Thinking Anglicans

WATCH responds to House of Bishops Standing Committee

WATCH (Women and the Church) PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release SUNDAY 9th September 2012

A WATCH response to the House of Bishops’ Standing Committee Press Release of 5th September

WATCH is very encouraged to see that complete withdrawal of Clause 5(1)c received the most positive response in the Church of England’s summer consultation process (see GS Misc 1033).

Clause 5(1)c, was inserted by the House of Bishops in May and has caused widespread dismay. We are hopeful that the House of Bishops will realise, from the overwhelmingly negative response to this amendment, that Clause 5(1)c cannot stay in the legislation as it is, if they wish to see the legislation pass through General Synod in November.

We also note that, although groups representing those opposed are lobbying to keep the existing proposed amendment, they have not said they will vote for the legislation even if the current Clause 5 (1)c remains. If 5(1)c was insufficient for those opposed, then any diluted form of wording is even more unlikely to gain their support for a General Synod vote, whilst remaining potentially problematic for those who welcome the episcopal ministry of women.

We continue to urge the House of Bishops to adopt a cautious approach and not to introduce new and untested wording into the draft legislation at this late stage. The consultation period was extremely brief and the various options considered have not therefore been subject to any sustained scrutiny.

WATCH therefore considers that the wisest course is to return the legislation to General Synod in November in a form that is as close as possible to that approved by 42/44 dioceses; removing Clause 5(1)c and offering Clause 8(2) as reassurance to those opposed.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said, “We very much hope that whatever emerges from the House of Bishops on Wednesday will unequivocally affirm the ministry of ordained women and avoid any suggestion of a question mark hanging over their orders.”


Hurd Report: the 2001 review of the See of Canterbury

In commenting on today’s interview given by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Telegraph reference has been made to the Hurd report.

See these ACNS press releases from September 2001:

But the full text of the report which was previously published on the websites of both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office is no longer available at either place (both sites have undergone several major rebuilds since 2001, so that is not altogether surprising).

I have therefore made the full text of the report available here.

Information on Lord Hurd of Westwell is available here.



Andrew Brown argues in The Guardian that You can’t dance to atheism.
He has also written Don’t just blame ‘religion’ when parents refuse to let desperately ill children die.

Rod Thomas asks in The Church of England Newspaper Where are the Reform Bishops?

David Lose asks in The Huffington Post Was Jesus a Jerk?

In a reminder of how things used to be, The Guardian has this From the archive, 8 September 1979: Robert Runcie is to be the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury.


Telegraph interviews Rowan Williams

Update (Saturday 9.15 am) The Anglican Communion Office has responded with this Correction to The Telegraph article.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion has responded to an article in today’s The Telegraph newspaper that inaccurately stated: “The Anglican Church is drawing up plans… that would see the introduction of a ‘presidential’ figure to take over some of the global role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

“The opening paragraph of this article is mischievous,” said Canon Kenneth Kearon. “There are no such plans. The Archbishop of Canterbury simply said in the interview that he could see that in the future there might be some reflection on how the administrative load associated with the Anglican Communion might be better shared.

“The Anglican Communion has several decision-making bodies, one of which is meeting in a few months’ time. Nothing like what this newspaper has suggested is on the agenda.”

The Telegraph today has a major interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

John Bingham and Benedict Brogan My job is too big for one man, says Archbishop of Canterbury

The outgoing leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans suggested a form of job share after admitting that he had failed to do enough to prevent a split over homosexuality.

Dr Williams said a new role should be created to oversee the day to day running of the global Anglican communion, leaving future Archbishops of Canterbury free to focus on spiritual leadership and leading the Church of England…

Benedict Brogan Archbishop of Canterbury interview: I don’t think I cracked it

…Does it worry him that, of the three main party leaders, two are atheists, and the third – David Cameron – says his faith comes and goes like “Magic FM in the Chilterns”? Doesn’t it make them unreliable allies against those secularising forces? “It does give me some concern. That means we have, as people of faith, to encourage our own folk to be a bit more willing to go into politics, and get their hands dirty.”

Nothing illustrates better the insensitivity to minorities than Mr Cameron’s wish to legalise gay marriage. Dr Williams is critical of the “embarrassment” the Prime Minister has caused the Church. A “very inadequate” consultation overlooked the legal position of the Churches and marriage. By opposing the change, however, the Church attracted accusations of homophobia, and for good reason, he thinks. It has been too – he says “lily mouthed” before correcting himself: “We’ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams: Church ‘wrong’ not to promote homosexual equality (audio recording)

In his last major interview before he steps down later his year, the Archbishop reaffirmed the Church’s opposition to same sex marriage and warned it would lead to a legal “tangle”.

But he added that the Church had been “wrong” in the past in its approach to homosexuality.

“We’ve not exactly been on the forefront of pressing for civic equality for homosexual people, and we were wrong about that,” he said.

Dr Williams was speaking as Faith in the Public Square, a collection of his lectures dealing with subjects as diverse as human rights, secularism and multiculturalism, is published…


Dean of St Albans writes about same-sex marriage for Church Times

The following article was published last week in the Church Times, and is reproduced here by permission.

Time to tell the truth about gays

Same-sex marriage can be as holy and covenantal as the heterosexual kind, argues Jeffrey John

WHEN I was a teenager, I once plucked up courage to ask a vicar what he thought about the issue of gay relationships. After a long pause and a deep breath, he finally replied: “Well, Jeffrey my boy, I suppose we must try to keep an open mind about the whole filthy business.”

My early wrestling with the “gay issue” brought me to a conclusion that has never wavered. Unless you are genuinely called to celibacy, the God-given framework for being homosexual is the same as for being heterosexual: monogamy. It has always seemed obvious to me that being in a committed relationship with someone you love and trust to share your life with is likely to maximise the health and happiness of both of you. Yes, it is hard; yes, it can go wrong; but, whether we are gay or straight, most of us know it is the best bet, and want to live that way. At the purely practical level, marriage is good for everybody.

Those are the arguments that politicians use in favour of same-sex marriage, and they are good ones. But Christian theology has deeper reasons for saying that monogamy is good. When we love one another in a fully committed way, so that the love does not depend on eros, but on faithful self-giving to the other, then marriage reflects Christ’s union with the Church, and God’s with his people. Our covenant with each other reflects God’s own kind of covenanting love.

The fact that we are capable of loving as God loves us is the main reason why we say that we are made in God’s image. For most of us, loving someone in that way – the mystery of losing ourselves in love, to find a better self in union with another – is the best inkling we get in this life of the kind of ecstatic union with God which is what heaven will be.

This covenant theology of marriage does not depend on gender or childbirth. Even in Genesis, the reason why God makes Eve is because “God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.” When Paul talks about the theology of marriage, it is never with respect to childbirth. What matters is that the covenant between the couple reflects God’s covenant with us. That is why the Church has always married couples even where childbirth is impossible.

Theologically, ethically, and sacramentally, there is no difference between a gay couple and a heterosexual couple who cannot have children. So, yes, same-sex marriage can be as holy and sacramental as heterosexual marriage. Yes, God is in favour of gay marriage, and so should the Church be.

But, of course, it isn’t. In its reply to the Government’s consultation about gay civil marriage, the Church of England’s official spokesmen described same-sex marriage as a “hollowed out” version of real, heterosexual marriage. The obvious and insulting implication is that a gay marriage is empty, missing some all-important ingredient X.

Well, I would like to hear what that ingredient X is. I would like to know what is absent in my own relationship of 37 years, and in the relationships of thousands of other similar same-sex couples, which makes them “hollow” and deficient by comparison with heterosexual marriages. I have been observing all this for a long time, and I do not believe that ingredient X exists.

IRONICALLY, the Church knows more about homosexuality than most institutions. Most of the lifelong gay relationships I know are between Christians – many of them clerics. My partner and I met at theological college, where about three-quarters of the students and staff were gay (and the college was not unique in that respect).

Once the relationship began, I went to own up to the college principal, expecting to be thrown out. His response was: “Thank God for that. You’re such a bloody miserable academic introvert – loving somebody will make you a better person and a better priest.” They were the wisest words that I ever heard him utter. But, of course, they could not be said in public.

This is the real problem. For decades – perhaps centuries – the Church’s leadership has had a public attitude to gayness, and a private one. I have yet to meet a bishop or archbishop who, in private, is unsupportive, or seriously believes that such a relationship is a sin. The only sin is in telling the truth about it. Twice I have offered my resignation, in exasperation at all the lies, only to be told: “Don’t be naïve. We need honest chaps like you.”

It is obvious that a number of bishops are gay, and some are, or have been, in gay relationships, yet they constantly refer to gay people as if they were somebody else. For all the fuss that was made about Bishop Gene Robinson, there are probably more gay bishops in the C of E than in the Episcopal Church in the United States. The difference is that the Americans tell the truth.

Canon Giles Fraser put this nicely in a recent article. Mostly, he said, people complain that the Church does not practise what it preaches; but, on this issue, we do not preach what we practise.

THE Church possesses a gospel for gay people, but it cannot speak it openly to those who most need to hear. It cares too much about its own institutional politics to care about this large section of God’s people. It wants to keep the privileges of establishment as a Church for the whole nation, but, in order to appease its own extremists here and abroad, it demands exemptions from equality and human-rights legislation that everyone else accepts as common decency.

By opposing almost every advance that gay people have made since decriminalisation, and now by opposing same-sex civil marriage, it has turned itself into the enemy number one of gay people – despite its being one of the gayest organisations in the country.

This is a disaster for the Church’s mission, its integrity, and its morale. “A lying mouth destroys the soul,” Wisdom says. It is time for the truth that sets us free.

The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John is the Dean of St Albans and the author of Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian same-sex marriage (DLT, new edition 2012).


reports on European Court hearing of religious discrimination cases

Gavin Drake reports today for the Church Times Lawyer: No discrimination if employees can resign

CHRISTIANS cannot claim that they have suffered religious discrimination at work if they have the freedom to resign and look for another job, a British-government lawyer told the European Court of Human Rights this week.

James Eadie QC made his comments as he outlined the Government’s position in four cases: those of Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin, who claim that they lost their jobs with British Airways (BA) and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust respectively, over their refusal to remove a cross or crucifix; Lillian Ladele, a registrar with the London Borough of Islington, who objected to being required to perform civil-partnership ceremonies; and Gary McFarlane, who was dismissed from his position as a counsellor with the Avon branch of Relate, after his supervisors said that his religious beliefs would prevent him offering psychosexual counselling to same-sex couples (News, 31 August)…

Earlier reports:

Mail Steve Doughty Christians ‘must choose between job or their faith’: Government lawyers claim at European court

Telegraph Bruno Waterfield Christians should ‘leave their beliefs at home or get another job’

Independent Terri Judd Christians fight for rights at work in European court

Christian Institute Govt lawyer: Christians should leave faith at home or resign (includes video link to Dinah Rose QC speaking on behalf of Ms Ladele)

An official video recording of the entire proceedings can be found here.


Women in the Episcopate: The Next Steps

Updated Wednesday night

The Church of England has this morning issued this report from the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops: Women in the Episcopate: The Next Steps.

Women in the Episcopate: The Next Steps
05 September 2012

The Standing Committee of the House of Bishops has set out the next steps in the Church of England’s debate on Women Bishops.

Following the decision of the General Synod on 9th July 2012 to refer the matter back to the House of Bishops for further consideration, the Standing Committee has met to consider the options available when the House meets in Oxford on September 12.

At its meeting yesterday the committee considered all the submissions received in response to a request for members of General Synod and interested groups to suggest possible ways forward, in addition to taking account of comments from the Steering Committee responsible for taking the draft legislation through the General Synod.

In total 120 submissions were received: 17 were from bishops, 33 from clergy members of the General Synod, 48 from lay members of the Synod, 7 from groups and 15 from other individuals who do not sit as members of Synod.

Of the seven options presented in the paper the two which received the greatest level of support are options 1 and 2: retaining Clause 5(1)(c) in its present form or deleting it without replacement. 35 correspondents expressed a preference for retaining the provision (option 1) and 41 for deleting it (option 2). Option 3 attracted relatively little support whilst options 4 to 7 attracted some support and also some criticisms. In addition a few new options were suggested by respondents.

In terms of groups representing particular opinions on this issue the submissions from WATCH – advocating women in the episcopate – firmly supported Option 2 whilst Reform and the Catholic Group – opposing women in the episcopate – firmly favoured option 1.

Having considered and discussed the submissions received, the Standing Committee resolved to invite the House of Bishops to consider the Committee’s assessment of the seven options in GS Misc 1033 and of the additional suggestions received during the consultation process. Members of the House have the right to table amendments before 5pm on Tuesday September 11th.

The amendments will be voted upon at the meeting of the House of Bishops by simple majority. If no amendment were passed the draft Measure would return to the General Synod unchanged (option 1 from GS Misc 1033).

The amendments that the Standing Committee has suggested for discussion in the light of the consultation are as follows:

  • (Option 2 from GS Misc 1033) Delete clause 5(1)(c)
  • (Option 4 from GS Misc 1033) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection, after consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests to exercise ministry in the parishes of those councils,”
  • (New option suggested by a Synod member) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3,”.
  • (Option 5 from GS Misc 1033) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection, following consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests, the exercise of ministry by whom appears to the persons making the selection to be appropriate for the parishes concerned,”.
  • (Option 6 from GS Misc 1033) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection of male bishops and male priests the exercise of ministry by whom respects the position, in relation to the celebration of the sacraments and other divine service and the provision of pastoral care, of the parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3,”.

The General Synod will vote on the draft Measure at its meeting in London on 19-21 November.

We linked to GS Misc 1033 here.

Update The press release includes this summary of GS Misc 1033.

The discussion document GS Misc 1033 was issued on 25 July and set out 7 options making clear that these were not an exhaustive list:

Option 1- Retention of Clause 5(1)(c) in its current form.

Option 2 – Deletion of Clause 5(1)(c).

Option 3 – Replacement of “consistent with” by “respect” or “take account of”.

Option 4 – Focus on broad subject area and perhaps process.

Option 5 – Focus on suitability/appropriateness.

Option 6 – Revised formulation of what parishes need (inserting references to the position of PCCs in relation to the celebration of the sacraments etc).

Option 7 – Option 6 plus some process.


General synod – report of proceedings

The verbatim record of the July meeting of the Church of England General Synod is now available for download: Report of Proceedings: July 2012.

There is also a Summary for parish magazines (two A4 pages) prepared by the Communications Office.


European Court to hear UK religious discrimination cases

Updated again Monday evening

Next week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg will hear four cases relating to alleged religious discrimination in the UK.

The Church Times has a report by Gavin Drake titled Strasbourg to hear religious-discrimination cases.

The Law Society Gazette has an article by Joshua Rozenberg Religious beliefs should be respected – when rights are not impeded .

John Bingham reports for the Telegraph on the evidence submitted by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Human rights ‘agenda’ is new totalitarianism, bishop warns judges.

The evidence submitted by the National Secular Society can be read here (PDF).

A press release from the Christian Legal Centre can be read here.

The official press release from the European Court of Human Rights is available here (PDF).


Frank Cranmer at Law and Religion UK has posted links to many documents (including two responses from HM Government) that have been published by Christian Concern, go to Eweida, Chaplin, Ladele and McFarlane: appeals to the European Court of Human Rights for those, and for a discussion of the contributions from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and Lord Carey.

Laura Donnelly Telegraph A cross to bear

Craig Mackenzie Mail Online ‘Why I will fight to bear my Cross’: Four devout British Christians take their battle for religious freedom to human rights judges

The National Secular Society has a press release here, which includes links to two earlier court documents known as Statement of Facts: these are what the UK Government documents are responses to.

Owen Bowcott Guardian Christian rights cases go before Strasbourg court

Steve Doughty Daily Mail Carey blasts Cameron for going back on his promise as UK fights for a ban on crosses at work

Rosalind English UK Human Rights Blog Religious freedom in UK to be considered by Strasbourg Court


opinion at the end of August

Francis Spufford writes for The Guardian about The trouble with atheists: a defence of faith.

Marcus Borg writes for The Huffington Post about A Chronological New Testament.

Rachel Mann writes in The Guardian that The church is our best hope against the zombies.

The Church Times has this leader: Baptism for all.

Mark Sandlin writes for The God Article that there is Far Too Little Sabbath in the Sabbath.

Christopher Howse writes in The Telegraph about a Big question from Stephen Hawking.

In the What I’m really thinking series in The Guardian this week is the woman priest.