Comments: Southwark irregular ordinations: more documents

Thanks for these informative links. Any chance of getting the text of the "Diocesan guidelines for church planting" mentioned by Tom Butler?

Posted by John Foxe at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 9:31am GMT

The Bishop of Southwark and those clergy who agree with him in protesting about the ordinations in Surbiton all seem to be pointing to one issue-- that church plants have happened out of line with Diocesan guidelines. Can anyone explain these guidelines? I haven't seen any in the coverage so far.

I'm also curious as to why an established church might not want a church plant in their parish. It seems to be a distinctly territorial and outdated attitude, but feel free to correct me.

Posted by dancingphil at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 10:53am GMT

Thanks for posting Stephen Kuhrt's article. That's a really interesting perspective on the issue, and I would highly recommend that everyone reads it.

Posted by Hannah at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 1:09pm GMT

Seems that the group that calls itself 'Anglican Mainstream' (but 'Anglican Jihad' might be a better description) sings a different tune depending on who it's talking to. Their spokesman told Reuters at the Southwark ordinations that "It is a chasm: there are two religions. But we will not leave. We will do everything we can to ensure that the traditionalist teachings of the Anglican church are passed on."

That's a very different tune from their statement which talks of praying for "the Co-mission Churches, neighbouring parishes in the diocese, the Bishop of Southwark and the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Two questions:
1. Who of these parties does 'Anglican Mainstream' think are not part of the Christian religion?
2. Who else in the Anglican Communion does 'Anglican Mainstream' think are not part of the Christian religion?

Posted by Rob Hall at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 3:16pm GMT


I am a journalist, and am familiar with reporting conventions. I wouldn't be surprised if the Reuters reporter met someone who was affiliated somehow with Anglican Mainstream, asked them for their opinion, and then quoted them as a spokesperson. In issues such as these, it's very difficult to divide personal opinion from opinions and decisions reached by a group such as the board of AM.

As a result, I wouldn't take that Reuters quote so seriously. If an official statement from AM says or confirms such an opinion, then we need to ask such questions and expect a response. For now we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by dancingphil at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 4:35pm GMT

On a tangent...

The list of clergy supporting Bishop Tom Butler includes the Rev'd Holy and the Rev'd Tina Turner. Must be an interesting bunch in Southwark!

Posted by RPM at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 4:41pm GMT

It seems to me that the conflict more likely lies within AM: reading their own press release, the message seems very confused. Perhaps their two official spokespersons were having trouble agreeing what to say?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 4:49pm GMT


I see what you mean-- AM do say in the release itself that it's a complex issue, and AM members may disagree on the issue. I guess that explains any ambiguity in the release. I wouldn't go so far to project on that evidence that there are two individuals, both official spokespeople, who offered differing opinions.

Posted by dancingphil at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 5:37pm GMT

Reuters quoted AM's 'Executive Secretary' on "two religions", so I think Simon has identified one of AM's problems. If AM don't agree with his extremist views, they should publicly unequivocally dispute his comment.

If AM doesn't do this, the rest of us can draw our own conclusions about AM. It certainly looks as if interested journalists should closely question AM's 'Executive Secretary' about who within Anglicanism he and AM think is within Christianity and who isn't.

Posted by Rob Hall at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 5:50pm GMT

I fully support the ordinations that took place in Southwark. As a member of a Co-Mission Initiative congregation that meets in Central London, I have had the opportunity of seeing first hand the valuable ministry the churches undertake.

It is not true to say that congregations "poach" members from other churches. The growth we have is from people converting to Christianity, returning to the faith, moving to the city. Yes, there will be people who cease to attend other churches in favour of a Co-Mission congregation, but certainly no more so than is normally the case in a large city with many churches, and often such exchanges take place over a much broader area than the CofE parish boundaries, removing concerns that we poach from neighbouring parishes.

New church plants are conducted out of an identification of a genuine need for Word-based, gospel ministry to take place, and with full consultation of those nearby and in the existing parish. The consideration and thought that goes into these processes can never be said to be an attempt to deliberately undermine other people's gospel ministry; the love for the gospel of Jesus Christ that Richard Coekin clearly has must surely put an end to such suggestions. Churches are planted with an enthusiastic, growing, congregation, great Bible teaching, a love for one another, and a love for the lost. Simple, expository Bible teaching is unfortunately rare in the current climate; we cannot claim to follow God unless we listen to him speaking to us - that is the heart of why we emphasise the role of the Word of God, taught under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The parish share payments are, in law, optional payments. Co-Mission churches are self funding, not drawing anything from the diocese, and therefore are not required to make payments in return. This certainly does not mean there is no generosity - far greater sums than would ever be payable as a parish share are given away by the Co-Mission initiative to other churches and missionary work around the world, as well as closer to home. If parish shares were required, they would be provided - this is not the issue with Co-Mission plants, and nor can it be claimed to be.

The Bible is full of injunctions to "contend for the faith" and to protect and promote the gospel. The prospect of submitting to a Bishop who refused to distance himself from the unBiblical stance of the House of Bishops was too much to take. All Bishops swear to uphold the 39 Articles of the Church of England, which includes treating the Word of God as our highest authority, when they are consecrated. It is because of the Bishop's unfortunate departure from God's word that we have resorted to a status of "temporarily impaired communion". It was a case of obeying not man, but God.

Finally, the ordinations were not a case of Richard Coekin et al straying away from the Anglican church - far from it. It is because the liberalism within the Southwark diocese has strayed so far from Biblical truth, that the moment someone contents for the gospel, the contrast in the two approaches is highlighted to such a significant extent. Upon further examination, you can see that the Co-mission initiative remain in the place required by the Christian faith and that, unfortunately, the Bishop and the diocese have departed from it and, are, in fact the ones forcing the schism.

Posted by Stephen Smith at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 6:03pm GMT

In response to dancingphil, I have to say I think the question should be asked the other way around. Why should a church of a similar tradition wish to plant in the parish of another that is aleady ministering successfully. It only serves to duplicate mission, when resources could be much better applied elsewhere. it also often leads to tensions within an existing congregation as to which church to support. The gist of Stephen Kuhrt's article is that not only is this unhelpful, it does real damage to the gospel.

Posted by Simon Cawdell at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 7:11pm GMT

Thanks for that, Stephen.

I agree with your points. Those in the Co-Mission-- including Richard Coekin-- are sincere, and I think the accusations of him 'systematically undermining' other churches' ministries are wholly unfair, for the reasons you outline.

On a side point, I'm inclined to think that Anglican structures as a whole are outdated in their focus on geographical divisions--which will often result in controversy when the possibility of a church plant is mooted.

Out of curiosity, when was the last time parish boundaries were revised? I'm sure a lot of areas have expanded hugely in population, and could do with being served as two parishes rather than one. That might be a something for the C of E to think of in the long term.

Posted by dancingphil at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 7:54pm GMT


I suppose my response would be to begin by pointing out the sheer numbers within an average parish. How many people live in a London parish? Probably far more than any single church can minister to. Anglican churches don't seem to mind free churches being in the same parish, even if they have similar convictions. So why not an Anglican church plant with similar convictions?

I understand the principle behind Stephen Kuhrt's complaints. But I think that in practice the damage is done by the debate and disagreements over church plants than by their actual existence.

Posted by dancingphil at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 8:07pm GMT


I confess, I didn't read the Reuters story. If AM's executive secretary said that, then that is worth looking into.

Posted by dancingphil at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 8:08pm GMT

Dear Simon,

This 'does real damage to the Gospel'. How can anyone say such a thing. Let's get real, please.

I lead a proprietary chapel in Buxton, Derbyshire and am licensed by the Bishop of Derby. So we are an Anglican evangelical congregation without a parish. We meet in the parish of Buxton and have done so for 135 years. There are 6 other Anglican churches in the town. My optimistic estimate is that there are about 500 people in Buxton and district churches on a Sunday. Population 25,000. So 2% of the population are in church. I doubt if the situation in Southwark is any different.

Dont you think, Simon, there are plenty of sinners for us all to reach with the good news of God's love.

Let's get real and let's rejoice at missionary congregrations. Let's look forward to the end of parish system. As a wise, godly, mission minded archbishop once said about the parish system "Viewed as a responsibility it is a good; viewed as a fortress it is a catastrophe".

Posted by Bob Marsden at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 9:01pm GMT

dancingphil asked: "Out of curiosity, when was the last time parish boundaries were revised?"

Individual parishes, or neighbouring parishes within a deanery can make mutually agreed adjustments to boundaries in a fairly straightforward manner under current legislation. Across deaneries, it is more complex; and across diocesan boundaries it is very protracted process.

There is a very significant piece of legislation making its way through General Synod at the moment, the Draft Dioceses, Pastoral & Mission Measure (GS1597) partly following the 'Toyne' Report, 'A Measure for Measures' (GS 1528).

This may well allow for very radical rethinking, of how parishes as well as dioceses work, especially as 'Mission Shaped Church' begins to filter into the thinking and planning of the church national as well as local.

Posted by Alastair Cutting at Thursday, 17 November 2005 at 11:12pm GMT

Following on from Alastair's answer...

Parish boundaries are not infrequently redrawn. I have served on four parochial church councils, three of which were involved in boundary changes while I was a member, while the fourth had undergone boundary changes a few years previously.

There may also be changes in diocesan boundaries. For example, the Himley deanery, historically in the Diocese of Lichfield, was transferred relatively recently to Worcester. (The deanery lies within the metropolitan borough of Dudley, titular see of a suffragan bishop in Worcester.)

The issue here is not of boundary changes done "decently and in good order" but of freelancers setting up churches in another priest's patch.

Posted by Alan Harrison at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 12:35am GMT

A trader speaks of his patch - should a minister of the Gospel and the sacraments use this language? I think there is a great deal that is valuable about the geographical principle but it is clearly not without problems and revising existing boundaries between existing parishes does little to address the real challenges. There is an argument for having a parish system which provides people with a first port of call for contacting the church and which defines the primary mission responsibility of a church. But, as has been pointed out here, few churches seem to be getting even close to reaching the majority of the unchurched in their parish in terms of significant contact made.

Stephen Kuhrt makes also some good points about the principle of co-operation and not just with those with which one agrees wholeheartedly. Precisely because I agree with this, I have been reluctant myself to support these ordinations. At the same time, there seemed to me a lot more spite than sadness, more envy about growing congregations than eagerness to preserve what is good in many of the responses to the ordination.

Without local knowledge, it is hard to tell whether it is Richard Coekin who is right when he claims that there has been no "sheep-stealing" or Stephen Kuhrt when he claims that the plants have been "cherry picking" from the members of the church he serves (or maybe he is referring to neighbouring churches). I wonder, however, on what basis those who question the Anglican credentials of the ministers serving the church plants (appear to) assume that the members of these congregations would be flocking back to their parish churches rather than join a local independent evangelical church, if the plants were to be disbanded?

Posted by Thomas Renz at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 10:06am GMT

Alastair and Alan,

That's very helpful, thanks for those points.

Alan, I know this is not the salient issue with the ordinations in Southwark-- but I think it is relevant to how the church of England deals with growth in the long term.

Still, the phrase that you use-- "freelancers setting up churches in another priest's patch"-- does suggest to me an outdated territorial system that puts the emphasis in the wrong place. My opinion on that front is what led me to ask the parish boundaries question. (But this is off-topic, perhaps--sorry for taking this discussion off on a tangent).

Posted by dancingphil at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 10:20am GMT

Interesting Guardian Diary piece today (bringing together the General Synod and Irregular Ordination threads) at,3604,1645153,00.html

To quote:

"The Church of England's most senior civil servant, William Fittall, may soon be out of communion with his own church. Fittall, secretary general of the C of E's general synod, which has been meeting this week in London, is a lay reader with a church in Battersea whose vicar has fallen out with his bishop. The vicar in question, Paul Perkin, is a hard-line, evangelical, anti-gay supporter of a rebellious Wimbledon cleric who has had his licence removed by Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, for calling in a non-Anglican South African bishop to ordain three lay members of his flock without Butler's permission. Are you following this? Mr Perkin is a pillar of Reform, the conservative evangelical pressure group, which has come out against all the bishops of the C of E who, like Butler, have signed up to allowing clergy to register under the new civil-partnerships legislation. That means he's in rebellion against his own bishop. Which way will Fittall jump?"

It would be interesting to see this jump into the main news pages...

Posted by Jeff at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 11:39am GMT

I am not sure that I support these ordinations. However, it is clear that there are many Anglican christians in Southwark / London, and indeed in the Church of England as a whole, who are unhappy with the aggressive liberal ascendancy in the Church of England.

I would encourage such christians to use synodical process - pass motions in parishes, deaneries and diocesan synods to encourage debate and to help people of various views to nail their colours to the mast.

Posted by Jenny at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 1:32pm GMT

Dancingphil, and Bob, Please don't misunderstand. I am not opposed to churchplanting, quite the opposite, but it should always be undertaken collaboratively with the churches in an area. You are right in saying that there are plenty of people to be gained for the gospel, and we need to work together in doing that. The issue in Southwark was that proper collaboration was not going on, and unfortunately there is evidence of the church plants in question having a negative effect on existing congregations, which I am sure you would agree is unfortunate.

Posted by Simon Cawdell at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 1:47pm GMT

I think that the confusion may arise because the executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream these days is the Rev. Chris Sugden, who appears to have moved on from the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. He was one of those in attendance at the unauthorised ordinations a fortnight ago and signed up to supporting them, alongside Reform clergy members.
However he also seems to be one of the authors of the Anglican Mainstream statement on the Wimbledon issue, alongside Philip Giddings, which may account for its strange swerves of position. It is certainly a bit confusing, not to say dizzying.
The last time I saw Chris to speak to face to face was at a Reform conference in October last year, when he told me that he was not a member of Reform. But I then noticed that he went on to vote on one of its motions.
Maybe they allow non-members to vote, or maybe Chris doesn't know that you are not supposed actively to participate in the decisions made by organisations of which you are not a member. Or maybe he really is a member. Or perhaps they have a closet membership?
Could the real Chris Sugden please stand up?

Posted by stephen bates at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 6:19pm GMT

Stephen - As I understand it, Reform doesn't have a membership as such. One question at the recent conference was whether there should be a formal membership system. All those attending seem to be allowed to vote on the motions presented, which might explain why Chris Sugden is not a member of Reform, yet was able to vote.

Posted by Dave at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 7:05pm GMT

Sorry if I've rattled some cages with my reference to a priest's patch. However, the fact is that the C of E has geographical parishes, and since we're established the parish priest has the cure of souls for that parish, including heretics, schismatics, Jews, Turks, infidels and even any Anglicans in his/her parish who choose to worship elsewhere.

I am one of many Anglicans who for various reasons choose to worship in a parish in which I do not reside. If the Vicar of Yiewsley learned that the Rector of Hayes had visited me in a pastoral capacity, I doubt if she would object to his doing so. If, however, he decided to "plant" a mass centre in her pat... sorry, parish! ... in order to ensure that the faithful received real sacraments from a validly ordained male priest, she would have legitimate cause to complain.

Mr Coekin appears to have been setting up plants in evangelical parishes of very similar churchmanship to his own. This seems as pointless as it is naughty.

There is much that I don't understand about the Wimbledon affair, and in fairness to Mr Coekin and the newly ordained deacons, I would have to say that the least comprehensible thing to me is the way in which two of the men have been accepted for training and passed through theological college before the diocesan bishop took umbrage. It may, of course, be the case that Mr Coekin's freelancing is the reason for the bishop's reluctance.

Posted by Alan Harrison at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 7:28pm GMT

Reflecting on Stephen Smith's description of the Co-Mission effort (and from an American perspective):

The explication of why Co-Mission churches are not bound by diocesan regulations - even morally - speaks to a truly congregational polity. The emphasis on Word-centered ministry (as opposed to a ministry incorporating both Word and Sacrament) places Co-Mission churches in good parallel with such American congregational traditions as Baptists, Churches of Christ, etc. It seems to me that connectional, episcopal polity and incorporating both Word and Sacrament are central to Anglican tradition. Since it appears from afar that Co-Mission churches also don't participate in benefits and responsibilities of Establishment, how are they institutionally, ecclesiastically, or legally Anglican?

Now, calling in a Bishop of the CESA functionally takes one out of the Church of England. It is in keeping with the congregational (or perhaps presbyterian) polity of the Co-Mission churches.

We're going to see internationally what we have seen in North America and Australia already: to be Anglican is to acknowledge a certain historical heritage, with no agreement about what that heritage means. I see that lived out in America with Lutheran churches. The two largest Lutheran denominations are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS - despite its historical name, a national denomination). They both look back to Martin and his writings, but cannot agree on his heritage. They do not recognize each other's ministries, nor do they cooperate. Their institutional structures are similar, but certainly not the same; and there is no possibiltiy of overlap. The LCMS will not recognize as Lutheran any organization that does not share their specific understanding of Scripture and of the central writings of Luther. For example, only ELCA participates in the Lutheran World Federation. LCMS does not see all the member churches of LWF as sufficiently Lutheran.

What will that mean for us? Well, we wait, remembering Gamaliel's warning in Acts: "So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found to be opposing God!" (Acts 5:38-39, RSV) I think those of us believing God to be inclusive will continue to minister. Indeed, I think we will grow, as many initially attracted to simplistic Biblical literalism will find it doesn't help them see God in the here and now. I am angry at their apparent determination to grow by condemning the churches that gave them birth. But I will be slow to deny that some will find God in them.

Posted by Marshall at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 7:34pm GMT

Following Dave's comment in response to mine: does that mean anyone could be a member of Reform? Does Inclusive Church know - perhaps its members could go along and swamp next year's meeting? Perhaps that's why Reform sometimes claims to be the largest evangelical group in the CofE. But in that case, why does it claim the number of clergy it does in membership?

Posted by stephen bates at Friday, 18 November 2005 at 9:01pm GMT


When you next get to talk to AM's executive secretary, I hope you'll be able to get some clarification on who he personally and AM generally think is in which religion - to say nothing of what religions these are and which one the General Synod he's a member of is in... Or maybe he thinks it's not a synod but an inter-faith council?

Posted by Rob Hall at Saturday, 19 November 2005 at 10:46am GMT

Well, I hope he thinks that members of the Church of England's general synod are at least all Christians, otherwise the witch hunt might be quite interesting. Those of us who are not Evangelicals, or indeed Anglicans, do get a mite aggravated occasionally to be asked when, or indeed whether, we are Christians. My answer to Wally Benn when he asked me was, "Yes, but not your sort..."

Posted by stephen bates at Saturday, 19 November 2005 at 12:08pm GMT

stephen bates wrote: "Well, I hope he thinks that members of the Church of England's general synod are at least all Christians"

Well, it hasn't worked out that way with *our* conservatives over here in the States. According to the Network's recent videos, reported on here at TA:

those who disagree with the AAC/Network are, "counterfeit, non-Christians who have hijacked the Christian religion, embracing a non Christian religion, voting to go insane, who have consciously, deliberately repudiated Scripture and tradition and embraced a pagan religion."

Not much hope of reconciliation with *that* sort of viewpoint, is there ?

Posted by David Huff at Saturday, 19 November 2005 at 4:12pm GMT

Dear Stephen et al - Reform very much does have formal membership. That's why it can claim about 10% of the CoE clergy. However, it's influence extends much wider.

Many of the leadership of larger Evangelical churches are members. In one deanery I am aware of, for example, there are about a dozen paid up members lay and ordained of Reform but the members concerned represent churches which constitute about 25-30% of the Anglican membership in the Deanery.

Unfortunately for those wanting to hijack Reform, there is a statement of belief to affirm and a membership fee to pay.

What will be interesting to see is whether lay members of Reform on General Synod together with lay Conservative Anglo-Catholics on General Synod can muster 25% of the votes in the House of Laity (approx. 50 votes). If so, then they can block any departure from Orthodox Christianity on General Synod.

50 lay members of General Synod - makes you think.

Posted by MartinLuther at Sunday, 20 November 2005 at 1:49am GMT

Actually it requires one-third of the votes of any House of General Synod, + one vote, to block any doctrinal or constitutional change. After this week's meeting, however, I do think that there are actually more than that in the new House of Laity.

We shall see what the first round of internal elections brings - elections for Chair, deputy chairs, and for the Archbishops' Council. My own feeling is that we shall see almost 50% of the House in the conservative lobby.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Sunday, 20 November 2005 at 5:01pm GMT
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