Thinking Anglicans

A church-state clash in 1980

Documents released today by the National Archives show that the government of the day had to change the planned date for the Budget to avoid a clash with the scheduled date for the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

News articles:

Financial Times Cabinet and Church tussled over Budget date

BBC Thatcher wanted Church to relent on Budget Day clash

You can download your own (free) copy of a PDF file containing the relevant documents from here.


Bishops attack equality legislation again

The former archbishop, Lord Carey has written a letter to the current prime minister, David Cameron. This is reported in a news article by Tim Ross under the headline Only half of Britons say UK is a Christian country. The text of the letter itself doesn’t appear to have been published yet.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Carey said Christians were too often “ridiculed” and dismissed as relics of “a bygone age”.

“Notwithstanding its vast and varied contribution to our society, there appears to be a suspicion about the validity and value of the role that the Christian faith plays in our national life,” he said.

“This has been highlighted by the spate of recent instances in which ordinary Christians who have sought to manifest their Christian faith in the workplace and have allowed their Christian conscience to direct their public service have fallen foul of new employment practices and then discovered that rather than protect them, the law has sided against them.”

Lord Carey suggested that recent legislation was unclear on where the balance of rights fell between different groups. One particularly contentious subject has been the clash of rights between homosexuals and Christians.

“Whatever the explanation, this situation needs urgent review and action from government,” he said.

“It is a remarkable state of affairs that, in such a short space of time and in a country that has been so shaped by, and benefitted so significantly from, a Christian foundation, those who hold traditional Christian viewpoints, in common with millions across the globe and across history, can suddenly find their position labelled discriminatory and prejudiced and then discover that it has effectively become a legal bar to public service.”

Earlier, on a BBC radio news broadcast, the Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt also criticised the legal system. Again the Telegraph has the story, see Bishop of Winchester: legal system discriminates against Christians by Rosa Prince.

Bishop Scott-Joynt told the BBC’s World This Weekend: “The problem is that there is a really quite widespread perception among Christians that there is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service.

“Probably for the first time in our history there is a widespread lack of religious literacy among those who one way and another hold power and influence, whether it’s Parliament or the media or even, dare I say it, in the judiciary.

”The risk would be that there are increasingly professions where it could be difficult for people who are devoted believers to work in certain of the public services, indeed in Parliament.

“Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on.

“Judgement seemed to be following contemporary society, which seems to think that secularist views are statements of the obvious and religious views are notions in the mind. That is the culture in which we are living.

“The judges ought to be religiously literate enough to know that there is an argument behind all this, which can’t simply be settled by the nature of society as it is today.”


Christmas opinion

Jane Williams continues her series for Comment is free belief with The Book of Genesis, part 2: In the beginning. “The history of how Genesis was created and passed down through the ages reminds us that we have the book for a reason.”

Kathleen Staudt writes for Episcopal Café about The poetry of Handel’s Messiah.

Giles Fraser writes for Comment is free belief about A fetish for the Bible. “The King James version has been manipulated for 400 years. Save it from the text obsessives.”
He also writes for the Church Times about Finding the numinous in music.

Mr CatOLick writes about that detail demands that you and I do not hate.

Peter Mullen writes for The Telegraph about Christmas at church: Grab a pew – if you can find one.

John Wilson in The Wall Street Journal asks Do Christians Overemphasize Christmas?. “Some theologians claim that Easter is more important. That’s wrong. When we celebrate one, we celebrate the other.”


General Synod committee elections

In addition to the election of the General Synod officers (who, amongst other things, will be members of the Archbishops’ Council), Synod has been electing members of the Appointment and Business Committees. So far, I know of the following successful candidates.

Appointments Committee of the Church of England

three clergy elected by and from the House of Clergy
The Ven Dr John Applegate (Manchester)
The Ven Annette Cooper (Chelmsford)
The Revd Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark)

three laity elected by and from the House of Laity
Ms Susan Cooper (London)
Ms Sarah Finch (London)
Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith (London)

The Business Committee of the General Synod

three clergy elected by and from the House of Clergy
The Revd Canon Susan Booys (Oxford)
The Revd Canon Simon Butler (Southwark)
The Ven Julian Henderson (Guildford)

three laity elected by and from the House of Laity
Mrs Anne Foreman (Exeter)
Mrs Sue Johns (Norwich)
Mr Gerald O’Brien (Rochester)

In addition the House of Bishops elects one member to each committee.

The committee chairs are appointed by the Archbishops (Appointments Committee) or the Archbishops’ Council (Business Committee), and the Archbishops’ Council appoints respectively four and two of its members to the committees.

I maintain a list of members of these, and other committees, here.


Marriage and Civil Partnership changes?

The Telegraph is observing Christmas Eve by publishing a clutch of articles relating to possible changes in the law relating to marriage and civil partnerships.

Tim Ross writes that Coalition ministers consider gay marriage plans.

He also provides a Q&A: same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton writes that Marriage should be between a man and a woman.

And the Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of LGCM, writes that We were brought up to believe we would fall in love and get married.


General Synod officers

Elections for officers of the Church of England General Synod have recently taken place and the following were elected.

House of Laity
Chair: Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford)
Vice-Chair: Mr Tim Hind (Bath & Wells)

House of Clergy
Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury: The Venerable Christine Hardman (Southwark)
Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York: The Revd Canon Glyn Webster (York)

The detailed voting figures have been issued to candidates and I have collated them into this web page.

The elections were carried out by STV (single transferable vote), with voters putting candidates in order of preference. When, as here, there is only place to be filled in an election, STV reduces to the successive elimination of the candidate with the fewest votes, and the re-allocation of those votes to the elector’s next preference, until one candidate has more than half the votes.

The turnout, particularly for the clergy elections, appears to be rather low. I don’t have definite figures for the number of eligible electors, but I don’t think the figures in the table below are significantly in error.

  votes cast electors percentage
Laity Chair 163 212 77
Laity Vice-Chair 162 212 76
Canterbury Prolocutor 90 142 63
York Prolocutor 32 60 53

Natural Justice and the Anglican Covenant

Does the proposed Anglican Covenant satisfy the standards of Natural Justice? In other words, are the procedures for dispute settling in section 4 demonstrably fair?

Canon Alan Perry has written two articles which discuss this issue.

Natural Justice and the Anglican Covenant – Part 1

Natural Justice and the Anglican Covenant – Part 2

By the end of the second article, he concludes:

There is no remedy for the multiple overlapping roles of the members of the Standing Committee. In my view, the use of the Standing Committee as decision maker in the process is fatal to the Duty to be Fair. The proposed Anglican Covenant does not meet the standards of Natural Justice. It is intrinsically incapable of rendering decisions which are demonstrably fair.


Archbishop of Kaduna appeals to Primates

Ed Thornton reports in the Church Times today that:

AN ARCHBISHOP in the Church of Nigeria has urged Primates from the Global South not to boycott the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin in January (News, 26 November).

Writing in the Church Times today, the Archbishop of Kaduna, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who was a member of the Lambeth Commission which produced the Windsor report, pleads with the Primates “not . . . to give room for the Communion to break up, during the time God has given [them] the privilege to represent [their] various provinces”.

Read the full news story at Plea to rebel Primates: ‘Bring your wisdom to next meeting’.

The same issue, published today, contains the full text of the article by the archbishop, but this is only available to Church Times subscribers at present. Those with access can find it here.

Here is some more of the news article:

…Speaking on Friday, he said that his intervention was not prompted by pressure from any individual, “but by my conviction to work for the unity of this communion”.

He said that he feared that some of the Primates had “not actually consulted properly” before announcing their intention to boycott the meeting. There was “a huge desire” among “ordinary members” of the Church of Nigeria for the Communion to stay together, he said.

Responding to the suggestion made by the Primates that “the current text” of the Anglican Covenant is “fatally flawed”, Dr Idowu-Fearon said: “If those Primates believe they have a superior wisdom than the collective wisdom of those who produced the Covenant, let them meet and present their wisdom and not start throwing tantrums.”


pre-Christmas opinion

Jane Williams starts a new series for Comment is free belief with The Book of Genesis, part 1: God created. “Genesis looks at what the culture around it believes about the nature of the material world, and disagrees with it profoundly.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Defending the faith from its cheerleaders.

James Jones writes for Living Lightly: The Bishop Reflects at Christmas.

Christopher Howse writes in The Telegraph about An African church in Hampshire. “The leading church architect of the 20th century found inspiration in North Africa,” he says.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes for The Washington Post about The difference between Jesus and Santa Claus.


General Synod – February 2011 – outline agenda

The General Synod of the Church of England will be meeting for a shorter than usual group of Sessions in February 2011. The outline agenda was published today, and is copied below.

One item is “Draft Act of Synod Adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant (GS 1809): John Ward’s following motion”. Here is the text of this motion.

That this Synod resolve that final approval of the Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant shall require the assent of two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting.



Monday, 7 February

1.45 pm Meeting of the House of Laity
[House of Clergy/Convocations (tbc)]

3.00 pm Prayers, welcomes and introductions

Progress of Measures and Statutory Instruments

Address by the Secretary of State for International Development, followed by questions and response from one of the Archbishops

Report by the Business Committee

Draft Act of Synod Adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant (GS 1809): John Ward’s following motion


Tuesday, 8 February

9.30 am Service of Holy Communion (Assembly Hall)

Legislative Business:
    Clergy Discipline Amending Code of Practice
    Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure – First Consideration

Ethical investment policy: Presentation by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group

1.00 pm LUNCH

2.30 pm Presidential Address (by the Archbishop of Canterbury)

Into the New Quinquennium

Appointment of the Chair of the Business Committee and of the Clerk to the Synod

Weddings Project: presentation

Parochial Fees policy

Wednesday, 9 February

9.30 am Prayers

House of Bishops’ statement on marriage after divorce and the ordained ministry (GS Misc 960)

Liverpool Diocesan Synod Motion: Common Worship Baptism Provision

Introduction to the debate on ARCIC report on Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ – Joint presentation by the Bishop of Guildford and senior RC Bishop

1.00 pm LUNCH

2.30 pm ARCIC report on Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ




New Bishop of Bradford

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, BA, Area Bishop of Croydon, for election as Bishop of Bradford in succession to the Right Reverend David Charles James, BA, BSc, PhD, on his resignation on the 14 July 2010.

Press Release from 10 Downing Street: Diocese of Bradford.

Statement on Diocesan website: New Bishop for the Diocese of Bradford

Message to the Diocese of Bradford from The Rt Revd Nick Baines

Bishop Nick Baines writes on his own blog: Northern Light.


Anglican Covenant – Ten Reasons Why Not

From the No Anglican Covenant Blog:

Ten Reasons Why the Proposed Anglican Covenant Is a Bad Idea

  1. The proposed Anglican Covenant would transform a vibrant, cooperative, fellowship of churches into a contentious, centralized aggregation of churches designed to reduce diversity and initiative. The Covenant would institutionalize the “Instruments of Unity” as never before and would give extraordinary power to the newly enhanced Standing Committee.
  2. Under the Covenant, churches will be inhibited from undertaking new evangelical or mission initiatives for fear of offending other Communion churches and becoming embroiled in the disciplinary mechanisms set up by the Covenant.
  3. The centralization of authority envisioned by the proposed Covenant is cumbersome, costly, and undemocratic. In an era in which power and authority are being distributed in many organizations in order to achieve greater efficiency, responsiveness, and accountability, what has been proposed for the Communion seems out of step with current thinking regarding large organizations.
  4. Although the proposed Covenant is offered as a mechanism to achieve unity, its immediate effect is to create divisions. Churches that cannot or will not adopt the Covenant automatically become second-class members of the Communion. The inevitable application of the disciplinary provisions of Section 4 will likely further distinguish between “full” members of the Communion and less-than-full members.
  5. The proposed Covenant is dangerously vague. Sections 1–3 of the Covenant, which are seen by many as innocuous, leave much room for divergent interpretations. Section 4 makes it all too easy for any church to “ask questions” about the actions of another, which may then be subjected to unspecified “relational consequences.” There is no sure measure of what behaviour is likely to be acceptable, no checks provided against unreasonable complaints, and no guarantee that “consequences” (i.e., punishments) meted out will be commensurate with the alleged offence.
  6. The proposed Covenant runs counter to the gospel imperative of not judging others. It is all too easy for Communion churches to complain about the sins of their sister churches while ignoring or diverting attention from their own failures to live out the Gospel.
  7. The proposed Covenant encourages premature ending of debate. Rather than taking the advice of Gamaliel (Acts 5:38–39) and seeing how controversial matters play out, the Covenant evidences an eagerness to “settle” them. This is an unfortunate temptation to which the Communion seems subject. It has too quickly concluded that “homosexual practice” is “incompatible with Scripture” and that adopting the Covenant is “the only way forward,” neither of which is either intuitively obvious or universally agreed upon.
  8. The notion that we need to make “forceful” the “bonds of affection” is fundamentally flawed. If we need force and coercion to maintain relationships between Communion churches, there is no true affection, and the very foundation of the proposed Covenant is fraudulent.
  9. The proposed “Covenant” seems more like a treaty, contract, or instrument of surrender than a covenant. In the ecclesiastical context, a covenant is usually thought of as an agreement undertaken in joy and in an atmosphere of trust—baptismal and marriage covenants come to mind. The proposed Anglican Covenant, on the other hand, is advanced in an atmosphere of anger, fear, and distrust, and with the threat of dire consequences if it is not adopted.
  10. The proposed Covenant is not the only way forward; there are better options. The Anglican Communion would be better served by remaining a single-tier fellowship of churches, allowing disaffected members to leave if they must, while keeping the door open for their return. Any alternative position cedes too much power to those willing to intimidate by threatening to walk away.

ECHR rules against sham marriages law

Updated Thursday

The European Court of Human Rights today declared that a government scheme was discriminatory for charging some immigrants a fee only if they are not planning to marry in the Church of England.

Read this press release from the Equality and Human Rights Commission: European Court finds marriage fee discriminatory.

See press reports:

Belfast Telegraph Couple get payout after law violated their right to wed

BBC Northern Ireland Londonderry couple ‘s victory on sham wedding law

Daily Mail European judges kill off British law that curbed sham marriages

From the press release:

The Commission submitted to the European Court of Human Rights that the scheme was wrong as a blanket ban on marrying anywhere other than a Church of England unfairly targets innocent people. The scheme could only be justified if it was actually designed in a way that could identify marriages of convenience.

The European Court ruled that “the scheme was discriminatory on the ground of religion and that …. no reasons were adduced by the Government …. which were capable of providing an objective and reasonable justification for the difference in treatment”.

And the Church of England doesn’t even operate in Northern Ireland!


Quite a lot more information about this case is now available:

UK Human Rights Blog UK scheme to police sham marriages slammed by Human Rights court

Press release from the ECHR: UK immigration law to prevent sham marriages breached the right to marry and was discriminatory (PDF)

And a link to the full text of the judgment of the court is available at O’Donoghue and Others v. the United Kingdom (application no. 34848/07).


parishes appeal to Supreme Court of Canada

Updated Monday evening

The Trustees of four Vancouver-area churches have instructed their legal counsel to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada of a British Columbia Court of Appeal decision (November 15, 2010).

Read about the November decision here.

The text of Bishop’s Ingham’s pastoral letter is available as a PDF here.

The text of the judgment is available as a PDF over here.

Then read about the proposed appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada here.

A statement from the Diocese of New Westminster is copied below the fold.



Anglican Covenant – Bishop of Gloucester's synod speech

The speech made at General Synod last month by the Bishop of Gloucester has been reproduced in full at RevdLesley.

Read it all at Bishop of Gloucester – the Indaba Process #nocovenant.

Here is an extract:

I’m one of those who will vote for the motion – with some reluctance. Reluctance because I do fear, despite assurances, that a Covenant could eventually be used in a punitive manner against fellow Anglicans, as well as because of the most general worry that a Covenant may alter the kind of church we are.

Nevertheless, I will vote for the motion for two connected reasons. First, that not to do so is to make more difficult the task of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his ministry to the Communion and I want us to strengthen and not weaken his hand. Second, that the Covenant process keeps us talking, keeps us all in Communion through challenging times. The process helps even if we fear the final outcome. What I really hope is that when we eventually reach the point when it is poised to come into force we shall look at one another and say, ‘What’s this for? We have no need of it.’ And one of the reasons that I hope that this is the outcome is the continued ‘Indaba process’…


General Synod – Question on Crown Nominations Commission

At the recent November group of sessions Rachel Beck (Lincoln) asked the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Have any actions been taken by the CNC in response to the media reports that appeared in July, purporting to disclose details of its deliberations in relation to the Southwark episcopal vacancy, and will the CNC undertake to make public the full results of any investigation that it may have commissioned into the circumstances surrounding those reports?

The Archbishop of Canterbury replied:

The answer to the first part of the question is Yes. The Archbishops commissioned an external scrutiny by Baroness Fritchie, a senior cross bench peer, of how the CNC process around the vacancy in the See of Southwark gave rise to a number of media reports. This scrutiny has just been completed and the document will be shortly be shared with the members of the Commission for Southwark. It would not be appropriate to give that wider circulation. Any recommendations made in the report will first have to be carefully considered by the central members of the Commission and they will be so considered.

Rachel Beck asked a supplementary question:

What measures have been taken to limit the effects of the disclosure on the ministries of all those concerned.

The Archbishop replied:

There has been contact from both myself and the Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary to deal with the pastoral questions arising as you have identified them.

Robert Hammond (Chelmsford) asked a supplementary question:

What steps have been taken to reduce the time taken for each CNC and the following announcement, and therefore reduce the potential for leaks of this type.

The Archbishop replied:

No steps are being taken at the moment. The timetable is of course not entirely in the CNC’s hands on the rate of vacancies appearing from dioceses. Every step is taken to accelerate that process but it is extremely difficult with the quite considerable turnover we currently have to secure the kind of rapidity we would all like.

(the above is my own transcription from the audio recording)

1 Comment

opinion for mid-Advent

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written an Advent message for Radio Times magazine.
Ann Fontaine comments on the Archbishop’s article for Episcopal Café: ABC and nativity scenes.

Esther Addley writes for The Guardian: Faithful or not, all can rejoice in carols: hymns drenched in our folk memory. “It’s entirely right that Christmas carols rouse non-believers’ spirits too, given the original, and radical, meaning of many.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Revelations can bring redemption.
And at Comment is free belief he writes about The cringe at the heart of Christmas. “The idea of God as a little baby is one of the most disruptive theological suggestions ever made.”

Mark Driscoll writes for The Washington Post about What we tell our kids about Santa.

This week’s The Question at Comment is free belief is What is the future of preaching? There are responses from Tehmina Kazi, Simon Jenkins and Alan Wilson.


Anglicans on wikileaks

At last! Something about Anglicans has appeared on wikileaks.

Read WikiLeaks: Pope’s offer to Anglicans risked ‘violence against Catholics’ at the Guardian by Andrew Brown, Robert Booth and Heather Brooke.

The British ambassador to the Vatican warned that Pope Benedict XVI’s invitation to Anglican opponents of female priests to convert en masse to Catholicism was so inflammatory that it might lead to discrimination and even violence against Catholics in Britain, according to a secret US diplomatic cable.

Talking to an American diplomat after the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, met the pope in November 2009, Francis Campbell said the surprise Vatican move had placed Williams “in an impossible situation” and “Anglican-Vatican relations were facing their worst crisis in 150 years as a result of the pope’s decision”.

Read the full text of the cable itself here.

See also this cable.


Just cause?

The Tablet this week has an article about those organizations that support people who make claims of discrimination on the grounds of their Christian faith.

Read Just cause? by Sam Adams.

A new campaign to encourage Christians to show their religion openly has been launched, echoing a concern felt by some that they feel discriminated against because of their faith. But the legal groups that advise them may be simply worsening divisions as they fight their corner…


press reports on Yorkshire dioceses proposal

Updated lunchtime Friday

The Church Times has Diocesan unification proposed for Yorkshire by Ed Thornton.

The Yorkshire Post has Anglicans consider merging Yorkshire dioceses by Fiona Evans.

The Telegraph has Church cuts bishops where Muslims outnumber Christians by seven to one by Tim Ross and also A tipping point for religion in Britain? by Jonathan Wynne-Jones.

The Guardian has Church of England may axe some bishops and dioceses to cut costs by Riazat Butt.

The Bradford Telegraph & Argus has Bradford Diocese may be scrapped.

The BBC has A merged Church of England diocese for West Yorkshire?

Anyone who doesn’t know where Yorkshire is may find this map helpful.