Comments: Church Times reports and comments on CNC document

Very helpful leader in the Church Times. At least journalists can't be defrocked for giving sensible opinions.

Posted by Susan Cooper at Friday, 13 November 2015 at 11:19am GMT

If I understand correctly, according to the letter of the law in the Church of England, it is legal to discriminate against clergy and bishops who are in faithful, same sex marriages or partnerships and also against those who express opinions that these unions should be honored. What about the spirit of the law of love? In the document, the church quite clearly reveal its discrimination. How anyone in authority can claim the Church of England is not homophobic is a mystery to me.

Posted by June Butler at Friday, 13 November 2015 at 4:41pm GMT

So ... does this actually make it easier for someone like Jeffrey John to take legal action against the church?
Because, presumably, it would be unfair (and illegal) if this rule was applied in a discriminatory fashion against people who have made firm pro lgbt statements only?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 13 November 2015 at 9:31pm GMT

not sure this is much more than making one thing specifically named, CNC's have always discriminated against people on the basis of churchmanship and public statements, and divorce and re-marriage being a very obvious relationship issue.
The truth is none of us ever fully know what happens in any specific CNC because the makeup and desires of each one is different, could another candidate have missed out multiple times because of another specific thing, not only Jeffrey John?

Posted by Paul at Friday, 13 November 2015 at 9:33pm GMT

Paul - your hypothetical question is not unreasonable. There used to be a story that candidates for more senior posts received, of course, an all round evaluation. Preference was often shown to those who had the letters WOM in their notes - Wife (has her) Own Money.

Urban myth or not, it is possible that some candidates have been rejected multiple times for discriminatory reasons that would be illegal in any other context.

All of which brings me to the conclusion that our system of choosing bishops is broken, not fit for purpose and should be stopped. The Church of England's own faithful should elect their own bishops just as the early church did. We are not children to need a cabal of people in the know appointing our bishops as they think is best for us. Let it be done openly and prayerfully.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Saturday, 14 November 2015 at 9:38am GMT

"We are not children to need a cabal of people in the know appointing our bishops as they think is best for us."

It's worse than that. It's a cabal of people appointing bishops not as they think best for the Church of England, but as certain primates from elsewhere tell the cabal is best for the Anglican Communion.

In other words, we are reduced to wondering this: On every CNC, do the Primates of Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda now effectively have veto power?

One might think that if CNC members focus so much on meeting the demands of Global South provinces, then the CNC members breach their duties to the province of England, and to the English diocese whose interests the CNC should be putting first.

Posted by Jeremy (non P) at Saturday, 14 November 2015 at 12:40pm GMT

Jeremy P, very much the point as does anyone not believe the classic Yes Prime Minister line?! The whole process seems so closed it can only lead to endless speculation, correct or not. Feel that non P is overstating the case, not sure the Global South direct CNC's, but again this belief springs from the cloak and dagger of Jeffrey John. One other point, is it not the case that you only get one interview with a candidate for 1.30h for a diocesan post, if that's it surely all sorts of other criteria must make a large part of the decision?

Posted by Paul at Saturday, 14 November 2015 at 9:14pm GMT

Jeremy (non-P) is writing a lot of sense about the odd way of choosing bishops in the Church of England. I think it could be said that this (the selection of Bishop by the CNC) is something unique to the C. of E. in the Anglican Communion - to do with the fact of it being the State Church.

I do not believe there is any other Anglican Province that has to defer to the State in the choice of its bishops (will someone correct me if I'm wrong?) - a situation that makes the United Kingdom something of a 'theocratic state', that can be normal to Islam, but hardly normal for a modern Christian State, surely.

We in Aotearoa/New Zealand resort to the modern understanding of bishops being chosen by the Church herself - not by the local government. This allows a diocese to elect a bishop that the people want to lead the Church in that specific place.

If the local Church headed by its bishop was the way of operating in the early Church, perhaps the Church of England needs to separate out from the hegemony of the State, bringing her more closely in touch with other Provinces of the Anglican Communion that operate under the early Church model - a bishop being 'called' by God through the Body of Christ, rather than the body politic. Look at what happened to the integrity of ther Church through the hands-on sponsorship of the Emperor Constantine!

This is what is worrying about the proposition to promote business-tyle clergy MBAs to leadership in the Church. It sounds very nuch like a business-style organisation rather than a spiritual entity open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 15 November 2015 at 7:35am GMT

The CNC is an entirely church-based system. The Crown (which really means the Government, not the Queen) nowadays simply rubber stamps their choice. There used to be the possibility of choosing the number 2 candidate but, by clear convention and hence in reality, that will not happen. If the General Synod wanted it could easily replace the current system by any other system it wished. Of course (not entirely tongue in cheek) if we went back to the old system where it really was done by the state then we might well have less ducking and weaving round equality laws --- because the state nowadays takes equality and diversity really seriously. I agree with Fr Ron's view of the system--but don't blame this on the state. The system he proposes would take away from Church Central all the power they currently have

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Sunday, 15 November 2015 at 3:57pm GMT

Like a mighy tortoise moves the Church of England, and the CNC as a component part is no exception. The principle of representatives of a diocese and representatives of the national church together nominating bishops is not unique to the CofE. In the USA, the diocese elects, but this is subject to ratification by the House of Deputies and House of Bishops (unless the process does not fit the General Convention timetable, in which case another procedure is used to obtain the approval of the rest of TEC, clergy, bishops and laity alike). The CNC standing orders were changed to increase the diocesan representative group from 4 to 6. It hasn't been wholly successful. If there was to be more participation from the diocese (say, the diocesan synod voted in the first instance) a number of key issues arise, in particular how do 'candidates' get on to the ballot paper and how do the 'electors' get properly informed as to who to vote for? The politics are acute. Katherine Jefferts Schori in on record by saying that the processes we use have got us far more women bishops in office, quicker, than TEC has ever achieved. There is evidence that more diocesan involvement might in fact lead to more conservative appointments. Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 15 November 2015 at 9:06pm GMT

I may or may not be writing sense, and the CNC system is unusual, but my point had little to do with any state involvement.

Indeed, if the state were more involved, then CNCs would likely pay much less attention to Global South demands, and much more attention to English needs.

Posted by JeremyB at Sunday, 15 November 2015 at 9:17pm GMT

I appreciate the comments of those who see that the State has very little to do with the actual choice of candidates for the episcopate on the Church of England. However, the 'rubber stamp' required from the State must have some authority behind it, or why bother?

JeremyB's remark; that if the State were more involved the Church in England might be more open to the needs of mission in its own area - without having to take into account the homophobia of the GAFCON Provinces - could be useful, but only if the C. of E. were less homophobic than GAFCON.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 12:05am GMT

Anthony Archer, why do you make electing bishops seem so difficult?

If TEC can do it, so can the Church of England.

"Katherine Jefferts Schori in on record by saying that the processes we use have got us far more women bishops in office, quicker, than TEC has ever achieved."

I'm not sure what statistic is being asserted here as true.

TEC has had far more women bishops than the Church of England has ever appointed.

If the issue is speed -- well, let's just say that the Church of England has had many good candidates waiting, and 20+ years of catching up to do.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 3:15am GMT

When does being a 'focus of unity' become simply an exercise in compliance; a passivity in favour of the most vocal or influential; a form of collusion or even institutional cowardice? At the very moment the CofE is investing millions into training its senior leaders it appears to be trying muzzle them at the same time. At some point faithful Christian leadership has to be a source of dis-unity if it is to be a source of renewal and true to the gospel.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 6:05am GMT

The C of E does have a democratic system for choosing its bishops, in the sense that its elected representative body has chosen to set up the CNC as currently constituted---and many of the CNC members are elected at GS or diocesan level. The system is rotten, no doubt, but it's entirely in the Church's court to fix it.

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 8:22am GMT

Some correspondents here are missing the point. The guidelines were drawn up because some CNC members, particularly those from the dioceses that wanted Jeffrey John but also some of the central members, objected to the way the Archbishop of Canterbury argued against appointing him, even after the CNC had voted not to impose the Church’s exemptions under the Equality Act. These guidelines have been drawn up retrospectively in order to try and protect the Archbishop if John mounts a legal challenge. Remember that Rowan Williams forced John out of Reading because he was afraid of Akinola. He then did the same at the Southwark CNC, where we know that he bullied some of the members to tears. Welby is on record as approving of the way Williams handled the gay issue, and he wants to be able to follow exactly the same line. When questioned why he will not let John become a bishop he has regularly replied ‘because most Anglicans are in Africa’. It is as simple as that. These very tortuous guidelines are attempting to ensure that the pressure the Archbishop puts on the CNC not to appoint an openly gay candidate remain legal even when the CNC has voted not to discriminate. They are a method of continuing to discriminate without appearing to.

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 9:36am GMT

"TEC has had far more women bishops than the Church of England has ever appointed"

The first woman bishop in TEC (and the Anglican Communion) was Barbara Harris in 1989. Her's was the 834th consecration. The latest consecration is the 1091st. That's 257 consecrations, of which only about 20 were of women, call it 10%, appointed over a 27 year period. The CofE currently has seven women bishops out of some 114 bishops, that's over 6% in 11 months. That's what KJS was talking about in a conference in London earlier in the year. It has much to do with their process and (strangely) the inate conservatism of TEC when it comes to selecting bishops. QED.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 11:36am GMT

"The C of E does have a democratic system for choosing its bishops, in the sense that its elected representative body has chosen to set up the CNC as currently constituted..."

However, that elected representative body is only indirectly democratic.

Having delegates to vote for delegates (Deanery Synod electing General Synod etc) is a pretty indirect way of doing democracy.

It reminds me of the Trade Union 'delegates' and the Politburo 'delegates' of the 1970s. Generally speaking, having layers of delegates between the general members and the executive is an effective way of keeping people at arm's length from the decisions that effect them.

In my opinion, General Synod should be elected by a general vote of all members, and candidates open to be nominated by all members, with mandatory statements posted on a central website for all to see.

Then I'd start to be more impressed by the Church of England's 'democratic system'.

There is also the separate issue of whether local bodies should have devolved powers and rights to decide their own bishops, their own local parish-level approach to celebrating relationships etc.

If a local priest and PCC want their ministry to their community to be LGBT-affirming, and in all good conscience want LGBT people to be welcomed to celebrate their relationships and marriages in their local churches, they should not have that conscience over-ruled by top-down control. We should be able to live and co-exist with that level of diversity.

At present, decision-making and policy enforcement is skewed in favour of top-down control and a system of delegates that is vulnerable to capture by groups within the church as a whole.

I think democracy should be as direct and accessible as possible. In the age of email etc, this should not be beyond the ability of the organisation.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 2:43pm GMT

Since we are discussing democracy, and mentioning trade unions... perhaps I might suggest that Robert Michels concept of the iron law of oligarchy in his 1911 book (trans. 1915) 'Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy.' is relevant to Churches, and political parties, just as much as trades unions past and present?

Posted by Adrian Judd/Unitetheunion at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 8:58pm GMT

'At the very moment the CofE is investing millions into training its senior leaders it appears to be trying muzzle them at the same time.'

Hardly a discrepancy here. If the C of E is investing millions in the training of 'effective' institutional leaders/managers then discouraging wildly independent thinking (prophetic speaking?) and encouraging singing from the same institutional hymn sheet and toeing a party line seems consistent. In a troubling and perhaps mistaken sort of way.

Posted by fr rob hall at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 10:29pm GMT

"At present, decision-making and policy enforcement is skewed in favour of top-down control and a system of delegates that is vulnerable to capture by groups within the church as a whole."

Thanks to Susannah Clarke for this. I have little experience of the TUC and no experience of the Politburo, but as with all forms of democracy it is the "activists" who normally get elected! The General Synod is no exception. The only element of the Synod which is not elected by universal suffrage is the House of Laity. There have been many debates in the past as to whether the House should continue to be elected by the electoral college system (namely deanery synod representatives) or directly by parishes from those on the electoral rolls. I am likewise concerned that a system which is capable of capture by groups within the church should not be employed. The House of Laity is not currently very representative of the church. If it had been, the women bishops' legislation would not have taken nearly as long. The new Synod might be better. The danger with universal suffrage is that apathy in very many parishes would be countered by the large urban parishes, whether evangelical or not, but more likely evangelical, which would skew the balance of representation even more. As to the CNC, the central members are elected by the General Synod (clergy by the clergy - who have got there by universal suffrage - and laity by the laity - who have got there via the electoral college). The diocesan representatives, by contrast, have got there via the Vacancy-in-See committee of their diocese, which includes the usual suspects but is also open to candidates who are not members of the diocesan synods. No system is perfect but so far no-one has come up with a clearly preferable one. And if we descend into a TEC type structure (see my post above) the chances of building a church with an inclusive leadership will be limited still further.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 10:53pm GMT

"Welby is on record as approving of the way Williams handled the gay issue, and he wants to be able to follow exactly the same line. When questioned why he will not let John become a bishop he has regularly replied ‘because most Anglicans are in Africa’. It is as simple as that." - Stanley Shaw -

If this is true - and, from outside of the C. of E. it seems like it - it would appear that the Archbishop of Canterbury has some sort of archi-episcopal veto over the choice of who may be listed as a candidate for the episcopate.

However, in the great scheme of things - under existing Anglican Communion polity - it is not the given task of the ABC to regulate the polity of the Church of England by placating the political consciences of any other Province; the size of whose population should have little to do with the exercise of comparitive theological praxis.

In doing this, the ABC is only following the rule of those African Churches whose government, in league with their political leadership, would seem to be more focussed on homophobic archiepiscopal fiat than the more democratic way of synodical rule in partnership with clergy and laity.

This, perhaps, is one reason why the more democratic Provinces of the Communion - like TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada - can feel more free to move on issues of justice towards Women and Gays; because there is no archiepiscopal fiat.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 16 November 2015 at 10:56pm GMT

" In the USA, the diocese elects, but this is subject to ratification by the House of Deputies and House of Bishops (unless the process does not fit the General Convention timetable, in which case another procedure is used to obtain the approval of the rest of TEC, clergy, bishops and laity alike)."
- Anthony Archer -

Precisely. And that is my point. In TEC, it is the diocese that has the privilege of choosing for themselves who they want to be their bishop. What the national Church then does, is either ratify or reject their choice. The General Convention (General Synod) alone has this option - not the Presiding Bishop (or The ABC, in the case of the C. of E.)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 17 November 2015 at 8:57am GMT

To quote from Archbishop Michael Ramsey's opening sermon at the 1968 Lambeth Conference:

'The faith to which we are called will always be folly and scandal to the world, it cannot be in the usual sense of the word popular; it is a supernatural faith and it cannot adapt itself to every passing fashion of human thought. But it will be a faith alert to distinguish what is shaken, and is meant to go, and what is not shaken and is meant to remain... The Bishops who will lead our thinking about faith at this Lambeth Conference will help us to see that faith means standing near to the Cross in the heart of the contemporary world, and not only standing but acting. Our faith will be tested in our actions, not least in our actions concerning peace, concerning race, concerning poverty. Faith is a costly certainty, but no easy security as our God is blazing fire...

'Christendom has begun to learn that unity comes not by combining this Church with that Church much as they are now, but by the radical altering of Churches in reformation and renewal.'

It would appear that the theology of what bishops are meant to be and do in the Church of England has changed radically since then; it would be helpful to know when and how this happened.

And, if avoiding upsetting the most vocal and powerful is now part of the expectation, is it still appropriate for an archbishop to say at the ordination of a bishop, about the calling of bishops, 'Following the example of the prophets and the teaching of the apostles, they are to proclaim the gospel boldly, confront injustice and work for righteousness and peace in all the world'?

Posted by Savi Hensman at Tuesday, 17 November 2015 at 1:35pm GMT

This document leaves the intelligent reader in no doubt about Justin Welby's lack of commitment not only to the basic principles of equality but to the proclamation of the Good News within his own province and to the people of that province. Here we have another archbishop frightened of the truth that sets you free and terrified of the conservative sections of the wider Anglican Communion. No wonder that those closest to him have reached the conclusion that he is simply homophobic and lacking in the integrity necessary to articulate his own position openly and honestly.
I wonder when Peter Tatchell will reach the same conclusions and make public the information he has accumulated?

Posted by Commentator at Thursday, 19 November 2015 at 6:08pm GMT

"Precisely. And that is my point. In TEC, it is the diocese that has the privilege of choosing for themselves who they want to be their bishop. What the national Church then does, is either ratify or reject their choice. The General Convention (General Synod) alone has this option - not the Presiding Bishop (or The ABC, in the case of the C. of E.)"

This is true if the bishop is elected near the time of a General Convention. But because General Convention meets only every three years, far more often than not the approval of the TEC as a whole takes the form of approval, per the Canons, by "a majority of bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan standing committees."

The diocesan standing committees are elected, and of course the bishops are too.

TEC has 109 dioceses. So the "electorate" for the consent process is probably around a thousand people, each of them elected.

This consent-process detail aside, your point is very well taken.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 20 November 2015 at 12:27am GMT

This is the internal operation of a national church which is not mine, but it does indicate a distance so vast between TEC and the CofE that I wonder how we can truly call it "communion." A cooperative, perhaps, but not a communion.

It shows a fundamental difference in perception of ecclesia and clerical function so profound as to be a chasm not currently bridgeable.

Why are we so desperate to preserve the appearance of a communion? Is it simply to protect the ownership of our church buildings in TEC? Stubbornness? A true desire for unity?

Full disclosure, I can take or leave the Anglican Communion - of importance to me are the relations between the various churches, not as some global web, but as individual relationships. The Anglican Communion, as a self-existing entity, has become so focused on one scapegoat for its unsteady and largely-illusory nature that it can hardly be seen as an actual family, from TEC's perspective. Family doesn't treat you like that. The problem is that this beast, the Anglican Communion, never existed, but was an artificial construct from the start.

In TEC, I think those with a desire to hold on to that artificial construct are going to have to really work to convince us that there is a purpose to it that can't be served by forging - independently - personal relationships between national churches. "Vox populi:Vox Dei" is profoundly important in TEC, but we don't understand that the "populi" of TEC is that of England, or Canada, or Nigeria. Just as we have no place in dictating the polity of those churches, they have no place doing the same for us. Despite the USA's reputation, TEC has been pretty good at accepting decisions in other churches and church polities which are profoundly distasteful and unjust, to us, not out of apathy, but because we accept that we can't know what the experience and needs of that people are.

However, that has not been reciprocated, and the local option of those churches has become an international, top-down restriction for TEC. In what way is that a communion? Some animals are more answerable than others, so to speak?

I'm not trying to whinge - I truly want to understand why, in light of this newest development, taken in a pattern of developments, we should *want* to continue this artificial structure as a relational model? Even Rome's movement to centralization was more organic than this one, and an entire empire's worth of Christians refused it and separated - perhaps, without better reason to maintain this artifice, we can do the same before it descends to mutual anathemas and excommunications (in a 21st Century sense)?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 20 November 2015 at 5:57am GMT

For the benefit of members of the Church of England, who may be unaware of the democratic way of listing canadiates for the Episcopate in TEC (The Episcopal Church in North America), here is the latest news of the search for a new Bishop in Los Angeles:

" Friday, November 20, 2015
Adapted from the Diocese of Los Angeles

The Diocese of Los Angeles has posted an eight-page profile [PDF] and will accept nominations until Jan. 15 as it searches for a bishop coadjutor. The diocese’s convention that meets on Dec. 2-3, 2016, will elect the bishop coadjutor.

"Individuals may nominate themselves or be nominated by any adult (16 years or older) communicant of the Episcopal Church in good standing. By diocesan canon, a nominee must be an ordained priest, at least 30 years of age, to be consecrated a bishop."

This is a leading example of how Bishops are nominated in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion: from the whole Body, not just the head.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 22 November 2015 at 11:26pm GMT

The Church Times has today, 27 November, printed a letter from me, behind the paywall, but which reads thus:

Sir, — So, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Director of Communications, and the Chief Legal Adviser are each variously “shocked”, “astonished”, and “bewildered” by the actions of a commercial agency with whom they had been negotiating to place an advertisement in cinemas.

The agency has ended up banning the advertisement by retrospectively documenting a policy that certainly was not mentioned at the time the negotiations started. No doubt church officials feel that they have been double-crossed, and have even threatened legal action under the Equality Act 2010.

But didn’t exactly the same thing happen recently in the matter of advice produced retrospectively for the Crown Nominations Commission? Members were issued a figleaf of cover for their rejection, many months earlier, of candidates for episcopal appointments who “have publicly questioned the Church of England’s teaching on human sexuality” in a manner that was somehow considered to prevent the candidate’s becoming “a focus of unity”.

Perhaps those officials, and indeed others who are upset by this rejection, would care to ponder whether they now have a better understanding of how their own behaviour appears to other people?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 27 November 2015 at 12:18pm GMT
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