Thinking Anglicans

When will there be another Lambeth Conference?

The website Anglican Ink has published a story which is headlined: Lambeth Conference cancelled. This turns out to be based upon the following item from ENS:

House of Bishops leaving Taiwan with ‘hearts and minds expanded’

…In response to a question from Rochester Bishop Prince Singh about budgeting for the next Lambeth Conference and speculation about when and if the gathering will be held, Jefferts Schori told the bishops that the conference will probably not happen in 2018, which would have fit the conference’s traditional 10-year cycle. No planning or fundraising has taken place for a 2018 meeting, she said. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby “has been very clear that he is not going to call a Lambeth [Conference] until he is reasonably certain that the vast majority of bishops would attend. It needs to be preceded by a primates meeting at which a vast majority of primates are present,” she said. “As he continues his visits around the communion to those primates it’s unlikely that he will call such a meeting at all until at least a year from now or probably 18 months from now. Therefore I think we are looking at 2019, more likely 2020, before a Lambeth Conference.”Whenever the next Lambeth Conference occurs “it will have a rather different format,” she predicted. For intstance, it is likely that spouses will not attend “simply because of scale issues and regional contextual issues. Bishops’ spouses fill very different roles in different parts of the communion and the feedback from the last one was that it did not serve the spouses particularly well,” Jefferts Schori explained…

According to Anglican Ink:

The 2018 Lambeth Conference has been cancelled. The precarious state of the Anglican Communion has led the Archbishop of Canterbury to postpone indefinitely the every ten year meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion.
A spokesman for Archbishop Justin Welby told Anglican Ink that as the archbishop had not yet met with each of the primates of the communion, he would not be commenting on the news. Since his installation last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury has travelled extensively and plans on visiting the 37 other provinces of the Anglican Communion within the first 18 months of his term of office…


Understanding Same-sex Marriage

DLT Books has issued a press release announcing the publication of More Perfect Union: Understanding Same-sex Marriage by Alan Wilson. The text of this is reproduced below the fold.

John Bingham wrote about this book in the Telegraph under the headline One in 10 Church of England bishops ‘could be secretly gay’ – says bishop.

Alan Wilson has written on his blog about some recent reactions to his book, and about the recent College of Bishops meeting for “shared conversations”: Ins and Outs and Same-Sex Marriage.




Marcus Borg Patheos A Christianity Co-Opted by Individualistic, Exclusivist Faith

Gillan Scott blogs Shock! Justin Welby admits that he believes in God

Charities Aid Foundation The Guardian The role of socially responsible investment in economic uncertainty

Karen Armstrong The Guardian The myth of religious violence

The Church Times has compiled its list of the 100 best Christian books. Yesterday (Friday) it revealed numbers 100 to 51. Numbers 50 to 11 and then 10 to 1 will be announced on 3 and 10 October.


Andrew Watson to be next Bishop of Guildford

Updated Monday

From the Number 10 website

Diocese of Guildford: nomination of Andrew Watson

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
History: Published 26 September 2014
Part of: Community and society

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Andrew Watson for election as Bishop of Guildford.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Andrew John Watson MA, Bishop of Aston, for election as Bishop of Guildford in succession to the Right Reverend Christopher John Hill BD AKC MTh, whose resignation took effect on 30 November 2013.

Biographical notes

Andrew Watson is 53 and studied law at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he was also a music exhibitioner, regularly playing his bassoon in various orchestras and chamber groups.

Following 2 years as a caretaker and youth worker in Islington, he trained for the ordained ministry at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, where he met his future wife Beverly (who has since been ordained herself).

He served his title at St Peter’s, Ipsley, in Worcester diocese from 1987 to 1991, leading a church on the council estate where they lived, and served a second curacy at St John and St Peter, Notting Hill, in London diocese from 1991 to 1996, restoring the Grade 2* listed church of St Peter (which features prominently in the movie Notting Hill), and developing a community café, nursery school and prison visiting team.

From 1996 to 2008 he was Vicar of St Stephen’s, East Twickenham, in London diocese, where he planted 3 further churches and led teams to Norway and Sweden, Donetsk and the slums of Delhi.

He was a member of the General Synod from 2000 to 2008 and Area Dean of Hampton from 2003 to 2008.

In October 2008, he was consecrated Bishop in St Paul’s Cathedral. Since then he has served as the Suffragan Bishop of Aston in the diocese of Birmingham, overseeing the programme ‘Transforming Church’.

Andrew and Beverly have 2 girls and 2 boys, Hannah (24), Sam (22), Joe (19) and Lydia (15). He is the author of The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus (Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) 2008), Confidence in the Living God (BRF 2009) and The Way of the Desert (BRF 2011). He remains a keen musician and a China enthusiast, and enjoys reading, cooking, photography and walking stretches of the South West Coast Path.

From the Birmingham diocesan website: Bishop David is delighted that Bishop Andrew Watson is to be the new Bishop of Guildford


From the Guildford diocesan website: New Bishop of Guildford announced


A scientific critique of the Pilling report

The following article appeared in the Church Times issue dated 19 September 2014. It is reproduced here with the permission of the Church Times.

Unanswered questions on Pilling report

There are problems about its use of science and other evidence, says Chris Cook

At the College of Bishops’ residential meeting this week, the Pilling report was scheduled for further discussion (News, 12 September). The report is the work of the House of Bishops Working Group on sexuality, and was published last November.

In January, the College of Bishops published a statement acknowledging the “strongly held and divergent” views reflected in the report, and accepting its recommendation for “facilitated conversations” to continue the process of listening, reflection, and discussion. There are, however, several important questions that need to be addressed about the report, particularly on its approach to the evidence and use of science.

The report has been criticised from both sides of the debate, but the process of facilitated conversation requires that we all, with the Bishops, give it careful attention. It raises questions not only about how we interpret scripture, but also about how we interpret our knowledge of sexuality. The often unexamined assumptions about the relationship between science and theology which are embedded in these interpretative processes influence both the way in which we go about the debate, and the conclusions that we reach.

The working group that produced the Pilling report was asked to “draw together and reflect upon biblical, historical, and ecumenical explorations on human sexuality”, as well as other material arising from the listening process after the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

This task need not necessarily have involved attention to scientific explorations, and the group does not appear to have had a scientific adviser. It is commendable, therefore, that the group recognised the importance of the scientific evidence, and devoted a whole chapter of its report to it.

Reflecting on the scientific evidence, the group concludes that “neither the medical nor the social sciences have arrived at any firm consensus that would impact decisively on the moral arguments.” It further notes that it is in the nature of science to test hypotheses against evidence, and that the theses that emerge can always be challenged by new evidence.

Similarly, “the teaching of the Church, like a thesis in scientific enquiry, stands until the evidence contradicting it is sufficient to change it.” Such transformative evidence is not solely scientific, but it is clear that the group understood that, in part, it may be scientific. Unfortunately, it found that the evidence was “not unequivocal”, and that scientists “find their scientific knowledge supporting different conclusions”.

The reader may conclude that the scientific evidence did not help much. When it comes to reflecting on the traditional Anglican recourse to scripture, tradition, and reason, science — as a strand of reason — seems to contribute little or nothing to the conclusions reached in the report, other than to reinforce the sense of irreconcilable disagreement.

Perhaps, then, it is time to put aside the science, and return to the more important biblical and theological debate. This, I think, would be a deeply mistaken conclusion, and, clearly, the working group does, too; for it recommends that the Church should continue to pay attention to the “as yet inconclusive scientific work on same-sex attraction”.

“Same-sex attraction” is not a phrase that appears in scripture, and the working group — wisely, in my view — identifies the importance of the “Is this really that?” question as a key determinant of the different ways in which we interpret scripture on matters such as this. So when we discuss this (homosexuality or any other matter), we must ask whether or not it is the same as the that to which the biblical text refers.

If, however, this question is to be followed through faithfully, it requires that careful biblical exegesis be accompanied by an equally careful analysis of the scientific evidence. Both scripture and scientific evidence have to be interpreted, and each plays a part in the interpretation of the other, whatever privilege we may feel that we need to give one or the other.

But the interpretation of science, the “Is this …?” part of the question, is not the same as the interpretation of scripture, the “… really that?” part.

The Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, a member of the working group, found himself unable to sign the Pilling report. A dissenting statement and an appendix concerning scripture and same-sex relationships, both written by him, are, however, published with the report.

In the latter, he expresses concern that there has been a revisionist re-reading of scripture. Presumably, he is concerned that non-traditional interpretations of scripture have been adopted (by some) without due regard to a weight of biblical scholarship that continues to affirm the “traditional” biblical teaching on homosexuality.

Yet I do not believe that this is the primary problem. There has been a revisionist “reading” of our experience of human sexuality, and this, at least in part, has come about because of the way in which we now read scientifically.

First, our scientific concept of homosexuality is a modern one, acknowledging diversity within the range of normal sexual orientation; and, as such, was completely unknown to the Early Church.

Second, this scientific concept of homosexuality is no longer considered pathological, and mainstream scientific and clinical thinking concerning its origin and implications has changed out of all recognition; expectations for good professional practice now reflect this.

Third, as outlined in the report Some Issues in Human Sexuality (2003), there have been significant changes of understanding in Church and society more widely relating to various aspects of sexuality, including divorce and contraception, as well as homosexuality. As a result, we now interpret the metaphorical “text” of sexuality very differently from the ways we did 50 or 100 years ago.

Radical changes such as these have led to what Bishop Sinclair refers to as “revisionist” readings of scripture; but it is misleading and unhelpful to refer to re-readings in this way. There is no traditional reading of scripture on homosexuality to be revised, given that the modern scientific concept of homosexuality was unknown until the 19th century.

Notwithstanding the view of the whole working group that the scientific evidence is uncertain, many Christian professionals, as well as gay and lesbian Christians, experience significant unease at the way in which traditional readings of the Bible on homosexual behaviour have become associated with prejudice towards gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Traditional readings of scripture that now appear to promote such prejudice have therefore given way to new readings that seek to show that scripture is still authoritative and redemptive.

One problem, then, is that we are confused about whether we are talking primarily about the interpretation of scripture, or the interpretation of human experience, and that these two hermeneutic processes are inextricably linked with one another, at least – but not only – for Christians in the Western world.

A second problem that I encounter as a practical theologian, and as a scientist reading this report, is that I do not see the critical rigour in evaluating scientific evidence which I should expect to find here. This is evident in numerous ways, but a single example may suffice to illustrate the nature of the problem.

The submission from the Royal College of Psychiatrists is quoted in support of a now widely accepted clinical and scientific view, based on peer-reviewed publications, that homosexual orientation is compatible with normal mental health. It is the experience of stigma and discrimination in society that contributes to the greater-than-expected mental-health problems experienced by some gay and lesbian people.

The report, however, immediately counterbalances this viewpoint with an opposing one, taken from a booklet published by a Christian organisation committed to a particular theological view in relation to matters of sexuality, Core Issues Trust.

Thus, it is alleged, the view of the Royal College is “neither proven nor ruled out by the evidence”, and an alternative possibility, that homosexual orientation “cuts against a fundamental gender-based given of the human condition, thus causing distress”, is equally neither proved nor ruled out.

Having consulted the peer-reviewed primary-research papers on which the opposing viewpoints are based, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that the Core Issues Trust has simply marshalled scientific evidence in support of a position that has previously been determined by a particular interpretation of scripture. Thus, the point of view that it promotes is not so much based on scientific evidence as it is an apologetic for a theological tradition.

It is impossible, however, to reach this conclusion (or the alternative possible conclusion that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has misinterpreted the scientific evidence in support of another agenda), without consulting the primary-research publications oneself. Unfortunately, in its report, the working group shows little evidence of having done this.

A third and more fundamental problem is that science and theology are both concerned with asking and answering questions. The six questions chosen for attention in the section of the report which deals with scientific evidence are themselves significant.

The first question, dealing with sexual dimorphism, evokes an answer concerned largely with intersex syndromes and transsexualism, both of which are more or less beside the point so far as homosexuality is concerned. And yet none of the questions deals with the important issue why homosexuality is no longer classified as a psychiatric disorder.

There is a question about the causes of homosexuality, and much is made about what we do not know by way of answer, but there is no question asking whether homosexuality is something that people choose, or whether it is something more essential to personal identity, something that is discovered about oneself rather than chosen.

It is not clear how the scientific questions addressed in the report were identified, but the choice of questions would seem to have been significant in determining the conclusions reached. Some questions that were not asked are inherently both scientific and theological, notably the all-important “What is natural?” Failure to ask these difficult questions has let us all off the hook in relation to the thorny problem of how we engage scientific with theological reasoning in our understanding of sexuality.

This, in turn, has made it difficult to develop a coherent Christian view of sexuality which has both scientific and theological integrity.

A fourth and final problem that has not been addressed is that scientific terminology is precise, and open to examination — even when contested — in a way that ancient Hebrew and Greek terminology (for example, words such as “arsenokoitēs”) is not.

Homosexuality is a modern term; St Paul never talks about “homosexuality”, but only about homosexual acts and desires (and using language that is different from ours).

Scientific discourse on homosexuality requires that we distinguish carefully between sexual orientation, sexual identity (which has anatomical, genetic, psychological, and social dimensions), sexual attraction, and sexual behaviour. This care is sometimes lacking in the report.

Thus, questions are formed using words that are not quite right for the purpose (for example: “Is sexual attraction fixed and immutable?” when it is actually sexual orientation that appears to be under discussion). Sexual identity is discussed only in the section on homophobia, and none of these terms seems to be adequately defined anywhere in the report.

Had the scientific questions been chosen differently, and had the evidence been evaluated more critically in searching for the answers to them, I believe that the theological implications might have been different, or at least more helpful.

We interpret scripture, scientific evidence, and our experience of our sexuality according to complex and often hidden assumptions, which do not always lead us to sound conclusions. Where we start, whether with scripture or science, is probably less important than having the wisdom to formulate the right questions, the courage to ask them, and a constructively critical, rigorous, but also compassionate spirit with which to pursue the answers.

As we approach the process of facilitated conversation which the Pilling report has recommended, and which the Bishops have endorsed, I hope that more critical attention will be given to the scientific evidence. It has the potential to help us to address new questions to scripture, which, in turn, may help us to find that scripture is authoritative and salvific in ways that we had not previously expected.

In response, scripture presents us with important theological and prophetic questions about patterns of stigma and prejudice, which science has identified as underlying (and consequential upon) much mental ill-health.

Dr Chris Cook is Professor of Spirituality, Theology and Health at Durham University.


General Synod – projected timetable for November 2014

The projected timetable (see below) for the November 2014 Group of Sessions of General Synod has been published here. It is accompanied by this note:

The holding of the group of sessions remains contingent on the legislation to enable Women to become Bishops having completed all its remaining stages. It was found expedient by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament on 22 July and will debated in the House of Lords on 14 October. We await a date for the Commons debate. A further update will be published as soon as possible and in any event before the end of October.

Monday 17 November
1.45 pm – 7.15 pm

1.45 pm Worship
Formal business
Report by the Business Committee

Legislative Business:
Enactment of Amending Canon No 33 (relating to Women in the Episcopate)

Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Legislative Business:
* Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure – Final Drafting/Final Approval
* Measure allowing diocesan stipends funds to invest on a ‘total return’ basis – First Consideration
* C of E (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure – Final Drafting/Final Approval
* Amending Canon No 35 (relating to Canon B 12) – Revision Stage and Final Drafting/Final Approval
* Draft Scheme amending the Diocese in Europe Constitution
* C of E (Naming of Dioceses) Measure – Revision Stage

4.40 pm ‘Take Note’ debate on the Professional Guidelines for the Clergy

5.40 pm Worship


Tuesday 18 November
9.15 am – 1.00 pm

Holy Communion in the Assembly Hall

10.30 am Presentation followed by Debate on Violence against Religious Minorities in Iraq and Syria

12.15 pm Legislative Business (Continued from Monday 17 November)

2.15 pm – 5.00 pm

2.15 pm Anglican-Methodist Covenant: Report from the Joint Implementation Commission

Bradford Diocesan Synod Motion on the Spare Room Subsidy

4.40 pm Farewells


Contingency Business:
Priavte Member’s Motion on Canon B 38

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New Bishop of Gloucester 'likely to be a woman'

The BBC has reported that the Archdeacon of Cheltenham has said that New Bishop of Gloucester ‘likely to be a woman’.

The first woman bishop in the Church of England could be in the Gloucester diocese, a senior clergyman has said.

The archdeacon of Cheltenham’s comments came during an open meeting where some 70 people shared their views on what qualities the new bishop should have.

The Venerable Robert Springett said he felt the likelihood was “really pretty high” as the diocese could now pick the best person regardless of gender.

Cheltenham is one of the two archdeaconries in the Diocese of Gloucester.

Gloucester will be the first diocese to hold both of its Crown Nominations Commission meetings after the expected coming into effect in November of all the legislation allowing women to be bishops in the Church of England. The meetings are scheduled for 8 January and 19/20 February 2015.


Is the seal of the confessional under threat?

Law & Religion UK has a detailed discussion about this topic, triggered by this headline in the Mail on Sunday:
Vicars set to reveal secrets of confession: Church of England may axe 400-year-old sacred law to let clergy report sex attackers

The very very thorough analysis by David Pocklington is here: CofE to axe seal of confessional? Do read it all.


Farewell to Welfare!?

Here’s a press release from The National Estate Churches Network:

Farewell to Welfare!?
National Estate Churches Network Annual Conference 2014

1st October St James Church Thurland Rd, Bermondsey, London SE16 4AA
15th October St Michael in the City Upper Pitt St, Liverpool L1 5DB

The National Estate Churches Network has sent us news of their forthcoming conference:

This year’s annual conference explores the effect that the Cuts are having on the people of our poorer housing estates. We are really excited that our keynote speaker at both venues is John Battle the brilliant long-time campaigner and advocate for those who are marginalised. As well as high quality input, there will be time to share and reflect together. What does our Christian Faith demand of us who live and work with those who really feel the impact of benefit reform? Can we make the system better or is it really ‘Farewell to Welfare’?

Book online or you can phone or text 07933 438304 for a booking form.

A whole day conference at just £20 including lunch.
1st October or 15th October 2014 10am-3.30pm

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Reminder: conference on theology of marriage

Way back in June, we announced that the LGBTI Anglican Coalition would host a conference on the theology of of marriage in the light of equal marriage, at St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY on Saturday 27th September, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. That is this coming Saturday.

The conference is titled To Have and To Hold. Here is the flyer.

If you have not already booked to attend, there is still time to do so.

All the details are available from here or book at Eventbrite here.

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Church of England Newspaper editorial The battle for the soul of the Church

Isabel Hardman The Spectator Conservative Anglicans’ emergency plan to escape women bishops

Phoebe Thompson of Premier Youthwork spoke to Sally Hitchiner about Diverse Church.

Jules Evans has interviewed Richard Chartres: The Bishop of London on Christian contemplation.

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that If Justin Welby has doubts about God it’s no bad thing (with reference to this story).


College of Bishops – shared conversations

The Church of England started its series of “shared conversations” on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission this week in the College of Bishops. The College has just finished its meeting and published this press release.

College of Bishops Meeting
17 September 2014

The College of Bishops of the Church of England has met for three days. Two of the days were devoted to the first of a series of shared conversations in the Church of England on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.

The context and process for the conversations were set out in a paper to General Synod by the Bishop of Sheffield on 26 June 2014 available here which also identified two outcomes for the process.

The first is to enable the Church of England to reflect, in light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place in society on issues of sexuality. How can the Church “proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation” as a missionary church in a changing culture ?

The second objective is to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another. Recognising that this was the experience of the first disciples and apostles who went on to proclaim the Gospel across the world, how can the Church ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith ?

As part of the conversations the college shared the different responses being expressed in the life of the church and the deeply held convictions and experiences that inform them. In this the college reflected the diversity of experience and view held by the country as a whole. The college also acknowledged that at this stage it was not seeking to achieve consensus nor to make any decisions but rather the purpose was being open to see Jesus Christ in those who took an opposing view to their own position.

The resource materials and process prepared for the college will be further developed in the light of the experience there before they are rolled out in regional conversations early next year.

In addition to participating in the shared conversation process the college received presentations on a wide range of issues including Iraq and the Middle East, Science and Religion, Discipleship, Resourcing Ministerial Education and other matters.

A podcast interview with the Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Manchester reflecting on the shared conversation process is available here.


Welsh Code for Women Bishops published

The Church in Wales has published its Code of Practice in relation to the Ministry of Bishops following the Canon to enable the Ordination of Women as Bishops. Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops, it was presented to the Governing Body, which is meeting in Lampeter, this afternoon. The Church issued this press release.

Code for Women Bishops aims to keep all included – Archbishop

Guidelines for new legislation to ordain women as bishops aim to make everyone feel valued in the Church, regardless of their views on the issue, the Archbishop of Wales said today (September 17).

Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops at the request of its Governing Body, the “Code of Practice” accompanies the women bishops’ legislation which came into effect on September 12, exactly a year after the Church’s historic vote.

Publishing the Code at the Church’s Governing Body meeting today, the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, said it was designed to be as inclusive as possible as the bishops saw God’s call in people on both sides of the debate.. He urged the Church to unite in proclaiming the Gospel.

He said, “The Code of Practice we have produced has not been produced for the benefit of one side or the other in the debate but for the whole church. That is what you asked us to do. The Bill explicitly says that the Code should be drawn up in such a way that every member of the Church in Wales might feel secure. In other words, this Code is not just for those who in conscience dissent but is a code for every member of the Church in Wales.”

He added, “Bishops have a particular responsibility for matters of faith and order and we want to be as inclusive as possible which is why we are able to affirm wholeheartedly the ordination of women to the episcopate and can also accept that provision should be made for those who cannot accept their sacramental ministry. By making such a provision, our hope is that no-one will feel the need to leave the Church in Wales…

“In the Church in Wales, we, as your bishops, quite frankly see Christ at work in our members, married or single, gay or straight, we perceive the call of God in women to all three orders, and we are respectful of the faith of those who cannot in conscience receive such ministry. In these issues, as in others, we invite the Church to unite in the greater task of proclaiming the Gospel.”

The bishops wrote the Code after consulting widely across the Province. Its guiding principles were:

  • Any woman Diocesan Bishop becomes such on exactly the same terms, and with the same jurisdiction, as any other Diocesan Bishop in the Province;
  • Provision for those who object to the ministry of women bishops has to be pastoral, not structural;
  • Those who in conscience cannot receive the sacramental ministry of women should not be excluded from being considered for ordination;
  • No specific alternative bishop should be provided for those who are unable in conscience to accept the ministry of a woman bishop, but there should be a means to request and receive alternative sacramental provision.

The Code of Practice itself, and the Archbishop’s address to the Governing Body are also online.

The Code of Practice and explanatory note.

The bishops’ full explanation of the Code of Practice, as outlined by the Archbishop in his Presidential Address to the Governing Body.

The Code is short, and is copied in full below the fold.



30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality

From Mamba Online:
30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality

More than 30 African scholars, theologians, faith leaders, activists and students have issued a powerful declaration in support of LGBT equality on the continent.

The leaders from nine African countries gathered in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, between 28 to 31 August.

They met for an “historic consultation on human sexuality, religion and equality,” wrote Dr Michael Adee, Director of the Global Faith & Justice Project.

The event was organised by Adee, who is also an elder in the US Presbyterian Church, and Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest, from Political Research Associates.

The countries represented included Cameroon, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe…

The full text of the KwaZulu Natal Statement is copied below the fold.



Malcolm Brown and David Porter talk about the Shared Conversations


Church of England press release: Reflections on shared conversations process ahead of College of Bishops

15 September 2014
In a podcast interview Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, and the Revd Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, talk about the process of shared conversations that has flowed [from] the Pilling report as the College of Bishops of the Church of England gathers for its annual residential meeting in Leicestershire.

The College will conduct shared conversations for the next two days in small groups with the discussions remaining confidential, mirroring the wider proposed process.

In an interview recorded ahead of the meeting of the College David Porter and Malcolm Brown recognised that whilst a uniform view on the issues was highly unlikely, the potential for the Church to model a different and more Christ like way of disagreement would be crucial.

Malcolm Brown said: “There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations about hidden agendas. I hope that we’ve unpacked that sufficiently in the light of Pilling indeed to show that that isn’t the case. There’s a lot of reassurance that says this is what it says on the tin and it’s not something hidden.”

David Porter added: “For me the ideal outcome will be that people will be able to articulate with a measure of empathy the views of others that they don’t agree with.….And that we develop that rapport, that capacity to disagree well, that means that when we get to the process which is beyond the shared conversations when decision will have to be made, the way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ. And that even though we disagree, we are going to do that in a way that reflects that reality as much as the reality of our convictions on these issues.” He adds that he hopes people will see the way the conversations are being held and say: “Look at how these Christians love one another because of the way they disagree well.”

Listen to the interview here:

The interview is 11 minutes long.

The Pilling report is here:,-family-and-sexuality-issues/human-sexuality/pilling-report.aspx

The Church Times has a report of this by Madeleine Davies headlined ‘No hidden agenda’ behind sexuality conversations

THERE is no “hidden agenda” behind the shared conversations on sexuality that begin this week, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs said on Monday.

In a recording published on the Church of England website, Dr Malcolm Brown spoke of a desire to ensure that “some of the fears that are not certainly intended to be substantiated are dispelled. There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations, about hidden agendas and things like that. I hope we have unpacked that sufficiently . . . to show that isn’t the case.”

Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, charged with overseeing the conversations, said: “It is what it says on the tin. It’s a process of shared conversation. It’s about creating space that they can feel a certain amount of confidence because someone is there helping hold the ring, so that all voices will be heard; that people will be able to engage with each other in a respectful way, to come and talk about the change that we see in the culture around us in relation to questions of human sexuality, and the diversity that exists within the Church, about how we should respond as people of faith to that…

This article also repeats the remarks from the Bishop of Willesden that we reported on earlier here.



In response to the article by Eric Pickles that I linked to last week, Andrew Brown writes in The Spectator about The theological illiteracy of Eric Pickles.

Richard Beck blogs about Search Term Friday: Type 1 and Type 2 Errors and Deciding Who Is Going to Hell.

Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph: The full glory of Miss La La.


Church Times reports on Pemberton tribunal claim

Today’s Church Times contains two items relating to the legal action taken by Jeremy Pemberton.

News report: Madeleine Davies Pemberton mounts a legal challenge over lost NHS job

and (same link, scroll down) Rob Clucas The Bishop’s ruling: a legal opinion.

From the news report:

…On Tuesday, a spokesman for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “We have received notification of legal action by Canon Jeremy Pemberton, and at this stage we have no further comment to make.” No comment has been received from the Archbishop of York.

Once an employment-tribunal claim is received by an employer, he or she is usually required to respond within 28 days. One of the uncertainties of this case is whether or not the Bishops can be defined as employers.

On Tuesday, Dr Russell Sandberg, senior lecturer in law at Cardiff University, said: “It depends upon the facts of the case – there is now no presumption that ministers of religion are not employees.

“Furthermore, the definition of employee for discrimination-law purposes is wider than [it is] for unfair dismissal.”

Dr Sandberg also suggested that bishops of the established Church could be considered as holding a public office.

The case, if it is accepted by a tribunal, will also test the interpretation of the Equality Act (2010). Dr Sandberg said: “Organised religions can rely upon an exception from the normal rules forbidding discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, either in order to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.”

He warned, however, that the scope and extent of these exceptions was “largely unknown, given the lack of case law, and uncertainty which arose in parliamentary debates”.

From the opinion article:

…But there are complicating factors. First, I understand that the post would be paid for by the NHS. In this situation, is the Church the employer, or the NHS Trust? The NHS Trust, as a public body, has specific positive duties in relation to the Equality Act and sexual orientation (and other protected characteristics), and it is not clear how these would be reconciled with the permitted discrimination under Schedule 9(2). Also, could the Church be a public body? This is at present unclear.

Second, there is a question mark about how adequately the Equality Act 2010 gives effect to the European directive that it was aiming to implement (transpose). Is the implementation of the European legislation defective in failing to require proportionality in the compliance and non-conflict principles of Schedule 9(2) of the Act? This was the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its second report on the Equality Bill, concerning the amend­ments to the Bill that were made at committee stage in the House of Lords.

Where domestic legislation attempting to transpose the directive fails, and a case comes to court, there is a general obligation in EU law on the domestic court or tribunal to interpret the national law in a way that gives effect to European law. If the Act cannot be reinterpreted to comply with the directive, there may be a claim of direct effect, if the case is against a public body.

Whether a remedy is available to an individual will depend on the possibility of the direct effective­ness of the framework directive in the case of the Church’s (or the NHS Trust’s) being a public body in refusing to employ clergy in a same-sex marriages.

Canon Pember­ton’s decision to take legal action against the Arch­bishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell & Notting­ham is interesting. The law here is complex and unclear…


Reflections on the Shared Conversations

Updated again Monday evening

Last month Rachel Mann wrote on her blog about Shared Conversations’ and the place of LGBTI people in the C of E.

‘When are the shared conversations starting and who’s going to be involved?’

…I’ve been thinking an awful lot about this (by church standards!) imminent process in the past couple of weeks. While this fact is no doubt a symptom of my need to get out more, my rumination is also unsurprising. Like pretty much every LGBT person who has chosen to stick around within the church I am profoundly conscious of the extent to which ‘we’ have been treated as something to be talked about, as an issue. So there’s a part of me that’s intrigued by the possibility that we might be talked to. Really talked to.

And, yet, the Pilling Report was also, supposedly, part of a process of being talked to and with. As someone who conversed at length with members of the Pilling Committee I’m not especially convinced I was listened to. It would not be beyond the possibility that I might be the kind of person who was asked to participate in the upcoming conversations. (And I suspect there will be a goodly number of people who – as much out of a desire to know what this process will involve – will be keen to participate.) And yet that previous experience has made me suspicious of the whole process.

In some respects it feels like the world is changing fast. The number of ‘coming outs’ recently, including Vicky Beeching, has hopefully left some church people thinking, ‘are there actually any straight people in the church?’ (;-D). However, the treatment of Jeremy Pemberton and the patchy nature of support for LGBT people in the C of E should give pause. As someone said to me recently, ‘We live in a bubble in Manchester diocese.’ It is a place where – more or less – LGBT lay and ordained can thrive and feel supported. You don’t have to travel too far outside the bounds of the city to experience a quite different reality.

Why am I suspicious about the ‘shared conversation’ process? Partly because ‘conversations’ have been going on in one form or another since at least the Consultations of the ‘70s. And yet it’s not clear that the C of E institution qua institution has shifted that much.

However, I am more concerned about whether the conversations will truly be conversations. The notion of ‘conversation’ includes the meanings of a ‘turning together’ or a ‘changing together’ as well as a living amongst or dwelling together. It is a mesmerizing possibility, but given things like the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement (aka The Valentine’s Day Massacre) it’s difficult for those of us who have been traditionally excluded from welcome in the church to trust that those with power, privilege and authority will genuinely place their privilege at risk of conversion, of conversation.

I believe that, in conversation, a mutual conversion to one other is certainly possible and I guess many of us would still be willing to give it a go. But we’d better hope God is around to give all participants a reality check, a regular kick in the shins.

This week Accepting Evangelicals has published A Woman’s Courage and the House of Bishops…. This discusses the case of Vicky Beeching who is a Patron of AE. But it then goes on to discuss the meeting next week of the College of Bishops:

…Next week, the Church of England’s College of Bishops meet to talk about sexuality. They will spend 2 days together with facilitators trying to find a way to have open conversations on the issue.

According to the CofE briefing paper, “Under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, Canon David Porter, a team of around 20 trained facilitators will support a process of conversations across the Church of England. They will bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed and to keep the conversations to the objective of seeking understanding rather than having any predetermined trajectory. The process will begin at the meeting of the College of Bishops in September where the bishops will spend two days working in small groups with facilitators.”

These shared conversations are essential for the Church of England, but they will only work if the conversations are truly open and honest. That will take courage.
There are many Bishops who support same-sex relationships but have been too afraid to say what they really think. As one diocesan Bishop said to me at General Synod, “Benny, you know what I think, but I’m chicken – I am too afraid to say it!”

There is also a sizeable minority of the Bishops who are gay themselves. For many of them it is an open secret – one which is only protected by the loyalty and compassion of others which will not ‘out them’ to the world. How stressful must it be for them to continually keep quiet or deflect the conversation or sign up to statements which strike at the very heart of their being.

If the shared conversations next week are to move the Church forward, there must be a greater honesty, greater courage, and greater grace at work than ever before.
Women are renowned for their moral courage, and although there are no women Bishops in post yet, perhaps the courage of people like Vicky Beeching can inspire and challenge our Bishops to have a more open and honest conversation next week. It is certainly long overdue.

The Church Times carries a news report on the forthcoming meeting, see Bishop ‘not optimistic’ on eve of shared conversations by Madeleine Davies.

This article has now been replaced by a new one reporting on the recorded interview published on 15 September, but it still contains the remarks quoted below.

…On Tuesday, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said: “It won’t be an easy conversation – more difficult than that on women bishops – but we are absolutely going with this. . . It is clear that the facilitated conversations over women bishops did make a difference in terms of helping people understand each other better.”

He was, however, “not optimistic about the outcomes. Archbishop Justin has broached the concept of ‘good disagreement’. I don’t think we know what that might look like. There is a huge polarity between those who want the C of E to hold to its historic understanding of marriage – and not to change its canonical and liturgical formulae – and those who want the C of E to embrace total equal treatment, expressed in a change in relation to doctrine, marriage, and pastoral practice. Some are looking for a ‘two integrities’ approach – personally, I can’t see the Church holding together on that kind of basis.”


LGBTI Anglican Coalition supports Shared Conversations

Press Release

LGBTI Anglican Coalition supports Church of England’s Shared Conversations

From 15 to 17 September, the College of Bishops of the Church of England will be meeting for two days to start the process of Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.

The LGBTI Anglican Coalition welcomes this first step and our members will be praying for a successful outcome to the meeting. Although we have reservations about the context in which this is taking place – articulated very clearly in the recent letter sent from the Trustees of Changing Attitude to all those attending the meeting – nevertheless we welcome the initiative, and hope it bears fruit.

We believe that there are two specific ways in which the College can and should signal that the meeting has been successful.

* The first is to affirm in public that some of their members are themselves gay or bisexual.

* The second is to affirm that within the College there exists a diversity of opinion about the policy issues surrounding sexuality, including both the recognition of civil partnerships and the acceptability of same-sex marriage as a legal right.

These two small steps would do much to enhance the credibility of the bishops, and to encourage LGBTI clergy and laity to participate in subsequent stages of the conversations process.


Jeremy Pemberton files employment tribunal claim

The following statement has been issued by the lawyers acting for Canon Jeremy Pemberton:


“Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first British clergyman to enter a same sex marriage, has confirmed that he has filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. The action is being brought because of the sanctions imposed upon him as a result of his marriage. Canon Pemberton married his long term partner Laurence Cunnington in April of this year. Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused. This led to the withdrawal of a job offer from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Commenting on his decision to issue proceedings in respect of the alleged discrimination that he has suffered, Canon Pemberton said “I am deeply saddened that I have had to take this step against church authorities. However, I feel I have been left with little choice, having found myself being punished and discriminated against simply for exercising my right to marry. I will be making no further comment until these matters have been resolved through the court process.”

Among those assisting Canon Pemberton in his claim are Helen Trotter, a specialist employment and discrimination barrister from Kings Chambers and leading ecclesiastical lawyer, the Revd Justin Gau, from Pump Court Chambers.”

8th September 2014