Thinking Anglicans

Looking ahead to General Synod

Sam Jones previews next weekend’s meeting of General Synod in The week ahead: the Church of England’s General Synod and asks “Will it be another Anglican bunfight or will new archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby hold the communion together?”

John Bingham writes in The Telegraph Church of England set to bury Synod homosexuality debate. “The Church of England is set to bury a potentially explosive debate on homosexuality at its General Synod later this week – amid claims bishops are privately considering sanctioning blessing services for gay couples.”
This refers to the Business Committee’s decision not to schedule any private members’ motions for debate this time. Their stated reason for this is in their report to Synod.

9. Two Private Members’ Motions have attracted more than 100 signatures (which is the required threshold for debate): Mrs Andrea Minichiello Williams’s PMM on the Public Doctrine of Christian Marriage and Mr John Ward’s PMM on the Registration of Civil Partnerships. The Business Committee has taken the view that it would be helpful for the two PMMs to be debated at the same group of sessions and that the July group of sessions will not be the right moment for scheduling them given both the pressure on the agenda and the sensitive nature of the other matters to be resolved.

The text of the two PMMs, and others that have not (yet) reached 100 signatures, are here.



Tabatha Leggett signs up to “Christianity’s most successful recruitment programme” for the New Statesman: Inside Alpha: An atheist’s foray into Christianity.

Matthew Engelke writes for The Guardian that Christianity and atheism are two sides of the same coin. “Those of us with no faith have a lot to learn about the value of halting the normal rhythms of life and stopping to reflect.”

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that Our fear of boredom is simply a fear of coming face to face with ourselves. “The Sunday morning hour, like the therapeutic hour, is a place to contemplate our capacity to deal with the fear of emptiness.”

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that Evangelical sex activists are no better than religious moralists.

Steve Hollinghurst writes on his blog about exposing the Church of England plan to recruit Pagans using a Pagan church.


Churches welcome EU guidelines on religious freedom

Frank Cranmer reports that:

On 24 June the EU Council of Ministers adopted new Guidelines on promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief in EU external action and human rights policy. The guidelines are based on the principles of equality, non-discrimination and universality and are intended to provide practical guidance to officials of the EU and Member States in their relations with third countries and with international and civil society organisations. The guidelines go further than the previous Council conclusions on freedom of religion or belief which were adopted under the Swedish Presidency in 2009 and take into account most of the text adopted by the European Parliament on 13 June; but they are not as detailed as the EP text in relation to monitoring and assessment requirements.

Today, the Church of England issued a press release that the Bishop [of Derby] welcomes EU guidelines on freedom of religion.

Frank Cranmer’s post gives some detail on what is in these guidelines and how they developed from earlier EU documents. He notes that they were also welcomed by the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches and with some reservations also by the Commission of the [Roman Catholic] Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.

The full text of the guidelines is here: EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief (PDF).

The official report of the meeting summarised this item as follows:

The Council adopted EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief. While the EU is not aligned with any specific religion or belief, the guidelines reflect the EU’s determination to promote, in its external human rights policy, freedom of religion or belief as a right to be exercised by everyone everywhere.

At the same time the EU Council of Ministers adopted another set of guidelines: Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons (PDF)

The official report summary reads:

The Council adopted guidelines on the promotion and protection of all human rights of LGBTI persons, on the basis of existing international legal standards in this area. The guidelines are intended to enable the EU to proactively promote the human rights of LGBTI persons, to better understand and combat any structural discrimination they might face and to react to violations of their human rights.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights reported: EU foreign affairs ministers adopt ground-breaking global LGBTI policy:

Today the EU’s 27 foreign affairs ministers adopted a ground-breaking global policy. The LGBTI Guidelines instruct EU diplomats around the globe to defend the human rights of LGBTI people.

The Council of the European Union, the body that represents the 27 national governments in the EU, had already adopted a non-binding toolkit to promote LGBT people’s human rights in June 2010.

Three years later, foreign affairs ministers have now upgraded the document to these new Guidelines to promote and protect the enjoyment of all human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons…

If I find any endorsements of these latter guidelines from religious organisations, I will let you know. So far I can find no mention of them from religious sources.


Dancing in the aisles


Gary and Tracy Richardson got married in St Mary and St Martin, in Blyth, Nottinghamshire on 15 June. There was dancing, and it was in church.

Gary and Tracy Richardson’s Wedding Flash Mob 15/06/2013

News reports include:

Church Times Disco-dancing vicar becomes web sensation
BBC Flash mob wedding dance: Tracy Richardson on ‘amazing’ reaction
Leon Watson for Mail Online Let us dance! Vicar leads wedding congregation with hilarious routine for flashmob video

And there was comment:

Vicky Beeching in The Independent that The ‘viral vicar’ who led wedding dance flash-mob is a great example of how to make religion interactive.
Andrew Brown in The Guardian This vicar’s disco dance gives hope to the Church of England
Church Times leader Dancing in the aisles

Kate Bottley, the vicar who conducted the service, has been interviewed by Arun Arora, the CofE’s Director of Communications. Download the podcast from here.


Church Growth

Next week’s meeting of General Synod won’t just be about women bishops. After dinner on Saturday Synod will have a take note debate on this report: GS 1895 Challenges for the Quinquennium. The Business Committee in their report (GS 1889) preview this.

Progress on Meeting Challenges for the Quinquennium

22. The take note debate will be an opportunity for the Synod to review progress on the three themes set at the start of the quinquennium. The Synod will have before it a report from the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council (GS 1895).

23. The debate will allow members to assess and critique the ways in which the three goals are being pursued, to contribute local insights and experiences which could help inform the work through the rest of the quinquennium, and to reflect in particular on the mission challenge facing the Church of England, which Synod debated in July 2011 and on which a separate paper – Making new Disciples – is being circulated (GS Misc 1054). There will be further debates on themes from the quinquennial report at future groups of sessions.

The three themes are:

contributing as the national Church to the common good;
facilitating the growth of the Church;
re-imagining the Church’s ministry.

David Keen writes about this on his blog General Synod: Sneaking in a radical growth strategy whilst everyone is looking at women bishops. He emphases that church growth must be the top priority, as this extract from GS 1895 makes clear.

The opportunities for contributing to the common good at a time of considerable social and economic distress are enormous. But the Church of England’s capacity will be less than it would wish unless it can also make progress in reversing the long term decline in numbers and increase in the age profile of its membership.

Keen also looks at the companion paper (GS Misc 1054 Making New Disciples: the Growth of the Church of England), which, he says, “makes the theological and practical case for prioritising church growth in the CofE”.

It’s not mentioned in the Synod papers, but my own diocese of Liverpool has had a growth agenda since 2009.


Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government has today introduced a bill into the Scottish Parliament. This follows two consultations.

Consultation reports are linked from this page.

The draft bill, explanatory notes, a policy memorandum, and a delegated powers memorandum can all be found here.

Other associated documents are linked on this page.

Of particular interest outside Scotland, there is this statement agreed with the UK Government about amendments to the Equality Act 2010. The statement itself is available as a PDF file.


American church responses to Supreme Court decisions


The Supreme Court of the United States today issued two decisions relating to the marriage of same sex couples. The Guardian summarised it this way:

A landmark supreme court ruling struck down a controversial federal law that discriminated against gay couples in the US, delivering a stunning victory on Wednesday to campaigners who fought for years to overturn it.

The court also dismissed a separate appeal against same-sex marriage laws in California, restoring the right to gay marriage in the largest US state and nearly doubling the number of Americans living in states where gay marriage would be legal.

Together, the two rulings mark the biggest advance in civil liberties for gay people in a generation, and come amid growing political and international recognition that same-sex couples deserve equal legal treatment…

The Federal DOMA opinion is here. The California Proposition 8 opinion is here.

Numerous statements in response were made by bishops of The Episcopal Church and other senior church officials. Here are some links:


Church leaders outside The Episcopal Church expressed contrary views:


Reform appoints its first full-time Director

Reform Media Statement June 25th 2013: Reform appoints Susie Leafe as its first Director

The chairman of the Anglican evangelical campaigning network Reform today announced the appointment of Reform’s first full-time director, Mrs Susie Leafe.

Speaking at its annual prayer meeting at St Botolph’s Church, London, today (25th June) Prebendary Rod Thomas made the announcement and led the expected 150-strong gathering in prayer as he commissioned Susie Leafe for the work.

Susie Leafe is a member of the General Synod and played a prominent role in the debate on women bishops. Organising a campaign under the banner ‘Proper Provision’, Mrs Leafe gave voice to over 2000 female lay members of the Church of England who believed that the now failed legislative proposals on women bishops did not make adequate provision for those who had theological objections to this development. Prebendary Rod Thomas said ‘This appointment marks a new step forward for Reform. There has never been a greater need for the Church of England to proclaim and explain the gospel, yet in many respects it is ill-equipped to do so. Reform needs to engage many more people in its work to change that situation and I am delighted that Susie is going to be directing our effort to make that possible. She has very considerable theological, organizational and communication gifts from which our network, and the wider church, will benefit hugely…’



Amnesty report on Homophobia in Sub-Saharan Africa

Amnesty International has published a report: Making love a crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thirty-eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct. Underpinning these laws are deeply entrenched discriminatory social attitudes. This report examines the effects of the criminalization laws on, and discriminatory social attitudes towards, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. Amnesty International is urging governments to repeal laws criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct and to enact and enforce laws protecting LGBTI individuals from discrimination, harassment and violence, in accordance with their obligations under international law.

The full report is available as a PDF here.

There is also this press release: Rising levels of homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa are dangerous and must be tackled, says Amnesty in new report

Homophobic attacks and harassment across sub-Saharan Africa are reaching dangerous levels, Amnesty International warned in a new report out today.

Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa looks at how “homosexual acts” are being increasingly criminalised across Africa as a number of governments seek to impose draconian penalties or broaden the scope of existing laws, including by introducing the death penalty.

Widney Brown, Amnesty International’s director of Law and Policy, said:

“These attacks – sometimes deadly – must be stopped. No one should be beaten or killed because of who they are attracted to or intimately involved with.

“In too many cases these attacks on individuals and groups are being fuelled by key politicians and religious leaders who should be using their position to fight discrimination and promote equality.”

Homosexuality, often characterised as “unnatural carnal acts” or “acts against the order of nature”, is currently a crime in 38 countries in Africa.

In the last five years South Sudan and Burundi have introduced new laws criminalising same-sex sexual conduct. Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria all currently have Bills seeking to increase existing penalties pending before Parliament.

The report reviews the current state of legal provisions across the continent and how these laws adversely affect LGBTI Africans. Individuals interviewed by Amnesty spoke of their daily struggle to survive discrimination and threats. The report contains specific cases from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon…

And there is this fact sheet.


Staff changes at Lambeth Palace

From the Lambeth Palace website:

Announcement of staff changes in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff at Lambeth Palace

Tuesday 25th June 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury today announced the following changes in staffing at Lambeth Palace which will take place in October:

Chris Smith, Chief of Staff to the Archbishop since 2003, will move on to pursue other interests in October after 10 years of service at Lambeth. Archbishop Justin today praised Chris’s contribution in the role: “I would like to thank Chris on behalf of my predecessor and the many others who have benefited from his years of loyal service to the Church. I am particularly grateful to Chris for remaining at Lambeth during the changeover of Archbishops, ensuring a smooth handover during this period of transition.”

The Rt Reverend Nigel Stock, currently Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, will join the Archbishop’s staff in October as Bishop at Lambeth, with responsibility for supporting the Archbishop’s work in the House of Bishops, the Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, and being a key point of contact at Lambeth Palace for Bishops. Speaking about the appointment, Archbishop Justin said “I am delighted Bishop Nigel has agreed to come and join us at Lambeth to carry out this important new role and I look forward to working with him”.

Arrangements will be made in consultation with the Bishop’s Council to cover the vacancy in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich until a new diocesan bishop is appointed to replace Bishop Nigel.

Kay Brock, currently Secretary for Public Affairs and Deputy Chief of Staff, will become Chief of Staff in October, implementing the Archbishop’s strategy, managing Lambeth Palace and having responsibility for the Archbishop’s engagement with public life.

From the St Edmundsbury diocesan website:

Bishop Nigel set for new role at Lambeth

Bishop Nigel spoke of mixed feelings as he announced that he will be leaving the county he loves later this year to take up a senior role.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to take up this role which will take effect in late October. The purpose is to support the Archbishop’s ministry with the Bishops and the National Church Institutions, General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council. This will mean being a collegiate member of the Archbishop’s senior team, which works with him to develop and implement strategies for every area of the ministry to which God has called the Archbishop.”

“As Bishop of Lambeth, I will be the main point of contact at Lambeth for Bishops of the Church of England, building and strengthening the Archbishop’s relationship with them. I will also be engaged with ecumenical and interfaith work, and have oversight for other sections of those working within Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop is aiming to work with a smaller staff at Lambeth, but is looking to make it a responsive, courteous and hospitable place from which to conduct his ministry.”

“The Archbishop is working on three priorities for his ministry: a renewal of prayer and the religious life within the country; reconciliation within the Church and the nation; and evangelism.”

“This will be a demanding, challenging, exciting, daunting and certainly unexpected prospect. I am of course only too well aware that this is a very awkward time for the Diocese to be without a Diocesan Bishop. Quite apart from the absence of a Suffragan Bishop there are also the centenary celebrations next year. However in consultation with the Bishop’s Council there will be an appointment of a bishop with full delegated powers to cover the vacancy and an announcement about that will be made shortly. This will be a temporary arrangement, and the processes for the appointment of the next Bishop will proceed as normal. In the light of this vacancy, the See of Dunwich will not be filled until a Diocesan Bishop is appointed…”

  • Bishop Nigel, 63, has held the post of Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich since 2007 and entered the House of Lords as a Lord Spiritual during March 2011. He was educated at Durham University and studied for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon. From 1976 to 1979, he was a curate at St Peter’s Stockton in the Diocese of Durham. From 1979 to 1984, he was priest-in-charge of St Peter’s in Taraka in the Diocese of Aipo Rongo, Papua New Guinea. From 1985 to 1991, he was vicar of St Mark’s Shiremoor in the Diocese of Newcastle, moving to become Team Rector of North Shields from 1991 to 1998. He was also Rural Dean of Tynemouth from 1992 to 1998 and an honorary canon of Newcastle Cathedral from 1997 to 1998. He was a canon residentiary of Durham Cathedral from 1998 to 2000 and also Chaplain of Grey College, Durham in 1999 and 2000. He became Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester in 2000 before moving to Suffolk as Bishop six years ago this October.

Some background on Kay Brock


House of Lords: final day in committee on the Marriage bill


The Hansard record of the committee proceedings on Monday 24 June starts here, and later continues here. The debate continued until 12.22 am!

The more detailed list showing speakers names is over here.

Three bishops made interventions:

The Bishop of Guildford starting here.
The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds starting here, and later continuing here where he moved Amendment 46B.
The Bishop of Leicester starting here where he moved Amendment 46C.

David Pocklington has published Same Sex Marriage Bill – Committee, 3rd Day Summary.

The text of the bill, as amended by the Committee stage, is now available here, and in PDF format here.

The dates for Report stage were announced previously as 8 and 10 July. The date for Third Reading has now been announced as 15 July.


Diocesan reorganisation in Yorkshire

The General Synod will be asked next month to approve a proposal, from the Dioceses Commission, to unite the existing dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield, to form a single new diocese, to be known formally as the Diocese of Leeds.

The draft legal document can be read: The Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield Reorganisation Scheme 201-, and the usual explanatory memorandum is here.

Standing orders do not allow the synod to now amend the scheme as drafted. It can either approve it as it stands, reject it outright, or pass a motion for reconsideration of specific points in the scheme by the Dioceses Commission. The latter course of action will cause a significant delay before it comes back to synod.

The situation is not entirely straightforward because one of the three dioceses involved, Wakefield, voted in its diocesan synod to reject the scheme by a decisive margin. The other two dioceses, plus Blackburn and Sheffield (each of which is marginally involved due to proposed transfers of a small number of parishes out of either Bradford – to Blackburn or Wakefield – to Sheffield) all voted very strongly in favour of the scheme. The Archbishop of York was therefore obliged to make a decision whether or not to bring the scheme to the General Synod, despite the Wakefield rejection.

He did make a decision to do so, as explained in GS Misc 1050.

To understand what this dispute is all about, on the one hand there is a series of documents published by the Dioceses Commission. On the other hand the Diocese of Wakefield has a special website that contains another series of documents. The latter was announced in a dramatic full page advertisement on page 27 of last week’s Church Times.

Dioceses Commission background documents:

GS Misc 1049A – Moving Towards a New Dioceses for West Yorkshire and the Dales
GS Misc 1049B – The New Diocese and the Mission of the Church
GS Misc 1049C – Yorkshire Scheme for Financial Estimates

Minutes of diocesan synod meetings:
Ripon & Leeds;

Diocese of Wakefield background documents:

The leaflet: Why Wakefield voted against the proposals from the Dioceses Commission

The Minutes of the Diocesan Synod on 2 March when Wakefield rejected the proposals by 76 votes to 40 (same file as published by the Dioceses Commission)

Dioceses Commission – An Alternative Vision

An Assessment of The Dioceses Commission’s “Estimate of the Financial Effect of the Proposals” by the Chairs of the Boards of Finance of the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield

and there are several further papers linked on the Wakefield site.

Three further documents that are helpful in understanding the proposals:


Pete Broadbent and women bishops

Pete Broadbent writes on his blog today what he calls “A personal view on GS 1886”: Women Bishops – where are we now?. He is the Bishop of Willesden (in the diocese of London) and one of the elected suffragan bishops in the House of Bishops. He concludes:

Of the four options in the HoB paper, only Option 1 has any chance of success. I would urge opponents to adopt realpolitik on this matter. It really is no good any more to argue for provision enshrined in law. The game is up.

But do read it all.


Welfare Reform and the Church

On the evening of Sunday 7 July General Synod will debate this motion, to be proposed by Philip Fletcher, on behalf of the Mission and Public Affairs Council (MPA) of the Archbishops’ Council.

That this Synod, recognising that in times of austerity hard choices must be made between competing priorities, and acknowledging that reform of welfare systems is essential:
(a) affirm the need for a renewed settlement between the state, the churches and civil society in pursuit of social solidarity and the common good;
(b) call for close attention to the impact of welfare cuts on the most vulnerable, and for support for those not in a position to support themselves;
(c) decry the misleading characterisation of all welfare recipients as ‘scroungers’; and
(d) commend those across the churches who are working to support those most in need.

Synod members have been sent GS 1897Welfare Reform and the Church as background to the debate, along with two annexes prepared in partnership with the Church Urban Fund: Annex 1 It all adds up: the cumulative impact of welfare reform and Annex 2 Guide to welfare reforms 2010–2017.

The Business Committee’s report for this group of sessions (GS 1889) includes these paragraphs.

Welfare Reform and the Church

32. The Coalition Government’s goals of simplifying the welfare system and incentivising work have received broad support in principle across the Churches, but the practical measures and accompanying rhetoric of ‘strivers and scroungers’ have also caused disquiet. Clergy have daily experience of the problems parishioners face as a result of the impact of benefit changes and the vicarage doorstep is still a last resort for many who fall through the net. Benefit claimants are members of many church communities. In this context, both clergy and laity are alarmed at not only at the impact of changes on the vulnerable but also about the way in which such people are often characterised in political debate. The debate will give the Synod a chance to consider these pastoral concerns.

33. This short report from MPA (GS 1897) explores some of the theological and historical reasons for the Church’s interest in social welfare, seeks to place the debate within the context of the Synod’s earlier work on the financial crisis, and draws on the 2010 debate on The Big Society, to argue that serious welfare reform requires the rebalancing of responsibilities between the individual, the state and wider civil society, including new thinking about the proper role of the churches.

34. The aim is to help the Synod think more deeply and strategically about the Church’s potential and responsibilities without getting caught up in the party politics or simply engaging in hand-wringing. The short report is accompanied by two papers already produced by MPA in partnership with CUF – Annex 1 sets out welfare changes that are happening, and Annex 2 assesses their impact on claimants and their families.

John Bingham reports on this in The Telegraph today with Church of England faces fresh clash with ministers over welfare reform. It starts:

In a highly critical analysis of the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s overhaul of the benefits system, the established Church questions the “moral” case for such reforms in a time of austerity.

The poor and vulnerable, it claims, are bearing a “disproportionate share of the burden” from recession yet being “squeezed” ever tighter by the Government – while the rich are allowed to escape “largely unscathed”.

At the same time the Government has deliberately stoked up rhetoric characterising benefit claimants as “scroungers” and workers as “strivers” to gain “political capital”, it insists…



Mark Brett writes for ABC Religion and Ethics about Asylum seekers and universal human rights: Does the Bible still matter?

Jonathan Clatworthy for Modern Church looks at the phrase Unable on grounds of theological conviction.

Peter Doll writes for the Church Times about The only defence against unaccountable power. “An Established Church guards against tyranny.”

David McIlroy asks for Theos: Is Secular Law possible?

Diarmaid MacCulloch reviews Our Church by Roger Scruton for The Guardian. “What makes the C of E special? This account of Anglicanism is full of cliches and misrepresentations.”


Safeguarding: follow-up to Chichester

Next month General Synod will consider a range of actions to improve Safeguarding of children and of vulnerable adults, mostly in direct response to the reports issued in August 2012 and in April 2013 by the Commissaries who conducted a visitation of the Diocese of Chichester.

The motion to be debated on Sunday afternoon has several parts. Here’s the full text:

‘That this Synod

(a) endorse the Archbishops’ statement in GS 1896 expressing on behalf of the Church of England an unreserved apology for the failure of its systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others; and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused;

(b) invite –

(i) the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council to pursue as a matter of urgency the programme of work set out in GS 1896 to enhance the Church of England’s safeguarding arrangements; and

(ii) the Business Committee to schedule First Consideration of the necessary draft legislation as soon as the responses to the consultation document have been assessed, with a view to its securing Final Approval in the lifetime of this Synod; and

(c) invite the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council to report back to the Synod by February 2014 on what action is to be taken to secure the more effective delivery of the ‘Responding Well’ policy across the Church in the interests of survivors.’

The document for this is GS 1896 (A PDF version of this is contained in the zip file for the first distribution of papers). This is a 16 page document, and it contains more detail on each of the items mentioned below.

Part (a) is uncontroversial. In GS 1896 the archbishops write:

…It is right, therefore, that the General Synod should… be able to identify with the apology that we wish to offer unreservedly for the failure of the Church of England’s systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused. The sexual and physical abuse that has been inflicted by these people on children, young people and adults is and will remain a deep source of grief and shame for years to come.

As the Commissaries rightly observed: “All contemporary safeguarding policies and procedures in the Church should be a response to what we learn and see in Jesus himself… In witness to this faith and to our sense of obligation to children who are brought to Jesus through the care of the Christian community, the Church should set for itself the highest standards of care available to our society today. If that is true especially in relation to children, it ought also to be true for the care we offer to some of the most vulnerable adults in the modern world.”

We cannot overestimate the importance of responding appropriately today. Sadly for many this comes far too late. History cannot be rewritten, but those who still suffer now as a result of abuse in the past deserve this at least, that we hear their voices and take action to ensure that today’s safeguarding policies and systems are as robust as they can be. This work is an essential and prior Gospel imperative, for any attempts we make to grow the church, to seek the common good, and to reimagine the Church’s ministry.

Part (b) seeks synod approval for a comprehensive programme to improve the church’s safeguarding systems. The extent of these actions clearly indicates that the existing systems are inadequate in numerous ways. Several will involve spending more money than now, both at central and at diocesan level.

One part of this is to make a series of changes that require legislation, and to do so as quickly as possible, which in this case means bringing the legislation to the Synod in February 2014 and for the entire approval process to be completed by July 2015.

Before discussing the details of the legislative proposals, it should be noted that there are many other non-legislative actions planned, some of which will take years, and which can be summarised briefly as follows:


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Martyn Percy delivers first Inclusive Church annual lecture

From the Inclusive Church website:

The Annual Inclusive Church lecture was inaugurated in 2013, marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of Inclusive Church.

The lecture is part of Inclusive Church’s commitment to articulate a coherent gospel theology of inclusion.

The inaugural lecture entitled ‘On Being Together: the Possibility of Church’ was given by Martyn Percy at Southwark Cathedral, with 200 guests.
Some earlier parts of this paper were initially explored in Anglicanism: Confidence, Commitment and Communion (Ashgate, 2013), Thirty-Nine New Articles: An Anglican Landscape of Faith (SCM-Canterbury, 2013), a lecture given at St. John’s College, Auckland, New Zealand , April 2013…

The full text of the lecture can be downloaded as a PDF file, from here.


Hong Kong Anglican Church adopts the Covenant

The Anglican Communion News Service reports today that

Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church, has adopted the Anglican Communion Covenant.

The Province’s General Secretary, the Revd Peter Koon, wrote to the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Canon Kenneth Kearon informing him of the decision by HKSKH’s Sixth General Synod held from 2 to 5 June.

Hong Kong is the seventh Province to adopt the Covenant, the others are La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico, The Church of the Province of Myanmar, the Church in the Province of the West Indies, Church of the Province of South East Asia (with their own preamble), the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, and La Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America.

The Church of Ireland has subscribed it, and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has adopted it subject to a ratification at its next Provincial Synod.

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod defeated a resolution to agree in principle to adopt the Covenant in June 2012.

The Anglican Communion Covenant, a document that outlines the common life and values of the Communion, was described by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams as “Something that helps us know where we stand together and also helps us to intensify our fellowship and our trust.” It includes a section that proposes how to address significant disagreements within the Anglican Communion.

The idea of a Covenant was first raised in 2004 and member churches are currently reviewing the latest and final version.

For more on the Covenant visit

Readers will notice that there is still no mention of the fact that the proposal to adopt the Covenant in the Church of England was defeated when a majority of diocesan synods voted against.


Elections Review Group – part 2

The second part of the Business Committee’s response to the Election Review Group’s report is in GS 1906. The group’s report itself is in GS 1901.

This second part considers

  • changing the electorate for the House of Laity; and
  • introducing an online facility for nominations and voting in respect of elections to the General Synod.

Unlike the topics in the first part, where the Business Committee is bringing draft legislation to Synod, the committee is initiating a debate to seek Synod’s views on whether any changes should be made, and if so what form the legislation should take.

Electorate for the House of Laity

At present General (and diocesan) Synod lay members are elected by lay members of deanery synods. The Bridge Commission in 1997 proposed instead a specially elected electoral college, although it should be noted that as they proposed the abolition of deanery synods in their present form they had to propose some alternative electorate. But General Synod at the time rejected both these proposals.

In 2011 Synod passed a motion asking for alternatives to be considered.

As a result the Election Review Group looked at five options. Apart from the fourth option (which nobody in the group supported), the same electorate would also be used for elections to diocesan synods.

  1. present system – all elected lay members of deanery synods
  2. electoral college – members to be elected by parishes at their annual meetings
  3. all elected lay members of PCCs
  4. all lay members of diocesan synods
  5. universal suffrage – all members of parish electoral rolls

The Group’s report (in GS 1901) lists the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Business Committee’s preference is for an electoral college (option 2 above) and the motion before Synod asks for legislative proposals to be brought forward. But if Synod prefers another option it can amend (and pass) the motion.

If any changes to the present system are agreed they could not come into effect in time to be used in the 2015 elections to General (and diocesan) Synod, and it is likely that they would be first used in 2018 for diocesan synods and in 2020 for General Synod.

Online elections

At present elections to General Synod are almost entirely paper based. Although nominations can be submitted by fax they must be confirmed by submitting the paper original within three days of the closing date. Voting is by paper ballot. The Business Committee had been advised that it is technically feasible to conduct the whole process online. Email nominations could be in place in time for 2015, but electronic voting would take longer to put in place, and could not be used until 2020. The motion from the Business Committee will ask Synod to endorse these proposals.


Elections Review Group – part 1

The Business Committee of the General Synod set up an elections review group in 2011. This group has now reported and its proposals will be considered at next month’s meeting of Synod. There are two reports and this article deals with the first of these.

The papers sent to members are all available online. GS 1901 contains the full report of the Elections Review Group. The Business Committee has divided its response into two reports (GS 1901 and GS 1906). This post looks at only the first of these; there will be a later posting on GS 1906.

GS 1901 – The work of the Elections Review Group: First Report by the Business Committee
GS 1902 – Draft Amending Canon No.32
GS 1903 – Draft Convocations (Elections to Upper House) (Amendment) Resolution
GS 1904 – Draft Clergy Representation (Amendment) Resolution
GS 1905 – Draft Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution
GS 1902-05x – Explanatory Memorandum

Amongst what the Business Committee considers to be non-controversial proposals are these two.

  • Suffragan bishops will be allowed to submit nomination papers by fax, as is currently allowed for laity and clergy. [For younger readers, fax is an obsolete technology for sending low resolution scans of documents over phone lines.]
  • Returning Officers will be required to post lists of candidates and election addresses online before voting papers are issued.

I will now look at the more controversial proposals, which all concern the membership of General Synod.

Allocation of seats between the two provinces

In 2010 the allocation was calculated on the basis of a 70:30 split between the Provinces of Canterbury and York, which resulted in a slight weighting in favour of York in both Houses. If there were no weighting the split would be 72:28 in both houses. Synod will be given the opportunity to remove the fixed 70:30 split.

Diocese of Europe

At present this diocese is treated as being too small to justify the normal minimum of three clergy and three lay seats in Synod, and has two of each. It now has more clergy and members of electoral rolls than some English dioceses, and Synod will be asked to give it the same minimum of three members in each house as all English dioceses.

The only other diocese with fewer than the normal minimum number of members is Sodor and Man, but the review group found no reason to change this.

Seats for Suffragan Bishops

There are currently four elected places for southern suffragans on Synod. It is proposed to increase this to five. The number of northern suffragans would remain at three. Although the main reason for the change is the desire to increase representation of minority views in the House of Bishops, there is another curious reason given. This is that if the proposals for reorganisation of dioceses in Yorkshire goes ahead, the number of diocesan bishops will be reduced by two, and the net effect would actually be a reduction in the size of the House of Bishops. To me this seems like a reason to increase the number of northern suffragans. [I should declare an interest here as I live in a northern diocese.]

Universities constituencies

There are currently six places for clergy who work in universities: one each from Oxford, Cambridge, London, other southern universities, Durham & Newcastle, other northern universities. There are a number of perceived difficulties with these places.

  • It is impossible to compile accurate lists of electors (who are also the eligible candidates for election) as this relies on the co-operation (which is not always forthcoming) of university administrators over whom the Church has no control. It is thought that these problems are so serious that the validity of the elections could be subject to legal challenge.
  • Some of the constituencies are very small.
  • Most importantly the object of these seats is to supply theological expertise to Synod, but there is no requirement for those elected to have any particular expertise. Places are not restricted to academic theologians. Most of the theologians hold the bishop’s licence and could offer their expertise by standing for election in their diocese instead.

The Business Committee therefore proposes to abolish the university places. However, Synod rejected the same proposal in 2004 and the Business Committee recognises that this might happen again. So there are alternative proposals to substantially reform the arrangements for these places. Details are in GS 1901.

Co-option of ethnic minority individuals

The review group considered a proposal to co-opt some ethnic minority individuals to Synod because of their under-representation amongst elected members. The proposal was rejected. The view was taken that more effort should be put into encouraging members of ethnic minorities to stand for election.