Thinking Anglicans

Butler-Coekin letter

A very belated posting. For previous posting on this topic see here.

The Diocese of Southwark website has Bishop’s letter re Rev Richard Coekin as a PDF file. The letter is dated 15 June. The full text is below the fold.

To all licensed clergy, churchwardens, members of the Bishop’s Council, members of the Diocesan Synod, members of the Ministry and Training Committee.

Dear Colleagues,
As many of you know last November, following an unauthorised ordination, I removed the Revd Richard Coekin’s licence as an honorary assistant curate at Emmanuel Church Wimbledon, which is a proprietary chapel. In practice he has for some years been exercising ministry at Dundonald Church – a congregation meeting at Dundonald School in South Wimbledon. This originated as a plant from Emmanuel. He appealed against the revocation to the Archbishop of Canterbury and, after a court hearing by the Bishop of Winchester, the Archbishop upheld the appeal. With the various press reports concerning the appeal, I thought that it might be helpful for you to have my response.

I note that the Archbishop, in his determination, states that “Mr Coekin’s conduct [in arranging a Church of England in South Africa ordination in a Church of England parish church without reference to the Archbishop or Diocesan Bishop] merited censure.” The Church of England in South Africa is not in communion with the Anglican Communion.

I note further that the Archbishop, whilst cancelling the revocation of the licence for essentially technical reasons, states that he (the Archbishop) “does not accept that the requested undertakings [for such a cancellation as recommended by the Bishop of Winchester’s report] are unreasonable or unjustifiable.” [These undertakings are:

(i) except under the authority of the Bishop of Southwark to refrain from any involvement in:

a) ordination services within the area of the Diocese of Southwark, or

b) the ordination of persons (of whatever Christian church) to serve within the area of that diocese.

(ii) strictly to abide by all general or specific directions given by the Bishop of Southwark, concerning church planting or mission initiatives.]

In this, the Archbishop makes it clear that the content of these recommended undertakings “reflects the legal obligations which Canon law imposes upon any licensed minister.”

The Archbishop’s report further emphasises that if Mr Coekin is to exercise licensed ministry in the Church of England he must “conform to the discipline of the Church” and “must submit to the Bishop of Southwark’s episcopal authority.”

The Archbishop points to the commitment of the whole Church of England to its mission as the national Church. The Archbishop points to the forthcoming Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure, (which places an important emphasis on Bishops’ mission orders that govern mission initiatives).

Within these understandings, I will be looking to Mr Coekin to work in partnership with the Diocese and with all of its other clergy.

The reason Mr Coekin gave for proceeding with the unauthorised ordinations was my refusal to distance myself from the House of Bishop’s Statement on Civil Partnerships, although during the hearing it became clear that plans for the ordination had been made in March 2005, several months before the Bishops’ Statement had been produced. (For the same reason it is reported that two ordinands in the Diocese of London have decided not to proceed to being ordained by the Bishop of London).

You may be interested to know that in the Diocese of Southwark we have meticulously followed the process set down by the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement concerning clergy who have indicated that they wish to engage in a civil partnership. There have been a small number of such cases and all the clergy involved have met with their Area Bishop who has drawn to their attention the expectation that their relationship will be consistent with the teaching set out in Issues in Human Sexuality.

With best wishes,
Grace and Peace,
+Thomas Southwark

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18 years ago

I do wish that Bishops would stop trying to restrict existing effective initiatives from below; whilst at the same time protesting that they want to create “fresh expressions”!! Several initiatives like Co-Mission are already working and being effective at bringing people into the kingdom of God! Why not encourage them, and change the heirarchy to accommodate them ?

Who is the Church ? Who is supposed to be serving whom ?

18 years ago

“Who is the Church ? Who is supposed to be serving whom ?” If it’s true that the denomination which became involved in the Coekin affair was one which was at least passively supportive of apartheid, perhaps they could do a church plant in (say) Oldham. Now there’s a Fresh Expression which might go down a wow. But less mischievously, isn’t Church Order important? It must be significant that the condemnation of Richard Coekin’s actions came from all shades of theology and churchpersonship, not just the limp-wristed liberals and the rancid catholics (among which latter bunch I number myself). Unfettered… Read more »

Rupert Standring
Rupert Standring
18 years ago

Does the tone of this letter suggest that the man who wrote it is prayerfully seeking reconciliation with another Christian? If it does then Christianity is dead in this country or rather it is dead within the Church of England.

John Simmons
18 years ago

May I assure mynsterpreost, from my eyrie in the depths of Oldham, that we would welcome an “unauthorised” church plant into this parish from any denomination who will come and get involved and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I, as a lowly parish priest, am all for free market economics in evangelism. Oldham has plenty of non-believers in Jesus to go around. The parish I serve in has 15,000 people and is growing rapidly. There are three paid clergy serving here – me (Anglican), a Methodist and an RC priest. There’s room for many more. You can’t gazump us!… Read more »

Neil B
Neil B
18 years ago

“….the condemnation of Richard Coekin’s actions came from all shades of theology and churchpersonship…”

Yes tragically, jealousy and envy infect the hearts of us all. And when they do, repentance is the only godly choice.

Christopher Shell
Christopher Shell
18 years ago

Rupert – keep up the good work. I have always thought it self-evident that if we focus on the priorities of Jesus rather than those of church politics, we will not be sidetracked. And, yes, the priorities of Jesus do include speaking the truth without fear or favour.

18 years ago

Will someone let Tom Butler know that he lost….and caused the ABC a lot of trouble as a result of his actions

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