Thinking Anglicans

three more Coekin items

First, the Church Times has this report Mr Coekin: licensed again, but warned to be obedient.

Second, Giles Fraser in his Church Times opinion column, has A matter not settled by a Technicality.

Third, and most interesting, the prolific Andrew Goddard has written a further analysis for Fulcrum entitled Some ramifications of the Coekin case:
He concludes thus:

…It had been claimed that such undertakings should not be demanded as they were ‘unreasonable’ and ‘unjustifiable’. These are claims one could imagine being echoed by others who sit loose to the authority of bishops in the Church of England, especially if those bishops are seen as ‘liberal’. This claim is clearly and firmly rejected by the Archbishop. In contrast, he makes clear that ‘their content reflects the legal obligations which Canon Law imposes upon any licensed minister’ (italics added). In short, what Richard Coekin and many of his supporters view as unreasonable and unjustifiable limitations on the freedom of a parish clergyperson are in fact binding obligations under canon law. Furthermore, as noted earlier, doctrinal disagreement with one’s bishop or declarations of ‘impaired communion’ are not legitimate defences for disobeying canon law.

To ask for written undertakings on the part of one individual troublesome priest who had misbehaved, while perhaps providing a form of the ‘merited censure’, could also have been seen as having no wider significance for other clergy and simply be a punishment for his personal misbehaviour. By deciding not to ask for such undertakings the Archbishop has opened the possibility for a personal and relational approach to reconciliation (rather than one of a reluctant legal declaration). But he has done much more. He has made it quite clear that ‘the onus placed upon the Appellant to conform to the discipline of the Church’ (which was the rationale for asking for undertakings) ‘is not in any way lessened’ and that Richard Coekin is left ‘bound to submit to the Respondent’s episcopal authority and accountable for his actions to the wider Church’. Furthermore, this is not only true of Richard Coekin nor is it limited to the peculiar and difficult situation of this sad case. What it was proposed by the Bishop of Winchester to be explicitly required of this one person in this one case is actually now clearly shown to be required of all clergy in all situations. Whatever one’s problems with one’s bishop, no clergyperson is above the law.

No clergyperson in the Church of England can therefore now claim ignorance of the significance and seriousness of their acts if they involve themselves in any ordinations without the approval of their diocesan or if they disregard episcopal directions concerning church planting. Any such actions are a flagrant rejection of the discipline of the church and the standard rhetorical defences offered by those who threaten such actions have been found to be without legal or theological basis. In future any similar acts of disobedience, whether by Richard Coekin or any other cleric, are likely to result in disciplinary proceedings not by summary revocation of their licence but under the new Clergy Discipline Measure. As long as care is taken to follow due process, there can now be little doubt that any bishop faced with repetitions of conduct similar to that of Richard Coekin will be able effectively to discipline those involved as they have been shown by this ruling to have absolutely no justification in law for such actions.

Giles Fraser mentions something that has been asserted by several commenters here on TA: that Emmanuel, the parent church of Dundonald, practices lay presidency at the Holy Communion. If this is true, then will the relevant clergy now be challenged on this?


  • Giles Fraser says:

    Just a word of clarification. I have no evidence that Mr Coekin’s own church of Dundonald goes in for lay presidency. Though I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Rather, Dundonald Wimbledon is a plant of Emmanuel Wimbledon which certainly does go in for lay presidency. I had lunch with a chap – not ordained – from that church who regularly celebrates the Eucharist, just last week.

  • David says:

    The last paragraphs of Giles Fraser’s article read :

    “Why do these churches want to stay in the C of E? The trust deed of Mr Coekin ‘s church mentions Anglicanism only once, grudgingly to concede that the minister ought “ideally” to be an Anglican. In a diocese that supports ministry in some of the poorest parts of Europe, it pays nothing in parish share. And it takes no notice whatsoever of the bishop.

    No, I doubt whether the people there really want to be in the Church of England. But they want all the advantages of membership. They like the C of E badge. It is a sign of quality. It makes prospective churchgoers feel safe. I think another thing they appreciate is access to places that are ring-fenced for Anglicans at good local schools. It’s a very thin basis for an ecclesiology.

    The Bishop of Southwark was absolutely right to try to sort out this mess. It ‘s a pity he didn’t receive more support from the Archbishop. Once you give in to bullies, they just keep coming back for more.”

    I am a member of one of the Co-Mission congregations and would both be saddened and shocked if anyone I know was a member of the church in order to assist in access to school places. I consider myself Anglican and I believe in the 39 Articles and other doctrine set out in the Canons of the CofE. However, I would describe myself as a sinner saved by Jesus on the cross, a Christian.

    The Co-Mission churches give a proportion of all income to Gospel work in the UK and around the world. I do not know the actual amount or percentage but to insinuate that the church does not follow God’s instructions on giving in the bible is wrong.

    To categorise either Richard Coekin or the Co-Mission churches as bullies is contrary to everything I have seen through my own eyes and heard taught at church. We are instructed by the bible to contend for the Gospel. I hope and pray that I can do that with at least some portion of the love and strength that Jesus showed for me.

  • Merseymike says:

    But you would say that, wouldn’t you – because you agree with the conservative fundamentalism preached there?

    if the CofE goes down that road, it has no chance of reaching the vast majority of people who understandably find such beliefs repellent.

  • Giles Fraser says:

    Dave, you said this. “I believe in the 39 Articles and other doctrine set out in the Canons of the CofE”. So I take it from this that you therefore believe in Canon B 12 para 1. “No person shall consecrate and administer the holy sacarment of the Lord’s Supper unless he shall have been ordained priest by episcopal ordination in accordance with the provisions of Canon C 1.” Is that correct?

  • The description of the bishop of Southwark as “pugnacious” and “not the sort of man to be crossed in a hurry” combined with another who said the Coekin ordinations caused him to go “ballistic” are why we are at this juncture. I could add a few more suitable epithets but they would all be in the same vein.

    Now we see all this bluster and not a little abuse at others because this silly, block-headed man cocked it up!

    I like firm and decisive leadership when it is appropriate and I think that the Coekin ordinations called precisely for that, but what happened was a disaster for all though mostly for the bishop of Southwark and showed no leadership at all – only spleen.

    These ordinations were months in the planning – considerable research had been done by those behind the scheme to act within the law and if they thwarted the bishop of Southwark then he should have invested the same care and thought into his reaction. He acted precipitately and should answer for it. I am glad I am not a priest (of any hue) in his diocese.

    The structures and policy of the Anglican Church in many places seems devoid of any sense and often appears to block or discourage any real work for the Gospel, on a clear day most “liberals” of my acquaintance know this only too well and to the cost of their ministry for Christ. I find it irksome that some now rally to the flag and support the misuse of power because they happen to dislike the cause.

    I think the leaders of Reform are operating a “Church within a Church” they are determined to make mischief and – most importantly – they know how to because they know their stuff. Their tactics are effective and reasoned and they act with what they understand to be a genuine sense of the love for God and His work. If they need to be “dealt with” then it should be done well and with minute attention to their pastoral needs along with the people they lead.

    For me the problem comes with the hollow legalistic ring of Mr Coekin’s position. There are three clerics of that pernicious and discredited splinter, the Church of England in South Africa exercising the Ministry and work of a Deacon in his faith community without the licence of the bishop of Southwark It makes no sense to me that he should then value the licence of Tom Butler with whom, in any case, he is in “impaired communion” – whatever that apparently moveable feast means. This does not ring true and, in my eyes, casts doubt on his principles. Perhaps others can account for this ….

    Then to appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury a man already declared by his group as a “false teacher”, to expect (and get) justice, seems yet another step away from any principle that I can understand.

  • Alan Marsh says:

    This article is seriously not worthy of Giles Fraser. It is wholly intemperate and probably defamatory of these church plants and of the CESA – and completely one sided, with no mention of the way Dr Butler has failed to provide ordination for their leadership, despite qualified candidates and many requests.

    It calls into question whether it is appropriate for a non-journalist to be allowed to use such a vehicle in which to parade such views. But it’s all too typical of the modern Church Times, unfortunately.

  • Mr. Goddard’s comment is quite interesting indeed. Has ++Rowan been more subtle and more rigorous than we had appreciated? It would seem so.

  • Dave says:

    I was surprised that +Southwark, Giles Fraser and others are calling the bishop’s failure to properly spell out charges a “technicality”. Don’t they think that serious charges against anyone (even a conservative) should be brought properly …. removing someone’s licence is an extremely serious move !

    ps David was not Dave.

  • Dave says:

    pps I thought that, after his previous article (May 2006), Giles had admitted here on TA: that he didn’t say lay presidency was sinful… he was just quoting other people’s views ? What is more I think there was pretty good “cross-party” agreement that it is probably less harmful that unauthorized lay preaching – at least if you follow a laid down liturgy – and that it probably goes on across the board (lib-con). So why highlight just one “sinner” now ?

  • Dave says:

    And finally.. I keep feeling uncomfortable with the fact that many issues are being created *because* of the geographical model of episcopal responsibility. This means that we have many Bishops who feel unable to trust some of the largest churches and most successful clergy in their diocese, and some clergy and churches who feel that they constantly have to be “looking over their shoulder”.

    Strained relationships are hardly anything new either. Just because they may not have had a name like ‘impaired communion’ before didn’t make them any the less real. For instance, how many clergy used to defy their diocesan over divorce and remarriage, and how many are now defying their diocesan (or at least the HoB) by not living according to “Issues” or failing to give assurances about their CP ?

    So what is the solution ? Is there another way ? I’d suggest that not only is there a more suitable way of organising episcopal oversight, but that it is in fact already more-or-less in place – but we don’t seem to recognise it:… For a decade or more, many CofE churches have had a significantly higher commitment to the networks they are in than to their geographical diocese! (This is hardly surprising. It is a networked world today – not a city-state model. And western society is also based much more on personal networks and relationships over long distances, using modern means of transport and communications).

    Everyone would breath a huge sigh of relief if episcopal authority was exercised over recognised Anglican networks, instead of over geographical areas. And the work of unity would also be simplified: primarily Bishops with Bishops, and churches with churches.

  • Alan, should the Bishop of Southwark provide ordination for leadership for these missions? Their relationship with the Church of England seems questionable at base. Had he provided some ordained leadership he might have affected that somewhat; but if Mr. Coekin’s attitude toward episcopal authority is any indication, it may well have affected it very little. In that case, why support one priest who does not accept episcopal authority by providing other ordained clergy who may well agree with Mr. Coekin?

    Again, this is not a reflection on what God may be doing in those missions. However, there were evidently questions about the relationships of these worship centers to the C of E prior to Mr. Coekin’s challenge to the authority of the C of E.

  • jody says:

    I believe that +Tom refused to ordain the candidates partly because he called into question the churchplanting strategy of Coekin, however it was also because they did not go through the discerning process that the rest of us would deem a very important part of confirming a calling.

    I for one am extremely glad that the CofE is a bit of a ‘slow moving beast’ in this respect. Although we might feel clear that God is calling us to the priesthood we are not autonomous in our being and we need to discern ‘as a body’ the calling.

    Let’s be clear that the ordinations were not only precipitous and a judgement by the men on +Tom, but also shows contempt for the processes of ordination.


  • Anglicanus says:

    In defense of Dr Fraser, I wonder if Alan Marsh has read the article Dr Fraser wrote about journalism? In it he made a plea for those writing to reveal their point of view and not adopt an ‘independent’ view point, which in many cases they cannot maintain. Much better that the reader is allowed to hear the author’s perspective clearly and can therefore make hes/her own judgement at to the weight that should be given to the article. Very much a case of ‘let the reader understand’.

    As to what Dr Fraser wrote in this particular article, it was good to have something full of catholic passion. The Church Times very rarely contains such items, which would be in the tradition of its founders.

  • Thomas Renz says:

    Jody – what do you mean by “they did not go through the discerning process that the rest of us would deem a very important part of confirming a calling”?

  • David Chillman says:

    “Everyone would breath a huge sigh of relief if episcopal authority was exercised over recognised Anglican networks, instead of over geographical areas.”

    That is far too simplistic and indeed could lead to more and worse problems than are already faced now.

    For a start, such networks are inevitably narrowly-focussed and do nothing to enhance and support the vision of a wider, catholic church. Indeed, it is because of the (predominantly evangelical) preference for such networks over diocesan structures that we have such a growing failure of the different wings of the C of E to understand and work with each other. Some evangelicals (too many?) have tended to retreat into the safety of evangelical enclaves where they buttress their own positions and show signs of increasing nervousness (and even fear) of those who don’t belong to similar groups.

    There is health in diversity and in engaging constructively with those from other traditions. I know far too many evangelicals who only operate within evangelical networks and an evangelical culture that is sometimes sub-Christian. Amazingly, it IS possible for evangelical, anglo-catholic and liberal to work and pray together in the cause of the same Christ.

    Secondly, such networks are predominantly middle-class and suburban. Whilst there are always exceptions, on the whole reliance on such networks would leave the rural and UPA areas of the country pretty much abandoned and certainly relegated to being second (or third) class.

    Thirdly, membership of such networks are inevitably closely linked with the views of the individal clergyperson involved. When one person moves on, their successor may not share exactly the same views and may wish to be involved in different networks. This would be disastrous for the parishes concerned. One minute they get their support from Network X and then they have to look for Network Y and start building a whole new set of relationships (which may change again in 5 years time).

  • Alan Marsh says:

    My understanding is that these candidates had been through the ordination selection process and had completed their theological training in a recognised college. The church plants wanted ordained leadership and turned, as one does, to the bishop of the diocese, one of whose primary tasks is to ordain clergy for congregations.

    They were not going to present problems for the diocese’s Sheffield quota of clergy, because they were going also to be non-stipendiary – ie costing the diocese nothing.

    They were not ordained – and therefore kept within the Church of England under supervision of the diocesan bishop – because Dr Butler has extremely firm views about large numbers of things and people, and he does not like conservative evangelicals, especially ones who are doing so much better than the large numbers of clergy in his diocese who fail to deliver, or even live in open defiance of the Church’s rules on cohabitation.

    So, rather than ordain them and keep them in the tent, he decided to exclude them and their congregations from the regular ministry they might have expected, given their growth. The remarkable thing is that they sought ordination at all after that kind of rejection.

    But Dr Butler can not remain for much longer. Like many congregations around the country, the calculations will have been made that soon the bishop will be quietly retired, and we can hope for better next time round.

  • Alan Marsh says:

    My information is that these men had indeed been through all the processes of selection and had completed their training, like anyone else. Their “offence” in the eyes of Dr Butler, was (I am told) to have trained at Oak Hill, one of the recognised theological colleges of the Church of England – but Evangelical (!)

    When a bishop behaves this unreasonably, it is impossible to have any sympathy for him.

    I would like to know how much he has cost the Church of England in pursuing his private vendetta, and whether any of it can be recovered from him.

  • drdanfee says:

    I do not so far hear that people who like most to call themselves biblical-conservative believers are much interested in relationships of general democratic equality in which all the parties are more or less equal. Unless we all agree to mainly define relationships as being highly conformed connections which hew to what a conformed group already knows, believes, and has long ago ceased to critically evaluate from any other alternative framework. Yes, other groups can fall into these traps of making connection=conformity, and ordinary group formation processes require some degree of boundary/interaction conformity as a forming stage of group life; but none of these other phenomena escalate quite so fast to such a high and persistent degree as the biblical-conservative Realignment Networks are doing. The new Realignment Campaigns raise conformity to being a Rule of Christian Life – perfected and intentional, religious and artful. Total.

    So far the Realignment folks outdo most of the rest of us in this regard, and they look to be doing it intentionally, if one takes their published views and explanations at face value. When does anybody in the newly invigorated biblical-conservative networks ever, ever, ever discuss differences as positive instead of negative? Are not any and all Anglican differences that might matter always spoken of as evils, crying out to be conformed? Mr. Coekin alone gets to define his relationship with this or that bishop as impaired communion, since the bishop so recognized is dirty and Mr. Coekin is not dirty. Many current biblical-conservative networks say they agree and wish to avoid being touched by our new Untouchables.

    Now one whole point of the liberal-progressive believer agenda is in fact to emphasize gospel relationships across our global differences, partly because that traditional Anglican emphasis has newly fallen by many waysides as the Realignment Campaign gains momentum. Yes, justice and equality are orthodox gospel values which are not trumped by high doctrinal conformities when viewed from liberal-progressive frames. We liberal-progressive believers often think that the biblical-conservative folks are standing priorities on their heads, when doctrinal conformities innately trump justice and equality as secular or religious centers of value.

    To adapt an old folk saying: When your reading of scripture is a hammer, everything looks like a nail to be pounded down. Bishops included. Plus women, LGBTQ Folks, alternative believers, world religion believers, unbelievers, and – our lists are still open – who else? Please stand and speak up, so that you can be pounded down by God’s highly conformed holiness. The pied beauty of all these things is now covertly defined as flowing from original sin. This beauty is dirty, and biblical-conservative folks know just exactly how to clean it all up, antiseptic and dirt free. Alas. Lord have mercy.

  • Neil says:

    Re Dave and David Chillman episcope over networks rather than geography. It would be good to see a thorough debate on this. I actually think Dave is onto something, though David is quite right to warn about the dangers of the ghetto. Provision has already been granted to Catholics who in conscience do not believe God’s intention is for women to be priests or bishops. Surely this is a network?

  • Rupert Standring says:

    Dr. Fraser seems very keen to hold us all up to the mark on our Anglican formularies, perhaps he could list which of the 39 Articles he believes (or the ones he doesn’t – which ever is shorter)?!

  • Dave says:

    Dear David Chillman and Neil, thanks for your comments.

    I’m not so much worried about inter-church cooperation. I think that local churches (Anglican and otherwise) mostly have a very good record of working together. In fact in one city I lived recently every church leader except one – from the RC to the American Evangelical church(!) – prayed and worked together on projects.

    Similarly I think that the Bishops find ways to get on with each other. The issue in my mind is the difficult working relationships between Bishops and churches where the vision and objectives are so different.

  • Dave says:

    ps Networks are by no means an evangelical preserve. Here are some others you might recognise: Affirming Catholics, Forward in Faith, Modern Church Persons Union, Inclusive Church .

  • Christopher Shell says:

    I’d endorse wholeheartedly Giles Fraser’s recommendation of thoroughly biased journalism. This is really one way of saying that the only way we can tell how the land truly lies is for each of us to be ruthlessly honest about what we actually believe, rather than assuming that the prevailing paradigm (which may derive merely from second-hand repetition) must be better tahn our own ‘biased’ viewpoint.

    I also can’t understand why he is so insistent about a minor matter like ‘lay presidency’ (does anyone stop to think that neither ‘lay’ nor ‘presidency’ is a foundational Christian concept anyway?) when simultaneously himself proposing in various ways to jettison 2000 years of Christianity.

  • Steve Watson. says:

    Every ‘celebration’ by someone not ordained in the ‘historic episcopacy’ (a doubtful concept in itself), including Methodists, Presbyertians, Baptists and others, must count as ‘lay presidency’ in Giles Fraser’s eyes. Such uninclusive Anglo-chauvinism! But Christopher Shell has it right. The notions of ‘laity’ (rather than laos) and ‘presidency’ are patristic rather than biblical. I don’t understand how Rev Fraser is happy to dump biblical teaching on homosexuality while raising a wholly synthetic fuss over a concept not found in Scripture.

  • L.L.Baynes says:

    If priests are to ignore their own consciences, and govern their actions solely according to Canon Law and the peccadillos of the bishop they are landed with, it is no wonder that most churches are ‘going down the pan’.
    We here in Stapleford, where Richard Coekin spent his youth, are, in a way, in a similar position. The Archdeacon (with the acquiesence of his bishop) want, without cause, to get rid of our much loved priest, who has built the church congregation and finances up to about twice the size of that of the neighbouring priest, who, it was ‘ordained’ was to take our church over without consulting us. When we protested and asked for a consultation, the reply was “There is nothing to discuss!”
    Many of us believe that Freemasonry is involved in the decision making, rather than the work of Our Lord.

  • Christopher Shell says:

    The situation described by L.L. Baynes ought not to go unchallenged.

    Who says ‘there is nothing to discuss’ (in a case where there clearly is) apart from someone who is abusing their power and/or has something to hide?

    As for the Freemasonry who knows? One hopes not. I thought their influence had been diminishing for the last 20 years. How is it that some denominations would never get within a million miles of countenancing freemasons in membership? If they can manage it why can’t the anglicans? Doesn’t that alone tell us that something is wrong.

  • L.L.Baynes says:

    It appears that Freemasonry is shared by both the priest and archdeacon who, it seems, conspired to get rid of our priest, and bring our parish under his aegis.
    Numerically our parish is about a third of the size of his, yet our membership is about double, as are our financial contributions.
    Moreover, our priest is considered to be part time, so is only on half pay, and has to take on another part-time job. Whereas the priest who wants to take us over is not only on full pay, but has a curate and a (fellow Freemason) lay reader.
    I have ‘pestered’ our bishop over this to such an extent that he has asked our priest to “call him off!”
    ps. I am 87, and my family has lived here for many generations, and from the 1600s, to my certain knowledge, our ancient church has always had its own full time priest; until now.

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