Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – Tuesday morning press reports

BBC Women bishops law: Church asked to back fast-track scheme

Sam Jones The Guardian Church of England admits selling Wonga stake will take a ‘little while’.

Reshma Rumsey ITV News Church of England Synod to vote on women Bishops

BBC Hundreds sign petition against Bath and Wells bishop move


General Synod – Monday

General Synod opened its February group of sessions at 2.00 pm today. This page will be updated with notes on the business transacted.

There is a live video stream here.

The last item of business today is Questions (and answers). The questions themselves have been published here.

There was an Ethical Investment Advisory Group presentation to Synod.

Synod debated gender-based violence and passed this motion.

That this Synod, believing that all people are made in the image of God and that all forms of violence based on gender represent an abuse and violation of that image:
(a) affirm work already undertaken in dioceses, deaneries, parishes and Church of England schools in raising awareness and caring for survivors of gender-based violence in all our diverse communities;
(b) support measures to bring perpetrators to account and provide support for changed lifestyles;
(c) encourage boys and men to stand against gender-based violence; and
(d) commend Anglican Consultative Council Resolution 15:7 on preventing and eliminating gender-based violence to dioceses, deaneries and parishes and urge them to seek practical approaches to its implementation.

A press release was promptly released after the debate: Synod approves motion to affirm work in combating Gender-based violence.

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


Statement from Church Commissioners on Bishop's Palace, Wells

The Church Commissioners issued this statement this morning.

Statement from Church Commissioners on Bishop’s Palace, Wells
10 February 2014

As the providers of housing for all Diocesan Bishops in the Church of England, the Commissioners consider that the sustainability of the ministry of each bishop to be of crucial importance. This means that every Bishop should be housed appropriately and that their homes are properly places of rest and privacy in the midst of ministries which are increasingly demanding in terms of leadership and management, civic engagement and pastoral support of the whole diocese.

In arriving at their decision the Commissioners held two meetings with senior members of the Diocesan leadership team, including Bishop of Taunton, prior to any decision being taken and kept them informed of the progress of the matter through the Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee and the Board of Governors. We listened carefully to their concerns. The fact that they do not agree with the decision that was ultimately made is not evidence of a lack of consultation.



Pre-Synod press roundup

Updated Monday morning

The General Synod meets in London for three days, starting tomorrow (Monday). Here are some online news and comment articles about items on the agenda.

Church Times
Paul Handley Poll: lack of trust in Synod
Angela Tilby The Synod must get real on gay sex
Gavin Drake Churches urged to tackle domestic violence

These three refer to a diocesan synod motion on environmental issues.
Gillan Scott God & Politics in the UK The Church of England mustn’t waste this opportunity to address the ravages of climate change
David Pocklington Law & Religion UK Fracking and the Church of England
Independent Catholic News A ‘Beyond-Lightbulbs-Moment: CoE Synod to debate environment

John Bingham The Telegraph Final hurdle for women bishops to overcome

Kate Cooper blogs on Girl Guides and Female Bishops – The Plot Thickens.

Stephen Lynas blogs QUESTION: “Why do we never get an answer?”

There are links to the papers for the women in the episcopate legislation here, and to the agenda and other papers here.


Tina Rowe Western Daily Press Petition to save role of Wells’ Bishop’s Palace goes to General Synod

Alice Collins Christian Today Women bishops legislation dominates Church of England General Synod



Norman Ivison guest blogs at God and Politics UK about Building churches fit for the future – 7 lessons that need to be learnt.

Jayne Dawson of the Yorkshire Evening Post has been talking to Nick Baines: New Bishop of Leeds is the spy who loved God.

Michael Northcott writes in the Church Times about The argument against fossil fuels.

Part two of the Church Times series on the health of the Church of England includes these two articles available to non-subscribers:
Linda Woodhead Not enough boots on the ground
Abby Day Generation A — the dwindling force

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred mysteries column in The Telegraph about The mermaid on the church roof.

Malcolm Clemens Young writes for the Huffington Post about Our Common Identity.


Jane Hedges to be Dean of Norwich

Press release from the Prime Minister’s office

Dean of Norwich: Jane Barbara Hedges
7 February 2014

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Jane Barbara Hedges, BA, Sub-Dean, Canon Steward and Archdeacon of Westminster, to be appointed to the Deanery of the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, Norwich, on the resignation of the Very Reverend Graham Charles Morell Smith, BA, on 31 October 2014.

Notes for editors

The Venerable Jane Hedges (aged 58) was educated at Durham University and Cranmer Hall, Durham and has an Honorary Doctorate from Portsmouth University.

She served a curacy at Holy Trinity with St Columba, Fareham from 1980 to 1983. She then became Team Vicar in the Southampton City Centre Team Ministry from 1983 to 1988 before becoming Diocesan Stewardship Adviser in Portsmouth diocese for 5 years. From 1993 to 2001 she was Canon Pastor at Portsmouth Cathedral. From 2001 to 2003 she was Priest-in-Charge of the Honiton Team Ministry in the Diocese of Exeter, becoming Team Rector in 2003 and also Rural Dean. In 2006 she was appointed Canon Steward at Westminster Abbey and Archdeacon of Westminster, also becoming Sub-Dean in August 2013.

Jane Hedges is married to Chris and they have two sons, Jonathan and Adam. Her interests include travelling, sport, walking, animal welfare and entertaining.

The Norwich diocesan website has First female Dean of Norwich appointed.
Norwich Cathedral has New Dean of Norwich Appointed.


Living arrangements for Bishop of Bath & Wells – 2

This is an update to our earlier article here.

Archbishop Cranmer blogs that Tessa Munt MP intends to gate-crash General Synod on behalf of the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Arun Arora, Director of Communications, Church Commissioners, has written to The Telegraph: When palaces are unsuitable for modern life.

John Bingham writes in The Telegraph today that Churchgoers fear secret plan to sell bishops’ palace, says former Dean, referring to a letter from Richard Lewis also in The Telegraph: Evicted Bishop of Wells.


Scottish Roman Catholic adoption agency wins its appeal

The Scottish Charity Appeals Panel has overturned the ruling of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator in the case of St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.

The full text of this decision is available online here.

Analysis of the case by Frank Cranmer can be found at Law & Religion UK under the title Adoption, sexual orientation and charitable status: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society.

Frank comments towards the end of his article:

…The first and most obvious point is that it would be quite astonishing if this decision were not appealed. The second is whether or not the Panel was correct to find that the discrimination complained of was indirect (and therefore capable of justification) rather than direct.

As to the second point, it is undoubtedly the case that St Margaret’s is not a public authority and that it does not operate under a contract with a public authority. The most interesting question, however, is how the case is to be distinguished from the Catholic Care litigation in England and Wales…

Neil Addison has also written about this case: St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society (3) SCAP Judgment and he comments:

…How the future will lie for St Margarets is difficult to say. it is likely that OSCR will decide not to Appeal because the Panels decision on the very narrow point of “public Interest” was, legally speaking, the crucial point in relation to the powers and the actions of OSCR and the Panels decision on that point seems unassailable. St Margarets may however be faced with further legal action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and no doubt from the troublemakers of the National Secular Society. What really gets to me is that the NSS don’t do anything themselves to help Children or indeed to help anyone they simply criticise and try to change the good works done by others.


Oxford University to award honorary degree to Presiding Bishop

Updated Friday

Press release from Oxford University:

Six leading figures from the worlds of science, the arts and religion are set to receive honorary degrees from the University of Oxford this year, subject to approval by Congregation.

The degrees will be awarded at Encaenia, the University’s annual honorary degree ceremony, on Wednesday 25 June 2014.

Degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa:

The Most Reverend Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, PhD, is Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America and 16 other nations. Over the course of her nine-year term, Bishop Jefferts Schori is responsible for initiating and developing policy for the Episcopal Church and speaks on behalf of the church regarding the policies, strategies and programmes authorised by General Convention. Bishop Jefferts Schori’s studies for the priesthood, to which she was ordained in 1994, were preceded by her career as an oceanographer. She holds a BSc in biology from Stanford University, an MSc and PhD in oceanography from Oregon State University, an MDiv from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and several honorary doctoral degrees…

Update Lambeth Palace has issued this:
Archbishop congratulates Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on honorary Oxford degree

Friday 7th February 2014

Archbishop Justin has welcomed news that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, is to be awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by the University of Oxford

Archbishop Justin said: “I am delighted by the news that the Most Revd Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori is to receive an honorary Doctor of Divinity from the University of Oxford. This award, richly deserved, reaffirms Bishop Katharine’s remarkable gifts of intellect and compassion, which she has dedicated to the service of Christ.

“Prior to becoming ordained, Bishop Katharine pursued a career in oceanography, and her enduring deep commitment to the environment has evolved into a profound dedication to stewardship of our planet and humankind, especially in relieving poverty and extending the love and hospitality of Christ to those on the edges of society. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said of Bishop Katharine, ‘In her version of reality, everything is sacred except sin.’

“It must be noted, too, that Bishop Katharine’s achievements serve – and will continue to serve – as a powerful model for women seeking to pursue their vocations in the church.”


Church of England Funded Pension Scheme valuation

Updated Wednesday

The Church of England Pensions Board issued this statement last month.

The Church of England Funded Pension Scheme valuation
21 January 2014

In response to the claims in the media by Mr John Ralfe in relation to the Church of England Clergy Pensions Scheme, the pensions board has issued the following statement:

John Ralfe’s claim that there is a big hole in the clergy pension scheme is simply inaccurate. At the last valuation of the scheme, on 31 December 2012, the funding deficit was 25%, and we are on target to be fully funded over the next decade. Had the valuation been carried out at the end of 2013, we might have expected the funding deficit to be closer to 15%.

Mr. Ralfe says that the clergy pension scheme’s discount rate was increased by 0.5% without an explanation. The pensions board made the assumptions for the valuation based on their assessment of the strength of the responsible bodies’ financial covenant, the fall in yields on fixed interest gilts, market expectations for future RPI inflation and up to date mortality expectations. The discount rate is in line with advice from an independent actuary and with the requirements of the pensions regulator.

Mr. Ralfe has raised these sorts of issues in the past, but has refused numerous offers by the Church of England Pensions Board to meet to discuss this matter.

Our return-seeking funds have returned 20.8% over the three years to the end of 2012, and provisionally, 27.7% over the three years to 2013, improving the funding position of the scheme.

Mr Ralfe also fails to take into account that, unlike most other defined benefit schemes, this scheme is still quite immature and is still open to new members giving it a healthy contribution inflow. A bond heavy investment policy is not normally seen as either necessary or desirable for relatively immature schemes, and would make them unnecessarily expensive.

Robert Peston, the business editor of the BBC published this article on the same day: An unholy pension hole.
The following day Simon Read wrote in The Independent: Vicars’ retirement savings in jeopardy, says pension expert

John Ralfe has now published an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Financial Times: Dear Archbishop, the Church of England is in pension denial and on his website. [Registration (free) required in both cases]


Following Ralfe’s release yesterday of his letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pensions Board has today issued the letter that it sent in reply; read it here. It goes into much more detail than the press release above.


new Bishop of Leeds announced

It has been announced this morning from 10 Downing Street that the first Bishop of Leeds, serving the new diocese in West Yorkshire and the Dales, is to be the outgoing Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines.

The press release from Number 10 reads:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Nicholas Baines, BA, Bishop of Bradford, for election as the new Bishop of Leeds, following the restructuring of the Dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield into the Diocese of Leeds (West Yorkshire and the Dales).

Biographical notes on Nick Baines appear below the fold.

The website for the proto-diocese carries this story Bishop of Bradford Announced as First Bishop of Leeds for the new Diocese

The Archbishop of York has issued his own lengthy press statement.

Nick Baines has blogged about his own appointment here.

There is a video in which he speaks about this too.



Bishop of Gloucester to retire

Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, has announced that he will retire on 21 November 2014.

The diocese joins the queue for the Crown Nominations Commission, which has no free slots before 2015.



James Langstaff, the Bishop of Rochester, has been interviewed by Marijke Cox of Kent News: Bishop of Rochester opens up about women bishops, his new prison role and dinner with The Queen.

Simon Jenkins (the one who edits Ship of Fools) writes for Reform Magazine about Between hairiness and holiness.

John Packer, who retires as Bishop of Ripon and Leeds next week, reflects on his seven years in the House of Lords.

David Runcorn, writing for Fulcrum, asks And how do I know when I am wrong? Evangelical faith and the Bible.

Andrew Brown explains on his blog Why I am not a Christian. The Church Times has published this under the title Help thou mine unbelief.

The Church Times starts a major series on the health of the Church of England this week. Much is only available to subscribers, but these three are free to all.
Leader comment Near-decimation
Linda Woodhead Time to get serious
Vicky Beeching What gets me out of bed on Sunday