Following the debate at General Synod where the proposal for new “heresy courts” was rejected, the columns of the Church Times have carried a number of letters to the editor, and feature articles about this.
Why the Church needs bounds to its spacious mysteries by Peter Selby (published 23 July)
Heresy penalties would miss C of E’s moving goalposts by Stephen Trott (published 30 July)
A question was asked about this new Bible paraphrase.
Mrs Margaret Brown (Chichester)
In view of the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury has commended Good as New, does this mean that it is now appropriate to consider this a worthy version to use in the worship of the Church of England?
The Bishop of Salisbury (for the Liturgical Commission) replied:
Versions of Scripture: A Note by the House of Bishops (GS Misc 698) gives guidance about the choice of versions of Scripture for use in public worship. It offers a number of criteria and then comments ‘A distinction needs to be drawn between translation and paraphrase. Versions which are read in church during the course of public worship should be translations of the Bible, not paraphrases of it. In less formal contexts, paraphrases may be useful.’
For the full text of GS Misc 698 go here.
Three questions were asked at General Synod in York on this subject.
Mr Anthony Archer (St Albans)
What is the process for appointing deans of cathedrals and what role, in particular, does the Archbishop of the relevant province play in that process?
Mr Geoffrey Locke (Lichfield)
What are the respective roles of the Crown and the Archbishop of the province in the appointment of a cathedral dean?
Dr Philip Jeffrey (Chichester)
What are the respective roles, in the appointment of a cathedral dean, of the Diocesan Bishop, the Crown, and the Archbishop of the Province?
Mr William Fittall, Secretary General, answered:
The process followed for Crown appointments to deaneries is a matter for the Crown. It is a matter of public record that the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary undertakes extensive soundings on the qualities and skills required within the cathedral, the diocese and the wider civic community. He then discusses potential candidates with the diocesan bishop who has a real say in the choice of names for the final shortlist. As a normal part of the process the Archbishop of the Province is also made aware of names under consideration and has an opportunity to comment should he wish. A shortlist is then placed before the Prime Minister by his Appointments Secretary. It is for the Prime Minister to decide whom to recommend to Her Majesty.
Mr Anthony Archer is also sponsoring a Private Member’s Motion on Senior Church Appointments, which will get debated in synod provided it obtains more signatures of members than other such motions. At the start of the York synod meeting it had 110 signatures and lay fifth in the list. Three items above it were debated at York, so it is likely to come up next year, unless overtaken by others.
The wording of the motion is below the fold.
Senior Church Appointments
That this Synod:
and for the Archbishops’ Council to report back to the Synod within eighteen months of the date of this debate.
“Full Synod reports in this week’s paper”
The front page this week says:
This week’s paper contains nine pages of comprehensive reporting on the General Synod in York.
Subjects include heresy trials, stipends and their payments, marriage law, domestic violence, trade justice, Europe, drug addiction, mission agencies, sentencing policy, initiation and penitence, festival liturgy, Christmas stamps, the lectionary. legal fees, pastoral measures, central funding, synod reform, funding ordinands, and the archbishops’ council — and more.
All that is also in the subscribers-only pages of this site.
I will link to the extended coverage when it moves to the public archive in two weeks’ time. Meanwhile the following reports are available now:
Leader Better than a bonfire
Columnist A radical take on justice Giles Fraser ponders a Synod vote and its consequences
This week’s Church of England Newspaper has a large number of reports online:
and this editorial (which will disappear from this URL in a week, so is reproduced here, below the fold) for convenience of TA readers:
Editorial: Heresy on trial
Church of England Newspaper
Editorial: Heresy on trial
The fact that heresy was discussed by General Synod is surely a good sign, indicating that the Church of England does have some fundamental Christian truths to affirm, and if these are regularly denied by its commissioned teachers then it will cease to be Christian. Heresy goes to the very heart of what the Christian Church is about, a classic example being the denial of the deity of Christ – if Jesus is not God incarnate then we not in fact have ‘peace with God’. If Jesus is just a good man, then we are left with a fine example to follow, but any doctrine of his death saving us from our sins becomes absurd – it is a divine act of self-sacrifice, not merely the unjust death of an innocent young man, that atones.
The Church of England places considerable weight on the ordained ministry as an instrument of doctrinal orthodoxy. Those being ordained and consecrated are specifically asked if they assent to the historic formularies in their broad shape and intent, and if they dissent from them while continuing to undergo ordination then they do so in bad faith. Anglicans are committed to the teaching of Scripture and the first four ‘ecumenical councils’ as decisive Christological and Trinitarian interpretations of the Apostolic teachings. There can be no going back on that. The Reformation introduced another important strand of Anglican authority, concerning salvation by grace and rejecting the idea of a mediatorial priestly caste, again not to be deconstructed by even the most ardent Tractarian bureaucrat. The Reformation tradition also introduced the notion of matters ‘adiaphora’, that is matters on which there may be legitimate disagreement, secondary but important issues.
The debate over infant baptism and confirmation could provide an example here. The debate over the ethics of homosexual practice is placed into this category by the revisionists, but into the doctrine of creation and God’s creative intention, by traditionalists. The fact that it is ordination where the shoe pinches follows precisely from the teaching role of the clergy, as noted above. The ‘Sea of Faith’ movement apparently contains scores of ordained clergy, who deny the objective reality God, ‘God’ being for them a word summarising a set of cultural practices such as attending church on Sunday. Here is a first order matter of heresy without question, and Bishop Eric Kemp had the theological courage to deal with a clergyman openly teaching this reductionism. If the Church of England is not witnessing to God, but rather to its own cultural and aesthetic practices, then it is falling into a kind of idolatry of itself.
The secular media of course have their own inquisitorial version of heresy, political correctness. Some culturally conservative opinions are very clearly off-limits for wide swathes of the publicly funded media. To take MRSA infection, for example, could anyone now dare ask whether the dangerous state of hospital cleanliness is directly attributable to the ‘reforms’ to nursing, removing ward cleaning from the authority of the traditional ward sister?
Tuesday’s synod session gets only this:
The Times Ruth Gledhill reports on Tom Wright’s intervention in the debate on Times and Seasons
Prayer ‘blames Church for anti-Semitism’.
Yorkshire Post Michael Brown
Church to discuss help for drug abuse victims
The Church of England Newspaper website has been hacked and currently reads as follows:
Hacked By Ang|n
Hackingcenter crew in Dalnet
Cahcephoe dewa pak-tua deGleng Sys- itsme- MuaLim
Sopi® c1pmunk ShorT^KiT
Copyright © 2003 By Ang|n
From Monday pm…
Press Association (Hats off to Rod Minchin for his excellent coverage of this synod.)
Synod Urges Christian Stamps for Every Christmas
Church of England Wants Fairer Global Trading Practices
Secular Christmas stamps attacked
Full text of Rowan Williams’ intervention on Trade Justice is here
Michael Brown, the veteran Religious Affairs Correspondent of the Yorkshire Post had a bumper day on Monday 12 July.
Homosexuality issue ‘could overwhelm Church’
Harvest prayers to include apology for global inequality
Archbishop warns Church on gay schism
Prisons policies are a scandal, says Archbishop
Choice of church for wedding to be wider
Heresy trials plan is rejected by just four votes
also columnist Mary Kenny on
A father’s place is in the home, not on the roof waving banners
Press Association via the Independent:
Politicians ‘point scoring’ on crime, says Archbishop
General Synod is over: I will now start to catch up with the press coverage.
Church Times report here
Press Association Church Slams Massive Rise in Prisoners
Press Association Archbishop Labels Penal Policy ‘Scandalous’
Sunday Times Hope disillusioned
report of forthcoming biography of Archbishop of York
Sunday Telegraph Synod rejects rules preventing teaching of homosexual ‘heresy’
Observer Just Williams
Interview with RW by Roy Hattersley
BBC Radio Sunday reports:
(listen with Real Audio)
Full text of Rowan Williams’ interventions:
The Church of England has an official, regular report of synod proceedings here.
Reports so far:
The General Synod service in York Minster was the target of a demonstration this morning:
Press Association Minster Protest in the Name of the Father (filed later in the day)
Manchester Evening News Dads’ rights campaigners storm York Minster
Press Association Fathers’ Rights Campaigners End Cathedral Protest
Sky News Fathers Disrupt Synod
Acts by Women Bishops
One of the questions put to the Chairman of the Legal Advisory Commission, Professor David McClean was this:
Q. Has the Legal Advisory Commission considered whether it is possible for a priest who has been ordained by a female bishop of another province of the Anglican Communion to obtain authority to serve as a priest in the Church of England at this present time, either for a temporary period or in a long-term post, and is each diocesan bishop free to determine this, or is there presently a national policy?
A. The Commission addressed this matter in the same Opinion. A priest ordained in an Anglican Province outside the British Isles and wishing to minister in England needs the permission of the archbishop of Canterbury or York under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967. Once that permission is given, the priest is subject to the same rules as a priest ordained in the Church of England. The Commission’s Opinion is that, contrary to the view taken by Archbishop Runcie in 1988, as a matter of law permission may be given under the 1967 Measure to a priest ordained by a woman bishop, though the grant of permission in each particular case is a matter within the discretion of the relevant archbishop. The Opinion, which will be posted on the noticeboard, and is already on the CofE website under Papers, also examines the issues that would arise were another Anglican Province in the British Isles to have women bishops.
At Question Time two of the questions were put to, and answered by, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his capacity as Chairman of the House of Bishops of the General Synod.
Mr Peter LeRoy (Bath and Wells)
Q. Given the Archbishop of Canterbury’s appeal for restraint pending the outcome of the Eames Commission, what steps will the House take to restore unity and clarity following the involvement of the diocesan bishop and the Prime Minister’s office in the controversial appointment to a deanery of an advocate of teachings contrary to the agreed position of the House of Bishops in Issues in Human Sexuality (1991)
A. With regard to current challenges in the Anglican Communion, the restraint I called for was focussed on the avoidance of action that pre-emptively changes existing structural relationships and disciplinary provisions in advance of the Eames Commission’s findings. No such changes bearing on these matters have been contemplated or made within the Church of England in relation to recent appointments.
Mrs Elizabeth Bridger (Norwich)
Q. Given that the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of ‘discipline and boundaries’ in the context of recent events in ECUSA, has the House considered what that discipline is and where the boundaries lie, and does it intend to exercise that same discipline and apply the same boundaries in relation to the Church of England?
A. The House has not considered these issues in the context of ECUSA as it has no authority in another province. However, the Commission chaired by Archbishop Eames has been mandated to consider these questions as they affect the Communion overall, and we can’t properly speculate about its recommendations at this point. However, as to matters of discipline and boundaries in our own Church, they are established in its measures and canons and applied in the context of the Church’s relevant formal public statements. As Mrs Bridger will be aware, certainly in the light of today’s session, Synod has had full opportunity for discussion of disciplinary processes.
Church of England Rejects Heresy Courts Proposal
The proposal was defeated in the House of Clergy by a margin of only 4 votes.
BBC Clergy vote no to ‘heresy courts’
Synod Votes for Radical Overhaul of Church Weddings
Earlier the Synod rejected the proposals for increasing the fees paid to church lawyers. They wanted them to be higher.
At Question Time a major change was announced in the CofE legal opinion concerning the acceptability in England of episcopal acts performed by women bishops in other Anglican provinces. See here for the documents issued.
It was not clear from the supplementary questions and answers how or when this legal opinion would be applied in practice. More about this later.
The Times has a tendentious headline, reporting Synod to debate trials for gay heresy.
A more measured headline in the Guardian Concern at Anglican plan to reintroduce heresy trials
The Church Times promises daily updates on its website here.
The BBC reports on the opening today of the General Synod under the headline Church debates relaxing wedding rules.
There is a link there to a video report by Robert Piggott.
The Press Association report is headlined Synod May Relax Church Marriage Rules.
The Telegraph report is also headed Church to debate rules on weddings. All these reports do cover other topics as well.
Church Times columnist Giles Fraser writes that Churches don’t need heresy law.
Today the Church Times weighs in on the matter of Clergy Discipline.
Glyn Paflin has an excellent summary of the report on Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) in Report offers new rules for heresy trials and the CT Leader is also on this subject: The trials that beset us which expresses serious reservations about the proposals. It concludes:
…Who would want to go to law over the rubrics of Common Worship?
Some might, we suppose. Of possible beneficiaries if the proposed legislation is enacted, one group might be news-gatherers; though they would want to object that the proposals allow the Church of England’s doctrine to be determined, case by case, in secret.
Another would be church groups with an appetite for control who believe that other Anglicans need to feel their whip hand. Of such helpers, the gospel today has little need. Unless the Synod can produce a Measure that is not, as past law has been, either dead in the water or a charter for persecutors, it will tarnish its reputation considerably.
This news-gatherer also endorses the objection to hearings being held in secret.
Anyone wanting to read the report in full should go here.
The Church of England Newspaper reports mixed views about the proposed Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) Measure in Bishop says discipline measure will kill Anglicanism.
Predictably, Bishop David Jenkins is against the measure. But more interestingly the CEN says:
In The Times on Tuesday the religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill reported that the measure “could enable the evangelical wing of the Church to lay siege to the liberals in ways that they have previously only dreamed of.”
In reality it is evangelicals who have the most to fear since many of their clergy routinely defy the canons on dress and liturgy – a matter which is much more easily proved in a tribunal than allegations of uttering dodgy doctrine during a sermon.
Archdeacon Alan Hawker, the author of the new tribunal system of discipline in the Church of England and a supporter of bringing worship and doctrine under the new rules, argued that evangelicals were more likely to be targeted than liberals.
He said that many safeguards had been built into the Measure, to prevent frivolous complaints. “The problem in my opinion is not evangelicals of the Reform-type going after liberals, all the evidence of America is that evangelicals will be targeted,” he argued.
This was precisely my own reaction on first reading the report.
Peter Owen has started to list the documents issued for the July session of General Synod at York, and will report official CofE website links to electronic copies of the documents or press releases about the synod. See Peter Owen’s Journal for details.
I will now start linking here to news stories from the media about synod.
Jonathan Petre got in first with this report on Monday, before the press briefing.
Telegraph Bishops face demand to halve their pay
Today both Ruth Gledhill and Stephen Bates wrote about the proposal to replace the current legislation relating to discipline for matters doctrinal or liturgical. This would bring the handling of such matters into line with the other recent legislation on clergy discipline, which has now been approved by Parliament.
From the February General Synod of the Church of England, Monday evening.
Revd Stephen Coles (London) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:
Q. In view of the blessing by a diocesan bishop of all who sail in the largest cruise liner in the world, has the House given any consideration to the question of consistency of the Church’s approach to the use of forms of blessing which endorse, or might be seen to endorse, sexual relationships of a kind which are inconsistent with the Church’s official teaching?
The Bishop of Oxford to reply as the Chairman of the House’s Group on ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’:
A. There are two aspects to the question. First, the blessing of the Queen Mary II by the Bishop of Winchester was not an endorsement of any particular behaviour amongst passengers. Secondly, as far as consistency is concerned, the church has always recognised that blessing are appropriate in some circumstances and not in others. As far as blessing of different relationships are concerned, this will no doubt be discussed during Wednesday’s debate on Some Issues in Human Sexuality: A Guide to the Debate and the York Diocesan Synod motion on cohabitation.
In the recent General Synod debate on Future Use of the Church Commissioners’ Funds the Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert, delivered a speech. The full text is now on the web and can be read here.
It’s well worth reading in full. But it is also worth bearing in mind who was on the working group that produced the report; press reports focused on Andreas Whittam Smith who presented it to the synod, but he was not alone, here is a list of the names, all of whom are responsible for the report:
MEMBERSHIP OF THE SPENDING REVIEW WORKING GROUP
Lady Brentford Third Church Estates Commissioner
Andrew Britton Southwark DBF Chairman and Chair of the Consultative Group of DBF Chairmen and Secretaries
Michael Chamberlain Member of the Archbishops’ Council and Chair of its Finance Division
Philip Giddings Member of the Archbishops’ Council and Chair of its Mission and Public Affairs Division.
The Rt Revd David James Bishop of Bradford
Canon Lyn Jamieson Senior Chaplain to the Bishop of Durham
Andreas Whittam Smith First Church Estates Commissioner and member of the Archbishops’ Council (The Group’s Facilitator)
Now back to what Christopher Herbert said:
…This report is, in my view, another jawbone of an ass: it is clumsy, inept and brutal. It is clumsy because it refers to consultation - (it’s now becoming one of the most slippery words in the Church’s vocabulary): but nowhere in the report does it indicate where changes were made to the text as a result of that consultation. It is clumsy because it arrogates to itself decision-making powers about the distribution of money - and assumes that finance and policy are one and the same.
It is inept because it recommends taking money from Cathedrals, places which are, at the very forefront of mission - and does so in the name of mission.
It is inept because it arrogantly assume that Bishops have nothing to do with mission - when much of my time is spent precisely at points of mission; and treats us as “cost centre” which cannot (and I quote) be “insulated” from cuts.
It is inept because it fails to ask why our costs have gone up and does not explain that being HR departments of dioceses, which our offices largely are, new legislation e.g. on data protection or child protection cannot be instituted without cost.
But above all it is brutal because it joins others in the Church in despising the Bishops as leaders; it despises our rôle in mission; it despises the fact that we have been called by the Church to be Bishops and does so, knowing that for us as Bishops to have to justify ourselves in public is a degrading and humiliating exercise. It is brutality with a smirk.
And it is brutal because it wilfully wants to set one part of the Church against another, Cathedrals v parishes, Bishops v Cathedrals - and there is no concept of Christian fraternity at its heart. No sense of reciprocity.
If I were its author I should want to have the grace to withdraw it now - and then spend time asking before God why such a clumsy, inept and brutal document has been placed before us.
In the interests of solidarity one with another I urge Synod to reject it.
From the Church Times of 20 February:
Don’t rob asylum-seekers of legal rights and sustenance, says Synod
Church urged to help in fight against AIDS
New weekday lectionary discussed
Marriage is best, but others need rights, too, says Synod
ARCIC asked to revisit papal infallibility and jurisdiction
Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure
Broad welcome for new safeguards for clergy
And from last week’s Church Times opinion columns
This is no way to disagree Giles Fraser writes about the recent General Synod debate on sexuality.
The detailed reports of synod debates published in the Church Times on 13 February are now online.
Differing views on sexuality are ‘sincerely held’, Synod told
No more archdeacons, but universities to stay
Synod calls to ‘nurture loathing’ of racism
Synod approves the Toyne report
Gender-neutral language agreed
Serving the ‘network culture’
New collects approved
Bishop: report is ‘clumsy, inept and brutal’
Housing help for clergy
Lent and Easter liturgy
Sex, power and cash can lead to glory
The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme had two reports:
Synod considers New Church funding Listen with Real Audio
The Church of England Synod ended this week looking in two different directions on a question that could be critical to its future. The members were presented with a report called Mission Shaped Church, which they enthusiastically endorsed - it should mean all sorts of new and different ways of worshipping are on offer. But when they were confronted with another report on how to fund the Church’s mission it all got unpleasantly acrimonious and they ended the debate without a vote. Christopher Landau reports.
Cost of Conscience Listen with Real Audio
It is a decade now since the Church of England began ordaining women priests. It is easy to forget what passion the debate generated during the 1980s and 1990s; it was one of those issues which really tested the way Anglicans understood the essence of their faith. It has also turned out to be rather expensive. The Church of England this week released the final cost of paying compensation to clergy who resigned because they couldn’t accept the change; a cool 26 million pounds. Christina Rees was one of the leading campaigners for women’s ordination and we are also joined by Dr Gill James, who is a member of the group Forward in Faith.
Synod Condemns Exploitation of Asylum Seekers
Synod condemns people traffickers
Synod criticises report on primacy of Pope
Christopher Howse’s Sacred Mysteries column has a historical perspective on attacking bishops.
Several speeches at synod by Rowan Williams are available on his website:
General Synod Debate on the Agenda - Archbishop’s remarks (this is about the Eames Commission and about ECUSA)
General Synod: debate on the Mission-Shaped Church - Archbishop’s remarks
General Synod: debate on the Future use of the Church Commissioners’ Funds - Archbishop’s remarks
Archbishop of Canterbury welcome to the Secretary of State for International Development
Telling the story: being positive about HIV/AIDS - Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks
Debate on The Gift of Authority - Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks
Debate on Asylum - Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks
More on yesterday’s sexuality debate:
Introduction to the General Synod debate by the Rt Revd Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford
ACNS General Synod endorses sexuality debate guide
CofE Press Release Church policy on gay relationships unchanged
BBC Synod revisits familiar divides
Related to today’s debates:
Press Association Union Steps Up Campaign for Clergy Rights
Church Times latest report here
Help fight Aids in Africa, says Williams
Clergy should get workers’ rights by law, says Church
Added Friday morning:
Telegraph Clergy to get more job security
Aids: Minister to Address General Synod.
Church Times latest report
Church Postpones £5.5M Mission Plans
Forced Celibacy for Clergy ‘Abhorrent’. Synod Told
Synod Agrees Non-Marriage Relationships Need New Legal Rights
Religions Invited to Discuss Clergy Job Rights
Associated Press via Guardian
Church of England Heads Seek Harmony
Anglicans clash over gay rights
Synod debates gay marriages
Earlier stories not yet reported here
Blessed are the poor including Bishops
Dear father-mother, please deliver us from this gender-neutral history of the world
Newspaper reports this morning mostly ignore the news reported here last night. The Telegraph has this squib.
Only Ruth Gledhill in The Times reports about what Rowan Wiliams said earlier in the meeting: Williams supports Americans who oppose gay bishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has offered his support to a network of traditionalist churches being set up in America to oppose the gay Bishop Gene Robinson.
Dr Williams, addressing the General Synod of the Church of England, said that he had been following “sympathetically” the discussions about setting up a network to operate within the Episcopal Church of the United States.
Many report on the new Alternative Collect for the Epiphany.
Mystery of the magi Guardian
We three queens of Orient are? Press Association via Australia
There were three, but were they wise - or even men? The Times
Three Wise Men might have been women, church rules Independent
The Three Fairly Sagacious Persons Telegraph
The Telegraph reports on changes at the Royal Peculiars
Queen loses historic direct control of Abbey
See also Her Majesty the Queen approves recommendations for Westminster Abbey.
The columnist Philip Howard in The Times discusses women bishops
The church’s last glass ceiling.
Here is the Church Times overnight report.
Reports from synod that I write myself (one so far) will be found on Thinking Anglicans here.
Reports from other sources will continue to be linked right here.
Another BBC story Vicar condemns ‘racist’ voting.
The business committee of the synod arranged today to give this motion a higher priority in the agenda than initially provided, to ensure that it got a hearing this week. In fact, it got a hearing at the end of today’s session.
The Press Association has reported part of the remarks Rowan Williams made at the start of the synod about the Eames commission, which starts work this week in Windsor. Gay Priests Commission Faces ‘Unprecedented Difficult Challenges’.
The Times has a report by Ruth Gledhill on Cathedrals condemn plans for cut in funding.
THE deans and canons of England’s 42 cathedrals have said that Church of England plans to cut their funding were disappointing and destructive.
They are calling for the proposals to be withdrawn because they say that the ideas could devastate the most successful arm of the Church.
The plans are to cut £500,000 from cathedral grants and to withdraw the stipends for two canons, leaving only the dean of each cathedral to be financed from central funds. The proposals were announced last month by the Church’s spending review group in a report that examined use of the Church Commissioners’ historic assets.
The review group wants to divert the £500,000 cathedrals cash as well as £5 million given to bishops each year towards a new £9 million fund for mission in deprived areas of the Church. The proposals will be debated by the General Synod at Church House, Westminster, this week.
The BBC has a report by Alex Kirby headlined Anglicans challenge asylum policy which starts on that topic but also covers the synod session in general.
This is the first synod meeting since the seismic row in the worldwide Anglican Communion over homosexuality erupted last year, and the failure of a meeting of archbishops in London in October to find a solution.
The row threatens to split the communion, with some churches refusing to have anything more to do with those US Anglicans who supported the consecration of a gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.
The English church had already experienced a similar upset, when Jeffrey John, another gay man, was chosen to be the Bishop of Reading but agreed under pressure to stand down.
The synod will debate a discussion document produced by the English bishops, Some Issues In Human Sexuality: A Guide To The Debate, but a vote is unlikely, and observers say nothing will change.
However, a campaign called Inclusivechurch plans to present a petition to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, on 10 February, urging him to resist “those bent on dividing the church in response to the consecration of Gene Robinson”.
The group says the petition, calling for a church “open to all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation”, has been signed by more than 8,500 people and over 100 parishes.
One debate which may generate some controversy is on cohabitation.
Although the church upholds marriage as the ideal, the motion accepts as a fact of modern life that some couples who could marry will prefer to live together instead.
First, the Sunday Times Atticus column has a story Rebellion in the pulpits as clerics threaten archbishop with a pay cut about the motion in General Synod to cut clergy differentials. As already noted in connection with the earlier story in The Times on this, there is no certainty that this motion will be debated at all, as it is listed as a contingency item, to be taken up only if a gap appears in the Agenda during the week. And the headline is anyway seriously misleading, as the proposal is not for pay cuts but merely for the elimination of differentials by freezing the pay of all dignitaries at their current levels until the National Stipend Benchmark for Incumbents has caught up.
Second, the Observer reports this in the Pendennis column:
Just when Rowan Williams thinks he’s kicked the thorny issue of gay clergy into the long grass, up pops a double whammy. This week’s General Synod, the Church of England’s parliament, will hear a motion welcoming the appointment of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. To compound matters, Robinson will soon visit these shores to speak at the Oxford Union. How Williams, desperate not to go down in history as the Archbishop of Canterbury who presided over the break up of the Anglican Communion, must long for the days of the love that dare not speak its name.
Update: more details about this General Synod motion below.
And the BBC Sunday radio programme had a substantial feature (12 minutes) on Church of England funding. Listen with RealAudio here.
The Church of England faces some major decisions this week - about the nature of its work, and how to pay for it. A new report called Mission Shaped Church to be debated by the General Synod, proposes a new structure of “network churches” to sit alongside the traditional parish system. Meanwhile a working group of the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners has come up with radical proposals about how to fund these new projects, in part by taking money away from richer Cathedrals. Not surprisingly the proposals face widespread criticism. Sunday obtained a copy of a document written by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which summarises the corporate opposition of the Church of England’s bishops to this report in its current form. And its not just Bishops who are opposed. England’s cathedrals deans also say that they’ve been largely ignored in the consultation process. Christopher Landau reports. Roger then spoke to Phillip Giddings, a member of the Spending Review Working Group.
The motion tabled at the General Synod mentioned above reads as follows:
“This Synod commends the 2003 General Convention of the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) for approving the decision of the Diocese of New Hampshire to consecrate Gene Robinson as a bishop in the Church of God; noting in particular that this was the democratically expressed wish of the majority of Episcopalians, a Church in which we have full confidence and in which we, members of the General Synod of the Church of England, gladly remain in full communion.”
This is a Private Members Motion tabled by the Revd Anthony Braddick-Southgate (Southwark). There will be no debate on it this week. It will be on a notice paper and will be available for members to sign this week. Private member’s motions are normally debated in order of the number of signatures. If it gets enough signatures to rise to the top of the list it could get debated in York in July. Alternatively, it will lapse if it attracts less than 100 signatures after three groups of sessions. The pay differentials motion mentioned above reached the top of the list with 122 signatures.
The remaining three Church Times articles from 23 January, about next week’s General Synod, are now online.
A new Dioceses Commission “with teeth”, which would “keep under active review the diocesan structure of the Church of England”, and could keep a tight rein on the number of suffragan bishops, is among the recommendations of the Toyne report, to be debated by the General Synod next month.
The Pastoral Measure 1983 and the Dioceses Measure 1978 would be replaced by a new Mission and Ministry Measure in three sections: Dioceses; Neighbourhood and Network; and Church Buildings. The authors of the report hope to “give coherence to procedures which to many at present seem disparate and inflexible”.
The report, A Measure for Measures: In mission and ministry, is by a review group chaired by Professor Peter Toyne, who is a former Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, and a member of the Archbishops’ Council. The present map of the dioceses “bears little resemblance to the reality of the present distribution, structure and mobility of population”, Professor Toyne says in his introduction.
“Having considered this situation carefully, we concluded that there is a clear prima facie case for taking a fresh look at the distribution of dioceses and their boundaries.”
The General Synod will be invited to express reservations about the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), when it has a full debate on an ARCIC report for the first time since 1986.
The draft Common Worship Ordinal, a revision by the Liturgical Commission of the Ordinal in the Alternative Service Book (ASB) 1980, is to be given first consideration by the General Synod next month.
The draft text is not available online. It is available on paper here.
The Times has a column today about the proposals coming before Synod to grant new “employment rights” to clergy. In Heaven only knows how Church will cope with employment rights two lawyers write:
Could a vicar be sacked for failing to reach his performance targets
IF A clergyman is sacked, he has no legal redress. Clergy are considered to be office-holders answerable to God rather than any terrestrial authority. This spiritual, instead of temporal, relationship means that they cannot take their employers to court.
But now the Church of England is considering granting the rights enjoyed by most other employers to its clergy. If accepted by the Government this would mean ministers becoming entitled to redundancy payments, holidays and protection from unfair dismissal and having access to employment tribunals to resolve disputes.
The article goes on to discuss discrimination:
The proposal to bring the clergy within the employment fold raises interesting issues. Laws introduced in December prevent discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. The issue of clergy who are practising homosexuals is already a hot topic. Where the employment is “for the purposes of an organised religion”, the new laws do allow discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the faith’s followers. The Church will now have to satisfy these criteria if it seeks to justify discrimination against homosexual applicants.
They do not make clear that this is already the case, as the new employment regulations mentioned already apply to all clergy (despite the doubts expressed by Church House officials) and this situation is unaffected by the new proposals. Nor do they make clear that the new proposals will not alter the “office holder” status of many clergy, but instead will confer these “Section 23 rights” upon them as office holders, in exchange for them accepting various responsibilities.
Communion over cappuccino? Christian worship amid the phat beats of Fatboy Slim? At the risk of causing uproar among religious conservatives, the Church of England’s parliament will next week discuss plans to draw on bar culture as inspiration for new ways of worshipping.
‘The Church has got to realise its missionary responsibilities,’ the book notes. ‘We live in a society which is now basically second, or even third-generation, pagan; we cannot simply work on the premise that all we have to do to bring people to Christ is to ask them to remember their long-held but dormant faith.’
More than 40 per cent of people have had no involvement with the Church at all throughout their lives, and the percentage of children attending Sunday school has dropped from 55 per cent in 1900 to 4 per cent today. Attendance among adult worshippers on Sunday now stands at 835,000, a 4 per cent drop on last year.
I failed to note previously the official CofE press release concerning the forthcoming session. Here it is.
Today The Times has Bishops urged to make vows of priestly poverty. The motion to which this story relates is not necessarily going to be debated. It is listed as a contingency item on the agenda, i.e. it will only be taken at this session if a gap in the timetable opens up due to other business completing early. An extract from Ruth Gledhill’s account:
The General Synod is to debate a private members motion in which bishops will be asked to give up nearly half of their £33,000 stipends to earn the same as a parochial clergyman or woman.
The motion, if successful, will cut the stipends of all dignitaries in real terms over time to the £17,940 earned by the ordinary parish priest in the Church of England, a stipend still about six times the allowance of priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
The motion is thought to be unlikely to succeed but is certain to arouse fierce debate as bishops seek to defend their rewards in the face of an attempt by Church officials to force parishes instead of the Church Commissioners to fund them. The commissioners want to switch more than half of the burden of financing the Church’s 110 bishops on to the dioceses, which means that parishes will soon have to find an extra 5 million a year to pay for their ministry, on top of financing clergy stipends and pensions and repairs to church organs and roofs.
The Church Times has extensive coverage in its paper edition. Only some of these are on the web today:
Heavy agenda and serious issues facing General Synod
Clergy could gain job rights
Culture change needed to let the fresh air in
with Fresh expressions of church and the editorial The end of geography
The others will appear on the web just before the synod starts.
The CEN had these:
Synod to tackle pressing social issues as MP speaks
Synod to be asked to bless cohabitation
The big idea to renew the Church’s mission
Clergy give a cautious welcome to Church’s employment proposals
Synod prepares for battle over relations with Rome
The press were briefed on Monday about the February session of the General Synod. See Peter Owen’s blog for a list of all the documents, and a link to the agenda. The meetings are 9-13 February. More about all this later on.
Some stories that relate to items to be discussed:
Archbishop backs guerrilla tactics in war on secularism (Times) This is about the report GS 1523 Mission-Shaped Church -Church planting and fresh expressions of church in a changing context.
Why Is Sunday Sacred, Church-Goers Asked (Press Association)
Church to explore law on ‘gay marriages’ (Press Association)
Synod to debate Pope’s supremacy (Telegraph)
Clergy to be saved from the sack by job protection law (Times)
Clergy close to workers’ rights (Telegraph)
Priests to get employment rights (BBC)
New Clergy employment rights ‘A bit of a Curates Egg’ says Amicus (press release from trade union)
Sell churches, keep bishops’ palaces (Telegraph, opinion column)
Minister Benn to Address Church on HIV (Press Association)
Church Could Rent Out Vestries to Raise Money (Press Association)
By far the most interesting Church of England news story this week is the leak to the Church Times of the report due to be published on Monday, Future Use of the Church Commissioners’ Funds. The story is here, Dioceses should pay for own bishops, say Commissioners.
There is also a report in The Times, Collection plate needs £5m to pay for bishops but this contains no additional information about the report itself.
What makes this interesting is that the Church Commissioners now appear to be quite happy to contemplate new legislation, radically altering their statutory obligations, e.g. to pay the stipends of bishops and deans. This conflicts with another report from them released earlier in the week, in they state that they were not prepared to contemplate anything of the kind with respect to the provision of housing for bishops, a much more labour-intensive task.
In report HB (04) 11 STRATEGIC REVIEW OF SEE HOUSES RECOMMENDED PRINCIPLES AND GUIDELINES, they said (emphasis added):
The genesis of this review lies in the Mellows Report, “Resourcing Bishops”, commissioned by the Archbishops. This recommended that the Commissioners should reappraise the guidelines for see houses, and commented on certain specific issues such as the image presented by the see house, the size of the garden and grounds, the location of the bishop’s office, and the special considerations which should apply to “heritage” see houses. While recognising that the Commissioners were not empowered to do so, the report recommended that the law be changed to enable the Commissioners to transfer the ownership of the see houses to each diocese without payment. This was subject to each diocese being allowed to change the house, if it so decided, before ownership was transferred. The prospect of legislating for something so fundamental to the Commissioners’ purpose - the holding of assets on behalf of the Church - caused them grave concern. This concern was acknowledged by the Archbishops’ Consultations Group which endorsed the alternative proposed by the Commissioners, that they should undertake a strategic review of see houses.
They failed to note in the report that if the highly sensible recommendations of the “Mellows One” report are followed, then virtually the entire administrative cost of the Bishoprics Committee - around £300,000 a year - will be saved. The alternative approach adopted seems certain to preserve those Bishoprics Department jobs that would have become redundant under Mellows.
But now the Commissioners are actually proposing major legislative changes, there is no logic in excluding the arrangements for see houses from their scope, and thus scuppering a major part of the Mellows reforms.