Thinking Anglicans

Archbishops' letter to primates: GAFCON responds

From the GAFCON website:
A response to the statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

A response to the statement by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of 29th January 2014

This week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York sought to remind the leadership of the Anglican Communion and the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda of the importance of friendship and care for homosexual people.

Christians should always show particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place.

The Dromantine Communiqué from which the Archbishops quote also affirmed (Clause 17) the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which states that ‘homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture’ and that the conference ‘cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions’.

Yet earlier this week, the English College of Bishops accepted the recommendation of the Pilling Report for two years of ‘facilitated conversation’ because at least some of the bishops could not accept the historic teaching of the Church as reaffirmed in the Lambeth resolution.

Indeed, in making the case for such a debate, the Pilling Report observes ‘In the House of Lords debate on same sex marriage, the Archbishop of York commended that the Church needed to think about the anomalies in a situation where it is willing to bless a tree or a sheep, but not a faithful human relationship.’ The anomaly only exists of course if it really is the case that a committed homosexual union can also be Christian.

The good advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York would carry much more weight if they were able to affirm that they hold, personally, as well as in virtue of their office, to the collegial mind of the Anglican Communion. At the moment I fear that we cannot be sure.

Regrettably, their intervention has served to encourage those who want to normalize homosexual lifestyles in Africa and has fuelled prejudice against African Anglicans. We are committed to biblical sexual morality and to biblical pastoral care, so we wholeheartedly stand by the assurance given in the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution that those who experience same sex attraction are ‘loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’

May God in his mercy grant that we may hold to the fullness of his truth and the fullness of his grace.

The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya and Chairman, GAFCON Primates Council.
30th January 2014


US Presiding Bishop on LGBT rights

The US Episcopal Church has issued this press release.

Presiding Bishop on LGBT rights

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement on LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) rights:

The Episcopal Church has been clear about our expectation that every member of the LGBT community is entitled to the same respect and dignity as any other member of the human family. Our advocacy for oppressed minorities has been vocal and sustained. The current attempts to criminalize LBGT persons and their supporters are the latest in a series, each stage of which has been condemned by this Church, as well as many other religious communities and nations. Our advocacy work continues to build support for the full human rights and dignity of all persons, irrespective of gender, race, national origin, creed, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability or inability. To do less is effectively to repudiate our membership in the human community. No one of God’s children is worth less or more than another; none is to be discriminated against because of the way in which she or he has been created. Our common task is to build a society of justice for all, without which there will never be peace on earth. Episcopalians claim that our part in God’s mission is to love God fully, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means all our neighbors.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church


Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Comments on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill,…

The Church of Uganda has issued this press release.

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali Comments on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the Church of England’s “Pilling Report,” and the Open Letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

30th January 2014

The Church of Uganda is encouraged by the work of Uganda’s Parliament in amending the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on the Bill. This frees our clergy and church leaders to fulfill the 2008 resolution of our House of Bishops to “offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”

Accordingly, we are grateful for the reminder of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to fulfill such commitments as stated in the 2005 Communique of the Primates Meeting held in Dromantine, Northern Ireland.

We would further like to remind them, as they lead their own church through the “facilitated conversations” recommended by the Pilling Report, that the teaching of the Anglican Communion from the 1998 Lambeth Conference, from Resolution 1.10, still stands. It states that “homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture,” and the conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”

It was the Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada’s violations of Lambeth 1.10 which caused the Church of Uganda to break communion with those Provinces more than ten years ago. We sincerely hope the Archbishops and governing bodies of the Church of England will step back from the path they have set themselves on so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church.

Furthermore, as our new Archbishop of Canterbury looks toward future Primates Meetings and a possible 2018 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, we would also like to remind him of the 2007 Primates Communique from Dar es Salaam, which says that there are “consequences for the full participation of the Church in the life of the Communion” for TEC and those Provinces which cannot

1. “Make an unequivocal common covenant that the Bishops will not authorize any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through” their governing body;

2. “Confirm…that a candidate for episcopal orders living in a same-sex union shall not receive the necessary consent.”

It is clear that the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have not upheld these commitments, and so we do pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury as he considers whether or not to extend invitations to their Primates for the next Primates Meeting or to their Bishops for the 2018 Lambeth Conference. To withhold these invitations would be a clear signal of his intention to lead and uphold the fullness of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10.

The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali



The Meeting: When Law encounters Spirit

Candlemas is a minor feast in Anglicanism, and usually commemorates the coming of Christ as the light of the world, a theme vividly prominent in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus himself announces: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

The ‘light’ that Jesus brings is both the gift of salvation, rescue from spiritual darkness, and the ability to ‘see’ the difference between good and evil — spiritual wisdom and discernment. Following the light carries a resonance of moral choice. In Jesus, truth and salvation may have come into the world, but it is a ‘light’ that can be denied and ignored.

It wasn’t until the 1890s that the Church of England made it legal to place two candles on the altar during services, and, a few years later, made it unlawful to carry candles in procession! Of course, both rulings were widely disregarded and the earlier Roman practice of using candles was generally adopted.

Even earlier, Candlemas was celebrated as the feast commemorating three ancient ceremonies: the purification of the mother, the redemption of the firstborn and the dedication of a child. Luke has all three ceremonies taking place at the same time in order to emphasise Jesus’s significance and his legitimacy as the longed-for Messiah.

The feast commemorating this understanding of Candlemas was practised by the early church in Jerusalem from about 350, and its practice spread when Emperor Justinian decreed at Constantinople in 542 that the feast be observed. In the East, Candlemas was simply called ‘The Meeting’, marking the encounter between Jesus and Simeon.

By presenting Jesus at the Temple, offering a sacrifice, and by submitting to the ritual purification for mothers after giving birth, Mary and Joseph were fulfilling their obligations under Jewish law. Simeon, who was known to be a devout and careful observer of the law, was convinced that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. That day, as Luke describes it, Simeon was inspired by the Holy Spirit to go to the Temple.

In the midst of the archaic ceremonies of ritual sacrifice and the ritual purification of Mary, in the heart of the great seat of Jewish identity and authority, Simeon looks at Jesus and bursts out with a song of praise and thanksgiving to God, using words all the hearers would instantly have recognised as coming from the great prophet Isaiah, who had foretold a saviour who would bring honour and glory to the people of Israel and who would be a light to the Gentiles.

That encounter between the aged Simeon and the infant Jesus was a moment when time stood still, when all the panoply of the Law met the promise of the Spirit, when a lifelong faithful observer of the Law came face to face with the freedom and fulfilment of the future: the Light had truly come into the world.

Christina Rees


College of Bishops statement: GAFCON responds

From GAFCON website

There is urgency about the gospel

To the Faithful of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and friends
from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council

29th January 2014

‘…by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God’ 2 Corinthians 4:2

My dear brothers and sisters,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

I write this first message of 2014 with great hope and confidence for the year ahead. GAFCON 2013 renewed our vision for the Anglican Communion as a global fellowship faithful to the Scriptures and confirmed what many of us had already sensed, that our movement is emerging as the only real answer to the Communion’s problems of fragmentation and confusion.

In the year ahead we must resolve to devote ourselves to the great biblical mandate to make disciples of all nations which was the focus of our gathering in Nairobi. There is urgency about the gospel and it must be proclaimed in word and deed, in season and out of season and it is the same gospel, whether in strife torn nations such as South Sudan or in the affluent but morally disorientated nations of the developed world.

We cannot therefore allow our time and energy to be sapped by debating that which God has already clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Earlier this week, the English College of Bishops met to reflect upon the ‘Pilling Report’, commissioned to reflect on how the Church of England should respond to the question of same sex relationships. Its key recommendations were that informal blessings of such unions should be allowed in parish churches and that a two year process of ‘facilitated conversation’ should be set up to address strongly held differences within the Church on this issue.

While we should be thankful that the College of Bishops did not adopt the idea of services for blessing that which God calls sin, it did unanimously approve the conversation process and this is deeply troubling. There has been intensive debate within the Anglican Communion on the subject of homosexuality since at least the 1998 Lambeth Conference and it is difficult to believe that the bishop’s indecision at this stage is due to lack of information or biblical reflection. The underlying problem is whether or not there is a willingness to accept the bible for what it really is, the Word of God.

At Lambeth 1998, the bishops of the Anglican Communion, by an overwhelming majority, affirmed in Resolution 1.10 that homosexual relationships were not compatible with Scripture, in line with the Church’s universal teaching through the ages, but the Pilling Report effectively sets this aside. The conversations it proposes are not to commend biblical teaching on marriage and family, but are based on the assumption that we cannot be sure about what the bible says.

I cannot therefore commend the proposal by the College of Bishops that these ‘facilitated conversations ‘ should be introduced across the Communion. This is to project the particular problems of the Church of England onto the Communion as a whole. As with ‘Continuing Indaba’, without a clear understanding of biblical authority and interpretation, such dialogue only spreads confusion and opens the door to a false gospel because the Scriptures no longer function in any meaningful way as a test of what is true and false.

Faced with these challenges, I am reminded of the importance of the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration. It places our fellowship under the written word of God, which ‘is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading’. Here we have a solid foundation for the responsible reading of the Bible which preserves its transformative power. As John the Evangelist writes ‘these things are written so that you may believe…..and that by believing you may have life’ (John 20:31).

Plans are already taking shape following GAFCON 2013 to provide our global fellowship with the organisation and communications it needs if the Anglican Communion is to recover its unity by listening to and obeying the Word of God. Using modern communications it is possible for us to experience the connectedness of being a global communion in a way that our predecessors could never have imagined. Each one of us can play a part and so may I conclude by inviting you, if you have not yet done so, to join the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans at My pastoral messages and other communications can then be sent direct to you by email and together we can serve the cause of the gospel at this critical time.


Archbishops write to all Primates & to presidents of Nigeria, Uganda

Lambeth Palace press release (also on Bishopthorpe site)

Archbishops recall commitment to pastoral care and friendship for all, regardless of sexual orientation

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today written to all Primates of the Anglican Communion, and to the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, recalling the commitment made by the Primates of the Anglican Communion to the pastoral support and care of everyone worldwide, regardless of sexual orientation.

In their letter, the Archbishops recalled the words of the communiqué issued in 2005 after a meeting of Primates from across the Communion in Dromantine.

The text of the joint letter is as follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ

In recent days, questions have been asked about the Church of England’s attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction. In answer to these questions, we have recalled the common mind of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, as expressed in the Dromantine Communiqué of 2005.

The Communiqué said;

‘….we wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people.

The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.’

We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the Communiqué described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus.

We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine communiqué speaks.

Yours in Christ

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis


Living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells

The home of the most recent Bishop of Bath and Wells (Peter Price, who retired in mid 2013) and many of his predecessors was at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells. But on 3 December the Church Commissioners (who are responsible for housing diocesan bishops) announced that new living arrangements were to be made for the next bishop, Peter Hancock, who has yet to take up his post.

Statement from Church Commissioners on living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells
03 December 2013

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners said:

“After discussion at its meeting on 28th November the Board of Governors took the decision to provide new housing for the Bishop of Bath and Wells to enable him to carry out his ministry and mission in a more sustainable way. The Bishop will continue to work and worship at the Palace and share the office with the Bishop of Taunton. The decision to move the bishop’s home will mean he can live in more privacy as the Palace and gardens will remain open to the public. We are currently looking at an alternative residence near to Wells. The Church Commissioners support for bishops is based on making their living and working arrangements conducive to effective ministry and mission both in their diocese and the Church as a whole. The daily working life of the Palace will continue including the use of the Chapel alongside the work of the Trust running the Palace as a visitor attraction.”

The Palace website explains on its news page that “Whilst the Palace is well-known and prides itself on having the Bishop of Bath and Wells reside on site it has not always been so, for eight centuries bishops have had irregular relationships with the Palace. It is only since the mid-1850s that the Palace has been much more of a home to Bishops of Bath and Wells and over time the office function in the Palace has become more important.” [Scroll down to 20 December and 5 December for more details.]

The Commissioners’ decision has proved very controversial.

There were questions in the House of Commons to the Second Church Estates Commissioner on 14 January, 21 January and 23 January.

The Diocese has expressed its opposition to the Commissioners’ decision.

Diocese expresses opposition to Church Commissioner’s Palace decision
Friday 24th January 2014

Statement from the Bishop of Taunton and senior staff of the Diocese of Bath & Wells re: Bishop of Bath & Wells accommodation.

“The Diocese wishes to express publicly its opposition to the Church Commissioners’ decision that the next Bishop of Bath & Wells will not live at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells.

Despite ample time and opportunity, the Church Commissioners have failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level. Instead they have taken a unilateral decision which has, sadly, cast a shadow over the announcement of our next Bishop.

Based on the scarce information made available to us by the Commissioners, the Diocese cannot support their decision. If there is a persuasive case for the move, it has yet to be made.

We call upon the Church Commissioners to allow the next Bishop of Bath & Wells to begin his new role in residence at the Palace whilst a full and proper consultation about the long-term plans for the Bishop’s residence and office arrangements takes place.”


Rt Revd Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton
The Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton
The Ven Andy Piggott, Archdeacon of Bath
Revd Preb Stephen Lynas, Bishop’s Chaplain
Preb Dr Catherine Wright, Dean of Women Clergy
Nick Denison, Diocesan Secretary
Harry Musselwhite, Chair of the Board of Finance

Press reports include these.

BBC Tessa Munt MP questions Bishop of Bath and Wells’ palace move [8 January]
Diocese of Bath and Wells ‘cannot support’ bishop’s palace move [25 January]
Bishop of Taunton calls for talks on palace move [28 January]

John Bingham The Telegraph Palace coup: Church in open rebellion over decision to downsize bishop to country pile [26 January]

Ruth Gledhill The Times Church buys back rectory after Bishop’s Palace is declared unfit [29 January – behind a paywall, but the first couple of paragraphs are visible as a taster.]

Daily Mail Inside the £1million country home for the Bishop who turned-down a palace because he wanted ‘a bit more privacy’ [23 January]
Sophie Jane Evans Bishop banned from living in his palace will be moved to £900,000 rectory that the church is buying back after declaring it ‘unsuitable’ and selling it … for £750,000 [29 January]

David Keen blogs in favour of the Commissioners’ decision: Is the Bishop of Bath and Wells a person, or a tourist attraction?


College of Bishops statement: media coverage and responses

First of all, press coverage so far:

Telegraph John Bingham Church of England bishops: we agree on one thing – that we can’t agree on homosexuality

Religion News Service Trevor Grundy Church of England’s Bishops Defer Gay Marriage Decision

George Conger has written a critique of the preceding item:So what is happening with Anglican gay marriage?

Michael Trimmer Christian Today CofE bishops agree to disagree on human sexuality

And there is coverage in The Times, but it is behind a paywall: Bishops call for honesty in gay debate

Next, comments from lobby groups and bloggers:

Andrew Symes Executive Director of Anglican Mainstream has written The College of Bishops’ Statement on the Pilling Report: a Response

My initial response to this Statement was one of disappointment, but then after attempting to read between the lines I found some cause for encouragement…

Ian Paul has written Why the bishops have done the right thing

…Why do I think College of Bishops have made the right decision? Well, most obviously because their response to Pilling is exactly the one I said in November was needed. The reason for this is more and more evident in public responses, particularly on social media, from all sides of the debate.

On the one hand, many ‘conservatives’ say that there is nothing to be done, and no need any further discussion. I don’t think this takes into account sufficiently the need for the Church of England to develop more credible pastoral response, taking into account what Justin Welby described as the revolution in attitudes within society on this issue.

On the other hand, many ‘revisionists’ agree there is no need for further discussion, but for exactly the opposite reason. It is clear what God is doing in society, and the Church needs to catch up without any further delay…

Peter Carrell Sanity overcomes English bishops

…For myself I am prompted to wonder if (when all is said and done) we are (though we are scarcely aware of it) engaged with a true novelty in the life of the church:

1. a matter on which we disagree so severely that schism always lurks as a possible outcome (and, indeed, has become an outcome in some places) yet not a matter on which any rational, compassionate Christian (in the abstract position of peaceful reflection*) would wish to divide the church for fear that doing so made a scapegoat of a tiny minority;

2. a matter on which the catholicity of our church/Communion is under an unprecedented ‘strain’ (as we try to reconcile the universality of the church implying inclusivity with the universality of the church implying commitment to common doctrine)…

David Pocklington has written Bishops’ statement on Pilling Report

…As we have noted before, the Pilling Report is a report to the House of Bishops, not a report of the House of Bishops and it is therefore unsurprising that: yesterday’s statement emphasized that it was not a new policy statement; and the statement itself did not expand on the report’s conclusions, an unlikely possibility given the strongly held and divergent views within the College . Nevertheless, there are two important points within the statement:

  • acceptance of Pilling’s recommendation for “facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level”, these conversations to commence following the approval of the process and materials by the House of Bishops in May; and
  • that there will be no change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage or to pastoral and liturgical practice during this process of facilitated conversation. Too much cannot be read into the wording, but it would tend to suggest that the introduction of extra-liturgical public services of pastoral accommodation, i.e. blessings of same-sex unions, over the next two years is ruled out, whilst this is may be an option for the future.

If the timetable suggested by the Report is followed, i.e. “without undue haste but with a sense urgency, perhaps over a period of two years”, the formal position of the Church of England is unlikely to change from that expressed in the 2005 HoB statement before mid- to late-2016. Whilst this will be a comfortable two years before the next Lambeth Conference, a potential flash-point for the Anglican Communion, in other respects the delay is unsatisfactory…


Anglican homophobia: two reports and one response

There are two news reports (so far) of the latest remarks by the Primate of Nigeria The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh on the Nigerian anti-gay legislation:

Nigerian Tribune Those practising same-sex marriage are heading for destruction —Okoh

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, on Monday, warned those practising same sex marriage to desist from the act, saying they were heading for destruction…

…Okoh explained that the act was an attempt by people to question God’s authority.
He said: “The same thing is happening today in the issue of human sexuality. It is not about whether a man should marry a man or a woman should marry a woman, the question in the garden (of Eden) has come back again.

“And as in the former time, disaster followed when man dethroned God. So, again it shall happen that if man decided to stick to the principle of dethroning God, He will face nothing but disaster.

“Man will come to nothing but extinction. For this road leads to nowhere. It is a dead end and it is not in the interest of humanity.

“We want to thank God, the National Assembly and the President. He (Jonathan) has articulated the views of Nigerians.”

Channels God’s Punishment Awaits Those Against Anti-Gay Law- Okoh

…He however commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his courage in signing the anti-gay bill into law which has continued to generate reactions in some quarters in Nigeria and beyond.

According to him, those not in support of the bill are like the biblical duo, Adam and Eve who questioned God for asking them not to eat the fruits from the Garden of Eden.

His words: “Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.

He added: “in the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power.

“”So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed”.

There has been one response to all this, from the President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, writing at Religion News Service : COMMENTARY: The church’s role in, and against, homophobia across Africa

…The Anglican primates of Uganda and Nigeria enthusiastically support anti-gay legislation in their countries. I, like them, am a member of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide body of more than 80 million Christians. I am troubled and saddened that fellow Anglicans could support legislation that fails to recognize that every human being is created in the image of God.

Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.

Twice in the last three years, I have traveled to Africa to meet with biblical scholars, grass-roots activists and church officials at consultations about the Bible and sexuality. These brave leaders have taught me that there is no getting around the Bible when searching for the origins of the homophobia that is rampant in many African cultures. What’s more, Europeans and North Americans bear much of the historical responsibility for this sad state of affairs. As Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda has written, it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa…


Court of Appeal rules on London bus adverts case

The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday on the case of the banned London bus adverts.

Frank Cranmer reports at Law & Religion UK The ‘Ex-gay’ London bus advert ban – again.

…Lord Dyson MR (with whom Briggs and Christopher Clarke LJJ concurred) pointed out that a claimant who established the unlawfulness of an administrative act was entitled to a remedial order and that where a decision was shown to be unlawful, the court should be wary of refusing relief on the grounds that the decision-making body would have reached the same decision had it acted lawfully (para 44). So on the question of how to proceed, he approached the matter on the basis that:

“(i) the decision may have been made for the improper purpose of advancing the Mayor’s re-election campaign; (ii) the judge was right to hold on the evidence before her that the disallowing of the advertisement did not infringe the Trust’s Convention rights and (iii) it is inevitable that, if TfL were required to reconsider the question, it would not reach a different conclusion from that reached on 12 April 2012″ (para 45).

On the issue of the Mayor’s involvement, he concluded that it was in the interests of justice that a further enquiry be conducted by the court as to whether or not the decision had been instructed by the Mayor and whether or not it had been made for an improper purpose. The Mayor (on behalf of the GLA) should be added back as a defendant and the case remitted to the judge for her to make th necessary order and give appropriate directions (para 48). He rejected the Article 10 point and, further, rejected an appeal to Article 9 on the grounds that, on the facts, it added nothing to Article 10…

The full text of the judgment is available here.

Notice that as Frank says, the arguments made about Articles 9 and 10 were rejected. Thus the only issue that remains open is whether or not the Mayor improperly interfered with TfL’s decision making.

However, to read the press release from Christian Concern, you might think the judgment contained more than it actually does: Master of the Rolls demands Mayor of London be investigated for political intervention in ‘gay bus advert’

Read the paragraphs of the judgment referenced in the press release to see for yourself.


Last Rites for the Church of England?

BBC Radio 4 this evening broadcast “Last Rites for the Church of England?” in which Andrew Brown “asks if the Church of England has become fatally disconnected from society.” The half-hour programme will be broadcast again on Sunday 2 February at 2130.

But you can listen to the programme online here now. There is also a 13 MB downloadable podcast.


Pilling Report – Statement from the College of Bishops

The Church of England House of Bishops issued this statement this evening.

Statement from the College of Bishops

27 January 2014

The College of Bishops met on 27th January, 2014 to begin a process of reflection on the issues raised by the Pilling Report (GS 1929). The College expressed appreciation to Sir Joseph Pilling and to all members of the working party for the work they have done on behalf of the Church.

We are united in welcoming and affirming the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people, both lay and ordained. We are united in acknowledging the need for the Church to repent for the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirming the need to stand firmly against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.

We are united in seeking to be faithful to the Scriptures and the tradition of the Church and in seeking to make a loving, compassionate and respectful response to gay men and women within Church and society.

We recognise the very significant change in social attitudes to sexuality in the United Kingdom in recent years.

We recognise also the strongly held and divergent views reflected in the Pilling Report, across the Anglican Communion and in the Church of England. We acknowledge that these differences are reflected also within the College of Bishops and society as a whole.

We accept the recommendation of the Pilling Report that the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national and diocesan level and that this should continue to involve profound reflection on the interpretation and application of Scripture. These conversations should set the discussion of sexuality within the wider context of human flourishing.

We have together asked the Archbishops to commission a small group to design a process for these conversations and additional materials to support and enable them. We hope that the outline for the process and the additional materials will be approved by the House of Bishops in May.

We acknowledge that one of the challenges we face is to create safe space for all those involved to be honest about their own views and feelings. This has not always happened and it must do so in the future. We recognise that we will not all agree and that this process is in part committed to seeking good disagreement that testifies to our love for one another across the church in obedience to Christ

As the Archbishops noted in November, the Pilling report is not a new policy statement from the Church of England and we are clear that the Church of England’s pastoral and liturgical practice remains unchanged during this process of facilitated conversation.

No change to the Church of England’s teaching on marriage is proposed or envisaged. The House of Bishops will be meeting next month to consider its approach when same sex marriage becomes lawful in England in March.

We are grateful to the whole Church for their prayers for our meeting today and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We recognise that on many occasions in the past the Church has faced challenging questions. It is vital in these moments to take counsel together, to read and reflect upon the Scriptures and to continue to discern together the mind of Christ.


College of Bishops discusses Pilling report today

Timed to coincide with the meeting of the College of Bishops today, to discuss the Pilling report, there are several new items:

Andrew Brown has written this piece at Comment is free Bishops must reject these wicked homophobic views.

These are not the views expressed in the report, but rather the views expressed by Anglican churches in Nigeria and Uganda:

…The bishops are meeting in the wake of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which represents an irrevocable move towards the acceptance of gay people in this country. But they are also meeting in the shadow of astonishingly homophobic laws supported by two of the largest Anglican churches in Africa – in Nigeria and Uganda.

The Nigerian law has passed with overwhelming support (1% of the Nigerian population is in favour of “society accepting homosexuality”, according to the Pew Foundation). The marginally more liberal Ugandan government (where 4% of the population accepts homosexuality) has just rejected a similar law.

In Britain, where the Pew figures say that over 70% of the population is pro-gay rights, a number of conservative evangelical churches have aligned themselves with Uganda and Nigeria as a pre-emptive strike against the C of E recognising same-sex marriage. Although tomorrow’s meeting will dodge the question, there will be clergy queueing to marry their same-sex partners when this becomes legal in April, when the question can no longer be dodged…

The data from Pew Research mentioned by Andrew in his article can be found here: The Global Divide on Homosexuality and there is also a world map here. The divide is stark.

And there is further survey data illustrated in the latest article from Changing Attitude: Infographics about attitudes in the Church of England.

Changing Attitude is publishing three infographics today about attitudes in the Church of England on the day the College of Bishops meets to discuss the Pilling Report.

The survey results provide a glimpse of where the church is, both within itself and as it is viewed by society. These aren’t partisan statistics – we haven’t hunted around for the figures most favourable to our cause. We have used the YouGov surveys produced for the Westminster Faith Debates 2013 because they are the most rigorous, very recent, and based on a large sample and with no attempt to influence the response by skewing how questions are asked.

Here is a snapshot of what reality actually looks like at the moment for the Church of England. (There’s a wealth of other information in the Westminster Faith Debates stats, and you can see the whole dataset here:

The survey shows remarkably strong support for same-sex marriage in the Church of England – 40% in favour, 47% against – given the reluctance of the bishops and General Synod to show approval for same-sex relationships, let alone equal marriage. If non church-going Anglicans are included, there is a slim majority for same-sex marriage, 44% with 43% against. In the population as a whole, 52% are in favour, 34% against…

There are three infographics, here is a direct link to the third one:

And finally, although far from new, as noted in the comments on an earlier article, Changing Attitude’s own submission to the Pilling review group was based in large part on the earlier Osborne report. This should have been published in 1989 but was suppressed. It was “re-published” by the Church Times two years ago: CofE’s Osborne report finally published. The comparison between this and the Pilling report shows how little change there has been within the CofE.



Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has been Rethinking Advent to Candlemas.

Thom Shultz writes about The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment.

The Diocese of Bath and Wells has issued a set of Social media guidelines. Scott Gunn suggests some additions:
New commandments: Thou shalt Tweet…

Vicky Beeching writes in the Church Times that Children must learn to live in the online world.

Malcolm Round writes Love Your Church Minister.

Gillan Scott of the God & Politics in the UK blog writes that The Church of England still needs to wake up and smell the coffee over church growth.


Pilling: another roundup of opinions

Updated again Sunday evening

Ekklesia has published a major commentary on the Pilling report by Savi Hensman available here: Edging towards accepting diversity: the Pilling Report on sexuality. Here is the Abstract:

A Church of England working party on sexuality, chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, has called for a more welcoming approach to lesbian and gay people, though not full inclusion. It recognises the current lack of consensus on the theology of sexuality, including what the Bible has to say, and recommends that clergy be free to hold services, though not weddings, for same-sex couples.

The report is a small step forward, though it is over-cautious and its handling of historical and scientific evidence is weak, this detailed analysis from Ekklesia suggests. It is also unbalanced, giving too much space to one dissenting member of the working party, firmly opposing any shift by the church towards a more pluralistic stance on same-sex partnerships. Yet it acknowledges diversity, encourages openness to listening and growth, and may lead to further progress in enabling the church to value its lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) members and credibly witness in today’s world to God’s love for all.

John Watson at Fulcrum has written A response to David Runcorn’s appendix to the Pilling Report.

The Spectator has published a rather curious leader article:The Church of England’s endless gay panic.


Christina Beardsley has also published a detailed analysis of the Pilling report at Changing Attitude over the past couple of weeks. This is now more conveniently available as a single article here.

This lengthy article is now also available as a PDF from here.


Government consultation on civil partnership

The UK Government has published this:

Consultation on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales

…The Government has published a consultation paper on the future of civil partnership in England and Wales. This is the full public consultation required by section 15 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The closing date for responses is 17 April 2014.

Reponses can be made online.

The Government will consider responses to the consultation alongside evidence about marriage of same sex couples, civil partnership and possible options for the future.

The consultation document is available as a PDF file or as a word processing file.

Paui Johnson has commented on one aspect of this consultation at the ECHR Sexual Orientation blog:

…The consultation document contains a consideration of the compatibility of maintaining civil partnership only for same-sex couples with the European Convention on Human Rights:

The Government is satisfied that its decision to retain civil partnership for same sex couples only is compatible with the Convention. Even if an opposite sex couple were able to show that the difference in treatment compared to a same sex couple is within the ambit of Article 8, because the ability to form a civil partnership concerns family life, and to show that the treatment is based on a personal characteristic or status, such as sexual orientation, it is the Government’s view that it is within a State’s margin of appreciation to recognise different forms of relationship for same sex and opposite sex couples.

This is an interesting invocation of the margin of appreciation because the Government provide no references to Strasbourg case law to support their claim.

Whilst it is easy to find examples in the Court’s recent case law to support the Government’s argument, it is also easy to find examples that challenge this understanding of the margin of appreciation. For example,..

1 Comment

"Priest 'bullied' out of his Merseyside church"

Updated Saturday evening and Monday morning

Last September, Richard Blackburn, the Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool, established an episcopal visitation to the parish of St Faith’s, Great Crosby. The visitation was carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe, and his report has now been published. Today’s statement from the diocese, Report on the Episcopal Visitation to St Faith’s Crosby, starts

A report of an episcopal visitation carried out by Bishop Stephen Lowe has found serious failings in the PCC and amongst the laity at St Faith’s Crosby. The report outlines major failings in the governance of the parish which has led to what can be described as a culture of bullying towards the Priest in Charge, Father Simon Tibbs.

The Episcopal Visitation was established by Bishop Richard Blackburn, The Bishop of Warrington and Acting Bishop of Liverpool in the wake of reports of difficulties at St Faiths. The Bishop instigated a six month visitation period for Bishop Stephen to thoroughly investigate concerns at the parish and produce a report.

Bishop Stephen report was presented to the PCC at a special meeting on Monday 20th January.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said “This has been a disturbing and distressing experience in the life of St Faith’s. I have found clear weaknesses in the governance structures at the church. Weaknesses that existed before Father Simon’s arrival. Weaknesses that have allowed a culture of bullying towards Father Simon from some elements of the PCC. The Diocese of Liverpool will need to consider its mentoring arrangements for priests in the light of this unhappy episode. However my main recommendation is that the Diocese of Liverpool takes firm action to restore good governance in the parish before considering the long term future of St Faith’s Crosby.”

The diocesan statement also details the “temporary measures to improve governance at St Faith’s Crosby”.

The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard Blackburn, is to act swiftly on the findings of an independent report into the governance at St Faith’s Crosby. The Bishop has announced that he has asked for the visitation process to continue for 18 months to enable stronger governance procedures to be put in place and deal with Bishop Stephen’s recommendations.

Bishop Richard has given licence to Revd Susan Lucas to act as Priest in Charge during this time. She will be strongly supported by Bishop Stephen Lowe. She will be charged to bring in measures that address the weaknesses in governance, reinvigorate the teaching of Christian giving and strengthen the sacred traditions of Anglo-Catholic liturgical worship so they become a meaningful expression of God’s love and mission. Bishop Richard has asked that this process should take no more than 18 months and he will closely monitor progress…

Bishop Stephen’s full report is available for download: Visitation Report.

The report has received extensive coverage in today’s local Liverpool and Crosby papers.

Jamie Bowman Liverpool Echo Priest ‘bullied’ out of his Merseyside church by powerful drinkers’ club among his flock
Jamie Bowman Crosby Herald Damning report reveals culture of bullying at Crosby church

It has also attracted the attention of the national press

The Telegraph Priest ‘bullied’ out of parish for challenging binge drinking culture among worshippers
BBC St Faith’s Church Crosby priest was ‘bullied’ out of parish
Luke Traynor Mirror Vicar ‘bullied out of his job by right-wing drinkers in his flock’
Liz Hull Daily Mail Priest bullied out of his C of E parish after nine months after banning congregation’s ‘un-Christian’ boozy sessions after services

The PCC has issued a press release this afternoon (Saturday) which can be read here:

Press Statement
from the Church Wardens of St. Faith’s Great Crosby
re the Episcopal Visitation report by retired Bishop Stephen Lowe

The report of Stephen Lowe purports to be ‘independent’, but is clearly subjective and opinion based. The overwhelming majority of those present at the Congregational Meeting on January 20th felt that his was a grossly distorted and one-sided view of the situation. His report made sparse reference to the carefully considered answers submitted by the PCC to the Diocese’s Articles of Enquiry. A report detailing the responses of the congregation to Stephen Lowe’s ‘findings’ is being submitted to the Diocese and we shall be requesting that this is also published on their website as a matter of public record.

The “Review of PCC Governance at Crosby, St Faith’s” referred to in Bishop Lowe’s report is now available online here.

Monday update

Patrick Sawer in The Telegraph Merseyside’s ‘Cyber Priest’: ‘Thou shalt not drink wine in church’



Why was Paul so upset that members of the church at Corinth were identifying themselves over and against one another in terms of who had baptised whom? Why, in John’s Gospel, do we read that unity is essential if the world is to know that Jesus was sent by the Father? And, in keeping with the justice theme of this series of Christmas reflections, what does a vision of Christian unity say about how we pursue justice?

Though there are many ways to frame the problem, I wonder whether one potential ‘opposite’ of unity is an excessive form of tribalism (not that tribal or shared identity is itself always bad). Tribal societies arguably emerged as practical ways of banding together as a shared form of survival – no bad thing. At its worst, though, tribalism can express itself in extreme forms of ethnocentrism, where the value of others is so denigrated that the ‘other’ is demonised and where ethno-cleansing (or other forms of ‘cleansing’) can become almost routine.

Tribalism builds on our having a claim (via kinship or shared interest) on local, familiar ‘others’; but Christian tribalism (if we can call it that) could start with something different: for there is an ‘Other’ who has a prior claim on me and on us all. Christian tribalism could be different from other tribalisms, for our shared identity should not come primarily from us. Rather, it depends on our realisation that God’s love, something we cannot earn or possess, graciously shifts the vortex of any self-referent tribalism away from ourselves. Indeed, one way of reading disputes in the early Church is to see a budding movement away from being a small tribal Jewish sub-sect, to realising that this movement is precisely not about us, certainly not about who baptised whom, and perhaps not even about who believes this or that potentially divisive ‘theological idea’.

The realisation that identity (and so unity) is a gift, a gift modelled on God’s ultimately trustworthy love, shifts the goalposts. We are defined by the claims made on us – both by the Other and also by every ‘other’, who are all loved by the same God; and living the truth of that claim impels us to love both our neighbour and our so-called enemies, for God ‘makes his sun to rise on the evil and good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust’ (Mt 5.45). Indeed it is love of our enemies, which is to say love of other tribes, that apparently ought to distinguish us. Christian unity is not for ‘our sake’, not for our tribe’s sake, but for the sake of others, whom we are to love audaciously and sacrificially. In these days, such love is expressed principally by yearning and striving for justice for others.

If we Christians can do that together, if internecine tribal instincts are trumped by effective concern for others, even for the most vilified, then we will be witnessing to the power of God’s love to provide a vision beyond intra- and extra-tribal differences, a vision beyond hatred, beyond ethnocentrism, beyond the tensions that lead to violence and war. Such was the vision of the Kingdom, where God’s love defined and subordinated all other relations, where our freedom to love others was to be the hallmark of our having received the Spirit, of our having dreamt the dream. But if we can’t do that even amongst ourselves, if we eschew unity, then we descend to idolatry, preferring the darkness, and trumpeting to the world that what divides us is fundamentally more important than what unites us, more important even than God.

Joe Cassidy is Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham


Pilling: Changing Attitude sends report to Bishops

From the Changing Attitude website:

Changing Attitude England Report to the College of Bishops meeting 27 January 2014

Changing Attitude England posted a Report today to every member of the College of Bishops and the 8 senior women in advance of their meeting 27 January 2014. A paper about the inclusion of LGB&T people in all conversations affecting our place in the Church has already been sent to the members of the College of Bishops in the papers for the meeting and that is reproduced at the end of our Report.

Changing Attitude England’s Report to the College of Bishops

Changing Attitude’s goals

Changing Attitude has three core goals, the achievement of which would mark a radical transformation in the experience of LGB&T Christians, and we believe, for the church as a whole. The goals are:

  • Celebrating the loving, permanent, faithful, stable of lesbian and gay relationships, lay and ordained
  • Equality in lay and ordained ministry in the selection, training and appointment process and the end of hypocrisy and secrecy – the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture.
  • Identify and eradicate prejudice against LGB&T people and the systemic homophobia which corrupts Christian attitudes and teaching.

1. Changing Attitude’s submission to the Review Group

In our submission to the Review Group we said the need for a radical change in Christian attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) people is now urgent. We asked whether the review group is going to advocate that the Church of England recognises the reality of the presence of LGB&T people in the Church or whether they are going to maintain the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the unhealthy attitudes in which many LGB&T Christians remain trapped.

The report does not herald radical change and does not therefore fulfil the expectations of Changing Attitude. There are no practical proposals which will begin to dismantle the present culture of secrecy, denial of reality, suppression of identity and the maintenance of unhealthy attitudes. The group has met people and listened and the unhealthy attitudes remain unchanged.

The Review Group explored a lot of the ground which is fundamental to the dilemmas faced by the church as it continues to think about human sexuality. The report explores many of the issues which must be reviewed if the Church of England is ever to speak truthfully and lovingly to those whose sexuality and gender are variants on the heterosexual, patriarchal norm of Christian theology, teaching and practice…

Read the full report here.
Scroll down for the separate document “…about the inclusion of LGB&T people in all conversations affecting our place in the Church has already been sent to the members of the College of Bishops..”


Archbishop of West Africa dies

The Most Rev Tilewa Johnson, the Primate of The Church of the Province of West Africa, died suddenly yesterday (Tuesday).

Jan Butter and Bellah Zulu report for the Anglican Communion News Service reports with tributes and an obituary: Anglican Communion shocked by West Africa Primate’s sudden death.

Other online tributes and news reports include:

The Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop mourns ‘gifted’ leader of the Church of the Province of West Africa

George Conger Anglican Ink Archbishop of West Africa dead

PK Jarju JollofNews (Gambia and Senegal) Gambians Pay Tribute To Bishop Johnson

World Council of Churches Condolence message on death of Tilewa Johnson