Comments: Readers, PTO and canon law

If I'm following it, Robert Paterson's argument is somewhat baffling: Apparently since readers are proclaimers of the word, this is a doctrinal matter. Surely, if that is an issue then whether or not someone is in a same-sex marriage is completely irrelevant; someone who thinks that same-sex marriages should be allowed is just as likely to 'disagree with CofE doctrine'. And where does this rule apply; a couple of years back, lots of people whose duties included proclaiming the word were rather loudly disagreeing with the church's doctrine on women bishops.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 2:12pm BST

OK, so looking at Canon E6(3), Jeremy Timm can appeal +John's decision to revoke to +Justin. Now, that could be interesting...

Posted by Alastair Newman at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 3:02pm BST

For everyone's benefit, here's the wording

E6. 3. The bishop of a diocese may by notice in writing revoke summarily, and without further process, any licence granted to a reader within his diocese for any cause which appears to him to be good and reasonable, after having given the reader sufficient opportunity of showing reason to the contrary; and the notice shall notify the reader that he may, within 28 days from the date on which he receives the notice, appeal to the archbishop of the province in which that diocese is situated. On such an appeal the archbishop may either hear the appeal himself or appoint a person holding the office of diocesan bishop or suffragan bishop in his province (otherwise than in the diocese concerned) to hear the appeal in his place; and, after hearing the appeal or, if he has appointed a bishop to hear the appeal in his place, after receiving a report in writing from that bishop, the archbishop may confirm, vary or cancel the revocation of the licence as he considers just and proper, and there shall be no appeal from the decision of the archbishop. Where the see of the archbishop is vacant or the archbishop is also the bishop of the diocese concerned, any reference in the preceding provisions of this paragraph to the archbishop of the province shall be construed as a reference to the archbishop of the other province, but any bishop appointed by the archbishop of the other province by virtue of this paragraph shall be a bishop serving in the province which contains the diocese concerned. Any appeal under this paragraph shall be conducted in accordance with rules approved by the
Archbishops of Canterbury and York; and any such rules may provide for the appointment of one or more
persons to advise the archbishop or bishop hearing such an appeal on any question of law arising in the
course thereof.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 3:30pm BST

Canon E6.3 is presumably irrelevant, though, in this case, since Jeremy Timm does not hold a licence, but has the bishop's Permission to Officiate (PTO). I don't think there is any appeal against withdrawal of Permission. And since this is not an employment issue it presumably cannot be taken to an employment tribunal either.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 4:06pm BST

My understanding of the law, for the purposes of clarification, is that if Jeremy Timms had held a LICENCE he could indeed appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but since (for I know not what reason) he held only PTO, that can be summarily revoked for any reason that seems good to one's (arch)bishop. The moral to Readers is, get a licence.

In view of Bishop Paterson's (no relation!) comments, the great irony is that if Jeremy were ordained and holding a licence or indeed a parish, he could only be removed by a proper disciplinary proceeding under the CDM, which is precisely what has not happened to Jeremy Pemberton in respect of his licence for his Lincoln post. Which I interpret as being because this point is too difficult to prove, not because of the arbitrary favour of the Bishop of Lincoln.

In the absence of some completely straight explanation from the Archbishops, the only way in which we are going to find out the full workings of this interesting new development in ecclesiastical discipline is if a number of other clergy and Readers, in various dioceses, beneficed, licenced, and not, enter same-sex marriages and see what happens. As a believer in an inclusive church, I say it would also be good if some of them were not called Jeremy!

Posted by Neil Patterson at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 4:09pm BST

Writes Simon Kershaw, "since this is not an employment issue it presumably cannot be taken to an employment tribunal either".

That's my understanding as well. Non-stipendiary readers are volunteers and volunteers don't have employment rights: see X v Mid-Sussex Citizens Advice Bureau & Anor [2012] UKSC 59.

Posted by Frank Cranmer at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 4:29pm BST

There are legal questions that seem to have achieved some clarification but require further clarification. But there are also moral issues. Obviously, I think it would be best if everyone accepted the validity of same-sex marriage. But I cannot believe (unless it is proved otherwise) that 'conservatives' who 'reject' same-sex marriage cannot respond in a range of ways that would maintain their conservative position but would yet fall well short of the oafish, uncharitable, stupid and destructive action of Sentamu: they can (a) do nothing (tactically sensible); (b) administer some formal slap on the wirst/'talking to' which issues in no substantive action (as, I believe, one of the bishops did with Jeremy Pemberton); (c) issue a public rebuke but say they respect the integrity of those who believe otherwise, and therefore regard the matter as closed. Again, I cannot believe (unless it is proved otherwise) that there aren't 'conservative' bishops (and even, maybe, one conservative archbishop) who don't think one of those alternatives wouldn't have been better.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 7:52pm BST

John, conservatives can simply stop imposing their beliefs on everyone else. Tolerating acts they disagree with doesn't require them to start supporting equal marriage.

There is no nice way to be homophobic. If any good comes from this, perhaps it'll be the Anglican church in England at long last coming to realize that.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 8:46pm BST

Does anyone have an idea why Jeremy Timms only had PTO and not a licence? Looking at this guidance here, it seems that the norm for Readers under 70 is to have a licence from the Bishop, not simply PTO (see 4.3):

Or, looking at point 4.4, is Jeremy licensed in a different diocese and therefore operating under PTO in York?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 9:34pm BST

The irony is that the further up the food chain you are the more secure you are. Those with vulnerable PTOs are fair game and can be removed without the rigmarole of going through disciplinary action; priests with tenure can't be sacked without a CDM hearing so get away with a formal rebuke, while nobody can lay a finger on bishops who publically denounce church doctrine. The rationale given for the policy is the need to model Christ in ministry, yet the more senior you are the less likely you are to face repercussions if you fall foul of the policy.

Posted by Andrew at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 10:22pm BST

My understanding is that Reader licenses in the Diocese of York are issued only at an annual service for the purpose, and that PtO is used to cover the initial period of service. And that Jeremy was unable to attend that service last year, so had the PtO continued.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 18 August 2015 at 11:30pm BST

Highlighting the difference between 'legal' and 'moral' imperatives in this case; it would appear that Jeremy has no legal right to retain his PTO (which, apparently, is not a 'licence' as such).

However, is there not a moral issue here, requiring the ABY to consider other cases where eyes have been closed to the ongoing breach of respect for the established canonical ethos of the Church of England, as stated here:

" a couple of years back, lots of people whose duties included proclaiming the word were rather loudly disagreeing with the church's doctrine on women bishops."

Posted by: Leon Clarke on Tuesday,

So: Ministers of the Word (& Sacraments of the Church) are still allowed to 'not believe in' the Canons that allow women to be priests and bishops in the Church of England, while yet continuing in office!

This seems to smack of double-dealing to me, and, I suspect, many members of the Anglican Communion around the world.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 12:46am BST

Bishops cannot revoke one's baptism. The nonordained can hold prayer services in their homes without having to seek permission from bishops. There is nothing to stop Jeremy Timm from reading at such services. There is life alongside and outside the C of E.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 2:12am BST

Simon adds an important detail - this will vary across dioceses - Reader licences are usually issued for a fixed period (1-5 years) to encourage regular reviews of their ministry, working agreement, etc. In the case of any licenced Reader entering a SSM, their bishop can probably with impunity refuse to renew their Licence when the time comes. Whereas clergy licences are generally indefinite in length.

Posted by Neil Patterson at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 7:22am BST

Father Ron highlights what has always seemed to be an important issue here - the unequal treatment of dissenting views across two contentious areas of doctrine.

When it comes to women bishops, it is held authoritatively that "the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience". Yet it is also official policy that those who dissent from this view are to be encouraged to flourish, to the extent that priests and bishops who hold this dissenting view will be appointed to minister to them.

Yet those who hold dissenting views around same sex relationships marriage will have their permission to officiate taken away.

How does one justify this difference in treatment of dissenting views, and is this a possible avenue to challenge the obvious lack of due process in the PTO withdrawals?


Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 10:39am BST

James Byron:John, conservatives can simply stop imposing their beliefs on everyone else.

But liberals aren't without fault too..look at the adoption agencies as one example.

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 11:40am BST

As a by-product, this sorry affair has highlighted Reader ministry. For the benefit of overseas readers, it may be worth noting that:
1. Readers are theologically trained on a ministry training course, usually alongside ordinands for part or most of the time.
2. They are licenced by the bishop like clergy and as such are the chief category of ministers other than clergy to have licences (as opposed to authorization -a licence is in fact a bigger deal than authorization)
3. Readers preach, lead worship (on their own or alongside clergy), undertake mission and pastoral work.
4. there is a growing sense that they are pioneer ministers - this was what they were meant to be when we invented modern Reader ministry 150 years ago.
5. Readers are almost always unpaid, but stipendiary Readers are not unknown and may be making a comeback. Readers are sometimes deployed to a church / location of need rather than staying where they are.
6. Readers are sometimes employed as chaplains in schools, hospitals etc..
7. Increasingly, we are calling them Licenced Lay Ministers (LLMs) as the title Reader is confusing.

The Reader website for England and Wales is at:

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 11:56am BST

thank you for that.
I'm a little confused about LLM, as that does not only refer to Readers but also to licensed Pastoral Assistants and licensed Evangelists in Dioceses that have those lay ministries.
Do they no longer differentiate?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 2:36pm BST

It seems to me the real issue in all of this is the extent to which people are permitted to disagree with or dissent from a given teaching of the church, and what effect this should have on their ability to function as a teacher -- taking "teaching" and "teacher" in the broadest and most ill defined sense of the words.

In a church that was risibly famous for its bishops (the principal "teachers") denying core aspects of church teaching (e.g., Incarnation, Resurrection, etc.) to the extent that such bishops are a part of popular culture (v. Lewis' _Great Divorce_, and the Bishop episode of "Yes, Prime Minister" -- which also included an allusion to the alleged sexuality of bishops, another common meme in the culture) it does appear that the ability to distinguish between gnats and camels is sorely lacking.

The current state of knicker-twists in the C of E would be comical if it weren't so tragic.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 3:34pm BST

When Jeremy Pemberton gave evidence at his recent tribunal, he recounted that Bishop Richard Inwood had told him that there were four options open to him, and listed them out. The bishop, in his own evidence, asserted that the Archbishop of York had given him no direct guidance on the options available to him.

When Jeremy Timm met the Archbishop of York, the archbishop said that there were four options open to him. And listed them out.

Curiously these were the identical four options.

Could this be coincidence?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 3:34pm BST

Erika: It's my understanding that any lay minister that is 'licensed' is effectively the same as a reader. But some pastoral assistants are 'commissioned', not 'licensed', in which case they aren't LLMs.

There is a national standard for LLM training which involves far more academic theology than many pastoral assistants would want.

Church Army Evangelists have always technically been readers, despite to most practical intents and purposes being a different kind of ministry.

Posted by Leon Clarke at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 4:01pm BST

Robert Ian Williams, the laws on equal adoption came not from liberals, but from a British government famous for its authoritarianism. Much as I detest the conservative position, since I believe in free association, I disagree with forcing non-profits not to discriminate.

If the Church of England wants to go this route, it can't go on being a state church, and must stop acting capriciously and arbitrarily. Internal opposition can and should remain vigorous.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 4:43pm BST

Knicker-twists are a necessary search for relief, neither comical nor tragic. The church needs to squeeze its theological fabric and shed excess water, just like mangled clothes, shredded courgettes or tensioned rope fibres, exuding tears yet progressively improving.

The rigid mainstream English church presents an unwillingness to get a tight grip on ancient folklore and reconcile it with modern consideration and thereby to enjoy the gradual evolution of glorious beliefs that might actually appeal to everybody.

Posted by Paul Edelin at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 5:18pm BST

To Erika: technically they are to be known as LLM (Reader) - since LLM might refer to eg pastoral assistants (but only if episcopally licensed).

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 6:02pm BST

Simon -

One small correction to your comment. Richard Inwood was explicit in his evidence that he had discussed the four possible options open to him with The Archbishop of York in a telephone conversation on 8th April, the day before RI took up the post of Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and four days before I got married. What he did assert was that the ABY had not told him which of the options to use.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 9:16pm BST

Ah, thank you for that correction Jeremy, I was writing from memory, without checking the various reports.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 19 August 2015 at 10:22pm BST

Thank you, Charles, for that very clear illustration of LLMs. How do they differ from vocational deacons? Or do you not have vocational deacons?

Meanwhile, what is clearest to me is that the ABY had discretion and he exercised it disgracefully.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 20 August 2015 at 1:59pm BST

"It seems to me the real issue in all of this is the extent to which people are permitted to disagree with or dissent from a given teaching of the church, and what effect this should have on their ability to function as a teacher -- taking "teaching" and "teacher" in the broadest and most ill defined sense of the words." --Tobias Haller

Is Mr. Timm facing the loss of his PTO because he supports same-sex marriage or because proposes to enter into one himself?

Posted by Paul Powers at Friday, 21 August 2015 at 1:33pm BST

Paul Powers, by my reading of the accounts it seems to be that he is marrying, in accord with the Law of England, and that this creates a problem because it conflicts with the "teaching of the Church of England." Obviously there is more here than merely expressing a difference of opinion, but it seems to me this is a sliding scale of exclusion. Apparently expressing the wrong opinion was enough to prevent the approval of Jeffrey John -- there was rather vociferous complaint at the time that for a "teacher" to teach (not act!) contrary to the church made one incapable of being a bishop. This is what I had in mind with my reference to the Agnostic Bishops of the popular culture.

The question is, "When do doctrines become sacrosanct to the point of intolerance of any dissent or variation." Especially on Marriage, a subject the church has not, historically, vested with such weight. English clergy have always been able to marry in accord with the law, as seemed right to them to contribute to godliness... until now, and the lay readers had best be on their marks, too.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 22 August 2015 at 9:25pm BST
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