of issues whilst still finding unity in Jesus Christ.
The Church of England supports all orders of ministry being open equally, irrespective of gender, and remains committed to enabling all people to flourish within its life and structures.”
Oxford theologian invites bishop-designate of Sheffield to decline nomination
The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, has invited the Bishop-designate of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Philip North, to decline his nomination to the See because of his opposition to women’s ordination.
The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy has made a case against the elevation of the Rt Revd Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, in an article published on the website of Modern Church, a society promoting liberal Christianity, of which he is a Vice President.
Professor Percy argues in the article ‘Questions of Ambiguity and Integrity?’ that the logic of Bishop North’s theological position makes it impossible for him to affirm and receive the ordained ministry of all his female clergy. Moreover, the same would apply to any male ordained by a female bishop. Women account for around one-third of the clergy of Sheffield diocese.
Commenting on this, Martyn Percy observed that:
the ratio of male clergy to female clergy in Sheffield Diocese is 2:1. In a Diocese like Chichester it is more like 10:1. A non-ordaining Bishop in Sheffield Diocese is a serious matter for the female clergy, who are present in very large numbers. This will feel like a step backwards for many parishes and clergy, as the full acceptance of women clergy was patiently established under the ministry of Bishop David Lunn, who had begun his episcopacy as a leading opponent of the ordination of women. His acceptance of women clergy is a defining moment in the life of the Diocese. The Crown Nominations Commission has shown a marked insensitivity to this history in nominating Bishop North to the See of Sheffield. The initiatives that were developed to accommodate conscientious objectors in the Church of England were simply not designed to be implemented against Dioceses such as Sheffield.
Sheffield, as a City and Diocese, has a proud record in relation to issues of justice and equality. Percy believes the inevitable inequality that would be introduced through Bishop North accepting the nomination to the See would have profound and disturbing ramifications for the public witness of the church in the region, and for the pastoral oversight of its female clergy across the Diocese. He adds:
Sheffield is a go-ahead, vibrant, progressive city, with cutting-edge universities and research-led industries. It is thoroughly modern. The public will neither comprehend nor welcome this rather fogeyish sacralised sexism of the religious organisation known simply as ‘The Society’, whose Council of Bishops includes Bishop Philip North.
Percy is particularly concerned with a proposal from The Society to issue ‘identity cards’ to the priests of his organisation in the near future, in order to guarantee their sacramental purity. This proposal would, in effect, says Professor Percy, amount to clergy listing their ‘(male) ontological genealogy’:
…travel forward, if you will, a century from now. Those identity cards…will need to show that the bishop who ordained you, was, in turn, ordained by someone pure and efficacious, and in turn, was ordained likewise - stretching all the way back to our present time.
The proposal endorses clergy having to demonstrate an unbroken chain of ‘ontological purity’, via a ‘taint free’ litany of bishops.Percy writes:
As bishops turn over every ten years or so, the genealogy will eventually be longer than the one we have for Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
He added that he
could not envisage a Diocesan Bishop functioning well who is also an ambassador for gender-based discrimination, and an advocate of inequality. The women clergy are already in a state of grief about the appointment, moving through the early phases of shock, anger and denial. But bargaining and acceptance are unlikely to be options. Their situation is profoundly unjust.
Professor Percy’s article discusses the principle of integrity - a key issue enshrined in the Church of England’s attempts to find a way forward, together, for groups holding irreconcilable positions within the church (The Five Guiding Principle of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, June 2014, which are not enshrined in law.)
Professor Percy calls upon Bishop North to clarify his position on women clergy, and men ordained by female bishops. He says the issues cannot be ‘fudged’ through an over-investment in ambiguity, as ‘fudging’ lacks iintegrity, and ambiguity destroys authority:
if these differences can’t be resolved, then the virtue and practice of integrity suggests some new paths: acquiescence or withdrawal. Either the bishop has to step aside and step down from exercising episcopal ministry at this level and in this context, or the men and women have to resign, as their own bishop does not recognise and affirm their sacramental efficacy.
Professor Percy adds:
Bishops have a paternal and maternal relationship to their clergy and parishes. As a ‘Father in God’, Bishop North needs to be able to give his unequivocal support and affirmation to his male and female clergy alike. It can’t be a partial and conditional affirmation, based on gender. You can’t have a pastoral situation in which the Bishop effectively says to his clergy ‘I will love, support and affirm you all; but not all of you equally’. Such a statement would amount to the most awful parenting. In more Patriarchal terms, Bishop North’s stance on women is of a similar sort to the discrimination that Abraham showed to Isaac and Ishmael in the book of Genesis. Bishop North’s stance imputes ‘doubtful parentage’ on his women clergy - that their ‘ontological heritage’ is invalid.
Professor Percy continues,
Such a witness would lead to a dysfunctional episcopacy and an unhappy Diocese. Family breakdown will be inevitable. This cannot lead to ‘mutual flourishing’. Bishop North’s appointment would represent the toleration of gender-based sectarianism, and will ultimately cause significant pastoral and public damage to the church.
Professor Percy concludes, that
“the Church of England has always embraced a wide range of beliefs and practices. But it has begun to discover in debates on sexuality, and on gender, that if you truly want to be one church, you can only ultimately afford one integrity”.
Click here to read and download the full 3000 word essay, Questions of Ambiguity and Integrity, by Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy.
The detailed voting lists for the electronic votes at last week’s meeting of the General Synod have been released. The list for the take note motion on the House of Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations is here.
Readers may be particularly interested in the voting in the House of Bishops which I have shown in the table below.
The bishops voted 43 in favour and one against with no recorded abstentions. The Bishop of Coventry (the only vote against) has said that he pressed the wrong button on his voting machine and intended to vote in favour. The Bishop of Southwark has said that he intended to record an abstention but failed to do so.
There are 53 places in the House of Bishops (42 diocesan bishops, the Bishop of Dover, the Bishop to the Forces and nine elected suffragan bishops). Two diocesan sees were vacant on the day of the vote. So, in addition to Southwark, six bishops were absent from the vote. If any readers know for certain the reason for any of the absences, please let us know via the comments.
Electronic voting results for Item 14
Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: a report from the House of Bishops (GS 2055):
‘That the Synod do take note of this report.’
|Voting in the House of Bishops|
|6||Bath & Wells||Peter Hancock||for|
|14||Coventry||Christopher Cocksworth||against - by mistake|
|17||Gibraltar in Europe||Robert Innes||for|
|34||St Albans||Alan Smith||for|
|35||St Edmundsbury & Ipswich||Martin Seeley||for|
|38||Sodor & Man||vacant||see vacant|
|39||Southwark||Christopher Chessun||absent - but intended to abstain|
|40||Southwell & Nottingham||Paul Williams||for|
The Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes has written this: Bishop Paul pledges to examine how we explore “Radical Inclusion” in our diocese
…The debate gave me the opportunity to speak to Synod and my speech is copied below. You will see that I commit myself to explore to the maximum the freedom under the Church’s current law and guidance to offer rich and meaningful ministry to LGBTI+ people (see footnote), as indeed I have tried to do since I came to Liverpool.
I have no doubt that our further steps and conversations nationally will include LGBTI+ Christians more fully than the recent report was able to do. In my speech I use the phrase “maximum freedom”, which is a phrase much used in the report. Since the report did not command the confidence of the Synod I do not propose to use that phrase now. Instead I use the phrase at the head of this bulletin, a phrase used by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their letter written after the debate: “we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church”…
The Bishop of Manchester David Walker has written: Being Radical about Radical Inclusion
…Times of change are by their nature times of paradox. To be purposefully paradoxical is to recognise that whilst consistency may be a feature of the endpoints of a journey it is rarely present all along the way. What nineteenth century physics found to be true for the trajectories of photons passing through a pair of narrow slits, twenty-first century theology must allow to be the case for a church traversing through a time of challenge and change. Some aspects of change will get ahead of others. Some parts of the church may move faster, further, or at a different angle than their neighbours. Messy Church won’t just describe a brand of work with children. In many ways we will be more like the pluriform Church of the New Testament, marvelously malleable under the hand of the Holy Spirit…
Kelvin Holdsworth What is really going on in the Church of England
Giles Fraser The Guardian The clergy has moved on. It’s the bishops who are out of touch
Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Double amber - proceed with extreme caution – unconditional love ahead
Erasmus The Economist As church and society diverge, so do Christianity’s liberals and hardliners
Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon The Living Church England and the Anglican Communion: Outward Moving Mission
[This is the full text of the Archbishop’s address to the General Synod on 16 February.]
Richard Peers Quodcumque Just do it! Grace before meals
Scott Gunn Seven whole days Thirteen Commandments for your website (church websites, part 1)
OneBodyOneFaith Archbishops’ bold proposal for radical inclusion
OneBodyOneFaith welcomes the Church of England Archbishops’ bold proposal for a new and inclusive process following defeat of GS2055
In response to the joint letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York released today, Canon Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of OneBodyOneFaith said, “The joint letter from both Archbishops to Church of England synod members is a bold and welcome response to address the disjunction between the House of Bishops and Houses of Clergy and Laity in their understanding of and response to human sexuality. We applaud the tone set by Archbishop Justin as he seeks ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’ and his affirmation that, ‘no person is a problem or an issue [because] people are made in the image of God.’ In this we find echoed our own vision, longing for Christ’s body to be one, finding unity in a diversity which includes all whom Christ has called, that they might participate in God’s mission, leading to transformation for our world.”
“For Bishops to consult with local synod representatives in how to establish a way forward on human sexuality that is ‘about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity’ will indeed be a significant change. We note with satisfaction the intention that the Pastoral Oversight group and the group that work on the large scale teaching document that will provide for ‘good, healthy flourishing relationships’ reflecting a ‘21st Century understanding of being human and being sexual’ will be ‘fully inclusive’. We take ‘fully inclusive’ in this context to mean that in both groups will be represented those who would affirm OneBodyOneFaith’s statement of conviction:
‘that human sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity in all their richness are gifts of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.’
‘it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex, but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship; We believe that expressing our gender and sexuality with integrity is important as a way to grow in love and discipleship.’
”The Archbishops have set an ambitious task for members of the Church of England; they are right to recognise its urgency. A process involving lay, presbyteral and episcopal members of synod will be far more representative. OneBodyOneFaith reminds the Archbishops that the homophobia long present in the Church of England has skewed its population and that this needs to be taken into account in Diocesan consultations, in the development of pastoral practices, and in formulating the wide ranging and inclusive new teaching document on human sexuality.
Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of OneBodyOneFaith explained, “Care needs to be taken that a process which focusses on synod members will represent and reflect the interests of the whole of the Church of England and is mindful of the needs of the nation. To that end, this process needs to involve Anglicans who are not part of synod. The process needs to allow each participant to speak without fear for their own safety or fear of recrimination. OneBodyOneFaith stands ready to resource the Church of England as it embarks on this process of embodying more deeply the radical and transforming love shown by God in Christ which is for all.”
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church of England bishops seek to repair divisions over same-sex relationships
Yorkshire Post Archbishop of York calls for ‘radical’ steps by Church
Official press release: Culture change for seven days a week faith welcomed by General Synod
Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod February Group of Sessions 2017: Thursday
The text of Gavin Oldham’s motion is not included in the summary; as amended and passed by Synod it was:
That this Synod, considering the ratio of time and money spent in administration to that spent in mission to be too high throughout the Church of England, and noting the very effective facilities provided for parish statistics collection and clergy payroll:
(a) confirm that the principle of subsidiarity should not be applied to purely administrative functions; and
(b) request the Archbishops’ Council to develop its current work with dioceses to identify opportunities for nationally provided administrative services which would both release a larger proportion of resources for local growth and mission initiatives and generate economies for the whole Church.
Zachary Guiliano The Living Church Synod Turns to Mission
Anglican Communion News Service No easy solution to same-sex marriage issue, secretary general tells C of E Synod
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have written to members of the General Synod setting out the next steps following the vote on General Synod not to take note of the paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.
The letter can be found here.
The full text can be read below:
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Following the vote in General Synod not to take note of the paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations (GS 2055) we are writing to set out the way forward in the next few months.
First, we want to be clear about some underlying principles. In these discussions no person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people called to redeemed humanity in Christ.
How we deal with the real and profound disagreement - put so passionately and so clearly by many at the debate - is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.
To deal with that disagreement and to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.
We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence.
The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ - all of us, without exception, without exclusion.
Nevertheless while the principles are straightforward, putting them into practice, as we all know, is not, given the deep disagreements among us.
We are therefore asking first for every Diocesan Bishop to meet with their General Synod members for an extended conversation in order to establish clearly the desires of every member of Synod for the way forward.
As Archbishops we will be establishing a Pastoral Oversight group led by the Bishop of Newcastle, with the task of supporting and advising Dioceses on pastoral actions with regard to our current pastoral approach to human sexuality. The group will be inclusive, and will seek to discern the development of pastoral practices, within current arrangements.
Secondly, we, with others, will be formulating proposals for the May House of Bishops for a large scale teaching document around the subject of human sexuality. In an episcopal church a principal responsibility of Bishops is the teaching ministry of the church, and the guarding of the deposit of faith that we have all inherited. The teaching document must thus ultimately come from the Bishops. However, all episcopal ministry must be exercised with all the people of God, lay and ordained, and thus our proposals will ensure a wide ranging and fully inclusive approach, both in subject matter and in those who work on it.
We will also be suggesting to the Business Committee a debate in general terms on the issues of marriage and human sexuality. We wish to give the General Synod an opportunity to consider together those things we do affirm.
In the meantime, we commend to your prayers our common concern for every member of this church, of all views, and most especially our concern for the mission of God to which we are called by the Father, for which we are made ready by the Son, and in which we are equipped by the Holy Spirit.
+ Justin Cantuar: +Sentamu Eboracensis
Press reports are listed here.
Take Note Debate Voted Down
Inclusive Church in partnership with the General Synod Human Sexuality Group shares this press release in response to the General Synod vote in February 2017.
“We are pleased and relieved that General Synod have heard our concerns, and voted NOT to Take Note. This means that we can now look at new ways of working together to produce a fresh approach to how we embrace and celebrate the lives and loves of LGBTI people. We hope that the Church of England will now be more honest about the diversity of views that are sincerely held on this issue, so that we can look at how we might best present an inclusive vision of the Body of Christ to the nation.
We are particularly grateful that both the Chair and the Vice Chair of the Bishops’ Reflections Group (the Rt Revd Graham James and the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent) have acknowledged and apologised for the pain that this report had caused so many of us.”
Jayne Ozanne and Giles Goddard, Chair of Human Sexuality Group
Alan Wilson Back to the Holy Drawing Board, with some relief
For a body as conventionally set up as the Church of England General Synod, all its structures loaded to express deference, yesterday’s result was something of a shock to the system.
Many episcopal colleagues could feel disappointed that the clergy did not buy a report that had already been announced to the rest of the Communion from the top as Church policy, before it had even been to synod.
This kind of bloody nose may stir memories of the Anglican Covenant project — another disastrous and ecclesiologically inept attempt to make doctrine through lawyers that backfired.
But every failure brings opportunity…
We now have a chance to following up the Shared Conversations, which were generally good and constructive, properly…
Today’s events in the Church of England are unprecedented, with the refusal of the General Synod to take note of the Report of the House of Bishops’ reflection group, GS2055. Both the defeat of the motion by the House of Clergy and the rebellion against it in the House of Laity send an unequivocal message to the house of Bishops that their approach to human sexuality is lamentably out of step with membership of the Church of England and with the nation…
Modern Church welcomes the result of the vote in General Synod this week not to ‘take note’ of the House of Bishops report on Marriage and Same Sex Partnerships after the Shared Conversations.
By rejecting the motion to take note of this report, the General Synod has sent the Bishops back to the drawing board.
Most telling among the many reflections leading up to and during this landmark debate were these:
- the House of Bishops was attempting to manage the situation rather than leading.
- the ‘roadmap’ their report offered was not a route toward ‘good disagreement’ for those putting the case for inclusion.
- the bishops had not adequaltey heard the lived experience of LGBT+ people in the church, their families, friends and supporters, and had not catered for their aspirations for equality.
- the report did not take account of different theological and biblical perspectives.
We are but a few years on from the defeat of the Anglican Covenant by the English Dioceses and the General Synod. This second major defeat can mean only one thing - it is time for the House of Bishops to bring forward legislation which will enable all LGBT+ Christians, whether single, in a civil partnership or married, to be treated with equality in the life of the church.
What might this look like?
Modern Church also welcomes the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement calling for:a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church… founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology… based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and… a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.
We look forward to continuing to work to support the excellent and active work of LGBTI Mission, Inclusive Church and One Body One Faith, as they work with the whole church and with the Bishops to discern the way ahead.
Listening to the Synod debate, some of the parameters of a new settlement seem to be clear:
- An authorised liturgy for the blessing of same sex relationships (civil partnerships and civil marriages).
- The end of intrusive questioning for those in or aspiring to ministry who are in a civil partnership or are married to someone of the same gender.
- A ‘mixed economy’ whereby no minister is expected or compelled to act beyond the limits of their own or their congregation’s conscience.
Anything short of this will not do. The road may be yet long but the destination is now in sight and it is time for the Bishops to offer a map to get us there.
Ian Paul Psephizo On Synod, sexuality, and not ‘Taking note’
Wednesday 15th February 2017
Statement from Archbishop Justin Welby following the General Synod’s vote “not to take note” of a Report by the House of Bishops on the report earlier today on Marriage and Same-Sex Relationships.
“No person is a problem, or an issue. People are made in the image of God. All of us, without exception, are loved and called in Christ. There are no ‘problems’, there are simply people.
How we deal with the real and profound disagreement - put so passionately and so clearly by many at the Church of England’s General Synod debate on marriage and same-sex relationships today - is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.
To deal with that disagreement, to find ways forward, we need a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church. This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.
We need to work together - not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone - to move forward with confidence.
The vote today is not the end of the story, nor was it intended to be. As bishops we will think again and go on thinking, and we will seek to do better. We could hardly fail to do so in the light of what was said this afternoon.
The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ - all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”
Scroll down for press reports.
This afternoon General Synod debated Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: a report from the House of Bishops (GS 2055).
The motion “That the Synod do take note of this report” was defeated.
Voting was by houses, and the motion was lost in the House of Clergy.
Official press release following the vote:
Result of the vote on the House of Bishops’ Report
15 February 2017
The General Synod of the Church of England has voted “not to take note” of a Report by the House of Bishops following a debate on the report earlier today on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships.
A take note debate is a neutral motion which allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in a report without committing the Synod to the formal acceptance of any matter.
The vote required simple majorities in each of the three Synodical Houses. A total of 242 people voted in favour of the report 184 against and 6 abstentions - with a majority of Synod members voting to “take note” of the report. However the report failed to obtain a simple majority in the House of Clergy.
The House of Bishops voted 43 in favour and 1 against.
The House of Clergy voted 93 in favour and 100 against with 2 abstentions.
The House of Laity voted 106 in favour and 83 against with 4 abstentions.
With the take note motion now rejected, the Bishops of the Church of England will reflect on the views expressed at the General Synod. The diversity of opinion and strong views expressed, will need to be taken account by the Bishops in their consideration of the discussion going forward.
Responding to the vote, the Rt. Revd. Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich said:
“I can guarantee that the House of Bishops will consider carefully and prayerfully all the contributions made in the debate today.
“When reports come to the General Synod they often come at the end of a process and contain recommendations. This wasn’t that sort of report. The Bishops came to this debate committed to listen. Our report did not bring proposals, it brought a framework and a request for Synod to tell us what they thought. We have listened to those who have spoken, and those others who have made contributions to us directly. Our ongoing discussions will be informed by what members of Synod and the wider church have said as a result of this report.”
Introducing the debate on behalf of the House of Bishops, the Bishop of Norwich said that the report did not make formal proposals but was rather suggesting frameworks where areas needed attention: “The point of a take note debate is that it enables other voices to be heard, including those who believe the framework for further consideration is mistaken or wrongly constructed and needs modification. It is not a vote for approval but an invitation to comment and engage, and the House is listening.”
Setting out the difficulties facing both the House of Bishops and the wider Church in considering the report the Bishop of Norwich said: “There is no simple and easy answer to this issue beyond committing ourselves to engagement with each other when the views on what we should do are profoundly contested.”
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt. Revd. Pete Broadbent said:
“As I said at the launch of the Report such a debate is on a neutral motion. It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report. The Synod has declined to take note and so the report in its present form cannot come back to Synod for discussion, though we will still have to find a way forward for the wider discussion.
“We will find this debate a continuing source of disagreement because we haven’t coalesced around an end point. When we legislated for women to be bishops, even those opposed came to the view that the Church of England had to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of God according to our canons and formularies. In this debate, we haven’t even begun to find a place where we can coalesce. The Bishops’ Report acknowledges a place of starting. More conversation is needed. We don’t yet know the next stage - nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to Synod.”
Voting and The House of Bishops Report by a Church of England spokesperson
Tim Wyatt Church Times Synod rebuff for Bishops’ report on sexuality
Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Anglicans come a step closer to gay marriages in church after vote rejects controversial report
[originally headlined “Church of England votes to reject controversial gay marriage report which said union should be between a man and a woman”]
Church of England gay marriage vote thrown into chaos after members ‘get confused and press wrong button’
[This article has been rewritten; the original was published under the headline “Church of England votes for gay marriage after bishop presses wrong button”.]
Zachary Guiliano The Living Church No Winners
Anglican Communion News Service Church of England’s report on marriage and sexuality suffers setback at Synod
Antony Bushfield Premier General Synod rejects bishops’ sexuality report
Harry Farley Christian Today Church Of England’s Clergy Issue Shock Rebuke To Bishops’ Conservative View On Sexuality
NatCen Social Research have released these survey results today.
Half of Anglicans believe there is nothing wrong with same sex relationships
15 February 2017
Ahead of the Church of England General Synod’s debate on the issue of gay marriage on Wednesday, new data reveals that 50% of Anglicans believe that same sex relationships are “not wrong at all”.
The findings, which come from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey, show that Anglican opinions towards same sex relationships have been softening over time but acceptance is highest (73%) among those with no religion. The lowest levels of acceptance of same sex relationships come from those belonging to non-Christian religions: 31% of this group say that these relationships are not wrong at all.
Meanwhile, 17% of Anglicans think that same sex relationships are “always wrong”, the lowest level since records began in 1983 when 50% were of this view. In 2015 6% of those with no religion felt this way…
The summary continues at the link above. The data tables are also available.
As an alternative to the official studies being looked at by Synod members this afternoon OneBodyOneFaith offer their own case studies, this time involving bishops.
1. Chris is a bishop in a mainly rural Northern diocese. He realised he was gay in his teens, when others were becoming keen on girls and he wasn’t. He never said anything to anybody, and has never had more than close friendships with those men whom he has taken a fancy to. It seems to him that it would be impossible for him to come out now, after so many years, for two main reasons: although he has never lied about his sexuality (in fact he has never said anything at all to colleagues or in job interviews), he feels his reputation as an honest and caring bishop, in a part of the country where straight-talking people seem to him likely to become more wary if they knew he was gay, would be felled at a stroke if he spoke up now. And he is the only child of his elderly and frail mother, whom he believes would be utterly shattered by such a revelation.
Chris supported the House of Bishops Report because he believes strongly in the collective responsibility of the bishops, and, to be completely honest, because ‘no change’ means that he does not have to make any decision about whether to come out at this point.
2. Daniel is a young, single bishop. He thinks he may be bisexual, as he has found himself in close relationships with women and men, though he has only had sex with one woman: he thought he might marry her but it didn’t work out. He has great sympathy with those campaigning for LGBTI inclusion, but dare not come out for fear that his colleagues will think less of him - especially his Archbishop, who does not know anything of his past relationships. He is troubled that the Report makes no mention at all of BTI people - but did not raise this in the brief discussion that was allowed.
Daniel supported the House of Bishops Report as a way of bolstering his own membership of the College of Bishops, which he hopes will enhance his credibility in future discussions. He feels uncomfortable that he is not ready to be the one to speak up against what he considers a weak and rather cowardly report, focusing on the difficulties for the bishops themselves.
3. Jerome is an evangelical bishop. His roots were in the conservative wing, but since his daughter-in-law’s brother came out as gay he has been less convinced that their approach is the right one in the sight of God. He can now see that scripture can be interpreted in more than one way, but still cannot work out how to get ‘past’ the prohibitions in Leviticus and Romans. He carries a great deal of weight in evangelical circles, and is keenly aware of the consequences if he were to declare a change of mind. Others would feel betrayed by him, and he would damage some people’s faith in Christ: a risk he is not prepared to take.
Jerome supported the House of Bishops Report because, although flawed, it represents the best way forward for evangelicals at the moment, and he sincerely hopes it will not distract from the wider mission of the church.
4. Dawn, with her female episcopal colleagues, is new to the College of Bishops. She is still learning the ropes of how things work - or don’t - in practice, and is puzzled and frustrated by how little time there is for real discussion and listening. She is married to a man, and has always seen marriage as a gift from God to be treasured. She would love to whole-heartedly support extending that to couples of the same sex, but is not convinced of the scriptural support for that and therefore could not commend it to the people she serves in her diocese. A large part of her hopes that in time she will be so convinced. She is also very conscious of the tension between feeling a responsibility, as a woman, to support other oppressed groups, and needing to ‘join in’ with the current culture in order to be taken seriously.
Dawn was not happy with the Report but supported it as the best compromise that could be rushed through.
5. Findlay (married, 3 teenage children) is aware of a number of gay and lesbian clergy in his diocese, some of whom are in partnerships, and he does his best to support them discretely. He is deeply troubled by the seeming inability of the House of Bishops as a body to act graciously and purposefully towards such people in such relationships. His diocese is perceived as more ‘liberal’ than some, but he has received considerable correspondence urging him to hold the line on marriage ‘as God has defined it’. Some of the letters have been fierce, unpleasant and have threatened his soul with damnation, but he knows that each writer is trying to be faithful and so tries to hold them in his prayers as compassionately as he can. But he wonders what to do with his considerable anger. He is also concerned not to impose his suggestions for progress towards full inclusion of LGBTI people as a white, straight man.
Findlay supported the Report with a heavy heart and after speaking up against its paucity and flawed logic - how can the mean-spirited tone of such a report invite and expect a change of tone across the church?
We are pleased to publish this article from The Revd Dr Jennifer Strawbridge.
The Bishops’ Report and Scripture: A Missed Opportunity
Jennifer Strawbridge (Associate Professor of New Testament Studies & Caird Fellow in Theology, University of Oxford)
Proof-texting of Scripture is all too common in discussions of human sexuality, but its theological worth is rather limited. The more so, when it is done incorrectly. This is not what the recent publication by the House of Bishops – Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations – has done. In fact, this document makes explicit reference to Scripture only 5 times across its 19 pages of text. However, one of the Pauline passages used to introduce this report is based on an unfortunate misunderstanding of the Apostle. While this misunderstanding does not ultimately affect the content of the report, it does cast a shadow over what follows and represents a missed opportunity for how Scripture can be engaged in such conversations.
The first paragraph of the report states, “As St Paul writes, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me…’ (Galatians 2.19ff). For St Paul that meant setting aside even the wonderful privilege of Jewish identity and giving priority to the cross and resurrection of Christ. It is in this light that the Church of England has to consider the difficulties over human sexuality that have been a source of tension and division for many years.”
What this introduction misunderstands and misses is twofold. Firstly, in both his letters and in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is a Jew and identifies clearly as a Jew in the present tense. To state that Paul is “setting aside” his “Jewish identity” misunderstands Paul. Second, such misunderstanding in the very first paragraph means the report misses the nuance of Paul’s writings and the reality that he too is grappling with “tension and division” both within his communities and in terms of his own identity. To recognise such a nuance would make clear that questions of identity are not as simple as this report’s introduction suggests and that identity with Christ is not as simple as “setting aside” one’s identity at birth (which itself is a loaded and potentially harmful assumption in a report on sexuality and identity).
In Philippians 3.4-6, therefore, Paul writes that in terms of confidence “in the flesh”, he has more for he is: “a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews.” Even if these “gains” are now regarded by Paul “as loss because of Christ” (Phil 3.7) and as “rubbish” (3.8), Paul’s Jewish identity is not solely in his past. This is made clearer in Romans 11.1 where Paul states in his defence of God’s promises that “I myself am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.” Paul’s testimony before the tribunal in Acts 21 is even more direct, demonstrating unambiguously what the Evangelist thinks of Paul’s identity. Paul begins his defence with the words, “I am a Jew” and then repeats this same claim “in the Hebrew language” in Acts 22 (“I am a Jew”) after which he immediately recounts in the past tense that he previously “persecuted this Way”. Moreover, returning to his letters, Paul counters Corinthian boasting with his own in 2 Corinthians 11.22: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? … I am a better one.”
And here we encounter first-hand the tension in Paul’s identity. Paul is still a Hebrew, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, in other words, he is a Jew. But he is also a minister of Christ; he is also one who suffers for the sake of the gospel. Paul’s identity is inextricably wrapped up in both.
Furthermore, such tensions can be perceived not only in Paul’s own identity, but also in how he understands the spread of his gospel. Paul over and over again, as “apostle to the Gentiles”, gives priority to the Jews even though he is clear many of them do not recognise Christ as Messiah. In Romans 1.16, he observes that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” And in Romans 2.9-10, Paul writes that God’s judgement and God’s glory fall on “the Jew first and also the Greek” for “God shows no partiality.” In fact, “both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (Rom 3.9), “for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to those who call on him” (Rom 10.12). This, of course, doesn’t mean that nothing happened to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 26) or when Christ is revealed to him (1 Cor 15.8; Gal 1.15-17). Neither does it mean that Paul’s language about Jew and Gentile leads to a vision of humanity as “one overcooked stew where all the ingredients taste the same” as Beverly Gaventa clarifies. For “Paul recognizes distinct histories of Jews and Gentiles” (Gaventa 2014, 103). But noting only the division in Paul’s life, as the start of the Bishops’ Report does, is a problem and misses the nuance and the gift of Paul’s wrestling with identity. Paul clearly remains a Jew. Paul clearly identifies himself as Jewish. But Paul has also reconceived who the people of God are after his encounter with the risen Lord. And this is the dimension of Paul’s identity struggles which might be fruitfully engaged by the Bishops’ Report.
Paul’s own words preclude the simple statement that he has set aside his Jewish identity for Christ. Rather, we must see that Paul is trying very hard (and we must acknowledge that he is not always consistent across his letters) to hold together his Jewish identity with the reality that he has, indeed, “been crucified with Christ” and Christ now lives in and defines his life. This tension leads to questions that dominate the Pauline writings: how then do Jew and Gentile relate? What happens to the Law? Does this mean God has broken God’s promises with Israel? And most importantly for this Report: How does Paul hold together the tension that one dies “to the law through the body of Christ” (Rom 7.4) while at the same time claiming in almost the same breath that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good” (Rom 7.12)? How can Paul identify himself both by Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 6.5; Phil 3.10-11) and as a Hebrew, Israelite, and Jew?
This grappling with understanding of law and of identity that we find clearly in Paul’s letters is evident throughout the Bishops’ Report, phrased explicitly in the stated framework: “Interpreting the existing law and guidance to permit maximum freedom within it, without changes to the law, or the doctrine of the Church” (§1.22). However, by beginning with a misunderstanding of Paul and his identity, this report misses a great opportunity to draw on Paul’s own struggles in a document that is clearly trying to balance both the obvious and the not-so-evident struggles within our Church. Instead, this report has given us a new scriptural text to add to the ever-growing list of those proof-texted, intentionally or not, for the purposes of debate concerning human sexuality. More significantly, the Bishops’ Report divides doctrine from pastoral practice and misses both the chance to wrestle with the “tension and division” inherent in Paul’s mission and the opportunity to ground a statement on human sexuality in theology and more than that, in the depths of holy Scripture.
Updated during the day and on Thursday
See here for the debate on the Bishops’ report.
Late on Tuesday, Synod agreed to changes to Wednesday’s agenda to allow more time for the debate on the Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships. This will now start at 4.45 pm (instead of 5.30 pm) with the same finishing time of 7.00 pm.
OneBodyOneFaith have published the case studies to be used in the private group work that Synod members are invited to attend: Church of England Synod - GS2055 case studies.
Before lunch the Bishops of Norwich and Willesden gave presentations in anticipation of the afternoon’s business. The full text of the presentations are available:
The Bishop of Norwich
The Bishop of Willesden
Official press releases
New See to support multi-cultural communities in Leicestershire
General Synod calls on Government to lower maximum stake for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals
Presentations from the Bishop of Norwich and the Bishop of Willesden
Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod February Group of Sessions 2017: Wednesday
Zachary Guiliano The Living Church Synod Attracts Protests
Women and the Church (WATCH) launched its annual report on “Developments in Women’s Ministry 2016” at a fringe event at the General Synod today.
Read the report by clicking HERE.
From the press release:
Speaking at the event the newly elected Chair of WATCH, Revd. Canon Emma Percy said “The WATCH report clearly shows that whilst much has been achieved there is still a significant way to travel before women have any degree of equality in the church.
Yes we have women priests and bishops but recent appointments have shown that there continues to be a high disparity between the opportunity and prospects of male and female clergy.
From the latest available figures whilst roughly equal numbers of men and women are ordained, only 27% are currently vicars or in more senior roles.
Women continue to be under-represented at senior levels within dioceses with 13 dioceses having no ex-officio women in Bishop’s senior staff and a further 22 that only have one women.
In 2016, ten people were made bishops but only three of these were women and sadly not one of them was appointed to be a Diocesan Bishop.
Today we publish a table showing the percentage of women in incumbent level appointments by diocese. With an average of only 24% of women incumbents across all the dioceses, many fall well short even of this low percentage.
There are two new publications in anticipation of tomorrow’s debate on the Bishops’ report on sexuality.
1. This Open Letter from Open Evangelicals to the Evangelical Group on General Synod has been published today.
On February 2nd 2017 five “open evangelical” members of EGGS (the Evangelical Group on General Synod) wrote to the whole EGGS membership, urging them to reflect and repent on three core issues relating to the “sexuality debate”.
They also asked three key questions which they felt the evangelical community needed to respond to.
Other evangelicals on Synod had also wished to sign the letter, but were unable to as they had not felt able to become members of EGGS due to its hard line on certain issues. It was therefore released for open signature by all evangelicals following the meeting.
The three questions are:
2. OneBodyOneFaith (formerly the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement) have published A time to build in which they seek
Updated during the day and on Wednesday
The following private member’s motion, proposed by Stephen Trott, was defeated.
That this Synod, noting the Registration of Marriages Regulations 2015 and the growing burden and complexity of the legal requirements imposed on members of the clergy who conduct weddings in the Church of England, invite the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward draft legislation to replace ecclesiastical preliminaries to marriage by universal civil preliminaries, such as those which have been in operation in Scotland since 1977, when banns were replaced by a Marriage Schedule issued by the civil registrar.
Voting was by houses, and the motion was lost in all three.
Official press release on this debate: General Synod votes to retain marriage banns
Most of the day was devoted to legislation.
Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod February group of sessions 2017: Tuesday
Archbishop of York General Synod Farewell to Sir Andreas Whittam Smith
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian ‘We must discriminate’: pre-wedding passport checks cause stress, say clergy
Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Church keeps medieval marriage banns to attract young worshippers
The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, is to retire at the end of July. He became a bishop in 2005 and has been Primus since 2009.
The official announcement can be read here on the SEC website.
With the recent retirement of the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, there will soon be two new Anglican primates in the British Isles.
As the General Synod started its meeting today, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had an item on the Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships, and the forthcoming ‘take note’ debate. The piece featured a discussion between Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans and Chair of LGBTI Mission, and Susie Leafe, General Synod member and Director of Reform.
The 7-minute discussion can be heard here and begins at 1:21:45 in.
Updated during the day and on Tuesday
Order paper for Monday’s business
The final item of business on Monday is Questions. The questions and answers have been published in advance here and Synod will move directly to supplementary questions and answers when it gets to this item of business, which will be at about 5.30 pm.
Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian has been looking at the answer to question 36: C of E warns of ‘corrupting pressures of politics’ in response to Trump fears.
Olivia Rudgard of The Telegraph looks ahead to an item scheduled for Tuesday: Church of England ministers could work beyond the age of 70 to ease recruitment crisis.
Monday’s session starts at 3.00 pm from when there will be a live video stream of the proceedings.
Synod agreed to include a Saturday in future dates (from 2018) for its February meetings in London. This will not result in longer meetings, but they will start later in the week.
This motion, marking the 500the anniversary of The Reformation, was passed:
That this Synod, in the context of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the European Reformation and the Church of England’s understanding of the doctrine of justification as expressed in our historic formularies:
(a) give thanks to God for the rich spiritual blessings that the Reformation brought to the Church of England;
(b) welcome signs of convergence between the churches on the doctrine of salvation, noting Resolution 16.17 of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2016 regarding the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and its relation to the Helsinski Report and ARCIC II’s Salvation and the Church; and
(c) commend initiatives in this anniversary year to foster mutual understanding and reconciliation between churches, for the sake of our deeper renewal in the grace of God and our ability to share the gospel of salvation with all the world.
[Press release: General Synod hails reconciliation as Christians mark 500th anniversary of the Reformation]
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave this presidential address.
Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod February group of sessions 2017: Monday
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury suggests Brexit ‘in fascist tradition’
Harry Farley Christian Today Trump, Brexit And Fascism Leave UK ‘Savagely Divided’ - Archbishop Of Canterbury
Zachary Guiliano The Living Church Rumbling and Remembering
Patrick Foster The Telegraph Donald Trump is part of a ‘fascist tradition of politics’, says Archbishop
Tom Embury-Dennis Independent Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby links Donald Trump and Brexit to fascism
This is the text of the letter that has been published tonight. There is an accompanying press release which is copied below the fold.
OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
February 11th 2017
Dear Fellow Bishop
The Bishops’ Report to Synod on Sexuality
Most retired bishops would be prepared to admit that participation in the synodical processes of the church are not what they most miss about their role as diocesan or suffragan bishops. They also feel some reticence about entering into the current debates occupying their successors on the basis of information that is partial and becomes more and more dated with the passing of the years. There is a dilemma, though: you don’t work for years as a bishop and then easily and suddenly lose the bond you feel for the bishops, your successors and former colleagues. Nor do you lose your concern that the church of which you continue to be a bishop should be faithful in its commendation of the Gospel to the society at large.
So when a report emerges that is the subject of major controversy within the church and society some retired bishops will wish to do what the signatories of this letter are seeking to do, namely to reflect from their particular perspective on what our successors are seeking to say and do about an issue that has been a longstanding source of concern and contention.
Your statement is the product of enormous time and effort, our memories of such situation suggesting perhaps too much time and too much effort. The ‘too much’ comes from the enormous sense of responsibility your document shows to manage a conflict that you and we know causes huge amounts of grief and argument. The result, dare we say, is that whereas it used to be said that bishops often sounded as though they spoke with a pipe in their mouths, now that pipes are rare they sound more as though they see their task as managing – rather than perhaps enabling or leading – the conflicts that are bound to occur. And we remember how exhausting that is, and how it seems to blunt the edge of bishops’ own passionate convictions, which might divide them but also invigorate the conversation.
You write after the Shared Conversations. We well remember having had lots of those, even if they did not have capital letters. But their integrity rested on the assurance that in reporting them the voices of those who participated would not be drowned out by the ‘majority view’ or ‘established position’. Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes. Going down the road of seeking a change in the law or doctrinal formulation would indeed not have been realistic – but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.
The result of that focus on the issue of a change in the law is that your call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction. Indeed, from the perhaps luxurious perspective of retirement the tone and culture of your document are incredibly familiar – we’ve been there and talked in that tone of voice, and it prevents calls for a change of culture, of course offered in complete sincerity by you, from ringing true.
We’ll avoid making too many detailed points just now; but hard as you have tried you have really not allowed the theological voice of some of us to be heard properly. In para 8 you draw a contrast between ‘the many who [hold] a conservative view of scripture [for whom] the underlying issue at stake is faithfulness to God’s word’ and others for whom ‘the imperative to read scripture differently stems from a parallel conviction’. If the second group are to recognise their voice in theological conversations their ‘parallel conviction’ needs to be expressed and not just alluded to.
May we end by assuring you that we continue to sympathise with the challenging nature of the task you have in this and other matters. You will receive much negative comment about your report, and we hope that these brief remarks may illuminate the reason for that: it is not that the Shared Conversations were thought to herald changes of law or doctrine; rather there will be deep disappointment that those who are not officially part of your meetings, who experience at first hand the struggles you only allude to, have once again been spoken about by their bishops instead of being enabled to speak in their own voice about their future and the future of the church they belong to and care about.
Yours sincerely in Christ
The Rt Revd Dr David Atkinson, formerly Bishop of Thetford
The Rt Revd Michael Doe, formerly Bishop of Swindon
The Rt Revd Dr Timothy Ellis, formerly Bishop of Grantham
The Rt Revd David Gillett, formerly Bishop of Bolton
The Rt Revd John Gladwin, formerly Bishop of Guildford and of Chelmsford
The Rt Revd Dr Laurie Green, formerly Bishop of Bradwell
The Rt Revd the Lord Harries of Pentregarth DD, formerly Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme
The Rt Revd Dr Stephen Platten, formerly Bishop of Wakefield
The Rt Revd John Pritchard, formerly Bishop of Oxford
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, formerly Bishop of Worcester
The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, formerly Bishop of Leicester
The Rt Revd Roy Williamson, formerly Bishop of Bradford and of Southwark
The Rt Revd Martin Wharton CBE, formerly Bishop of Newcastle
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RETIRED BISHOPS VOICE CONCERN OVER SAME SEX RELATIONSHIPS REPORT
Fourteen retired bishops have taken the unprecedented step of intervening in the Church of England’s controversial debate over Same Sex Marriage, warning that the bishops appear to be “managing rather than enabling and leading” the debate.
The group, led by the former Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd Peter Selby, has broken with convention to write an open letter to all bishops in the Church of England criticising their recent report on Same Sex Marriage ahead of a debate in General Synod on Wednesday 15th February.
Whilst as retired bishops they “feel some reticence” about entering into the debate, they explain they have done so because of their concern that a report that does not allow the authentic voice of LGBT people to be heard or the real theological argument to be advanced will not enable the church to engage credibly with wider society.
They suggest that the report has taken the shape it has because bishops today have a tendency to “see their task as managing – rather than perhaps enabling or leading” the debate. They admit this task can be “exhausting” and can “blunt the edge of bishops’ own passionate convictions”.
Reflecting on the Shared Conversations, they believe that the report would only have integrity if it honoured “the assurance that the voices of those who participated would not be drowned out by the ‘majority view’ or ‘established position’”. On the contrary, they assert that “our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice.”
The authors are concerned that their colleagues decided to focus too much on why it was not possible to change church law regarding same sex marriage, so much so that “that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes.” As such, they believe that the bishops’ “call for change of tone and culture, while absolutely right, does not carry conviction.”
The most stinging criticism is left till last, where the authors believe that the bishops “have really not allowed the theological voice of some of us to be heard properly.” Quoting from the report which briefly recognises that there are those who hold a different interpretation of scripture to the traditional interpretation, they argue that “this “parallel conviction” …needs to be expressed and not just alluded to”, a view shared by many other vocal critics of the report.
The letter ends by acknowledging that “there will be deep disappointment that those who are not officially part of your meetings, who experience at first hand the struggles you only allude to, have once again been spoken about by their bishops instead of being enabled to speak in their own voice about their future and the future of the church they belong to and care about.”
Simon Butler ViaMedia.News The Anti-Testimony (on reading the House of Bishops’ Report)
Giles Fraser The Guardian The church’s strategy on protecting the child is designed to protect itself
Ysenda Maxtone Graham The Spectator The slow, strange race to be the next Bishop of London
Erin Clark a funny thing happened on the way to decorum the duchess be with you
Jem Bloomfield quiteirregular Vada the Omi: On the Polari Evensong
Tim Thorlby Church Times Open up the doors and let the people come in
Following the recent announcement that LGCM and Changing Attitude are to merge, the two bodies have consulted on a new name for the combined body, which will be known as OneBodyOneFaith.
Details on the background to the choice of name can be read here.
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the LGCM Board writes:
We are proud to announce that from 14th February we will be known as
We will also use an explicatory strapline to help people locate what we do more easily. This is:
Affirming sexuality and gender in Christ
We will also be unveiling a new logo, and you’ll see a gradul change in our identity online, on social media and in the resources we produce to support our work.
Today’s Church Times carries a lot of relevant material.
News report: Madeleine Davies Critics of Bishops’ sex report plan a Synod protest vote
THE House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships (News, 3 February) is a “morally reprehensible document that needs to be rejected by the Synod”, the Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, said on Wednesday.
Describing it as a “betrayal of trust” that left “weapons on the table”, he expected a “very close vote” after the take-note debate scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening.
“If it is defeated, that is a clear signal to the House of Bishops that Synod is unwilling to progress in the direction they are taking,” he said. “If it is a narrow vote, the Bishops would be very unwise to continue down this course, because the whole of the Church’s wider agenda will be subsumed into a conflict that will last for the next period of the life of the Church. That would be a disaster.”
The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York, the Ven. Cherry Vann, said on Wednesday that she was “very aware of deep unhappiness about this report from across a wide spectrum of the Church”. Conversations with clergy and laity in the diocese of Manchester, and emails from people beyond, indicated a “strong call” for the Synod not to take note…
There are two comment articles. I strongly recommend that you read each of these all the way through, to get their full import.
Andrew Davison Everything hinges on three words
…What I have said so far draws on what the report says about the Bishops’ meetings, where the line in the sand concerned the law and doctrine of marriage. Skip forward in the report, and this principle morphs to “proposing no change to . . . law . . . or doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relationships” (§26). That shift is important because, in the next paragraph, this phrase limits what is up for consideration, not least by theologians.
…until it is clear what the Bishops take as immovable, we cannot go forward. Is it marriage, as laid out in Canon B.30, or the entire jumble of central-office convictions about anything to do with sexuality? The report suggests the former. The emphasis on marriage as the red line emerges from the account of the Bishops’ group; it is reiterated in relation to liturgical practice (§39); it is what they want to uphold ecumenically (§60); and it is also where the report ends, with an annex devoted entirely to questions of marriage…
Malcolm Brown The pain lies in facing hard truths
…But, however much the Bishops bear the brickbats with resignation, much comment on their recent Synod paper (GS 2055) underestimates the extent to which the Bishops and, indeed, the Church of England are bound by law in ways that severely limit their scope for manoeuvre.
Start with the law on marriage. The annex to the Bishops’ paper is not mere detail. It sets out the legal framework that would govern any attempt to change things as they are.
For there to be any move to same-sex marriage, canon law would have to change. That law cannot be changed without substantial majorities in each of the Houses of Synod. The Bishops have been accused of lacking pastoral concern (and worse), but how pastoral would it be to initiate a long process with all the continued pain it would cause with no serious likelihood (in the present state of the Church) of success?
New items continue to pour out:
Andrew Lightbown Unity, dissent and episcopacy.
Jonathan Clatworthy Here we go again
Colin Coward The Bishops’ report – a holistic reaction
Three wasted, humiliating years
The dark shadow over the Church of England
David Walker: “the law will not change” - Pete Broadbent: “same sex marriage doesn’t exist”
There are some who support the bishops, for example
Fulcrum Fulcrum Response to GS 2055
And you can find much longer lists of supporting articles here.
Updated Tuesday evening
Setting God’s People Free (GS 2056) is a report from the Archbishops’ Council to be debated at General Synod on the morning of Thursday 16 February. There is a brief summary on the Renewal & Reform pages of the Church of England website. The report aims to generate more active engagement by lay churchpeople.
There was a press release when the report was published, which we reported here.
To this can now be added these press reports
Hattie Williams Church Times New report calls for shift in attitude towards laity
Harry Farley Christian Today Clergy V Laity ‘Power Struggle’ Is Blocking Church Growth, Synod Told
and these comments/reviews
Jonathan Clatworthy Modern Church Setting God’s people free to do what they are told (follow the link at the end for the full report)
David Keen Opinionated Vicar ‘Setting God’s People Free’ - ministry on the other 6 days of the week, and who does it
Will Briggs Journeyman Review: Setting God’s People Free – A Report from the Archbishops’ Council.
Two from the CofE’s Renewal and Reform Facebook page
Andrew Nunn Why we should value the true treasures of the Church
Paul Cartwright ‘I Come to do Your will’
[The Andrew Nunn piece was included in our most recent Opinion roundup]
and an audio recording of an interview with Canon Mark Russell (who will be proposing the motion at Synod on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council): Why change is needed for Church growth
This letter has been sent to all LGCM, Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church supporters:
Like very many people, we were shocked and dismayed at the report published last week by a working party of the House of Bishops of the Church of England. You can read the report here. Despite a wish to create “maximal freedom” for LGBTI+ people, and a desire to have a “change of tone” in the way we are spoken about and to, there was essentially a recommendation of no change at all in the official position of the Church of England.
For too many of our members, who had taken part in all good faith in the Shared Conversations, this was a very significant betrayal of trust. LGCM is also concerned that the established church, in which the country as a whole has a stake, is proposing to retain unchanged a theology and pastoral practice and discipline that is significantly out of kilter with the nation’s understanding of equality and justice in matters of sexuality and gender. This is an issue which affects all those of us who believe our sexuality to be a gift from God. The Church of England seeks to engage with all the communities of England, and yet it does so in a way which diminishes the gospel message that God’s love is for everyone, without exception. We are all alike impeded in our mission of conveying the message that God’s love is for everyone, regardless of who they are, or who they love.
The Report is coming to General Synod on 15th February. There is to be a debate, at the end of which the Synod will be asked to “take note” of the Report. We are asking all members of General Synod not to take note. In other words, to vote against the motion.
LGCM is clear about its convictions and its purpose. The Statement of Conviction says:
It is the conviction of the members of the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement that human sexuality in all its richness is a gift of God gladly to be accepted, enjoyed and honoured as a way of both expressing and growing in love, in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is their conviction that it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship.
We are looking for the bishops of the Church of England to start to move in the direction of our convictions, and to acknowledge those as a permissible and honourable position to hold if you are an Anglican.
We ask ALL OUR MEMBERS AND ALL CHANGING ATTITUDE SUPPORTERS TO WRITE A PERSONAL LETTER TO GENERAL SYNOD REPRESENTATIVES to arrive before 13th February. It does not matter if you are not personally a member of the Church of England – as it is the Established Church you have an interest in their attitudes and policies and every right to express your view to its governing body. Share with them the memorandum attached [below the fold], and your hope that they will vote against taking note of it. Explain to them which parish or church you belong to and any office or role you play in that church (if you do). Tell them why this matters to you and ask them to vote against taking note. A personal letter will make much more impact than a brief email or text. Please also COPY YOUR LETTER TO THE BISHOP OF THE DIOCESE IN WHICH YOU LIVE. Pick up your pens and play your part in this vital campaign. Addresses of all Synod Members are here. If you would like to write but need help in identifying who are the right people to write to please contact us at email@example.com and we will direct you to the correct people. We are looking for a substantial vote against this dangerous and inadequate report.
Tracey Byrne, CEO, LGCM
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board, LGCM
MEMO: TO ALL MEMBERS OF GENERAL SYNOD
DATE: 31 January 2017
LGCM recommends that in the debate on 15 February at General Synod, members should refuse to take note of ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops’, and further, should not take part in group work designed to gain approval of the document
Tracey Byrne, CEO, LGCM
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board, LGCM
31 January 2017
David Monteith, Dean of Leicester, On Not Taking Note and Dreaming Dreams
Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark, Why we should value the true treasures of the Church
Archdruid Eileen Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley The Church of St Julian and St Sandy
Helen King So, what was the point of all that?
Jeremy Pemberton From the Choir Stalls Anglican Alternative Facts
Savi Hensman Ekklesia Sexuality, gender and disrespect for scripture
There are two news articles today:
No change on marriage after the Shared Conversations by Hattie Williams.
Yes, this article was first published last week on the website, and linked here previously, but scroll down for a new article There was talk, but who was listening? by Madeleine Davies
Critics call Bishops’ gay report ungodly by Hattie Williams.
And there is a long editorial: The united front.
Channel 4 News reported yesterday on allegations of abuse at the Iwerne Trust: Archbishop admits Church ‘failed terribly’ over abuse revelations
The Church of England has tonight apologised unreservedly after a Channel 4 News investigation revealed that a prominent Anglican evangelical and former colleague of the Archbishop of Canterbury is alleged to have severely assaulted boys and young men for decades…
Other news reports include:
Patrick Foster, Nicola Harley, and Lydia Willgress The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury issues ‘unreserved and unequivocal’ apology after links to ‘child abuser’ emerge
‘I could feel the blood spattering on my legs’: Victims tell of ‘horrific’ beatings at hands of Archbishop’s friend
Samuel Osborne The Independent Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issues apology over Church of England links to ‘child abuser’
Kevin Rawlinson and Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church ‘could have done more’ over John Smyth abuse claims
The Archbishop has issued this statement in response to the Channel 4 News report.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury was a Dormitory Officer at Iwerne holiday camp in the late 1970s, where boys from public schools learnt to develop life as Christians. The role was to be a mentor to the boys, as was that of his now wife at a similar camp for girls.
John Smyth was one of the main leaders at the camp and although the Archbishop worked with him, he was not part of the inner circle of friends; no one discussed allegations of abuse by John Smyth with him. The Archbishop left England to work in Paris for an oil company in 1978, where he remained for five years. He began training for ordination in 1989.
The Archbishop knew Mr Smyth had moved overseas but, apart from the occasional card, did not maintain contact with him.
In August 2013 the Bishop of Ely wrote to the Bishop of Cape Town, informing him of concerns expressed to his Diocese Safeguarding Adviser about Mr Smyth from an alleged survivor. The British Police had been notified. The Archbishop’s Chaplain at the time was forwarded this letter, and subsequently showed it to the Archbishop for information only.
The Archbishop has repeatedly said that he believes that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be a principle priority in all parts of the Church, and that any failings in this area must be immediately reported to the police.
The Archbishop is on the record as saying that survivors must come first, not the Church’s own interests. This applies regardless of how important, distinguished or well-known the perpetrator is.”
There is also a statement from the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Adviser.
“The violent abuse of young men between 1978-82, as outlined in the Channel 4 programme, should never have happened and we utterly condemn this behaviour and abuse of power and trust. The report into these horrific activities, drawn up by those linked with the Iwerne Trust, a non-denominational Christian charity, should have been forwarded to the police at the time. When the Church of England was alerted by a survivor, through the diocese of Ely in 2013, the police were immediately informed as was the Anglican Church in South Africa where Mr Smyth was then living. The national safeguarding officer, which was a part time post, was informed and helped find support for the survivors. Clearly more could have been done at the time to look further into the case. We now have a dedicated central team made up of six full time posts - we will be reviewing all files making further enquiries as necessary. We echo the Archbishop’s unreserved and unequivocal apology to all the survivors and are committed to listen to anyone who comes forward and we would urge anyone with any further information to report it to the police “
Several Anglican mission agencies have put out a joint statement expressing “profound concern” at President Trump’s executive order on immigration – barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and blocking all refugees from Syria.
A coalition of seven mission agencies within the Church of England said: “We understand President Trump’s desire to protect America from extremism but we do not accept that it is ever right to discriminate against people simply on the basis of their ethnicity, religion or country of origin. We call on the British and other governments not only to seek exceptions for its own citizens but justice for all. We call on the US Government to reverse its current policy and to renew its commitment to freedom for all.”
The statement follows criticism of the immigration measures from church leaders.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, issued a statement expressing shock at the new restrictions: “It is extraordinary that any civilised country should stigmatise and ban citizens of other nations in the matter of providing humanitarian protection. In Christ, we are called to welcome the stranger especially when in desperate need,” he said.
In the United States there have been statements from a number of Episcopal dioceses. In Massachusetts, a joint letter from 17 church leaders, opposing the executive action, received the backing of three Episcopal Bishops : “We grieve this decision to limit refugees, as it will cause further suffering, not just to our fellow Christians escaping persecution, but all refugees fleeing violence.”
In a statement, Bishop Marc Handley Andrus of California said: “We must honour the contributions of immigrants who are here to seek peace and stability for their families. Please join me in praying for our nation and for a change of heart for President Trump and his administration.”
Bishop James Mathes of San Diego wrote : “the last nine days have been a disquieting and dizzying display of presidential action in Mr Trump’s first days in office. The executive order is an affront to our sense of fairness and equity…President Trump’s actions are unacceptable and un-American. They do not represent who we are as a people. We must recover our senses. It is time to speak out in the name of all faiths and our national identity as a people united in our diversity. That is our gift to the world.”
In Washington, Bishop Mariann Budde wrote: “The list of alarming actions and statements from President Trump’s first week in office takes our collective breath away.”
Bishop Robert Hirschfeld of the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire said: “The Executive Order tightly restricting immigration and refugee resettlement based on religious identity has done very little but intensify global tensions while worsening human suffering among those who honour and admire this nation. What is called for is competent diplomacy, informed statesmanship and a clear commitment to the biblically informed ideals of hospitality to the stranger and the oppressed. That these values are being so cavalierly rejected in favour of rash and fear-based edicts not only violates the dignity of those immediately affected, but also damages our own reputation.”
Updated Thursday evening
The Episcopal Church has issued the following notice:
Statement from the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council
As the Episcopal Church’s members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we were dismayed to read in today’s Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) an article that claims we did not vote on matters of doctrine or polity at the most recent meeting of the ACC, known as ACC-16, held in Lusaka, Zambia in April 2016. This report is wrong.
Each of us attended the entire ACC-16 meeting and voted on every resolution that came before the body, including a number that concerned the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Communion. As the duly elected ACC members of a province of the Anglican Communion, this was our responsibility and we fulfilled it.
It could be inferred from today’s ACNS story that we did not fulfill our voting responsibilities at ACC-16 to comply with a communique issued by the primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016. The communique sought to impose consequences on the Episcopal Church for its adoption of marriage equality at our 2015 General Convention. Such an inference would be incorrect.
At the beginning of ACC-16, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion issued a statement saying that it had “considered the Communiqué from the Primates and affirmed the relational links between the Instruments of Communion in which each Instrument, including the Anglican Consultative Council, forms its own views and has its own responsibilities.” After ACC-16 had concluded, six outgoing members of the Standing Committee released a letter reasserting that “ACC16 neither endorsed nor affirmed the consequences contained in the Primates’ Communiqué.”
As members of the Anglican Consultative Council, we thank God for the time we have spent with sisters and brothers in Christ from across the globe, and for the breadth and diversity of our global Anglican family. We are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion, and we hope that, in the future, our participation will be reported accurately by the Anglican Communion News Service.
Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings
Episcopal Church members of the 16th Anglican Consultative Council, Lusaka, Zambia
In response to this, the ACNS report was modified on the website and the following note added at the end:
This article was updated on 2 February to make clear that no formal votes were held on issues of doctrine and polity at ACC-16. None was necessary because all such matters were agreed by consensus.
The copy of the article that appears below is the original unaltered. The revised version is here. You can see the differences for yourself.
This press release has appeared: Archbishop of Canterbury sets out vision for 2017 Primates Meeting. The actual text of the letter which this refers to has not been published yet. A significant part of this press release refers to the recently published document from the House of Bishops on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships.
[ACNS] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has written to every primate in the Anglican Communion to set out his hopes for the next Primates’ Meeting, which will take place in Canterbury in October. He also gave details of last week’s report by the Church of England’s House of Bishops on human sexuality. In the letter, Archbishop Justin sets out his vision for the meeting in Canterbury as an opportunity for relaxed fellowship and mutual consultation. He invites the primates to submit items for the agenda and says he’s aware of the pressures under which many of them live.
“I certainly feel the need to be with you, to share our experience and in prayer and fellowship, to support one another and seek how best we can serve the call to preach the gospel, serve the poor and proclaim the Kingdom of God,” he says.
The Archbishop goes on to unpack the declaration on human sexuality which was published last week before a debate at the Church of England’s General Synod later this month.
He describes as a “key outcome” the recommendation that the Church of England’s teaching on marriage should remain unchanged, meaning there can be no same-sex weddings in the Church of England. But he adds that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples needs clarification and notes the Bishops’ acknowledgment that the Church needs to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke.
Last week’s report has also been welcomed by the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who said: “The issue of same-sex marriage is highly emotive within the church. I understand the depth of passion on each side of the debate and I understand that any decision will leave some feeling disappointed and wounded by the outcome.
“I support the Bishops’ declaration that doctrine on marriage should not change – that marriage should be a lifelong commitment between a man and woman. The Anglican Communion position is set out in Resolution 1.10 from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. That is our lodestar.
“But it is right that we acknowledge that some of our brothers and sisters do have same-sex attraction and I support the move for a ‘fresh tone’ in the way the issues are debated. Anglicans are called to love all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation. We are committed to welcoming and loving people with same-sex attraction. More than that, we need to fight against homophobia and anything that criminalises LGBTQ people.”
Preparations for the Primates Meeting are well underway. Archbishop Justin’s invitation has been sent to the primates of the other 37 provinces of the Anglican Communion. It will be the first time the group has formally assembled since the gathering and meeting in January 2016, although many were in Rome last October at the invitation of the Anglican Centre there as it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The 2016 Primates’ gathering drew worldwide attention. It concluded with a communiqué which set out consequences for the US-based Episcopal Church (TEC) following its decision to change its canon on same-sex marriage. As a result, members of TEC have stepped down from IASCUFO – the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order – and also from the IRAD ecumenical dialogue. Members of TEC participated in ACC-16 in Lusaka, but none voted on issues of doctrine and polity – another stipulation of the Primates’ communiqué.
The January 2016 meeting also called for the setting up of a Task Group to explore differences and seek ways to restore relationship and rebuild trust. The Task Group, which draws members from across the Anglican Communion, subsequently met in September last year and is due to meet again during 2017.