Comments: Synod Question on Human sexuality and clergy preferment

When I read this (having listened before), I laugh. One laughs for many reasons, but one is sheer pleasure at the integrity and grit of this fearless person.

Posted by John at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 2:59pm GMT

"The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply
A Yes. When candidates are being considered for a particular See their teaching on a range of issues is, however, among the many considerations that may properly be taken into account when considering their relative merits for that appointment."

So it's a 'No', then!

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 5:31pm GMT

The Church needs more like Jo Spreadbury, in order to keep the Church honest.

In this instance - of a question about the acceptability of same-sex partnered clergy in the future - will the Church ever get around to legitimising what is already factual, in order to avoid the accusation of a culture of endemic hypocrisy? OR, is it still a matter of: "Don't ask; don't tell".

It really does seem to encourage a culture of secrecy being the best policy - a polity where honesty and faithfulness doesn't get a look in.
How healthy is this for the Church?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 9:31pm GMT

So, as has been stated here on earlier threads the only bishoprics now open to the likes of Philip North and Reform will be suffragan sees.
Their teaching will disqualify them from any diocesan post.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 9:52pm GMT

While adding my thanks to Dr Spreadbury, her statement comes in the wake of Tim Allen's intervention at the last synod reported by the Daily Mail like this:
Tim Allen, from the Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese, called for "the appointment of as many as possible of the best of the Church of England's excellent senior women as diocesan bishops, preferably with seats in the House of Lords".
He also said that openly gay men were the next group who should be treated equally, saying: "It is not only women who are excluded in a discriminatory and prejudiced way from the house of bishops. So too were, and still are, those gay men who do not hide their sexuality in the closet.
"Those who are honest and frank enough to live openly in a civil partnership, while behaving in the chaste way demanded by church
aw are, it seems, from all the evidence, de facto excluded from the house of bishops, even when they are eminently qualified to be a bishop."

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 10:05pm GMT

I read this to mean that, if any priest takes a position in the "Shared Conversations on Scripture, Mission and Human Sexuality" that deviates from the current official position, that priest can kiss any thoughts of being considered for being a bishop goodbye.

Realistically, that really seems to mean that the whole "Share Conversation" process is a waste of time.

Posted by dr.primrose at Sunday, 15 February 2015 at 10:51pm GMT

" It is also the case that the Crown Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary keep a close eye on and follow up anything that looks like a breach of normal practice." - the ABC -

Does this then mean that any future opening to clergy in a same-sex relationship might - if, indeed, who is supportive of such people - remain doubtful, simply because this might "look like of breach of 'normal' practice" ?

When will gays be considered 'normal' - if ever, in the C. of E.? (Homophobia is still alive & well)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 12:09am GMT

I wonder
a) what the legal position under the Equality Act 2010 is for this apparent/alleged behaviour by the ++ ....
b) what recourse (if any) could be had, under the law, if the alleged behaviour and the alleged rationale for it were to be scrutinized
c) how long it will be before ministers of religion are granted employment rights, by the minister of state, under Section 23 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, if this kind of alleged behaviour continues
d) How Jeremy Pemberton's case is coming along.

Posted by Adrian Judd at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 7:57am GMT

It can be difficult to decipher cryptic references to the inner workings of the CofE, but, personally, I interpreted "the effect on the Anglican Communion" as referring to international relationships, and that Dr Spreadbury was questioning the propriety of the Archbishop blocking an Episcopal appointment which was wanted by the diocesan representatives, but which might cause protest from partner churches abroad.

If that is the case then the relevant question is should Ugandan church leaders (for example) have a veto on who we appoint as bishops? And if that has been going on in the past, should we in the pews have a right to know about it or should it lie behind the veil of secrecy?


Posted by Simon Dawson at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 10:04am GMT

While we are all expressing our thanks to Jo Spreadbury for eliciting this tacit admission of unlawful discrimination (and its application to one person in particular), is it not time that the Christian LGBT organisations got together to mount a legal challenge to the whole CNC process and its shenanigans? I would have thought there is, at least, a case for requesting disclosure under current freedom of information provisions. Yes, all candidates in a selection process should be entitled to confidentiality. But where the Archbishops are acting unlawfully (and immorally) in instructing the CNC not to appoint the best candidate, it must be flushed out. That the national church can hide behind so-called 'confidentiality' and operate in a way that undermines equality legislation is simply scandalous. No wonder the Archbishops have rushed to support their friend Lord Green when everyone else in the City and business community is dropping him like a hot brick. Questionable practice is the new orthodoxy. Meanwhile, I hope we are all watching out for Jo Spreadbury. Speaking the truth is costly in a Church led by two prelates who don't want to be challenged.

Posted by Michael Chancellor at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 10:12am GMT

Michael Chancellor at 10.12

"I would have thought there is, at least, a case for requesting disclosure under current freedom of information provisions."

Neither the Church of England nor the CNC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Posted by Richard at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 11:32am GMT

I heard ++Justin as saying that leaks from the CNC would be scrutinized and stopped. These are meant to be confidential meetings but if you were present at one and observed something immoral happening, you might think you had a moral duty to blow the whistle, would you not? Confidentiality does not mean conniving at immorality. It does mean, here, that you should not reveal the identity of unsuccessful candidates or the discussions which led to the eventual appointment, where the process has contained no immoral goings on. It is the classic ethical dilemma of balancing two goods - the promise to maintain confidentiality and the duty to expose wrongdoing.

And if we are influenced by overseas considerations in the CNC, we might ask:
1. which overseas dioceses / provinces are we trying not to offend? TEC??
2. do we influence episcopal appointments overseas? Do they listen to us? Should we and should they? The appointment of bishops who connive at criminalizing LGBT people certainly offends many in the Church of England.

Posted by Charles Read at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 11:56am GMT

@Richard "Neither the Church of England nor the CNC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act". Says who? If I go to my bishop and pay £10, I may, under the Freedom of Information Act, access my blue file - even ask for anything inaccurate to be removed. If it applies here, why not elsewhere? Meanwhile, a legal challenge may be the most effective way to get some of this stuff out into the open (e.g. European Court of Human Rights).

Posted by James A at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 1:02pm GMT

My experience of the CNC is somewhat limited and predates the advent of interviewing, which has moved the goalposts and has resulted in rather less confidentiality as to who may or may not have been a candidate. However, I did sit as a central member on five vacancies and as a diocesan representative on one. The CNC works as one body and every member, archbishops included, only has one vote. I have seen occasions when one archbishop might have been seen not to get his own way (based on the flow of the discussion) and vice versa. If it is the case that candidates are being called for interview when there is no reasonable level of support for their candidature at that stage, then that is simply a waste of everybody's time. However, once three or four finalist candidates are interviewed and the choice has to be made, there are many factors in the balance. There are 14 votes (except for Canterbury and York) and therefore a diocesan group that is united but cannot secure four additional votes from the central members will not get their person nominated (2/3 majority required). By the same token, if the central members are united over a candidate and cannot secure two of the diocesan group votes that candidate will not be nominated. There cannot be any additional transparency as to the deliberations, which must remain confidential. Those candidates called for interview could give permission for their names to be published, but I am not sure of the advantage of that. Or the whole system could be swept aside and replaced by elections in some way. I am sure that would open the door for even more scope for discrimination and prejudice. For the time being, we need to work with the system we have got.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 2:12pm GMT

But they are subject to the Data Protection Act and a freedom of information request made under that Act must cost no more than £10.

Posted by Adrian Judd at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 3:53pm GMT

Good post, Charles. It is nice when ideological opponents (let the term stand) can agree on elementary moral principles. So there must have been at least one principled person on the CNC.

Depressing to read there is no legal handle on these goings-on. But it's important to keep up the publicity, because in the wider world this sort of thing does not play well.

Posted by John at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 4:03pm GMT

In case anyone is interested in their legal rights to information held about themselves using a subject access request under the Data Protection Act:

Remember that the diocese and the bishop are not synonymous, and that different parts of the Church of England each need a request.

Posted by Adrian Judd at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 5:16pm GMT

Adding my thanks to the Rev Dr Jo Spreadbury for her excellent questions.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 6:17pm GMT

@Anthony Archer "For the time being, we need to work with the system we have got." Is that another way of saying that institutionalised discrimination and injustice must be tolerated and colluded with - and immoral and potentially illegal behaviour by Archbishops ignored? Is it in our interest that one man be sacrificed lest the Communion be in uproar? I'm sorry, but this is simply unacceptable and cannot be defended on any terms.

Anthony's explanation of the process and his highlighting of the fact that the Archbishops have just one vote each is helpful. But that becomes irrelevant when members of the CNC are being told how to vote.

Posted by Tom Marshall at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 6:58pm GMT

Now, perhaps, might be the right time to press for a more democratic way of appointing bishops in the Anglican mother Church of England. After all, this is the process used by most of her 'children in the world-wide Anglican Communion.

In ACANZP, for instance, the diocese gets a much greater choice in the appointment of a bishop who is considered to meet the requirements of the local Church. The decision is not left to a 'commission' more fitted to political choices than the pastoral needs of the diocese.

For the Church of England to move out of the ild-time seigneurial culture of leadership would be more of an assurance to its partners in mission.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 16 February 2015 at 11:13pm GMT

"Anthony's explanation of the process and his highlighting of the fact that the Archbishops have just one vote each is helpful. But that becomes irrelevant when members of the CNC are being told how to vote".

There is no evidence of the fact that members of the CNC are ever told how to vote. The voting is secret. Members vote on slips of paper and only the Secretaries see them and then have no real idea who is who (which makes no difference anyway). What does happen is that candidates may not secure the required 2/3 majority, in which event another round of voting is required. That requires some members to change their votes and if two change on an equal and opposite basis you have ongoing deadlock. I remember an occasion that was the case when the second name became a problem. I told the CNC that I was willing to stay for the duration, whereupon an archbishop said that he was due to visit some school that afternoon. It was a useful comment as it galvanised us to reach a final decision! Of course any member of the CNC, archbishop or not, can through discussion persuade members of the CNC of their viewpoint on any particular candidate. Let's get real. I would love to see the Dean of St Albans as a diocesan bishop, but that can only happen with the system as we currently have it working to that end.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 12:02am GMT

Forgive me if I seem to be labouring the point @Anthony Archer. But, surely, the whole purpose of this post is that members of the CNC for Exeter and St Edmundsbury WERE told how to vote (i.e. you may not vote for Jeffrey John). I assume Anthony was not a member of these CNCs; and, while it is fascinating to know what the system should be, and how Anthony has experienced it in the past, the point being made by Jo Spreadbury is that the Archbishop acted unconstitutionally. That, alone, is a very good reason not to prolonging 'the system we have' - and why making the case to prolong it is a case of defending the indefensible.

Posted by Tom Marshall at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 9:33am GMT

Firstly, I was of course not a member of the recent Exeter and St Eds & Ips CNCs. Secondly, it is idle to speculate more than is wise. However, as a former central member of the CNC, I am concerned that there do in fact seem to have been some "difficult" CNCs recently, including Canterbury, Hereford and now perhaps these two. Having not been a member of a CNC since the era of interviewing (a development I applauded) I do not know how any particular CNC decides who to invite for interview. I assume that on occasions it is necessary to vote at that stage. Of course the CNC is not bound to interview, nor is it bound to nominate from those it has interviewed, but let's assume for this purpose that it normally does nominate from those it has interviewed. That being the case, the decision to invite for interview is an important one and ought to be taken on the clear understanding that the candidate is appointable, if enough votes can be secured. The process issue at the heart of Jo Spreadbury's question (she and I being colleagues in St Albans diocese, although we have not spoken on this) seems to point to the nature of the discussions that takes place on particular candidates. The nature of the CNC is such that it is highly unlikely that all 14 members will be largely indifferent as between the interviewed candidates. There may be strongly held views which will be articulated in discussion and discernment. For my part, if any archbishop (or any other member of the CNC) tried to tell me how to vote I would ignore them, if I felt that my own views on the consequences of any particular candidate being nominated where in some way rather different. I return to my earlier post. The voting is secret, so no member should feel threatened by the process. Nevertheless, a charge of discrimination (which I personally doubt) is a serious one. There is potential under the SOs by which the CNC is constituted to make a report to the General Synod on its activities and I suggest synod members call for this is time for the July Group of Sessions.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 2:03pm GMT

Evidently Uganda and Nigeria do have a veto over the appointment of English bishops. And that veto is exercised through the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If this doesn't justify questions in Parliament, I don't know what will.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 3:06pm GMT

Anyone who has served on appointing committees knows that strong-minded individuals can secure unfair representation for their views by upping the stakes in ways that most people would regard as uncivilised (e.g. by declaring: 'I regard this candidate as unappointable'). Process is one thing, the way people behave another. In certain contexts, unscrupulous behaviour is difficult to counter. For these and other reasons I find myself completely persuaded that Jo Spreadbury's challenge highlights a great wrong.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 17 February 2015 at 8:40pm GMT

The flaw in the system Ron advocates is that it kept women from their full potential in the Anglican Church in his country. I ask how many women bishops are there in the Maori and Polynesian divisions? None. It also took nearly a quarter of a century to get two in his white section of the Church.

In Ireland a similar set up, only got a woman elected because of an impasse, enabling the bishops to intervene. The Presiding Bishop in the US commented that the Episcopal Church had found the election process detrimental to the advancement of women and that there would be far more in the Church of England.

Posted by robert ian Williams at Wednesday, 18 February 2015 at 7:42am GMT

The real miracle, Robert, in ACANZP and the Church of Ireland, is that there actually ARE women bishops in both parts of the Church. This is not so in your own Roman jurisdiction.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 18 February 2015 at 9:44am GMT

"Anyone who has served on appointing committees knows that strong-minded individuals can secure unfair representation for their views by upping the stakes in ways that most people would regard as uncivilised."

Similarly, if the Archbishop of Canterbury tells the CNC, "If you name this person, you will make my position in the Anglican Communion very difficult," then no one is likely to cross him on this.

Whatever the specific mechanism or words used, it seems from the Spreadbury question that the Global South is exercising an anti-gay veto over the Church of England's bishop appointments.

The sooner questions get asked in Parliament about the Global South veto, the better.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 18 February 2015 at 4:57pm GMT

Jeremy makes a very valid point here. The fact that episcopal appointments in any Anglican Province might be vetoed by the prelates of another province must surely be anachronistic.

There seems to be a culture of reverse colonialism being practised in our Communion, when GAFCON can dictate who may be acceptable (to them) as an acceptable leader of the Church in the C. of E.

When will our 'Mother' Church of England cease to kowtow to the cultural requirements of former colonial territories? 'She' does not seem to have been subject to the 'demands' of Western ex-colonials; whose forward looking polity has allowed long withheld freedom to women and gays in their Churches. Unity should not mean Uniformity.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 18 February 2015 at 9:30pm GMT

It seems to me -- and I think my own church is similarly afflicted, so it has less to do with the election / appointment mechanism -- that we have lost sight of what it means to be a bishop, what are the primary tasks of this ministry; and all sorts of secondary (if not spurious) considerations have moved to the forefront.

Years back, John Zizoulas, now a bishop but then a lay scholar, wrote of the bishop as the center of a eucharistic community. Does that even rise to a level of awareness these days? Have we so "professionalized" the episcopate that it has become just one more "white collar" job? Is the goal a litmus test that shows a candidate who is neither hot nor cold, but suitably tepid?

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 19 February 2015 at 3:16pm GMT

'Questions in Parliament'. I agree, Jeremy (and thank you for going with my comment on appointing committees). But someone has to organise this. I might as well report that I've had four responses so far to my letter of protest to various eminent personages in the C of E. Two eminent theologians in effect said: we agree, but that's unfortunately the way things are done in our church. Two well-known Deans of well-known cathedrals in effect said: go for it and prime synodical representatives to ask further questions. This I propose to do. After that, I'm afraid I will have shot my little bolt, because I'm old and tired.

Posted by John at Thursday, 19 February 2015 at 8:39pm GMT
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