Comments: New Fire in London

It's worth reading this in parallel with the previous post about 'successful bishops', given that on many measures London is our most 'successful' diocese. Chartres clearly has some issues with total reliance on business models and talent pools, but is also a bishop who isn't afraid to lead and deal with organisation and strategy. I don't think I've seen this level of honesty about CofE practice from a serving bishop before. Plenty for other Dioceses to learn from, both mistakes and successes.

Posted by David Keen at Thursday, 1 October 2015 at 7:31pm BST

I'm amused that "Good Lord, deliver us from successful bishops" appears at the top of this page...

Posted by Rupert Moreton at Thursday, 1 October 2015 at 7:48pm BST

All great plans for growth and revival often fail to focus on the human factor - Bishop Richard has clearly been an inspirational leader.

However, that aside, his key move has been to reduce bureaucracy and allow more local autonomy. This is really the thrust of the article and is a lesson to all wherever we are, and whatever church we are part of.

Posted by Rev. Iain Baxter at Friday, 2 October 2015 at 4:42am BST

The photograph of Cantuar and Londinium which accompanies the lecture on the London Diocesan Website is quite telling. + Justin is tapping away on an iPad while + Richard has a sheaf of papers on his lap, how quaint is that? A good old fashioned lecture rather than the more usual Death by Power Point.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 2 October 2015 at 7:47am BST

Iain Yes but there is more for me here. I agree there is very shrewd organisational wisdom at work. But what impresses me is the way that a discerning faith repeatedly tests the prevailing business and financial logic that lands on his desk and is prepared to go another way. And in the midst of the principalities and powers of a capital city that really takes some courage. In that sense I hear a call to faith that echoes of Stephen Cottrell's sermon on the recent thread here.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 2 October 2015 at 8:54am BST

Excellent and encouraging piece; thanks for sharing it!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 2 October 2015 at 4:56pm BST

The Bishop of London rewrites history and slays naysayers in a way that he hopes will define his legacy. There is much that is commendable - not least the slimming down of structures, the keeping open of churches, and much wisdom about relationships within Dioceses. What is most depressing is his writing off of clergy who are not successful - who in his eyes don't posses the 'mission gene'. He gives cover to evangelical criticisms of subsidising failing parishes when lazy and inept clergy are the exception rather than the rule. A good shepherd works out ways of supporting and bringing his weakest brethren back into the fold and inspires them with a greater vision than so-called 'vision-led' HTB plants. The people and clergy of the Diocese have not been consulted about his formula, and as a result London is one of the most dysfunctional places in Christendom. The main problems we face are a) +Richard's rather lazy and complete outsourcing of decision making to (admittedly plausible and competent) people like Pete Broadbent and b) the neglect and lack of pastoral care/support of the vast majority who still believe in the parochial system. Of course it is wise to back successful horses, but it is the job of a bishop to care for and listen to all. And c) there is no 'quality control' of versions of Anglicanism to which he gives his Imprimatur. Just click on any sermon at St Helen's Bishopsgate or Christ Church Mayfair and ask yourself - does that fall within our tradition? You can bet that neither he nor his staff have ever clicked on that button for if they did, they would find much to alarm them.

Posted by Neil at Friday, 2 October 2015 at 7:47pm BST

TA drives me mad(der). But there's often much to interest and challenge. Neil's letter is one such case: it's not only about one individual (who isn't my personal cup of tea [I haven't met him]) but about 'the ishoos'. I agree tremendously with his general points, and this is another reason (tedious refrain) why 'liberals' are both in thinking and in practice far, far closer to 'traditionalists' than they are to the HTB and Alpha movements (and of course vice versa, although I'd like a bit more public acknowledgement of this).

Posted by John at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 10:59am BST

Dear Neil,
I was slightly surprised to click here for some discussion of a lecture by my Bishop, and to find instead a discussion of my own (and my colleagues') sermons. After deliberating a bit I've decided to take the bait and to ask for more explanation.
Perhaps you'd be willing to limit yourself to the sermons that I've preached, which would be about a sixth of the total over the last 12 years,(you did say click on any) and to give examples where episcopal quality control is required, or where I'm so far outside 'our tradition' as to alarm any good Bishop.
I've been a very regular reader of this site for many years (though I only post infrequently) and I'm sure there'd be many points of disagreement, but I consider myself fairly safely within historic Anglicanism.
I post like this with the nervousness any preacher might feel of inviting public criticism (please remember that even evangelicals are also people) but I'm genuinely interested to understand such a negative outside view.
Thank you,
Charlie Skrine (curate St. Helen's Bishopsgate)

Posted by CharlieS at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 6:50pm BST

Hi Charlie,

Lovely to read your post and have you posting here. I apologise, but I have not heard you preach. So I will restrict my comments to my experience of Dick Lucas's ministry.

I attended his lunch time sermons periodically, but I was little more than a face in the crowd, a complete young nobody (except to God). However, at that time, I had a real problem accepting the concept of infant baptism.

Through a go-between, he agreed to see me, and he talked me through the (strong) case for infant baptism. He must have spent 45 minutes with me - someone he'd never met - and it was a huge moment in my Christian life. Suddenly everything about infant baptism fell into place, and I 'got' it. His whole explanation was rooted in scripture, and it had a profound knock-on effect on my spirituality.

Since those days I am sure my theology has diverged widely from Dick's (and perhaps yours, I don't know). But I will always be grateful to him - for his kindness, his time, his faithfulness, and his intimate knowledge of the Bible.

My take is that churches like St Helens had a real impact on Anglican christian life. David Watson in York had a similar impact. Preachers like David Pawson in the baptist tradition had a similar impact. I am profoundly grateful.

That said, I think one of the presuppositions of Dick's ministry - the concept of biblical inerrancy - is increasingly open to challenge today. God uses people like Dick (and you I have little doubt) - because God always honours faithfulness and love.

As Christians, we find our communion in Jesus Christ, and our fellowship in love. I believe there is space and grace - or should be - for a wide variety of traditions in the Church of England.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 9:40pm BST

Dear Charlie - Fair question for I've only ever clicked on a few in the past and my claim might seem sweeping. But hey, I've just spent 20 minutes listening to your sermon on 17th August with the title Belief, Death and Life as I thought I'd choose a title that sounds mainstream. And yes, I am somewhat alarmed by talk of humanity taking punishment from God, and being deserving of God's anger. Also by your avowed and explicit anti-sacramental stance which misrepresents and misunderstands Catholic belief and general CofE practice. As far as negative views are concerned, when I clicked on a more recent sermon on Sex (which I haven't had a chance to listen to in full) I was surprised to hear that you are sufficiently confident in your version of Christian truth that you appear to have no time for the person you call 'the senior Vicar' (aka Justin Welby) working for 'good disagreement'. Both tone and content of the excerpts I have so far listened to to my mind lack generosity of spirit and humility to engage with alternative Christian approaches. A religion of answers rather than questions perhaps?

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 10:17pm BST

David Keen has written an article which is a precis of the lecture, see

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 3 October 2015 at 11:13pm BST

Neil "I am somewhat alarmed by talk of humanity taking punishment from God, and being deserving of God's anger". I would hope we're all alarmed by that, but probably not in the way you mean. And it's right there in the 39 articles and Book of Common Prayer.

Posted by David Keen at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 7:58am BST

A further question regarding theological training and St Mellitus College - the Bishop of London lamenting what he calls 'party colleges' and claiming carefully to be eschewing the establishment of a homogenised Church of England. Is St Mellitus successful in this? For just as the HTB brand is perceived as holding sway as Richard Chartres outsources to centres of success in terms of Diocesan leadership, so also is this college perceived by some. And this perception might not be correct. Or is it?
A final question - are there theological and doctrinal boundaries for the CofE and if so what are they and how are they monitored? For at the moment the only ones which seem to be enforced are with regard to practising homosexuals.

Posted by Neil at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 9:51am BST

I for one know I am deserving of God's anger and judgment, but I also know that God loves me, desires and yearns for me, with an overwhelming love.

I personally resist the idea of 'original sin' as a theological conceit - in fact, on the contrary, I believe we each have 'original beauty'.

But I also believe we have a terrible capacity for selfishness and sin, and each of us - in the end - can only come before God in rags.

It is the only spiritual path to wholeness in God.

"In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, 'We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes, only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace.'

In that day, the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious... The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion: He will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire." (Isaiah 4)

You cannot bypass judgment in the spiritual life.

We can only, ever, come before God in rags.

But see how the text continues, through Isaiah, with the Holy One saying we will be redeemed:

"Because you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you."

The fire of judgment is not separate from the fire of love. It is like a burning bush, that wraps us and enfolds us but does not consume us.

The man Jesus was not exempt from this judgment, did not step aside from it, but took the whole of the judgment and love that pertains to humanity, and broke the way through - spiritually - for us to follow.

Our God is a consuming fire, because God is Holy. But this consuming fire is also a passionate love, that wraps and enfolds us, desires and wants us, and accosts us with ardour.

"You are beautiful, my darling, lovely and majestic. Turn your eyes from me - they overwhelm me... How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh how beautiful! have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride!"

We shall be redeemed through judgment. Indeed, it has already been done, at the deepest spiritual level. It is a principle, a covenant, and a givenness that is total.

The Love of God is a holy fire.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 9:51am BST

One wonders what might have happened if + Richard had been Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Jeffrey John debacle? Would things have turned out differently? Pragmatism sometimes achieves what a more delicate conscience might miss out on.

Would that +Richard and Lord Williams been present in the House of Lords to support Lord Harries in his address to the House, recently. The big test would have been for either of them to feel able to do that - especially in light of the fact that no other 'Lord Bishop' felt able to provide support.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 10:58am BST

A final question - are there theological and doctrinal boundaries for the CofE and if so what are they and how are they monitored? For at the moment the only ones which seem to be enforced are with regard to practising homosexuals.

That is very well put, Neil.

With regard to Neil's criticism of some Evangelical preaching, I'm afraid I personally don't much care, except that I believe that in the end such preaching undermines Christianity and - even more important - in the present context such Christians don't extend to people like me the tolerance which we extend to them (as e.g. on the gay issue).

Posted by John at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 1:59pm BST

While St Mellitus may not be a party college in the old fashioned sense, in the current issue of Christianity magazine there is an interview with Nicky Gumbel in which he refers to St Mellitus as 'our college'. I happen to know that some St Mellitus staff won't like that too much, but there it is.

And most colleges haver rather mixed student bodies nowadays.

Posted by Charles Read at Sunday, 4 October 2015 at 9:56pm BST

Yes the BCP and the Articles do bear the imprint of late medieval Augustinianism and a good dose of Luthers anthropology but in the last 500 years Anglicans have explored other ways of looking at faith,nature, grace and salvation.Indeed they began to so so within 40 years of the Elizabethan Settlement Lets not anchor the C of E in the 1550s and leave it there.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 12:18am BST

Is Neil's complaint of theology only against Evangelicals? Are there no agnostic/atheistic priests/bishops in the CoE that go too far? What theology is the CoE focused on at the moment? Honestly, while I applaud Susannah's description of her faith, it would seem rather too conservative to our local priest.

Posted by Chris H at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 2:30am BST

Chris H - surely these things need to be thought about, and clergy are seldom questioned at interview about their faith - good point. There are parts of the Anglican Communion (for example in South Korea) where Baptist ministers and the like are welcomed into the priesthood often with little or no (re)training.
My question is a valid one, given that in Dioceses other than London - Southwark for example, Richard Coekin and his Co Mission brand indeed think the Bishop has gone too far (or not far enough) in not signing up publicly to their doctrinal demands when it comes to questions of sexual morality.
Another question might be - how does the Bishop of London get away with not being required to sign up to their position, and how is he acceptable to them? We don't know what he has said in private, but clearly it has not made things any easier for Christopher Chessun or other Diocesans who will not submit to their demands in the way they think +London has.
I think +Southwark has been courageous about this in standing up for his gay clergy, though I can see he might have included a greater variety of churchmanship in his senior leadership appointments. And I restate again - just listen for a while to the material coming from the Coekin stable and ask yourself whether it falls within our tradition.

Posted by Neil at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 9:09am BST

Let's be clear - none of the Bishops will "sign up" to any demands to make affirmations beyond those that are required in the Declaration of Assent, our Ordination vows, and the Canons. That has been our consistent response to any parish or grouping that would require more from us - and has led to some robust discussions with some from the conservative evangelical tribe.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 12:36pm BST

Ahem, and the Five Principles?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 1:09pm BST

There's another article that is a precis of the lecture here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 1:10pm BST

Bishop Broadbent - the question then still remains: what is it that is unacceptable to some from the conservative evangelical tribe about the Bishop of Southwark that is acceptable in the Bishop of London?
On the point about signing up for no more than is required - yes indeed. That is one reason amongst many why some of us were so vehemently opposed to the Covenant peddled by the Bishops, and thank God so comprehensively rejected. I imagine you would have signed up to that?

Posted by Neil at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 2:36pm BST

I was thinking of extraneous doctrinal statements that we are sometimes asked to subscribe to before we visit a parish. Clearly where the House has bound itself collectively to a statement like the 5 Principles, we would stand by that! And the same would go for other HoB statements...

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 2:42pm BST

Bishop Broadbent - the question then still remains: what is it that is unacceptable to some from the conservative evangelical tribe about the Bishop of Southwark that is acceptable in the Bishop of London?
On the point about signing up for no more than is required - yes indeed. That is one reason amongst many why some of us were so vehemently opposed to the Covenant peddled by the Bishops, and thank God so comprehensively rejected. I imagine you would have signed up to that?

Posted by Neil at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 2:44pm BST

1. I'm not responsible for the views of the ConEvos. If you want to know why they do what they do, ask them! We in London have historically supported and encouraged church planting when Southwark didn't - which has tended to make them more at home in London than Southwark. Southwark's attitude to church planting has now changed to be more supportive. It's probably also part of the old "London conservative - Southwark liberal" parody that we all know and love!

2. The Covenant didn't get agreed. So there was no decision to make about signing up to that. You may recognise a theme here - which is about collegiality around decision-making.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Monday, 5 October 2015 at 8:17pm BST

Susannah – thank you for your comments about Dick. I’m really glad his ministry was helpful to you; you may like to know that he celebrated his 90th birthday only recently and very happily.

Neil – I spent most of Sunday and Monday wondering why I couldn’t remember my fierce sermon on the sacraments from only a month ago. I’ve just been able to get to a computer and searched for it, and I see why –it was last year. I don’t think the sermon on sex was me so I’ll only reply about the August one if that’s OK.

I did think your initial statement was sweeping, and after your explanation I’m afraid I still do. The August sermon was on John 6 –which is a pretty serious chapter about life and death. I wasn’t intending to lack generosity of spirit; I was trying to be serious. But you may be right that I got the balance wrong.

I did talk about God’s anger, I hope sensitively; I’m grateful to others here who’ve pointed out that’s not a beyond-bounds thing to do in an Anglican Church. I would echo Susannah’s statement wholeheartedly, ‘I for one know I am deserving of God's anger and judgment, but I also know that God loves me, desires and yearns for me, with an overwhelming love.’ Perry is, of course, right that there have been other Anglican views on these issues in the last 500 years. Neil’s point, though, seemed to be that the Augustinian, Lutheran, Elizabethan-settlement one was so awful that any good Bishop would ban it. It seems strange to me that we’re allowed to explore all over the place, but the view of the Articles and Prayer Book is the only one that’s no longer to be allowed.

(To be cont…)

Posted by CharlieS at Tuesday, 6 October 2015 at 7:30am BST


On the sacraments, I re-listened to the couple of minutes involved. I’m not sure I entirely recognise an ‘avowed and explicit anti-sacramental stance’. I did take a non-sacramental reading of John 6, or at least a non-directly-sacramental reading of John 6. You may well disagree with the exegesis, but it’s hardly heresy. I also didn’t mean to misrepresent Catholic belief, but if I did, the fault doesn’t lie with St. Helen’s but with the monks from Downside who were responsible for my education in the faith during my 18 years as a practicing Roman Catholic.

You may well feel it was a rubbish sermon –goodness knows the first one back after summer holiday usually is. But was it so bad that the Bishop of London’s record falls because it was preached somewhere in his Diocese?

Rest assured that the Bishop has taken his opportunities to give me substantial pieces of his mind/ kind Fatherly instruction on the Sacraments over the years. He and I would disagree in places. But for a more Catholic-minded Bishop to drive out fairly boringly standard low church views on the Sacraments would be extraordinary wouldn’t it? I suspect one of his greatest gifts to the church in London is that he’ll tell you where he disagrees with you, but is then a big enough leader to leave you to write your own sermons and get on with ministry on the ground.

I’m grateful Neil for the time you took to follow up and to listen to those talks. Apologies if I’ve still misunderstood your concerns. Anyone else who had half an hour of their life to give/throw away on a junior curate’s August sermon would find the offending article here:

Posted by CharlieS at Tuesday, 6 October 2015 at 7:32am BST

Noting Bishop Pete's contributions here - about collegiality on the Home front. As far as the C. of E. goes, that has already been surrendered by the ability of some bishops to opt out from sharing the Sacraments with other (female) bishops.

On the broader, Anglican Communion, front: How will episcopal collegiality become re-established with Gafcon bishops who insist on a relationship bounded by (a) the 39 Articles (with its non-Sacramental view of Marriage in Art.XXV) and (b) the common acceptance of the separatist 'Jerusalem Statement', which has never been ratified by the non-Gafcon Provinces?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 6 October 2015 at 11:43pm BST

You're not getting it. The agreement on how we deal with "opting out of sharing the sacraments" *is* collegial. We agreed the 5 guiding principles. That's how it works. You may not like it, but that doesn't thereby define it as not collegial. It's the way the House and the College have agreed to operate.

The 39 Articles are part of our historic formularies. There is nothing in the CofE that requires adherence to more than two sacraments - baptism and the eucharist.

As I indicated above, the Jerusalem Declaration is not something that we could accept could be required of our clergy. (Same as seven sacraments, really!)

And I'm answering on what happens in the CofE. Not what happens in the wider communion. I think you'll find that Justin is attempting to discuss that next January!

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Wednesday, 7 October 2015 at 4:29pm BST

Charlie - I am not disputing that the Bishopsgate/Coekin brand falls within the spectrum of Christianity, but rather whether what seems to me to be this Calvinistic fringe should be encouraged as an authentic expression of Anglicanism. Hence my question, are their boundaries...if so where/what...and how are they monitored?

Posted by Neil at Wednesday, 7 October 2015 at 9:40pm BST

Well I will attempt to muddy the waters a bit!

Just because some Anglicans believe something, does that make it part of Anglican belief? For example, there is a creeping assertion / acceptance of things like marriage and confirmation as being sacraments. (See Andrew Davidson's recent book, for example). As Pete points out, Anglicanism historically sees only baptism and eucharist as sacraments though the Articles refer to others 'commonly called' sacraments.

Some Anglicans are Zwinglian in their eucharistic theology; others believe in a form of real presence which is essentially Roman / Thomist. I think the Articles and the BCP of 1552 (and 1662 come to that) rule those positions out.

So requiring such a thing as the Jerusalem Declaration is outwith the way Anglicanism operates. But all this raises the question I started with....

Posted by Charles Read at Thursday, 8 October 2015 at 11:53am BST

I understand the question and I had a go at answering it but I don't know what has happened to the second half of my answer. Maybe it fell beyond the only real Anglican boundaries, the word count?

I'll try and repost it when I'm home again tomorrow.


Posted by CharlieS at Thursday, 8 October 2015 at 3:55pm BST

For the record, in TEC, we describe the sacraments like this: The Episcopal Church recognizes two major or "gospel" sacraments, Baptism and Communion and five minor sacraments. Minor sacraments include Confirmation, Marriage, Anointing the Sick (Unction), Reconciliation (Confession, Ordination.

One of the arguments for inclusive marriage was that we don't withhold sacraments from the baptized, and we withhold baptism from no one.

TEC tolerates a broad range of churchmanship, from Anglo-Catholics like me who are serious about all seven sacraments, to our "low church" folks who are good with two sacraments. In between, we have "broad church," and I can't really describe them, in between and not uniform, I suspect.

We tend to unite around our Baptismal Covenant. It includes this:

Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God's help.
Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People: I will, with God's help.

We make these vows one to four times per year. We take them very seriously. You can see why TEC has moved forward on the dignity of LGBTQ people. And why we have lifted dignity and justice above "collegiality" (besides the fact that we're isolated and 90 percent of us are blissfully ignorant of the wrath of the anti-dignity, anti-justice, pro-collegiality forces).

It is a document that proclaims the Gospel and unites people around it. We get behind it and get very busy with charitable and social justice/mission work.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 8 October 2015 at 8:30pm BST

CharlieS - The second half of your answer was junked by our software. I've retrieved it from junk and published it above.

Posted by Peter Owen at Thursday, 8 October 2015 at 10:42pm BST

Thank you, Bishop Pete, for your explanation of 'collegiality' - from the point of view of the Church of England House of Bishops, under the new dispensation of a two-tier episcopate.

It will be interesting to see whether the Anglican Communion Primates will all agree to accept this kind of 'collegiality' regarding the question of Same-Sex Relationships at the January Meeting.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 9 October 2015 at 12:52am BST

Peter - thank you; I assumed something like that had happened. Now if we can only find a way to make your software a Bishop then all of Neil's concerns would be answered.

The only question remaining would be whether an Elizabethan Settlement version of Anglicanism should be best regarded as spam or a virus. (Not sure I'm entirely ready for everyone's views on that.)


Posted by CharlieS at Friday, 9 October 2015 at 10:16am BST

Charlie - I didn't say it was a rubbish sermon. My original question was to ask whether the Bishopsgate/Coekin brand falls within CofE boundaries. And the reason for saying this is that if the Bishops are outsourcing the system to your undeniable success, then they need to check what is said remains within the spectrum of Anglicanism. The last time (18 months ago) I clicked on a sermon or two to actually listen to what is being preached I was far more alarmed by what was said than by this random example. Though I still question your points about John 6.

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 10 October 2015 at 2:18pm BST
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