Sunday, 20 April 2014

Justin Welby interview for the Telegraph

Cole Moreton has been interviewing the Archbishop of Canterbury for The Telegraph (and not just about same-sex marriages).

Part One (Friday) The Archbishop of Canterbury’s deadly dilemma
Part Two (Sunday) Archbishop of Canterbury: Sometimes I think: ‘This is impossible’

There are also these news items by Cole Moreton and John Bingham.
Justin Welby: the anguish I face over gay marriage
Church holds on to Wonga shares.

Other news outlets have covered the first part of the interview.

Kashmira Gander The Independent Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Anglican Church cannot support same-sex marriage

Jack Simpson The Independent Justin Welby: Same sex ceremonies a balancing act for Church of England

Ben Quinn The Guardian Justin Welby: church ‘struggling with reality’ of same-sex marriages

BBC Welby: Church ‘struggling’ over same-sex marriages

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 5:43pm BST | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales

Overnight the Dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield, and Ripon & Leeds ended and the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales was born.

Madeleine Davies writes for the Church Times that Yorkshire dioceses will celebrate Paschal rebirth.

Nick Baines is Moving on. He will become the acting Bishop of Leeds until he gets made ‘legal’ on 8 June at York Minster.

Bradford diocese has published First new diocese for more than 85 years. This is also on the Archbishop of York’s website, along with a biography of Nick Baines.

The new diocese has a new website.

The Church of England Parliamentary Unit has published these three brief histories of the bishops of the three old dioceses as parliamentarians.
Ripon
Wakefield
Bradford

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Monday, 14 April 2014

Same-Sex Marriage: Anglican Mainstream takes a position

The Trustees of Anglican Mainstream, whose names are listed here, have issued this: The Ministry Continues: A Position Statement from the Trustees of Anglican Mainstream.

The following extract is only part of a much longer statement:

…6. We well understand that an appeal to the Bible will not in itself carry the day in our contemporary secular society. We will therefore continue to deploy four additional arguments which demonstrate why the 2013 Act is a serious mistake in public policy which needs to be reversed.

  • Marriage – between a man and a woman – is good for human flourishing, an aspect of God’s common grace for the whole of humanity irrespective of people’s faith position. Public policy should be directed towards supporting marriage, not undermining it.
  • Homes centred upon such marriages provide the best context for the bringing up of children, so that they can know the love and support of a mother and a father. Public policy should be directed towards supporting such homes for the benefit of children, whose needs should have priority.
  • There is well-founded evidence of the physical and emotional harm which can be a consequence of sexual relations between persons of the same sex. Footnote 1
  • Scientific enquiry into sexuality has shown that, rather than being a given, it is fluid, the product of a combination of factors including particularly nurture and experience Footnote 2 [and see also] J Michael Bailey. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 78 (3), March 2000, pages 524-536; M Frisch, A Hviid. ‘Childhood Correlates of Heterosexual and Homosexual Marriages: A National Cohort Study of Two Million Danes’, Archives of Sexual Behaviour 35 (5), October 2006, pages 533-547; The Social Organization of Sexuality, University of Chicago Press, 1994, pages 307, 309; Female Bisexuality From Adolescence to Adulthood: Results From a 10-Year Longitudinal Study Developmental Psychology 2008, Vol. 44, No. 1, 5–14
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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Further discussion of the LBC radio phone-in controversy

Updated Sunday morning (scroll down for new item)

Kelvin Holdsworth Understanding the Justin Welby Radio Phone-In Controversy. One extract:

…It looks as though the Archbishop is trying to set up a “reconciliation process” when he has already decided that the best outcome would be for the church to adopt a policy of blessing gay couples in Civil Partnerships but not affirming anything to do with same-sex couples and marriage. The trouble with this is that it won’t do for those who have come to the view that gay people and straight people should be dealt with equally because they are fundamentally equal in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God.

The suspicion is that the Archbishop of Canterbury and many others with him, is trying to address this question on the presumption that gay people are in some way disabled (or worse, dysfunctional) straight people. Does he believe that gay people just can’t help themselves and so something must be done for them? It may be to misjudge him terribly, but it feels very much like it.

The reality is that those who have campaigned long and hard for marriage to be opened up to same-sex couples have drunk deeply at the Civil Rights well of justice. They (we!) believe gay people and straight people should be treated equally because of a fundamental existential equality between gay people and straight people.

Any hope that the church could have satisfied people by blessing civil partnerships but refusing to affirm marriages contracted by gay and lesbian couples is 10 years out of date. Had the churches affirmed Civil Partnerships in the first place then they might be in a better place to affirm them now. The argument can be endlessly made that Civil Partnerships and Marriage confer the same rights. The trouble is, most people now accept that Rosa Parks was right. Even if the bus does get you to the same destination, travelling at the front of the bus and travelling at the back of the bus are not the same thing…

Jim Naughton reports on the North American trip: Welby’s assertion on massacre follows him “far, far away in America” and then offers this analysis:

…The grave in Bor [South Sudan] does not seem to be the mass grave that the archbishop was referring to in the radio broadcast in the United Kingdom last week when he initially stated that the victims had been murdered due to events “far, far away in America.” Indeed, the ENS story carries a “correction” that reads: “a correction was made to this article to remove reference to the location of the mass grave where Welby said he had been told Christians were murdered out fear that they might become homosexual because of Western influence.”

Welby had previously said that he would not reveal the site of the mass grave he spoke of on the radio to protect the community. His refusal to give further details on the massacre also means that his claims cannot be independently evaluated, and that his analysis of why the massacre in question occurred cannot be challenged.

Meanwhile, The Church Times has published a story in which it says that Sudanese bishops “confirmed … that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings.”

However, one of the three Sudanese bishops interviewed disputes this assertion and the quotation used in the headline of the story is not spoken by any of the bishops whom the Church Times interviewed.

Additionally, one of the bishops is said to have “verified” Welby’s experience at a mass grave that Welby has not said was in Sudan, and which at least one British religion reporter has placed in Nigeria.

One can appreciate Welby’s concern for the safety of Christians in Africa, and some readers may even be persuaded that it is necessary to discriminate against LGBT people in the West to save lives in Africa, but Welby cannot be given a pass for introducing 12-15 year -old right wing talking point into the debate over LGBT equality as though it were a proven fact, and then refusing to provide the details that would allow for a critical examination of his claim. (Secular human rights groups have documented many massacres in Sudan and Nigeria, and attributed none to the actions of gay-friendly churches.)

In his radio interview last week, the archbishop said: “It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.”

Nothing he has said since then indicates that he doesn’t believe this to be the case. But everything he has said indicates he is unwilling to actually defend this assertion. That’s dirty pool.

Mark Oakley wrote a letter to the editor of the Guardian How the Church of England can tackle anti-gay violence

Archbishop Welby is right to understand that what is said by the Church of England transmits messages (Welby links killings in Africa to gay marriage, 5 April). The prejudice that kills Christians thought to be gay-friendly is the same as that which kills LGBT people themselves in increasing global homophobic crimes from Russia to Nigeria. Whether failing to support gay marriage here because of the risk it places African Christians under is shrewd or simply handing power to the oppressor can be debated. I am convinced that if such support isn’t forthcoming, those who commit acts of anti-Christian violence are likely to find other reasons to do so. However, one urgent move is now essential – to speak out in support of decriminalising homosexuality across the Commonwealth and wider world. To do this in a joint statement with Pope Francis would be a powerful communication of the church’s non-negotiable belief in God-given human dignity and underline the clear distinction between morality and criminality – just as Archbishop Ramsey recognised when he supported decriminalisation in this country. It would also help reduce the abuse and murder of LGBT folk that criminalisation is perceived to legitimate. As Alice Walker wrote, “no person is your friend who demands your silence”.

Canon Mark Oakley
London

Update

Bishop Gene Robinson writes What the Archbishop of Canterbury Should Have Said About Gay Rights

…So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart.

Even so, we cannot give in to the violent acts of bullies and must discern and then pursue God’s will for all of God’s children. Violence and murder of Christians is deplorable, but so is violence against and murder of LGBT people. And as the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, permit me to point out, it is not helpful for some of our own Anglican archbishops, bishops and clergy to join in support of anti-gay legislation and rhetoric in their own countries, thereby fueling the hatred and violence against innocent LGBT people, who are being criminalized and murdered for who they are. These are complicated issues, and with God’s guidance, we will discern what is right to say and do.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 4:00pm BST | Comments (101) | TrackBack
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Friday, 11 April 2014

Bishop of Oxford to retire in the autumn

John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, has announce that he will retire on 31 October 2014: Bishop John announces his retirement.

My list of current and forthcoming vacancies in diocesan sees is here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 11 April 2014 at 11:26am BST | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Civil Partnership Review: response from Church of England

Updated Saturday morning

Church of England press release:

Response to Government consultation on future of civil partnership

11 April 2014
The Church of England has submitted its response to the Government’s consultation document on the future of civil partnership. The 12 week consultation period opened in January and closes next Thursday (17 April).

The response, which can be found here, has been considered and approved by the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops’ Standing Committee as well as by both Archbishops.

Notes
Details of the Government consultation can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-future-of-civil-partnership-in-england-and-wales

The Church Times has reported this under the headline: Keep civil partnerships, Bishops tell Government.

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Church Times on the links with South Sudan

The Church Times has a news report by Madeleine Davies ‘We face attacks if C of E marriage policy changes’

BISHOPS in South Sudan have confirmed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s warning that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings…

On Tuesday, the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama, verified this report. “Gay relationships in the Church of England would mean the people of South Sudan going back to their traditional religions which do not take them to same-sex practice,” said. “Secondly, there would be continued violence against Christians [in the fear] that they would bring bad and shameful behaviour or homosexual practice, and spread it in the communities.”

Any change would lead to a rift, the Bishop of Wau, the Rt Revd Moses Deng Bol, warned on Wednesday. “The Church of England blessing gay marriages will be dangerous for the Church in South Sudan, because people here, like many African countries, strongly oppose gay marriages. And so they would want the Church here to break relationship with the Church of England.

“As a Church, we need to remain united as a body of Christ. We must be mindful of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world when taking decisions, because what affects one part of the body affects the whole body as well.”

Bishop Arama concurred: “As South Sudanese, we very much value the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because light and darkness cannot stay together.

“It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow the world into darkness, but lead the world into light.”

But the online version of this story has been updated since the paper edition went to press, with this additional passage, expressing a slightly different view:

On Thursday, the Bishop of Cueibet, the Rt Revd Elijah Matueny Awet, said that, if the Church of England blessed gay relationships, Christians in South Sudan would “go back and worship their traditional beliefs and Gods [rather] than worshipping the true God. . . Islam will grow rapidly in South Sudan because of the pagan believing on same-sex marriage.”

He argued, however, that it would not lead to reprisals in South Sudan, which would take a different path to that pursued in the West.

“We have been described by English people and American that we are a rude community . . . The question now, is who is rude now? Is it the one who is claiming his or her right? The one who is forcing people to accept his behavior?”

The leader column, which is behind the paywall, includes the following comment:

…But gay people are victims, too, and Archbishop Welby’s comments on LBC (News) involved the Church of England in their plight. It is unfair to accuse him, as some have, of allowing the C of E’s policy on same-sex marriage to be dictated by evil men. The nearest parallel is with hostage-takers. You do nothing to upset them, all the while resisting the desire to appease them. It is an agonising situation, felt keenly by the Archbishop, despite his ambivalence, to put it no more strongly, on the subject of same-sex relationships.

For all that, it is unlikely that the Church of England’s restraint will be matched by the murderous militias in Sudan, the DRC, and elsewhere. It assumes an unlikely degree of patience and sophistication on the part of the gunmen to suppose that they might understand the nature of the Church’s relationship with the state, its tolerance of principled dissent among its clergy, and the lack of a juridical bond between the different provinces of the Communion. The assumption that Christianity and Western decadence are cut from the same cloth has long plagued the Church’s relationships with its neighbours in Africa, the Middle East, and countries such as China…

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Sunday, 6 April 2014

other reactions to the LBC radio phone-in

Updated Monday evening

Here are two articles which are supportive of the line taken by Archbishop Justin Welby on Friday:

Ian Paul has written What did Justin Welby say about gays and violence in Africa?

Andrew Goddard has written a long article The Archbishop, Gay Marriage and Violence: What are the issues?

The latter goes on to consider in some detail how the issues raised in the interview should be considered in the event that the Church of England, as a result of the “post-Pilling conversations” does eventually decide to make some change in its present official positions.

Update

Here are two more articles:

Cranmer Archbishop Justin gets handbagged by Ann Widdecombe

Phil Groom Epitaph for an Archbishop? For fear of sailing over the edge of the world, he never put out to sea

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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes 5

Two more diocesan synods have voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation: Blackburn on Thursday and Southwell & Nottingham today. In each case the vote was in favour. 27 diocesan synods have now voted in favour and none against.

The next vote is in Worcester on 30 April.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 6:16pm BST | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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bloggers react to the LBC radio phone-in

Updated again Sunday 6 pm

Andrew Brown has written at CiF belief Welby’s argument against gay marriage has strength. But we can’t yield to moral blackmail

…Archbishops are not supposed to be Peter Singer-style utilitarians. And it seems to me that there are two things wrong with the Welby position from the point of view of Christian ethics. The first is surely that, while we have the right to make our own decisions about whether or not to yield to moral blackmail, we have no right to make them for other adults.

You might object that an archbishop is there to make decisions for other people, so different rules apply. But he is also there to set an example. And this leads to the second Christian objection to this kind of blackmail. Christians are called on to do what is right, and to trust that God will bring good out of it even if evil immediately follows. Failing to do what you believe is right is, in some lights, a kind of blasphemy.

Welby does not, in fact, believe in gay marriage, so he’s off that particular hook. And he has already said enough in favour of gay people to disgust the Ugandan and Nigerian churches. I don’t think you can accuse him of cowardice on this issue, even if he’s wrong…

Rachel Mann Justin Welby, Homosexuality and Unintended Consequences

…I do not doubt Justin Welby’s experience. As noted in a previous blog post I have lived in a country which criminalizes homosexuality. Changing Attitude and other organizations have consistently flagged up how very dangerous it is to be gay in the majority world.

In this blog post I want to examine the underlying logic of the Archbishop’s claims and question and problematize them. I apologize if my reasoning seems blunt and crude. I am currently fasting as part of EndHungerFast and my mind is not working at full tilt. Equally, I am very open to comments which help sharpen up my thinking in this area…

Symon Hill Welby, homophobia and the lives that are at risk

Savi Hensman Archbishop of Canterbury, equal marriage and safety of Africans

Gillan Scott Justin Welby’s debut radio phone-in was a breath of fresh air

Caroline Hall Archbishop of Canterbury Links Attacks on African Christians to Pro-LGBT Churches

Susan Russell Archbishop of Canterbury chooses pathetic over prophetic

Updates

Claire George has an article which in addition to her comments includes a transcript of part of the broadcast: [Opinion] What did Justin Welby say about Africa and Gay people?

The Bishop of California, Marc Andrus wrote A word on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statements

Kelvin Holdsworth You condemn it, Archbishop

This article is by the person who asked the archbishop the question that generated so much coverage of the programme: Rebel Rev lives up to her name

…I managed to get out just in time and asked the Archbishop the last question of the show. In a nutshell I was asking why, as priests, we couldn’t bless same sex couples and use our own conscience like happened when the remarriage of divorcees came about in church. This could be the case while we waited for a synodical process to go through that could change the rules to allow equal marriage in church.

I was shocked and saddened by Justin’s response. Much has been publicised and blogged about Justin’s answer by theologians and people far and wide in the Anglican Communion. As the person who asked the question and a bog standard priest in the Church of England I feel extremely let down by my institution and the Archbishop. He said that we couldn’t move forward with a more liberal agenda in the UK without it having a devastating effect on people in Africa. He told a story about standing at a mass grave and had been told the people were killed because of the liberal changes in America. That’s like wondering why a woman in a violent relationship who is murdered didn’t leave, instead of asking the murderer why he killed her. Violence always needs to be condemned. The Archbishop didn’t do this. Murder and homophobia are the issues, not liberalism in the UK. Can you imagine what would have happened if Gandhi had given in to the violence and not challenged the marginalisation and oppression at the salt mines? How different would the world be if Wilberforce wasn’t listened to because the slaves might have been further abused? What would have happened if the civil rights movement hadn’t progressed because people were scared of the violence of the KKK? Women are killed and maimed today because they are being educated. Just ask Malala. Does that mean we shouldn’t educate girls? Apartheid was atrocious in its outpouring of violence. Should we not have campaigned because more black people would have been killed? What Justin said put the power in the hands of the oppressors and those who wield violence.

Let’s be clear, it’s not only Africa that kills people because of homophobia. I live in London, a very cosmopolitan city, yet my neighbour was killed in a homophobic attack. I had a friend who took his own life because he couldn’t cope with coming to terms with his sexuality in the face of homophobia from his family, friends and church. There are many people hurt and trapped by homophobia and a lack of acceptance in the UK…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 5 April 2014 at 12:02pm BST | Comments (74) | TrackBack
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Friday, 4 April 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury answers questions on radio phone-in

Updated Sunday morning

A full transcript of the broadcast is now available: ARCHBISHOP’S PHONE-IN ON LBC RADIO: TRANSCRIPT.

Lambeth Palace press release: Archbishop answers questions on LBC radio phone-in

Archbishop Justin spent an hour answering questions on LBC’s radio phone-in this morning, tackling topics ranging from same-sex marriage to the nature of God.

Listen again to the full programme here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGdBTMx1Vgo.

LBC Radio has this: Archbishop: Gay Marriage Could Mean Murder Of Christians. Embedded in that page is a six-minute clip of the part of the interview that is attracting the most media attention.

And also this: Archbishop Confronted by Angry Ann Widdecombe.

Media coverage:

Guardian Andrew Brown African Christians will be killed if C of E accepts gay marriage, says Justin Welby

Tablet Liz Dodd Christians in Africa would die if CofE accepted gay marriage, Welby warns

BBC Welby: backing gay marriage could be ‘catastrophic’ for Christians elsewhere

Church Times Madeleine Davies Welby links gay marriage with African killings

Anglican Communion News Service Abp Welby: Anglican Communion sexuality decisions can mean African Christians suffer

Pink News Archbishop of Canterbury: Africans could be killed if the Church of England backs same-sex marriage

And Archbishop of Canterbury defends Anglican position on gays from Ann Widdecombe attack

Mail Online Steve Doughty Gay marriage puts the world’s Christians at risk of violent revenge attacks: Archbishop’s warning over spread of liberal views in CofE

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Gender: what difference does it really make?

The new Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge is Dr Andrew Davison.

Today’s Church Times contains a substantial article by him entitled Gender: what difference does it really make?

SAME-SEX marriage has come to England and Wales, and in response Churches are invoking the term “complementarity”. Before using a word, we should think about it carefully. What might complementarity actually look like, in either same- or opposite-sex relationships?

I should like to offer some philosophical tools for thinking it through. Philosophy need not lead us into abstraction, but can help us to understand real lives and relationships. I also want to consider how complementarity features in marriage: not so much, here, within a marriage, but - more provocatively - between different kinds of marriage…

His recent book Why Sacraments? also contains some material on same-sex marriage.

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Wells Palace saga continues

Continued from here

The Archbishops’ Council has issued this press release:

Archbishops’ Council hearing on home for Bishop of Bath and Wells
31 March 2014
The Archbishops’ Council has appointed a committee to hear an objection raised by the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese of Bath and Wells to a Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence of the diocesan bishop.

The committee will meet at the Palace in Wells from 28-29 April. It will consider the grounds of objection, and all relevant circumstances, to the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the bishop’s residence from the Palace in Wells to The Old Rectory in Croscombe. It is for the Commissioners to satisfy the committee that the objection should not be upheld. If it fails to do so then the move will not go ahead.

The committee members are all members of the Archbishops’ Council; Mrs Mary Chapman (Chair), Mr Philip Fletcher and the Venerable Cherry Vann.

The committee will visit both the Palace and the proposed new house in Croscombe and hear evidence from the Bishop’s Council and the Church Commissioners. Both parties may call witnesses. It has also invited the new Bishop of Bath and Wells, Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the Chapter of Wells Cathedral and the Palace Trust to make representations. The meeting will not be open to the public.

The Archbishops’ Council is required under the regulations relating to section 7 of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 to hear the objection. It is the first time that an objection has been raised under Section 7.

The decision of the committee is final and the decision and full reasons will be announced at an agreed date, to be confirmed, after the meeting.

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A Critique of the House of Bishops Pastoral Statement

Benny Hazlehurst has written Why the Bishops have got it wrong…

As the first same-sex marriages are conducted in England and Wales, much of the country is celebrating with the happy couples, but there are a significant group of LGB&T people who are being excluded from that joy by the Church of England.

The Bishops’ Valentine’s Day guidance on same-sex marriage was a shock to the vast majority of LGB&T clergy in the Church of England.

While apparently being magnanimous to lay people who get married to someone of the same gender, offering ‘pastoral provision’ for informal prayers and full access to the sacraments, the guidance also prohibited existing clergy in same-sex partnerships from getting married and said that it would not ordain anyone in a same-sex marriage.

At the stroke of a pen, it reintroduced a prohibition on marriage for some priests in the CofE, opened the gates to ecclesiastical guerrilla warfare in dioceses, and further distanced the House of Bishops from a substantial proportion of their clergy and people, not to mention the population at large…

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Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England)

The House of Commons held a Westminster Hall debate on Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England) recently. The Hansard transcript is available here, and there is a video recording here.

WATCH issued this press release:

Westminster Hall Debate: Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England). Thursday 20 March

I hope our debate has sent a message to the 4,200 ordained women that we greatly value what they do. The Church of England needs to embrace the gifts that men and women bring”, Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden.

WATCH congratulates Caroline Spelman MP and other Members of Parliament for taking part in the Westminster Hall debate on the role of ordained women in the Church of England over the past 20 years. Ordained women across the country will be affirmed to hear the many appreciative comments made on their contribution within Church and Society that has ensured that the priestly role has become “Transformational”. We hope all ordained women will welcome the recognition given in the debate that their work and ministry now seen as, “a valued, valuable and wonderful part of church life”. WATCH also concurs with the comment that much still needs to be done to ensure that the glass ceiling does not remain in place.

In the debate hope was expressed that the proposed legislation coming before the General Synod in July will go through. We welcome the assurance given by the Second Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, that all efforts will be made for the Measure to be fully properly considered, approved and passed into law well before Christmas. Sir Tony also offered the hope that we will see the first women bishops consecrated shortly thereafter.

We appreciated his reading from the New Testament showing the loyalty of the women who stood witness to Christ’s crucifixion, and how Mary Magdalene was the one sent to the disciples to tell of his resurrection. In this context, we welcome and fully endorse his comment that the last 20 years have demonstrated that women priests are well able to proclaim the risen Christ throughout the land. By their ministry they have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to the life of the Church, community and country.

WATCH welcomes the appreciation of its long years of campaigning work, together with those supporters in Deanery, Diocesan and General Synods who wish to see women enter the Episcopate.

We concur with the commendation of The Archbishop of Canterbury for the “urgent and effective manner” in which he has worked for the new legislation since his appointment.

Sally Barnes coordinator of the WATCH Parliamentary Task Force said,
WATCH would like to thank those Members of Parliament who took part in this debate for the many affirming comments made from their personal contacts with ordained women. We are all heartened to know that after so long the value and worth of their vocations have been so emphatically recognised, along with their spiritual, pastoral insights and gifts. We look forward to the same recognition being given to those women who will be appointed as bishops and to the time when the Church of England will have finally broken the stained glass ceiling of discrimination. Then we, with so many others, will rejoice fully.

Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail reported that Church is ‘running out of men to be bishops’: Labour MP uses debate on women being consecrated to says Anglican talent pool is drying up.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 10:34am BST | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Women in the Episcopate

WATCH and GRAS have welcomed the approval of the women in the episcopate legislation by a majority of diocesan synods.

WATCH issued this press release.

WATCH encouraged by Diocesan Synod support for new women bishops legislation

Over the weekend five more diocesan synods met and voted, overwhelmingly in favour, on the new women bishops legislation. 25 dioceses have now voted and agreed on the legislation meaning it can now be returned back to General Synod in July 2014 for final approval.

Adding all the votes together for the 25 dioceses which have now voted gives a 94% majority, compared with a 77% majority from the votes of all 44 dioceses for the previous legislation in 2011.

Hilary Cotton, chair of WATCH said, “We are hugely encouraged by the voting so far. In almost all the dioceses a mere handful of laypeople have voted against the legislation. With this extraordinarily high level of support, I cannot see any rationale that General Synod members might use to explain a second defeat in July. “

GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod) issued this press release yesterday.

Diocesan support for Women in the Episcopate

GRAS is delighted that the proposed legislation to enable women to be bishops has now received the support of the majority of the 44 Dioceses of the Church of England. So far the total number of Dioceses in favour of the legislation has reached 25 with none against. The measure now has the support required for General Synod to consider it for final approval when it meets in July. The remaining Dioceses are all meeting before the end of May and we expect them to give the measure the same level of support.

With such a strong mandate from the Diocesan Synods, which represent the ‘people in the pews’ of the Church of England, the General Synod would re-open serious questions about its fitness for purpose if it were to fail to give final approval to this measure in July.

GRAS hopes and prays that this legislation will receive final approval this year and make it possible for the first woman Bishop to be appointed in the Church of England as early as this year. However, we must be aware that this legislation will not bring about full equality between women and men in the Church of England, and there will remain a lot of work to be done in the legislation, structures and culture of the church before that day comes.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 10:17am BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 30 March 2014

Still more about same-sex marriage

Updated Tuesday

The main editorial article in today’s Observer refers to the Friday press conference.
Gay marriage: a joyous day for respect and love

…Inevitably, also in the anti-gay marriage campaign are traditionalists in favour of “natural” marriage. They argue, along with the Catholic church and the Church of England, that the Bible refers to marriage as the union of man and woman for the purposes of procreation. Clergy in the Church of England are prohibited from marrying same-sex partners. Faith and equality have yet to cohabit successfully in the established church. On Friday, the bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, lambasted his superiors for hypocrisy. “There are partnered gay bishops telling their partnered gay clergy you shouldn’t marry your partner, Fred,” he said. Colin Coward, of Changing Attitude, a liberal pressure group in the church, is optimistic of movement. “I am already fielding inquiries from people who want to know if they can get married in their local church… the Church of England will be forced to face up to that reality.”…

Paul Vallely writes in the Independent that The church has lost its way on the road to gay marriage

Ding-dong the bells are going to chime. Or perhaps more accurately, since gay marriage became legal in England and Wales, ding-ding. Or dong-dong.
Not that the bells in question are in churches. Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church are doctrinally opposed to the idea of same-sex unions, though at least seven clergy couples are preparing to marry in defiance of their bishops.

But the loudest clerical voices are opposed. The executive secretary of something which likes to call itself Anglican Mainstream was darkly blogging last week to the effect that recent floods and storms are God’s verdict on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. If that’s the mainstream, it doesn’t bear thinking about what might be found on the C of E’s wilder shores…

Kelvin Holdsworth wrote The sacrament lottery.

Benny Hazlehurst wrote Will the sun still rise tomorrow?

Gillan Scott wrote Gay marriages are here and this is what I’m celebrating.

And Rachel Muers has written about Quakers (Same-Sex) Marriage and the State.

Update

The Guardian editorial on Monday morning: Gay marriage: fair do concludes this way:

…The greatest difficulty is faced by the Church of England, which is legally obliged to marry almost everyone in this country – but is now legally forbidden to marry gay and lesbian people no matter what the wishes of an individual priest or congregation may be. This is not an issue on which it can or should come to a single mind. It may always be divided over it but the great majority of the church is not homophobic and recoils from those churches abroad which are.

The archbishop of Canterbury – a reasonable opponent of gay marriage, not gay people – called last week for the church “to continue to demonstrate, in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being”. He means it, but he may not be widely believed or heard. In the last 20 years the church has behaved with an unattractive cowardice over the issue. Now that it is trying to be humble and brave, few people care. Unfair, perhaps, but not undeserved.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 March 2014 at 4:54pm GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 29 March 2014

More reports on same-sex marriage

Today, the Archbishop of Canterbury was in Bury St Edmunds. See this report, with video, from the Bury Free Press what he said there: VIDEO: Archbishop of Canterbury addresses same-sex marriage during visit to Bury.

…Addressing the complexities the Church of England faces on the issue to an audience of 900 guests in St Edmundsbury Cathedral, he said: “We’ve a huge responsibility here for Christians all around the world.

“It’s complicated because throughout history the scriptures teach and the church is understood that sexual activity should be within marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman and to change our understanding of that is not something we can do quickly and casually. It has to be done with profound thought and not just because as there is there’s a very clear majority in this country in favour of gay marriage.

“Parliament has spoken very clearly and we accept that and that’s right and proper.

“We have to be those who are faithful to the tradition we’ve inherited and adapt and change as each generation comes along in a way that’s faithful to the God who loves us and we do that in the context of the whole church.

“It is unbelievably difficult, unbelievably painful and unbelievably complicated.

“I haven’t got a quick one-liner that solves the problem - I wish I had and I would dearly love there to be one but there isn’t.”

He continued: “The church does look very bad on this issue to many people in this country particularly younger people and we’re mugs if we think anything else.

“We need to be really blunt about that. We need to listen to them but we need to listen to Christians around the world and we need to listen to each other and in the discussions rather than shouting that one side’s homophobic and the other side’s betraying the gospel - we need actually to listen to each other as human beings.”

Some other items:

The Church Times had a leader titled: Room to manoeuvre. It concludes:

…So, what can be done? The most immediate prospect is an outbreak of small-arms fire, as liberals attempt to counter the House of Bishops’ negativity by expressing their welcome for same-sex marriage in various ways, perhaps not all legal. Similarly, we can expect conservatives to reassert traditional views of marriage, quietly supported by a significant proportion of churchgoers who remain uncomfortable with the new definition of marriage.

These are more than mere skirmishes, and the Bishops find themselves with little room to manoeuvre. The time and energy needed for the facilitated talks is running out, undermined by the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage in society at large, and the damage being done to the Church’s pastoral reputation every time a couple is rejected or a potential ordinand is turned down. If meaningful dialogue is to take place as it ought, a new interim position needs to be forged that takes a more realistic view of the new terrain. The half-hearted homophile passages in the Bishops’ pastoral guidance should be revised, and the reluctant concession about prayers for couples in civil partnerships needs to be strengthened and extended to same-sex marriage. The Church’s reservations about the equivalence of gay and straight relationships needs still to be acknowledged; but some of the pressure would be off. And then the Church might learn how to disagree well rather than, as at present, obnoxiously.

And there was also this news report: Gay-wedding day dawns as Church remains clouded.

Both the Bishop of Buckingham and the Dean of St Albans have written for Pink News:

Bishop of Buckingham: Allowing gay people to marry enriches the public understanding of marriage

Dr Jeffrey John: Most Church of England people agree, same-sex weddings ‘have God’s blessing already’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 3:41pm GMT | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes 4

Five more diocesan synods voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation today: Bristol, Hereford, Lincoln, Norwich, Portsmouth.

So far I have heard that four (Bristol, Hereford, Lincoln and Portsmouth) have voted in favour by large majorities (in Hereford’s case unanimously), making a total of 24 in favour and none against.

All five voted in favour, making a total of 25 in favour and none against.

So a majority of the 44 diocesan synods have now voted in favour, and the legislation will definitely return to General Synod for final approval in July.

The next votes are in Blackburn (3 April), Southwell & Nottingham (5 April) and Worcester (30 April).

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 12:28pm GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Media coverage of church responses to same-sex marriage

Andrew Brown at the Guardian has written two items:
Archbishop of Canterbury signals end of C of E’s resistance to gay marriage. The money quote in this is:

“I think the church has reacted by fully accepting that it’s the law, and should react on Saturday by continuing to demonstrate in word and action, the love of Christ for every human being.”

Gay marriage: bishop of Salisbury gives backing to same-sex weddings

…Meanwhile, although Anglican conservatives mostly recognise that the battle has been lost in wider society, it makes them more determined that the Church of England should not change. This is increased by the fear of alienating African churches, which have taken an increasingly homophobic line in the last decades.

The resulting position is one of exquisite embarrassment. Very few in the church are not embarrassed by the antics of anti-gay campaigners. Their numbers include the General Synod member Andrea Williams, who last year urged Jamaicans to keep homosexual acts criminal, and linked homosexuality with paedophilia - or Andrew Symes, an Oxford vicar who wrote on his blog that he believed the winter flooding was in effect part of God’s just punishment for sexual permissiveness.

At the same time these people are plugged into a large and active network of African conservatives, who hope and pray that the Church of England will break up over the issue and leave the liberal rump (as they see it) to wither.

Meanwhile, the wider world simply cannot understand the fuss, and every statement by a bishop or archbishop suggesting compassion or understanding for the liberal position simply increases the pressure on the present compromise, which has left the Church of England prevented by government ministers from holding gay marriages…

John Bingham at the Telegraph wrote: Clergy should defy Church’s ‘morally outrageous’ gay marriage ban, says bishop

The Rt Rev Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, said priests should be “creative” to get around restrictions on blessings for same-sex couples and that gay clergy who wish to marry should do so in defiance of the official line.

He also claimed that several current serving bishops are themselves in gay partnerships, and urged them to publicly acknowledge their status for the sake of “honesty and truthfulness” and even consider marrying.

Joined by an alliance of seven retired bishops, he condemned the Church’s position on gay marriage as “morally outrageous” and said it made him “ashamed”…

Ruth Gledhill at The Times (subscription required) has written Bishop defies Church to back clergy in same-sex marriage

A bishop has backed clergy who want to enter into same-sex marriages in defiance of the Church of England’s ban.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Right Rev Alan Wilson, said that in spite of the official line that gay clergy cannot get married, there were gay bishops in the established Church who were in partnerships themselves, and called on them to “come out”…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 10:29am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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More supportive church reactions to same-sex marriage

The statement from the Bishop of Salisbury (already mentioned in the comments on earlier threads) is here: Bishop Congratulates and Prays for Same-Sex Couples Getting Married

The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, has congratulated same-sex couples who will be getting married from tomorrow and assured them of his prayers.

Bishop Nicholas said:

“Tomorrow, the first same-sex civil marriages will take place in this country. This is a new reality being undertaken by people who wish their relationships to have a formal status which embodies a commitment to them being faithful, loving and lifelong. These are virtues which the Church of England wants to see maximised in society. I therefore congratulate those who are getting married, assure them of my prayers, and wish them well in all that lies ahead.”

ENDS

Notes

1. The Church of England teaches that marriage is the lifelong union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others for life. To say that this can now apply equally to same sex couples has proved controversial, though Parliament voted for the new legislation by unexpectedly large majorities. The Church of England has not changed its understanding of marriage and is unable to conduct same sex weddings. However, it recognises that new circumstances have arisen and that change has happened very quickly. There is a spectrum of views among the members of the Church of England which is preparing for a two year discussion about sexuality.

2. Recent Church of England guidance on same-sex civil marriage supports lay people who enter into that new possibility. It can be expected that some people doing so will want support and prayer from Christians that their relationships will be loving, faithful and lifelong. Church of England clergy are not presently permitted to enter same-sex marriages.

3. In England and Wales there are something like 7,000 Civil Partnerships a year and a similar number of same sex marriages can be expected. This is less than 3% of the 240,000 heterosexual marriages that take place each year. There are about 118,000 divorces a year.

The Dean of Durham has published a blog article: Equal Marriage: crossing the threshold. Here’s an excerpt:

Fourthly, let me acknowledge the pain and anger of gay people who continue to feel excluded by the church’s stance on equal marriage. The recent guidance from the House of Bishops has not reassured them, and it’s now clear that some bishops were far from comfortable with the advice they had issued. However, I do not think that this represents a stable position. As equal marriage becomes accepted by society and, as the indications are showing, by the majority of lay people in the church, we shall see a shift in the official stance. In time, the church will accommodate itself to this development, and recognise that by blessing same-sex marriages and even solemnising them, it is affirming the principle that covenanted unions are fundamental to the way we see (and more important, the way God sees) human love. Precisely the same happened with the remarriage of divorced people in church, and with female bishops. It takes time for change to be received and its theological significance understood: not much comfort to those asking the church for recognition now, but in time I believe we shall get there…

The Camden New Journal carries a letter Same-sex weddings with our blessing signed by many clergy in Camden expressing support for same-sex marriage. The letter is reproduced in full below the fold.

THIS week, and for the first time, gay and lesbian couples will be celebrating their wedding day in many venues across Camden.

Some will have waited many years for this moment to celebrate the love that they have found in each other; and for all there will have been opposition and struggle at times. Their wedding day will be a time of joy and happiness as they make vows, declare their love, and rejoice with family and friends.

As members of the clergy of the Church of England in Camden we want to offer our congratulations to them and their families and friends and our very best wishes to them for many happy years of married life together.

Marriage brings strength to both partners in good times and in bad, so that they may find strength, companionship and comfort and grow to maturity in love. Marriage is a way of life that is holy and is a sign of unity and fidelity which all should uphold and honour. In the marriage service of the Church we begin the service with these words: “God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them” 1 John 4:16 – we pray for all those who are marrying this year – that they may find rich comfort and blessing in each other for the whole of their life together.

REV MARJORY BROWN
St Mary’s, Primrose Hill
REV ANDREW CAIN
St Mary’s, Kilburn & St James West Hampstead
REV CHRIS CAWSE
Holy Cross, Cromer Street
REV ANNETTE FRITZ-SHANKS
Emmanuel, West Hampstead
REV BOB HANSON retired
REV JENNIE HOGAN
Chaplain, Goodenough House, WC1
REV ROSS HUTCHISON
St Mary’s, Kilburn & St James, West Hampstead
REV DAVID JOHN
St Cuthbert’s, West Hampstead
REV JONATHAN KESTER
Emmanuel, West Hampstead
REV PAUL NICOLSON
St Saviour’s, Eton Road & St Peter’s, Belsize
REV DAVID PEEBLES
St George’s, Bloomsbury
REV DAVID RUSHTON
Chaplain, Royal Free Hospital
REV ANNE STEVENS
New St Pancras, Euston Road
REV PIPPA TURNER
Chaplain, Royal Veterinary College
REV MARK WAKEFIELD
St Mary’s, Primrose Hill
REV ALYSOUN WHITTON
Emmanuel, West Hampstead
REV CLAIRE WILSON retired

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 10:15am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Friday, 28 March 2014

Church Commissioners Questions - Same-sex Marriage (Priests)

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry) answered questions in the House of Commons yesterday, including this one on Same-sex Marriage (Priests).

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What the Church of England’s policy is on priests entering a same-sex marriage; and what guidance has been given on what would happen to a priest who did so.

Sir Tony Baldry: Clergy and ordinands remain free to enter into civil partnerships. The House of Bishops in its pastoral guidance distributed on 15 February said that it was not willing for those in same-sex marriages to be ordained to any of the three orders of ministry—deacon, clergy or bishops—and that

“it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same-sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church’s teaching in their lives”.

As with any alleged instance of misconduct, each case would have to be considered individually by the local diocesan bishop.

Mr Bradshaw: In light of the recent Pilling report, does the right hon. Gentleman believe it would be sensible if a hard-working, popular priest got married with the full support of his or her parish and congregation and was then disciplined, sacked or defrocked?

Sir Tony Baldry: The situation is clear. The Church of England’s understanding of marriage remains unchanged: marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, and under the canons of the Church of England marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. The canons of the Church of England retain their legal status as part of the law of England and I would hope that no priest who has taken an oath of canonical obedience would wish to challenge canon law and the law of England.

Other questions were on Cathedrals, Investments, Diocesan Support, and Church Growth Research Programme

In an exchange on Twitter yesterday, Peter Ould asked “Who gives Tony Baldry MP the steer on what to say in response to questions in the Commons?” and churchstate (the Church of England Parliamentary team) answered “Process in a nutshell: we make suggestions after consulting senior colleagues & specialists. He then decides what to say.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 10:09am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted

The Church of England issued this press release this afternoon.

Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted
27 March 2014

The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, Chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee said today:

“We can confirm that the Crown Prosecution Service announced today that Bishop Peter Ball will be prosecuted for misconduct in public office and indecent assault. The church has been working closely with Sussex police throughout this investigation. The full police and CPS statements are now available. The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. But we can never be complacent. We would like to urge any victims or those with information to feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

We have also put support systems in place for all those affected in anyway by today’s charges. Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344. Although we cannot comment on this case any further at the moment, lessons must be learnt and it is our mission that all our churches are places of safety and joy, of justice and the enrichment of life.”

Statements by the Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Some press reports:

Madeleine Davies Church Times Bishop is charged over sex-assault offences
BBC Former Bishop Peter Ball faces sex offence charges
Sandra Laville The Guardian Church of England bishop charged with indecently assaulting two young males

The bishop was originally arrested in November 2012, as we reported at the time.

Comments are closed for this article.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 27 March 2014 at 5:43pm GMT | TrackBack
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Saturday, 22 March 2014

More on same sex marriage and on the Pilling report

The Church Times article by Will Adam which was previously subscriber-only is now available to all: Breaking the rules on gay marriage.

PICTURE the scene: the Bishop’s post is being opened, and among the invitations, job applications, and clerical outfitters’ catalogues are three troubling pieces of correspondence.

The first is from the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, informing the Bishop that an ordinand in training, who is in the process of looking for a title post in the diocese, has entered into a same-sex marriage.

The second is a letter of complaint from a group of parishioners that the Vicar of X has just used the form of service for prayer and dedication after a civil marriage from Common Worship: Pastoral Services to bless a same-sex marriage in church.

The third is from the churchwarden of Y to say that the Rector has just come back from holiday with the news that the trip was a honeymoon, and a new (same-sex) spouse has moved into the Rectory.

What is the Bishop to do?

This week’s Church Times carries a report by Madeleine Davies headlined Bishops start quizzing their clergy.

Gay clergy have this week been describing the ramifications of the pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage, issued by the House of Bishops last month. Bishops have begun meeting gay clergy, at least five of whom are reported to be planning to marry…

And there is a report in the Camden New Journal Two Camden vicars to defy Church of England ban on blessing same-sex marriages.

…In what could become a test case, the Rev Anne Stevens, of St Pancras New Church, in Euston, and Father Andrew Cain, of St James’s in West Hampstead and St Mary’s in Kilburn, will campaign for the law to be changed.

Blessing services will be offered at St Pancras church, with prayers and thanksgiving at St James’s, when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes in on March 29.

Under the act there is a “quadruple lock” that prevents the marriages or blessing the marriages of gay couples in the Church of England.

More Camden churches are expected to follow their lead with a letter signed by local clergy due to be released next week…

Andrew Symes has written at Anglican Mainstream Same sex marriage – are we allowed to pray about it? Try to ignore his comment about the weather.

There is a very interesting exchange of views about the Pilling report between Sean Doherty and Malcolm Brown.
See A Response to the Pilling Report and then A response to Sean Doherty’s KLICE Comment on the Pilling Report The latter explains quite a lot about how the report was written.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 22 March 2014 at 5:46pm GMT | Comments (158) | TrackBack
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Wells Palace: diocese objects

Updated Monday evening

In the continuing saga of the Bishop’s Palace at Wells (previous episode here), the Bishop’s Council of the diocese of Bath & Wells has formally objected to the Church Commissioners’ decision to house the Bishop elsewhere.

A news story on the diocesan website states:

At a special meeting on Tuesday 18 March, members of the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese of Bath & Wells unanimously agreed to lodge a formal objection against the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the Bishop of Bath & Wells out of the Palace in Wells and into temporary accommodation in Croscombe.

A spokesman for the Diocese says: “On 27 February this year we were given official notice by the Church Commissioners about their decision to move the Bishop to The Old Rectory in Croscombe. We were advised of our right to object within 28 days and we are taking the opportunity to do so. We now await the outcome.”

Update
The Church Commissioners have issued this statement:

Statement from Church Commissioners on Wells Palace
24 March 2014
The Church Commissioners have received from the Bishop’s Council of the Diocese of Bath and Wells a formal objection to the proposal to move the residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells from Wells Palace to Croscombe.

At a meeting of a committee of the Board on 21st March it was agreed to forward the objection to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England who will in due course rule on the matter.

The Commissioners welcome the opportunity to present their case to the Council.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Saturday, 22 March 2014 at 2:55pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes 3

Seven more diocesan synods voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation today: Bath & Wells, Birmingham, Bradford, Lichfield, Liverpool, Oxford and Peterborough.

We await the results from Bath & Wells, but the motion was approved by large majorities in the other dioceses.
We await precise voting figures from Lichfield, but t The motion was approved in all seven synods.

So far 20 dioceses have voted in favour and none against. At least 23 dioceses must vote in favour if the draft legislation is to return to General Synod in July.

The next diocesan synod votes will be on 29 March in Bristol, Hereford, Lincoln, Norwich and Portsmouth. If approved by those synods it will have passed the threshold of more than half the dioceses, guaranteeing its return to the General Synod.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Saturday, 22 March 2014 at 2:41pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Friday, 21 March 2014

More from Mike Higton on Marriage and Gender

Updated Tuesday evening

There is an article in today’s Church Times by Mike Higton titled Gay-marriage debate: it’s all about gender. This is available only to subscribers, but his two earlier blog articles were linked in one of our many posts here about responses to the recent Bishops’ statement on same-sex marriage.
For convenience here again are those earlier links:

More recently, Mike has started writing about the earlier CofE document Men and Women in Marriage.

Here are the links to his next two articles:

Men and Women in Marriage

…The report is explicitly presented as a follow-up to the 2012 document. In the Foreword, the Archbishops say that it aims to provide a ‘short summary of the Church of England’s understanding of marriage’ and, more fully, that

It sets out to explain the continued importance of and rationale for the doctrine of the Church of England on marriage as set out in The Book of Common Prayer, Canon B30, the Common Worship Marriage Service and the teaching document issued by the House in September 1999 [The reference is to Marriage: a Teaching Document from the House of Bishops of the Church of England, Church House Publishing]

That description could be misconstrued, however. Our report did not provide an evenly balanced summary of all the main things that the Church of England has wanted to say about the nature and purpose of marriage, but was an attempt to set out more fully the background in the Church of England’s thinking to the specific arguments made in the debate about same-sex marriage. So nearly everything in the report is (as the title says) about the necessity of marriage taking place between a man and a woman – and about ‘how the sexual differentiation of men and women is a gift of God’ (§3). Other topics (including such central topics as faithfulness and public commitment) appear only briefly, and only insofar as they relate to that central topic.

Like the original response to the government consultation, then, this is a report about gender – specifically about the importance of gender difference to marriage, but also more broadly about the wider importance of gender in society. And that’s where my analysis, spread over the next two or three posts, is going to focus.

Gender, Nature, Culture

…I said in the previous post that I ask was going to take seriously the Archbishops commendation of this report for study, and ask what agenda it suggests for further deliberation. In this post, I am going to point to a central facet of the report that I think should provide some shared ground between those who accept and those who reject its conclusions – before turning to a range of questions that the report’s detailed arguments have raised for me, which I think provide an agenda for further deliberation.

I am very aware that saying ‘We need to discuss x!’ can be a way of saying ‘You all need to agree with me about x, and if you thought just a little more clearly, you would do!’ It can also be a way of saying ‘None of you have been thinking about x. I am the first person to whom these ideas have occurred. Bow before me and my brilliance!’ So let me say right away that I know that good, rich, complex and interesting work has been done on all the questions I am about to raise – and that some of it has been done elsewhere by people involved in the writing of this report. And let me say that I do not think that further deliberation will lead to agreement, or even that it will lead to a general drift towards more liberal (or less liberal) conclusions. I have thoughtful, intelligent, well-read friends who occupy all sorts of different positions on these matters, and many of them know a very great deal more about them than I do.

Here, as elsewhere, my hope is not for consensus, but for a better quality of disagreement – and for more helpful public expressions of those disagreements…

Update

The third article in this series is now available: Desire and Discipline. It’s long, but worth reading through. It concludes:

…I am writing these posts not because I’m an expert in this area (I’m not), but because I happen to find myself standing on the overlap between two worlds – an academic world in which these questions and insights in relation to gender have rightly become unavoidable, and a world of church report writing in which they barely appear on the agenda. All I’m doing, in effect, is saying to the latter world, ‘Hey, you should talk to these other people, because they taught me everything I know about this, and they’re really worth listening to!’ So if you’ve got this far, and want to find the good stuff – well, go and read Susannah Cornwall, Rachel Muers, Sarah Coakley, Steve Holmes, Eugene Rogers, Christopher Roberts, Rowan Williams, Beth Felker Jones, James Brownson, for starters. They don’t all agree (to say the least), and they won’t all back up what I’ve said above, but they’ll certainly change how you approach these questions.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 March 2014 at 6:00pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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East Barnet PCC writes to the Bishop of St Albans

Here is the full text of the letter mentioned in a news item in the Church Times today. That news item, North-London PCC votes against Bishops’ same-sex marriage guidance, is available only to subscribers.

To the Bishop of St Albans

from the Rector, Churchwardens and Parochial Church Council of East Barnet.

1. In partnership with our bishops, we are committed to upholding the Established ministry of the Church of England in this parish. We believe that the church exists for the benefit of all: people of all faiths and none.

2. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and others who do not identify as heterosexual, live in our parish, as they do in every parish in the land. [note 1] The Church of England’s bishops stand firmly against homophobia. [note 2] It is implicit, therefore, that the church exists for everyone, to enfold the lives of all into our parish communities and incorporate them into the Body of Christ, whatever their sexuality.

3. The ongoing prohibition upon the public blessing of same-sex couples implies that the church has reservations about those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. It suggests that the church does not cherish them so much as fully to embrace them. We believe this is at odds with the bishops’ firm rejection of homophobia.

4. The House of Bishops states “the proposition that same sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute” and it wishes to see virtues of “genuine mutuality and fidelity” in all relationships “maximized in society.” [note 3] This implies that same-sex relationships can be positive and can contribute to the common good.

5. By limiting our ability publicly to bless and recognize God’s grace in same-sex relationships, the House of Bishops implies that the church does not view them as positive and does not wish to encourage them. We believe this contradicts the bishops’ desire to see the virtues of these relationships maximized in society.

6. If we cannot publicly recognize God’s grace in same-sex relationships, we do not believe we can fully incorporate people in these relationships, or those who might enter into these relationships, into the community of faith. We believe this is
dissonant with the mission of the church.

7. We urge the House of Bishops to adopt the Pilling Report’s recommendation that “a priest with the agreement of the relevant PCC should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service.” [note 4]

2 March 2014
Quinquagesima

Notes

1 2011-12 Integrated Household Survey, Office for National Statistics

2 “We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.” Statement from College of Bishops, 27 January 2014

3 House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance, 14 February 2014

4 The Pilling Report, Church House Publishing (2013), pp. 149

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Global Freedom Network

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that Archbishop Justin and Pope Francis back Anglican-Catholic anti-slavery and human trafficking initiative.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis have given their backing to a ground-breaking ecumenical initiative to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.

The agreement to help eradicate an injustice affecting up to 29million people was co-signed on March 17th by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, Archbishop Sir David Moxon; the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Science, Bishop Sanchez Sorondo; Dr Mahmoud Azab on behalf of the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt; and Mr Andrew Forrest, the founder of the large international philanthropic anti-slavery organisation from Perth, Western Australia “Walk Free”.

The joint statement by the Global Freedom Network signatories, which underscores the searing personal destructiveness of modern slavery and human trafficking, calls for urgent action by all other Christian churches and global faiths. The Global Freedom Network is an open association and other faith leaders will be invited to join and support the initiative…

The Anglican Centre in Rome and the Vatican have issued press releases.
Major Faith Initiative to Combat Slavery
New Initiative by Global Faiths to Eradicate Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking by 2020
The second of these includes the text of the statement.

The initiative has attracted media attention around the world.

Tim Wyatt Church Times New interfaith body will tackle slavery

Christopher Baker and Helena Liu The Guardian Will Andrew Forrest convince Australia’s billionaires to open their wallets?

Robert Mickens, Mark Brolly and Liz Dodd The Tablet Faiths unite against human trafficking

James MacKenzie The Star (Malaysia) Muslim and Christian leaders unite to combat modern slavery

Stoyan Zaimov Christian Post Europe Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims Unite in Global Freedom Network Aimed at Eradicating Slavery

The Nation (Pakistan) Initiative by Global Faiths to Eradicate Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking by 2020

Peter Sherlock The Conversation The Global Freedom Network reminds us that with acts of faith comes responsibility

Sydney Morning Herald editorial Andrew Forrest’s inspiring role in fight against slavery

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Church annual statistics for 2012

The Church of England has today released its annual statistics for 2013: Statistics for Mission 2012. There is an accompanying press release:

Church annual statistics for 2012: Almost 1,000 Occasional Services each day of the week and no significant change in attendance over past decade

The Church of England today released its annual statistics for 2012.

Overall in 2012, on average 1.05m people attended Church of England churches each week showing no significant change over the past decade. Figures for all age average weekly attendance show around 1 in 5 churches growing, and just over this number declining with 57% remaining stable.

In 2012 the Church of England conducted over 356,000 services of baptism, wedding and funerals at an average of about 6,700 each week - almost 1,000 per day - marking the rites of passage in people’s lives in communities across the country. Last year the Church of England baptised almost 140,000 people (2,700 per week), performing around 56,000 marriages in (1000 per week) and conducted 160,000 funerals (3,000 per week).

Christmas and Easter services continue to attract higher numbers with services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day attracting around 2.5m people and services at Easter attracting 1.4m people.

The 2012 statistics also suggest that around 38,000 people who had not previously attended church were welcomed in to a worshipping community in 2013, compared to just over 19,000 who died or who left due or illness. Nearly 23,000 joined a church due to moving into an area compared to 18,500 leaving because they moved away.

The 2012 figures also show that more than 100,000 young people aged 11 to 25 attended activities connected to the Church in 2012. Around 28,000 adults work voluntarily with young people aged 11-17 and around 2,000 are employed to do.

Dr Bev Botting, Head of Research and Statistics for the Archbishops’ Council said: “These statistics for 2012 show that weekly attendance over the past decade has not changed significantly. The introduction of cleaner data and more rigorous methodological approaches and analysis means these figures provide a clearer picture of Anglican churchgoing in the decade to 2012.”

Ministry Statistics 2012 have already been published. There are links to earlier statistics here.

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Monday, 17 March 2014

New Bishop of Lewes announced

Press release today from Number 10.

Suffragan Bishop of Lewes: Richard Charles Jackson

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Richard Charles Jackson to the Suffragan See of Lewes.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Richard Charles Jackson, MA (Oxon) MSc, Diocesan Advisor for Mission and Renewal, in the Diocese of Chichester, to the Suffragan See of Lewes, in the Diocese of Chichester, in succession to the Right Reverend Wallace Parke Benn, BA, on his resignation on 31 August 2012.

Reverend Richard Charles Jackson

The Reverend Richard Jackson (aged 53), studied first at Christ Church, Oxford and then at Cranfield Institute of Technology. He studied for his ordination at Trinity College, Bristol. From 1994 to 1998 he served his first curacy at Lindfield in Chichester diocese. From 1998 to 2009 he was Vicar at Rudgwick, in Chichester diocese, and was also Rural Dean for Horsham from 2005 to 2009. Since 2009 he has been Diocesan Advisor for Mission and Renewal.

Richard Jackson is married to Deborah and they have 3 children. His interests include hill walking, carpentry and motorcycling.

The Chichester diocesan website has more about the new bishop: New Bishop of Lewes Appointed.

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More about church reactions to same sex marriage

Continuing the soap opera, but broadening out a little from the bishops statement.

Savi Hensman Church of England faction urges punishment of partnered parishioners

David Pocklington Clergy, same-sex marriage and (quasi-) law

This is a good summary of recent discussion on the legal issues affecting CofE clergy who choose to enter a same-sex marriage.

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Sex and Marriage

The controversial thing about same sex marriage - as distinct from same sex relationships, same sex civil partnerships, or even plain old same sex sex - is that if sex takes place within marriage, it isn’t sinful. Not all marriages (or other relationships) involve sex, of course. But it is the sex that is controversial.

Those who take an unhealthy interest in other people’s sexual sin have had a mantra - all sex outside of marriage is wrong. Marriage good, all other sex bad, is meant to be the rule. (Its a rule few people observe, but the point of this sort of rule is idealism rather than realism).

And that, of course, is why the idea of a couple of the same sex marrying each other, if you think gay relationships are always wrong, is a problem. Thats why the Church authorities - who argued vigorously against Civil Partnerships when they were first mooted - are now desperate for clergy in those partnerships to stay there, rather than get married.

Tom Brazier A promise is a promise

This is not a post about same sex marriage and the church. But I want it to be read by those who are talking about same sex marriage and the church. I especially want it to be read by @notsuchgoodnews, @MirandaTHolmes, @kateboardman, @StLCowley, @churchnw6, @StPancrasChurch, @changingatt and others who possibly disagree with me. Because this is something we should be discussing…

Church Times Gavin Drake Westminster rules on gay marriage in shared churches and chapels

Sam Norton Where is the redeeming grace?

There is one aspect of the conversation about gay marriage and so on which is really starting to become clear to me, which is, put simply, that to get from a conservative premise to a conservative conclusion you need to resort to some distinctly ungracious arguments…

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Saturday, 15 March 2014

Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes 2

Updated Saturday evening

Four more diocesan synods voted on the Women in the Episcopate legislation today: Carlisle, Ely, St Albans, Winchester.

At the time of writing I have not seen the result from Carlisle, but the other three all voted in favour by substantial majorities.

All today’s results are now available; all four dioceses voted in favour by substantial majorities. So far 13 dioceses have voted in favour and none against. At least 23 dioceses must vote in favour if the draft legislation is to return to General Synod in July.

The next diocesan synod votes will be on 22 March in Bath & Wells, Birmingham, Bradford, Lichfield, Liverpool, Oxford and Peterborough.

Detailed voting figures for all dioceses are here. I have added running totals of the voting figures to the bottom of this table.

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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 10

Updated twice on Tuesday evening

The soap opera continues.

Bosco Peters has written Rethinking marriage? He concludes this way:

…By the 1928 marriage rite, wives obeying their husband had gone, and with it the biblical submit-and-subject wording. In only one prayer was the allusion retained that in marriage “is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church”. [In the CofE Common Worship rite that becomes, “they shall be united with one another in heart, body and mind, as Christ is united with his bride, the Church” or “they shall be united in that love as Christ is united with his Church”].

Because the union of Christ and His church is an unbreakable union, Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery comes together with marriage-is-indissoluble. Furthermore inevitably with the inequality of Christ and His Church, this image comes with an inequality between husband and wife, and a distinction of their roles.

New Zealand Anglicanism shifted from a firmly-held “marriage cannot be dissolved” to “a couple when getting married should intend to stay together”. ALL references to Marriage-is-like-Christ-and-His-church imagery were completely removed from the three different rites available for getting married in the 1989 New Zealand Prayer Book. Even the Church of England’s own Common Worship rite has removed all but the tiniest single vestigial allusion (quoted above) to what was clearly once a dominant biblical paradigm for marriage.

What once again is clear when those who say the debates are not sourced in prejudice about homosexuality, but are about integrity to scripture and tradition, is that whilst a sea change has occurred in the understanding of marriage, they have only begun to register an issue when the direction heads towards committed same-sex couples.

In the discussion about whether gender difference is essential to marriage it is clear where the inner logic of the trajectory of Christian marriage changes leads, and that the Church of England bishops’ statement is on the wrong side of that trajectory.

Andrew Goddard has written an article in two long parts for Fulcrum:

The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Part I – Engaging with the Critics

The divisions within the Church of England and the multiple challenges it faces in the light of the advent of same-sex marriage have become even clearer and more serious in the weeks since the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance. In what follows I explore three areas where the bishops have been criticised and offer a defence of their stance…

The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Part II - Raising Questions and Recognising Challenges

This second part turns to highlight three areas of ambiguitiy, unclarity or inconsistency before concluding with some thoughts on the challenges we now face…

He concludes with this:

…One reason that further practical guidance is unlikely from the House of Bishops is that some of its members do not personally believe that the church’s doctrine of marriage as being a union of a man and a woman is true and something which “most benefits society” (para 8). Others, although personally convinced of such a view, are concerned about the implications – in church and wider society – of following that commitment through in church teaching and practice. Those concerns will have been deepened by the strength of criticism they have faced for upholding the teaching and following it through even to the extent they have done.

The sad reality is that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Although it is reported that only one bishop voted against the guidance, it is also being claimed that a significant number, even a majority, are not personally happy with it. The reactions to the guidance make clear just how extensive the divisions are in the wider church and thus how difficult the environment for the facilitated conversations is going to be. They also perhaps highlight two areas where the conversations need to focus their attention but which were largely unaddressed by the Pilling Report:

(1) What doctrine of marriage should the Church have and how should it then bear faithful witness to that in ordering its own life and in mission in a wider society which recognises same-sex marriage? and

(2) What is to be done, what new church structures may be needed, so that those who find themselves unable to accept the conclusions on the doctrine of marriage and its practical implications can faithfully bear witness to their understanding of marriage without undermining the mind of the majority or condemning the Church of England to continuing destructive conflict over this issue?

Giles Fraser has written Gay clergy marriages: the final chapter of the Anglican Communion fiction.

…All this means that the bishops won’t be able to do a damn thing about their clergy having same-sex marriages. As the bishop of Buckingham explained: “If a member of the clergy wants to marry, I may like or not like the match, but I have no legal power to stop them marrying.” And when this happens, the toys will be thrown from many a Nigerian church pram. The fiction that is the Anglican Communion will be over and we can go back to being the Church of England, rather than the local arm of the empire at prayer. And thank God for that.

Updates

Peter Ould has published CDM or EJM? in which an anonymous correspondent who has “considerable experience in the exercising of the Clergy Discipline Measure and the processes before it and who has a firm founding in Ecclesiastical Law ” writes that:

…There can be no doubt that for a member of the clergy to commit matrimony in a civil register office with another person of the same sex, would be both perfectly legal according to the new Act of Parliament, and conduct unbecoming a clerk in holy orders so far as the Church of England is concerned. That Act of Parliament acknowledges that the law of the Church diverges from that of the state in such matters, and expressly permits the Church to act independently where marriage discipline is concerned. Even if Church legislation directly contradicts the law of Parliament, the Act expressly allows for this.

The House of Bishops has expressly stated that it will not allow the clergy to enter into same-sex marriages. This statement forms part of the discipline of the Church, since the House of Bishops is the teaching authority for the Church, and its members administer the CDM. All of the clergy in office have signed the Declaration of Assent and have taken an oath of canonical obedience. The latter commits them to obeying the canon law of the Church of England, including the lawful directions of their bishop where he has authority to do so.

There can therefore be no doubt that a CDM tribunal will rule that a same-sex marriage by one of the clergy constitutes conduct unbecoming, just as surely as if the minister concerned had committed adultery or some other act of immorality of a sexual nature. This is not a matter of doctrine but of morality…

But do read the whole article.

Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream has written for the American Anglican Council: Gay marriage and the Church’s response

…But also among those holding to a conservative position there are divisions. Should Christian sexual ethics be explained outside the community of faith? Should Anglicans protest against gay marriage outside registry offices, or the teaching of homosexual practice in schools? Could it ever be right (even if not canonically appropriate) to refuse sacraments to those who have entered a same sex marriage against pastoral advice? Should people with same sex attraction be enabled to seek skilled help to change if they so wish? What about the future of the Church – would it be a good thing to participate in facilitated conversations? Are there any circumstances in which it might be the best thing to form a separate Anglican administration, either linked to the Church of England or not? Is GAFCON the solution? All of these questions separate the confessing C of E Anglicans…

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Update on the vacancy in the See of Hereford

The Crown Nominations Commission held its second meeting to consider the See of Hereford on 25 and 26 February, and was unable to make a choice. The Commission will reconvene in May and June. The news was announced in this press release published on the Hereford diocesan website.

Archbishop of Canterbury
March 7th 2014

From the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Diocese of Hereford

Vacancy in the See of Hereford - meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission

An update from the Archbishop of Canterbury - Chair of the Commission

Many of you will have been keeping the Crown Nominations Commission in your prayers last week, for which many thanks. It is good for those of us undertaking this work to know that we are being prayed for.

We thought it important to provide an update on the progress of our deliberations which are still continuing. The Commission has had two meetings. Following interviews, we did not feel able to make a choice as to whom God is calling to be the next Bishop of Hereford and felt that we needed more time to discern the next stages for mission and ministry in the Diocese. Taking time over appointments is important and the Commission is utterly committed to finding the right person to be your Bishop. We are therefore making arrangements to reconvene on 1 May and 6 June 2014.

As ever, I will be keeping the whole diocese in my prayers.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 9

Episode 8 was here. Earlier episodes from here.

Anglican Mainstream has published an email sent by the EGGS Committee to the members of EGGS. EGGS is the Evangelical Group of the General Synod, and the names of the committee members are shown here. The full text of the email is copied below the fold.

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday broadcast this morning carried a segment which discussed the legal implications for clergy who enter a same-sex marriage. The Bishop of Oxford was among those interviewed, along with the expert legal journalist, Joshua Rozenberg. The 10 minute segment begins about 35 minutes into the broadcast.

Dear EGGS member

I am writing on behalf of the EGGS committee to offer a brief response to the Archbishops’ Pastoral Letter and Appendix released on February 15th.

We welcome the Archbishops’ pastoral letter of 15th February and note the divergence to which the Statement refers between the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England. In view of this significant change we believe that the House of Bishops is increasingly called to inhabit a prophetic role in articulating Scriptural patterns for human flourishing to our society and culture, and we assure them of our prayers and support as they do so.

We applaud their call and commitment for the church to be a welcoming community. We are grateful for the clear indication of agreement in the House that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged. We are encouraged that the Statement recognises the consistent teaching of Canon B30, the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship in this regard. We welcome the indication that clergy should not enter same-sex marriages and that those in same sex marriages cannot be ordained. We also welcome the advice that pastoral discussion with those entering same-sex marriage needs to include an exploration of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it.

At the same time as expressing our thanks, we wish to note the following concerns:

We are concerned that the Appendix says nothing about the position of lay people holding a bishop’s licence or commission.

We believe that such lay ministers, who along with ordained ministers should offer an exemplary lifestyle, should be expected not to enter into same-sex marriages, and those who have contracted same-sex marriages should not be licenced or commissioned.

We believe that the guidance in respect of acts of worship after a civil same sex wedding (Appendix paragraphs 19-21) is unclear. The distinction between a service of blessing and informal prayers is a distinction without reasoned theological difference and likely to lead to confusion at parochial level. The implication that it is acceptable for clergy informally to pray for God’s blessing on a relationship which departs from the church’s teaching (Appendix paragraph 21) seems at best counterintuitive, and we would have wished for clearer indication that those departing from the church’s teaching on this (or any other matter) should be encouraged to reconsider their ways. Many evangelical churches will of course continue to pray for people’s spiritual and physical needs in the context of all kinds of relationships : this is not to be confused with an endorsement of these relationships.

While affirming that everyone should be welcomed in our churches, we continue to believe that appropriate sacramental discipline should apply to those who choose to enter into any sexual relationship other than within marriage between a man and a woman.

The ‘sharp’ end of the challenge to respond to requests for recognition of same sex marriages is going to be at parochial level – and we are concerned that the guidance offered is insufficient in this regard.

We look forward to the conversations of the coming months as an opportunity to explore how a biblically orthodox perspective on human sexuality is good for all society and for each child, woman and man. We pray that in exploring this together we may be re-energised by the clarity of Scripture and the vision it offers for human flourishing.

Please pray for our Archbishops and Bishops in their leadership: that God will give them the ‘knowledge of His will …. that we may live lives that please Him in every way’ (Colossians 1).

Rev John Dunnett
On behalf of the EGGS Committee.

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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes

As I reported here the current legislation on Women in the Episcopate was sent to dioceses promptly after last month’s meeting of General Synod. The first diocesan synod votes were held a week ago, and so far nine dioceses have voted; all were in favour of the legislation.

I have compiled a table of the voting figures here which I will update as further votes take place.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 8 March 2014 at 5:07pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 8

Andrew Brown has published at Cif belief this report on the Bad History saga: Why the church’s gay marriage schism is here to stay in which he concludes:

…In other words, the conservative position today is that when the bible says (with Jesus) that a man can’t marry another woman while his first wife is still alive, that’s not about the nature of marriage; when it says (with Moses) that if his wife dies, a man can’t marry her sister, that’s not about the nature of marriage; but when it says (as it doesn’t, because this was too obvious to spell out) a man can’t marry another man, that really is part of the definition of marriage in the way that the others aren’t.

If this is what Fittall, Arora and the archbishops of Canterbury and York, deep down believe then their defence of the palpably silly makes sense. What God wants is by definition more valuable than anything else in the world and what God wants – Conservatives believe – is a straight man married to a straight woman: Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve are the perfect couple. It is that relationship that shows the kind of love that leads us towards God. You or I might point out that since Adam and Eve never existed it would be unwise to draw conclusions from their relationship, but that’s not how the religious imagination works.

The point is that they can’t be convinced by arguments from science, from history or from the law about what marriage is. Their minds will only by changed by arguments from God and what God wants. Only if they see God at work in their opponents will they change. To see that, they would have to be looking for signs of it. I don’t think there is any immediate danger of that, on either side.

Jonathan Clatworthy has written Church teaching and the general understanding of marriage:

…To me, the House of Bishops’ claim is a typical example of a stance just too common to require any alternative explanation. ‘Conservatives’, of both the campaigning and the fence-sitting types, love to think that the way things were in their childhood was the way they always had been, all the way back to the beginning. This, for example, is what the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission did last April with their unpopular Men and Women in Marriage; but it is so common that we can all think of examples, not just in matters of religion. I very much doubt that the House of Bishops considered the Acts of 1907 or 1937 and judged that they did not invalidate the statement; they just assumed that the current change is the first such change ever.

They contrast ‘the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England’ with ‘the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law’. I think they mean two things: that the Church’s doctrine of marriage will diverge both from the legal definition and from ‘the general understanding of marriage in England’. (I am not sure; they might have meant ‘the general understanding of marriage in England as enshrined in law’, in which case ‘general understanding’ is only adding emphasis, not making an additional claim.) This post leaves aside the question of legal definition and focuses on the ‘general understanding’.

To judge whether the bishops are right we need an account of what this general understanding is, independently of the legal definition…

UNITE the Union had earlier published this:

Faith Worker Branch Executive statement in response to the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, 14.02.14

“We welcome the House of Bishops’ commitment to a process of conversations that will include profound reflection on the meaning, interpretation and application of scripture with particular attention to the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, and we would strongly urge the Bishops to pursue this as a priority.

We are concerned, however, that some aspects of the guidance, Paragraph 27 in particular, may discriminate against LGBT clergy in their pursuit of an authentic, loving and committed relationship that accords with their God-given sexuality, and which may as a result diminish their human right to enjoy that relationship.

We are concerned, too, that the vagueness of the guidance in Paragraphs 20 & 21 may unwittingly put clergy at risk of disciplinary action whilst attempting to minister appropriately in complex pastoral circumstances.

We affirm our support of all of our clergy members, and will continue to support and represent them in all aspects of their ministry, including any action taken against them as a result of the application of the Bishops’ guidance.”

The Bishop of Dorking delivered this speech to Guildford Diocesan Synod. Several people have commented that it contains echoes of what the Bishop of Oxford wrote earlier.

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 7

Continuing from here

Mike Higton has written two long articles discussing what’s going on in this debate about the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance. They should both be read in full, but here are some excerpts to give you the flavour:

Disagreeing about Marriage

…look back again at the Church’s ‘Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation’ – which I assume can be taken to represent the views of at least some of those responsible for the current Pastoral Guidance. The section on ‘The Church’s understanding of marriage’ is the heart of the report, and before it gets to the two brief paragraphs on civil and religious marriage and their possible divergence, it has thirteen paragraphs that make a rather different point. The centre-piece of this part of the Response is the other paragraph that is put in bold, paragraph 13:

We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.

My suggestion – which I can only make very sketchily here, but will fill out in a subsequent post – is that, for at least some of those who have rejected Linda’s criticism, this is the central issue, and its centrality is so obvious, so luminously blatant, that to pretend that other aspects of the Church’s definition of marriage might be as central – especially issues about which there has been all sorts of complex and detailed disagreement for as long as we’ve been a church – can only be deliberate obfuscation, akin to the claim that the whole structure of the Bishops’ argument should be called into doubt because there is a misplaced semicolon in a footnote somewhere.

In other words, I think I can see that, for someone who inhabits the views set out in that Response to the government consultation, the criticism that Linda and her colleagues made, and that I like them would like to see taken seriously, must look like such a stark case of missing the point that it can only be a deliberate missing of the point…

Disagreeing about Marriage – and Gender

… I assume that it is not unfair to think that something like this thinking is being expressed both in the House of Bishops’ promulgation of their Pastoral Guidance, and in its defenders’ reaction to the question posed by Linda Woodhead. And, as I suggested in my previous post, I think grasping this point helps to make sense of their reaction.

We are, such a person might think, dealing in this debate with a fundamental structure of creation, and of society – and of our law’s relation to that. We might all agree that questions about fidelity and mutuality go as deep as this question of gender complementarity, but nothing else comes close. In particular, questions about remarriage after divorce and questions about the precise circle of people you can’t marry are clearly not even in the same league as this question. We are dealing with a fundamental structure of creation, and therefore with the very possibility of flourishing in a society that has to live in harmony with creation. That’s clearly what was really being said when the bishops talked about there having been no fundamental divergence between civil and religious understandings of marriage until now – and all this fuss over secondary details is a mischievous smokescreen. It’s all about gender – and this criticism from the likes of Woodhead, her colleagues, and now Higton – well, it dramatically misses that point.

Have I got that right? Is that a fair representation of the source of the impatience with Linda’s question that I’ve been hearing? I realise I’m putting words into mouths here, but I hope I haven’t slipped into caricature?

Phil Groom has written Heaven is Weeping: An Open Letter to the House of Bishops @C_of_E @JustinWelby @JohnSentamu which is also very long, and worth a read.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 2 March 2014 at 8:18am GMT | Comments (112) | TrackBack
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Friday, 28 February 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 6

Updated yet again Saturday morning

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

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

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

Now the new items.

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

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

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

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

The story also reports that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Original article continues]

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

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

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

27th February 2014
Dear Bishop,

Error in the Bishops Guidance on Same Sex Marriages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, 27 February 2014

Statement from the Church Commissioners on Wells Palace

Statement from the Church Commissioners on Wells Palace

27 February 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 27 February 2014 at 11:17am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full text of the letter can be read here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated Thursday morning

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

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

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

Tim Wyatt Church Times War of words between bishops and Government

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

John McDermott Financial Times A different banking crisis

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

The future of welfare: a Theos collection

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

Jonathan Clatworthy Modern Church The bishops: the real opposition?

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

Update

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

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

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

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Monday, 24 February 2014

More about historical error in the House of Bishops statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated Monday afternoon

Links to Episode 4 and to earlier items here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two more statements from individual dioceses:

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

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

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

Yours in Christ

+Ian

Updates

The Bishop of Blackburn has issued this statement:

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

(Broadcast on BBC Lancashire Breakfast)

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

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

Fulcrum has issued a statement:

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

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

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

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 24 February 2014 at 7:08am GMT | Comments (37) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Women Bishops: electronic voting results

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

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

There were two votes:

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

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

item 515 ForAgainstAbstention
Bishops
32
0
2
Clergy
145
10
16
Laity
127
23
27

 

item 10 ForAgainstAbstention
Bishops
32
0
0
Clergy
175
8
2
Laity
151
31
7

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

Here is the full set of electronic voting results:

Tuesday 11 February

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

Wednesday 12 February

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

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 22 February 2014 at 3:13pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Friday, 21 February 2014

Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week’s Church Times has several items:

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

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

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

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

Leader Comment: Same-sex marriage

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

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

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

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bishops slam David Cameron's welfare reforms

Updated Friday morning

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

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

Sir,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join us at www.endhungerfast.co.uk.

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

There is already a lot of online news and comment.

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

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

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

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

Financial Times Editorial Britain’s bishops deserve a hearing

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

Nick Baines blogs Bashing the bishops

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

Update

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Women bishops reference to dioceses

Update Wednesday afternoon The links are now all correct.

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

Women bishops reference to dioceses

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

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

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

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

A8(WE)BACKGROUND

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Reactions to the House of Bishops statement - episode 3

Updated Tuesday evening

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

New items:

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

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

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

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

Peter Ould The Opening Shots

Updates

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

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

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

ANYTHING BUT PASTORAL!

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

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

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

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

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

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Petitioning Bishops of the Church of England

A petition has been initiated on change.org:

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

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

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

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

Forward in Faith: Reference to the Dioceses

Women in the Episcopate: Reference to the Dioceses

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

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

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

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

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

On behalf of the Council:

+ JONATHAN FULHAM LINDSAY NEWCOMBE ROSS NORTHING
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker Dr Lindsay Newcombe The Revd Ross Northing
Chairman Lay Vice-Chairman Clerical Vice-Chairman

17 February 2014

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Rwandan bishop in UK faces probe over allegations of role in 1994 genocide

The Observer yesterday carried these two stories by Chris McGreal.

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

The first of these begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LGB&TI Anglican Coalition Response to the House of Bishops

Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More reactions to the House of Bishops statement

Updated third time Monday evening

Earlier items are in the preceding article.

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

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

Bosco Peters When is blessing not a blessing

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

Jeremy Fletcher Same Sex Marriage and the House of Bishops

Archdruid Eileen Painted into a Corner

Peter Ould Some Thoughts on the Statement

Tobias Haller Incoherent Hypocrisy

Updates

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

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

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

Christina Beardsley ‘One of gayest churches in Christendom’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Reports and reactions to House of Bishops statement

Media reports:

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

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

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

BBC Gay couple blessings ruled out by Church of England bishops

Diocesan statements:

Bishop of Manchester Bishop’s pastoral statement

Blogs:

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

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

Changing Attitude Colin Coward House of Bishops prioritise discipline not love

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

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House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

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

House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage

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

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

The text of the letter and the statement is reproduced below

15 February 2014

To the Clergy and People of the Church of England

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+ Justin Cantuar               + Sentamu Eboracensis

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

Appendix

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

The Church of England’s teaching on marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts of worship following civil same sex weddings

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

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

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

Clergy and ordinands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House of Bishops
15 February 2014

Ends

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Friday, 14 February 2014

General Synod: Questions on Pilling Report

The Bishop of Sheffield replied to three questions taken together.

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

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

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

The Bishop of Sheffield replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Church Commissioners Questions

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

Church Property (Community Use)

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

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

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

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

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

Flood Relief Fund

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

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

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

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

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

Credit Unions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop of Bath and Wells: Residence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archbishops of Canterbury and York: Visits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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General Synod - Church Times reports

Today’s Church Times has these two reports.

Dioceses given three months to vote on women bishops

Oil-less future looms for Synod

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Thursday, 13 February 2014

General Synod: Pilling Report

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

The official report of the session says:

HUMAN SEXUALITY: REPORT FROM THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS’ WORKING GROUP (GS 1929) AND NEXT STEPS

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

General Synod - Wednesday - press reports

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

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

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

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

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Church Society calls for 12 Conservative Evangelical Bishops

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

News Release from Church Society
12 February 2014

Lee Gatiss looks to Archbishop for credible action after positive words

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

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

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

Lee Gatiss
Director, Church Society.

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General Synod - Wednesday

Order paper for the day

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

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

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

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

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

WATCH press release

Women and the Church (WATCH)

Press Release Tuesday 11 February 2014 2.00pm

Women in the Episcopate Legislation

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

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

Forward in Faith statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+ JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker
Chairman

LINDSAY NEWCOMBE
Dr Lindsay Newcombe
Lay Vice-Chairman

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Synod votes to bring forward draft safeguarding legislation

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

Synod votes to bring forward draft safeguarding legislation
12 February 2014

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

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

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

The proposed draft legislation outlined in full detail here will:

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

Prevent clergy robing during a service when prohibited or disbarred

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

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

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

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

Introduce similar provision covering lay workers and Readers.

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

Extend the bishop’s power of suspension.

Three additional suggestions for reform include:

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

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

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

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

Notes

July 2013 Synod safeguarding debate

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

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Archbishop's Presidential Address to the General Synod

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

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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

General Synod: Questions about ACNA

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

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

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

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

Supplementary question from Canon Goddard:

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

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

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Women bishops - press reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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General Synod - Tuesday afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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General Synod - Women in the Episcopate debates

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

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

First debate

Synod debated and passed this motion:

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

Second debate

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

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

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

The insertion of the proposed new Clause 3 was defeated.

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

Third debate

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

Fourth debate

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

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

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

Fifth debate

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

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

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General Synod - Tuesday morning press reports

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

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

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

BBC Hundreds sign petition against Bath and Wells bishop move

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Monday, 10 February 2014

General Synod - Monday

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

There is a live video stream here.

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

There was an Ethical Investment Advisory Group presentation to Synod.

Synod debated gender-based violence and passed this motion.

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

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

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

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Statement from Church Commissioners on Bishop's Palace, Wells

The Church Commissioners issued this statement this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Pre-Synod press roundup

Updated Monday morning

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

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

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

John Bingham The Telegraph Final hurdle for women bishops to overcome

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

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

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

Update

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

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

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Friday, 7 February 2014

Jane Hedges to be Dean of Norwich

Press release from the Prime Minister’s office

Dean of Norwich: Jane Barbara Hedges
7 February 2014

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

Notes for editors

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

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

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

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

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Living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells - 2

This is an update to our earlier article here.

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

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

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

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Church of England Funded Pension Scheme valuation

Updated Wednesday

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

The Church of England Funded Pension Scheme valuation
21 January 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update

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

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

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

The press release from Number 10 reads:

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

Biographical notes on Nick Baines appear below the fold.

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

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

Nick Baines has blogged about his own appointment here.

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

Biography

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

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

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

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

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 4 February 2014 at 10:02am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Monday, 3 February 2014

Bishop of Gloucester to retire

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

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

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 3 February 2014 at 11:07am GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Friday, 31 January 2014

Archbishops' letter to primates: GAFCON responds

From the GAFCON website:
A response to the statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

A response to the statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of 29th January 2014

This week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York sought to remind the leadership of the Anglican Communion and the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda of the importance of friendship and care for homosexual people.

Christians should always show particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place.

The Dromantine Communiqué from which the Archbishops quote also affirmed (Clause 17) the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which states that ‘homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture’ and that the conference ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions’.

Yet earlier this week, the English College of Bishops accepted the recommendation of the Pilling Report for two years of ‘facilitated conversation’ because at least some of the bishops could not accept the historic teaching of the Church as reaffirmed in the Lambeth resolution.

Indeed, in making the case for such a debate, the Pilling Report observes ‘In the House of Lords debate on same sex marriage, the Archbishop of York commended that the Church needed to think about the anomalies in a situation where it is willing to bless a tree or a sheep, but not a faithful human relationship.’ The anomaly only exists of course if it really is the case that a committed homosexual union can also be Christian.

The good advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York would carry much more weight if they were able to affirm that they hold, personally, as well as in virtue of their office, to the collegial mind of the Anglican Communion. At the moment I fear that we cannot be sure.

Regrettably, their intervention has served to encourage those who want to normalize homosexual lifestyles in Africa and has fuelled prejudice against African Anglicans. We are committed to biblical sexual morality and to biblical pastoral care, so we wholeheartedly stand by the assurance given in the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that those who experience same sex attraction are ‘loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’

May God in his mercy grant that we may hold to the fullness of his truth and the fullness of his grace.

The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman, GAFCON Primates Council.
30th January 2014

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Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Comments on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill,...

The Church of Uganda has issued this press release.

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Comments on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the Church of England’s “Pilling Report,” and the Open Letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

30th January 2014

The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”

Accordingly, we are grateful for the reminder of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to fulfill such commitments as stated in the 2005 Communique of the Primates Meeting held in Dromantine, Northern Ireland.

We would further like to remind them, as they lead their own church through the “facilitated conversations” recommended by the Pilling Report, that the teaching of the Anglican Communion from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, from Resolution 1.10, still stands. It states that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and the conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

It was the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada’s violations of Lambeth 1.10 which caused the Church of Uganda to break communion with those Provinces more than ten years ago. We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.

Furthermore, as our new Archbishop of Canterbury looks toward future Primates Meetings and a possible 2018 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, we would also like to remind him of the 2007 Primates Communique from Dar es Salaam, which says that there are “consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion” for TEC and those Provinces which cannot

1. “Make an unequivocal common covenant that the Bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through” their governing body;

2. “Confirm…that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent.”

It is clear that the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have not upheld these commitments, and so we do pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury as he considers whether or not to extend invitations to their Primates for the next Primates Meeting or to their Bishops for the 2018 Lambeth Conference. To withhold these invitations would be a clear signal of his intention to lead and uphold the fullness of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10.

The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali

ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.

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Thursday, 30 January 2014

College of Bishops statement: GAFCON responds

From GAFCON website

There is urgency about the gospel

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

29th January 2014

‘…by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God’ 2 Corinthians 4:2

My dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

I write this first message of 2014 with great hope and confidence for the year ahead. GAFCON 2013 renewed our vision for the Anglican Communion as a global fellowship faithful to the Scriptures and confirmed what many of us had already sensed, that our movement is emerging as the only real answer to the Communion’s problems of fragmentation and confusion.

In the year ahead we must resolve to devote ourselves to the great biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations which was the focus of our gathering in Nairobi. There is urgency about the gospel and it must be proclaimed in word and deed, in season and out of season and it is the same gospel, whether in strife torn nations such as South Sudan or in the affluent but morally disorientated nations of the developed world.

We cannot therefore allow our time and energy to be sapped by debating that which God has already clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Earlier this week, the English College of Bishops met to reflect upon the ‘Pilling Report’, commissioned to reflect on how the Church of England should respond to the question of same sex relationships. Its key recommendations were that informal blessings of such unions should be allowed in parish churches and that a two year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ should be set up to address strongly held differences within the Church on this issue.

While we should be thankful that the College of Bishops did not adopt the idea of services for blessing that which God calls sin, it did unanimously approve the conversation process and this is deeply troubling. There has been intensive debate within the Anglican Communion on the subject of homosexuality since at least the 1998 Lambeth Conference and it is difficult to believe that the bishop’s indecision at this stage is due to lack of information or biblical reflection. The underlying problem is whether or not there is a willingness to accept the bible for what it really is, the Word of God.

At Lambeth 1998, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, by an overwhelming majority, affirmed in Resolution 1.10 that homosexual relationships were not compatible with Scripture, in line with the Church’s universal teaching through the ages, but the Pilling Report effectively sets this aside. The conversations it proposes are not to commend biblical teaching on marriage and family, but are based on the assumption that we cannot be sure about what the bible says.

I cannot therefore commend the proposal by the College of Bishops that these ‘facilitated conversations ‘ should be introduced across the Communion. This is to project the particular problems of the Church of England onto the Communion as a whole. As with ‘Continuing Indaba’, without a clear understanding of biblical authority and interpretation, such dialogue only spreads confusion and opens the door to a false gospel because the Scriptures no longer function in any meaningful way as a test of what is true and false.

Faced with these challenges, I am reminded of the importance of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. It places our fellowship under the written word of God, which ‘is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading’. Here we have a solid foundation for the responsible reading of the Bible which preserves its transformative power. As John the Evangelist writes ‘these things are written so that you may believe…..and that by believing you may have life’ (John 20:31).

Plans are already taking shape following GAFCON 2013 to provide our global fellowship with the organisation and communications it needs if the Anglican Communion is to recover its unity by listening to and obeying the Word of God. Using modern communications it is possible for us to experience the connectedness of being a global communion in a way that our predecessors could never have imagined. Each one of us can play a part and so may I conclude by inviting you, if you have not yet done so, to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans at http://fca.net. My pastoral messages and other communications can then be sent direct to you by email and together we can serve the cause of the gospel at this critical time.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 8:29am GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Archbishops write to all Primates & to presidents of Nigeria, Uganda

Lambeth Palace press release (also on Bishopthorpe site)

Archbishops recall commitment to pastoral care and friendship for all, regardless of sexual orientation

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today written to all Primates of the Anglican Communion, and to the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, recalling the commitment made by the Primates of the Anglican Communion to the pastoral support and care of everyone worldwide, regardless of sexual orientation.

In their letter, the Archbishops recalled the words of the communiqué issued in 2005 after a meeting of Primates from across the Communion in Dromantine.

The text of the joint letter is as follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

In recent days, questions have been asked about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction. In answer to these questions, we have recalled the common mind of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in the Dromantine Communiqué of 2005.

The Communiqué said;

‘….we wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people.

The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give - pastoral care and friendship.’

We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the Communiqué described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus.

We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine communiqué speaks.

Yours in Christ

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 5:40pm GMT | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells

The home of the most recent Bishop of Bath and Wells (Peter Price, who retired in mid 2013) and many of his predecessors was at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells. But on 3 December the Church Commissioners (who are responsible for housing diocesan bishops) announced that new living arrangements were to be made for the next bishop, Peter Hancock, who has yet to take up his post.

Statement from Church Commissioners on living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells
03 December 2013

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners said:

“After discussion at its meeting on 28th November the Board of Governors took the decision to provide new housing for the Bishop of Bath and Wells to enable him to carry out his ministry and mission in a more sustainable way. The Bishop will continue to work and worship at the Palace and share the office with the Bishop of Taunton. The decision to move the bishop’s home will mean he can live in more privacy as the Palace and gardens will remain open to the public. We are currently looking at an alternative residence near to Wells. The Church Commissioners support for bishops is based on making their living and working arrangements conducive to effective ministry and mission both in their diocese and the Church as a whole. The daily working life of the Palace will continue including the use of the Chapel alongside the work of the Trust running the Palace as a visitor attraction.”

The Palace website explains on its news page that “Whilst the Palace is well-known and prides itself on having the Bishop of Bath and Wells reside on site it has not always been so, for eight centuries bishops have had irregular relationships with the Palace. It is only since the mid-1850s that the Palace has been much more of a home to Bishops of Bath and Wells and over time the office function in the Palace has become more important.” [Scroll down to 20 December and 5 December for more details.]

The Commissioners’ decision has proved very controversial.

There were questions in the House of Commons to the Second Church Estates Commissioner on 14 January, 21 January and 23 January.

The Diocese has expressed its opposition to the Commissioners’ decision.

Diocese expresses opposition to Church Commissioner’s Palace decision
Friday 24th January 2014

Statement from the Bishop of Taunton and senior staff of the Diocese of Bath & Wells re: Bishop of Bath & Wells accommodation.

“The Diocese wishes to express publicly its opposition to the Church Commissioners’ decision that the next Bishop of Bath & Wells will not live at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.

Despite ample time and opportunity, the Church Commissioners have failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level. Instead they have taken a unilateral decision which has, sadly, cast a shadow over the announcement of our next Bishop.

Based on the scarce information made available to us by the Commissioners, the Diocese cannot support their decision. If there is a persuasive case for the move, it has yet to be made.

We call upon the Church Commissioners to allow the next Bishop of Bath & Wells to begin his new role in residence at the Palace whilst a full and proper consultation about the long-term plans for the Bishop’s residence and office arrangements takes place.”

Ends

Rt Revd Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton
The Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton
The Ven Andy Piggott, Archdeacon of Bath
Revd Preb Stephen Lynas, Bishop’s Chaplain
Preb Dr Catherine Wright, Dean of Women Clergy
Nick Denison, Diocesan Secretary
Harry Musselwhite, Chair of the Board of Finance

Press reports include these.

BBC Tessa Munt MP questions Bishop of Bath and Wells’ palace move [8 January]
Diocese of Bath and Wells ‘cannot support’ bishop’s palace move [25 January]
Bishop of Taunton calls for talks on palace move [28 January]

John Bingham The Telegraph Palace coup: Church in open rebellion over decision to downsize bishop to country pile [26 January]

Ruth Gledhill The Times Church buys back rectory after Bishop’s Palace is declared unfit [29 January - behind a paywall, but the first couple of paragraphs are visible as a taster.]

Daily Mail Inside the £1million country home for the Bishop who turned-down a palace because he wanted ‘a bit more privacy’ [23 January]
Sophie Jane Evans Bishop banned from living in his palace will be moved to £900,000 rectory that the church is buying back after declaring it ‘unsuitable’ and selling it … for £750,000 [29 January]

David Keen blogs in favour of the Commissioners’ decision: Is the Bishop of Bath and Wells a person, or a tourist attraction?

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 12:21pm GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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College of Bishops statement: media coverage and responses

First of all, press coverage so far:

Telegraph John Bingham Church of England bishops: we agree on one thing – that we can’t agree on homosexuality

Religion News Service Trevor Grundy Church of England’s Bishops Defer Gay Marriage Decision

George Conger has written a critique of the preceding item:So what is happening with Anglican gay marriage?

Michael Trimmer Christian Today CofE bishops agree to disagree on human sexuality

And there is coverage in The Times, but it is behind a paywall: Bishops call for honesty in gay debate

Next, comments from lobby groups and bloggers:

Andrew Symes Executive Director of Anglican Mainstream has written The College of Bishops’ Statement on the Pilling Report: a Response

My initial response to this Statement was one of disappointment, but then after attempting to read between the lines I found some cause for encouragement…

Ian Paul has written Why the bishops have done the right thing

…Why do I think College of Bishops have made the right decision? Well, most obviously because their response to Pilling is exactly the one I said in November was needed. The reason for this is more and more evident in public responses, particularly on social media, from all sides of the debate.

On the one hand, many ‘conservatives’ say that there is nothing to be done, and no need any further discussion. I don’t think this takes into account sufficiently the need for the Church of England to develop more credible pastoral response, taking into account what Justin Welby described as the revolution in attitudes within society on this issue.

On the other hand, many ‘revisionists’ agree there is no need for further discussion, but for exactly the opposite reason. It is clear what God is doing in society, and the Church needs to catch up without any further delay…

Peter Carrell Sanity overcomes English bishops

…For myself I am prompted to wonder if (when all is said and done) we are (though we are scarcely aware of it) engaged with a true novelty in the life of the church:

1. a matter on which we disagree so severely that schism always lurks as a possible outcome (and, indeed, has become an outcome in some places) yet not a matter on which any rational, compassionate Christian (in the abstract position of peaceful reflection*) would wish to divide the church for fear that doing so made a scapegoat of a tiny minority;

2. a matter on which the catholicity of our church/Communion is under an unprecedented ‘strain’ (as we try to reconcile the universality of the church implying inclusivity with the universality of the church implying commitment to common doctrine)…

David Pocklington has written Bishops’ statement on Pilling Report

…As we have noted before, the Pilling Report is a report to the House of Bishops, not a report of the House of Bishops and it is therefore unsurprising that: yesterday’s statement emphasized that it was not a new policy statement; and the statement itself did not expand on the report’s conclusions, an unlikely possibility given the strongly held and divergent views within the College . Nevertheless, there are two important points within the statement:

  • acceptance of Pilling’s recommendation for “facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level”, these conversations to commence following the approval of the process and materials by the House of Bishops in May; and
  • that there will be no change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage or to pastoral and liturgical practice during this process of facilitated conversation. Too much cannot be read into the wording, but it would tend to suggest that the introduction of extra-liturgical public services of pastoral accommodation, i.e. blessings of same-sex unions, over the next two years is ruled out, whilst this is may be an option for the future.

If the timetable suggested by the Report is followed, i.e. “without undue haste but with a sense urgency, perhaps over a period of two years”, the formal position of the Church of England is unlikely to change from that expressed in the 2005 HoB statement before mid- to late-2016. Whilst this will be a comfortable two years before the next Lambeth Conference, a potential flash-point for the Anglican Communion, in other respects the delay is unsatisfactory…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 9:29am GMT | Comments (4)
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Monday, 27 January 2014

Last Rites for the Church of England?

BBC Radio 4 this evening broadcast “Last Rites for the Church of England?” in which Andrew Brown “asks if the Church of England has become fatally disconnected from society.” The half-hour programme will be broadcast again on Sunday 2 February at 2130.

But you can listen to the programme online here now. There is also a 13 MB downloadable podcast.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 27 January 2014 at 10:13pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Pilling Report - Statement from the College of Bishops

The Church of England House of Bishops issued this statement this evening.

Statement from the College of Bishops

27 January 2014

The College of Bishops met on 27th January, 2014 to begin a process of reflection on the issues raised by the Pilling Report (GS 1929). The College expressed appreciation to Sir Joseph Pilling and to all members of the working party for the work they have done on behalf of the Church.

We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.

We are united in seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church and in seeking to make a loving, compassionate and respectful response to gay men and women within Church and society.

We recognise the very significant change in social attitudes to sexuality in the United Kingdom in recent years.

We recognise also the strongly held and divergent views reflected in the Pilling Report, across the Anglican Communion and in the Church of England. We acknowledge that these differences are reflected also within the College of Bishops and society as a whole.

We accept the recommendation of the Pilling Report that the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level and that this should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. These conversations should set the discussion of sexuality within the wider context of human flourishing.

We have together asked the Archbishops to commission a small group to design a process for these conversations and additional materials to support and enable them. We hope that the outline for the process and the additional materials will be approved by the House of Bishops in May.

We acknowledge that one of the challenges we face is to create safe space for all those involved to be honest about their own views and feelings. This has not always happened and it must do so in the future. We recognise that we will not all agree and that this process is in part committed to seeking good disagreement that testifies to our love for one another across the church in obedience to Christ

As the Archbishops noted in November, the Pilling report is not a new policy statement from the Church of England and we are clear that the Church of England’s pastoral and liturgical practice remains unchanged during this process of facilitated conversation.

No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged. The House of Bishops will be meeting next month to consider its approach when same sex marriage becomes lawful in England in March.

We are grateful to the whole Church for their prayers for our meeting today and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We recognise that on many occasions in the past the Church has faced challenging questions. It is vital in these moments to take counsel together, to read and reflect upon the Scriptures and to continue to discern together the mind of Christ.

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College of Bishops discusses Pilling report today

Timed to coincide with the meeting of the College of Bishops today, to discuss the Pilling report, there are several new items:

Andrew Brown has written this piece at Comment is free Bishops must reject these wicked homophobic views.

These are not the views expressed in the report, but rather the views expressed by Anglican churches in Nigeria and Uganda:

…The bishops are meeting in the wake of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which represents an irrevocable move towards the acceptance of gay people in this country. But they are also meeting in the shadow of astonishingly homophobic laws supported by two of the largest Anglican churches in Africa – in Nigeria and Uganda.

The Nigerian law has passed with overwhelming support (1% of the Nigerian population is in favour of “society accepting homosexuality”, according to the Pew Foundation). The marginally more liberal Ugandan government (where 4% of the population accepts homosexuality) has just rejected a similar law.

In Britain, where the Pew figures say that over 70% of the population is pro-gay rights, a number of conservative evangelical churches have aligned themselves with Uganda and Nigeria as a pre-emptive strike against the C of E recognising same-sex marriage. Although tomorrow’s meeting will dodge the question, there will be clergy queueing to marry their same-sex partners when this becomes legal in April, when the question can no longer be dodged…

The data from Pew Research mentioned by Andrew in his article can be found here: The Global Divide on Homosexuality and there is also a world map here. The divide is stark.

And there is further survey data illustrated in the latest article from Changing Attitude: Infographics about attitudes in the Church of England.

Changing Attitude is publishing three infographics today about attitudes in the Church of England on the day the College of Bishops meets to discuss the Pilling Report.

The survey results provide a glimpse of where the church is, both within itself and as it is viewed by society. These aren’t partisan statistics – we haven’t hunted around for the figures most favourable to our cause. We have used the YouGov surveys produced for the Westminster Faith Debates 2013 because they are the most rigorous, very recent, and based on a large sample and with no attempt to influence the response by skewing how questions are asked.

Here is a snapshot of what reality actually looks like at the moment for the Church of England. (There’s a wealth of other information in the Westminster Faith Debates stats, and you can see the whole dataset here: http://faithdebates.org.uk/research/)

The survey shows remarkably strong support for same-sex marriage in the Church of England – 40% in favour, 47% against – given the reluctance of the bishops and General Synod to show approval for same-sex relationships, let alone equal marriage. If non church-going Anglicans are included, there is a slim majority for same-sex marriage, 44% with 43% against. In the population as a whole, 52% are in favour, 34% against…

There are three infographics, here is a direct link to the third one:

And finally, although far from new, as noted in the comments on an earlier article, Changing Attitude’s own submission to the Pilling review group was based in large part on the earlier Osborne report. This should have been published in 1989 but was suppressed. It was “re-published” by the Church Times two years ago: CofE’s Osborne report finally published. The comparison between this and the Pilling report shows how little change there has been within the CofE.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 27 January 2014 at 10:06am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Friday, 24 January 2014

Pilling: another roundup of opinions

Updated again Sunday evening

Ekklesia has published a major commentary on the Pilling report by Savi Hensman available here: Edging towards accepting diversity: the Pilling Report on sexuality. Here is the Abstract:

A Church of England working party on sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, has called for a more welcoming approach to lesbian and gay people, though not full inclusion. It recognises the current lack of consensus on the theology of sexuality, including what the Bible has to say, and recommends that clergy be free to hold services, though not weddings, for same-sex couples.

The report is a small step forward, though it is over-cautious and its handling of historical and scientific evidence is weak, this detailed analysis from Ekklesia suggests. It is also unbalanced, giving too much space to one dissenting member of the working party, firmly opposing any shift by the church towards a more pluralistic stance on same-sex partnerships. Yet it acknowledges diversity, encourages openness to listening and growth, and may lead to further progress in enabling the church to value its lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) members and credibly witness in today’s world to God’s love for all.

John Watson at Fulcrum has written A response to David Runcorn’s appendix to the Pilling Report.

The Spectator has published a rather curious leader article:The Church of England’s endless gay panic.

Update

Christina Beardsley has also published a detailed analysis of the Pilling report at Changing Attitude over the past couple of weeks. This is now more conveniently available as a single article here.

Update
This lengthy article is now also available as a PDF from here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 January 2014 at 10:30pm GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 23 January 2014

"Priest 'bullied' out of his Merseyside church"

Updated Saturday evening and Monday morning

Last September, Richard Blackburn, the Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool, established an episcopal visitation to the parish of St Faith’s, Great Crosby. The visitation was carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe, and his report has now been published. Today’s statement from the diocese, Report on the Episcopal Visitation to St Faith’s Crosby, starts

A report of an episcopal visitation carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe has found serious failings in the PCC and amongst the laity at St Faith’s Crosby. The report outlines major failings in the governance of the parish which has led to what can be described as a culture of bullying towards the Priest in Charge, Father Simon Tibbs.

The Episcopal Visitation was established by Bishop Richard Blackburn, The Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool in the wake of reports of difficulties at St Faiths. The Bishop instigated a six month visitation period for Bishop Stephen to thoroughly investigate concerns at the parish and produce a report.

Bishop Stephen report was presented to the PCC at a special meeting on Monday 20th January.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said “This has been a disturbing and distressing experience in the life of St Faith’s. I have found clear weaknesses in the governance structures at the church. Weaknesses that existed before Father Simon’s arrival. Weaknesses that have allowed a culture of bullying towards Father Simon from some elements of the PCC. The Diocese of Liverpool will need to consider its mentoring arrangements for priests in the light of this unhappy episode. However my main recommendation is that the Diocese of Liverpool takes firm action to restore good governance in the parish before considering the long term future of St Faith’s Crosby.”

The diocesan statement also details the “temporary measures to improve governance at St Faith’s Crosby”.

The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, is to act swiftly on the findings of an independent report into the governance at St Faith’s Crosby. The Bishop has announced that he has asked for the visitation process to continue for 18 months to enable stronger governance procedures to be put in place and deal with Bishop Stephen’s recommendations.

Bishop Richard has given licence to Revd Susan Lucas to act as Priest in Charge during this time. She will be strongly supported by Bishop Stephen Lowe. She will be charged to bring in measures that address the weaknesses in governance, reinvigorate the teaching of Christian giving and strengthen the sacred traditions of Anglo-Catholic liturgical worship so they become a meaningful expression of God’s love and mission. Bishop Richard has asked that this process should take no more than 18 months and he will closely monitor progress…

Bishop Stephen’s full report is available for download: Visitation Report.

The report has received extensive coverage in today’s local Liverpool and Crosby papers.

Jamie Bowman Liverpool Echo Priest ‘bullied’ out of his Merseyside church by powerful drinkers’ club among his flock
Jamie Bowman Crosby Herald Damning report reveals culture of bullying at Crosby church

It has also attracted the attention of the national press

The Telegraph Priest ‘bullied’ out of parish for challenging binge drinking culture among worshippers
BBC St Faith’s Church Crosby priest was ‘bullied’ out of parish
Luke Traynor Mirror Vicar ‘bullied out of his job by right-wing drinkers in his flock’
Liz Hull Daily Mail Priest bullied out of his C of E parish after nine months after banning congregation’s ‘un-Christian’ boozy sessions after services

Update
The PCC has issued a press release this afternoon (Saturday) which can be read here:

Press Statement
from the Church Wardens of St. Faith’s Great Crosby
re the Episcopal Visitation report by retired Bishop Stephen Lowe

The report of Stephen Lowe purports to be ‘independent’, but is clearly subjective and opinion based. The overwhelming majority of those present at the Congregational Meeting on January 20th felt that his was a grossly distorted and one-sided view of the situation. His report made sparse reference to the carefully considered answers submitted by the PCC to the Diocese’s Articles of Enquiry. A report detailing the responses of the congregation to Stephen Lowe’s ‘findings’ is being submitted to the Diocese and we shall be requesting that this is also published on their website as a matter of public record.

The “Review of PCC Governance at Crosby, St Faith’s” referred to in Bishop Lowe’s report is now available online here.

Monday update

Patrick Sawer in The Telegraph Merseyside’s ‘Cyber Priest’: ‘Thou shalt not drink wine in church’

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 8:44pm GMT | Comments (43) | TrackBack
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Pilling: Changing Attitude sends report to Bishops

From the Changing Attitude website:

Changing Attitude England Report to the College of Bishops meeting 27 January 2014

Changing Attitude England posted a Report today to every member of the College of Bishops and the 8 senior women in advance of their meeting 27 January 2014. A paper about the inclusion of LGB&T people in all conversations affecting our place in the Church has already been sent to the members of the College of Bishops in the papers for the meeting and that is reproduced at the end of our Report.

Changing Attitude England’s Report to the College of Bishops

Changing Attitude’s goals

Changing Attitude has three core goals, the achievement of which would mark a radical transformation in the experience of LGB&T Christians, and we believe, for the church as a whole. The goals are:

  • Celebrating the loving, permanent, faithful, stable of lesbian and gay relationships, lay and ordained
  • Equality in lay and ordained ministry in the selection, training and appointment process and the end of hypocrisy and secrecy – the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture.
  • Identify and eradicate prejudice against LGB&T people and the systemic homophobia which corrupts Christian attitudes and teaching.

1. Changing Attitude’s submission to the Review Group

In our submission to the Review Group we said the need for a radical change in Christian attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) people is now urgent. We asked whether the review group is going to advocate that the Church of England recognises the reality of the presence of LGB&T people in the Church or whether they are going to maintain the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the unhealthy attitudes in which many LGB&T Christians remain trapped.

The report does not herald radical change and does not therefore fulfil the expectations of Changing Attitude. There are no practical proposals which will begin to dismantle the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the maintenance of unhealthy attitudes. The group has met people and listened and the unhealthy attitudes remain unchanged.

The Review Group explored a lot of the ground which is fundamental to the dilemmas faced by the church as it continues to think about human sexuality. The report explores many of the issues which must be reviewed if the Church of England is ever to speak truthfully and lovingly to those whose sexuality and gender are variants on the heterosexual, patriarchal norm of Christian theology, teaching and practice…

Read the full report here.
Scroll down for the separate document “…about the inclusion of LGB&T people in all conversations affecting our place in the Church has already been sent to the members of the College of Bishops..”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 23 January 2014 at 9:00am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Bishop of Dover to assume interim episcopal oversight in Channel Islands

Updated again Wednesday evening

Press release from the Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop of Dover to assume interim episcopal oversight in Channel Islands

Wednesday 22nd January 2014

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, is to assume interim episcopal oversight of the work of the Church of England in the Channel Islands on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, delegated the oversight of the Islands.

The interim arrangement, which has the fullest support of the Bishop of Winchester, will be in place within a matter of weeks. The reports commissioned by the Bishop of Winchester, being conducted by Dame Heather Steel and Bishop John Gladwin in relation to safeguarding issues, will be completed in due course.

The Bishop of Dover is a former Bishop of Basingstoke in the Diocese of Winchester, and therefore has significant knowledge of the Islands. He and the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, undertook a pastoral visit to the Channel Islands in December, during which they met local church leaders and Island authorities from both Deaneries.

The interim arrangement is also entirely separate from issues to do with the Islands’ formal relationship with the Church of England. The Archbishop intends to appoint a Commission to look at the relationship between the Islands, the Diocese of Winchester and the wider Church of England.

The news was broken by Peter Ould on his blog yesterday: Jersey to Canterbury (and Dover). He has further covered the story today here and, in an interview with BBC Jersey, here.

Channel Television has this report: Jersey church splits from Winchester.

Update

The following pastoral letter from the Bishop of Winchester has been published, though as yet not on the Winchester diocesan website. Via Anglican Ink.

Winchester Pastoral Letter Jan 2014

I wanted to contact you all following Lambeth Palace’s announcement today that the Bishop of Dover is to take temporary responsibility for episcopal oversight of the Channel Islands. This follows a proposal I took to the Archbishop of Canterbury last year, which has now been supported and implemented by Archbishop Justin and his colleagues and which also has the backing of representatives from the Islands.

It will be evident to a number of you that, what began as an important and ongoing safeguarding matter in Jersey last year has steadily become complicated by a range of political and legal issues. The safeguarding investigations will, of course, continue and I hope in time we will benefit from improvements to our policies to help vulnerable people in the Islands and across the Diocese. Nevertheless, I am all too conscious of the additional, fundamental issues that have been raised and I believe they also warrant urgent and full attention. Equally I believe that the best way of achieving the reconciliation that we all want is for me to step back for now from the tensions that have arisen and allow for fresh, external input. I am very grateful therefore that Bishop Trevor is able to devote the time to take on this role, on a temporary basis, bringing with him knowledge of the Channel Islands as a former Bishop of Basingstoke.

The Islands have a centuries-old, cherished relationship with the rest of the Diocese to which I remain fully committed. From a practical perspective, the Archbishop and I have agreed it is necessary for the Islands to continue to pay their parish share during this period, so that normal ministry and mission remain unaffected.

Archbishop Justin has also announced that he will put in place a Commission to examine fully the legal and political challenges that have arisen. I feel that, in time, this process will play an important part in healing and reaffirming relations going forward.

Finally, I ask you all to hold Bishop Trevor in your prayers as he undertakes this work and want to thank you for your devotion to the mission and ministry of the Church in this Diocese.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 at 2:24pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Pilling: Christian Concern lobbies the Bishops

From the website of Christian Concern:

ACTION: Ask the Bishops to stand up for marriage

On 28th November 2013, the Church of England published a crucial report by the House of Bishops Working Group on Sexuality (Pilling Report), outlining its recommendations for the recognition of same-sex relationships by the CofE.

The Report suggests that, while the Church of England should not change its official teaching on marriage and sexuality, it should enter into a period of “facilitated conversions” to allow local clergy to bless same sex partnerships informally, using unauthorised liturgies.

However, to allow informal blessings of same-sex relationships, while claiming not to change the church’s teaching, would in practice and in fact, change the church’s traditional teaching on the issue.

The College of Bishops meets next Monday (27th January) to give serious consideration to the proposals put forward by the Pilling Report.

Please write to the Bishops, urging them to affirm the Bible’s clear teaching on marriage and sexuality and to give courageous leadership which is faithful to Scripture.

Concerns about the Report which you may wish to make are:

  • The report as a whole appeals to the secular world-view by seeking to accommodate same sex relationships
  • The liberal view of Scripture adopted by the Report is hugely concerning as it suggests that Scripture does not offer conclusive teaching on the issue of homosexual practice
  • The Report wrongly claims that Scripture and theology are apparently unclear on the rightness of homosexual practice, but urges the church to go ahead and bless such practice anyway, as long as the relationships are ‘permanent, faithful and stable’
  • The Bible offers clear teaching on how humans are best able to flourish and we appeal to you as Bishops to reinforce the commitment to biblical teaching
  • Permitting services to bless same sex unions would be a direct denial of the authority and teachings of the Bible, and would result in serious division, distress and acrimony within the Church
  • Allowing clergy to offer an informal blessing, and claiming that this does not change traditional Anglican teaching, is too fine a distinction and potentially contradictory for the wide Christian community and beyond
  • True pastoral care in the case of those experiencing same-sex attraction is to help them live Christianly and it is wrong to separate teaching and practice
  • Please also ask the Bishops to support the strong dissent to the Report issued by the Bishop of Birkenhead, which you can read here >

Click here to read the full text of the Pilling Report >

See below for contact details of the Bishops [scroll down for email list of diocesan bishops only]

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 10:53pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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New Bishop of Exeter is announced

10 Downing Street has announced: Diocese of Exeter: Robert Atwell nomination approved:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Robert Ronald Atwell, BA, MLitt, Suffragan Bishop of Stockport, for election as Bishop of Exeter in succession to the Right Reverend Michael Laurence Langrish, BSocSc, MA, DD, on his resignation on 31 August 2013.

Robert Atwell, aged 59, studied for the ordained ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. He served his first curacy at John Keble Church, Mill Hill, London from 1978 to 1981.

From 1981 to 1987 he was Chaplain at Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1987 to 1998 he was a Benedictine monk at Burford Priory, Oxfordshire.

From 1998 to 2008 he was Vicar of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill, and Director of Post-Ordination Training in the Edmonton Area of the Diocese of London. Since 2008 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Stockport.

Robert Atwell is single. His interests include gardening, theatre, films, music and novels.

The Diocese of Exeter has announced: Next Bishop of Exeter Named:

The next Bishop of Exeter is the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, currently Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester. His appointment was announced this morning by the Prime Minister’s office.

View photos throughout the day on our Pinterest Board >
Follow our news on Twitter > and Facebook >

Bishop Robert will become the 71st bishop of the Diocese of Exeter which comprises more than 500 parishes across the county of Devon…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 at 10:12am GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Friday, 17 January 2014

Women in the Episcopate: Forward in Faith responds to latest drafts

Press release from Forward in Faith:

Women in the Episcopate: The Latest Drafts

Jan 17, 2014

Women in the Episcopate: Draft House of Bishops’ Declaration and Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations

Forward in Faith welcomes the publication of the House of Bishops’ report (GS 1932 – available from http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/agendas-and-papers/february-2014-group-of-sessions.aspx).

In commenting on the proposals in November we set out three matters that still needed to be resolved. We are grateful that two of them have been addressed: the draft Declaration now contains transitional provisions, and the House of Bishops’ Standing Orders will provide that the Declaration cannot be amended unless two-thirds majorities in each House of the General Synod support the amendment. We also welcome the other minor improvements which the House has made to the draft Declaration and Regulations.

However, we note that the draft Declaration does not address the third of the matters that we raised in November. Para. 42 of the Steering Committee’s report (GS 1924) pointed to the need for ‘an agreed way of proceeding’ with regard to ‘issues that will arise in relation to consecration services for Traditional Catholic bishops’, including the ‘further and sharper issues that will arise in due course as and when there is a woman archbishop’. The Steering Committee was clear in envisaging ‘an overall, balanced package’ and that the dioceses should ‘vote on the legislation in the knowledge of how all the elements of the package fit together’ (para. 42).

It is essential that an acceptable way of proceeding in relation to the consecration of Traditional Catholic bishops is agreed before the legislation is referred to the dioceses. Resolution of this outstanding matter is crucial for the acceptability of the package as a whole.

We also note the publication of a first draft of the Guidance Note for Bishops and Parishes (GS Misc 1064). Forward in Faith will study this closely.

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

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General Synod agenda - early press reports

Andrew Brown The Guardian Church of England could appoint first female bishop ‘by Christmas’

John Bingham The Telegraph Church of England could name first woman bishops ‘by Christmas’

Liz Dodd The Tablet Women bishops could be appointed by Christmas if Church of England Synod can clear final hurdles

Madeleine Davies Church Times Women bishops possible in 2014, says Fittall

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General Synod Agenda

The usual pre-Synod press release, summarising the agenda, was issued this morning.

Agenda for February 2014 Synod
17 January 2014

The General Synod of the Church of England meets in London in February for a three day meeting from 2.00 pm on Monday 10th February until 5.30 pm on Wednesday 12th February.

The agenda for the meeting is published today. The main item of business will be the Revision Stage for the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops. In an unusual move, this will be taken on the floor of the Synod without there having been a prior Revision Committee. There will also be three other debates as part of the women bishops process: on the Declaration and Disputes Resolution Procedure agreed by the House of Bishops in December; to initiate the process to rescind the 1993 Act of Synod; and to suspend part of the Standing Orders in order to accelerate the process for referring the legislation to the dioceses. These debates will take up much of Tuesday 11th February.

There will also be debates on Gender-Based Violence, the Girl Guides’ Promise, the environment and fossil fuels and the use of vesture in Church services. The Group of Sessions will conclude with a presentation on the report from the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality. A Diocesan Synod Motion from the Guildford Diocesan Synod on the Magna Carta is listed as Contingency Business.

On the Monday afternoon there will be a presentation on Ethical Investment by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). The EIAG will give an overview of the Church of England’s approach to ethical investment, in particular the work it has done on reflecting the Church’s position on alcohol more faithfully and supporting purposeful investment in business. It will summarise the issues that the EIAG is currently working on, including the use of pooled funds in ethical investment and an ethical investment approach to climate change.

This will be followed by a further policy-focused debate, this time on Gender-Based Violence. The debate will be preceded by a short presentation by Mandy Marshall and Peter Grant who are co-directors of Restored Relationships, an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women.

Each session will be followed by a Question and Answer session with Synod members. The debate on Gender-Based Violence will be followed by a brief period of worship.

The sequence of business of Tuesday 19th November in relation Women in the Episcopate will be as follows. First, the Synod will debate a motion from the House of Bishops inviting the Synod to welcome the draft House of Bishops’ draft Declaration and Disputes Resolution Regulations. Secondly, there will be the Revision Stage on the floor of the Synod of the draft Measure and Amending Canon. Thirdly, Synod will give initial consideration to a draft Act of Synod to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993. Finally, there will be a motion to suspend part of Standing Order 90 to reduce the normal minimum length of time for an Article 8 Reference to the dioceses from six months to three months to allow a faster passage of the final stages of the Women in the Episcopate legislation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a Presidential Address on the morning of Wednesday 12th February.

This will be followed by a debate on a package of proposals for legislative change in relation to safeguarding and related disciplinary matters, which has been developed in response to the reports of the Chichester commissaries. This includes making it easier to suspend clergy, or bring complaints against them, where abuse is alleged, enabling bishops to compel clergy to undergo risk assessments and imposing a duty on relevant persons to have regard to the House of Bishops’ safeguarding policies. The intention is to introduce legislation in July 2014 but given the importance and range of the proposals this report gives Synod the opportunity to consider the package in February before the legislation is prepared.

Later that morning, there will be a debate on a motion from the Southwark Diocesan Synod on Environmental Issues. This will build further on the work being carried out by the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). The Diocesan Synod Motion calls for the establishment of a General Synod Working Group on the Environment to look into this further.

Two Private Members’ Motions will be debated on Wednesday afternoon. The first, tabled by Mrs Alison Ruoff (London Diocese), references the recent changes to the Girl Guides’ Promise. The second, to be moved by the Reverend Christopher Hobbs, calls on the General Synod to amend Canon B 8 so that the wearing of the forms of vesture referred to in that Canon ‘becomes optional rather than mandatory’.

Finally, there will be a presentation from Sir Joseph Pilling on the recent Report of the House of Bishops’ Working Group on Human Sexuality which was published on 28 November. There will be an opportunity for questions on the process and next steps on the Pilling Report.

Click here for General Synod February Agenda and Papers

My usual list of online papers is here (women in the episcopate) and here (other items).

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February General Synod - online papers

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in London from Monday 10 February to Wednesday 12 February, and papers are now available online. I have already listed those relevant to Women in the Episcopate in an earlier posting and here are the remainder.

GS 1930 - Agenda

GS 1931 - Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 1933 - Gender-Based Violence: Report by the MPA Council [Monday]

GS 1935 - Draft Church of England (Naming of Dioceses) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1935x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1936 - Draft Church of England (Pensions) (Amendement) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1936x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1937 - Draft Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2014 [Tuesday]
GS 1937x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1938 - Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2014 [Tuesday]
GS 1939 - Legal Officers (Annual Fees) (Amendment) Order 2014 [Tuesday]
GS 1938-9x - Explanatory Memorandum [item 506]

GS 1940 - The Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution [Tuesday]
GS 1940x - Explanatory Memorandum [item 505]

GS 1941 - Safeguarding [Wednesday]

GS 1942A & GS 1942B - Diocesan Synod Motion: Environmental Issues [Wednesday]

GS 1943A & GS 1943B - Private Member’s Motion: Girl Guides’ Promise [Wednesday]

GS 1944A & GS 1944B - Private Member’s Motion: Canon B8 [Wednesday]

GS 1945A & GS 1945B - Private Member’s Motion: Magna Carta cContingency business]

Other Papers issued to members

GS Misc 1065 - Church Stipends Report 2013

GS Misc 1067 - Dioceses Commission Annual Report 2013

1st Notice Paper
2nd Notice Paper

HB(13)M4 House of Bishops Summary of Decisions December 2013

A zip file containing all the papers is also available.

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February General Synod - women in the episcopate

General Synod will be debating the latest proposals on women in the episcopate on Tuesday 11 February. The relevant papers have been released today.

The actual items of business can be found in the Agenda (GS 1930). In addition there are these papers.

GS 1932 - Draft Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and Draft Reolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations
GS 1925A - Draft Bishops and priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
GS 1926A - Draft Amending Canon No.33
GS 1934 - Draft Act of Synod Rescinding the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993
GS Misc 1064 - House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests - Guidance Notes for Bishops and Parishes
GS Misc 1068 - Note by the Legal Advisers on clause 2

The Report of the Business Committee (GS 1931) has the usual comments on individual items of business, and those for Women in the Episcopate are copied below the fold.

Extract from the Report of the Business Committee (GS 1931)

Tuesday 19 November

Legislation on Women in the Episcopate

25. The main business of Tuesday 19th November will relate to Women in the Episcopate.

26. There will be four separate items of business. First the Synod will consider a motion from the House of Bishops inviting the Synod to welcome the draft House of Bishops’ draft Declaration and Disputes Resolution Regulations. The Synod had a first opportunity to consider drafts in November as part of the Steering Committee’s report but the House of Bishops had not at that stage discussed them in detail. This is the Synod’s opportunity to debate what the House has now agreed.

27. Secondly, the draft measure and amending canon will be considered on the Revision Stage. Because there was no Revision Committee Stage the normal 40 member rule for the consideration of amendments will not apply.

28. Thirdly, the Synod will be invited to consider, under the preliminary motion procedure, a draft Act of Synod to rescind the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993. Since rescinding the Act of Synod constitutes Article 7 business, it will need to be considered by the House of Bishops before it comes for final approval at a subsequent group of sessions. It will also be open to the Convocations and the House of Laity to claim references.

29. Fourthly there will be a motion to suspend Standing Order 90(b)(iii) so that the Article 8 reference of the draft measure and amending canon can be concluded in May, with a view to completing the remaining stages of the legislation at the July group of sessions. To pass, the motion will require a 75% majority. If the motion is not carried, the Business Committee will be required by SO 90 to allow at least six months for the reference, which means that the earliest date for its completion will be September.

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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Church of England reports Signs of Growth

Press release from Church House: Signs of Growth:

…Key findings of the research include:

  • Significant Growth Fresh expressions of Church (new congregations and new churches) with around 21,000 people attending in the 10 surveyed areas of the 44 Church of England Dioceses.
  • Significant growth in Cathedrals, especially in weekday attendance. Overall weekly attendance grew by 35% between 2002 and 2012.
  • Declining numbers of children and young people under 16 - nearly half of the churches surveyed had fewer than 5 under 16s.
  • Amalgamations of churches are more likely to decline - the larger the number of churches in the amalgamation, the more likely they are to decline

There is more information in the press release.

Also, the executive summary of the Research is available as a PDF [link altered].

More detail is on this website.

The detailed study of Fresh Expressions can be found at the Church Army website.

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ACNA priest to become a Six Preacher at Canterbury Cathedral

Lambeth Palace has announced: Archbishop appoints US priest as Canterbury preacher

Archbishop Justin hopes the Revd Dr Tory Baucum’s presence as one of Canterbury Cathedral’s Six Preachers will help promote ‘reconciliation and unity’

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of the Revd Dr Tory Baucum, Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, as one of the Six Preachers of Canterbury Cathedral.

Dr Baucum will be installed as one of the Six Preachers during Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral on 14 March. The Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral unanimously approved the nomination of Dr Baucum shortly before Christmas.

The College of Six Preachers was created by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1541, forming part of his plans for a new foundation to replace the dissolved Priory. Canterbury was unique in this; no other cathedral had a group of preaching priests and was a reflection of Cranmer’s determination to give greater prominence to preaching. Today, the Six Preachers are called to preach on various occasions at Canterbury Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Anglican Communion. The preachers serve five-year terms, which can be renewed.

While Dr Baucum has extensive experience of preaching, evangelism and peace-making, his appointment is also recognition of his commitment to reconciliation, which is one of Archbishop Justin’s ministry priorities. Truro Church seceded from the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in 2006 and subsequently became part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).

When Dr Baucum became Rector in 2007, the church and the diocese were involved in litigation over property rights. Dr Baucum, a priest in ACNA, developed a close friendship with Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, the Rt Revd Shannon Johnston, and a settlement was subsequently reached.

Commenting on the appointment, Archbishop Justin said: “Tory is a fine scholar, an excellent preacher, and above all someone with a holistic approach to ministry. The close friendship he has forged with Bishop Shannon Johnston, despite their immensely different views, sets a pattern of reconciliation based on integrity and transparency. Such patterns of life are essential to the future of the Communion. I hope and pray that Tory’s presence as one of the Six Preachers will play a part in promoting reconciliation and unity among us.”

The Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Dr Robert Willis, said: “In recent times, the Six Preachers have become a significant and diverse group from across the whole Anglican Communion and fulfil a role of preaching and teaching from time to time in Canterbury. We look forward to welcoming Dr Baucum, whose particular gifts will enrich the group still further.”

Dr Baucum said: “I am deeply moved by the honour bestowed upon ACNA and especially the congregation of Truro Church in this appointment by Archbishop Welby to be a Six Preacher of Canterbury Cathedral. I am devoted to Archbishop Welby’s vision for the Anglican Communion and I hope this appointment might help, in some small way, translate that vision into reality.”

About the Revd Dr Tory Baucum

The Revd Dr Tory Baucum is the Rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Virginia, a post he has held since 2007. He holds degrees from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and Asbury Theological Seminary. He also teaches at Virginia Theological Seminary. His areas of expertise include St Augustine, Wesley, homiletics, evangelism and contextual theology. He has ministered and taught in several Anglican provinces and theological colleges, including the Diocese of London, St Augustine’s in Lima Peru and Bishop Barham College in Kigezi, Uganda. Dr Baucum is Chairman of the Board of Fresh Expressions USA and a Board Member of Alpha-USA. He is married to Elizabeth and they have three teenage daughters.

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Saturday, 11 January 2014

Comments continue on the Pilling report

A question about the Pilling report was asked in the House of Commons this week:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What assessment the Commissioners have made of the Pilling report, published by the House of Bishops working group on human sexuality in November 2013; and if he will make a statement. [901874]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): The report was discussed by the House of Bishops in December and its recommendations will be considered by the College of Bishops later this month.

Mr Bradshaw: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the report’s recommendation that parishes should be allowed to offer same-sex couples some sort of blessing would in effect simply formalise what already happens in practice in many Anglican parishes? Does he agree that the vast majority of Anglicans in this country would welcome a more generous approach to long-term, faithful, same-sex relationships?

Sir Tony Baldry: I agree with the principle that everyone should be welcome at the communion rail. The working group did not recommend a new authorised liturgy, but a majority of its members did recommend that vicars should, with the consent of parochial church councils, be able to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service. I am sure that that is one of the issues that the House of Bishops will be considering very seriously in the context of its consideration of the Pilling report’s recommendations.

Rumblings against the report from conservatives at home and abroad continue to appear:

Andrew Symes writes on Anglican Mainstream “in a personal capacity” about 2014: The beginning of facilitated schism?

…Might it be possible that a Happy New Year in the Church of England might see, as this Bishop sees, an honest recognition that the differences over sexuality and underlying doctrinal and philosophical systems are so great that we need to at least talk about separating? Could it be a good thing to walk apart, rather than perpetuating the fiction that we all really believe the same things? And in doing so, could this be done peacefully, with justice, fairness and mutual respect, recognizing that there are still many areas of common interest, such as good administration of buildings insurance and clergy pensions, care for the poor and vulnerable, and the need to preserve the proclamation of the Christian story in society even though we might interpret it differently?

Robert Lundy Communications Officer for the American Anglican Council writes about Crisis Comes to Church of England:

…2013 started with controversial events and ended with more controversy. The Pilling Report, compiled by a special working group on human sexuality from the House of Bishops and released in November, suggested that the church allow “pastoral accommodation” and thus an informal public service for those in civil partnerships. From many Anglicans’ points of view, the document gave much more credence to a liberal view of scripture and was not representative of the church’s long-standing teaching. Sir Joseph Pilling, the report’s namesake, presented the document to the House of Bishops in December. From here the Church of England and entire Anglican Communion will wait to see if the bishops endorse the report or unequivocally repudiate it. The answer could come as soon as January 27th of 2014 when the full House of Bishops meets again…

For the record, the meeting on 27 January is of the College of Bishops, not the House of Bishops. The difference is very fully explained on this page.

This meeting of the College will not be attended by any outsiders other than the eight women clergy who have recently been elected to join them, and Sir Joseph Pilling himself. See this report by Colin Coward: No conversations about us without us:

Changing Attitude England participated in the LGB&T Anglican Coalition conversation last Saturday which agreed to write to William Fittall and others about the College of Bishops meeting on 27 January to discuss the Pilling Report.

The email said that members were unanimous in expecting that openly LGB&T people should be present at all future meetings taking forward the Pilling process, including the College of Bishops meeting planned for January 27. Our presence in the process is important if it is to be given full legitimacy by the wider Church and society.

Mr Fittall replied promptly to say that apart from Sir Joseph Pilling the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops is not inviting anyone to the meeting on 27 January who does not normally attend such meeting. He added that he would draw our note to the attention of Standing Committee members so that they are aware of the general point we make about how the process should now be carried forward…

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Friday, 10 January 2014

Giles Fraser speaks about homophobia and religion

On the BBC Radio 4 programme Thought for the Day, this morning, the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser talked about homophobia.

Thought for the Day - 10/01/2014 - Rev Dr Giles Fraser. (includes link to audio and full transcript)

Part of what he said:

…Of course, it’s not just football that has a problem with homophobia. If anything, it’s more difficult with religion where this attitude towards homosexuality can commonly be presented as having some moral or theological justification. But despite the widespread perception that faith is uniformly hostile to homosexuality, there are a significant number of people of faith who want to offer a minority report that insists being gay is no sort of moral issue – indeed, that the ways in which two adults express their love for each other physically ought to be celebrated as something precious, as something publically to affirm. What makes homophobia so especially wicked is that is traps people into a miserable life of clandestine relationships, continually fearful that they might one day be discovered and exposed for who they really are. Which is why having the guts to make such a public declaration of being gay, thus risking insults and name-calling – and in some countries considerably worse - is such a powerful witness to the truth.

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay” wrote Charles Wesley in a famous hymn about his religious conversion. “I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” He then goes on “No condemnation now I dread”. It was not, of course, a hymn about coming out of the closet, but about discovering and being able to speak the truth about oneself - and how liberating such truth-telling can be.

Nonetheless, these experiences are remarkably similar. “I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses” wrote Gloria Gaynor in a rather different sort of anthem. And St John put it even more pithily: “The truth will set you free.”

And yet, for many, the truth may not necessarily set them free, but might even end up landing them in jail. In Uganda, for instance, a law is about to be enacted in which consensual gay sex can lead to a 14 year term of imprisonment. Indeed, it’s going to be a criminal offense if one fails to report gay people to the authorities. Whereas St John spoke of truth as leading to freedom and release, for others, however, the truth can lead to prison.

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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Baptism Service

Updated Sunday afternoon and evening, Monday morning The update includes a link to the experimental texts.

The Mail on Sunday published this article by Jonathan Petre today: Welby casts out ‘sin’ from christenings: Centuries-old rite rewritten in ‘language of EastEnders’ for modern congregation. The online version is dated yesterday, but was updated early today.

The Mail on Sunday also carries this editorial: Embarrassed Church’s sin of omission.

Edward Malnick writes in the Telegraph: Church of England removes devil from christening service.

The Guardian carries this story from the Press Association: Church of England accused of dumbing down baptism service.

The Church of England issued this statement last night.

Statement on proposal to Synod on baptism service wording
04 January 2014

A Church of England spokesman said:
“The report in the Mail on Sunday (Jan 5) is misleading in a number of respects. The story claims that “the baptism ceremony had not been altered for more than 400 years until it was changed in 1980”. This is the third revision in 30 years.

The Baptism service currently used by the Church of England has been in use since Easter 1998. The wording of the service was amended by General Synod in 2000 and again in 2005.
In 2011 a group of clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool brought forward a motion to the General Synod of the Church of England requesting materials to supplement the Baptism service “in culturally appropriate and accessible language.” Specifically the motion requested new additional materials which would not replace or revise the current Baptsim service but would be available for use as alternatives to three parts of the service.

The Liverpool motion was passed by General Synod and as a consequence the liturgical commission has brought forward some additional materials for discussion by the General Synod at a future date where they will be subject to final approval by the Synod.

At its last meeting the House of Bishops agreed that the additional materials should be piloted and they were sent to over 400 for a trial period which lasts until the end of the April. The texts have no formal status without approval by General Synod.”

David Pocklington of Law &Religion UK comments: Sin + sound bites = Sales?

Update

Miranda Prynne in The Telegraph Church of England accused of ‘dumbing down’ christening service

Sam Jones in The Guardian Church of England’s new baptism service condemned by former bishop

A booklet containing the full experimental additional texts for use in Holy Baptism is available for download: Christian Initiation: Additional Texts in Accessible Language. The booklet also contains guidance on their use, and a comparison with the current Common Worhsip texts. Clergy of the Church of England are reminded that under the provisions of Canon B 5A (Of authorization of forms of service for experimental periods) these experimental texts may only be used in parishes authorized for this purpose by the archbishops.
[h/t Jeremy Fletcher]

Pete Broadbent doesn’t like the proposals: The experimental baptism rite - baptism lite.

Savi Hensman at Ekklesia asks Is baptism being watered down?

Emily Gosden writes in The Telegraph: Sin? People think it’s about sex and cream cakes, says Archdeacon in baptism service row.

Christina Odone comments in The Telegraph: Don’t ditch the devil, he’s done great service to Christianity.

The Church Times report of the 2011 General Synod debate is available: More ‘accessible’ baptism prayers on the cards.

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Friday, 27 December 2013

More on Pilling from Uganda and elsewhere

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda has criticised the Pilling report in his Christmas Message:

…We believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God and trustworthy to tell us the Truth. Unfortunately, some in the Anglican Communion members no longer believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God. That’s why I and other Archbishops from the Global South, Sydney, and the Anglican Church in North America organized the second Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in October in Nairobi. We were altogether 1358 delegates worldwide. These included 169 delegates from Uganda. We are so determined to refuse anything that contradicts the Biblical authority without fear or compromise. I appeal to all Ugandans to join us in this struggle to protect our God given rights.

We are very concerned that our mother Church of England is moving in a very dangerous direction. They are following the path the Americans in the Episcopal Church took that caused us to break communion with them ten years ago.

The Church of England is now recommending that same-sex relationships be blessed in the church. Even though they are our mother, I want you to know that we cannot and we will not go in that direction. We will resist them and, with our other GAFCON brothers and sisters, will stand with those in the Church of England who continue to uphold the Bible as the Word of God and promote Biblical faith and morality…

There is a series of articles on the Pilling report on the Oak Hill Blog which can be accessed from this page.

Forward in Faith North America has issued this Statement on the Pilling Report.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 December 2013 at 11:05pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Jamaica conference and Christian Concern: an update

Updated Christmas Eve

The silence of Christian Concern was broken briefly when, for a short time, a copy of an article supporting Andrea Minichiello Williams appeared there, with the title Questioning a bishop’s duty to “uphold biblical truth and refute doctrinal error” but it was taken down very quickly. But not quickly enough.

The article, originally titled Sad Day for Church of England when Changing Attitude Drives Episcopal Oversight, was written by the Reverend Julian Mann, Vicar of the Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, a parish in the Diocese of Sheffield, and had originally appeared here, and has also been reproduced here.

Richard Bartholomew has updated his earlier article with this new one: Christian Concern’s Jamaica Anti-Gay Controversy Grows.

He writes:

…Certainly, I too thought the comments attributed to Williams were surprisingly virulent, which was why I maintained some caution when I quoted Buzzfeed myself. But if anything was amiss, why hasn’t Williams sought to set the record straight? I see no reason why Feder needs to defend his journalism when his subject has made no complaint of inaccuracy…

…This is the only response that Christian Concern has made on the matter, and it gives no indication that “the stand taken” by Williams has been misrepresented by Buzzfeed or the Independent. And there’s no explanation for why the article has now been removed.

Update

Christian Concern has published this video which contains Andrea Williams Christmas message. There are some generalised indirect references to recent events in this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 22 December 2013 at 4:05pm GMT | Comments (70) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 19 December 2013

More coverage of the Jamaica conference story

Several British newspapers have picked up the story relating to Andrea Minichiello Williams:

Meanwhile, Lester Feder at Buzzfeed has published another article about Jamaica which gives some context to the earlier report: Why Some LGBT Youths In Jamaica Are Forced To Call A Sewer Home.

Update

The Times also has a report, Tom Daley was turned gay by death of his father, claims leading evangelical Christian, but as usual it only available to paid subscribers.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 4:59pm GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Homophobia in the Church of England

Changing Attitude has published two articles relating to this topic:

How the Anglican Communion’s authoritative teaching about same-sex attraction is ignored

Thirty-five Primates of the Anglican Communion met at the Dromantine Retreat Centre in Newry, Northern Ireland, from 20 to 25 February 2005. Section 6 of The Dromantine Communique issued at the end of the meeting concluded with these two sentences:

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

Any action or language which leads to the victimisation or diminishment of people who love others of the same sex is anathema to the Primates of the Anglican Communion. This is the policy of the Anglican Communion and the reason why Andrea Minichiello Williams speech in Jamaica has been so strongly criticised, why Anglican Mainstream’s stance and editorial policy is criticised, and why Primates and bishops in Uganda and Nigeria who support the anti-gay bills and all anti-gay rhetoric is criticised by Changing Attitude…

Is Anglican Mainstream homophobic? A gay evangelical perspective

A gay evangelical, a supporter of Changing Attitude, has written an extended commentary on two articles posted on the Anglican Mainstream web site. Until recently, he and his partner were very committed and active members of a congregation rejuvenated following an HTB plant. To protect both them and the congregation, we are posting this anonymously. The couple is well known to us. The supporter has been motivated by the nature of many posts on the AM website which are, to a gay Christian, deeply offensive.

Anglican Mainstream has a deliberate policy of publishing ‘shocking and offensive’ articles that relate to homophobia – and there is a direct link between articles they publish or link to and support for prejudice against LGB&T people in other parts of the Communion and attempts to legislate against LGB&T people that would result in gay people being jailed for long periods…

Do read both articles in full.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 4:57pm GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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another round-up of comment on the Pilling report

Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream has written for the American Anglican Council: Pilling: What are the Bishops thinking? (scroll down to read item).

In this he quotes at length anonymously, and not approvingly, from letters written by two diocesan bishops about the Pilling report. Of one letter he comments:

…All attitudes to Scripture and methods of interpretation are provisional; all are valid. No-one is a heretic. The church is inclusive of all beliefs. And the model we have used for pushing through the women Bishops legislation without ensuring that opponents are happy with adequate safeguards - could that be the same one about to be used for pushing through the acceptance of same sex relationships in church?

And of the other letter, Symes says:

…But it is alarming that a Bishop can so overtly support the blessing of gay relationships without any concern that this may be violating the Church’s historic understanding and teaching, and without any sensitivity towards his conservative clergy correspondent…

Do read the whole thing, to see what the bishops in question actually wrote.

My own article introducing the Pilling report to readers of The Tablet was published back on 5 December (subscribers only). The full text is reproduced below the fold. The following week a very interesting letter to the editor was published, and this is also reproduced below, with the agreement of its author and of the Tablet editor.

Crisis in the meaning of sexuality 12 December 2013

While Simon Sarmiento (“Let’s talk about sex”, 7 December) attempts a positive appraisal of the Pilling Report on human sexuality, what is disappointing for many is the inability to see a way through the divisive split between heterosexuality and homo­sexuality. For me the flawed nature of the document goes much deeper. While the ­document clarifies several contemporary influences – both psychological and sociological – creating serious sexual deviations in our time, there is total lack of any historical contextualisation. Throughout the modern world, including the monotheistic religions, we assume unquestioningly Aristotle’s psycho­sexual legacy. This is at the root of many contemporary sexually related problems.

For Aristotle, human sexuality was a biological propensity, primarily a male endowment, with the woman serving as a mere biological organism for fertilisation by the male seed. This led to the view that the primary purpose of sex was human ­procreation. As many Catholics will know, this became the sole purpose of Christian marriage at the Council of Trent (in the sixteenth century) and remained so until 1962.

That foundational biological reductionism still haunts the understanding of human sexuality today. Until that foundational deviation is addressed, and a fresh articulation of human sexuality outlined – with an accompanying new sexual ethic – we cannot hope to address in a coherent way the several other specific issues that loom large in our time. The central crisis is not about same- sex marriage or homosexuality. It is about the very meaning of human sexuality itself.

(Fr) Diarmuid O’Murchu, St Albans, Hertfordshire

And finally, as they say, there is this apocalyptic view of the matter: Lament from London: a dying church in England
The Church of England may be doomed, British commentator “Pageantmaster” writes, as it begins debate over the Pilling Report. Hampered by several generations of poor leadership, with bishops chosen for their ability to go along and get along, the Church of England may well surrender the fight in the battle with post-modern culture.

My article from The Tablet of 5 October (I didn’t choose the headline, see also note at bottom)

Let’s talk about sex
05 December 2013 by Simon Sarmiento

The Pilling Report on human sexuality, which was published last week, may not radically alter the Anglican position on homosexuality. But the way it has gone about studying the subject marks a willingness to engage with an issue now more divisive than that of women bishops

According to a covering note from Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu, there is one thing that the Pilling Report on human sexuality is not, and that is “a new policy statement from the Church of England”.

So what is it, apart from a 200-page report, with a 26-page dissenting appendix attached? Well it is certainly thorough, a lengthy response to the need for the Church of England to reflect on human relationships in all their messy complexity.

It was in July 2011 that the House of Bishops announced that it intended “to draw together and reflect upon biblical, historical and ecumenical explorations on human sexuality” and to “offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England … might best be shaped”. Specifically, the Working Group on Human Sexuality, consisting of four bishops (Keith Sinclair of Birkenhead, Michael Perham of Gloucester, John Stroyan of Warwick and Jonathan Baker of Ebbsfleet, but soon translated to Fulham) under the chairmanship of retired civil servant Sir Joseph Pilling, was set up to reflect the wide range of opinion within the Church of England on homosexuality.

After criticism of its heterosexual male make-up, three advisers, including two women, were co-opted. Evidence was taken from a very large number of people, including many who are lesbian or gay, and also some who are transgendered (although the problems of the latter get scant attention in the report).

The first of the report’s 18 separate findings and recommendations is regarded by the authors as the most important: “We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained.” But the rest – which taken together focus on next steps, on the teaching of the Church, and the Church’s pastoral response – propose surprisingly few changes. Nevertheless they are an important step forward in methodology.

Media coverage has focused heavily on the recommendation that clergy should be “free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service”. But the statement does not use the word “blessing” and is immediately qualified by the declaration that “some of us do not believe this can be extended to same-sex marriage”. “Some” here presumably means more group members than the conservative, evangelical Sinclair, author of the dissenting appendix.

The main report goes on to recommend quite clearly that the Church should not authorise any formal liturgy, and refers to the “marking” concession as a “pastoral accommodation”, citing evidence taken from Professor Oliver O’Donovan, who commends the latter concept as “a response to some urgent presenting needs, without ultimate dogmatic implications”.

More fundamentally, the report recommends that the Church of England should now commit itself, both at national level and in every diocese, to a process of “facilitated conversations” on the subject of sexuality, over a period of two years. The report criticises the listening process in England to date as “uneven”, dependent on “local enthusiasm”, and sums it up by saying: “There has been no systematic process of listening involving the Church of England as a whole”. This method carries forward the principle of using external facilitators, which has recently borne so much fruit in the synodical discussions about how to legislate for women clergy to become bishops.

Opposition to homosexuality comes primarily from the Evangelical side of the Church, there being many Evangelicals who support making women bishops but who oppose – at present – any change of policy at all on homosexuality.

However, the report demonstrates that other Evangelical views exist by printing two appendices that discuss the biblical evidence, the dissenting one by Sinclair, and another by David Runcorn, which expresses support for same-sex relationships. There is no doubt that this latter view is gaining Evangelical supporters both within and beyond the Church of England, as contributions from Steve Chalke, Rob Bell and Jim Wallis indicate. But differences of biblical interpretation lie at the heart of this dispute.

Another finding, which says that “the way we have lived out our divisions and same-sex relationships creates problems for effective mission and evangelism within our culture”, gently understates the problem. In the report, considerable evidence is presented of the wide and growing gap between official Church of England teachings and the views of its members, not to mention the general population, and not only in the area of sexuality.

The group does not make any detailed recommendations concerning practical issues raised by the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act. It does suggest that, if the report’s recommendation for a two-year period of reflection is taken up, the statement anticipated next year from the House of Bishops, before the act comes into effect, should be explicitly provisional in nature. Its members also note that the future of civil partnerships is somewhat uncertain, and depends on a further Government consultation.

Reactions to the report from conservative Evangelical groups have been predictably loud and negative. While expressing strong support for the dissenting statement of Sinclair, the Revd Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform, said that he was “deeply ashamed” that the Pilling Report was opening up divisive discussions. The council of Reform declared that the matter was not open to negotiation. The Revd Andrew Symes, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream, wrote that the report, if endorsed by the House of Bishops, would constitute “officially sanctioned apostasy”.

The moderate group Accepting Evangelicals welcomed the report, as did Inclusive Church. Lesbian gay bisexual and transgender groups have given it only a cautious welcome, while expressing regret that it offers so little. Changing Attitude said: “The door has been opened to allow conversations and representations about homophobia, prejudice, ethics, sexual intimacy, blessing of relationships, and pastoral practice in the Church.”

What actually happens to these recommendations depends in the first instance on the bishops, but it seems likely that there will be a strong majority in favour of moving forward with the proposed discussions. Agreement before the end of the two years on the “marking” of same-sex relationships will be much more difficult. By that time, same-sex marriages will be commonplace.

The following week, this note from me appeared on the Letters page to clarify this article:

Your editing of my article about the Church of England’s Pilling Report introduced a confusion between two distinct sections of the report, both written by Bishop Keith Sinclair of Birkenhead.

His 18-page appendix that analyses the scriptural evidence on homosexuality is quite separate from his main 27-page statement of dissent from many (though not all) of the report’s findings which is included in Part 3 of the 220-page document.

Simon Sarmiento

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 December 2013 at 11:53am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Bishop of Chichester comments on homophobic remarks

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has made the following response to the previously published remarks of one of that diocese’s elected lay representatives to the General Synod:

The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

This response is contained within a press release issued by Changing Attitude Sussex, the full text of which is copied below the fold.

PRESS RELEASE BY CHANGING ATTITUDE SUSSEX

SUSSEX MEMBER OF C OF E GENERAL SYNOD ADVOCATES PRISON FOR GAYS

One of the Sussex Diocese of Chichester representatives on the Church of England General Synod, Andrea Minichiello Williams, recently attended a conference in Jamaica to urge the Government to keep the law which criminalises homosexuality. She spoke in derogatory terms about gay people, and peddled the old vicious lie that homosexuals are paedophiles.

She said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and paedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to paedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

The full details of her attack on LGB&T people can be read at www.thinkinganglicans,org.uk.

Dr Keith Sharpe, Chair of Changing Attitude Sussex commented:

Williams’ bigoted outburst amounts to dangerous hatemongering. It is reprehensible and highly irresponsible.

Jamaica is one of the most dangerous places in the world for LGB&T people who suffer homophobic intimidation and violence on a daily basis, including from the police. The brutal murder of gay men is commonplace. The community lives in constant fear and is unable to access the legal and justice systems.

Either Minichiello Williams did not know this, which is culpable ignorance, or she did know it and endorses it, which is sheer wickedness.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the House of Bishops’ report on Human Sexuality have recently called on the Church to repent of its homophobia. And yet here is a Sussex member of the General Synod advocating the vilest form of homophobia in a most terrible cultural situation. What she has said and done is contrary both to the Church’s Christian teaching and to common human decency. She has brought disgrace upon the Church of England and its General Synod as well as the Diocese of Chichester.

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, sought to distance himself from her remarks:

The comments by Andrea Minichiello Williams about the decriminalisation of same sex intercourse in Jamaica have no sanction in the Church of England or the diocese of Chichester. Insofar as such comments incite homophobia, they should be rejected as offensive and unacceptable.

The Christian Church is widely perceived as homophobic and intolerant of those for whom same sex attraction is the foundation of their emotional lives. It is urgent, therefore, that Christians find legitimate ways to affirm and demonstrate the conviction that the glory of God is innate in every human being, and the mercy of God embraces each of us indiscriminately.

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Monday, 16 December 2013

February 2014 General Synod

General Synod will meet in London from 10 to 12 February 2014. The outline agenda was issued today, and is copied below.

One item requires some explanation - the proposal to suspend Standing Order 90(b)(iiii). This appears to be a misprint for 90(b)(iii), which is the standing order requiring dioceses to be given at least six months to respond to a reference of Article 8 business (such as the legislation on Women in the Episcopate). If Synod agrees to suspend this standing order the reference to dioceses can be completed before the July 2014 meeting of Synod, thereby allowing final approval of the legislation to be taken then.

The texts of the private member’s motions and the diocesan synod motions are online.

GENERAL SYNOD: FEBRUARY 2014 GROUP OF SESSIONS

Timetable

Monday 10 February

2 pm – 7.00 pm

2.00 pm Worship
Introductions, welcomes, progress of legislation
Report by the Business Committee
Dates of groups of sessions in 2016-2018
Presentation by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group
Gender-Based Violence: Report by the Mission and Public Affairs Council

Not later than 5.30 pm Questions

Tuesday 11 February

9.15 am – 1.00 pm
9.15 am Holy Communion
10.45 am Women in the Episcopate: Consideration of the House of Bishops Declaration and draft disputes resolution procedure regulations

Legislative Business
Women in the Episcopate: Revision Stage for the draft Measure and Amending Canon

2.30 pm – 7.15 pm
2.30 pm Women in the Episcopate: Continuation of Revision Stage for the draft Measure and Amending Canon

Preliminary consideration of the draft Act of Synod rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod

Motion to suspend SO 90(b)(iiii)

Legislative Business
Church of England (Naming of Dioceses) Measure
Church of England (Pensions) Amendment Measure
Draft Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) (Amendment) Order
Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution

7.00-7.15 pm Evening worship

Wednesday 12 February

9.15 am – 1.00 pm
9.15 am Worship
9.30 am Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Motion on proposed new legislation on Safeguarding

11.00 am Legislative Business
(Any uncompleted business from Tuesday)

Not later than 11.45 am Southwark DSM: Environmental Issues

2.30 pm – 5.30 pm

2.30 pm PMM: Alison Ruoff: Girl Guides’ Promise
PMM: Revd Christopher Hobbs: Canon B 8

Not later than 4.15 pm Pilling Report: Presentation and Next Steps (including Q&A)

Farewells

5.30 pm Prorogation

Contingency Business
Guildford DSM on the Magna Carta

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 December 2013 at 10:35pm GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 December 2013

General Synod member supports Jamaican buggery law

Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion has a comprehensive report of a recent conference in Jamaica, at which one of the speakers was Andrea Minichiello Williams, the founder of Christian Concern, who is also a General Synod member, elected from the Diocese of Chichester.

Christian Concern Founder Urges Jamaica Keep Homosexuality Criminalized.

Activists from the United States and United Kingdom opposed to LGBT rights have urged Jamaican Christian conservatives to resist repealing the country’s buggery law, similar to sodomy laws, by arguing that homosexuality is a choice and connected to pedophilia.

… [Peter] LaBarbera [of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality] and Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern, spoke Saturday at a conference organized by the Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Christian Lawyers’ Association [sic - should be “Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship”] in Kingston.

…During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse…

He continues with some very interesting background information and links about Christian Concern, which are worth studying.

His main source for the Jamaica event is Buzzfeed which had U.S., U.K. Activists Urge Jamaicans To Keep Same-Sex Intercourse Illegal. That report in full:

…During her remarks, Andrea Minichiello Williams of the United Kingdom’s Christian Concern said Jamaica had the opportunity to become a world leader by fending off foreign pressure to decriminalize same-sex intercourse.

“Might it be that Jamaica says to the United States of America, says to Europe, ‘Enough! You cannot come in and attack our families. We will not accept aid or promotion tied to an agenda that is against God and destroys our families,’” she said, adding to applause, “If you win here, you will have an impact in the Caribbean and an impact across the globe.”

She made the case that it is a “big lie” that homosexuality is inborn, arguing instead it is caused by environmental factors like “the lack of the father” and “sometimes a level of abuse.” She illustrated her point with the case of 19-year-old British diver Tom Daley and his reported relationship with American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley, she said, who is “loved by all the girls and had girlfriends,” had “lost his father to cancer just a few years ago and he’s just come out on YouTube that he’s in a relationship with a man, that man is 39, a leading gay activist in the States.”

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse.

“Once you strip away all this stuff, what you get is no age consent … nobody ever enforces that law anymore,” she said. “We already have a strong man-boy movement that’s moving in Europe.”

She also described several cases in which she said people had been fired for their jobs for their opposition to LGBT rights and said people with views like hers are being silenced in the media and intimidated with the threats of hate-speech lawsuits. This was especially true, she suggested, when organizations like hers try to claim a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, she said.

“They hate the line of homosexuality being linked to pedophilia. They try to cut that off, so you can’t speak about it,” she said. “So I say to you in Jamaica: Speak about it. Speak about it.”

She took issue with the notion that advancing such arguments in opposition to expanding legal rights for LGBT people was hate speech. On the contrary, she said, “We say these things because we’re loving, we’re compassionate, we’re kind, because we care for our children…. It is not compassion and kind to have laws that lead people [to engage] in their sins [that] lead to the obliteration of life, the obliteration of culture, and the obliteration of family.”

Box Turtle Bulletin has Peter LaBarbera Wants to Throw You In Prison.

…On this trip he was joined by Andrea Minichiello Williams, founder of United Kingdom’s Christian Concern. She also wants to throw you in prison, and let there be no mistaking that:

Williams warned that removal of Britain’s sodomy law was the start of a process that has led to more and more permissive laws, including equalizing the age of consent laws for homosexual and heterosexual intercourse…

And there is also this news report in The Gleaner ‘Don’t Bow To Gay Pressure’ - Crusaders Urge Jamaicans To Stand By Buggery Law

…Similarly, Andrea Williams, a Christian lobbyist in the legal public policy arena in the United Kingdom, told The Gleaner that family values should be prioritised.

“When we begin to make normal something that is contrary to proper family standards, that is social engineering, and we are in serious trouble, ” she said.

“What Jamaica needs to understand is that the homosexual activists have an incremental agenda; because this is where its starts, by them asking for rights, and then our society’s morals become redefined,” she continued…

…Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has promised to have the Parliament engage in a conscience vote on whether or not to repeal the buggery act…

Savi Hensman at Ekklesia has also written about this, see Sexuality, harm and the language of love. She notes that:

…Jamaica is one of the most unsafe places in the world to be LGBT. In the words of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ 2012 Report on the situation of human rights in Jamaica, they “face political and legal stigmatisation, police violence, an inability to access the justice system, as well as intimidation, violence, and pressure in their homes and communities.”

“In failing to take an active stand against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State is failing to respect and protect the rights of those targeted. Rather, Jamaica’s major political parties have proposed or defended some of the world’s most stringent anti-sodomy laws while adopting homophobic music for their political campaigns,” the report stated. “The IACHR is concerned that laws against sex between consenting adult males or homosexual conduct may contribute to an environment that, at best, does not condemn, and at worst condones discrimination, stigmatisation, and violence”.

At the time of writing, there is no mention at all of this event on the website of Christian Concern.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 December 2013 at 6:00pm GMT | Comments (47) | TrackBack
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Friday, 13 December 2013

Why do Christians disagree?

David Atkinson a former Bishop of Thetford has written an article, originally published in Ministry Today UK, 59, Autumn 2013. but now reproduced by Fulcrum.

Why do Christians disagree?

…So why do Christians disagree? On the legitimacy of divorce and right of remarriage, on abortion, on just war or pacifism, on usury, on contraception, on genetic engineering, on sexuality, on economic priorities, on response to climate change - to name just a few moral and political questions, not to mention doctrines of church, ministry, mission and eschatology.

At one level, of course, disagreements can arise simply because people have different experiences of life and come into contact with different facts about the world which can confront assumptions, challenge previously held views, or harden attitudes. For example, we could think of a woman who senses a call from God into the ordained ministry of the Church. She belongs to a church congregation that has always taken the view that the ordination of women is contrary to Scripture or tradition or to good ecumenical relationships. ‘However’, says someone in that congregation, ‘though I have always been against the ordination of women, because it is you I’m willing to change my mind.’ Or to give another example, we could think of a Christian man who has, for social and theological reasons, always been opposed to homosexual relationships but who gets to know a loving gay couple whose lives display the fruits of God’s Spirit, and who then finds himself forced by that fact to revisit his understanding Scripture or his inherited attitudes to gay people. Sometimes hard facts of experience compel a change of attitude or change of mind.

There is no such thing as uninterpreted experience, and there are other factors that can influence our understanding of ourselves and our interpretation of the facts of our experiences. Some of these other factors give us different ways into the question: why do Christians disagree? Here are five…

Do read it all.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 6:14pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Pilling report: LGB&T Anglican Coalition responds

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition has issued this press release:

Press release in response to the Report from the House of Bishops’ Working Group on Human Sexuality (the Pilling Report)

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition welcomes the publication of The Pilling Report and we appreciate that it was made public so soon.

It is good that the report recognises the diversity of theological views on this issue, including within the Evangelical wing of the Church. We are glad that the report denounces homophobia (though it is not clearly enough defined). We believe that it makes it easier for clergy to bless partnerships publicly and it calls for further discussion to try to discern where the Spirit is leading the church.

It is also good that LGB&T clergy will not face intrusive questioning though they are still asked to promise to abide by a code which would exclude most from the kind of loving and supportive relationship which others can enjoy.

We are disappointed that the Report has only mentioned rather than included transgender people in the discussion, despite submissions from transgender and LGB&T Christian organisations.

We are also disappointed that no liturgy of thanksgiving or blessing is proposed, but overall we are thankful for the working party’s effort. We trust and hope that the report may move the Church of England forward.

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition and its member organisations stand ready to support the proposed facilitated conversations both in Dioceses and nationally. We look forward to being fully included in all steps to help the Church of England find a way forward and we value the Pilling report as a useful contribution to the coming debate.

We are also convinced that there must be a greater openness to, and a wider understanding, of the extensive range of scientific and theological work that has been, and is currently being undertaken on transgender issues and same-sex issues in addition to those relied upon within the report. We believe that what is presented there is insufficient to provide a strong and reliable foundation for the proposed conversations and we trust that these issues will be further addressed in the coming debate.

Mike Dark and John Blowers,
Joint-Chair, LGB&T Anglican Coalition.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 11:25am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 12 December 2013

Still more comments on the Pilling report

Updated Thursday evening

The Council of Bishops of the Society of Saint Wilfred and Saint Hilda have issued this statement:

The Pilling Report: Statement by the Council of Bishops of the Society

The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality (the Pilling Report) is an important piece of work which deserves careful consideration. We encourage our clergy and people to read it and reflect upon it prayerfully.

We note that the Report proposes no change in the doctrine of the Church of England and that its practical recommendations remain, at this stage, recommendations to the House of Bishops.

Those of us who are members of the Church of England’s College of Bishops will be discussing it with other members of the College in January, and we shall also be discussing it at our own meeting in February. We plan to comment more fully after those discussions.

On behalf of the Council
+ TONY PONTEFRACT
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson Chairman

Andrew Symes, Executive Secretary of Anglican Mainstream published The Pilling Report: quick Q and A. The full text is copied below the fold.

Update
The Global South of the Anglican Communion has issued this quite long Statement in response to the Pilling Report.

We are writing to express our serious concerns in regard to the Pilling Report. We know that the House of Bishops of the Church of England will be discussing this and we would like to assure them of our prayers so that the Holy Spirit would guide them to the right decisions.

First, we would like to say that we believe that the church of Christ should not in any way be homophobic or have any kind of phobia. We should follow in the steps of Jesus Christ who embraced all the marginalized of his society; having said that, we must say that we did not read of any homophobic statement from any bishop or clergy in the Church of England. It is sad that anyone who does not support the ministry of gay and lesbians, as well as same-sex marriages, is considered homophobic. Obviously there is a big difference between those who refuse to recognize the presence of homosexuals in the church, i.e. homophobic, and those who do support Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 and do not support the ministry and ordination of non-celibate gay and lesbians, as well as same-sex marriages.

The Pilling Report raises an important question which requires an answer: will the Church of England conform to its context, i.e. will the Church of England allow the society to shape its faith and practice in such a way in order to be acceptable by the society, or will the Church of England recognize that its distinctive mission is to transform the society? …

Anglican Mainstream The Pilling Report: quick Q and A

What is the main conclusion of the Pilling Report?

The legalization of gay marriage has brought an urgency to the question of pastoral care for same sex couples. The church has to be seen to be providing unconditional welcome and affirmation for LGBT people, without officially changing its doctrine. So the Report recommends an informal approach, not reflected in new liturgy, whereby a “pastoral accommodation” allows clergy to pray informally with a couple, asking for God’s blessing. This may be an “act of worship to mark the formation of a same sex relationship” (paragraph 399). The decision to do this should be left to individual clergy in consultation with their PCC.

How will this be viewed in the Church as a whole?

Many Anglicans cannot understand what all the fuss is about, and that of course there should be blessings for gay couples – in fact why not gay marriage as well? But a considerable number of committed faithful Christians in the C of E and in other denominations will be bewildered by the headlines about the report’s conclusions and not understand how fellow believers could warmly welcome and bless something which the Bible says is sin and which the church has never approved of.

How did Pilling come to this conclusion?

Firstly, the report accepts a liberal view of Scripture. All members of the Commission agreed that Scriptural texts about homosexual practice are uniformly negative. The disagreements came over how to interpret this. Standard liberal positions are articulated in the report: either that we’ve interpreted the Bible wrong, or that it is not authoritative, but an optional resource in our ethical decision making. The traditional understanding of how Scripture views sex is given space, but the report insists that this is only one understanding out of many which are equally valid in the Anglican tradition.

Secondly, the report confuses the Gospel imperative to offer hospitality to people and include all in the invitation to come to Christ, with the offering of God’s blessing to ideas and actions which are contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible. The experience and demands of individuals in a particular social context has trumped eternal principles of theology and ethics. This is justified by the liberal argument that all our ideas are provisional and ethereal, but people are real. To paraphrase the famous song: “Don’t know much philosophy, but I do know that I love you…”.

How will the change be brought into effect?

As there is so much controversy and disagreement about homosexuality, the report says we can only move forward with mutual respect by a listening process. This is specifically not a series of debates, but relationship building through “facilitated conversation”, with no predetermined outcome. There is an assumption that this process will be entirely fair, where those who want the church to bless same sex couples and those who feel Scripture and church tradition cannot allow this, can meet and listen to each other in an unthreatening environment. The report does not seem to recognize that the playing field is not level in this process. While the conversation is going on, facts will be created on the ground as same sex relationships are openly “blessed” by clergy according to the report’s own recommendations. Society’s strongly libertarian majority view is heavily endorsing one side of the “conversation”. The choice of facilitators will be determined centrally and are unlikely to be neutral on the issue. Because of this bias and potential for manipulation of the discussion process, it is likely that many orthodox confessing Anglicans will simply refuse to take part.

Why is the church so keen to change its core teachings in this area?

The report believes that by cautiously advocating blessing of faithful permanent same sex relationships, the church can avoid accusations of “homophobia”, and present itself as in touch with the majority view, especially of young people. By asking people with different views in the church to spend time thinking and discussing seriously about sex and the best boundaries to set for it, this might be a form of witness to a culture which wants to rush headlong into an unrestrained “anything goes” sexual ethic.

However commission member Bishop Keith Sinclair’s dissenting statement points out that the church permitting same gender sexual relationships would be an example of “cultural captivity” – trying to appease society, and especially the “politically correct”, powerful secular humanist view of sex and relationships. The report draws a boundary that gay relationships should be “permanent, faithful, stable” but since it has reached a conclusion that Scripture cannot be trusted, there is no explanation of why this boundary should be in place, and why further ground will not be conceded in a short space of time.

The way forward

If the Bishops adopt the report, with its incoherent thinking as outlined above, it will confirm the image of the church to outsiders not as relevant and compassionate, but as wishy washy, unable to proclaim its message to the nation with courage, conviction and clarity. Within the church there will be only increased division and the serious threat of schism. Much better to quietly shelve the report, reaffirm past resolutions on heterosexual marriage as the proper place for sexual relationships, and confidently share the Gospel vision for human flourishing. We will soon hear what has been decided.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 6:09pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Suffragan Bishop of Dudley: Graham Barham Usher

From the No 10 website:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Graham Barham Usher to the Suffragan See of Dudley.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Graham Barham Usher, BSc, MA, Rector and Lecturer of Hexham, in the Diocese of Newcastle, to the Suffragan See of Dudley, in the Diocese of Worcester, in succession to the Right Reverend David Stuart Walker, MA, on his translation to the See of Manchester on 20 November 2013.

Reverend Canon Graham Usher

The Reverend Canon Graham Usher (aged 43), studied ecological science at the University of Edinburgh and then theology at Corpus Christi College Cambridge.

He trained for the ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge. He served his curacy at Nunthorpe-in-Cleveland, in the Diocese of York from 1996 to 1999. From 1999 to 2004 he was Vicar of North Ormesby, Middlesbrough.

Since 2004 he has been Rector and Lecturer of Hexham in the Diocese of Newcastle, serving as Area Dean of Hexham from 2006 to 2011. In 2007 he was made an Honorary Canon of Kumasi in Ghana, the place of his early childhood.

He has a particular interest in biological issues and is currently a Secretary of State appointee to the Northumberland National Park Authority and chairman of the Forestry Commission’s northeast Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committee. In addition he is a lay member of Newcastle University’s biomedicine biobank governance and access committee.

Graham Usher is married to Rachel who is a GP and they have 2 children of school age. His interests include hill walking, drawing, writing and the company of his friends.

The Worcester diocesan website has its own announcement.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 10:28am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014

Yesterday, the Government made this announcement: First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller has announced that the first same sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from Saturday 29 March 2014.

Following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 successfully completing its journey through Parliament in July 2013, the government has been working hard to ensure that all the arrangements are in place to enable same sex couples to marry as soon as possible.

As a result of this work, the first same sex weddings can now happen several months earlier than anticipated, subject to Parliament’s approval of various statutory instruments, to be laid in the new year.

David Pocklington reports today on the details of this, and notes the various further steps required, in Same-Sex Marriage from 29th March 2014?

He then adds the following Comment in relation to the Church of England:

On 9-10 December, the House of Bishops met for two days in York to discuss a wide range of business, including the Pilling Report. The Minister’s announcement that the first same-sex weddings are likely to happen several months earlier than anticipated brings a new urgency to their deliberations on the approach of the Church of England to human sexuality. As noted in the Report, [at paras. 382, 383],

382 […] Moreover, some form of celebration of civil partnerships in a church context is widely seen as a practice that would give a clear signal that gay and lesbian people are welcome in church.

383. This is a question on which our group is not of one mind – not least since a willingness to offer public recognition and prayer for a committed same-sex relationship in an act of public worship would, in practice, be hard to implement now for civil partnerships without also doing so for same-sex marriage (which, like civil partnerships, makes no assumption, in law, about sexual activity).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 9:59am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

House of Bishops agree next steps towards Women in the Episcopate

Today’s press release following this week’s meeting of the House of Bishops includes this paragraph.

As part of their discussion on Women in the Episcopate, the House heard from members of the steering committee on women bishops on suggestions for the next steps in the process. The House agreed the text of a draft declaration and regulations for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure for debate at General Synod in February 2014. The House also agreed to begin at the February Synod the process for rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod so that all the elements of the new package could be agreed by the synod in July 2014.

The full press release is copied below the fold.

Meeting of House of Bishops December 2013
10 December 2013

The House of Bishops of the Church of England met for two days in York on December 9 and December 10. This meeting was the first at which 8 women regional representatives attended the meeting as participant observers with the same rights as Provincial Episcopal Visitors.

Over its meeting the House covered a wide range of business including discussion of women in the episcopate, the Pilling report, the approval of experimental liturgy for Baptism, changes to legislative approaches on Safeguarding and discussion of the Anglican-Methodist covenant.

As part of their discussion on Women in the Episcopate, the House heard from members of the steering committee on women bishops on suggestions for the next steps in the process. The House agreed the text of a draft declaration and regulations for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure for debate at General Synod in February 2014. The House also agreed to begin at the February Synod the process for rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod so that all the elements of the new package could be agreed by the synod in July 2014.

The House discussed and approved proposals for a new governance framework to enable the Church to develop a strategic vision for safeguarding. The House also approved proposed recommendations for legislative changes on safeguarding to be brought to General Synod.

Sir Joseph Pilling attended the House to introduce a discussion on ways to address the recently published report on Human Sexuality, a paper commissioned by the House of Bishops as a report to the House.

Following the mandate from the General Synod in 2011, the House also discussed and gave its support for the experimental use of new additional liturgy for the Baptism of infants and young children. The new texts will be made available for use in January 2014 until April 2014 and will be discussed again by the House during its meeting in May.

The House also received updates on a range of work being undertaken in areas of ministerial education, training and clergy discipline.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 7:40pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Crown Nominations Commission leaks again

Yesterday, Ruth Gledhill published a report concerning the recent Crown Nominations Commission meetings to select a new Bishop of Exeter.

The original report is behind the paywall of The Times but subscribers can find it here.

Much of its content is reproduced in this article in Pink News: Times claims Church of England ‘on the brink of appointing its first openly gay bishop’

…The paper claims the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John, came within one vote of being recommended as the new Bishop of Exeter.
It is thought to be the first time that Dr John has made the shortlist for a diocesan post, although he has been tipped for promotion several times before.
The successful candidate to succeed the Right Rev Michael Langrish as the Bishop of Exeter is to be announced soon.
Although he has missed out on the position, The Times claims Church sources say that it is only a matter of time before Dr John gets a diocesan post.
This year the Church of England dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops. That was the change that allowed Dr John to be considered again after effectively being banned from the episcopacy since 2003.
The Crown Nominations Commission met in October to choose the new diocesan bishop for Exeter. The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who would have had the casting vote in the event of a deadlock.
There are already meetings scheduled to choose the bishops to fill six diocesan vacancies next year. These are Europe, Hereford, Liverpool, Guildford, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Southwell and Nottingham. Besides Europe, Hereford and Guildford also have liberal traditions that might make Dr John an acceptable candidate…

The original article says that this is believed to be the first time the Dean of St Albans has been shortlisted for a diocesan bishopric. But back in 2010, when the bishopric of Southwark was under consideration, the contemporary reports suggest otherwise, see:

Telegraph Jonathan Wynne-Jones Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England

Australian reproducing The Times Gay bishop to divide Anglicans

TA coverage of the ensuing story started here, and ran for a considerable number of subsequent articles during the next couple of weeks.

And in May 2011, the Guardian published Colin Slee’s own account of the matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 10:32am GMT | Comments (40) | TrackBack
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Peter Hancock to be Bishop of Bath and Wells

From the No 10 website:

Diocese of Bath and Wells: Peter Hancock nomination approved

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Peter Hancock, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke, for election as Bishop of Bath and Wells in succession to the Right Reverend Peter Bryan Price on his resignation on the 30th June 2013.

The Right Reverend Peter Hancock

The Right Reverend Peter Hancock (aged 58) read Natural Sciences at Selwyn College, Cambridge and then studied for the ordained ministry at Oak Hill Theological College. He served his first curacy at Portsdown in Portsmouth diocese from 1980 to 1983.

From 1983 to 1987 he was Curate at Radipole and Melcombe Regis in the diocese of Salisbury.
From 1987 to 1999 he was Vicar of Cowplain in the diocese of Portsmouth.
From 1993 to 1998 he was Rural Dean of Havant.
From 1997 to 1999 he was an Honorary Canon of Portsmouth Cathedral.
From 1999 to 2010 he was Archdeacon of Meon in the diocese of Portsmouth.
From 2003 to 2006 he was Diocesan Director of Mission.
Since 2010 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Basingstoke.

Peter Hancock is married to Jane and they have 4 grown-up children, Claire, Richard, Charlotte and William.

His interests include walking, meeting people, travelling and watching sport. He has particular concerns for the environment and the work of mission and development agencies.

The Bath & Wells website has its own announcement.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:39am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 9 December 2013

More analyses of Sharpe v Worcester DBF

Our previous report is here.

The Church Times carried a detailed news report by Gavin Drake but this is available only to subscribers.

Frank Cranmer has published the more detailed analysis that he promised, see Clergy employment and Sharpe v Worcester DBF.

Two other articles have been published:

Philip Jones has written The Removal of an Irremovable Pastor: Sharpe v Diocese of Worcester. He argues that it is impossible for the holder of a freehold office to bring a dismissal claim of any kind in an employment tribunal.

Neil Addison writes that Anglican Vicar May be an Employee.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 December 2013 at 10:52pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Bishops Welcome Senior Women Clergy to their Meeting

The eight elected senior women clergy are attending their first meeting of the House of Bishops this week. The Church of England issued this press release to mark the occasion.

Bishops Welcome Participant Observers to First Meeting
09 December 2013

The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today welcomed eight women as participant observers to its meetings. The welcome follows the election of the eight senior women clergy from regions across the country.

In February of this year the House decided that until such time as there are six female members of the House, following the admission of women to the episcopate, a number of senior women clergy should be given the right to attend and speak at meetings of the House as participant observers. The necessary change to the House’s Standing Orders was made in May.

Elections for the eight senior women clergy were held in autumn of this year and the following were elected:

  • East Midlands - Ven Christine Wilson, Archdeacon of Chesterfield
  • West Midlands - Revd Preb Dr Jane Tillier, Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral
  • East Anglia - Ven Annette Cooper, Archdeacon of Colchester
  • South and Central - Ven Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown
  • South East region - Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney
  • South West region - Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
  • North East - Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
  • North West - The Rev Libby Lane, Dean of Women in Ministry, Chester Diocese

Having taken up their role on 1st December, the two day meeting of the House of Bishops in York on December 9-10 will be the first meeting at which the participant observers will attend.

Left to Right Back Row:
The Ven Rachel Treweek, The Ven Nicola Sullivan, The Ven Annette Cooper, The Ven Joanne Grenfell

Front row:
The Revd Libby Lane, The Revd Jane Tillier, The Very Revd Vivienne Faull, The Ven Christine Wilson

There is a larger version of the photograph here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 9 December 2013 at 8:41pm GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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yet more comment on the Pilling report

The Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, Chairman of the GAFCON Primates, has written an Advent Letter to the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends.

…The Church of England has just released what is known as the Pilling Report, the conclusions of a Working Group commissioned by the House of Bishops to report and make recommendations on issues of human sexuality. I am sorry to say that it is very flawed. If this report is accepted I have no doubt that the Church of England, the Mother Church of the Communion, will have made a fateful decision. It will have chosen the same path as The Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada with all the heartbreak and division that will bring.

The problem is not simply that the Report proposes that parish churches should be free to hold public services for the blessing of homosexual relationships, but the way it justifies this proposal. Against the principle of Anglican teaching, right up to and beyond the Lambeth Conference of 1998, it questions the possibility that the Church can speak confidently on the basis of biblical authority and sees its teaching as essentially provisional. So Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth conference, which affirmed that homosexual practice was ‘incompatible with Scripture’ and said it could ‘not advise the legitimisation or blessing of same sex relationships’, is undermined both in practice and in principle.

The proposal to allow public services for the blessing of same sex relationships is seen as a provisional measure and the Report recommends a two-year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ throughout the Church of England which is likened to the ‘Continuing Indaba’ project. This should be a warning to us because it highlights that the unspoken assumption of Anglican Indaba is that the voice of Scripture is not clear. This amounts to a rejection of the conviction expressed in the Thirty-nine Articles that the Bible as ‘God’s Word written’ is a clear and effective standard for faith and conduct…

Stephen Noll, the retired Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University has written The Pilling Report and the Anglican Communion.

Susannah Cornwall has written Some thoughts on the Pilling Report.

Symon Hill has written Why I’m Not Cheering The Pilling Report.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 9 December 2013 at 12:51pm GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Friday, 6 December 2013

Church Times: Pilling disappoints

Today’s Church Times has a leader about the Pilling report: Pilling disappoints.

THE Pilling report, The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality, adds a shade more civility to the gay debate. It talks of repentance for homophobia, and begins its findings and recommendations with a statement of welcome and affirmation of the “presence and ministry” of gay people in the Church of England. And at various points in the report we can feel the group’s members, or rather most of them, yearning towards a greater liberalism. Its concession, however, that same-sex partnerships might be “marked” in church has been construed as the very least that the group could have recommended. The C of E, if it has the stomach for it, now faces the prospect of two years of facilitated conversations, “conducted without undue haste but with a sense of urgency”, about a move that will be moribund unless it encompasses same-sex marriage, and will do little to convince the gay community, and society at large, that the Church really knows the meaning of the words “welcome” and “affirmation”.

The report was always likely to be disappointing. When it was set up in 2011, the Pilling group’s task was to reflect on the post-Lambeth ‘98 “listening process” and merely “advise the House [of Bishops] on what proposals to offer on how the continuing discussion about these matters might best be shaped”. In other words, it was not being asked about policy, only about process. Even this modest goal of directing how future talks might be modelled proved too difficult, damaged by the fact that one of its number, the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, queried even the continuation of the listening process on the grounds that no further discernment is necessary. His dissenting statement, which, with his appendix, takes up more space than the group’s reflections, is a key factor in the report’s ambivalence. If evidence were needed on the brokenness of the Church on this matter, here it is.

A narrow brief and internal disagreement have made for a tame report, one that is hardly likely to enliven further consultation. Bishop Sinclair does his best to portray it as dangerously radical, but his description of it as undermining the Church’s teaching about homosexuality is inaccurate. The undermining has already happened: the report’s most radical act is to reveal in an official document what is already widely known: that a significant proportion of churchpeople regard that teaching as flawed.

Faced with this gulf between conservatives such as Bishop Sinclair and, say, almost everybody under the age of 30, it is easy to see why the majority in the working group latched on to the concept of “pastoral accommodation” with such enthusiasm. But this merely takes the Church’s ambivalence into a pastoral situation, saying to a couple, in effect: “We agree with what you’re doing, but are too weak to prevail against those who disapprove of you.” This is hardly a convincing response to the missiological challenge that the Pilling report identifies.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 6 December 2013 at 3:27pm GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Pilling Report - more comment

Updated Thursday afternoon

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has published a most helpful summary, putting the report in context: The Pilling Report, the CofE and human sexuality.

Andrew Goddard has written for The Living Church that Divisions Deepen in Pilling.

Update

Anglican Mainstream have published these Pilling report – Dissenting Statement FAQs from the EGGS (Evangelical Group of the General Synod) Committee.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 11:43am GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Pilling Report - Fulcrum responds

Fulcrum has published its Response to the Pilling Report. Fulcrum welcomes much, but not all of the main report. But it also welcomes elements of the Bishop of Birkenhead’s Dissenting Statement, starting with a welcome to

The clear and irenic statement of the church’s teaching that “the proper context for sexual expression is the union of a man and a woman in marriage”. We also welcome the biblical case set out for this vision by the Bishop of Birkenhead in Appendix 3 and would further have liked to see this biblical engagement throughout the whole report.

But do read it all.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 4 December 2013 at 6:13pm GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Monday, 2 December 2013

Pilling Report - more opinion

Updated Monday evening and Tuesday morning

Ekklesia have published several articles
C of E should be more welcoming, sexuality report urges
Think-tank proposes different approach to church sexuality row
Bishops back think-tank call for reconciliation in sexuality debate
and a related paper: Church views on sexuality: recovering the middle ground by Savitri Hensman.

Andrew Symes writes for Anglican Mainstream about The Pilling Report: what it says, what it means, what we should do.

John Martin writes in The Living Church about A Cautious Step Leftward.

David Gillett blogs My reflections on the Pilling report.

Update

Ian Paul blogs The Pilling Report: divisive and damaging?

Jonathan Clatworthy blogs for Modern Church on Pilling on sex: modified rapture, and has written a 5000-word commentary on the report: Pilling’s progress: cairns on a mountain path.

The Sybils have issued a press release,available online here Sybils Christian transgender group respond to Pilling Report, and as a pdf here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 2 December 2013 at 2:09pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Changing Attitude responds to the Pilling Report

Changing Attitude England’s initial reaction to the Pilling Report was published this morning.

Some brief extracts

This report does not herald radical change and does not therefore fulfil the expectations of Changing Attitude. There are no practical proposals which will begin to dismantle the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the maintenance of unhealthy attitudes. The group has met people and listened and the unhealthy attitudes remain unchanged as the report demonstrates…

Changing Attitude is disappointed that the Report deals so superficially with transgender (198) and intersex people (197) despite having received a submission from the Sibyls…

4 Homophobia
The most serious failings of the report are to be found here…

The report doesn’t understand that so-called orthodox, traditional teaching, which is literalist and fundamentalist, using the seven texts as proof texts of God’s judgement against homosexuality, underpin and are the source of prejudice against LGB&T people and personal and systemic homophobia in the Church…

Our Christian conviction is clear – homosexuality is not harmful. Christian homophobia and prejudice is deeply harmful and results in anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide, violence and murder, the result of social prejudice based on false Christian teaching.

The Director of Changing Attitude England has separately published Colin’s reaction to the Pilling Report. [This is an extended version of the text originally linked here.]

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 November 2013 at 11:06am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Friday, 29 November 2013

Pilling Report - opinion

Janet Henderson blogs Pilling - Initial Reactions.

Simon Reader writes for the Westminster Faith Debates: A Blessing in Disguise?

Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, blogs Welcoming Pilling.

Rachel Mann blogs on The Pilling Report and Trans People.

Bishop Alan Wilson offers these Resources for your very own Pilling Report Party.

Dave Young blogs Let’s talk about love not sex: Thoughts on the Pilling Report.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 11:16pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Worcestershire tribunal case is remitted for fresh hearing

We reported on the case of Mark Sharpe, the former Rector of the Teme Valley South benefice (near Tenbury Wells) in February 2012: here, and also here.

This week, the Employment Appeal Tribunal finally issued its judgment in the appeal of this case.

The full text of the judgment can be found here (.doc format) or as a webpage here.

In brief, the EAT made no decision on the substantive issues, but remitted the case to a fresh hearing before the ET in accordance with various legal principles set out in the judgment, some of which depend on other recent cases involving ministers of religion, including in particular this one.

The trade union UNITE issued this press release: Unite calls for clergy employment talks after landmark decision.

Media coverage:

Telegraph Rector to sue church over harassment from parishioners

Birmingham Mail Vicar wins appeal in battle to sue church

BBC Church of England ‘harassed vicar’ case to be heard again

Update

Frank Cranmer has published this analysis: Clergy employment: Church of England rector wins appeal on jurisdictional issue

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 11:15pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Synod Voting on women bishops

The electronic voting results from last weeks meeting of General Synod are now available. They include the vote to proceed with the current proposals to allow women to be bishops (item 11) which was passed by 378 votes to 8 with 25 recorded abstentions.

I have further analysed the votes by house, and added those who were absent and the vacant places on Synod. For this purpose I have used the list of members that was given to members of the press last week.

  For Against Abstain Absent Vacant
Bishops 35 0 1 9 7
Clergy 177 2 5 15 3
Laity 166 6 19 16 5
totals 378 8 25 40 15

Within the category “Absent” it is impossible from the available data to distinguish those who were genuinely absent from Synod at the time of the vote from those who were present but failed to vote or record an abstention.

My raw data is available as a spreadsheet. For each house it lists all members (grouped by diocese etc) and shows how each one voted.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 29 November 2013 at 10:59am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Pilling Report published

Update There is an audio recording of this morning’s press conference by Sir Joseph Pilling here and a video here.

The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality (the Pilling Report) has been published this morning, and can be downloaded from here. Print copies (ISBN: 978-0715144374) are available from Church House Publishing and other retailers.

There is an accompanying press release.

Pilling Report published
28 November 2013
Publication of the Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today published the Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality.

In a statement thanking the working group - chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling - for its report, the Archbishops commented that the report “is a substantial document proposing a process of facilitated conversations in the Church of England over a period of perhaps two years. The document offers findings and recommendations to form part of that process of facilitated conversations. It is not a new policy statement from the Church of England.”

Noting that “the issues with which the Report grapples are difficult and divisive” the Archbishops recognise Sir Joseph’s Pilling’s comment that ‘disagreements have been explored in the warmth of a shared faith’. The Archbishops continue “Our prayer is that the process of reflection that will now be needed in the Church of England, shaped by the House of Bishops and the College, will be characterised by a similar spirit.”

Commissioned by the House of Bishops of the Church of England in January 2012, the working group included the bishops of Gloucester, Birkenhead, Fulham and Warwick. The group invited three advisers to join in the work. They were: Professor Robert Song, The Ven Rachel Treweek and the Revd Dr Jessica Martin.

The report considers the rapidly changing context within which the group undertook its work. It examines the available data about the views of the public in our country over time. The report considers homophobia, evidence from science, from scripture and from theologians. During their work, members of the group not only gathered evidence from many experts, groups and individuals but also met a number of gay and lesbian people, often in their homes, to listen to their experiences and insights.

The report offers 18 recommendations. The first recommendation is intended to set the context for the report as a whole. It warmly welcomes and affirms the presence and ministry within the church of gay and lesbian people both lay and ordained.

Three recommendations look at the report’s proposal for ‘facilitated conversations’, across the Church of England and in dialogue with the Anglican Communion and other churches, so that Christians who disagree deeply about the meaning of scripture on questions of sexuality, and on the demands of living in holiness for gay and lesbian people, should understand each other’s concerns more clearly and seek to hear each other as authentic Christian disciples.

Further recommendations call on the church to combat homophobia whenever and wherever it is found, and to repent of the lack of welcome and acceptance extended to homosexual people in the past.

The recommendations do not propose any change in the church’s teaching on sexual conduct. They do propose that clergy, with the agreement of their Church Council, should be able to offer appropriate services to mark a faithful same sex relationship. The group does not propose an authorised liturgy for this purpose but understands the proposed provision to be a pastoral accommodation which does not entail any change to what the church teaches. No member of the clergy, or parish, would be required to offer such services and it could not extend to solemnising same sex marriages without major changes to the law.

The report notes that the church’s teaching on sexuality is in tension with contemporary social attitudes, not only for gay and lesbian Christians, but for straight Christians too. In relation to candidates for ministry, it recommends that whether someone is married, single or in a civil partnership should have no bearing on the assurances sought from them that they intend to order their lives consistently with the teaching of the Church on sexual conduct.

The report includes a ‘dissenting statement’ from the Bishop of Birkenhead who found himself unable to support all the recommendations made by the group as a whole. The main part of the report is supported and signed by all the other members of the group, including the advisers.

The House of Bishops will discuss the report for the first time in December 2013, and it will be further debated by the College of Bishops in January 2014.

Ends

Note to Editors

The Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality is published today by Church House Publishing in Paperback and Ebook formats (ISBN 978 0 7151 4437 4, 224pp, £16.99) and is also available to view online

http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1891063/pilling_report_gs_1929_web.pdf

http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage,-family-and-sexuality-issues/human-sexuality/pilling-report.aspx

An audio interview with Sir Joseph Pilling is available on https://soundcloud.com/the-church-of-england/the-pilling-report-on-human.

A video of the news conference with Sir Joseph Pilling is avaiallbe on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oghxqZ1AMc4&feature=youtu.be.

The full text of the statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York can be found below

Earlier this month, the Review Group established in 2011 by the House of Bishops under the chairmanship of Sir Joseph Pilling delivered to us its Report.

This is a substantial document proposing a process of facilitated conversations in the Church of England over a period of perhaps two years. The document offers findings and recommendations to form part of that process of facilitated conversations. It is not a new policy statement from the Church of England.

The House of Bishops will be meeting next month and the College of Bishops the following month to consider the Report and decide how such a process might best be shaped. In view of the interest in the Report we have decided that it should be published now, without delay.

As the chair notes in his foreword, the issues with which the Report grapples are difficult and divisive. We want therefore, on behalf of the House of Bishops, to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the members of the group, its advisers and to the staff who supported it, for the investment of time, intellect and emotion that they have made in order to produce such a wide ranging and searching document.

In Sir Joseph’s words their ‘disagreements have been explored in the warmth of a shared faith’. Our prayer is that the process of reflection that will now be needed in the Church of England, shaped by the House of Bishops and the College, will be characterised by a similar spirit.

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis

28 November 2013

I have copied the Findings and recommendations from the report below the fold.

Findings and recommendations

490. Although the recommendations are often regarded as the only part of a report which really matter, they appear at the end of this report for a good reason. The points which follow have been developed after careful thought and argument, and how they were arrived at is as important as their content. They should not, therefore, be read out of sequence but after reading the whole report.

The foundation of our report

1. We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. (Paragraphs 73 –6)

On the next steps for the Church of England:

2. The subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations or a similar process to which the Church of England needs to commit itself at national and diocesan level. This should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. (Paragraphs 55–83, 309–19, 361–4)

3. Consultation on this report should be conducted without undue haste but with a sense of urgency, perhaps over a period of two years. (Paragraphs 83, 364–5)

4. The Church of England should address the issue of same sex relationships in close dialogue with the wider Anglican Communion and other Churches, in parallel with its own facilitated conversations and on a similar timescale. (Paragraphs 323–5, 360, 366–8)

On the teaching of the Church and the missiological challenge:

5. Homophobia – that is, hostility to homosexual people – is still as serious a matter as it was and the Church should repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and should stand firmly against it whenever and wherever it is to be found. (Paragraphs 174–92, 320–8)

6. No one should be accused of homophobia solely for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships. (Paragraphs 186–91, 327–8)

7. The Church should continue to pay close attention to the continuing, and as yet inconclusive, scientific work on same sex attraction. (Paragraphs 193–219, 329–35)

8. Since Issues in Human Sexuality was published in 1991 attitudes to same sex attraction, both in English society generally and also among Christians in many parts of the world, have changed markedly. In particular, there is a great deal of evidence that, the younger people are, the more accepting of same sex attraction they are likely to be. That should not of itself determine the Church’s teaching. (Paragraphs 39–51, 156–73, 336–49)

9. The Church should continue to listen to the varied views of people within and outside the church, and should encourage a prayerful process of discernment to help determine the relationship of the gospel to the cultures of the times. (Paragraphs 304–7, 309–11)

10. The Church of England needs to recognize that the way we have lived out our divisions on same sex relationships creates problems for effective mission and evangelism within our culture, and that such problems are shared by some other Churches and in some other parts of the Anglican Communion. The Church of England also needs to recognize that any change to the Church’s stance in one province could have serious consequences for mission in some other provinces of the Communion. (Paragraphs 85–100, 146–7, 325, 346–9)

11. Whilst abiding by the Church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality, we encourage the Church to continue to engage openly and honestly and to reflect theologically on the circumstances in which we find ourselves to discern the mind of Christ and what the Spirit is saying to the Church now. (Paragraphs 313 –6)

12. Through a period of debate and discernment in relation to the gospel message in our culture, it is right that all, including those with teaching authority in the church, should be able to participate openly and honestly in that process. (Paragraphs 122, 350)

On the Church’s pastoral response:

13. The Church needs to find ways of honouring and affirming those Christians who experience same sex attraction who, conscious of the church’s teaching, have embraced a chaste and single lifestyle, and also those who in good conscience have entered partnerships with a firm intention of life-long fidelity. (Paragraphs 131–5, 328, 386–8)

14. The whole Church is called to real repentance for the lack of welcome and acceptance extended to homosexual people in the past, and to demonstrate the unconditional acceptance and love of God in Christ for all people. (Paragraphs 186–92, 320–3)

15. The Church’s present rules impose different disciplines on clergy and laity in relation to sexually active same sex relationships. In the facilitated conversations it will be important to reflect on the extent to which the laity and clergy should continue to observe such different disciplines. (Paragraphs 371–3)

16. We believe that there can be circumstances where a priest, with the agreement of the relevant PCC, should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so. Some of us do not believe that this can be extended to same sex marriage. (Paragraphs 120, 380–3)

17. While the Church abides by its traditional teaching such public services would be of the nature of a pastoral accommodation and so the Church of England should not authorize a formal liturgy for use for this purpose. The House of Bishops should consider whether guidance should be issued. (Paragraphs 118, 384–8, 391–3)

18. Whether someone is married, single or in a civil partnership should have no bearing on the nature of the assurances sought from them that they intend to order their lives consistently with the teaching of the Church on sexual conduct. Intrusive questioning should be avoided. (Paragraphs 400–14)

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Monday, 25 November 2013

House of Lords debates report on Holistic Mission

We reported back in July on the publication of a report by the ResPublica think tank, Holistic Mission: Social action and the Church of England.

This was the subject of a recent debate in the House of Lords, for which the Hansard record can be found starting here. Alternatively ResPublica has published it as a PDF file.

The speakers were not uncritical of the report. The following passage illustrates:

Lord Elton: …Like my noble friend Lady Berridge, who made a very good speech, I attended a meeting recently in the Jerusalem Chamber, where the final version of the authorised version of the bible was agreed, to hear Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University give a PowerPoint presentation. She gave a most illuminating account of the position, outlook and membership of the Church of England. I strongly recommend that account to my episcopal friends and ask them to distribute it as it was a suitable forerunner to the great declamation by George Carey in Shropshire, which nobody has yet had the bad manners to mention, which warned of the end of the church unless something changed. We now have to look at whether what is being proposed is the right change. A good deal of reservation has been expressed about that, not merely because it puts everything in the hands of one church but because of its rather obscurely articulated union with government. The union of government and church is a very dangerous institution, indeed. If the church is seen to co-operate with the Government, de facto it is not co-operating with the Opposition and it is likely to get all the flak that the Government get for things that go wrong which are not the fault of either of them…

The presentation, Telling the Truth about Christian Britain, mentioned in the above quote can be found as a PDF file on this page.

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Saturday, 23 November 2013

Bishop of Winchester issues update on Jersey safeguarding

The Diocese of Winchester has issued this press release:

22nd November 2013: The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Tim Dakin has today issued the following statement, providing an update on the ongoing Jersey safeguarding inquiries:

“Earlier this the year I commissioned an Investigation into a safeguarding complaint in the Deanery of Jersey, conducted by former High Court Judge Dame Heather Steel. The purpose of the Investigation was to advise me if there was any reason for disciplinary action to be taken against any member of the clergy.

“Dame Heather has informed me that she is finalising her investigation report. However, I have received legal representations from an interested party requiring me to undertake not to release the report to any person. On legal advice I have agreed to comply with the request and this means that I am currently unable to publish the report or provide further information about the representations that have been made.

“What I can state at this point, based on Dame Heather’s findings to date, is that I will not be taking disciplinary action against any member of the clergy in relation to the handling of the safeguarding complaint in question or the subsequent review process.

“The purpose of launching the inquiries in March was to understand fully the handling of the original complaint and to learn lessons for the future. I am all too conscious that questions remain about safeguarding best practice as well as the effect that this issue has had on Jersey’s relationship with the rest of the Diocese. I believe Bishop John Gladwin’s Visitation will help in the long-term, but in practice I feel that more immediate steps must now be taken in order to achieve progress.

“Given the current circumstances, and in order to move us forward, I have sought the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury to initiate a pastoral visit to the Channel Islands, so that a fresh perspective can be taken on safeguarding. The visit will be conducted next month jointly by the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, and the Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, and has the Archbishop of Canterbury’s full support. Bishop Trevor is a former Bishop of Basingstoke and so I feel his previous knowledge of the Channel Islands will be of significant benefit. On the visit, the Bishops will meet with local church leaders and Island authorities from both Deaneries, in order to help understand how the current situation may be progressed. Their visit will enable further conversations to be held which I am sure will benefit the Islands and the wider diocese. They will report back to me by the end of the year.

“I am informing the Dean and Lt Governor of Guernsey of this as well. Although some of what has led to this proposal has more directly arisen on Jersey, the Islands will be bound to have many common interests in both the process and the outcome, and I wish them to be fully engaged in the relevant actions and interactions.

“In all of this, the victim at the heart of the original complaint should not be forgotten. As a Church, we are called to reach out to the least, the last and the lost, even though at times they may reject the help we offer. In HG’s case, that rejection has been entirely understandable, given how she sees her experience of the Church of England. A number of people across the Diocese have been working hard to find a way of helping that could be acceptable to her. Having sought expert advice from health professionals and specialist charities, we have made provisions to help support HG, through a third party. We pray that she will be able to accept what is being offered.

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News from the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda

See our report of September 2010 about the formation of this organisation.

The organisation now has a redesigned website.

The front page says:

The Society is an ecclesial body, led by a Council of Bishops. The purposes of the Society are:

  • to promote and maintain catholic teaching and practice within the Church of England
  • to provide episcopal oversight to which churches, institutions and individuals will freely submit themselves
  • to guarantee a ministry in the historic apostolic succession in which they can have confidence

The Society is supported by Forward in Faith and administered by its Director.

A letter has been sent to all its supporters, which can be read as a pdf here. The full text is copied below the fold.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
18 November 2013

Dear Supporter,

This letter comes to you because you have sent in a form or an email to express your support for the Society. To those who did so quite some time ago I apologise that this will be the first communication that you have received.

The Society is intended to address a situation that does not yet exist and, following the failure of the Women Bishops Measure last November, will not exist for two or three years at least. This has given us more time to make preparations, and has made the announcement of detailed plans somewhat less urgent. It also means that the precise context for the Society’s life, and therefore the precise shape that it will need to take, are not yet clear.

The last three years have been years of change and growth. We are delighted that in some dioceses and regions the Society has come to life locally and given a new identity to those are committed to the catholic faith and catholic order as the Church of England received them. The increase in the number of ordination candidates from our tradition is a heartening sign. The consecration of the present Bishops of Richborough, Fulham, Beverley and Ebbsfleet in 2011 and 2013 has also given encouragement – not least to their fellow bishops.

We have been meeting regularly as the Council of Bishops of the Society, consulting with leading representatives of the Catholic Group in General Synod and the Catholic Societies, as well as with our retired brother bishops, and laying plans for the future. I write now to share some of these plans with you. Further news will appear in due course on our re-designed website: www.sswsh.com

The Council of Bishops is working closely with the Catholic Societies. We look to the Additional Curates Society, for example, to take a lead in vocations work and support for parishes, and to the Church Union to develop resources for education and catechesis.

On the original website we explained that the Society would not itself be ‘yet one more Catholic society’. Instead, the vision was and is that it will become ‘an Ecclesial Body’. We said that, because it costs nothing to join the Church, there would be no subscription fee, but that we would invite those who could afford it to make a small financial contribution to administrative costs.

This would have required the creation of a new organization with charitable status, and a new administrative structure to support it. We have concluded that this is not necessary. Forward in Faith already exists as a charity whose Constitution gives it ‘power to seek an ecclesial structure which will continue the orders of bishop and priest as the Church has received them and which can guarantee a true sacramental life’. The Society will be that ecclesial structure, and once women have been ordained to the episcopate in the Church of England, Forward in Faith’s main purpose will be to support it. Already, the new Director of Forward in Faith, Dr Colin Podmore, is acting as Secretary to the Council of Bishops, and necessary costs (such as the cost of developing the new website) are met by Forward in Faith.

So there is a distinct contrast between Forward in Faith, as a membership organisation, and the Society, which is an ecclesial body. Membership of the Society is not gained by subscription but through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, and the consequent practice of Christian discipleship. This discipleship is lived out in the conscious decision to identify oneself with the teaching and practice of the bishops of the Society and the priests and people who look to them for sacramental and pastoral provision.

We envisage the Society and Forward in Faith as two sides of the same coin: the same people – structured as an ecclesial body led by bishops for the sake of mission, sacramental ministry and pastoral care; structured also as a democratically-run charitable organization, offering advice, support, advocacy and, where necessary, defence.

When he commissioned Dr Podmore for his new role back in April, the Bishop of Fulham described Forward in Faith as ‘the Marmite among ecclesiastical organisations, loved and loathed in equal measure’. Like the catholic movement as a whole, it too has undergone significant changes. Its Chairman (the Bishop of Fulham), Vice-Chairman (Dr Lindsay Newcombe), Secretary (Fr Ross Northing) and Director have all taken up office in the last three years.

Many of the recipients of this letter have long been members of Forward in Faith – some since its inception. Others have, in the past, stood back from joining what has necessarily been a campaigning organization. The same is true of the members of the Council of Bishops. Some have been members of Forward in Faith for a very long time, while others have joined only in recent months.

All of the bishops of the Society are now members of Forward in Faith, and we encourage all those who see the Society as the context for their future life in the Church of England to help build up and finance the necessary support structure by joining Forward in Faith. A membership form is enclosed with this letter and we would encourage you to consider joining so that we can continue to resource the important work of our part of the Church and make a positive contribution to the Church of England.

Our other immediate request is for your prayers. Please pray for us, your bishops, as we seek to discern the future that God wills for us as a Society within the Church of England. As a focus for your prayers, a prayer card is also enclosed with this letter.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson
Bishop of Pontefract
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
+ GLYN BEVERLEY + JOHN BURNLEY + MARTIN CICESTR:
+ JONATHAN EBBSFLEET + PETER EDMONTON + JONATHAN FULHAM
+ MARK HORSHAM + NORMAN RICHBOROUGH + LINDSAY URWIN
+ ROGER JUPP

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Homophobic bullying in the CofE: responses

Anglican Mainstream has published a lengthy statement, apparently in response to information about what the Church of England is doing to combat homophobic bullying:

All bullying is wrong but C of E and Church Schools “should not promote Stonewall”

It is right that the Church of England should address issues of bullying and make schools ‘safe’ places for all children and young people. However, we are astonished that Stonewall has been chosen to deliver this service…

Changing Attitude has responded to Anglican Mainstream:

Anglican Mainstream’s homophobia

Anglican Mainstream has issued a statement criticizing the Church of England for working with Stonewall to target homophobic bullying in Church Schools.

The statement is a prime example of the homophobia that is institutionally present in the Church of England. Homophobia is personal or institutional prejudice against lesbian, gay and bisexual people rooted in a conscious or unconscious irrational fear of, aversion to, dislike of or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals (see dictionary definitions at the end)…

Read both articles in full to comprehend them.

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Homophobic bullying in the Church of England

Questions about this were asked on Monday evening. This topic had also come up last July, and indeed the preceding November.

This time it went like this:

Question 57
Dr Rachel Jepson: Which resources does the Board of Education recommend to be used with both staff and students in all Church of England schools to address LGBT bullying?

Bishop of Oxford: The Board does not generally recommend resources to schools except those produced by itself. In this case the Board is overseeing a project to produce materials for Church schools to help them to combat homophobic bullying within the framework of Christian values and belief. The project consultant is currently writing materials prior to their being piloted in schools over next term.

Dr Rachel Jepson: What is the timescale for the project to which you referred and who is the project consultant who is writing the materials and what is their relevant expertise, please?

Bishop of Oxford: We have gone to someone who has been deeply involved in producing material in a particular diocese, so we do know we’ve got someone of expertise there, she has that previous track record. Precisely what timescale is, and indeed the name of the person, has escaped me, but I’ll make sure that you know.

Mr Robin Hall: In his July presidential address, the Archbishop of Canterbury pledged to use - and I quote - the best advice we can find anywhere. As Stonewall is the leading charity committed to tackling homophobia, is the consultant working closely with Stonewall, to make the most of their experience and expertise?

Bishop of Oxford: Stonewall is indeed involved, as one of the consultants, and other organisations too, with a good track record in this field. We are committed to having the very best consultants and experience that we can get.

Question 58
Mr Robin Hall: Given the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call in July for a “a commitment to stamp out” homophobic bullying in Church of England schools, what work has been undertaken to log or track the number of incidents of homophobic bullying in our schools?

Bishop of Oxford: There is no national collection of statistics regarding bullying in schools and the Board of Education doesn’t have the capacity at this time to engage in such a survey. The Board’s approach is rather to resource teachers and governors to create a strong anti-bullying culture with a specific focus on homophobic bullying.

Mr Robin Hall: As you know, schools are already obliged to report the number and type of bullying incidents each term, so this data I believe is readily available. If we don’t understand the scale of the problem, how will the Archbishop’s campaign to tackle homophobic bullying be targeted, and how will we know if it has been a success?

Bishop of Oxford: This will I hope come out of the work that’s being done by the group that’s looking into this, and if there is further action that the Board needs to take then obviously we’ll be ready to take it.

Mr John Ward: Would the Board take into account the useful debates in this place in February 2007, including the motion passed, proposed by The Reverend Mary Gilbert, which affirms that gay and lesbian Christians are full members of this church without reservation, and would the Board think that might be useful in its reflections on how we tackle homophobic bullying?

Bishop of Oxford: The Board is indeed fully committed to there being no homophobic bullying in any of our church schools. This is a very clear commitment that we have made, and we are not going to renege on it.

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Women in the episcopate – next steps

David Pocklington has published an extremely useful article on the Law & Religion UK blog: Women in the episcopate – next steps. He writes, in the context of Wednesday’s vote, that “In the shadow of the vote, it is easy to forget exactly where one is in the legislative process of the new Measure and revised Canon”, and goes on to explain that Wednesday was just the first of several stages in this process.

He also writes about Women bishops in the House of Lords, and the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847 and the Bishoprics Act 1878,

Do read it all.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 22 November 2013 at 11:40am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Church Commissioners' Questions - Women Bishops

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, answered questions in the House of Commons yesterday on Women Bishops, Recruitment of Clergy, Credit Unions, and Metal Crime.

Here is the exchange on women bishops.

The hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Women Bishops

2. Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): What progress has been made by the General Synod of the Church of England on legislating to enable women to enter the episcopate.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): Yesterday, the General Synod voted by 378 votes to eight, with 25 abstentions, to approve a new package of proposals that will enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

Andrew Stephenson: This is obviously very welcome news. Can my hon. Friend give us an idea of the likely time scale for the introduction of the change?

Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend is right; this is very welcome news. As a result of the vote yesterday, I am confident that this House will have an opportunity to pass the necessary legislation in the lifetime of this Parliament.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): While I of course welcome the progress that has been made, may I point out that if the same arrangements were put in place for a black bishop’s leadership to be challenged and for the case to be taken to an ombudsman, there would rightly be outrage?

Sir Tony Baldry: I am not entirely sure what point the hon. Lady is trying to make. The proposals put forward by the General Synod have had overwhelming support. If she looks at the figures, she will see that they have complete support throughout practically the whole of the Church. Perhaps she would like to discuss her concern with me outside, because I do not really understand the point she is trying to make.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I, too, welcome the fact that the Church has at long last made progress on the matter of women bishops. I know that my hon. Friend has seen the report by Professor Linda Woodhead entitled “Telling the truth about Christian Britain”, which makes rather depressing reading for those of us who are members of the Church. Is he confident that the Church can now move on from these endless internal debates and start preaching the gospel and working for the good of society?

Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend makes a good point. The sooner we can resolve the issue and have women deacons, priests and bishops in the Church of England, the sooner the Church will be able to move forward and fulfil its broader national ministry.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): After the disappointment of last year, this is indeed welcome news. Perhaps those members of the clergy who still have reservations—I hope that they are few in number—should come to the House of Commons and see the exhibition in the Admission Order corridor showing the struggle that women had to get the vote and the right to be elected to the House. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, now that the Church of England is taking this welcome step, other religions and faiths that discriminate against women—I could list them, but I will not—should follow the same path?

Sir Tony Baldry: May I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that it is slightly more complex than he suggests? Some of those who are opposed to women bishops are themselves women. They are conservatives and evangelicals who have theological objections because they believe in male headship. I do not think that we can necessarily castigate people who are against women bishops as being against women. The good news is that we now have a way forward that will enable us to have women bishops—I hope by the end of this Parliament.

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): The congregation of the Church of England has been in headlong decline for a long time, and that is continuing. How likely is it that that trend would be reversed were the Church of England by some chance to pursue its existing policy of barring women from being bishops, which most people think is redolent of a past era?

Sir Tony Baldry: I am glad to say that a large number of parishes are growing. The Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear that his primary mission is growth. We want to see the Church of England grow. Hopefully, now that we have resolved the issue of women bishops, everyone in the Church of England and everyone who supports it can focus their intention on that growth.

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Prime Minister's Questions - women bishops

The Prime Minister was asked about women bishops at Question Time in the House of Commons yesterday.

Q3. [901147] Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): General Synod is meeting today and hopefully will find a way to enable women as soon as possible to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England. If this is successful, will my right hon. Friend and the Government support amendments to the Bishops Act to ensure that women bishops can be admitted to the House of Lords as soon as possible rather than new women bishops having to queue up behind every existing diocesan bishop before we can see women bishops in Parliament?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend follows these matters closely and asks an extremely important question. I strongly support women bishops and hope the Church of England takes this key step to ensure its place as a modern Church in touch with our society. On the problem he raises—there is, of course, a seniority rule for bishops entering the House of Lords—the Government are ready to work with the Church to see how we can get women bishops into the House of Lords as soon as possible.

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Statements following Synod vote on women bishops

Updated

Catholic Group in General Synod

Statement from the Catholic Group in General Synod following the Debate on Women Bishops

The Catholic Group welcomes the new atmosphere of trust and reconciliation, together with the clear recognition that our theological convictions will continue to be within the spectrum of Anglican teaching, and the commitment to provide appropriate bishops and priests for our parishes.

We urge all involved to take steps to build up further the atmosphere of trust, which is why many of us have voted for the new legislative process to continue.

Issued by Martin Dales on behalf of the Catholic Group.

WATCH

A year on; Synod November 2013 much more positive
Posted on November 20, 2013

The new Women in the Episcopate legislation passed in General Synod today with those in favour 378, those against, 8 and with 25 abstentions.

The Revd Charles Read a Vice Chair of WATCH said, “This is very good news for the full inclusion of women alongside men at all levels in our Church. We eagerly look forward to the consecration of several women as bishops as soon the legislation has completed its passage”.

WATCH was very encouraged by the tone of the debate and the result of the vote which was overwhelmingly positive. Although there is still some way to go before final legislation is passed, WATCH remains fully committed and engaged with the process which will finally enable women to become bishops.

The Revd Anne Stevens, a Vice Chair of WATCH commented, “What a difference a year makes. For the last 12 months people on all sides of the debate have worked closely together on the new provisions, and we saw the fruits of that in today’s very positive and good-humoured debate. I hope that that spirit of co-operation will continue to grow as the legislation goes through the approval process.”

There is also this statement released by Reform on Monday which is still relevant.

Pre-Synod Statement: Rod Thomas explains his thinking going in to the Nov. 2013 General Synod
Posted on 18 November 2013

The approach taken by the Legislative Steering Group was to tie its discussions fairly tightly to the terms of last July’s General Synod motion. This meant that some issues which have always been regarded as important by those arguing for better ‘provision’ were not covered (eg issues of jurisdiction). Nevertheless, within those confines, members of the Group were listening to each other carefully and seeking to respond positively. The end result was a balanced package of proposals which show more sensitivity to the needs of those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops than those in the previous draft Measure. However, key issues remain unresolved. These include the issue of jurisdiction, the rights of individuals, difficulties over enforcement, and the nature of the oath of canonical obedience. While we are prepared to see the proposals going forward for further Synodical consideration, as the most practicable way forward in our present circumstances, it is important to be clear that if major concerns remain at final approval, we will not support them. We will continue to engage positively in Synodical discussions in order to achieve an outcome that is fair to all.

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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

General Synod - Wednesday

This page will be updated during the day

General Synod has started its debate on the latest proposals to allow women to be bishops on Wednesday. I linked to all the papers here.

Order paper for the morning’s business

Sam Jones has previewed the debate for The Guardian Women bishops debate resumes at Church of England synod.

Speech by the Bishop of Rochester introducing the debate: Bishop of Rochester introduces Women Bishops debate

At the end of the debate Synod passed the motion before it:

That this Synod, welcoming the package of proposals in GS 1924 and the statement of principles endorsed by the House of Bishops at paragraph 12 of GS 1886, invite the House of Bishops to bring to the Synod for consultation in February a draft declaration and proposals for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure which build on the agreement reached by the Steering Committee as a result of its facilitated discussions.

There were 378 votes in favour and 8 against. 25 members recorded an abstention.

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

After lunch Synod voted to revise the draft measure and canon in full Synod, rather than in a revision committee.

The CofE issued this press release: Synod votes to approve next steps for women bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this statement: Female bishops: Archbishop Justin’s statement

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

Press reports and comment on the morning debate

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England approves female bishops plan
John Bingham The Telegraph Church of England votes overwhelmingly for women bishops
Liz Dodds The Tablet Revitalised CofE Synod clears major hurdle in passing women bishops legislation
BBC News Church of England synod vote ‘paves way’ for female bishops
Madeleine Davies and Gavin Drake Church Times Synod endorses new women-bishops package
Adam Withnall The Independent Breakthrough? Church of England moves step closer to women bishops as General Synod backs new proposals
Andrew Brown The Guardian Synod’s vote for female bishops allows resistance to flourish another day
Jemima Thackray The Telegraph Women bishops: Today I’m proud to be a member of the Church of England

There is also this in The Telegraph by John Bingham Church’s General Synod - what is it for?

——————

Church Society issued this press release on Tuesday: Church Society prays for a mutually respectful way forward on women bishops. This is copied below the fold. We have previously published comments from Affirming Catholicism, Forward in Faith, and Catholic Group, FiF and WATCH

Church Society prays for a mutually respectful way forward on women bishops

Church Society is dedicated to promoting and strengthening the evangelical and reformed foundations of our Anglican faith within the Church of England. We remain convinced that the best way forward on the issue of women bishops is one where those who are not persuaded from scripture of the necessity of the proposed changes continue to be able to flourish in the Church. We are therefore delighted that the new legislative proposals before General Synod this week do acknowledge that this view is “within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion” and that for those who hold to the classic and historic view, “the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures.”

There are various issues that need to be ironed out in the new proposed legislation for this to be a truly credible and reliable statement, and for the gospel to flourish within the Church of England. Some helpful, positive steps have been taken, not least in developing a mandatory grievance procedure, though significant worries remain for those who are not content to acknowledge the spiritual oversight of women bishops in good conscience. Many also find it difficult to believe that their ministry is valued or encouraged when, unfortunately, there are currently no serving evangelical bishops who hold to the classic and historic teaching on this subject. We are also concerned that any new bishops should be orthodox and faithful to our Anglican formularies such as the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, which officially and legally function as our doctrinal foundation and guide in ministry, and that trustworthiness here should be given a higher priority in selection criteria. Just as Her Majesty the Queen promised 60 years at her coronation to maintain and defend “the true profession of the gospel… the Protestant Reformed religion”, so also, we believe, should all our bishops.

We are committed to praying for the current process and for those (including many members of Church Society) who have been involved in the synodical debates on this issue for many years now. Our earnest prayer is that a way may be found for us to go forward together with integrity and transparency, for the sake of our witness to the truth of the gospel and the good of our nation. If it is true that the Church of England is in danger of dying out within a generation, then it is urgent that we do not lose, hinder, or discourage the evangelistic dynamism of conservative evangelical clergy or children’s and youth workers, who do so much to reach the peoples of Britain for Christ.

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

General Synod - Tuesday

This page will be updated during the day

Overnight news and comment

Editorial in The Guardian Church of England: Mission impossible
Graeme Paton Telegraph Anglican schools ‘not dominated by middle-class pupils’
John McManus BBC News Church and Stonewall to target homophobic bullying
Nick Baines Approach to Synod

Order paper for Tuesday

Live video

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

The contingency business (not in the order paper) was taken before lunch, and this motion was passed.

That this Synod call on the Archbishops’ Council to introduce legislation to enable dioceses of the Church of England to be named by reference either to a city or substantial town or to a geographical area

After lunch the Archbishop of York gave his presidential address.

This was followed by a debate on church schools. This was opened by the Bishop of Oxford with this speech.
Press release on this debate: Synod affirms CofE’s crucial involvement with schools

The final item of business was a motion from the diocese of London calling for a review of the workings of synod: Review on workings of synod rejected.

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

Nick Baines comments on today’s business: Prophetic imagination.

There are these two report of the Archbishop of York’s address:

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England must end internal arguments, says archbishop of York
Gavin Drake Church Times Take action to help the ‘new poor’, says Sentamu

Audio recordings of the sessions are available here.

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Guildford diocese: interim guidelines about prayers after same-sex marriage

Some time ago, the Diocese of Guildford published material on its website in the section on diocesan marriage regulations, concerning Civil Partnerships, Requests for Prayer.

This month, the diocese has published an addendum to that page (scroll down on link above), which is titled Interim Update on Civil Partnership and Same Sex Marriage. The text of this addendum is reproduced below the fold.

This update has already provoked criticism from Andrew Goddard, see A Pastoral Response to Same-sex Civil Marriage?

Interim Update on Civil Partnership and Same Sex Marriage

What is said in the current Regulations about Civil Partnerships remains the case. Government is committed to a consultation on the future of Civil Partnerships in the light of the Same Sex Marriage Act, but they remain on the statute book for the time being and may so remain. The House of Bishops and the General Synod will discuss the Pilling Report on Civil Partnerships in 2014. This is bound to take account of the Same Sex Marriage Act. For the time being however, until this wider debate takes place and unless policy then changes, what is said in the Regulations covering Civil Partnerships still holds.

However, from the time when the Same Sex Act [sic] comes into force (expected Summer 2014), clergy may well be approached for prayers after a civil marriage of persons of the same sex. The Bishops of the Church of England will be discussing this, informed by the Pilling Debate, during 2014. In the interim, the Bishop of Guildford and the Suffragan Bishop of Dorking consider that the same principles should apply as to similar requests after Civil Partnerships, noting that civil same sex marriage cannot actually take place until after the Act comes into force (as above).

In the current Regulations, it is noted that there is a distinction between marriage as the Church understands it (heterosexual) and civil partnerships. So clergy may pray pastorally with, and for, a same sex couple after a Civil Partnership if they consider it to be an authentic Christian relationship. Nevertheless, this should not purport to be marriage or to use the language of the Marriage Services.

On the same principle, while noting that Church and State have now diverged in the understanding of marriage, it would be appropriate for clergy who conscientiously judge a same sex Civil Marriage to be an authentic Christian relationship to similarly pray with, and for, such a couple. Because the teaching of the Church remains that this is not marriage, the texts of the Marriage Services should not be used. An additional reason for avoiding Marriage Service language in this instance, is that in law a Civil Marriage has in fact taken place and the Church should do nothing to put in question the legal position of the couple as married according to Civil Law, which could be inferred by supplemental material from the Church of England Marriage Services, which are themselves also ‘legal’ texts.

In agreeing to a request for pastoral prayer, the clergy person concerned will need to make the Church’s position clear in terms of its teaching about marriage, as the Church has historically understood marriage. But this does not imply a grudging or negative view of the couple: the clergy person should respect the positive values of fidelity expressed in the vows the couple have made in a Civil Marriage, even if the Church believes this is, in reality, a distinct and different relationship from Christian Marriage as traditionally understood.

Nevertheless, there is no legal or canonical obligation for any clergy person to agree to requests for pastoral prayer, should any clergy person feel constrained in conscience to abstain, or if they judge the relationship not to be appropriate.

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Monday, 18 November 2013

General Synod - Questions about the Pilling report

Updated
The supplementary questions and answers have now been transcribed from the audio recording.

All the Questions can be read in this file.
Answers were given to all these (except some that were for Written Reply only) during the Monday evening session.

Several questions were asked about the Pilling report, to which the Archbishop of Canterbury made replies.

The Very Revd Andrew Nunn (Southwark) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q39. When will the report of the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling be published?

Answer: Soon.

Dean of Southwark: And I appreciate the economy of that answer. But given that the report is potentially so important for the life and mission of the church, how soon?

Archbishop of Canterbury: I can confirm that the Pilling group has completed its work as you say in the… as we all know. Synod members may be reassured that “soon” means “not very long” or “fairly imminently”, but not “very soon”.

Mr Gerald O’Brien (Rochester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q40. Will the House of Bishops give Synod an assurance that when the Pilling Report is published, it will carry a suitably prominent statement to the effect that any proposals or recommendations the report contains are not the official position of the Church of England unless and until they are endorsed by a vote of the General Synod?

The Revd John Cook (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q41. Can the Synod be assured that, if the House of Bishops having considered the Pilling Report are minded to make any changes to the Church of England‟s position on human sexuality, it will ensure Synod is given an opportunity to debate these matters before any changes are brought into effect?

The Revd Jonathan Frais (Chichester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q42. Given General Synod’s resolution of 1987 saying that adultery, fornication and homosexual acts are to be met with “a call to repentance”, what steps will be taken to make clear that the Pilling Report, when it is published, has not replaced this stance unless and until the General Synod itself so resolves?

Answer to questions 40. 41, and 42:

I can confirm that the Pilling Report will be a document which will offer findings and recommendations from the members of the group for the Church of England to consider. It will not be a new policy statement from the Church of England. That will be made quite clear when the Report is published.

It is premature at this stage to speculate about any decision making process at the end of the period of discussion and reflection initiated by the report’s publication. Who has the authority nationally to determine any particular issue in the Church of England always depends on the nature of the decision. Clearly if there were any question of looking again at the motion passed by the Synod in 1987 that would be a matter for the Synod.

Mr John Ward: Given our useful discussions on Saturday in York last July, before any vote by the General Synod on Pilling, would the House encourage the Business Committee to find time for facilitated discussions on this subject?

Archbishop of Canterbury: Thank you Mr O’Brien [sic] that’s a very helpful suggestion, and I am sure the House will consider it.

WRITTEN REPLY
Mrs Penelope Allen (Lichfield) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q43. Is the House considering tasking the Liturgical Commission with the preparation of suitable liturgy for the blessing of civil partnerships in church?

Answer: No.

WRITTEN REPLY
Mrs Penelope Allen (Lichfield) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q44. What progress has been made by the group established by the House to advise it on human sexuality in producing its report and, when it is produced, is it intended that it should be the subject of debate at the same time as the private member’s motions on the Public Doctrine of Christian Marriage and Registration of Civil Partnerships?

Answer: The Pilling Group has now completed its work. Its report will be published soon. It will be for the House of Bishops and the Business Committee to consider how best the report might be handled synodically given the motions already awaiting debate. Both bodies meet next month.

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General Synod - Monday business

Order paper 1

Questions order paper

Archbishop Justin’s presentation to the General Synod

Press Release: Archbishops address Synod on first day of November sitting

After a debate on Intentional Evangelism this motion was passed.

That this Synod in the light of the priority of evangelism and making new disciples:
(a) support the formation of an Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism with the terms of reference and timetable as set
out in GS 1917 and urge that its membership include:
(i) staff of Anglican home mission agencies with expertise in helping local churches engage in effective evangelism and disciple-making, and
(ii) those with a proven record in those disciplines at local level;
(b) call upon the Task Group to make its first priority a new call to prayer;
(c) commend to the Task Group an initial programme for its work around the seven disciplines of evangelisation as set
out in the same paper;
(d) call upon every diocesan and deanery synod and every PCC to spend the bulk of one meeting annually and some
part of every meeting focusing on sharing experiences and initiatives for making new disciples; and
(e) urge every local church in 2014 prayerfully to try at least one new way, appropriate to their local context, of seeking to make new disciples of Jesus Christ.

Press release on the debate on this motion: Synod approves motion to support an Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism

Text of presentation: Women in the Episcopate Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff

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

Live video stream

For official twitter coverage of General Synod follow @CofEGenSyn.

All Synod papers are linked here.

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Bishop of Rochester to be next Bishop to Prisons

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is to be the next Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, the senior church advocate for Christian values in the criminal justice system in England and Wales

Bishop of Rochester to be next Bishop to Prisons
Monday 18th November 2013

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is to be the next Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, the senior church advocate for Christian values in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. He will succeed the Rt Revd James Jones, who retired as Bishop of Liverpool in August.

The church makes a major contribution to public debate on criminal justice and the Bishop to Prisons speaks on criminal justice issues in the House of Lords.

As Bishop to Prisons, Bishop James will support the practical work of the Chaplain- General to the Prison Service, Canon Michael Kavanagh and the network of 300 Prison Service Chaplains who share in the front-line care of prisoners. The Bishop to Prisons also develops church links with other agencies concerned with the reform and improvement of prisons. In addition the churches provide the largest single pool of voluntary support and assistance to the criminal justice system.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said: ‘James Jones has been an excellent Bishop to Prisons, supporting chaplains on the ground and acting as an extremely effective spokesman for the Church on criminal justice. I am delighted that James Langstaff has agreed to take on this vitally important role. Prison chaplains engage in front-line gospel work, providing pastoral care and bringing the good news of God’s love to thousands of men and women in prison.’

Bishop James Langstaff said: ‘I am excited to have been asked to be Bishop for Prisons. Criminal justice issues have a high profile within our society and with others I will be seeking to offer a Christian perspective within those discussions. I am also a huge admirer of the work of prison chaplains and look forward to working with the Chaplain-General and ecumenical colleagues to support that work. The treatment of prisoners has been a Christian concern for centuries – it is clearly expressed in the biblical prophets – and it is important that we continue to engage clearly with these issues.’

The appointment covers the prison estate in England and Wales and is agreed by the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Wales.

Bishop James Langstaff will take on the role of Bishop to Prisons in addition to his duties as Bishop of Rochester.

Prisons Week, which is endorsed by the Church of England, takes place from 17-23 November. Its organisers are encouraging more volunteers to support schemes run in their local prisons and to support the families of prisoners. www.prisonsweek.org

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pre-Synod press reports

Updated Monday morning

The press has been looking ahead to this week’s General Synod.

Madeleine Davies Church Times FiF backs women-bishops deal
John Bingham Telegraph Church of England discusses overhaul of ‘rude and unchristian’ Synod
Edward Malnick Telegraph Church of England on brink of women bishops resolution
Sam Jones The Guardian Female bishops could become reality as Church of England synod meets
The BBC Radio4 Sunday programme starts with an interview with Pat Storey, soon to become the first women bishop in the Church of Ireland. About 18 minutes in Anne Stevens of WATCH is interviewed; an opponent of women bishops was due to appear but “he got lost”.

There are also some blog posts.

YES 2 Women Bishops has published The new proposals explained and Looking ahead to the November General Synod session.
Pete Broadbent has blogged Twenty quick hits to change the CofE.
David Keen blogs The Church of England, the Gospel, and the Future: my prayer for General Synod.

And the CofE has published these Prayers for November General Synod.

Update

BBC Church of England synod due to debate women bishops

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

Welby and church school admissions policies

Update Church Times and Guardian articles added (Thursday afternoon)

The Times today carries, behind its paywall, an interview that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave to Ruth Gledhill. She has written about this on her blog, and included a transcript of the interview.

The Archbishop’s comments on the admissions polices of church schools have attracted a lot of attention, and I copy them below from Gledhill’s blog.

Education
Church schools of the future - stats on faith schools are to be released at General Synod on Monday.

“It’s a hugely important document -
What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good. There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests. They are not selective in terms of education. And they are focusing, particularly the new church academies - and you can see that in diocese after diocese - are focusing on the areas of highest deprivation where the Church school adds the most enormous value.
(in actual Church Urban Fund speech he said: ‘It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Church is part of the solution for building community blessing at local level - although I suspect that it might be questioned by some. But the Church has been an integral part of delivering education in this country since before the state ever agreed to get involved.’)
Interview cont.
“So in Durham where we created new academies we deliberately targeted the really difficult areas. All our five children went through the local state schools all their way through education. So we have a really long personal experience of what it is to educate children in the state system wherever you happen to be and some of the areas weren’t the most flourishing. So our experience is that - it is a very complex problem what we do about education. What is absolutely clear is home and family is essential. Really good school leadership is absolutely critical. It is not necessary to select to get a really good school. There are unbelievably brilliant schools that are entirely open to all applicants without selection criteria apart from residence, where you live, and which produce staggeringly good results. It’s a question of - and you can point to them all over the place - it’s a question of outstanding leadership.”

Said he did not agree that abolition of grammar schools had broken down social mobility. “I think you can get there by other routes which are much more effective.” However he agreed that “certainly measured social mobility has decreased according to the sociologists. We have seen that as far as I can see over the last few years.”

Lambeth Palace issued this press statement late last night.

Church school statement from Lambeth Palace
13 November 2013

In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement regarding selection criteria for church schools:-

“I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.”

Arun Arora, the CofE’s Director of Communications, published Church Schools Fact and Fiction this morning.

The (erroneous) story in today’s Times Newspaper claiming that the Church of England ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion was a creative piece of writing. So creative in fact that the Lambeth Palace issued a statement correcting the story which reads: “In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times today on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.” The Archbishop himself douses the story in the Times with cold water by saying:

“I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.’

So in the midst of this contested space it’s worth stating some of the facts on Church of England Schools…

He continues with an explanation of the difference between voluntary controlled schools (whose admission policies are set by the local authority) and voluntary aided schools (which are their own admissions authority, but are bound by the Schools Admission Code produced by the Department of Education).

Alice Philipson published this on The Telegraph website this morning: Church ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion

Online comment includes:

The Accord Coalition Praise for inclusivity at Church of England schools by the Archbishop of Canterbury must now be followed with clear leadership
Andrew Copson Archbishop of Canterbury in 24 hour recantation
Fair Admissions Campaign response to Justin Welby’s comments on admissions

General Synod will be debating GS 1920 - The Church School of the Future on Tuesday of next week.

Update

Tim Wyatt in the Church Times Welby denies change in policy on church school admissions

Fiona Millar in The Guardian Justin Welby is right – faith should not affect a child’s education

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Women in the Episcopate: Affirming Catholicism comments

Response to GS 1924: Report of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation on Women in the Episcopate

Affirming Catholicism welcomes the publication of the Report of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation on Women in the Episcopate (GS 1924) and the proposals to admit women to the episcopate of the Church of England. In particular, we applaud the use of a simple measure with associated guidelines for provisions for dissenting parishes, and dispute procedure. We especially value the recognition that provisions for alternative ministry will be overseen by the diocesan bishop, and that oaths of canonical obedience will continue to be made to the diocesan bishop.

The proposals have been admirably summarised by Will Adam (http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2013/10/28/women-bishops-what-you-see-and-what-you-dont/). They comprise:

1. The draft Measure – essentially a single-clause Measure – contains a principal clause making it legal for the Synod to legislate by canon to enable women to be ordained as bishops and priests. There is an additional clause stating beyond doubt that the office of bishop is not a “public office” under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 and there are a number of consequential amendments to other legislation.

2. The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 is repealed and along with it Resolutions A and B.

3. An amending Canon, which
a) adjusts the Canons of the Church of England to put those canons about the ordination and ministry of deacons, priests and bishops on the same footing for men and for women.

b) proposes a new Canon C 29 which places a new duty on the House of Bishops to make Regulations (to be approved by a two-thirds majority of each House of General Synod) for “the resolution of disputes arising from the arrangements for which the House of Bishops’ declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests makes provision”. This assumes that the House of Bishops will have made such a declaration.

4. a draft declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests that the House of Bishops could make; and

5. a set of draft regulations for a system for resolving disputes, introducing an “Independent Reviewer” whose function is similar to that of an ombudsman.

The Report thus presents all (or nearly all) the different elements of the package for discussion by General Synod, allowing a much clearer sense to be gained of how this process will work. In particular, and centrally, the introduction of a process for dispute resolution is integral to the package. Affirming Catholicism also welcomes the use of small groups and facilitated conversations in the drafting of these proposals.

However, we continue to have some concerns:

a) The proposals imply that the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 will be rescinded (§41) but this is nowhere explicitly stated. The proposals affirm that “the sees [of the current PEVs] will continue to exist, and the post holders continue to remain in office,” but do not clarify the status of these sees.
Affirming Catholicism would welcome clarity on these points, and in particular about the status of the “sees”: are they to become effectively suffragans of Canterbury and York?

b) The provisions to be made for dissenting parishes to issue letters of request (or to rescind such a request) will be made at the request of a PCC passed (apparently: again, this is not stated explicitly) by simple majority at a meeting of which at least four weeks’ notice of the meeting has been given; either 2/3 of the PCC members must be present at this meeting, or the motion must be passed by a majority of all the PCC members (Annexe A, §§19-20). If two thirds of the PCC are present and the request is passed by a simple majority, then it can potentially be passed by one third of the PCC plus one person. This is contrary to the provision made in §54 that there will be “a resolution-making procedure so as to ascertain that the decision has the support of the majority of the PCC.
Affirming Catholicism continues to believe that a question of such import for a parish should be decided by a meeting of all those on the electoral roll, and that a two-thirds majority of those present and voting should be required. We note that a two-thirds majority in all three houses of General Synod will be required to change any of these proposals, and believe that it would be consistent to expect a similar level of agreement for the issuing of Letters of Request by PCCs.
Failing that, we would recommend that it can only be passed if two-thirds of the PCC are present and voting and with a two-thirds majority of those voting. This would at least ensure that a majority of the whole PCC is required.
We would also welcome the incorporation of a requirement that a motion to issue Letters of Request can only be put forward after a documented process of widespread consultation, either at the parish level or at least within the congregation, and that and after any decision, the formal Request must be publicised in the church, like faculty notices.

c) The provisions also introduce a commitment to the continuing “presence in the College of Bishops of at least one bishop who takes the Conservative Evangelical view on headship” (§30), which is seen as “important for sustaining the necessary climate of trust.”
Although we recognise that the constitution of the College of Bishops needs to reflect something of the diversity of the Church of England, as recommended by the Pilling Report, we would not wish this to be operated along the lines of a quota system for the College of Bishops. This comes close to viewing individual Bishops as representatives of the views of particular groups rather than as a focus for unity in their Dioceses and the Church as a whole. It is important that those selecting bishops – which in the case of the diocesan appointments is the Crown Nomination Commission – are free to identify the best person for a particular situation and context. We note again the need to clarify the canonical position of the sees formerly designated for the PEVs.

d) For the purposes of the Equalities Act, the legislation has found it necessary to define a diocesan bishop as being not a public office, in that the appointment of bishops is not “on the recommendation of, or subject to the approval of, a member of the executive” (§21).
Affirming Catholicism views with considerable concern the suggestion that bishops do not hold a public office. Although we recognise that the report does note that “The definition of ‘public office’ is solely for the purpose of the Equality Act and has no implications for the public role of bishops more generally,” we believe that this is an unfortunate concession.

Affirming Catholicism would also observe that continuing relationships with the Methodist Church and other ecumenical partners are in some cases predicated on the expectation that the Church of England will admit women and men to leadership positions at all levels. It is not clear to us whether this legislation, with its explicit concessions to allow the Church of England to avoid the requirements of the Equalities Act, will be held by our ecumenical partners to fulfil that requirement.

A PDF version of this document is available here.

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Monday, 11 November 2013

more rumours about Pilling

Jonathan Petre has a report in the Mail on Sunday which directly contradicts the previous rumours.

See ‘Don’t make gay vicars promise not to have sex’: Church of England bishops say civil partners should not be treated any differently than other clerics

A panel of bishops is set to spark a fresh row over homosexuality by paving the way for the Church of England to relax its stance on gay clergy.

Sources said the group will recommend that clerics wanting to enter civil partnerships should no longer have to promise their bishops that they will abstain from sex.

Four bishops have been examining the Church’s teaching on sexuality as part of an official commission and will hand over their conclusions in a report to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby next month.

They will argue that gay clergy should not be treated any differently than other clerics who do not face intrusive questioning about their sex lives - and that they should be able to follow Church teachings without having to make a solemn vow…

Comments about this have been made by Peter Ould and by Colin Coward.

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Women in the Episcopate: Forward in Faith comments further

Forward in Faith has today issued the following statement:

Women in the Episcopate: Further Comment

The new draft legislation on Women in the Episcopate and the associated proposals in the Steering Committee’s report represent a very significant improvement on the former draft legislation which failed in November 2012. Key differences include the following.

  • Instead of exposing lay representatives to the risk of legal challenge when they veto candidates, the proposals would require the bishop to take responsibility for ensuring that appointments that conflict with PCC resolutions are not made.
  • The previous legislation would have left it to individuals to determine whether they had ‘cogent reasons’ for contravening the Code of Practice, and those decisions could only have been challenged by way of judicial review in the High Court (litigation which would have been costly for those concerned and damaging for the Church’s reputation). The new proposals would impose clear responsibilities; crucially, they make provision for the resolution of disputes through recourse to an Independent Reviewer with paid administrative support.
  • The previous legislation left the terms of the Code of Practice, and of the separate diocesan schemes that would have had to be drafted in each diocese, to be finalized after the Measure had received Royal Assent. Under the new proposals, the relevant documents will have been finalized before the legislation receives Final Approval.
  • Under the previous legislation, the Code of Practice could have been amended by simple majorities in each House of the Synod. Amendment of the new proposals will require two-thirds majorities in each House.

We also welcome the inclusion in the draft House of Bishops’ Declaration of the five ‘guiding principles’ in paragraph 5. These recognize our position as one of theological conviction which continues to be within the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition and make a commitment to provision, both pastoral and sacramental, without limit of time.

Though these proposals are still far from what we have long said would be ideal, we believe that they may have the potential to provide workable arrangements for the future, which will ensure that our people, clergy and parishes have continued access to a ministry that will enable us to flourish within the structures of the Church of England and make our full contribution to its life and mission. They hold out the possibility of bringing to a conclusion a process that for too long has been a distraction from the Church’s mission. Much will depend on the continuance of the atmosphere of trust that has at last begun to be fostered by the process that produced these proposals.

We therefore encourage the General Synod to send the legislation for revision in full Synod, so that the process may continue as expeditiously as possible. We encourage our members to study the whole package carefully over the coming months: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1872454/gs%201924%20-%20report%20of%20the%20steering%20committee%20for%20the%20draft%20legislation%20on%20women%20in%20the%20episcopate.pdf
We set out below some matters that still need to be addressed.

As a matter of conscience, those who, with Forward in Faith, are opposed on theological grounds to ordaining women to the episcopate will not be able to vote at the final approval stage in favour of legislation whose purpose is to permit this. What attitude is taken to the possibility of principled abstention will depend on whether the proposals survive intact. Any weakening of the proposals would require them to be opposed vigorously.

On behalf of the Executive

+ JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
Chairman
11 November 2013

Matters to be addressed

1. We agree with the Steering Committee’s comment in para. 28 of its report (GS 1924) that all the elements of an overall, balanced package need to be agreed before the Measure and Canon are brought to final approval. Para. 42 of the report envisages an agreed way of proceeding with regard to issues in relation to consecration services for Traditional Catholic bishops (including the further and sharper issues that will arise in due course when there is a woman archbishop). It is in everyone’s interest that this agreed way of proceeding should have been identified before the legislation receives final approval.

2. A situation in which hundreds of parishes are obliged to pass new resolutions immediately after the new legislation comes into force would place a heavy burden not only on PCCs but also on the bishops who would need to respond to the resolutions. The package will therefore need to include provisions that ensure a seamless transition. These too will need to be known in advance of final approval.

3. Para. 40 of the draft House of Bishops Declaration says that the House will not proceed with proposals for changing it unless they command two-thirds majorities in all three Houses of the General Synod. However, this statement would merely be an undertaking on the part of the present members of the House. The new Canon C 29 would require two-thirds majorities for amendment of the House’s Regulations for the dispute resolution procedure. In order to provide a similar level of assurance, the Canon should similarly require two-thirds majorities in each House for proposals to amend the Declaration. This would then bind future members of the House of Bishops.

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Developments in West Yorkshire and The Dales

The Church Times has a news story, New diocese sets out job spec. for Bishop of Leeds.

HE WILL be a “resilient leader” with “enough confidence and inner strength to use conflict creatively”. He will tackle “dented morale” among lay people, and chair a diocesan synod of more than 300 members. He will relish the possibility of a “huge change programme” in the most populous diocese in the Church of England.

The statement of need for the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, published last Friday, makes clear the extent of the challenge facing its first Bishop…

The full Statement of Needs can be read from here, as a PDF.

In other reports, Bradford has the news that Former Bishop of Southwark to be ‘Mentor Bishop’

Until a Diocesan Bishop is appointed for the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, the Archbishop of York has appointed the Rt Revd Tom Butler as ‘Mentor Bishop’ to give episcopal advice to Programme Director John Tuckett.

Bishop Tom, who’s well known for his Thoughts for the Day on Radio 4, is the former Bishop of Southwark and, having retired in 2010, now lives in Wakefield. He knows the area well: he gained his doctorate in electronics from Leeds University and trained for ordination at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield.

John Tuckett says, “Bishop Tom has a wealth of expertise and experience, and it will be hugely valuable for me to have someone to go to for independent advice, not least because, as the former Bishop of Southwark, he understands how a diocese with an area model works.”

The archbishop is also to appoint Bishop Tom as the Chair of the Shadow Board of Finance for the new Diocese. And Bradford Diocesan Synod has given its consent for Bishop Tom to become Acting Diocesan Bishop during Bishop Nick Baines’s sabbatical, from February to April…

From Wakefield we learn that the Bishop of Wakefield will return to his roots after diocese dissolved

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has just announced the appointment of The Rt Revd Stephen Platten as the new Rector of St Michael’s Cornhill church and an honorary assistant Bishop in the Diocese of London.

Stephen will take up the position at St Michael’s in July 2014. This is in addition to his new position as chair of the Hymns Ancient and Modern charitable trust which he will assume at the end of January…

This is also reported by London.

And the Yorkshire Evening Post has John Packer: Bishop of Ripon and Leeds looks back as he bows out.

…To clarify, it is officially retirement, but the bishop cheerfully admits it is redundancy in a way since he is going earlier than the mandatory 70 years of age because his patch is disappearing. There will be no more bishops of Ripon and Leeds.

Two other bishops are meeting the same fate as the Church of England massively restructures the area. The big new job will be as Bishop of Leeds and it has already been advertised, calling for “an experienced, inspiring leader with a heart for the people.”

Bishop John is completely in favour of the change: “Our boundaries do not make sense.and the changes will help us to focus our ministry more effectively,” he says…

Further information about the progress of the new diocese can be found at a new website, designed specifically for the Transformation Programme for the Diocese of West Yorkshire and The Dales. One to keep an eye on.

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Friday, 1 November 2013

Women bishops latest

Madeleine Davies writes for the Church Times: Women-bishops proposals: ombudsman in new package.

The Church Times also has this leader: No light task.

Andrew Grey writes for On Religion: Women Bishops in Wales: Just Conforming to Culture?

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes blogs: Women Bishops: Take Two…

Will Adam writes for Law & Religion UK Women bishops – what you see and what you don’t.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

What is in the Pilling report?

First, there are two reports so far of a London press conference yesterday about GAFCON, and it appears there may be a third one to come in the Church Times.

The Telegraph reported it this way: Church facing divide over blessings for same-sex couples

The Church of England is facing a split over proposals to offer a formal blessing for gay couples.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former bishop of Rochester, warned on Tuesday that a move to celebrate same-sex relationships in church would be a “red line” for traditionalist parishes.

Clergy and lay members of the Church opposed to any relaxation of the rules could reject the authority of any bishops who supported the move, he warned…

The Guardian commented on it this way: It started as a split over gay clergy. But now the Anglican Communion is dead.

What, you gave a schism and nobody came? When six people hold a press briefing and three journalists attend, you know the story is over, and on Tuesday morning that is what happened when the evangelical wing of the Church of England announced – yet again – its plans to rebel against any open accommodation with gay people.

There were two retired bishops. There were three vicars and one of their wives. They talked to three journalists for an hour about their experiences at a conference of conservative Anglicans, called Gafcon, which met in Nairobi last week. This was set up as a protest against the reluctance of the official Anglican Communion to expel the Americans (who pay for it) as a punishment for their enthusiasm for openly gay clergy.

Once upon a time, this would have been a story. We heard threats to withhold money from the central bodies of the Church of England, threats to ignore the authority of other bishops, threats of defections to their grouping from the mainstream of opinion here. All these things will no doubt happen, as they have been happening in a small way for the past 20 years. What’s new is that no one any longer cares. The split has happened, and it turns out not to matter at all…

The Telegraph report refers to a blog post by Peter Ould concerning the contents of the forthcoming Pilling Report. That can be found here: The Path After Pilling.

I have now confirmed from a number of sources what the Pilling Report is going to recommend. The final draft is ready and it will propose that the Church of England introduce some form of liturgy that will bless same-sex relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the outcome of the committee’s deliberations will be – This is not spin, it is not trying to influence the outcome, it is the real deal. Whilst the committee will not recommend adapting our services of Holy Matrimony to include same-sex marriages, I am led to understand that it will propose a formal rite that will provide an alternative for those in a formal same-sex union (Civil Partnership or Marriage) on the basis that we cannot presume such a relationship is sexual. Once that happens we will have formally declared same-sex unions to be holy. In the Church of England our liturgy is our doctrine and the moment we have a rite that in any way affirms same-sex relationships then we will have fundamentally changed what we believe…

Arun Arora has commented about this on Twitter, see Response from Church of England:

@thechurchmouse @PeterOuld @edwardmalnick @John_Bingham its pure nonsense. all drafts to date have recommended against liturgy for these.

@PeterOuld @thechurchmouse @edwardmalnick @John_Bingham Also final draft is not written so your blog -whilst a good read-is pure conjecture

Colin Coward has a blog article too: Is Pilling going to recommend the blessing of gay relationships?

Update 3 pm
And today, the Church of England has issued this statement: Pilling Commission on human sexuality. The full text is copied below the fold.

Pilling Commission on human sexuality
30 October 2013

Statement from William Fittall, Secretary General of the General Synod and Archbishops’ Council, placing recent media and blog speculation in context:

“At last Friday’s Synod press conference a national journalist asked me to confirm the now widely held story that the Pilling Group on human sexuality had been scrapped. I said that, on the contrary, the Group was still meeting and was due to complete its report in time for the House of Bishops to consider it at its meeting in December.

“Then on Monday a clergyman posted a blog saying: “I have now confirmed from a number of sources what the Pilling Report is going to recommend. The final draft is ready and it will propose that the Church of England introduce some form of liturgy that will bless same-sex relationships. There is absolutely no doubt that this is what the outcome of the committee’s deliberations will be - This is not spin, it is not trying to influence the outcome, it is the real deal.” Our Communications Office responded to this by saying that, on the contrary, “the final draft of the Pilling report has not yet been completed or signed off.”

“In relation to these and any other claims it is important to be clear that the Pilling group cannot be expected to provide a running commentary on a report that it is still working on. In addition, the House of Bishops is in no position to say anything about a report that it has yet to receive, still less study. Since no one can know at this point what the report will eventually say, such claims are simply speculation.

“It is also important to recall that when the House of Bishops established the review in July 2011 it did so because it wished “…to offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. Our intention is to produce a further consultation document …” The Pilling report will be a report to the House of Bishops and it will then be for the House to decide, in the light of the report, what proposals and process of consultation it wishes to launch.”

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Monday, 28 October 2013

Full list of female representatives to House of Bishops

The Church of England has announced that the Revd Libby Lane, Dean of Women in Ministry in the Chester Diocese has been elected by the NW region as their female representative in the House of Bishops.

This completes these elections. The full list of representatives is:

Ven Annette Cooper, Archdeacon of Colchester (East Anglia)
Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York (North East)
Ven Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown (South and Central)
Revd Libby Lane, Dean of Women in Ministry, Chester Diocese (North West)
Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells (South West)
Revd Preb Dr Jane Tillier, Preb of Lichfield Cathedral (West Midlands)
Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney (South East)
Ven Christine Wilson, Archdeacon of Chesterfield (East Midlands)

The representatives will take up their roles on 1st December.

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Saturday, 26 October 2013

Women in the Episcopate: Catholic Group, FiF and WATCH respond to new proposals

Updated Tuesday

The Catholic Group in General Synod has also issued a statement:

STATEMENT FROM FATHER SIMON KILLWICK, CHAIRMAN OF THE CATHOLIC GROUP IN GENERAL SYNOD
on the report of the Steering Committee on Women in the Episcopate to General Synod for November 2013 Group of Sessions

“The Catholic Group recognises that a huge amount of work has gone into producing a comprehensive and detailed legislative package, work which has been costly in spiritual and emotional terms, as well as in time - we are deeply grateful to all the members of the Steering Committee for all that they have done for the Church.

“Naturally, such a complex package will need careful study and prayer by all, rather than instant responses, and we will comment further in due course. However, as important as the detail of the proposals themselves, will be the spirit in which they are received and taken forward - a spirit of reconciliation and trust, which we believe has been growing this year, by the grace of God; it is in that light that we shall study them.”

Forward in Faith has issued this response:

Women in the Episcopate: Initial Response to the Proposals

Forward in Faith thanks the members of the Steering Committee for their work.

The proposed combination of a House of Bishops’ Declaration with a Mandatory Disputes Resolution Procedure represents a new and different approach which deserves careful consideration.

In line with the resolution passed at our National Assembly, we shall be examining the proposals closely over the coming weeks to see how far they would ensure that our parishes and their clergy and people have continued access to a ministry that will make it possible for us to flourish within the life and structures of the Church of England. We shall also be attentive to the responses of others within the Church.

After discussion, prayer and reflection, we envisage commenting further during November, in the run-up to the General Synod debates.

Women and the Church has issued this response:

WATCH encouraged following publication of WiE Steering Group’s draft legislation

The Women in the Episcopate draft legislation put forward for General Synod next month by the Steering Group contains much to encourage those campaigning for the full inclusion of women at every level of the Church. WATCH’s thanks and prayers go to those on the Steering Group working hard to achieve this and who worked under the principles of simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality.

There is much in the report that is welcomed by WATCH. Firstly, that the legislation put forward is simple and General Synod’s desire to resolve the issue as quickly and as simply as possible has been reflected in the draft legislation. WATCH also supports the recommendation of the Group to legislate on this issue through a Bishops’ Declaration, not an Act of Synod, and the wholehearted endorsement of women’s ministry in the five guiding principles. It is particularly encouraging that every diocese will have a bishop, whether the diocesan or suffragan, who ordains women to the priesthood with emphasis on consultation between diocesan bishops and parishes and diocesan bishops and PEVs.

The appointment of an Independent Reviewer is a new proposal and one which allows a forum for all sides to raise issues and concerns. As a new development, it will be interesting to see how this is received by all groups involved.

WATCH has noted the proposed arrangements for those opposed to women holding leadership roles in the church. The church will rarely be unanimous about the appointment of particular people as bishops but it is important that the leadership of bishops is widely recognized and respected amongst those they are appointed to lead.

WATCH thanks those involved in the Steering Group for their hard work and commitment to this issue and remains committed to working towards the highest possible degree of communion.

Anne Stevens, a WATCH vice chair said, ‘It’s good to see draft legislation that is so clear and concise, and we look forward to a day of great national rejoicing when women are finally made bishops. We’re grateful to the Steering Committee for all their hard work on the Bishops’ Declaration, which offers people on all sides of the debate a new opportunity to move forward in a spirit of trust and openness to one another.’

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Friday, 25 October 2013

General Synod agenda - press reports on women bishops proposals

Updated Saturday

Madeleine Davies Church Times ‘Trust but verify’ summarises new women-bishops package, says Fittall

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England could have female bishops by 2014, says committee

Edward Malnick The Telegraph Ombudsman could rule on Church of England disputes

Thomas Penny Bloomberg Church of England May Back Women Bishops as Soon as Next Year

Update

The Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, chair of the Steering Committee was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning. You can listen to the programme here; the interview starts at 01:47:54.

Kevin Rawlinson The Guardian Church of England ombudsman could resolve disputes over women bishops

BBC Synod to consider women bishops ‘ombudsman’

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 25 October 2013 at 5:50pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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General Synod online papers

Updated Friday 1 November

General Synod meets next month from 18 to 20 November, and the papers are starting to appear online. Most became available today and others will appear on 1 November.

There is a zip file of all the papers issued today (25 October).

There is now a zip file of the papers issued on 1 November, and a zip file of all the papers.

This list is in numerical order, with links to the individual papers and a note of the day on which debate is scheduled. It will be updated as more papers become available.

GS 1866B - Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure [Monday]
GS 1877B - Draft Amending Canon No 31 [Monday]
GS 1866Z-1877Z - Report by the Steering Committee

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

GS 1914A and GS 1914B - Diocesan Synod Motion: A Review of the workings of the General Synod [Tuesday]

GS 1915 - Agenda November 2013

GS 1916 - Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 1917 - Intentional Evangelism [Monday]

GS 1918 - Draft Diocese of Leeds Resolution [Monday]

GS 1919 - Draft Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1919x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1920 - The Church School of the Future [Tuesday]

GS 1921 - Draft Church of England (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1921x - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1922 - Draft Vacancy in See Committees (Amendment) Regulation 2013 [Tuesday]
GS 1922X - Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1923 - Forty Eighth Report of the Standing Orders Committee [Tuesday]

GS 1924 - Report of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation on Women in the Episcopate [Wednesday]
GS 1925 - Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [Wednesday]
GS 1926 - Draft Amending Canon No.33 [Wednesday]
GS 1925-6x - Explanatory Memorandum [Wednesday]

GS 1927A and GS 1927B - Diocesan Synod Motion: Name of Dioceses [contingency business]

GS 1928A and GS 1928B - Diocesan Synod Motion: Nature and Structure of the Church of England - National Debate

Synod members have also been sent these other papers.

GS Misc 1061 - Women in the Episcopate: Guide to the papers
GS Misc 1062 - Activities of the Archbishops’ Council
GS Misc 1063 - Credit Unions, The Financial Sector and the Church

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

Standing Orders updates

Church Care Impact Review 2013

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 25 October 2013 at 12:04pm BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Agenda for November 2013 General Synod

The agenda for next month’s meeting of General Synod was released this morning. It was accompanied by this press release.

NEWS from the Church of England
PR 157.13
25/10/2013
For Immediate Release

Agenda for November 2013 General Synod

The General Synod of the Church of England meets in London in November for a three day meeting from 1.45 pm on Monday 18th November until 5.30 pm on Wednesday 20th November.

The agenda for the meeting is published today with the progression of legislation for enabling Women to become Bishops predominating. During its meeting Synod will consider the package of proposals drawn up by the Steering Committee for the draft legislation on women in the episcopate. There will also be debates on Evangelism and Church Schools.

Synod’s first debate on Monday will be on Intentional Evangelism, with the Archbishop of York proposing a motion reflecting the Church’s priority of evangelism and making of new disciples. The motion seeks to establish a new Task group on Evangelism with its first priority being a new call to prayer in June 2014.

On Monday evening the Bishop of Rochester will give a presentation of its proposals to admit women to the episcopate to aid discussion in small groups on the morning of Tuesday 19th November. This group work follows on from the generally well-received group work which took place at the July 2013 General Synod. There will then be two debates on Women in the Episcopate on Wednesday 20th November. In the morning there will be a debate on the Steering Committee’s Report which describes the package of proposals that the Committee has prepared in accordance with the mandate set by the Synod in July and includes the first draft of a House of Bishops declaration and a disputes resolution procedure. The Synod will be invited to welcome the proposals and the five guiding principles, already agreed by the House of Bishops, which underpin them.

Then before lunch Synod will move on to give first consideration to the draft Measure and draft Amending Canon prepared by the Committee. The Chair of the Steering Committee will move that the legislation should be committed for revision in full Synod without a prior Revision Committee Stage. The expectation is that the Revision Stage would be held in February.

On Monday afternoon, there will be a debate on Intentional Evangelism. The motion being debated supports the formation of an Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism. The debate is co-sponsored by the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council.

On Tuesday afternoon there will be a Presidential Address by the Archbishop of York. This will be followed by a debate on a report from the Board of Education on the progress made in implementing the recommendations of the 2012 Chadwick Report on ‘The Church School of the Future’. The Bishop of Oxford, as Chair of the National Society and the Board of Education will present the progress report and invite Synod to endorse the next phase of the implementation process.

Other items of business on the synod’s agenda include the system for elections to the House of Laity and a debate on a Diocesan Synod Motion from London Diocese on the Review of the Workings of the General Synod which will look at the frequency and length of groups of sessions, the ways in which debate takes place and decisions are made and ‘whether…the current synodical framework and representative structures are still fit for purpose.’

Contingency business takes the form of two related Diocesan Synod Motions from Bradford and Wakefield. The Bradford Diocesan Synod calls on the Archbishops’ council ‘to introduce legislation to enable dioceses of the Church of England to be named by reference either to a city or substantial town or to a geographical area.’ The Wakefield Diocesan Synod Motion on The Nature and Structure of the Church of England asks the House of Bishops to facilitate a debate about the organisational shape of the Church.

Finally, the Synod will be considering several other pieces of legislation in addition to that relating to women in the episcopate, including a draft Measure intended to take further the reform of the faculty jurisdiction which was begun in July.

ENDS

The full agenda can be viewed online here.

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Women in the Episcopate

The new proposals to allow women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England were published this morning. They will be debated at General Synod on Wednesday 20 November, and comprise these four papers:

GS 1924 - Report of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation on Women in the Episcopate
GS 1925 - Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
GS 1926 - Draft Amending Canon No.33
GS 1925-6x - Explanatory Memorandum

A guide to these papers [GS Misc 1061] has also been published and is copied below.

GS Misc 1061
GENERAL SYNOD
Women in the episcopate- guide to the papers

1. In view of the significance of the material that it has produced and the fact that it is distributed across several documents the Steering Committee thought that Synod members might find it helpful to have a very short note on how they fit together.

2. The Steering Committee’s report is at GS 1924 and is the natural place to start. It gives an overview of the Committee’s work and of the package of proposals that it is recommending. It also explains the motion that the Steering Committee is bringing to the Synod in November and what the process would be thereafter.

3. Drafts of two elements of the package - the House of Bishops’ Declaration and the Regulations establishing a disputes resolution procedure - are set out at Annexes A and B of the report. In addition there is some background material on the disputes resolution procedure at Annex C. The drafts of the Declaration and the Regulations are, at this stage, proposals to the House of Bishops, which will consider them in more detail in December and then bring them, together with a motion for debate, to the Synod in February.

4. The other two elements of the package are the draft Measure and Amending Canon. These can be found at GS 1925 and 1926 respectively, together with an Explanatory Memorandum from the Legal Office at GS 1925-6X.

5. These two items of legislation are being brought for first consideration in November. The Steering Committee, with the consent of the Business Committee, is proposing that they be committed for revision in full Synod. This would enable all four elements of the package to be considered at the same group of sessions in February.

William Fittall 23 October 2013
Secretary General

There is also Women in the Episcopate: A Statement from the Archbishops which is copied below the fold.

Women in the Episcopate: Statement from the Archbishops

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have welcomed the progress made by the Steering Committee charged with the preparation of draft legislation to enable women to become bishops. The Committee has met several times during September and October to prepare proposals for consideration at the November meeting of the General Synod.

The proposals of the committee are published today. In response the Archbishop of Canterbury and York have today issued a joint statement:

“It is significant that the 15 members of the Steering Committee chaired by Bishop James Langstaff of Rochester, who represent the widest possible range of opinion on the matter, have been able to reach substantial agreement on a package of proposals to put to General Synod in November. For this we thank God, and we pray in hope that this will help General Synod debate and decide on the necessary next steps to enable women to become bishops.

“We are also profoundly grateful to all the members of the Committee who have engaged with each other and with their shared task in such depth and with such care and prayer throughout the intense deliberations of the past few weeks. Our particular thanks also go to David Porter, Sandra Cobbin and Bill Marsh for their work in facilitating these meetings. We are also grateful for the help and support offered to the Committee by William Fittall, The Secretary General, Stephen Slack, Chief Legal Adviser, Alexander McGregor, Deputy Legal Adviser and Sir Anthony Hammond, Standing Counsel.

“In the light of this we warmly commend the proposals of the Steering Committee to members of General Synod and to all members of the Church of England for prayer, study and reflection. “May we be guided by God, and ‘make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ (Ephesians 4.3)”

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis

Ends

Notes to Editors:

The proposals of the steering committee can be found here.

The Steering Committee was established by the General Synod in July 2013 following its debate on recommendations from the House of Bishops. See here for further information.

The Report from the House of Bishops “Women In the Episcopate - New Legislative Proposals” (GS1886) can be found here.

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Forward in Faith National Assembly 2013

The 2013 National Assembly of Forward in Faith was held at the Church of St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, London on Saturday 19 October.

There is a press release, ‘Grow the Church and win souls for Christ’, says Forward in Faith Chairman and another which contains the full text of the resolution which was passed by the Assembly: Women in the Episcopate: National Assembly Resolution. This is copied below the fold.

The website also contains the full text of the Chairman’s address, and the text of the sermon by the Bishop in Europe.

There are also numerous audio files linked from this page.

One that may interest General Synod members is the recording of remarks by The Revd Paul Benfield about the recent work of the Steering Committee for the new legislation for women bishops. This can be found here.

Women in the Episcopate: National Assembly Resolution

Meeting in London on 19 October, the Forward in Faith National Assembly received a presentation on developments regarding resolution on Women in the Episcopate since October 2012. It passed the following resolution:

That this Assembly

(a) reaffirm our aspiration to flourish within the structures of the Church of England and make our full contribution to its life and mission;

(b) request the General Synod and the House of Bishops to ensure that we have continued access to a ministry which will make this possible; and

(c) thank those members of Forward in Faith who have participated in the facilitated conversations and in the Steering Committee for the Women in the Episcopate legislation with a view to achieving this.’

Moving the motion, Prebendary Sam Philpott said ‘This church of ours… needs a great dose of charity’. He called on the catholic constituency to ‘love this church’ and to ‘show this church how it can become a loving church again within its own communion in order that it might actually proclaim to the world the love of God’.

Forward in Faith, he said, had ‘a passion to belong to part of the Church that is strong and bold and flourishing and passionate about converting England’ and wanted to play its part. ‘All that we ask’, he added, ‘is that at the end of this process our church gives us the space in which we can live a catholic life, looked after by catholic bishops, catholic priests and catholic deacons’.

Fr Charles Razzall praised the motion as ‘positive, firm and irenic’, which was ‘where we certainly want to be in the future’. He pointed out that in the motion ‘ensure’ means ‘guarantee’ and ‘continue’ means ‘without limit of time’.

Replying, Fr Philpott said: ‘I long for a Church of England that may well have different views on this particular subject, but will so provide for its children that it can actually speak to a broken world about reconciliation with an authenticity that is simply not around in our world at this moment.’

The motion was passed nem. con.

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Royal Baptism

Updated Wednesday evening

On Wednesday 23 October 2013 the Archbishop of Canterbury will baptize His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge in a private ceremony at The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.

The archbishop has recorded a five-about minute video in which he talks about this event and the broader significance of baptism.

Here are just a few of the many articles in press.

The Guardian has this editorial today: In praise of … a right royal dunking.

The Telegraph
Prince George’s christening ‘hugely important’, says Archbishop of Canterbury
Gordon Rayner Prince George christening: tough times ahead for Duke and Duchess, says Archbishop

BBC
Archbishop hopes Prince George baptism will inspire

Update

The archbishop published this after the service: Prince George’s christening: read highlights from the Archbishop’s address.

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Friday, 18 October 2013

Ministry Statistics 2012 published

The Church of England has published its Statistics for Mission 2012: Ministry today. You can download them here.

There is this accompanying press release.

CofE ministry playing vital role in every community, show latest stats
18 October 2013

Ministry Statistics for 2012, published today by the Research and Statistics Division of the Archbishops’ Council, show a change in patterns of ministry over the past 10 years with numbers remaining largely constant.

The overall number of diocesan licensed clergy declined by 1% in the decade between 2002 and 2012. The number of full-time stipendiary clergy was 7,798 in 2012, a fall of 2% since 2011. They now represent 69% of all licensed clergy compared to 80% in 2002. Over the same period the number of self-supporting ministers increased by 50% from 2,091 in 2002 to 3,148.

The 2012 statistics show a continuing trend of increase in the proportion of female clergy in all categories. Whereas in 2012 there were 6,017 male full-time stipendiary clergy compared with 7,920 in 2002, a fall of 24%, in the same period their female counterparts have increased by 41% from 1,262 to 1,781. Women now account for 21% or one in five incumbents or those of incumbent status. Amongst senior clergy the percentage has increased from 4% to 11%.

The number of ordinations has remained broadly stable since 2002. In 2012 22% of recommended candidates were under the age of 30, compared to 15% in both 2002 and 2007. This reflects a focus in the dioceses on encouraging vocations among younger people.

Ven Julian Hubbard, the Church of England’s director of ministry said: “These statistics reflect changing patterns of ministry, to meet the changing demands of 21st Century life, with an increasing reliance on self-supporting ministers and the spread of ministry teams. The continued commitment to ministry in the Church if England shows the importance of the Church as a Christian presence in every community.”

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Thursday, 17 October 2013

four more female clergy named to join the House of Bishops

Confirmation of the two choices mentioned here earlier this week comes in a press release today which reveals that only the North West Region has not yet completed its election process.

Four more female representatives to House of Bishops Elected

17 October 2013
Further results from the elections for female representatives to attend the House of Bishops have been announced. At its meeting of 7 February 2013 the House of Bishops decided that eight senior women clergy, elected regionally, will participate in all meetings of the House until such time as there are six female Bishops who will sit as of right.

The latest four elected members are:

  • East Midlands region - Ven Christine Wilson, Archdeacon of Chesterfield
  • West Midlands region - Revd Preb. Dr Jane Tillier, Preb of Lichfield Cathedral
  • East Anglia region - Ven Annette Cooper, Archdeacon of Colchester
  • South and Central region - Ven Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown

This follows a previous announcement of the first three female representatives on the 26th September.

  • South West region - Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
  • North East region - Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
  • South East region - Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney

The representatives will take up their roles on 1st December.

The Notes following the text include the statement that the result for the election in the North West region is expected to be announced before the end of October.

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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Tab meets... Rowan Williams

The Tab is a student online newspaper which functions at many UK universities.

The Tab Cambridge has this feature article in which the “Current Master of Magdalene and ex-Archbishop of Canterbury talks to JAMIE WEBB about homosexuality, gender equality, and those Game of Thrones rumours…”

Read it all at The Tab meets… Rowan Williams.

The question and answer getting the most media attention is copied below. But there are others.

On the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage, do you consider your own views and those of the church as being out of touch with the views of your students at Cambridge, and do you think that’s a problem?

I think it is quite a problem. This is the one area where there is the deepest sense of the church being out of step with what the rest of the culture take for granted. I think it’s quite difficult for some people outside of the church to recognise that there is something in the matter of several thousand years of assumption, reflection and ethical practice here which isn’t likely to be overturned in a moment. But, all that being said, I think the church has to put its hands up and say our attitude towards gay people has at times been appallingly violent. Even now it can be unconsciously patronising and demeaning, and that really doesn’t help. We have to face the fact that we’ve deeply failed a lot of gay and lesbian people, not only historically but more recently as well. I think that there is a very strong, again theological, case for thinking again about our attitudes towards homosexuality: but I’m a bit hesitant about whether marriage is the right category to talk about same sex relation, and I think there is a debate we haven’t quite had about that. But in a sense that’s water under the bridge, the decision has been taken, things move on. Looking back over my time as Archbishop I think that’s what most people will remember about the last ten years: ‘oh, he was that bloke who was so bogged down in issues about sexuality’.

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Revd Preb Dr Jane Tillier elected to attend House of Bishops

The election of another of the eight women to attend the House of Bishops has been announced by the Diocese of Lichfield. She is the Revd Dr Jane Tillier and joins the three other women whose election was announced last month.

The Lichfield announcement is copied below the fold.

The official press release from the Church of England announcing the first three names was dated 26 September 2013 and stated “The results for the elections in the 5 other regions are expected to be announced over the next two weeks.” Almost three weeks later four remain to be announced.

Update

I have heard unofficially that Annette Cooper, the Archdeacon of Colchester, was elected for the Eastern region.

Local vicar elected to attend House of Bishops

Revd Preb Dr Jane Tillier was elected on 10th October to represent the West Midlands at the House of Bishops. She is one of eight women nationwide who will attend the House of Bishops as Regional Representatives, a new role open only to female clergy.

Prebendary Tillier was elected by the West Midlands Regional Electoral College, comprising ten women from five dioceses: Worcester, Hereford, Birmingham, Coventry and Lichfield.

“Our God is indeed a God of surprises!” Tillier said. “I am honoured and delighted to be entrusted with this regional role at such an exciting time in the history of the Church of England. My hope and prayer is that the presence of the eight women reps at meetings of the House of Bishops will be good news both for our senior male colleagues and for the world we serve in Jesus’ name.”

In a joint statement, the electoral college members said: “We met in a spirit of prayerful discernment, and had an open conversation about our hopes for the life and wellbeing of the whole church, listening attentively to each other, and to the Spirit of God. It was a privilege and joy to be part of it, and the constructive and optimistic conversation demonstrated that we are in a very different position to where we were at the time of the General Synod vote last year. We are grateful for the Bishops’ decision to admit eight women to their meetings and we recognise the opportunity this gives to re-imagine the church.”

Prebendary Tillier will attend her first meeting of the House of Bishops in December. The House of Bishops is one of the three Houses of the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England.

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Parliament asks about episcopal appointments

Yesterday in the House of Lords, some questions were asked about the appointment of Church of England bishops. The Hansard record of that is to be found here, and is copied below the fold.

The answer given about the number of current vacancies seems a little incomplete. Here’s what Peter Owen wrote towards the end of September: Forthcoming episcopal appointments. In addition to the five vacancies for which CNC dates had been allocated, he lists four other dioceses where vacancies were already known to be about to occur.

All nine vacancies now have dates listed on the CNC’s web page (including dates for Bath & Wells which have already taken place).

Church of England: Appointment of Bishops

Question

3.02 pm

Asked by Lord Trefgarne

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Church of England about the procedure for the appointment of bishops in the Church of England.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, the current procedure for the appointment of bishops to the Church of England was agreed by the previous Government in 2008 after consultation with the church and the publication of a White Paper, The Governance of Britain. There have been no further discussions between the Government and the church on this issue since 2008 and the Government see no need to initiate any such discussions.

Lord Trefgarne (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. Is it not the case that bishops are retiring faster than they are being appointed? In a little while, there will be none at all. If the most reverend Primate’s diary is so congested that he cannot find time for additional meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission, would it not be a good idea to reappoint the noble Lord, Lord Luce, who chaired that committee so effectively when it came to choosing the most reverend Primate?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I am informed that there are currently four vacancies for diocesan bishops and two forthcoming retirements. There is

14 Oct 2013 : Column 265

also the issue of the new combined diocese of Leeds. I accept that the Church of England has a rather lengthy consultation procedure before new bishops are appointed. I spoke to the joint secretaries of the Crown Nominations Commission last week, who were in Hereford consulting members of the diocese on the nature and needs of the diocese and thus the characteristics they wanted in a new bishop. That seems entirely desirable. I understand that in the diocese of Guildford, with which the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will be concerned, the bishop is due to retire at the end of November. It is likely that his successor, after this consultation, will be agreed in June or July next year.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab): My Lords, what assistance are Her Majesty’s Government giving to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in redressing the gender imbalance on the Bishops’ Benches in your Lordships’ House?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Church of England is moving with all deliberate speed towards the appointment of women bishops. I think it quite possible that the first women bishops will be consecrated before we have reached the next stage of House of Lords reform.

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, synthesising the two previous questions, will the Minister tell us how many women clerics are in a senior position in the Church of England? Does he agree that a large number of vacancies might be helpful for the promotion of the majority of very good senior women to bishoprics as and when the Church of England approves their appointment?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: It is desirable that dioceses nevertheless continue to appoint bishops. I know a number of senior women in the Church of England and have a great deal of respect for them. One of them is the wife of my good friend the Vicar of Putney. I have no doubt that in time, the Church of England will have a number of excellent women bishops in the same way that it now has a number of excellent archdeacons, canons, and others from the female sex.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that one of the great things about Church of England bishops is that their number in this House has an upper limit, whereas coalition Peers seem to be flooding in with no apparent upper limit? Are there any members of the Liberal Democrat Party who are not in the House of Lords?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, did not take the other path appropriate to the Question, which is that the Bench of Bishops is the only section of this Chamber that has an upper age limit, which is 70.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, after that hilarious question from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, does my noble friend agree with me that it is somewhat unfortunate that Episcopal vacancies are now advertised? Is there not an anti-vocationary element there?

14 Oct 2013 : Column 266

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: It may simply be a useful movement towards transparency. I know there are those who would like the Church of England to remain as it was 150 years ago or more, but as a member of the Church of England, I am extremely happy that it has moved and modernised over the last few years.

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, typically, the Crown Nominations Commission consults some 100 members of civil society in each region to which appointments are made; that legislation to bring forward the possibility of women bishops is now before the General Synod and it is anticipated that it will be brought into law within two years; and that the Archbishop of Canterbury takes a very keen interest in the proceedings of this House, and will take careful note of any concerns about the speed of Episcopal appointments made in the course of this Question Time?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. In consulting when preparing for this Question, I was struck by how many of the people I spoke to said, “You have to understand that the workload of a diocesan bishop is enormous and that some wish to retire before the age of 70 because they feel they have done more than they can sustain for another 10 to 15 years”.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister join me in congratulating the Church of England on all the splendid work that it does in its dioceses, especially with people who are suffering so much under the austerity programme of this Government? Will he also join me in congratulating the Church of Wales on its vote in favour of women bishops?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I am very happy to do so, and I look forward to the Church of England following in good time.

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Monday, 14 October 2013

What Church of England members think

Two articles in the Church Times by Linda Woodhead are now available to non-subscribers.

The first item was referenced in this earlier TA article: Profile of Anglicans. The full text is now available to all here: ‘Nominals’ are the Church’s hidden strength.

THE Church of England’s mission strategies and investment of energy assume that churches and churchgoers are its main resources. But a significant new survey offers a broader answer. It suggests that non-churchgoing Anglicans may be much more important to the Church and its future than the dismissive word “nominals” implies…

…The results suggest that people who identify themselves as Anglican (“Church of England” was not given as an option) make up one third of the adult population of Great Britain. Adherents of all the other religions and Christian denominations added together constitute the next third, and those who say that they have “no religion” are the final slice of the pie.

THE most obvious division within the Anglicans as a whole is between those who say that they participate in a church or Christian group, and those who say that they do not. This gives us robust categories of churchgoers and non-churchgoers, placing those who attend occasional events, such as a wedding or a carol service, on the non-churchgoing side of the line. This non-churchgoing constituency represents 83 per cent of Anglicans, which dwarfs the 17 per cent who go to church.

This might, however, not be bad news for the Church. It is easy to assume that the churchgoers are the “real Anglicans”, and the non-churchgoers are backsliders whose diluted faith is one step away from atheism. The survey reveals something more interesting. Many of the “nominals” are more than purely nominal. Many believe and practise in similar ways to churchgoers - who are themselves not a homogenous group…

More recently, last month, the second article appeared, titled: A gap is growing within the Church. The second article concludes as follows:

…OVERALL, then, if we put together the results of both surveys, a general portrait of Anglicans emerges. They tend to be tough-minded rather than tender-hearted, and they place high value on individual responsibility. They think that people should stand on their own two feet, and be free to make their own mistakes. They believe that less should be spent on welfare, and that the current system needs reform. They value tradition and a common national culture, which they feel to be under threat.

When asked what they value about the Church of England, their favoured response is: “It is integral to English culture,” although churchgoers are slightly more likely to say “it brings people closer to God.”

They look back to a past that they imagine to have been less selfish, better disciplined, and bound by common values - but they have nevertheless embraced changes that have made society fairer to women and gay people.

In short, Anglicans have a good deal in common with the Government. They are in line with The Guardian on personal issues, but the Telegraph or even the Mail on wider social and economic matters.

The gap between this set of values, and those supported by the Church, especially as it is represented by bishops and archbishops, the General Synod, church policy, and official statements - hence what is reported in the media - is wide. In a striking inversion, official church teaching is welfarist-paternalist on social and economic issues, and authoritarian-paternalist on personal ethics. It is the mirror image of majority Anglican opinion.

There is also a values gap between the Church and wider society - a gap that widens as you go down the age range. Young people tend to be centrist in their socio-political views, and highly liberal and egalitarian in their views on personal morality. We already knew that disaffiliation from the Church of England has increased with every generation, but our polling points to an important reason for this.

When asked whether they think the Church of England is a negative or positive force in society today, 60 per cent of under-25s say “neither”, or “don’t know”; and 21 per cent say “negative”. When the “negatives” are asked their reasons, the answer they greatly favour is: “The Church of England is too prejudiced - it discriminates against women and gay people.”

It is foolish for any Church to think that in order to survive it has to follow public opinion, or even the opinion of its own members, affiliates, and sympathisers. But when it is significantly out of step with all of these, questions need to be asked.

The questions are more pressing for a body that wants to remain a national Church with wide social influence rather than a counter-cultural sect. My own suspicion is that church leaders are not being wilfully oppositional. They simply do not have the historic mindset, organisational structures, or investment in research that would enable them to maintain responsive contact even with their own grassroots.

The full dataset for the second survey (PDF, 9 Mb) can be found here. BRIN has a discussion of this here: Secularization Restated and Other News.

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Archbishops’ Missioner and Fresh Expressions Team Leader

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York announced today that Canon Phil Potter has been appointed Archbishops’ Missioner and Fresh Expressions Team Leader

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are delighted to announce that Canon Phil Potter will be the next Archbishops’ Missioner and leader of the Fresh Expressions team.

Canon Potter, who is Director of Pioneer Ministry for the Diocese of Liverpool, will succeed Bishop Graham Cray, who has held the posts since 2009. Canon Potter will take up the role at the beginning of April 2014. His appointment has been warmly welcomed by the board of Fresh Expressions and its partners.

Archbishop Justin said: ‘Phil is a skilled and imaginative practitioner whose achievements as a pioneer minister and church builder have been extraordinary. At the same time, I would like to express my deep thanks to Bishop Graham for his five years of distinguished service.

‘I am also excited that the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, will be chairman of the Board of Fresh Expressions.

‘I am grateful to God for the growth we have already seen through Fresh Expressions and for the other denominations with whom this ministry is shared. Working together provides the oxygen of mission and evangelism.’

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said: ‘Phil Potter has a strong track record in pioneer ministry in his own Diocese of Liverpool and beyond.

‘I am confident that his leadership of the Fresh Expressions team will strengthen the Church’s mission as both Fresh Expressions and inherited Church work together to proclaim Christ afresh in this and for coming generations. He has my full support and will be in my prayers.’

Lambeth Palace has provided additional information about Phil Potter and Fresh Expressions which is copied below the fold.

Additional information about Phil Potter:

Canon Phil Potter is Director of Pioneer Ministry in the Diocese of Liverpool, and is involved in national and international strategies for promoting new ways of doing church. In the recent past, he has worked as a consultant and speaker in Australia, North America, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Germany.

For 20 years, he was vicar of St Marks Haydock, leading and pastoring the church through many transitions, from being a traditional urban congregation to a large and vibrant mixed economy Cell Church.

Before ordination, Phil worked in retail management and vocational guidance before becoming a professional singer songwriter. Helping to pioneer contemporary worship, he worked and travelled internationally with the late David Watson, leading his team of Christian artists in mission, and recorded four solo albums with Kingsway music.

He has written two books: The Challenge of Change (BRF 2009), and The Challenge of Cell Church (BRF 2001).

Phil is married to Joy, who works as a Deputy Headteacher in Liverpool, and has two children, both working in the music and arts industry. His main interests are music, home design, gardening and small grandchildren.

Notes to editors:

Fresh Expressions is a way of describing the planting of new congregations or churches that are different in ethos and style from the church which planted them, because they aim to reach a different group of people than those already attending the original church. They are established primarily for the benefit of people who have never been to church.

There are at least 2,000 fresh expressions of church in the CofE and Methodist Church. The Church of England’s provisional attendance figures for 2010 were released in January 2012. The statistics included the denomination’s first ‘mapping’ of fresh expressions of church across all dioceses, revealing at least 1,000 fresh expressions and new forms of church.

The national Fresh Expressions team, which Canon Potter will lead, exists to encourage and support the movement which has seen hundreds of new congregations being formed alongside more traditional churches across the UK and internationally.

Fresh Expressions is an ecumenical movement that involves a range of partners, including:

Church of England
Methodist Church of Great Britain
United Reformed Church
Church of Scotland
The Salvation Army
Congregational Federation
Ground Level Network
Church Army
CMS
Anglican Church Planting Initiatives
24/7 Prayer

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury to visit Kenya

Lambeth Palace has issued this press release:

Archbishop to visit Kenya to offer solidarity
Monday 7th October 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury will visit Nairobi on 19 and 20 October as a guest of the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd Eliud Wabukala.

The purpose of the visit, which has been arranged at short notice, is to be in solidarity with the Kenyan people following the attack on the Westgate shopping mall last month.

The programme of the visit is not yet confirmed.

The Archbishop was invited to speak at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which takes place between 21 October and 26 October in Nairobi.

He was unable to attend because of long-standing diary commitments, including the baptism of Prince George. He will, however, record a video greeting, which will be broadcast to delegates at the start of the conference.

The Archbishop is also continuing to hold in prayer the people of Peshawar, Syria, and all those in troubled parts of the world.

Earlier today GAFCON had issued this press release:

GAFCON and the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury will visit GAFCON primates just before the opening of GAFCON 2013 in Nairobi.

GAFCON Primates are holding a two day meeting, then 1200 leaders and lay people from the UK, Asia, Africa, the Pacific and South America will fly in to Nairobi for the Global Anglican Future Conference starting on Monday, October 21st.

GAFCON Chairman Eliud Wabukala invited Archbishop Justin Welby to send greetings to the conference and he indicated he was unable to do so in person because of commitments during the week. His office has since confirmed he will make a flying visit to speak with the Primates.

The general secretary of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Dr Peter Jensen, says “The Archbishop’s decision to come to the Primates meeting is a recognition of the importance of such a large and significant gathering of Anglicans from around the world and he will be made very welcome.”

Posted October 7, 2013

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 7 October 2013 at 6:41pm BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Bishops' working costs for 2012

Bishops’ Office and Working Costs for 2012 have been published today, along with this press release.

Bishops’ Office and Working Costs Published

The 2012 office and working costs of bishops in the Church of England are published today. Figures for individual bishops were first published, for the year 2000, in December 2001.

The costs of their offices and the work of the bishops for 2012 was £20.0 million compared to a cost of £19.5 million in 2011, an annual increase of 2.5%.

This figure includes the work of the two Archbishops and the 113 bishops in the Church of England - 44 diocesan (leading) bishops and 69 suffragan (deputy) and fulltime assistant bishops, including area bishops and provincial episcopal visitors.

Included within the 2012 figure is approximately £2.8 million for legal costs during the year. House running costs for all bishops as a total was just over 750,000.

An annual block grant is made by the Church Commissioners to diocesan bishops to cover the bishops’ stipends, staff and working costs. The bishops determine how their funding is used. The Commissioners’ Board of Governors agreed to increase funding for the Archbishops by 2 per cent and for the bishops by 4 per cent, year on year for the 2011-2013 triennium.

Bishops’ office and working costs for the year ended 31 December 2012 are published on the Church of England website at:
http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1859514/final%20bishops%20office%20and%20working%20costs%202012.pdf

The media have been sent this additional Note to Editors.

  • The report includes a description of the important role played by bishops locally, regionally and nationally.
  • The 113 diocesan and suffragan bishops of the Church of England institute and support the ministry of all clergy and lay ministers in their dioceses, as well as providing pastoral support to them. Each diocesan bishop has ultimate oversight of several hundred clergy, Readers and lay workers and of a diocesan budget and portfolio of assets.
  • In addition to diocesan responsibilities, such as ordinations and diocesan festivals, and engaging with the communities which they serve, bishops often chair or serve on national and international Church boards and councils, as well as large charities, special commissions or public inquiries. They are involved in the growing work towards visible unity with other denominations both nationally and internationally and in work with other faiths.
  • Twenty-six diocesan bishops sit in the House of Lords: at least one is present every day and others will attend according to the subjects under debate that day. The Bishop of Sodor & Man sits in the Tynwald.

Costs for earlier years are available here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 7 October 2013 at 1:18pm BST | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 6 October 2013

OFSTED criticises Religious Education in English schools

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) has issued a report on Religious Education in English schools.

You can find the full report text, and a summary, on this page. OFSTED itself says:

Religious education (RE) makes a significant contribution to pupils’ academic and personal development. It also plays a key role in promoting social cohesion and the virtues of respect and empathy, which are important in our diverse society. However, the potential of RE was not being realised fully in the majority of the schools surveyed for this report.

The report identifies barriers to better RE and suggests ways in which the subject might be improved. The report is written for all those who teach RE, for those who lead the subject, and for headteachers of primary and secondary schools.

The key findings of the report are copied in full below the fold.

The Church of England issued this statement:

The Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education officer has issued a statement in response to today’s publication from Ofsted Religious education: realising the potential which says that schools and the government have failed to focus effectively on religious education.

“It is no comfort to us that Ofsted’s detailed report on the state of Religious Education in this country’s schools confirms all the messages we have been giving the Secretary of State over the last two years. The Report places the blame for poor standards squarely on government policy. In particular the removal of support and squeeze on places for training RE teachers is a scandal and will take years to reverse. RE is still core curriculum in Church schools and we repeat our offer to the Mr Gove to work with him and the whole RE community to improve commitment and competence in this essential part of every child’s education.”

Media coverage is extensive:

Telegraph Ofsted: Christianity sidelined in poor quality RE lessons

Independent Ofsted says religious education teaching ‘not good enough’

BBC Over half of schools failing in religious education, says Ofsted

Observer Church of England attacks Michael Gove over state of religious education

Mail on Sunday The pupils who are so badly taught they don’t even know who Jesus was

Express Schools failing pupils on RE

The BBC Radio 4 programme Sunday also covered it at length, starting about 30 minutes in.

Key findings:

  • Weaknesses in provision for RE meant that too many pupils were leaving school
    with low levels of subject knowledge and understanding.
  • Achievement and teaching in RE in the 90 primary schools visited were less than
    good in six in 10 schools.
  • Achievement and teaching in RE in the 91 secondary schools visited were only
    good or better in just under half of the schools. The picture was stronger at Key
    Stage 4 and in the sixth form than at Key Stage 3.
  • Most of the GCSE teaching seen failed to secure the core aim of the examination
    specifications: that is, to enable pupils ‘to adopt an enquiring, critical and
    reflective approach to the study of religion’.
  • The provision made for GCSE in the majority of the secondary schools surveyed
    failed to provide enough curriculum time for pupils to extend and deepen their
    learning sufficiently.
  • The teaching of RE in primary schools was not good enough because of
    weaknesses in teachers’ understanding of the subject, a lack of emphasis on
    subject knowledge, poor and fragmented curriculum planning, very weak
    assessment, ineffective monitoring and teachers’ limited access to effective
    training.
  • The way in which RE was provided in many of the primary schools visited had the
    effect of isolating the subject from the rest of the curriculum. It led to low-level
    learning and missed opportunities to support pupils’ learning more widely, for
    example, in literacy.
  • The quality of teaching in the secondary schools visited was rarely outstanding
    and was less than good in around half of the lessons seen. Common weaknesses
    included: insufficient focus on subject knowledge; an over-emphasis on a limited
    range of teaching strategies that focused simply on preparing pupils for
    assessments or examinations; insufficient opportunity for pupils to reflect and
    work independently; and over-structured and bureaucratic lesson planning with a
    limited focus on promoting effective learning.
  • Although the proportion of pupils taking GCSE and GCE examinations in RE
    remains high, in 2011 nearly 250 schools and academies did not enter any pupils
    for an accredited qualification in GCSE.
  • Around half of the secondary schools visited in 2011 and 2012 had changed, or
    were planning to change, their curriculum provision for RE in response to changes
    in education policy. The impact of these changes varied but it was rarely being
    monitored carefully.
  • Assessment in RE remained a major weakness in the schools visited. It was
    inadequate in a fifth of the secondary schools and a third of the primary schools.
    Many teachers were confused about how to judge how well pupils were doing in
    RE.
  • Access to high-quality RE training for teachers was poor. Training had a positive
    impact on improving provision in only a third of the schools visited; its impact was
    poor in a further third. Many of the schools surveyed said that support from their
    local authority and SACRE had diminished.
  • Leadership and management of RE were good or better in half the schools
    visited; however, weaknesses were widespread in monitoring provision for RE
    and in planning to tackle the areas identified for improvement.
  • The effectiveness of the current statutory arrangements for RE varies
    considerably. Recent changes in education policy are having a negative impact on
    the provision for RE in some schools and on the capacity of local authorities and
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 6 October 2013 at 8:55am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Assessing the evidence on faith schools

Updated Wednesday

Theos has published a report: More than an Educated Guess: Assessing the evidence on faith schools.

The Bishop of Oxford has welcomed the report: Bishop of Oxford welcomes report by think-tank Theos on faith schools.

The full text of the report can be downloaded as a PDF from here.

Theos says:

The Church pioneered mass education in Britain but over the last ten years, as the ‘church school´ sector has morphed into ‘faith schools’, the role of religious groups and institutions within the education sector has become highly contentious.

Much of the debate is by nature ideological, revolving around the relative rights and responsibilities of parents, schools and government in a liberal and plural society. Invariably, however, ideological positions draw on evidence pertaining to the actual experience and impact of ‘faith schools’. Questions like – Are‘faith schools’ socially divisive? Are they exclusive and/or elitist? Is there a special faith school effect on pupils? Is there anything distinct about the educational experience offered by faith schools? – become key to the debate.

Unfortunately, this significance is not always matched by subtlety, with the answers given and conclusions drawn frequently going beyond what the evidence actually says. More than an Educated Guess attempts to give an honest and accurate picture of what the evidence does say. Drawing on an extensive range of studies on faith schools in England, the report shows that, while there is evidence about their social and educational impact, it is rarely simple or straightforward, and that conclusions drawn from it should be tentative – certainly, more tentative than they have been of late. Ultimately, the authors argue, we need to be more honest about what the evidence says, and should avoid treating faith schools as a proxy debate for the wider question of faith and secularism in public life.

More than an Educated Guess will be an essential contribution to a major public conversation, which will make uncomfortable reading for participants on each side of the debate.

John Bingham at the Telegraph has written: Faith schools protests dragging children into ideological ‘battleground’ - bishop. He quotes Andrew Copson of the BHA as saying:

“Although the report masquerades as a new, impartial, survey of evidence surrounding faith schools, it is in fact mere apologetics in favour of such schools.

“The report omits evidence, misrepresents evidence and even makes basic errors about types of school and types of data that totally undermine any attempt to take it seriously…”

Updates

The British Humanist Association has now published a detailed criticism of the report, which can be read in full as a PDF here, or see this article: Worse than an educated guess: BHA responds to Theos report on ‘faith’ schools.

Theos has responded to this, with More than an Educated Guess: a Response to the British Humanist Association or there is a fuller document available as a PDF here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 1 October 2013 at 12:42pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 30 September 2013

Vacancy in See guidance

The Briefing for Members of Vacancy in See Committees has been recently updated and is now dated July 2013.

There are a number of changes from the previous edition, including these.

1) Following the introduction of Common Tenure, diocesan bishops have a role profile and person specification. Details of how the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) prepare these is now included.

2) The section on the procedures of the CNC has been expanded, in particular by adding information on the interviews that are now held.

3) Under the section “The Prime Minister” there is this new sentence which requires further editing.

A medical and DBS ** [what does this mean???] are conducted prior to the [candidate’s formal nomination to the See?].

DBS refers to the Disclosure and Barring Service checks (previously CRB checks).

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 30 September 2013 at 11:19am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes marriage tax change

Updated Monday

Lambeth Palace issued this press statement:

Archbishop’s statement on marriage tax breaks

Saturday 28th September 2013

In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement today that some married couples and civil partners will receive a transferable tax allowance from 2015, the Archbishop has said the church welcomes all support for family life.

In a statement, the Archbishop said: “We welcome all support for family life and we’re pleased that this initiative includes both married couples and those in civil partnerships.”

Press coverage of this government announcement:

Telegraph Married couples to receive £1,000 tax break

Guardian Tories woo married couples with tax break

BBC David Cameron unveils marriage tax breaks plan

Channel 4 News David Cameron’s cash for married couples - who gets it?

David Cameron proposes rewarding marriage with a tax cut - worth £200 a year to four million couples. But it won’t go to everyone. Who gets the £3.85 a week marriage bonus?

…The married couples tax break will favour “one earner” couples, where one partner is either not working or earning very little. Very high-earners won’t get it either. It will be restricted to basic rate tax payers - a band which includes people on salaries of up to £41,450 a year.

The marriage tax break has been on the Conservative agenda since 2010, but the bill will be sped up this year and brought in for 2015, Cameron promises.

The tax break will go to couples where one partner has an income of under £41,450 and the second is not working or earning a low salary.

In order for the couple to benefit, the low-earning partner will have to be earning under £9,440 - the current tax-free allowance for 2013/14…

Further media comment:

Spectator David Cameron unveils £1,000 marriage tax allowance

New Statesman Five problems with the Tories’ marriage tax allowance

Guardian This Tory tax allowance is just a marriage of convenience

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 29 September 2013 at 1:18pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 26 September 2013

Timetable for November session of General Synod

The timetable for the November group of sessions of the General Synod of the Church of England is available for download, and is copied below.

GENERAL SYNOD: NOVEMBER 2013
Timetable
 
Monday 18 November
12 noon Meeting of the House of Laity
2 pm – 7 pm
1.45 pm Worship
  Formal business
  Briefing by the Archbishop of Canterbury
  Report by the Business Committee
  Quinquennium Goals Part II: Intentional Evangelism
  Legislative Business
   Miscellaneous Provisions Measure/Amending Canon No 31 – Final Drafting and Final Approval
   Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation Scheme: Resolution relating to Synodical representation
Not later than 5.20 pm Questions
Not later than 6.50 pm Presentation on Steering Committee report on women in the episcopate
[7.05–7.25 pm] Evening worship
 
Tuesday 19 November
9.15 am – 1 pm
9.15 am Group work on Women in the Episcopate (to include morning worship)
11.45 am Legislative Business:
   Any unfinished legislative business from Monday
   Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure (re the Faculty Jurisdiction) – First Consideration
2.30 pm – 7 pm
2.30 pm Presidential Address by the Archbishop of York
  The Church School of the Future (Chadwick Report)
  Legislative business
  PCCs (Powers) Measure – First Consideration
   Amending Vacancy in See Committee Regulation (to give effect to Bradford DSM)
   Standing Orders Committee report
Not later than 5.45 pm London DSM: Review of the Workings of the General Synod
[7.05-7.25 pm] Evening worship
 
Wednesday 20 November
9.15 am – 1 pm
9.15 am Holy Communion
10.30 am Women in the episcopate: Motion on Steering Committee report
  Legislative business
   Women in the Episcopate Draft Measure and Amending Canon – First Consideration
2.30 – 5.30pm
2.30 pm Legislative Business
   Women in the Episcopate: Draft Measure and Amending Canon – First Consideration cont’d
  The Work of the Elections Review Group: Second Report by the Business Committee (resumed debate)
Not later than 5.15 pm Farewells
5.30 pm Prorogation
   
Contingency business: Bradford DSM: Name of Dioceses
  Wakefield DSM: Nature and Structure of the Church of England – National Debate
Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 6:18pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Forthcoming episcopal appointments

Updated Friday morning

Here’s a round-up of where the process of choosing bishops for vacant English diocesan sees is at present.

Five dioceses have been allocated places in the queue for the Crown Nominations Commission.

Bath and Wells

The CNC has already held its first meeting (18 July), and the second is scheduled for 3/4 October 2013.

Leeds

The three dioceses that will be subsumed into the Diocese of Leeds have all published updates this week (Bradford, Ripon and Leeds, Wakefield) inviting “anyone wishing to comment on the needs of the diocese, or the wider Church, or who wishes to propose candidates” to write to the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments by 3 October. This timetable is very short, but originally the closing date was 30 September.

Leeds has been allocated 12 November 2013 and 9/10 January 2014 for its CNC meetings, but the Ripon and Leeds update states “The Crown Nominations Commission will meet on November 12th, interview in January 2014 and will make its selection in February when it nominates the new bishop” whilst Bradford has “These diocesan reps will join the national reps in November to begin the formal process, with a further residential meeting in January. It is hoped that we will have the name of the new diocesan bishop by the end of February.” My interpretation of this is that there will be the usual two meetings (in November and January), and that the public announcement of the new bishop is expected in February.

The diocesan representatives on the CNC are David Ashton (Wakefield), Kathryn Fitzsimons (Ripon and Leeds) and Paul Slater, Zahida Mallard, Sam Corley and Debbie Child (Bradford).

Exeter

The CNC meetings will be on 18 October and 6/7 November 2013. Details of the diocesan statement of needs, and the six people elected from the diocese to serve on the CNC are here. These representatives are Anneliese Barrell, the Revd Douglas Dettmer, the Very Revd Jonathan Draper, Anne Foreman, Charles Hodgson and the Revd Gilly Maude.

Hereford

The CNC meetings will be on 22 January and 25/26 February 2014. The diocese has published this briefing note and this note from the chair of the vacancy in see committee.

Liverpool

The CNC meetings will be on 6 March and 1/2 April 2014. The diocese has published this guide to the process. Liverpool’s vacancy in see committee will be having its first meeting next week (1 October) and its main meeting on 3 December.

Other vacancies in the pipeline are Gibraltar in Europe, Guildford, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, and Southwell & Nottingham.

Update

The usual notices of the vacancies in the Sees of Leeds and Hereford appear in the Church Times today (27 October) with closing dates for comments of 3 and 17 October respectively. The Religious Job site carries the notice for Leeds here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 5:00pm BST | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Consecration of the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Tewkesbury

The Lambeth Palace website reports on the consecration of two suffragan bishops yesterday. See Archbishop ordains and consecrates Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Tewkesbury.

Somewhat unusually, the article contains both a transcript, and links to an audio recording, of the sermon, which was delivered by Lord Williams of Oystermouth.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 2:38pm BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Archbishop of Canterbury speaks about Peshawar

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 World at One lunchtime news programme.

You can hear the interview with Martha Kearney here.

Subsequent media coverage:

BBC Pakistan church bombing victims ‘martyrs’, archbishop says

Telegraph Christians now suffering mass martyrdom, says Archbishop of Canterbury

Express “Christians are being attacked just because of their faith”, says Archbishop of Canterbury

Star Archbishop of Canterbury says pray for Kenya mall killers

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 9:53am BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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First females elected to attend House of Bishops

See earlier TA articles here, and then here. And our own copy of the election rules here.

Church of England press release:

First Female Representatives to House of Bishops Elected
26 September 2013
The results of the first elections for female representatives to attend the House of Bishops have been announced. At its meeting of 7 February 2013 the House of Bishops decided that eight senior women clergy, elected regionally, will participate in all meetings of the House until such time as there are six female Bishops who will sit as of right.

The representatives will take up their roles on 1st December.

  • South West region - Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
  • North East region - Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
  • South East region - Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney

ENDS

Notes
The results for the elections in the 5 other regions are expected to be announced over the next two weeks.

The rules relating to the election of the regional representatives can be found here:
http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1784044/2013%20rules%20under%20so12.pdf

More information on the role and work of the House of Bishops can be found here: http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/about-general-synod/house-of-bishops.aspx

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 9:09am BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Women bishops and the recognition of Orders

The recent decision of the Church in Wales to allow women to be consecrated as bishops, and the election of a woman bishop in the Church of Ireland have prompted an article, Women bishops and the recognition of Orders, by Will Adam, editor of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, in Law and Religion UK about the implications for the Church of England.

… This is bound to bring up again the question of the recognition in a Church which does not permit the ordination of women as bishop of episcopal acts performed by a bishop who is a woman …

However, the consecration of a woman as a bishop in the Church of Ireland changes the situation. Deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of Ireland, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church are not considered as “overseas” clergy by the law applying to the Church of England. This is significant, because the permission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is not required for such ministers to be invited to exercise the ministry of their orders in England …

The article refers to this 2004 opinion from the Legal Advisory Commission of the Church of England: The Effect of Acts by women Bishops of Churches in Communion with the Church of England.

Kelvin Holdswoth writes about the same topic in Taint. He concludes with

What I’m interested in is that with respect of our current bishops in Scotland, all of them have either had a female co-consecrator present at their consecration, joined in consecrating someone with a female co-consecrator present or have been consecrated by someone who has had a female co-consecrator present at their own consecration.

What I wonder is whether those who apply the theology of taint believe that anyone at all (bishops, priests or deacons) now ordained in Scotland is legit.

Oh, and by the way an English bishop was present and joining in when this situation began. I was there – I saw it with my own eyes.

Where does this leave the Scottish Episcopal Church in relation to those who would deny the legitimacy of women to act as bishops? …

Do we, or do we not, remain in full communion with [all of] the Church of England?

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 2:22pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Women as bishops: Close, but no cigar (yet)

Charles Read, Vice-Chair of WATCH, writes: “Close, but no cigar (yet)”.

…In the Church in Wales debate, the assistant bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, reminded people of how he had been John Habgood’s chaplain when the latter, as Archbishop of York, had drafted the Act of Synod. Bishop Wilbourne told the Welsh Governing Body that the first flying bishops had deliberately been chosen from men nearing retirement because the Act of Synod was meant to be a transitional arrangement. As he said, “Yet here we are 20 years later.”

The Welsh church will make provision for those opposed to women bishops by means of a Code of Practice, not by enacting legislation. This has been where the Church of England has got into a tangle. The July General Synod asked for simple legislation to create women bishops precisely because making provision in law for opponents had proved unworkable and was leading to women bishops being second class bishops. If Wales and Ireland can do it, so can England.

In Wales and Ireland, the sky has not fallen in by going about it this way. Perhaps developments in these countries will give us courage to press on with legislation that does not discriminate. Meanwhile, here’s a sobering thought:

It is May 2014 and Kenny has moved from Dunboyne to live in Manchester. He is exploring a call to ordination but has only just been confirmed by bishop Pat – one of her first. However, the English DDO tells him that the Church of England does not recognise bishop Pat’s confirmation as valid because she is a woman. He needs to be confirmed again.

Can we get our house in order on matters like this? It