Thinking Anglicans

Prime Minister's Questions – women bishops

The Prime Minister was asked about women bishops at Question Time in the House of Commons yesterday.

Q3. [901147] Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): General Synod is meeting today and hopefully will find a way to enable women as soon as possible to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England. If this is successful, will my right hon. Friend and the Government support amendments to the Bishops Act to ensure that women bishops can be admitted to the House of Lords as soon as possible rather than new women bishops having to queue up behind every existing diocesan bishop before we can see women bishops in Parliament?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend follows these matters closely and asks an extremely important question. I strongly support women bishops and hope the Church of England takes this key step to ensure its place as a modern Church in touch with our society. On the problem he raises—there is, of course, a seniority rule for bishops entering the House of Lords—the Government are ready to work with the Church to see how we can get women bishops into the House of Lords as soon as possible.


Statements following Synod vote on women bishops


Catholic Group in General Synod

Statement from the Catholic Group in General Synod following the Debate on Women Bishops

The Catholic Group welcomes the new atmosphere of trust and reconciliation, together with the clear recognition that our theological convictions will continue to be within the spectrum of Anglican teaching, and the commitment to provide appropriate bishops and priests for our parishes.

We urge all involved to take steps to build up further the atmosphere of trust, which is why many of us have voted for the new legislative process to continue.

Issued by Martin Dales on behalf of the Catholic Group.


A year on; Synod November 2013 much more positive
Posted on November 20, 2013

The new Women in the Episcopate legislation passed in General Synod today with those in favour 378, those against, 8 and with 25 abstentions.

The Revd Charles Read a Vice Chair of WATCH said, “This is very good news for the full inclusion of women alongside men at all levels in our Church. We eagerly look forward to the consecration of several women as bishops as soon the legislation has completed its passage”.

WATCH was very encouraged by the tone of the debate and the result of the vote which was overwhelmingly positive. Although there is still some way to go before final legislation is passed, WATCH remains fully committed and engaged with the process which will finally enable women to become bishops.

The Revd Anne Stevens, a Vice Chair of WATCH commented, “What a difference a year makes. For the last 12 months people on all sides of the debate have worked closely together on the new provisions, and we saw the fruits of that in today’s very positive and good-humoured debate. I hope that that spirit of co-operation will continue to grow as the legislation goes through the approval process.”

There is also this statement released by Reform on Monday which is still relevant.

Pre-Synod Statement: Rod Thomas explains his thinking going in to the Nov. 2013 General Synod
Posted on 18 November 2013

The approach taken by the Legislative Steering Group was to tie its discussions fairly tightly to the terms of last July’s General Synod motion. This meant that some issues which have always been regarded as important by those arguing for better ‘provision’ were not covered (eg issues of jurisdiction). Nevertheless, within those confines, members of the Group were listening to each other carefully and seeking to respond positively. The end result was a balanced package of proposals which show more sensitivity to the needs of those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops than those in the previous draft Measure. However, key issues remain unresolved. These include the issue of jurisdiction, the rights of individuals, difficulties over enforcement, and the nature of the oath of canonical obedience. While we are prepared to see the proposals going forward for further Synodical consideration, as the most practicable way forward in our present circumstances, it is important to be clear that if major concerns remain at final approval, we will not support them. We will continue to engage positively in Synodical discussions in order to achieve an outcome that is fair to all.


General Synod – Wednesday

This page will be updated during the day

General Synod has started its debate on the latest proposals to allow women to be bishops on Wednesday. I linked to all the papers here.

Order paper for the morning’s business

Sam Jones has previewed the debate for The Guardian Women bishops debate resumes at Church of England synod.

Speech by the Bishop of Rochester introducing the debate: Bishop of Rochester introduces Women Bishops debate

At the end of the debate Synod passed the motion before it:

That this Synod, welcoming the package of proposals in GS 1924 and the statement of principles endorsed by the House of Bishops at paragraph 12 of GS 1886, invite the House of Bishops to bring to the Synod for consultation in February a draft declaration and proposals for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure which build on the agreement reached by the Steering Committee as a result of its facilitated discussions.

There were 378 votes in favour and 8 against. 25 members recorded an abstention.

Official summary of the morning’s business: General Synod – Wednesday AM

After lunch Synod voted to revise the draft measure and canon in full Synod, rather than in a revision committee.

The CofE issued this press release: Synod votes to approve next steps for women bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this statement: Female bishops: Archbishop Justin’s statement

Official summary of the afternoon’s business: General Synod – Wednesday PM

Press reports and comment on the morning debate

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England approves female bishops plan
John Bingham The Telegraph Church of England votes overwhelmingly for women bishops
Liz Dodds The Tablet Revitalised CofE Synod clears major hurdle in passing women bishops legislation
BBC News Church of England synod vote ‘paves way’ for female bishops
Madeleine Davies and Gavin Drake Church Times Synod endorses new women-bishops package
Adam Withnall The Independent Breakthrough? Church of England moves step closer to women bishops as General Synod backs new proposals
Andrew Brown The Guardian Synod’s vote for female bishops allows resistance to flourish another day
Jemima Thackray The Telegraph Women bishops: Today I’m proud to be a member of the Church of England

There is also this in The Telegraph by John Bingham Church’s General Synod – what is it for?


Church Society issued this press release on Tuesday: Church Society prays for a mutually respectful way forward on women bishops. This is copied below the fold. We have previously published comments from Affirming Catholicism, Forward in Faith, and Catholic Group, FiF and WATCH



General Synod – Tuesday

This page will be updated during the day

Overnight news and comment

Editorial in The Guardian Church of England: Mission impossible
Graeme Paton Telegraph Anglican schools ‘not dominated by middle-class pupils’
John McManus BBC News Church and Stonewall to target homophobic bullying
Nick Baines Approach to Synod

Order paper for Tuesday

Live video

Official summary of Tuesday morning’s business: General Synod – Tuesday AM

The contingency business (not in the order paper) was taken before lunch, and this motion was passed.

That this Synod call on the Archbishops’ Council to introduce legislation to enable dioceses of the Church of England to be named by reference either to a city or substantial town or to a geographical area

After lunch the Archbishop of York gave his presidential address.

This was followed by a debate on church schools. This was opened by the Bishop of Oxford with this speech.
Press release on this debate: Synod affirms CofE’s crucial involvement with schools

The final item of business was a motion from the diocese of London calling for a review of the workings of synod: Review on workings of synod rejected.

Official summary of the afternoon’s business: General Synod – Tuesday PM

Nick Baines comments on today’s business: Prophetic imagination.

There are these two report of the Archbishop of York’s address:

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England must end internal arguments, says archbishop of York
Gavin Drake Church Times Take action to help the ‘new poor’, says Sentamu

Audio recordings of the sessions are available here.


Guildford diocese: interim guidelines about prayers after same-sex marriage

Some time ago, the Diocese of Guildford published material on its website in the section on diocesan marriage regulations, concerning Civil Partnerships, Requests for Prayer.

This month, the diocese has published an addendum to that page (scroll down on link above), which is titled Interim Update on Civil Partnership and Same Sex Marriage. The text of this addendum is reproduced below the fold.

This update has already provoked criticism from Andrew Goddard, see A Pastoral Response to Same-sex Civil Marriage?



General Synod – Questions about the Pilling report

The supplementary questions and answers have now been transcribed from the audio recording.

All the Questions can be read in this file.
Answers were given to all these (except some that were for Written Reply only) during the Monday evening session.

Several questions were asked about the Pilling report, to which the Archbishop of Canterbury made replies.

The Very Revd Andrew Nunn (Southwark) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q39. When will the report of the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling be published?

Answer: Soon.

Dean of Southwark: And I appreciate the economy of that answer. But given that the report is potentially so important for the life and mission of the church, how soon?

Archbishop of Canterbury: I can confirm that the Pilling group has completed its work as you say in the… as we all know. Synod members may be reassured that “soon” means “not very long” or “fairly imminently”, but not “very soon”.

Mr Gerald O’Brien (Rochester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q40. Will the House of Bishops give Synod an assurance that when the Pilling Report is published, it will carry a suitably prominent statement to the effect that any proposals or recommendations the report contains are not the official position of the Church of England unless and until they are endorsed by a vote of the General Synod?

The Revd John Cook (Oxford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q41. Can the Synod be assured that, if the House of Bishops having considered the Pilling Report are minded to make any changes to the Church of England‟s position on human sexuality, it will ensure Synod is given an opportunity to debate these matters before any changes are brought into effect?

The Revd Jonathan Frais (Chichester) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q42. Given General Synod’s resolution of 1987 saying that adultery, fornication and homosexual acts are to be met with “a call to repentance”, what steps will be taken to make clear that the Pilling Report, when it is published, has not replaced this stance unless and until the General Synod itself so resolves?

Answer to questions 40. 41, and 42:

I can confirm that the Pilling Report will be a document which will offer findings and recommendations from the members of the group for the Church of England to consider. It will not be a new policy statement from the Church of England. That will be made quite clear when the Report is published.

It is premature at this stage to speculate about any decision making process at the end of the period of discussion and reflection initiated by the report’s publication. Who has the authority nationally to determine any particular issue in the Church of England always depends on the nature of the decision. Clearly if there were any question of looking again at the motion passed by the Synod in 1987 that would be a matter for the Synod.

Mr John Ward: Given our useful discussions on Saturday in York last July, before any vote by the General Synod on Pilling, would the House encourage the Business Committee to find time for facilitated discussions on this subject?

Archbishop of Canterbury: Thank you Mr O’Brien [sic] that’s a very helpful suggestion, and I am sure the House will consider it.

Mrs Penelope Allen (Lichfield) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q43. Is the House considering tasking the Liturgical Commission with the preparation of suitable liturgy for the blessing of civil partnerships in church?

Answer: No.

Mrs Penelope Allen (Lichfield) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q44. What progress has been made by the group established by the House to advise it on human sexuality in producing its report and, when it is produced, is it intended that it should be the subject of debate at the same time as the private member’s motions on the Public Doctrine of Christian Marriage and Registration of Civil Partnerships?

Answer: The Pilling Group has now completed its work. Its report will be published soon. It will be for the House of Bishops and the Business Committee to consider how best the report might be handled synodically given the motions already awaiting debate. Both bodies meet next month.


General Synod – Monday business

Order paper 1

Questions order paper

Archbishop Justin’s presentation to the General Synod

Press Release: Archbishops address Synod on first day of November sitting

After a debate on Intentional Evangelism this motion was passed.

That this Synod in the light of the priority of evangelism and making new disciples:
(a) support the formation of an Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism with the terms of reference and timetable as set
out in GS 1917 and urge that its membership include:
(i) staff of Anglican home mission agencies with expertise in helping local churches engage in effective evangelism and disciple-making, and
(ii) those with a proven record in those disciplines at local level;
(b) call upon the Task Group to make its first priority a new call to prayer;
(c) commend to the Task Group an initial programme for its work around the seven disciplines of evangelisation as set
out in the same paper;
(d) call upon every diocesan and deanery synod and every PCC to spend the bulk of one meeting annually and some
part of every meeting focusing on sharing experiences and initiatives for making new disciples; and
(e) urge every local church in 2014 prayerfully to try at least one new way, appropriate to their local context, of seeking to make new disciples of Jesus Christ.

Press release on the debate on this motion: Synod approves motion to support an Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism

Text of presentation: Women in the Episcopate Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff

Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod- Monday PM

Live video stream

For official twitter coverage of General Synod follow @CofEGenSyn.

All Synod papers are linked here.


Bishop of Rochester to be next Bishop to Prisons

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is to be the next Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, the senior church advocate for Christian values in the criminal justice system in England and Wales

Bishop of Rochester to be next Bishop to Prisons
Monday 18th November 2013

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is to be the next Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, the senior church advocate for Christian values in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. He will succeed the Rt Revd James Jones, who retired as Bishop of Liverpool in August.

The church makes a major contribution to public debate on criminal justice and the Bishop to Prisons speaks on criminal justice issues in the House of Lords.

As Bishop to Prisons, Bishop James will support the practical work of the Chaplain- General to the Prison Service, Canon Michael Kavanagh and the network of 300 Prison Service Chaplains who share in the front-line care of prisoners. The Bishop to Prisons also develops church links with other agencies concerned with the reform and improvement of prisons. In addition the churches provide the largest single pool of voluntary support and assistance to the criminal justice system.



Pre-Synod press reports

Updated Monday morning

The press has been looking ahead to this week’s General Synod.

Madeleine Davies Church Times FiF backs women-bishops deal
John Bingham Telegraph Church of England discusses overhaul of ‘rude and unchristian’ Synod
Edward Malnick Telegraph Church of England on brink of women bishops resolution
Sam Jones The Guardian Female bishops could become reality as Church of England synod meets
The BBC Radio4 Sunday programme starts with an interview with Pat Storey, soon to become the first women bishop in the Church of Ireland. About 18 minutes in Anne Stevens of WATCH is interviewed; an opponent of women bishops was due to appear but “he got lost”.

There are also some blog posts.

YES 2 Women Bishops has published The new proposals explained and Looking ahead to the November General Synod session.
Pete Broadbent has blogged Twenty quick hits to change the CofE.
David Keen blogs The Church of England, the Gospel, and the Future: my prayer for General Synod.

And the CofE has published these Prayers for November General Synod.


BBC Church of England synod due to debate women bishops


Grafton elects Sarah Macneil as diocesan bishop

Although there is as yet no announcement on the website of the Diocese of Grafton, in New South Wales, Australia, there are now several newspaper reports that The Reverend Dr Sarah Macneil has been chosen as the next diocesan bishop for Grafton. She will be the first woman to become a diocesan, as opposed to an assistant, bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia. The newspaper headlines below are misleading in this respect.

Canberra Times Canberra’s Sarah Macneil to become Australia’s first female Anglican bishop

9NewsNational Anglicans elect first woman bishop

Sydney Telegraph Anglicans elect Reverend Dr Sarah Macneil first woman bishop in Australia

Finally, an accurate headline from:
ABC Canberra priest Sarah Macneil to be Australia’s first woman to lead Anglican diocese



Giles Fraser explains in The Guardian Why the writing could be on the wall for the Church of England in the inner city.

Ian Paul writes on his blog about adverts for leaders in church organizations: Searching for Superman.

Paul Vallely asks in the Church Times: Is tweeting in church bad manners?

Richard Chartres writes for the Anglican Communion News Service that In the beginning was communication.


Welby and church school admissions policies

Update Church Times and Guardian articles added (Thursday afternoon)

The Times today carries, behind its paywall, an interview that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave to Ruth Gledhill. She has written about this on her blog, and included a transcript of the interview.

The Archbishop’s comments on the admissions polices of church schools have attracted a lot of attention, and I copy them below from Gledhill’s blog.

Church schools of the future – stats on faith schools are to be released at General Synod on Monday.

“It’s a hugely important document –
What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good. There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests. They are not selective in terms of education. And they are focusing, particularly the new church academies – and you can see that in diocese after diocese – are focusing on the areas of highest deprivation where the Church school adds the most enormous value.
(in actual Church Urban Fund speech he said: ‘It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Church is part of the solution for building community blessing at local level – although I suspect that it might be questioned by some. But the Church has been an integral part of delivering education in this country since before the state ever agreed to get involved.’)
Interview cont.
“So in Durham where we created new academies we deliberately targeted the really difficult areas. All our five children went through the local state schools all their way through education. So we have a really long personal experience of what it is to educate children in the state system wherever you happen to be and some of the areas weren’t the most flourishing. So our experience is that – it is a very complex problem what we do about education. What is absolutely clear is home and family is essential. Really good school leadership is absolutely critical. It is not necessary to select to get a really good school. There are unbelievably brilliant schools that are entirely open to all applicants without selection criteria apart from residence, where you live, and which produce staggeringly good results. It’s a question of – and you can point to them all over the place – it’s a question of outstanding leadership.”

Said he did not agree that abolition of grammar schools had broken down social mobility. “I think you can get there by other routes which are much more effective.” However he agreed that “certainly measured social mobility has decreased according to the sociologists. We have seen that as far as I can see over the last few years.”

Lambeth Palace issued this press statement late last night.

Church school statement from Lambeth Palace
13 November 2013

In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued the following statement regarding selection criteria for church schools:-

“I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.”

Arun Arora, the CofE’s Director of Communications, published Church Schools Fact and Fiction this morning.

The (erroneous) story in today’s Times Newspaper claiming that the Church of England ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion was a creative piece of writing. So creative in fact that the Lambeth Palace issued a statement correcting the story which reads: “In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times today on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.” The Archbishop himself douses the story in the Times with cold water by saying:

“I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.’

So in the midst of this contested space it’s worth stating some of the facts on Church of England Schools…

He continues with an explanation of the difference between voluntary controlled schools (whose admission policies are set by the local authority) and voluntary aided schools (which are their own admissions authority, but are bound by the Schools Admission Code produced by the Department of Education).

Alice Philipson published this on The Telegraph website this morning: Church ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion

Online comment includes:

The Accord Coalition Praise for inclusivity at Church of England schools by the Archbishop of Canterbury must now be followed with clear leadership
Andrew Copson Archbishop of Canterbury in 24 hour recantation
Fair Admissions Campaign response to Justin Welby’s comments on admissions

General Synod will be debating GS 1920 – The Church School of the Future on Tuesday of next week.


Tim Wyatt in the Church Times Welby denies change in policy on church school admissions

Fiona Millar in The Guardian Justin Welby is right – faith should not affect a child’s education


Women in the Episcopate: Affirming Catholicism comments

Response to GS 1924: Report of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation on Women in the Episcopate

Affirming Catholicism welcomes the publication of the Report of the Steering Committee for the Draft Legislation on Women in the Episcopate (GS 1924) and the proposals to admit women to the episcopate of the Church of England. In particular, we applaud the use of a simple measure with associated guidelines for provisions for dissenting parishes, and dispute procedure. We especially value the recognition that provisions for alternative ministry will be overseen by the diocesan bishop, and that oaths of canonical obedience will continue to be made to the diocesan bishop.

The proposals have been admirably summarised by Will Adam ( They comprise:

1. The draft Measure – essentially a single-clause Measure – contains a principal clause making it legal for the Synod to legislate by canon to enable women to be ordained as bishops and priests. There is an additional clause stating beyond doubt that the office of bishop is not a “public office” under the terms of the Equality Act 2010 and there are a number of consequential amendments to other legislation.

2. The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 is repealed and along with it Resolutions A and B.

3. An amending Canon, which
a) adjusts the Canons of the Church of England to put those canons about the ordination and ministry of deacons, priests and bishops on the same footing for men and for women.

b) proposes a new Canon C 29 which places a new duty on the House of Bishops to make Regulations (to be approved by a two-thirds majority of each House of General Synod) for “the resolution of disputes arising from the arrangements for which the House of Bishops’ declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests makes provision”. This assumes that the House of Bishops will have made such a declaration.

4. a draft declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests that the House of Bishops could make; and

5. a set of draft regulations for a system for resolving disputes, introducing an “Independent Reviewer” whose function is similar to that of an ombudsman.

The Report thus presents all (or nearly all) the different elements of the package for discussion by General Synod, allowing a much clearer sense to be gained of how this process will work. In particular, and centrally, the introduction of a process for dispute resolution is integral to the package. Affirming Catholicism also welcomes the use of small groups and facilitated conversations in the drafting of these proposals.

However, we continue to have some concerns:

a) The proposals imply that the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 will be rescinded (§41) but this is nowhere explicitly stated. The proposals affirm that “the sees [of the current PEVs] will continue to exist, and the post holders continue to remain in office,” but do not clarify the status of these sees.
Affirming Catholicism would welcome clarity on these points, and in particular about the status of the “sees”: are they to become effectively suffragans of Canterbury and York?

b) The provisions to be made for dissenting parishes to issue letters of request (or to rescind such a request) will be made at the request of a PCC passed (apparently: again, this is not stated explicitly) by simple majority at a meeting of which at least four weeks’ notice of the meeting has been given; either 2/3 of the PCC members must be present at this meeting, or the motion must be passed by a majority of all the PCC members (Annexe A, §§19-20). If two thirds of the PCC are present and the request is passed by a simple majority, then it can potentially be passed by one third of the PCC plus one person. This is contrary to the provision made in §54 that there will be “a resolution-making procedure so as to ascertain that the decision has the support of the majority of the PCC.
Affirming Catholicism continues to believe that a question of such import for a parish should be decided by a meeting of all those on the electoral roll, and that a two-thirds majority of those present and voting should be required. We note that a two-thirds majority in all three houses of General Synod will be required to change any of these proposals, and believe that it would be consistent to expect a similar level of agreement for the issuing of Letters of Request by PCCs.
Failing that, we would recommend that it can only be passed if two-thirds of the PCC are present and voting and with a two-thirds majority of those voting. This would at least ensure that a majority of the whole PCC is required.
We would also welcome the incorporation of a requirement that a motion to issue Letters of Request can only be put forward after a documented process of widespread consultation, either at the parish level or at least within the congregation, and that and after any decision, the formal Request must be publicised in the church, like faculty notices.

c) The provisions also introduce a commitment to the continuing “presence in the College of Bishops of at least one bishop who takes the Conservative Evangelical view on headship” (§30), which is seen as “important for sustaining the necessary climate of trust.”
Although we recognise that the constitution of the College of Bishops needs to reflect something of the diversity of the Church of England, as recommended by the Pilling Report, we would not wish this to be operated along the lines of a quota system for the College of Bishops. This comes close to viewing individual Bishops as representatives of the views of particular groups rather than as a focus for unity in their Dioceses and the Church as a whole. It is important that those selecting bishops – which in the case of the diocesan appointments is the Crown Nomination Commission – are free to identify the best person for a particular situation and context. We note again the need to clarify the canonical position of the sees formerly designated for the PEVs.

d) For the purposes of the Equalities Act, the legislation has found it necessary to define a diocesan bishop as being not a public office, in that the appointment of bishops is not “on the recommendation of, or subject to the approval of, a member of the executive” (§21).
Affirming Catholicism views with considerable concern the suggestion that bishops do not hold a public office. Although we recognise that the report does note that “The definition of ‘public office’ is solely for the purpose of the Equality Act and has no implications for the public role of bishops more generally,” we believe that this is an unfortunate concession.

Affirming Catholicism would also observe that continuing relationships with the Methodist Church and other ecumenical partners are in some cases predicated on the expectation that the Church of England will admit women and men to leadership positions at all levels. It is not clear to us whether this legislation, with its explicit concessions to allow the Church of England to avoid the requirements of the Equalities Act, will be held by our ecumenical partners to fulfil that requirement.

A PDF version of this document is available here.


more rumours about Pilling

Jonathan Petre has a report in the Mail on Sunday which directly contradicts the previous rumours.

See ‘Don’t make gay vicars promise not to have sex’: Church of England bishops say civil partners should not be treated any differently than other clerics

A panel of bishops is set to spark a fresh row over homosexuality by paving the way for the Church of England to relax its stance on gay clergy.

Sources said the group will recommend that clerics wanting to enter civil partnerships should no longer have to promise their bishops that they will abstain from sex.

Four bishops have been examining the Church’s teaching on sexuality as part of an official commission and will hand over their conclusions in a report to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby next month.

They will argue that gay clergy should not be treated any differently than other clerics who do not face intrusive questioning about their sex lives – and that they should be able to follow Church teachings without having to make a solemn vow…

Comments about this have been made by Peter Ould and by Colin Coward.


Women in the Episcopate: Forward in Faith comments further

Forward in Faith has today issued the following statement:

Women in the Episcopate: Further Comment

The new draft legislation on Women in the Episcopate and the associated proposals in the Steering Committee’s report represent a very significant improvement on the former draft legislation which failed in November 2012. Key differences include the following.

  • Instead of exposing lay representatives to the risk of legal challenge when they veto candidates, the proposals would require the bishop to take responsibility for ensuring that appointments that conflict with PCC resolutions are not made.
  • The previous legislation would have left it to individuals to determine whether they had ‘cogent reasons’ for contravening the Code of Practice, and those decisions could only have been challenged by way of judicial review in the High Court (litigation which would have been costly for those concerned and damaging for the Church’s reputation). The new proposals would impose clear responsibilities; crucially, they make provision for the resolution of disputes through recourse to an Independent Reviewer with paid administrative support.
  • The previous legislation left the terms of the Code of Practice, and of the separate diocesan schemes that would have had to be drafted in each diocese, to be finalized after the Measure had received Royal Assent. Under the new proposals, the relevant documents will have been finalized before the legislation receives Final Approval.
  • Under the previous legislation, the Code of Practice could have been amended by simple majorities in each House of the Synod. Amendment of the new proposals will require two-thirds majorities in each House.

We also welcome the inclusion in the draft House of Bishops’ Declaration of the five ‘guiding principles’ in paragraph 5. These recognize our position as one of theological conviction which continues to be within the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition and make a commitment to provision, both pastoral and sacramental, without limit of time.

Though these proposals are still far from what we have long said would be ideal, we believe that they may have the potential to provide workable arrangements for the future, which will ensure that our people, clergy and parishes have continued access to a ministry that will enable us to flourish within the structures of the Church of England and make our full contribution to its life and mission. They hold out the possibility of bringing to a conclusion a process that for too long has been a distraction from the Church’s mission. Much will depend on the continuance of the atmosphere of trust that has at last begun to be fostered by the process that produced these proposals.

We therefore encourage the General Synod to send the legislation for revision in full Synod, so that the process may continue as expeditiously as possible. We encourage our members to study the whole package carefully over the coming months:
We set out below some matters that still need to be addressed.

As a matter of conscience, those who, with Forward in Faith, are opposed on theological grounds to ordaining women to the episcopate will not be able to vote at the final approval stage in favour of legislation whose purpose is to permit this. What attitude is taken to the possibility of principled abstention will depend on whether the proposals survive intact. Any weakening of the proposals would require them to be opposed vigorously.

On behalf of the Executive

The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
11 November 2013

Matters to be addressed

1. We agree with the Steering Committee’s comment in para. 28 of its report (GS 1924) that all the elements of an overall, balanced package need to be agreed before the Measure and Canon are brought to final approval. Para. 42 of the report envisages an agreed way of proceeding with regard to issues in relation to consecration services for Traditional Catholic bishops (including the further and sharper issues that will arise in due course when there is a woman archbishop). It is in everyone’s interest that this agreed way of proceeding should have been identified before the legislation receives final approval.

2. A situation in which hundreds of parishes are obliged to pass new resolutions immediately after the new legislation comes into force would place a heavy burden not only on PCCs but also on the bishops who would need to respond to the resolutions. The package will therefore need to include provisions that ensure a seamless transition. These too will need to be known in advance of final approval.

3. Para. 40 of the draft House of Bishops Declaration says that the House will not proceed with proposals for changing it unless they command two-thirds majorities in all three Houses of the General Synod. However, this statement would merely be an undertaking on the part of the present members of the House. The new Canon C 29 would require two-thirds majorities for amendment of the House’s Regulations for the dispute resolution procedure. In order to provide a similar level of assurance, the Canon should similarly require two-thirds majorities in each House for proposals to amend the Declaration. This would then bind future members of the House of Bishops.



Eilis O’Hanlon writes in the [Irish] Sunday Independent about Switchers’ schism a divine Irish mystery.

Peter Ormerod writes for The Guardian that Leftwing Christians need to have a louder voice.

The BBC World Service programme More or Less asks “Have 100,000 Christians died [per year for the last decade] as martyrs?” Listen online or download a podcast.

Craig A Satterlee asks Why Do You Sit Where You Do? at Alban.

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that Judges can sidestep religion, but they can’t avoid morality.

Gillan Scott of God & Politics in the UK asks Is a muscular defence of our national Judaeo-Christian heritage needed?

Jonathan Clatworthy gave this talk at St Bride’s in Liverpool this week: Honest to God: 50 years on, has the Church still got its head in the sand? He has also written briefly for Modern Church.


Developments in West Yorkshire and The Dales

The Church Times has a news story, New diocese sets out job spec. for Bishop of Leeds.

HE WILL be a “resilient leader” with “enough confidence and inner strength to use conflict creatively”. He will tackle “dented morale” among lay people, and chair a diocesan synod of more than 300 members. He will relish the possibility of a “huge change programme” in the most populous diocese in the Church of England.

The statement of need for the diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, published last Friday, makes clear the extent of the challenge facing its first Bishop…

The full Statement of Needs can be read from here, as a PDF.

In other reports, Bradford has the news that Former Bishop of Southwark to be ‘Mentor Bishop’

Until a Diocesan Bishop is appointed for the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales, the Archbishop of York has appointed the Rt Revd Tom Butler as ‘Mentor Bishop’ to give episcopal advice to Programme Director John Tuckett.

Bishop Tom, who’s well known for his Thoughts for the Day on Radio 4, is the former Bishop of Southwark and, having retired in 2010, now lives in Wakefield. He knows the area well: he gained his doctorate in electronics from Leeds University and trained for ordination at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield.

John Tuckett says, “Bishop Tom has a wealth of expertise and experience, and it will be hugely valuable for me to have someone to go to for independent advice, not least because, as the former Bishop of Southwark, he understands how a diocese with an area model works.”

The archbishop is also to appoint Bishop Tom as the Chair of the Shadow Board of Finance for the new Diocese. And Bradford Diocesan Synod has given its consent for Bishop Tom to become Acting Diocesan Bishop during Bishop Nick Baines’s sabbatical, from February to April…

From Wakefield we learn that the Bishop of Wakefield will return to his roots after diocese dissolved

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, has just announced the appointment of The Rt Revd Stephen Platten as the new Rector of St Michael’s Cornhill church and an honorary assistant Bishop in the Diocese of London.

Stephen will take up the position at St Michael’s in July 2014. This is in addition to his new position as chair of the Hymns Ancient and Modern charitable trust which he will assume at the end of January…

This is also reported by London.

And the Yorkshire Evening Post has John Packer: Bishop of Ripon and Leeds looks back as he bows out.

…To clarify, it is officially retirement, but the bishop cheerfully admits it is redundancy in a way since he is going earlier than the mandatory 70 years of age because his patch is disappearing. There will be no more bishops of Ripon and Leeds.

Two other bishops are meeting the same fate as the Church of England massively restructures the area. The big new job will be as Bishop of Leeds and it has already been advertised, calling for “an experienced, inspiring leader with a heart for the people.”

Bishop John is completely in favour of the change: “Our boundaries do not make sense.and the changes will help us to focus our ministry more effectively,” he says…

Further information about the progress of the new diocese can be found at a new website, designed specifically for the Transformation Programme for the Diocese of West Yorkshire and The Dales. One to keep an eye on.


Archbishop of Perth dissents from synod motion on human sexuality

From the diocesan website:

Archbishop Roger Herft AM has today written to all Members of Synod indicating that he remains unable to assent to the motion on human sexuality re-presented to Synod this year.

A Special Meeting of the Provincial Council will be called to determine the matter as required by the Constitution Act of the Diocese of Perth.

The full text of his letter is available here as a PDF.

He also wrote for a local newspaper: Archbishop’s opinion piece from The Weekend West.

Other press reports:

ABC The Anglican Archbishop of Perth rejects formal recognition of same-sex relationships and earlier Perth Anglicans vote to recognise same-sex relationships

The Australian Archbishop rejects same-sex recognition



Readers may find this useful: A prayer before connecting to the internet by Fr John Zuhlsdorf. Translations into about 40 languages are provided.

Gavin Ashenden has written on his blog about Hate, homophobia and holiness.
In response Colin Coward has written The Christian neurosis.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, gave this speech this week: Law, Morality and Religion in the Family Courts.
Sir James’s speech, and the reaction to it, has prompted Frank Cranmer of Law & Religion UK to write: The President of the Family Division on family law, morality and religion.


Women bishops latest

Madeleine Davies writes for the Church Times: Women-bishops proposals: ombudsman in new package.

The Church Times also has this leader: No light task.

Andrew Grey writes for On Religion: Women Bishops in Wales: Just Conforming to Culture?

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes blogs: Women Bishops: Take Two…

Will Adam writes for Law & Religion UK Women bishops – what you see and what you don’t.