Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – Question on episcopal appointments

At the recent November group of sessions Mr Justin Brett (Chichester) asked the Secretary General, Mr William Fittall:

The Second Church Estates Commissioner recently told Parliament that: “there is no Church of England rule that prevents a celibate person in a civil partnership from being considered for appointment as a bishop. The issue is whether someone in that position could act as a focus for unity in a diocese. That would have to be considered by those responsible for making any episcopal appointment”.

In the light of that statement and the recent coming into force of the Equality Act 2010, is the Secretary General aware of any guidance from those involved in episcopal appointments processes on how to approach these matters consistently with the law.

Mr Fittall replied:

The Legal Office stands ready to provide legal advice to those responsible for overseeing episcopal appointments exercises. The Equality Act, like the 2003 Regulations before it, permits those making appointments for the purposes of organised religion to apply a requirement related to sexual orientation so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers. The Church of England’s policy on same sex relationships and civil partnerships is set out in the various well known formal statements dating back to 1987, of which the most recent is the House of Bishops pastoral statement, issued in 2005, when civil partnerships were introduced. Any requests for clarification would be for the House to consider.

Mr Brett then asked Mr Fittall a supplementary question:

Within the procedure for appointing bishops, what is the understanding of what it means to be a focus of unity in a diocese.

Mr Fittall replied:

That’s a very good question and it’s a phrase that I think is allowed to speak for itself. It is a canonical requirement that a bishop should be a focus of unity. And it is for the judgment, in the case of a suffragan bishop, of the diocesan bishop, advised by those who support him in that process. And in the case of diocesan appointments it is for the judgment of the Crown Nominations Commission. And those making appointments have to take account of a wide range of considerations, including statements made by the House of Bishops. It is at the end of the day a judgment.


How others see the CofE

Here’s a view expressed by Baroness Kingsmill.

It occurs in an article in the St Louis Post-Dispatch which is about the US handling of “Gays in the Military”. She was asked how the UK had dealt with this issue.

Kingsmill offered three insightful reasons.

“First and perhaps most importantly is that we are, by temperamental and historical inclination, a largely liberal-minded society,” she said. “As a small, crowded island we have to be accepting of each other. Wave after wave of immigrants first from the Commonwealth and more recently Europe, have been absorbed mostly without serious concerns. We have acquired the habit of tolerance. Sexual orientation and behaviour is just another aspect of diversity we have learned to embrace.”

Second, the weakening in the influence of the Church and the religious right has also played a role. The Established Church of England is one of the last bastions of anti-gay prejudice still outside the law. It is the only institution that legally can discriminate against the employment of gay people. The church recently fought to retain the right to refuse a religious service to gay couples wishing to marry, even in circumstances in which the church and the priest may wish to perform the ceremony. The Bishops, who have reserved seats in Parliament, face rapidly declining church attendance in the United Kingdom. Kingsmill suggested that it is only a matter of time until this last barrier to full equality falls.

Third, the impact of legislation on social change should not be underestimated. Many major shifts in social attitudes have been preceded by progressive acts of Parliament, sometimes in advance of public opinion. Foremost among these must be the abolition of the death penalty in 1969, when it was likely that a majority of the country still supported capital punishment. Today, polls show there is only a very small minority that would support its reintroduction.


Yorkshire – Dioceses Commission reports

Updated 9 and 19 January 2011: links updated to refer to the new Church of England website.

from here:

In the autumn of 2009 the Commission commenced a review of the five Yorkshire dioceses (Bradford, Ripon and Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and York). The aim was to establish whether the shape and boundaries of the existing dioceses tend to facilitate the Church’s mission to the people and communities of Yorkshire or whether different boundaries would enable the Church to relate to them more effectively.

The Commission’s report on the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds, Sheffield and Wakefield, and their boundaries with the Diocese of York, has now been published and sent out for consultation.

A 16 page Guide to the Report, containing a brief overview of each chapter, together with the Summary of Recommendations and Conclusion, is available to download by clicking here.

For the full Report (127 pages), or to download individual chapters, click here.

Some other background documents can be found here.

The press release (website link is at last available) is reproduced below the fold.



Comment on the Anglican Covenant

Alan Perry has written two articles:

Defining Controversial Actions

Defining Relational Consequences

Savi Hensman has written How might the Anglican Covenant work in England?

Benny Hazlehurst offered An Antidote to the Covenant

John Martin wrote The Covenant is good news for Anglicanism in Christian Today


some ordinariate news and views

First, Jared Cramer wrote an article Wounding and Grace: A Brief Appraisal of the Roman Catholic Ordinariate, Anglican Christianity, and Modern Ecumenism.

Next, the Bishop of London spoke to his diocesan synod and among other things said this:

Another aspect of the turbulence to which I have referred is of course the Bishop of Fulham’s retirement. Bishop John has served the Diocese for more than forty years in variety of roles and many of us have reason to be grateful for his ministry. He has the gift of colourful speech and there may be some Synod members unconvinced by his suggestion that he was leaving a “fascist” institution for Liberty Hall on Tiber. All people, however, who act conscientiously deserve our understanding.

There does however seem to be a degree of confusion about whether those entering the Ordinariate like Bishop John might be able to negotiate a transfer of properties or at the least explore the possibility of sharing agreements in respect of particular churches. For the avoidance of confusion I have to say that as far as the Diocese of London is concerned there is no possibility of transferring properties. As to sharing agreements I have noted the Archbishop of Westminster’s comment that his “preference is for the simplest solutions. The simplest solutions are for those who come into Catholic communion to use Catholic churches”. I am also mindful that the late Cardinal Hume, whom I greatly revered, brought to an end the experiment of church sharing after the Synod’s decision of 1992 because far from being conducive to warmer ecumenical relations it tended to produce more rancour.

And the Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion (a body whose members are primarily in India and Africa, see my report here) issued a statement, available in full over here.


General Synod – Covenant Vote

The results of the electronic vote on the Anglican Communion Covenant at last month’s General Synod are now available.

For convenience I have made this available as a webpage.

Readers might like to note that the speculation about which bishop abstained was incorrect.


more about Dean Colin Slee

The BBC Radio 4 programme, Last Word, this week carried obituary information about Colin Slee. Here’s the blurb:


Dean of Southwark who has died aged 65.

The Very Reverend Colin Slee was the outspoken Dean of Southwark. He was on the liberal wing of the church, a staunch advocate of women bishops and supporter of gay clergy. But in terms of liturgy and the dress code for priests he was more of an Anglo Catholic, insisting on following what he saw as the proper form. He oversaw the construction of a refectory, conference centre and library to complement the Southwark Cathedral building and presided over the expansion of its congregation.

Last Word spoke the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, to the religious affairs writer Stephen Bates, and to the Chief Executive of the Tutu Foundation UK, Tina Lambert.

Colin Bruce Slee was born 10 November 1945 and died 25 November 2010.

If you have access to BBC iPlayer, then you can hear it from here for a week only. It is the first seven minutes of the programme.

Earlier, we linked to some obituaries. Now we can also add:

Independent The Very Reverend Colin Slee: Controversial liberal dean of Southwark Cathedral by Leigh Hatts

London SE1 Obituary: The Very Revd Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark

and this news report of yesterday: Funeral of Colin Slee at Southwark Cathedral

And the Church Times obituary by Bill Ritson is available over here.


sermon at Colin Slee's funeral

The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, preached at the Requiem Eucharist to celebrate the life of Colin Bruce Slee OBE on Saturday morning at Southwark Cathedral.

The full text of the sermon is available here.



Bishop Andrew Burnham gave this homily at St John the Evangelist, New Hinksey, Oxford, at a Solemn Mass of St Andrew on Saturday 27 November 2010: Bishop Andrew Burnham’s Final Sermon as Bishop of Ebbsfleet.
Damian Thompson reprinted the sermon in The Telegraph: Anglican bishop lays his mitre and crozier at the feet of Our Lady as he leaves for Rome.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Colin Slee, fighter, RIP.

Christopher Howse in The Telegraph writes that There’s no shame in not wearing a cross. “Christianity’s trappings require no special pleading,” he suggests.
He also writes about A hatred of Turks, Jews and papists. “Luther thought he had a sound reason for his strong antipathies.”

Adam Thomas writes for the Daily Episcopalian about The pews in the north transept: a remembrance.

David Bryant writes in The Guardian about The loose ends of justice. “Meeting a murderer and rapist on a prison visit reinforced my need to believe in life after death.”

Dame Mary Tanner preached at the inaugural eucharist for the General Synod in Westminster Abbey last week. The text of her sermon is now available, courtesy of Alastair Cutting.

This week’s The Question at Comment is free belief is How should Christians think about sex? There are answers from Steve Tomkins, Roz Kaveney and John Richardson


General Synod – Church Times detailed reports

The detailed reports in the Church Times of last week’s meeting of General Synod are now available to non-subscribers.

Presidential address: Surprise your critics by listening and agreeing, Dr Williams suggests
Big Society? We’re doing it already
Anglican Covenant: Reservations, but the Covenant moves forward
Synod in brief
Legislation and farewells

Also now available are the official record of Business Done and a brief official summary “ideal for use in parish magazines”.


more about GAFCON and the Covenant

George Conger writes in the Church of England Newspaper today: Gafcon primates vote of no confidence in the Covenant.

The Anglican Covenant is too little and too late, to hold the Anglican Communion together, the leaders of the Gafcon movement said last week.

Revisions to the document adopted last December by the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee were unacceptable, the Gafcon primates’ council said on Nov 24, and urged the communion to adopt “new initiatives to more effectively respond to the crises that confront us all.”

Seven primates along with Archbishops Robert Duncan of the ACNA and Peter Jensen of Sydney acknowledged as “well intentioned” the “efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant,” but concluded the “current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.”

And he also reports:

…While the statement was released on the same day as General Synod debated the covenant, the timing of the release was not intended to sway discussion in England, a spokesman told CEN.

The “Oxford Statement” required weeks of refining and was passed from archbishop to archbishop before it was ready for release, a Gafcon secretariat spokesman said.

Sources within the Gafcon movement tell CEN, the Oxford Statement should not be read as an outright rejection of the covenant, but as a vote of no confidence in the current draft that vests authority in the Anglican Communion “Standing Committee”.


Anglican Covenant – Bishop of Lincoln's synod speech

The speech made last week by the Bishop of Lincoln has been reproduced in full at RevdLesley.

Read it all at Bishop John Saxbee on the Anglican Covenant.

Here is an extract:

…Members of Synod, the Church of England has a bit of a history of putting in place measures in response to a particular presented issue and then discovering that the proposed cure does not only have unintended consequences (and The Good Intentions Paving Company is still very much in business, I assure you), not only will there be unintended consequences, but the cure can actually make matters worse.

We all know that the process towards the drawing up of this Covenant was triggered by events in The Episcopal Church of a few years ago, notwithstanding the long preamble which was helpfully presented to us by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Those events were by no means trivial, but to elevate them to the status of game changers when it comes to how we deal with each other over time is… well… stepping over a very significant mark in the sand. And I truly doubt whether it will be conducive to long term stability.

The Covenant may of itself not be tyrannical, but there are those in the Communion whose treatment of our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers has had at least a touch of the tyrannical about it. And if I ever come to the conclusion that a covenant of this kind would give them comfort then I would be bound to resist it.

Anglicanism has been described as a fellowship of civilised disagreement. Well I leave you to judge whether a two-tier Communion with first and second division members answers to that description of civilised disagreement. It frankly feels like we will be sending sincere and faithful Anglicans to stand in the corner until they have seen the error of their ways and can return to the ranks of the pure and spotless…


Bishop Broadhurst resigns as Chairman of FiF UK

From Forward in Faith

Bishop John Broadhurst resigns as Chairman of FiF UK

At its residential meeting this week, the Council of Forward in Faith accepted the resignation of its Chairman, Bishop John Broadhurst, both with regret and with grateful thanks for all that he has done to guide and lead this organisation from its foundation in 1992. It was Bishop John’s decision to resign and that decision had been communicated by him to the Council prior to its meeting. As a small token of the gratitude of all the members of Forward in Faith for Bishop John’s magnificent contribution to the life of the organisation as well as the enormous contribution of Judi his wife, the Council presented him with a cheque to spend in their new home. They know that they are assured of the prayers of us all for whatever the future may hold.

Pending the election of his successor some time in the New Year, Sister Anne Williams CA, the Vice-Chairman of Forward in Faith, will undertake the role of Acting Chairman.


Covenant – reactions to the synod debate

Updated Thursday

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has published some Observations on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presidential Address and the Anglican Covenant Debate in the Church of England General Synod,November 2010 which are available here as a PDF, but also as a web page over here.

Colin Coward has published Anglican Covenant – dangerous progress in Synod? Or GAFCON statement – dangerous threat withdraws? and also Should LGBT Anglicans be more suspicious of the Covenant?

Adrian Worsfold has taken a rather lighter approach, first with Chadderbox on the Synod Vote and then with Proposal for the Communion.

Earlier, he was a bit more serious, see The Narrowing Church of England and Be Realistic .

And just today, he has also published Not Changing Attitude.

On Thursday, Colin Coward added What will the pattern of the Anglican Communion look like in 10 years time?