Friday, 31 March 2017

Complaints regarding Llandaff electoral college are rejected

Updated Saturday morning

The Church in Wales has issued a “further statement” today (scroll down):

Further statement – March 31

The Church’s Legal Subcommittee has advised that three complaints received about the election and appointment process of the Bishop of Llandaff are without merit and that the Bishops should proceed to fill the vacancy.

In a 16-page document, the members of the subcommittee, chaired by His Honour Judge Andrew Keyser QC, concluded:

“All three Complaints are without merit. The proper course is for the Bishops to proceed to fill the vacancy in accordance with Regulation 23 and the exercise of their own judgment.”

Responding to the advice, the Provincial Secretary of the Church in Wales, Simon Lloyd, said, “I am very grateful to the legal subcommittee for their thorough and prompt examination of the complaints received about the election and appointment process of the Bishop of Llandaff. I can now confirm that proper procedure has been followed and there are no grounds for the complaints submitted. This means the Bench of Bishops can continue its task of appointing the new bishop without further delay.”

The 16 page document includes full details of all three complaints which have been considered. Further information from the report is copied below the fold.

Update
The bench of bishops also wrote a very very cross letter to the editor of the Church Times, in response to last week’s leader comment, which you can (and really should) read in full here.

There’s also a second letter below the first, from retired archbishop Barry Morgan. He’s cross too.

Wording of the three complaints

The First Complaint was made on 24 March 2017, one month after the conclusion of the Meeting, by four of the twelve Episcopal Electors from the Diocese of Llandaff. (A
fifth has since asked to be considered a co-signatory.) It is in the following terms:

“We the undersigned Llandaff electors wish to make a formal complaint about the recent process to appoint a Bishop of Llandaff, regarding the following:

We object to the raising at electoral college of the matter of sexuality or civil partnership status, in direct contravention of the Church in Wales’s own policy that sexuality or civil partnership status is not a bar to appointment as a Bishop.

We consider that this action was deeply inappropriate, and prejudiced the electoral college proceedings so as to render them invalid.

We ask that this complaint be passed to the correct person who can undertake investigation and response. As the complaint is materially relevant to the outcome of the electoral college, we ask that the electoral college of February 2017 be declared invalid, and any further appointment be stayed until such time as this complaint has been investigated and satisfactorily resolved. Please would you be kind enough to
1. acknowledge this complaint
2. let us know what procedure will be used for investigation
3. let us know the timescale we can expect for investigation.”

The Second Complaint was made on 28 March 2017 by four further individuals from the Diocese of Llandaff. Although they describe themselves as and are members of the
Llandaff Diocesan Standing Committee, they have made it clear that they write in their personal capacity. The Second Complaint is in the following terms:

“We the undersigned, members of the Llandaff Diocesan Standing Committee, wish to lodge a formal complaint about the process to appoint a new bishop of Llandaff, arising from the press release which states that a short list of candidates has been drawn up (C in W website 16th March 2017) and quotes Bishop John as saying:

‘Our unanimous view was that to consider further all or any of the candidates nominated at the College, none of whom achieved the required majority of votes to be elected, would call into question the integrity of the Electoral College process, and that, were any one of the candidates offered to the College to be subsequently appointed, that would be unfair to the other candidates.’

It is the duty of the Bench of Bishops to appoint the most suitable candidate i.e. the person who best fits the diocesan profile and the person specification as determined by the Electoral College, and the Note on a Provincial Perspective given to electors. These documents were made available to the Standing Committee prior to the meeting with Bishop John on March 8th as part of the consultation process.

It is unreasonable and unfair of the Bishops to have excluded from the shortlist those candidates nominated for consideration by the Electoral College, who would be among those most likely to match the agreed criteria. The failure of any candidate to obtain the necessary two thirds majority of votes does not imply that there were objections to those candidates.

By their exclusion of qualified individuals the bishops are failing in their duty to appoint the best candidate, each of whom should be considered on her/his merits.

We request that no appointment be made until this complaint has been investigated and satisfactorily resolved, or the decision to exclude these candidates is revoked.
Please acknowledge receipt of this complaint, pass this complaint to the appropriate person(s) to investigate and respond, inform us of the procedure that will be used to investigate this complaint, and the likely timescale.”

The Third Complaint was made late on the evening of 30 March 2017, a full fortnight after the announcement by the Bishops on 16 March, by five Area Deans in the Diocese
of Llandaff. It is in the following terms:

“As a group of Area Deans serving in the Diocese of Llandaff we write to complain about an irregularity in the consultation process announced in a Church in Wales press release on March 2nd 2017. The consultation included the Area Deans of Llandaff.

The statement read: ‘Those consulted will be invited to suggest names of individuals who might be considered suitable for appointment as Bishop of Llandaff, and names must be suggested in time for the next meeting of Bishops which begins on March 14th.’

Other interested parties were also invited to send emails to their Diocesan Bishop or, in the case of Llandaff Diocese, Bishop John Davies, with suggestions of names for consideration.

The statement went on: ‘When they meet, the Bishops will consider all the names suggested to them as potential candidates for appointment in the hope that a suitable candidate can be identified.’

The clear implication in this statement and at the meeting held by Bishop John with the Area Deans on March 6th at the Prebendal House in Llandaff, was that all names would be considered. It has subsequently become apparent that certain persons, namely those identified as potential candidates at the Electoral College, irrespective of suitability, were not included on a short list compiled by the Bishops.

Clergy and laity in the Diocese of Llandaff sent the names of their preferred candidate in good faith that each would be taken seriously. It appears that the Bench decided only those who had not been considered at the Electoral College were to be deemed eligible for consideration by the Bishops. The result is that many of us feel our trust in this good faith has been misplaced and that confidence in the process has been eroded. This has caused considerable anguish amongst clergy and laity in the Diocese and has brought the Church into a level of disrepute.

We therefore request that the process of appointing a new Bishop of Llandaff be halted until such time that this defect of proper process has been fully investigated. This investigation should also take into account the lack of consideration given to those of us who wrote to support a candidate who may have been mentioned in the Electoral College, given that we had no certain knowledge of who these may have been. It is imperative that an appointment is made without any tarnish of discrimination.

We would be grateful for a speedy response to this letter of complaint. We trust you will refer it to the appropriate authority for investigation and let us know who this is. Finally we request that you appraise us of an estimated timescale for this investigation.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 31 March 2017 at 7:07pm BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Opinion - 29 March 2017

David Pocklington Law & Religion UK The Independent Reviewer and the Sheffield See “A Review on the Reviewer”

Archbishop Cranmer Bishop of Sheffield: Martyn Percy asked for bread; Sentamu and Welby give a stone

Sam Charles Norton Elizaphanian Do the five guiding principles commit the Church of England to lay presidency?

Paul Bayes The Huffington Post For Carol’s Sake, For Christ’s Sake, We Must Look After The Poor

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 8:00am BST | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Llandaff: formal complaint filed

Updated Friday

Harry Farley at Christian Today reports: Church investigates official complaints into homophobia against gay cleric.

Insiders have lodged an official complaint after a gay cleric was barred from being appointed Bishop of Llandaff.

Five members of the Church in Wales’ secretive electoral college that debates and votes for candidates have spoken of ‘deeply inappropriate’ references to Dr Jeffrey John’s homosexuality when considering his nomination, Christian Today can reveal.

In a letter to the Church’s most senior executive Simon Lloyd, the electors said the remarks against Dr John ‘prejudiced’ the process making it ‘invalid’.

A formal investigation has now been launched into the process and a legal panel chaired by a judge will decide whether to scrap the decision not to take Dr John’s nomination forward…

The exact wording of the complaint, as reported on Facebook, is as follows:

“We object to the raising at electoral college of the matter of sexuality or civil partnership status, in direct contravention of the Church in Wales’s own policy that sexuality or civil partnership status is not a bar to appointment as a Bishop.
We consider that this action was deeply inappropriate, and prejudiced the electoral college proceedings so as to render them invalid.”

The Church in Wales has issued the following statement (though not issued as a press release):

“Five members of the Electoral College, which was assembled to elect the Bishop of Llandaff in February, have now submitted a complaint to the Secretary of the Electoral College. Their complaint is in relation to certain aspects of the conduct of the College. This matter has now been referred to the Legal Sub-Committee, which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.

“The responsibility of appointing the next Bishop of Llandaff has passed to the Bench of Bishops. It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal Sub Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.”

Update
A second formal complaint has been filed, see Second complaint over ‘abusive and derogatory’ comments against gay cleric as pressure builds on Church in Wales.

bq,, …Now four senior members from the decision-making standing committee in Llandaff have filed an official complaint after allegations of homophobic remarks against Dr John during the election process were revealed by Christian Today.

The comments were ‘abusive and derogatory, demeaning their relationship and sexuality’ and went unchecked by the body’s chair, a source told Christian Today…

…Asked about the complaint a Church spokeswoman confirmed: ‘We have received a complaint from four members of the Standing Committee of the Llandaff Diocesan Conference. The complaint is not on behalf of the Standing Committee.

‘It has been referred to the Legal Sub Committee which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.

‘It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal Sub Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.’

There is also a discussion of all this by Philip Jones Electing the Bishop of Llandaff: Propriety and Privacy.

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Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Path to which initiation points

This is the point in the Lenten season when the vista changes, the vision of the desert yields to the anticipation of passiontide, and the inevitability of the clash between Jesus’s Kingdom of God movement and the religious and colonial authorities of his day.

This opposition will be starkly drawn on Palm Sunday. Around the time that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, or within a few days, the imperial Procurator will have decamped from his official residence on the coast at Caesarea Maritima and set off for Jerusalem. His name was Pontius Pilate. Every year he would move into Jerusalem for the Festival of Passover with enough soldiers to make sure the peace was maintained. Passover contained all the elements for an uprising. It was an annual rehearsal of the moment in history when the national god of the subjugated Judeans overcame the imperial might of the Egyptian Pharaoh. It is the re-telling of a time when these downtrodden people were liberated from imperial power. It was Pilate’s job to ensure that the festival passed peaceably and without incident, and his column of soldiers and horses would arrive in Jerusalem amidst dust, the glint of metal, the smell of leather and imperial banners flying through the western gate.

On or around the same day, another procession will enter the city from the east, a parody of the imperial procession, not military horses but a donkey, not imperial banners but palms. Crowds of people will line the streets and praise their god for their anticipated liberation. Their cries will invoke a former national king who had ruled in their nation’s finest hour, and the central character of this procession, Jesus of Nazareth, will be named as his heir.

The outcome of the opposition of these two processions will be played out in the week that follows. This resistance would form the seed of a movement which will follow the inevitable death of Jesus, in the years which follow, and will find its way to the imperial capital, Rome itself.

The path to enlist in this movement will quickly crystallise into a particular initiation ritual, a ritual which will combine the acceptance of death and the promise of new life in a higher authority than imperial power. Immersion in water will symbolise transition from living under imperial power to the freedom of life under divine power. It will be called baptism.

Baptism will symbolise both dying to being subject to the empire of Caesar, and the new life under the rule or the Kingdom of God. As this resistance movement spreads, so the forces of empire will inevitably move to eradicate it, and the loyalty of the movement will be tested by the threat of death, even as it had been for Jesus. While the signature prayer of the movement prays that followers will be spared the ‘time of trial’, many will be executed in the cause of asserting imperial sovereignty.

When the accounts of Jesus’s life come to be written, many years after the original members of the movement had been martyred, the significance of baptism as an declaration of resistance will be incorporated into his story.

In the accounts which survive, Jesus speaks of his baptism twice. In Mark 10:38 Jesus responds to two followers who want status in this new rule of God by asking them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Baptism, the passing into death with the promise of new life is a dark path. The promise alone of new life is what will enable him to resist, even at the cost of his life. Baptism will empower him to go down into the dark places of human conflict, even into his own deep fears and anxieties, as will become apparent in the hours before his arrest. Baptism will enable him to go into his own interior darkness, as it will for those who will follow him.

Again, in Luke 12:50 his baptism carries the vocation that, to assert the rule of God over the rule of Caesar, will be both a catastrophic and divisive one, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”

Although the church will rightly assert baptism to new life as it celebrates resurrection, it does us well to remember, as we draw near to the last days, the days of that head-on collision, that it is baptism which empowers us, as we are faced with the cost of being part of that Kingdom of God movement. The hope is resurrection and acceptance of death to self is held in baptism.

Andrew Spurr is the Vicar of Evesham in the Diocese of Worcester.

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 11:20am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 25 March 2017

Opinion - 25 March 2017

Bosco Peters Liturgy How Revealed Is Christianity?

Giles Fraser The Guardian Prayer is not wishful nonsense. It helps us to shut up and think

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Are We an Institutionally Homophobic Church?

Martin Saunders Christian Today In His Grip: A guide to Christian email sign-offs

Scott Gunn Seven whole days Getting your church building ready for guests

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Friday, 24 March 2017

Bishop of Sheffield: Joint statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York

Updated Saturday 1 April

The Archbishops have issued the following statement today.

Bishop of Sheffield: Joint statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York

Friday 24th March 2017

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York made this joint statement today on the recent events surrounding the nomination of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield.

“The recent events surrounding the nomination of Bishop Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield, including his withdrawal from the process, have understandably raised great concern amongst many in the Church of England. The status of the House of Bishops Declaration of June 2014 has been questioned by some and its meaning has also been challenged.

“We have therefore written to Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer under the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, (Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations) 2014, to address the concerns that have arisen in the Church following these recent events. We attach our letter to Sir Philip, in which we reaffirm clearly our commitment, and the commitment of the House of Bishops, to its Declaration, to the principles contained in it, and to the overriding principle of mutual flourishing.

“Finally, in this period of Lent, as part of our preparation for the glorious celebration of the extraordinary grace of God in the events of Holy Week and Easter, we call on all those in the Church to pray openly for the flourishing of those with whom they disagree, to demonstrate the mutual love which we are called to share and to proclaim confidently in word and deed that in Christ we find our true identities, and the overcoming of those things which in ourselves we find so divisive.”

+ Justin Cantuar: +Sentamu Eboracensis

Download the Archbishops’ letter to Sir Philip Mawer

The text of the letter is copied below the fold.

Forward in Faith has issued this statement: Forward in Faith welcomes reference to the Independent Reviewer.

Update
Law & Religion UK has a very detailed discussion of the work of the Independent Reviewer in this article: The Independent Reviewer and the Sheffield See.

23 March 2017

Dear Sir Philip Mawer,

Nomination to the See of Sheffield and concerns raised about the operation of the House of Bishops’ declaration under Regulation 27

We are writing to ask you, in your capacity as Independent Reviewer under the Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests (Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations) 2014, to address certain concerns that have arisen in the Church following recent events relating to the See of Sheffield.

We do not set out the events in any detail here. You will doubtless be aware of the main elements:

  • on 6 July 2016 the See of Sheffield became vacant following the translation of Bishop Steven Croft from Sheffield to Oxford
  • on 31 January 2017 HM Government announced that, following the usual process of nomination of candidates by the Crown Nominations Commission to the Prime Minister, HM The Queen had been pleased to approve the nomination of Bishop Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, to the See of Sheffield
  • on 9 March 2017 Bishop Philip North announced that he had withdrawn his acceptance of the nomination.

This sequence of events has prompted some in the Church to question whether the House of Bishops’ Declaration of May 2014, and its five Guiding Principles, and the commitment the Church made in it to “mutual flourishing”, remain intact.

As Archbishops, Primates and Metropolitans, we reaffirm clearly our commitment, and the commitment of the House of Bishops, to its Declaration, to the principles contained in it, and to the overriding principle of mutual flourishing. The Declaration formed a central element of the settlement by which we were able both to welcome women joyfully into all the orders of ministry in the Church, and also to continue to provide an honoured and permanent place in the Church for those who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable, to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests.

But as Archbishop Sentamu noted in his statement commenting on Bishop Philip’s withdrawal, we are conscious that in some of the discussion about the See of Sheffield, we have not always as a Church shown how we can disagree Christianly.

Although we are clear that the House of Bishops’ Declaration, and the Guiding Principles embodied in it, remain in full force and effect, we recognise that the recent events have nonetheless raised a number of specific concerns in the Church about its operation. Some of those concerns relate to whether the nomination itself, and the procedure leading up to it, were in accordance with the Declaration. Others are about whether what happened once the nomination had been announced was consistent with the Declaration. Others relate to the degree of understanding of the Declaration in the Church.

Given the significance of these concerns (many of which have been expressed to us directly) from the point of view of the future outworking of the Declaration in the life of the Church, we therefore request you to exercise your power, as the Independent Reviewer under Regulation 27, to consider and report on the operation of the Declaration from the point of view of:

(a) what has been done in the Church, including in the diocese of Sheffield, to inform and educate clergy and laity about the settlement agreed in 2014, and the effect of the Declaration within that settlement;

(b) the process leading to the nomination of Bishop Philip North to the See of Sheffield;

(c) the consistency of that nomination with the Declaration;

(d) the reactions to that nomination in the Church and beyond; and

(e) the response of the institutional Church to the nomination and to the reactions to it.

We hope that you will be willing to investigate these concerns and that, once you have been able to do so, you will be able to produce your report on them with the minimum of delay.

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu Archbishop of York

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 24 March 2017 at 1:20pm GMT | Comments (92) | TrackBack
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Church Times on See of Llandaff

Updated again Sunday morning (scroll down)

Today’s Church Times carries another version of the news report linked previously: MPs join row over Llandaff election.

This includes a sidebar (scroll down) which reports that the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, is under pressure to resign:

Pressure on Bishop.
IN THE midst of the row over Dr John, the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd David Wil­bourne, has spoken of a cam­paign to force him to resign.

Bishop Wilbourne (pictured, at a con­­­­­­­­firma­tion in Cardiff last weekend) was appointed eight years ago to help run the diocese in order to release the then Bishop of Llandaff, Dr Barry Morgan, to spend time on his duties as Archbishop of Wales. Archbishop Morgan retired at the end of January.

Speaking to the Church Times this week, Bishop Wilbourne said: “Over the past 18 months, I have been under considerable and in­­creas­ing pressure to relinquish my post and leave Wales.” In one recent con­versa­tion, he had been strongly ad­­vised to resign before Easter.

He said: “Whilst I can fully see that the next Bishop of Llandaff deserves the space to be their own person, for the moment I remain upbeat about serving in this thriving diocese, and carrying out the role I was called here and consecrated to fulfil.”

Bishop Wilbourne’s open support for Dr John’s candidacy has not im­­proved his prospects. He said this week: “Ever since I knew that Jeffrey was in the frame for Llandaff, I thought it would speak mountains about our policy of inclusion. Wales has led on that; so I can’t under­­stand why the Bishops aren’t of the same mind.”

After the electoral college ended, Bishop Wilbourne organised a prayer vigil in Llandaff Cathedral. He described it as “the most remarkable of my ministry”.

There is a leader article, which can be read in full here. It concludes this way:

…Can the situation be rescued with any scrap of dignity? Only if the bench acknowledges the huge injustice perpetrated against a candidate who fulfils all the criteria for the post, and who convinced the diocesan representatives who interviewed him at length that he would bring wisdom, kindness, theological sensitivity, sound teaching, and good humour to the post. Among the “current challenges” listed on the diocesan profile is: “to increase the representation and inclusion of LGBTI, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Anglicans as an essential element of growth at all levels within the Church”. If Dr John is not reconsidered, this is a challenge that the Church in Wales has clearly failed.

Update

Here is the text of a resignation statement from Bishop David Wilbourne dated yesterday.

Statement by Bishop David Wilbourne

It has been the greatest privilege to be Assistant Bishop of Llandaff these past eight years, a diocese which serves the beating heart of South Wales, teaming with life and hope. It has also been the greatest privilege to have worked with Dr Barry Morgan, the former Archbishop of Wales, and share in his very personable ministry, whose hallmark has been a remarkable reaching out to the lost and forsaken and those on the margins of society, making them feel truly welcome in the name of Christ.
Though the weeks since Dr Morgan retired have been full and fulfilling, increasingly I realise it is time to hand over the baton to the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff, so he or she can run free, enabling the Church which I have cherished these past years to flourish. I therefore intend to finish my time as Assistant Bishop on Easter Day 2017, just before the Sacred Synod approves our new bishop. I do so with the greatest gratitude for all the faithful parish priests and people here, whose marvellous ministry I am daily humbled by. I pray that you are given the bishop you so richly deserve, one who, in the words of Cardinal Basil Hume, simply comes to where people are and takes them to places they never dreamt of going.
One of my favourite novels is Trollope’s The Warden. Mr Harding finishes his time as Warden of Hiram’s hospital with these words, which I would like to make my own: ‘God bless you all! You have my heartfelt wishes for your welfare. I hope you may live contented, and die trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, thankful to Almighty God for all the good things he has given you.’

23 March 2017

And here is the official announcement about Bishop Wilbourne.

Sunday morning update

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon was interviewed in this morning’s episode of Sunday on BBC Radio 4. Listen here, starting at 22 minutes.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Church in Wales issues further statement about Llandaff

Updated again Thursday evening

This has been issued today:

Bishop of Llandaff appointment – statement

In response to further questions about the recent Electoral College for the Bishop of Llandaff , the Church in Wales has issued the following statement:

“We understand the disappointment felt by all the candidates considered by the Electoral College who did not secure enough support to be elected as Bishop of Llandaff. However we are satisfied that the Electoral College process was carried out properly and fairly.

“The meeting was confidential and we will not comment on speculation about the nomination and discussion of candidates. However, we strongly deny allegations of homophobia in the process. Neither homosexuality nor participation in a civil partnership are a bar to any candidate being either nominated or elected as a Bishop in the Church in Wales. Moreover, this was made clear to members of the Electoral College by its President, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.

“The Constitution of the Church in Wales requires that an electoral college meets for up to three days and that if the college fails to elect, the decision passes to the Bench of Bishops. The Bishops are now acting carefully in full accordance with the Constitution. Unlike the Electoral College process, there is no fixed timetable for an appointment process, however, the Bishops would wish to announce any appointment made as soon as all necessary formalities are finalised. The appointment process is underway and we see no reason to halt it.

“The Bishops have stressed during the whole process that whoever becomes Bishop of Llandaff, whatever their circumstances, will receive their full support.”

More information: the previous statement is here.

Updates
Some further coverage of this matter:

Church Times Reconsider Jeffrey John, Welsh MPs tell Bishops

Guardian Gay clergyman turned down as Welsh bishop ‘blocked twice before’

Christian Today Welsh MPs blast Church over ‘homophobic’ treatment of gay cleric Jeffrey John and More calls for Welsh church to make Jeffrey John a bishop

And there was a open letter to the Welsh bishops from Changing Attitude Cymru which we failed to spot earlier.

And statements from the chapters of St Albans Cathedral and Ely Cathedral.

And Southwark Cathedral.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 5:40pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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A Time for Grace: Bishops’ responses to the concept of Unity in Diversity

Editors’ note: this is a guest piece by Susannah Clark.

It is obvious to any observer that the Church of England is faced with a stand-off on the issue of human sexuality, and is divided down the middle, trending in the direction of acceptance of gay and lesbian sex, but with people of good faith and strong conscience on either side, along with diverse views motivated by complex implications, related to understanding of gender, Communion-wide consequences, and the risk of schism in the English provinces. In these contexts it is disingenuous to suggest that there is a uniform position in the Church, or even among the bishops (as I have discovered for myself this month), whatever the ‘front’ of collegiality that gets projected. Indeed, the rejection of the ‘Anglican Covenant’ in England indicated that most people did not want a uniformity of view imposed on Anglicans, or the domination of one conscience by another one. This stand-off clearly cannot be resolved by political struggle over ‘Who is right?’ which only leads toward schism and, for many, what really matters is finding the grace to love one another, seeking the flourishing of those we disagree with, and finding our unity in Jesus Christ: a Unity in Diversity. The whole of the rest of the Church’s mission is too vital, and too important, for the Church to keep floundering and expending so much energy on sexuality in a perpetual stand-off.

To this end, I set out a case for the accommodation of diverse views, and wrote to 109 bishops, with the proviso that ‘no reply was expected or assumed’. Considering I am simply an obscure nurse it is touching that, in the event, 31 bishops have so far corresponded with me, expressing a wide range of views and positions, and demonstrating that there is indeed no uniformity of belief on these issues.

While not naming individual bishops out of respect for confidentiality, and mostly not quoting verbatim, I have detailed the issues raised by 14 of these bishops (and see below), whose statements typify the diversity of episcopal opinions and some of the problems and challenges we face. These problems of implementation are very realistically reviewed by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, in his address to the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod. I have not included the views of the Bishops of Buckingham and Bradwell which have already been well-publicised and both of which regret the recent Bishops’ Report of which the General Synod declined to take note — as did 14 retired bishops.

In the end, if we cannot respect and accommodate sincere but diverse views, and allow priests, PCCs and local churches to follow their consciences in the service of their own communities, we run the risk of evangelistic alienation of those communities, and alienation from one another as Christians. There is a strong case, reflected in the Bishops’ responses to me, not for imposed uniformity, but for the grace to disagree well in a broad and diverse Church. As Bishop John Wraw said: “There are very differing views on this [lgbti inclusion] 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.” Indeed, perhaps the real test for us all is not “Who is right?”, but “Can we find abundance of grace and love?”… to co-exist, to serve, to welcome, to live with the diversity to which each one of us is called, uniquely, differently, in good conscience, as we are drawn towards that community of the Trinity, which is the eternal household of God, in whom alone in the end our unity is found — not in imposed uniformity or dogmatic correctness.

Perhaps we need to stop trying to dominate one another, and ‘winning the argument’. Perhaps really the argument is won to the extent we find love and grace for one another: accommodating each other’s consciences and as a Church becoming more than our individual parts, growing through our need for grace and the primary biblical imperative to exercise love, even uncomfortable love where people disagree. In short we arguably need a kind of power-sharing and peace process in the Church of England to end the long decades of stand-off and conflict, and turn to all the other crying needs of our communities: poverty, health and social care, loneliness, lostness, marginal lives, material craving and spiritual wastes; and the breakdown and atomisation of society, that in some ways we sadly mirror when we separate ourselves from each other in the Church, and let dogma polarise us rigidly, when actually it can separate and drive us apart, where grace might reconcile us and love might be calling us daily, with our diverse consciences and diverse expressions of faith, but giving us lives of sharing, and helping us bear in our own wounds and healing the touch of God’s love for hurting, yearning hearts.

To do this credibly, we need to demonstrate real love for each other, so people can see… not ‘how uniform we are’ but ‘how we love one another’. That challenge to love is surely, also, the challenge the bishops must face and are facing. No-one said it would be easy. They have written to me sincerely and with touching honesty. But in the face of decades more stand-off and division perhaps, as one of them says, “the key issue is Unity in Diversity” and as another states, “agreeing to disagree will have to be acknowledged in some way.” The crisis in the Church of England cannot be resolved by one side ‘winning’. Descending into schism and division is not winning. Grace is winning. Love is winning. Mutually recognising divergent consciences is winning. Unity in Diversity may face degrees of opposition, but it does at least reflect the realities of the Church of England — and what better solution exists for preventing wholesale schism and the dismantling of a broad and tolerant Church?

(The extended entry contains quotations from some of the responses received.)

These are typical issues raised by 14 bishops who wrote to me, illustrating the tensions and difficulties faced:

  • the problem of many conflicting priorities and claims
  • the absence of any easy answers
  • the difficulty of adopting the same approach as was taken over women bishops because gay marriage is not the same order of issue
  • that I’ve nailed the issue, but would the CofE permit diversity on this question?
  • the desire for a church where room is made for all, more wholeheartedly than we are able to do at the moment
  • huge disappointment with the bishops’ report, pleasure it was not noted, almost exact agreement over Unity in Diversity, but possible under-estimation of the conservative response if this approach was adopted
  • if the Church could model a different way of living unity in diversity, it would have much to show a wider society, which seems to be fragmenting at an alarming rate
  • my proposal for Unity in Diversity could be supported if it was presented to GS, is not that radical, and if anything is pragmatic, leaving one wishing for a more radical, whole-heartedly inclusive position
  • the basic thesis of agreeing to disagree will have to be acknowledged in some way
  • unity in diversity may well come into play in the difficult days ahead, love and grace seem in short supply
  • agreement that we need to “co-exist in a ‘unity in diversity’” — and many would agree; however, the reason this is not straightforward is that for a number in the Church the issue of human sexuality is a first order issue and a matter of salvation, and therefore it does not become possible for them to remain in a Church which accepts other possibilities
  • we are living in difficult times … particularly struck by the comment “In other words, rather than trying to “win” … love and grace” which is spot on
  • it is a complex subject … but the key issue is unity in diversity.
  • in terms of the way forward, your suggestions, a third ethical approach, often categorised as virtue ethics, as well as deontological and utilitarian ethics need to be very robustly tested and set alongside each other in a way akin to Michael Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do. His exploration of marriage in that book exemplifies the sort of discussion we need to engage in and which the generation of a teaching document should involve.
Posted by Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 11:02am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Opinion - 22 March 2017

Linda Woodhead Modern Church The Philip North affair has exposed the theological weakness of ‘traditionalism’

Frances Coleman-Williams Metro Why I don’t tell people I’m Christian even though it’s a big part of my life

Nicky Tyrone Are chocolate companies “destroying Christianity”? I try and get the scoop

Archdruid Eileen The War on Easter

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Becoming the best church we can be

Richard Coles has been taking to Katie Deighton of The Drum: Reverend Richard Coles: ‘The Church of England is spectacularly bad at handling the world of media and communications’.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 10:00am GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Welsh MPs write to the Bishops of the Church in Wales

The following letter has been sent to the Bishops by Members of Parliament from South Wales constituencies.

Dear Bishops

Election of a Bishop of Llandaff

It is with some reluctance and regret that we find ourselves needing to place our concerns relating to recent events within the Church in Wales on the public record.

We had heard from many quarters of concerns and allegations relating to homophobic comments made during the election process for the appointment of a Bishop of Llandaff.

We are aware that neither homosexuality nor civil partnership are a bar to appointment within the Church in Wales. We are strongly of the opinion that leadership, scholarship, compassion and communication skills are the primary qualifications for the tasks facing a Bishop in Wales.

We are sorry to hear the allegations, the distress and the acrimony recent events surrounding the appointment of a new Bishop of Llandaff have created within the Church.

We are of the opinion that ‘exhaustion’ cannot be acceptable as a reason not to appoint someone eminently qualified and what we are informed was the unanimous choice of the electors of Llandaff.

We feel that the present process has been flawed and has let to considerable disharmony, anger and confusion. We respectfully recommend that there is a pause in the appointment process to allow emotions to cool and sound council to be heard. It would then appear appropriate that a new election is called, open to past and new candidates to apply and an open and transparent decision be made. There is now a need for healing and rebuilding of trust and confidence in the legality and moral leadership of the appointment of a much needed new Bishop of Llandaff and we hope this will soon be possible.

Yours

Madeleine Moon MP Bridgend

Co signatures
Stephen Doughty MP (MP for Cardiff South and Penarth)
Carolyn Harris MP (MP for Swansea East)
Nia Griffiths MP (MP for Llanelli)
Chris Elmore MP (MP for Ogmore)
Chris Bryant MP (MP for Rhondda)
Chris Evans MP (MP for Islwyn)
Wayne David MP (MP for Caerphilly)
Gerald Jones MP (MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 5:40pm GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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OneBodyOneFaith writes to the Welsh bishops

The Chair of the Board of OneBodyOneFaith, Jeremy Pemberton, and Chief Executive Tracey Byrne have written an open letter to the bishops of Swansea and Brecon, Bangor, St Asaph, Monnmouth and St David’s regarding the process of appointing a new bishop to the diocese of Llandaff. The text of the letter is as follows:

An Open Letter to the Bishops of the Church in Wales

Dear Bishop X,

OneBodyOneFaith this morning published our concerns about the way the process to appoint a bishop for the See of Llandaff has been handled. The confidentiality of your processes has been blown open in a way that is very uncomfortable for you.

Jeffrey John has accused you collectively of not following due process in the way you have treated his candidature; of using his supposed notoriety, his sexuality and his relationship as an excuse for not appointing him. It is more difficult to fathom why you have acted in this way when three factors are taken into account: first, that he fulfilled the requirements of the Church in Wales in relation to the status and nature of his relationship. Secondly, that in the only other case of an appointment after a deadlocked Electoral College, the candidate appointed was arguably just as controversial as Jeffrey John. Lastly, the reported unanimity of the Llandaff electors is a strong indication of what they wish to happen.

We are very concerned that in your management of this situation you are repeating the mistakes that the Church of England has made over GS2055 and the See of Sheffield (for very different reasons). Those examples demonstrate starkly that the churches need bishops in whose leadership people can feel confident – regardless of the process for their appointment. As a candidate, Jeffrey John displays the integrity required in offering such leadership and had strong local support; it is a tragedy your people have been denied that opportunity. With the choices you have made, you risk weakening the authority of your personal and your collective episcopal office if people do not believe that there has been fair treatment or integrity in this process.

The dissonance between the views of individual bishops and their actions collectively is at best puzzling and at worst unhealthy for them, and for the church. That this should be manifest in such a small group of bishops as the Welsh bench is undermining not only of your authority, but also of your work in your dioceses. False collegiality militates against accountability and transparency. For example, the Bishop of St Asaph has recently established and endorsed an excellent initiative to support LGBT people though a dedicated chaplaincy. This now appears patronising, if he continues to be unwilling to challenge the collective structural homophobia of the bench of which he is a part. Again, the Statement from the bishops last April, which struck a notably positive note for LGBT people and assured them of work to make the Church in Wales a safe place, and which offered prayers for same-sex couples, is seriously compromised by your actions over the last few weeks.

Finally, we are very struck by the comment made by one of your number in a phone call to Jeffrey John on March 3rd that you are collectively “just too exhausted” to deal with the problems you believe his appointment would cause. If the bishops are ‘exhausted’ by this process, consider how much more so those many LGBT people who have been working for inclusion for decades. It seems quite remarkable that a bench of five people, none of whom has been in office more than nine years, would find this task beyond them. It is entirely unacceptable to problematise a gay man in the way you have. Indeed, it is an insult to him and to every other LGBT+ person in your church. We are not problems, we are part of the body of Christ and deserve to treated with dignity, and to be seen as a gift. The capacity of churches to throw talent away because it doesn’t come packaged in easily manageable forms is not a reason to discard both the gift and the bearer of the gift, nor does it make that an acceptable policy option. This issue is not one of energy or enthusiasm, but one of integrity, commitment and obedience to the Spirit.

For the health of your church and the recovery of confidence in leadership that is needed, and for the sake of the mission of God in Wales, we urge you to think again, halt the appointment process, review all that has happened, reconsider the candidates from the electoral process heeding the voices of the people of Llandaff, the standing of the bench of Bishops with the people of the Church in Wales, and how the church you lead is presently perceived by the wider public.

Yours in faith and hope,

Tracey Byrne, CEO
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair
for the Board of
OneBodyOneFaith

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 5:21pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Monday, 20 March 2017

See of Sheffield: Affirming Catholicism responds

A response to the nomination of the Rt Revd Philip North to, and his resignation from, the Diocese of Sheffield March 2017

Affirming Catholicism has watched with deep concern the circumstances surrounding the nomination of the Rt Reverend Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield and his subsequent withdrawal from that nomination. We are very aware of the hurt caused to many of those involved, including to many of the clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Sheffield and +Philip himself. We believe that the current situation reflects a failure to take seriously – on several sides – the Five Guiding Principles (see below) but we also believe that it illustrates how difficult is going to be to put these principles into practice, and reveals how much hurt and distrust still exists within the Church of England around questions of the ordination of women and the place in the Church of those who cannot accept it. It seems to us that the Church of England needs to reflect carefully on the three concepts which underpin the Five Guiding Principles: simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality.

We have been surprised by the apparent lack of recognition in some quarters of the fact that the Church of England has since 1994 been living with a situation in which a small minority of its bishops are in some sense “not in communion” with their female clergy. This situation existed before the admission of women to the episcopate in the Church of England, and we believe that reflecting on experiences of such situations can shed some light on what has happened over the past weeks.

There can be no question that clergy – including female clergy – and lay people who affirm the ordination of women can flourish in dioceses in which the diocesan bishop does not ordain women. Indeed, the Five Principles were in part predicated on the fact that relationships in such contexts had been found to be not only workable, but capable of promoting flourishing amongst all the clergy and lay people of such dioceses. It should probably also be recognised, however, that the dioceses where this is the case have often had a long history of having bishops who have had doubts about the ordination of women, and that this self-understanding has played a role in how relationships function.

Moreover, it is important that the complexities in describing experiences of ministry not be underestimated. The same situation may be experienced by different people in very different ways. One priest may experience the ministry of her bishop who does not recognise her priestly ordination as personally supportive and deeply affirming. Another may experience the ministry of the same bishop as profoundly undermining and unfriendly.

It must also be recognised that very difficult situations have sometimes arisen, in which female clergy have found themselves subject to discrimination, or opponents of women’s ministry have been appointed to parishes without proper consultation even when female clergy were already in post.

Those who do not accept the ordination of women have similar stories and mixed experiences from their own perspective.

We are aware too that the two positions which the Church of England is seeking to hold together are rooted in very different – and even opposed – understandings of what it means for women to be created in the image of God. For those who cannot accept the ministry of ordained women or those ordained by a woman, women are created spiritually equal but are called to different offices or ministries, or to a different place in the order of creation. For those who rejoice at the ordination of women, this is a fulfilment of a gospel imperative to equality, articulated in Paul’s recognition that “In Christ there is no male of female” (Galatians 3:28), and only slowly recognised after many centuries, and now anchored also in law. It is very hard for some of those who believe this is the case to understand how it can be right to take a different view on the ministry of women, or how that ministry can be properly affirmed by a diocesan bishop who does not ordain women.

All this results in complex series of relationships which are not easy to negotiate. And all too often it is the bad news stories which have been shared, whilst reports of flourishing across difference have been less prevalent. We believe that it is not always appreciated how much hurt has been caused and trust lost though the way in which the Church of England decided to proceed, not only in the ordination of women to the episcopate, but also in the ordination of women to the priesthood. We suggest that it would be helpful for the Church of England to compile a series of case studies which offer examples of mutual flourishing across difference, whilst being realistic about the difficulties which are sometimes expressed.

The settlement which the Church of England reached in order for women to be ordained to the priesthood and to the episcopate may be seen as theologically or ecclesiologically inconsistent. Consciously paradoxical, it was intended to enable the Church of England to move forward and the whole church to flourish. The Five Guiding Principles affirm that the Church is a community, not an organisation, and that its business is love, not unanimity.

What has happened in Sheffield raises profound questions about the integrity of the Church of England’s paradoxical way forward. If the Church of England is to make progress in moving forward together over the issue of same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage and leaving behind the double-think that LGBTI clergy currently face, it will be necessary to develop a similar accommodation whereby we agree to live together with profound disagreement. The current situation has shown vividly how painfully little trust exists in the Church of England across differences about the ordination of women. It shows the immense challenges facing the Church of England as it seeks to move forward together with a similar respect for difference on the issue of human sexuality.

Affirming Catholicism believes that the church is not a place in which there need to be winners and losers. Rather, other ways of living with difference are possible. These require of all involved patience, tolerance and openness – and in this way the fostering of trust.

The Five Guiding Principles are:

  • Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
  • Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;
  • Since it continues to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England acknowledges that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;
  • Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and
  • Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 11:25am GMT | Comments (87) | TrackBack
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OneBodyOneFaith writes about the See of Llandaff

Dean Jeffrey John and the Bishops of the Church in Wales

As an ecumenical organisation OneBodyOneFaith surveys the actions of all the churches in the UK in relation to their policies and practices with regards to LGBTI people. The Church in Wales is engaged in the process of replacing the Bishop of Llandaff, following the retirement of the previous bishop, Barry Morgan. The election process failed to produce a clear result, no candidate achieving a two-thirds majority of the electoral college in the time set. This means that the process now becomes an appointment process without a specified time scale, in the hands of the bishops of that church, in consultation with other designated representatives from the diocese in question and the other dioceses.

What has happened is that one of the members of the Electoral College broke the confidentiality of the meeting and let it be known that the Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John, who is in a civil partnership, had attracted over half of the Electoral College vote, but failed to meet the two-thirds majority required by, it is alleged, only two votes. The electors from the diocese in question, Llandaff, had unanimously backed Jeffrey John.

OneBodyOneFaith commends the individual who had the courage to break confidence on this occasion, and Dean John in publishing his letter. Far from showing a lack of integrity or faith in the process, what they have exposed is just the tiny tip of an iceberg in terms of injustices which are meted out to ‘rank and file’ LGBTI+ people by bishops on a weekly basis, behind closed doors, and under the cloak of ‘confidentiality’. Such behaviour – lack of accountability and transparency – is shameful and homophobic. It does not belong in the processes of any organisation and certainly not a Christian church.

There has only ever been one other occasion on which an Electoral College has failed to make a choice. This was in 2004 when Tony Crockett failed to receive a two-thirds majority for his election as Bishop of Bangor. He was a divorced and remarried man, and notwithstanding the controversy that this provoked, the bishops went ahead and appointed him almost immediately. He proved to be a faithful, popular and successful bishop, sadly dying in post only four years later.

It now appears that the bishops of the Church in Wales have decided to omit Jeffrey John from the short-list for the appointment process, notwithstanding the precedent set in 2004 and his popularity in the diocese. In the published notice about the appointment process there is no mention at all that previous candidates for election will be excluded from further consideration. Jeffrey John has now published his response to a letter from the Chair of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies. Bishop Davies’s original letter has also now been published on the internet.

In his letter, Jeffrey John accuses the bishops of anti-gay discrimination. Despite declaring that being gay and in a civil partnership is no bar to appointment, he claims that they have decided to bar his candidature on precisely and specifically those grounds, in contravention of their own rules.

It appears that they told him that they were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems that they believed his appointment would cause. There is no evidence of any problems being caused by his candidature, and no reason to think that it would cause any particular problems as Jeffrey’s personal relationship falls within the permitted guidelines. A divorced and remarried man they appointed immediately, a gay man in a relationship they exclude.

The bishops’ behaviour is a very clear example of the instability and inconsistency of the institutional practices of this Anglican church in the way it treats LGBTQ+ people. The open integrity of Jeffrey John causes them more psychological disturbance than gay clergy who are closeted or semi-closeted, certainly far more than a heterosexual man who was divorced and remarried, and they have been unable to act with professional and pastoral integrity themselves. Despite their own published codes relating to this matter, they cannot manage the stress. The consequence is unjust and discriminatory behaviour. It is the kind of tension and response that is well-described in a recent article in Theology, Ledbetter, Charles, Sexuality and informal authority in the Church of England, Theology 2017. Vol. 120(2) 112-121.

OneBodyOneFaith makes an urgent call to the Bishops of the Church in Wales to think again. It is vital for the good health of their church that they re-establish confidence in their leadership and the credibility of the election/appointment process. With this in mind, we ask them:

  • To undertake a full enquiry into all the processes in this case before proceeding any further with an appointment
  • Not to exclude any previous candidates from further consideration, as they gave no notice of this
  • To follow the precedent of their church established in 2004 in appointing a bishop after a failed election, having regard to the support a particular candidate attracted in the diocese in question
  • To abide by their own guidelines regarding candidates who are gay and in civil partnerships
  • To apologise publicly to Jeffrey John for homophobic remarks and attitudes, and
  • To listen to the voices of the people of the diocese of Llandaff and the Church in Wales

Jeremy Pemberton
For the Board of
OneBodyOneFaith

Monday 20th March 2017

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 10:20am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Llandaff: letter from Dean of St Albans

Updated again Monday afternoon

A letter has been made public today (Sunday) by the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. It has already appeared in numerous places on social media, and has been reported on by Christian Today:

Harry Farley Gay cleric Jeffrey John speaks out: My homosexuality was the only reason I was blocked as Bishop of Llandaff

And also on the BBC Callum May ‘Homophobia’ row over Bishop of Llandaff selection

Harriet Sherwood at the Guardian has Anglican clergyman accuses Church in Wales of homophobia.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Readers may care to refer to this earlier article: Church in Wales publishes pastoral letter, authorises prayers for same sex couples.

Updates

Readers may also care to refer to the Llandaff diocesan profile, available here. And the provincial perspective, over here.

The Church Times has published a very detailed report by Madeleine Davies Jeffrey John replies to exclusion from Llandaff: ‘This is how discrimination works’. This includes a statement from the Church in Wales which says:

“The Bishops strongly deny allegations of homophobia.”

Wales Online has The furious letter a gay cleric sent to Welsh bishops after they refused him a top post.

The Guardian has a second article: Church in Wales urged to rethink rejection of gay candidate for bishop

The BBC has Bishop of Llandaff sexuality row ‘wholly wrong’.

And Harry Farley at Christian Today has a further article: Jeffrey John: Pressure mounts on Church in Wales after allegations of homophobia.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 5:05pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Becoming God's People

Every Sunday we are praying that ‘… through a pilgrimage of prayer and discipline we may grow in grace and learn to be your people once again.’

We are, more or less, half way through Lent, and if we are to take that prayer seriously, we live in the hope that this is indeed a time of growth and learning. But what are we learning?

This year, more than before, it has struck me that this is a time when the disconnect between a church with a deep commitment to the liturgical seasons and the communities in which we live is profoundly evident. We have become used to a conversation about the changing character of Advent: there are laments for the lost solemnity of the weeks of preparation for Christmas, and the way in which the season of celebration seems to move earlier and earlier. The focus of those weeks, though, is shared by regular churchgoers, occasional attenders, and those way beyond the church walls: all are getting ready for one particular occasion, still largely shaped by one particular story.

Easter, the great destination of our Lenten pilgrimage, has far less traction on our culture. True, in the shops there are Easter eggs and a plentiful supply of decorations for cards and cakes involving spring flowers and fluffy chicks, and the shadow of an older Lent survives in occasional conversations about ‘giving something up’, but these weeks do not have a single point of reference in the way that December will.

Against that background, we endeavour to sustain a distinctive character to these forty days. Like any worthwhile pilgrimage, this is not an easy one, and as always, I am struggling to hold on to the possibilities of the season. Our usual practice, like many another parish, is to provide more ‘church’: discussion groups, additional services, times of prayer, all good in themselves. The other demands on time and attention from those beyond our church communities do not stop, however, and if we seek to withdraw from them we are in danger of creating new barriers between church and not church, losing sight of the image of God in the many for whom Lent has little meaning, while nurturing the few(er) for whom it is a profound experience.

Maybe, though, those beyond our churches who still speak of ‘giving something up’ have preserved a profound truth that we, within the churches with our Lenten encouragement to ‘taking something up’, have missed. Maybe we should be listening to those voices, and recognise that the time has come to return to that older practice. As we very slowly and unwillingly begin to understand the need to limit our demands on the earth, as we count the practical and emotional cost of constant connectivity, perhaps we can offer and model the long Christian tradition of abstinence, of learning to flourish through restraint and self-denial; for our time, our place, that perhaps would be being salt and light, a way of becoming ‘your people once again’.

Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford.

Posted by Jane Freeman on Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 5:11pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Opinion - 18 March 2017

Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau Are liberals illiberal about women priests?

Ryan Cook My perilous Journey to Anglican Ordination & Conflictual Love for the Church

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Neither guides nor principles in the blame game

Kelvin Holdsworth St Eucalyptus and St Anaglypta revisited — Does the Eucharist exist in cyberspace?

Marcia Pally ABC Religion and Ethics Forgive Us Our Trespasses? The Economics of the Lord’s Prayer

Giles Fraser The Guardian As Songs of Praise viewers will find out, the market is bad at doing religion

Charlotte Bannister-Parker ViaMedia.News Learning From our Disagreements

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Opinion - 15 March 2017

Christina Beardsley OneBodyOneFaith On not throwing stones at the late Revd Carol Stone

Kimberly Bohan wonderful exchange theology & flourishing: Why do we send ordinands to theological college?

Martin Seeley ViaMedia.News A Tale of Two Shared Conversations

Sonya Doragh and Lizzie Lowrie Diocese of Liverpool ‘Mother’s Day Runaways’ will offer a safe space to find God’s presence on Mothering Sunday eve

Anonymous The Guardian What I’m really thinking: the gay Christian

David Pocklington Law & Religion UK The Stirrings in Sheffield: the next steps in the appointment of a bishop in the See of Sheffield.

John Davies looks at how to prevent clergy-PCC relationships’ becoming a tug of war Church Times A responsibility to co-operate

Stephen Cottrell Presidential Address to Chelmsford Diocesan Synod, 11 March 2017
[Harry Farley of Christian Today reports on this: Bishop Calls For ‘Thanksgiving’ Prayers For Gay Couples]

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 15 March 2017 at 8:00am GMT | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Monday, 13 March 2017

Exeter Cathedral

It has been announced that both the Dean and the Precentor of Exeter are to step down, following the critical Visitation report of the Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell. The statement on the Cathedral website says that:

the Dean, the Very Rev Jonathan Draper, has announced that he will retire at the end of August this year.

Until the end of August the Dean is on holiday, and then on sabbatical leave. Additionally:

Canon Victoria Thurtell has resigned from her post of Precentor with immediate effect, and is looking forward to a new ministry in due course.

The announcement continues:

To help the Cathedral continue its worshipping life, Bishop Martin Shaw has been appointed Acting Precentor, with immediate effect. The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, will provide pastoral oversight to the Cathedral during this time. Canon Dr Mike D Williams will Chair Chapter.

BBC News has a report here.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 13 March 2017 at 10:49am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Opinion roundups

One regular feature of Thinking Anglicans has been the regular roundups of links to opinion articles elsewhere on the web. For some time now these have been published weekly on Saturday mornings. Weekly publication sometimes means that articles have to wait quite some time between their original publication and our linking to them here. To reduce these delays we will from now on normally publish a roundup twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday.

We will continue to publish roundups of opinion on major stories, as for example we are doing at present for Sheffield, as articles in their own right.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 13 March 2017 at 10:08am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 12 March 2017

More on the See of Sheffield

Some further statements by various organisations or individuals:

Some comment articles (See also yesterday’s Opinion roundup)

And, from the Sheffield diocesan website:

Sheffield Diocese Introductory meeting with Women Clergy, Chaplains, Curates and Ordinands

Note this meeting occurred on 7 February but this document was apparently posted only on 7 March. It is well worth reading in full.

Two items from BBC Radio this morning:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 4:11pm GMT | Comments (48) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 11 March 2017

Opinion - 11 March 2017

Mark Tanner Church Times How to run a perfect PCC

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Episcopacy, sacramentality & identity

Archdruid Eileen The Church of England’s Prayer for Today

Colin Coward Something is dramatically wrong with the C of E

Andy Walton Christian Today Why The Future Of The Church Of England Is In The Balance After The Sheffield Debacle

This is one I missed earlier:
Colin Coward A tale of two bishops

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 11 March 2017 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Bishop Philip North declines the See of Sheffield

Updated Thursday night and Friday morning

Statement from the Bishop of Burnley, The Rt Revd Philip North

09 March 2017
It is with regret and sadness that I have decided that I am unable to take up the nomination as Bishop of Sheffield.

The news of my nomination has elicited a strong reaction within the diocese and some areas of the wider Church. It is clear that the level of feeling is such that my arrival would be counter-productive in terms of the mission of the Church in South Yorkshire and that my leadership would not be acceptable to many.

I am grateful for the love, prayers and care that have been shown me over recent weeks by numerous people, especially the Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Blackburn and the clergy of the Blackburn Diocese. In particular I would like to thank the Bishop of Doncaster and the diocesan team in Sheffield for their support.

I apologise to the many for whom this decision will come as a disappointment. There is clearly much to be done on what it means to disagree well and to live with theological difference in the Church of England. The highly individualised nature of the attacks upon me have been extremely hard to bear. If, as Christians, we cannot relate to each other within the bounds of love, how can we possibly presume to transform a nation in the name of Christ? I hope though that this conversation can continue in the future without it being hung upon the shoulders of one individual.

I do not doubt for one single second the Lordship of Christ or his call upon my life, but the pressures of recent weeks have left me reflecting on how He is calling me to serve him. I am grateful to the Bishop of Blackburn for allowing me a period of leave to reflect on and pray about the events of the past few weeks and would ask for this space to be respected. I hope that, as we continue on the Lenten journey, we will each be able to hear God’s voice speaking to us in the wilderness, drawing forth order and beauty from the messy chaos of our lives.

Notes to editors:

A statement from 10 Downing Street: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bishop-of-sheffield-philip-north?
A statement from the Archbishop of York: http://www.archbishopofyork.org/articles.php/3610/archbishop-of-york-statement-on-bishop-philip-north
A statement from the Bishop of Blackburn: http://www.blackburn.anglican.org/events_more.asp?events_id=2291
A statement from the Bishop of Doncaster: http://www.sheffield.anglican.org/news/statement-from-the-bishop-of-doncaster-regarding-the-rt-revd-philip-north

The Bishop of Burnley, The Rt Revd Philip North will not be available for any interviews.

Update (Thursday night)

A statement from The Society

A statement from Forward in Faith

Update (Friday morning)

Plenty of press coverage of this story including:

Church Times
Christian Today and also this covering the reaction.

And a selection from the mainstream media:

BBC
The Telegraph
The Guardian
The Times
The Mail

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 March 2017 at 5:34pm GMT | Comments (129) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Bishop at Lambeth to retire

The Archbishop of Canterbury had announced today that Nigel Stock, the bishop at Lambeth, will retire in August 2017. Bishop Nigel’s successor will be announced in April.

Bishop Nigel is also Bishop to the Armed Forces, and, as such, a member of General Synod and the House of Bishops.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 8 March 2017 at 6:05pm GMT | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Monday, 6 March 2017

Anglicans for Decriminalization

The Living Reconciliation website has published: Anglicans are for the Decriminalization of LGBT People Worldwide.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of consensual same-gender intimacy in England and Wales, and the Church of England played a significant role in that historic achievement.

Maurice Tomlinson writes:

It was a 1955 Church committee report that proposed ending criminal sanctions for same-sex conduct, and this contributed to the government-appointed Wolfenden Committee (largely comprised of Anglicans) recommending decriminalization in 1959.

However, anti-gay laws still exist across the Commonwealth, and 38 of 53 countries maintain these archaic relics of British colonization. Church teaching inspired these dreadful statutes, but our beloved Church also called for their repeal, acting according to guiding tenets of Scripture. Consensus on decriminalization has proven difficult amongst independent Provinces because some senior clerics have argued that anti-sodomy laws are critical bulwarks against marriage-equality.

Yet a significant breakthrough occurred last year when the Primates met at Lambeth. The 38 Province heads agreed to the following statement against criminalization:

The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. This conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.

The Global Anglican Communion opposes criminal sanctions against LGBTI people. [1]

Archbishop Justin Welby stressed that the unanimous view of the Primates is that ‘the criminalization of LGBTIQ people is entirely wrong’ when he confronted President Mugabe of Zimbabwe of on this very issue.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, says that for African Anglicans decriminalization is ‘the single most pressing issue around human sexuality’ and went on to say that:

The struggle for the legal, social, spiritual and physical safety of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is our issue in Nigeria and other places in Africa. The prophetic task for African Anglicans is to denounce violence and civil disabilities that are supported by members of our own communities and leadership.

He rightly says that African Anglicans must take a lead in this urgent task…

[footnote 1]The Primates of the Anglican Communion have consistently condemned ‘the victimisation and diminishment’ of any person due to their sexuality and in 2007 they supported the Don’t Throw Stones Statement. This was endorsed by the ACC in Jamaica in 2009 and confirmed by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion later that year. The time has come to put these fine words into action. The Primates’ Meeting in Dublin in 2011 condemned the homophobic murder of David Kato in Uganda.
The Primate of Wales was unable to attend and the Primate of Uganda had left before the communiqué was issued.

Do read the whole article, which contains a lot more information.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 March 2017 at 9:59am GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Discussion continues about the See of Sheffield

Updated again Tuesday

Continued from here.

The Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows has issued: Pastoral Letter for clergy and licensed lay members of the Diocese of Sheffield.

Arun Arora has written in the Yorkshire Post Why the CoE must be a broad church when it comes to new Bishop of Sheffield.

And in the same newspaper, a letter from Malcolm Grundy Bishop’s opposition to women priests should rule him out

Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian Sheffield’s new bishop is a slap in the face for the women of steel.

The Church Times has a lengthy roundup: Women Bishops rally round Philip North in Sheffield row

Andrew Lightbown Sheffield’s very own gordian knot

The Sheffield Action on Ministry Equality website has links to many other items:

The Sheffield Diocesan statement of needs that informed the CNC selection process is still available on the diocesan website.

Updates

Richard Peers wrote Oh for the wings of a dove: the Bishop of Sheffield and the betrayal of communion

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme has a lengthy report, available here, starting at about 31 minutes in.

Louise Haigh MP writes open letter to the new Bishop of Sheffield

Martyn Percy Abstaining: A Lenten Reflection (on Sheffield)

Joanna Collicut Splitting: a psychological reflection

Janet Morley A single church or a partnership?

Jonathan Clatworthy a three part series:
Sheffield’s women: who should tolerate what?
Sheffield’s women and church fudge
third part to come…

WATCH Looking for balance.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 March 2017 at 1:56pm GMT | Comments (70) | TrackBack
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Opinion - 4 March 2017

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love A tale of two bishops

David Pocklington Law & Religion UK Lenten tips for choristers

Michael Perham Ash Wednesday Sermon 2017 Salisbury Cathedral
The diocese of Salisbury has this accompanying news item: A Moving Lenten Message: Bishop Michael Perham preaches final Ash Wednesday sermon at Salisbury Cathedral

Mark Tanner (the Church of England’s Northernmost Bishop) I’ve crafted myself a more comfortable cross…

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 4 March 2017 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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A Meditation on Time

Lent is not only a season for reflecting on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, it is also traditionally a time to consider one’s own life and faith. The practice of giving something up for Lent is a sign and intention of our commitment to God, placing God before our own earthly desires and opening all of our life to God. By consciously denying ourselves things that make our lives easier, sweeter and more pleasurable, we focus more on the sacrifice Jesus made for the world. We become more aware of what we go through when we deny ourselves simple pleasures and what Jesus must have gone through during his resolute walk towards Jerusalem and the cross.

One of the most difficult things to give up is how we use time, how we typically cram a great deal of energetic activity and spinning, speeding thought into each waking moment. Today, as we pause for a few minutes, let us think about offering back to God the time God has graciously given to us.

A Meditation on Time

We are here today, sharing our lives, our time, with every other living creature on earth.

We live in time, and, to a large extent are ruled and governed by time, and yet, we worship a God who is outside of time, and we know ourselves to be citizens of eternity.

Sometimes, we experience time in a linear way: we live day by day, we have a past, we exist in the present and we look ahead to the future.

At other times, time seems to bend and curve, slow down, speed up, turn back: and it can feel as if we live more in the past, or we are so caught up in preparing for the future that we ignore the time we are given now.

We own time in different ways, with time for family and friends, time for work and time for ourselves, and sometimes we set time aside for God.

We allow ourselves time off.

At times we call ‘time out!’

Today, let us rejoice in the knowledge that the God who knows we live in time is able to be with us all the time.

This is the God who has seen our beginnings, who understands our present existence and who knows our endings.

With this God, our endings in time signal a new stage in our eternal life, where there is no ending.

And now we ask our God of grace to bless this time we have in time.

Amen.

We pray for your world and all that you have made.

We pray for all people and all those who do the work of Christ.

We pray for your Church, for wisdom, guidance, courage and mercy.

We pray for all those who suffer and who are in need, especially those known to us.

We pray for all those who grieve.

We pray for our work today, for any decisions we will need to take.

We pray for all those we love, that you would protect them and give them peace.

We pray that as individuals and with others we might further your kingdom on earth.

And we pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples:
Our Father …

May the God who created us and loved us even before we were in our mother’s womb, surround us with arms of love, give us a calm mind and breathe into our hearts and souls the peace that passes understanding.

Meditation on Time, original prayers and blessing by Christina Rees 2017

Christina Rees CBE was a member of General Synod for 25 years, and a founder member of Archbishops’ Council. She is a writer, broadcaster, communications consultant, and advocate for gender justice.

Posted by Christina Rees on Saturday, 4 March 2017 at 7:00am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 2 March 2017

More about choosing a new Bishop of Llandaff

See earlier report here.

Today, this press release was issued: Bishop of Llandaff – appointment process

The Church in Wales’ bishops will consult on candidates for the next Bishop of Llandaff before meeting on March 14-16.

They will consult with members of diocesan bodies who will be invited to suggest names for the bishops to consider at the meeting.

The See of Llandaff has been vacant since the retirement of Dr Barry Morgan, who was also Archbishop of Wales, at the end of January.

A full statement follows:

APPOINTMENT OF A BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

At a meeting of the Electoral College of the Church in Wales held from February 21st to 23rd, no candidate nominated received the necessary two-thirds of the votes cast to be declared Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Llandaff.

Under the provisions of the Constitution of the Church in Wales, the right to fill the vacancy has passed to the Bench of Bishops, and the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, as the Senior Bishop and President of the Electoral College, has determined that there should be a process of consultation before names for possible appointment are considered. The consultation is intended to focus upon the ongoing and future needs of the Diocese of Llandaff and its communities and the needs of the wider church in the life of which a new Bishop will also have an important role. Those consulted will be invited to suggest names of individuals who might be considered suitable for appointment as Bishop of Llandaff, and names must be suggested in time for the next meeting of Bishops which begins on March 14th.

In the Diocese of Llandaff those being consulted are:
1. Members of the Electoral College
2. Members of the Diocesan Standing Committee
3. The Area Deans

In the remaining five Dioceses, Bishops are consulting:
1. The members of the Electoral College
2. Members of the Diocesan Standing Committee

In addition to those being directly consulted, others may send (brief) E-mails to their Diocesan Bishop (please send them to Bishop John for the Diocese of Llandaff).

When they meet, the Bishops will consider all the names suggested to them as potential candidates for appointment in the hope that a suitable candidate can be identified. Unlike the Electoral College process, there is no fixed timetable for an appointment process. However, the Bishops would wish to announce any appointment made as soon as all necessary formalities are finalised.

The Bishops continue to ask for the prayers of the church both for the Diocese of Llandaff and for their own work as they continue to discharge their responsibility for discerning the person whom they believe will serve not only the Diocese of Llandaff but also the wider church in the office of Bishop.

Please note that the Llandaff Diocesan Profile and Person Specification for Bishop of Llandaff, and a note on the provincial perspective, may be found at:

http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/resources/electoral-college/

Earlier today, a question was asked in the House of Commons about this election:

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

But discretion is not always good in the Church, is it? Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, has been barred from becoming a bishop in the Church in Wales, which I know is separate from the Church of England, because the other bishops have refused to do what they have done in every other case—accept what the members of the local diocese have wanted.

Dame Caroline Spelman

I am not responsible for the Church of Wales—[Interruption]—because I am responsible for the Church of England. However, I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. This is a really serious matter, and we should heed what the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the head of the Anglican communion, said about the need to have radical Christian inclusivity. The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 2 March 2017 at 5:56pm GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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