Thinking Anglicans


Cole Moreton Five ways for the Church of England to stop making a complete and utter fool of itself over money

Kelvin Holdsworth The Archbishop, the gays and their sins

Charlotte Gale Ten things I have learned about General Synod


Good Disagreement: David Ison writes for Accepting Evangelicals

Accepting Evangelicals has today launched a new section of its website, titled Good Disagreement.

This includes an article of the same title, by the Dean of St Paul’s, David Ison.

A pdf version of his article is also available. Here is a short extract, but you need to read the whole piece:

…And in the light of Reform’s response, there are also questions to be asked about the whole enterprise of ‘Shared Conversations’. Reflection ‘in the light of scripture’ brings in two of the classical Anglican markers of theological authority, the Bible and Reason, to which should be added an awareness of and exploration of Tradition – which requires a serious engagement with history which is not necessarily present in the heat of the debate. Further, the idea that there can be ‘safe space’ and a ‘safe environment’ for people to be vulnerable about their sexuality could only be true where those with power relinquish it. How reasonable is it to expect gay ordained and lay people, in a Church which discriminates against and condemns the expression of their sexuality, in a wider British culture which only very recently has begun to be more open about sexuality and where homophobic bullying and even murder are still current, let alone a world-wide culture in which homosexuality is in many places punished by imprisonment or death, should make themselves vulnerable to those who may want to exclude them? Will heterosexuals begin the discussion by sharing their struggles and experiences with their own sexuality, including those of their sins and shortcomings which might open them to the charge of hypocrisy, the loss of their reputation and authority, and possible disciplinary action? After all, far more damage is done in and to the Church by misbehaving heterosexuals than by gay people.

Personally, I think that the idea of ‘Shared Conversations’ is a positive initial step, but one which is unlikely on its own to have the kind of buy-in which is necessary to make a sufficient difference to how the Church engages with the issues around sexuality. A process which requires its participants to truly hear, and even be vulnerable to, one another, requires rather more investment of time and will than appears likely to be given at present through what is proposed for these conversations: they are a beginning rather than an end – which is one of the reasons why Reform are reluctant to participate, as they imply more beyond them. But, as the group discussions in General Synod about the ordination of women as bishops helped participants to really begin to meet those with whom they disagree, so these conversations have the power to do the same: whether that leads to change, and what that change would be, will be a further question…

But that’s not all. Ruth Gledhill has interviewed David Ison for Christian Today and her article is titled Dean of St Paul’s David Ison calls on CofE to consider gay marriage. There is a video recording of the interview linked at the bottom of that page, and there is a transcript of the text also provided. Her report for Christian Today begins thus:

The Dean of St Paul’s has called for the Church of England to consider what accepting same-sex marriage would mean for the future.

The Church of England is seen by many as “toxic” and “oppressive” because of its stance on women and gays, he said. Some gay Christians had even committed suicide because of the pressure of being told they had to be celibate.

Dr David Ison says today: “We need to consider what the acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Church would mean in reality, and how it would be understood in relation to the theology of Christian marriage and the chequered history of that institution, as well as contemporary social practice around sexuality.”

Dr Ison, who was brought up in the conservative evangelical tradition but changed his mind about homosexuality after meeting gay Christians at university and witnessing first-hand the damage done by the traditional teaching, added: “We are in a situation where because of its views about women and about gay people, the church has been seen as toxic or oppressive.

“That breaks my heart, that that should be the case, when the church is there to bear witness to freedom, life and hope in the world. Let’s see what we can do to change that…”


The Church of England and the living wage

The Sun newspaper (in an article behind its paywall) reported this morning that some cathedrals and churches are hiring staff on salaries below the living wage. This is despite last week’s pastoral letter from the House of Bishops calling on employers to pay at least this amount.

Tim Wyatt reports the story for the Church Times: Investigation into church salaries leads to Living Wage row.
So too does BBC News: Church of England pays some workers below living wage.

There is a press release from the Church of England, and comments from the Archbishop of Canterbury.



Rose Hudson-Wilkin Christian Today What Christians get wrong about Politics

Angus Ritchie Huffington Post What Do the Bishops Know About Politics? More Than You’d Think…

Eliza Filby Church Times The Church, the ballot-box, and Mrs Thatcher

Economist Gender, violence and religion: When north and south agree

Linda Woodhead Theos What is the future for religion in Britain?

Giles Fraser The Guardian Give me hypocrites over cynics any time. At least they aspire to something

Antonia Blumberg Huffington Post Christians Celebrate Ash Wednesday Around The World [Photos From Around The World]


General Synod reports

Nicholas Hills, the Administrative Secretary in the Central Secretariat at Church House Westminster, has sent a summary of last week’s General Synod business to diocesan secretaries and archdeacons. The Diocese of Liverpool has published a slightly abbreviated version on its website. The original letter is also available.

Although as usual the detailed reports in the Church Times are only available to subscribers, this article by Madeleine Davies is free to all: Not on the agenda for Synod, Green remains hot topic.


House of Bishops' pastoral letter – more reports and comments

Our first roundup is here.

Tim Wyatt Church Times Bishops’ call for vision provokes anger

Gaby Hinsliff The Guardian Want to make yourself look less nasty? Avoid picking fights with the church

Michael Sadgrove Ash Wednesday, the Bishops and the Election

Ian Paul Which party should I vote for?

This week’s podcast from the Church of England starts with interviews with the Bishops of Norwich and Leicester.


Secretary General William Fittall To Step Down

Church of England press release

Secretary General To Step Down
20 February 2015

William Fittall, the Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and General Synod of the Church of England, has today issued a statement to members of the General Synod announcing his intention to leave his post on November 30th this year.

Mr. Fittall, 61, took up the role of Secretary General in 2002 having previously worked in a number of senior posts in Whitehall. Announcing his intended departure, Mr. Fittall said:

“After a succession of demanding roles I have, with my wife, concluded that the time has come for me to retire from full time work and move to a more flexible pattern of life.

I am giving a substantial period of notice in the hope that this will facilitate a smooth and orderly transition. It is likely to take around three months for the selection process to be completed and the person chosen may then have several months’ notice to serve from their present role.”

Responding to the announcement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

“William has made a substantial and prodigious contribution to the work and life of the Church of England. For over a decade he has been unstinting in his efforts to ably lead the staff of the Council and professionally support the work of the Synod. He has been indefatigable in his service and I will personally miss him greatly.”

Statement from William Fittall

“This is to inform you that I have given the Archbishops formal notice of my intention to conclude my period of service as Secretary General on 30 November, immediately after the induction and inauguration of the new Synod.

By then it will be more than forty years since I started work in Whitehall and more than thirteen since my arrival at Church House. After a succession of demanding roles I have, with my wife, concluded that the time has come for me to retire from full time work and move to a more flexible pattern of life.

I am giving a substantial period of notice in the hope that this will facilitate a smooth and orderly transition. It is likely to take around three months for the selection process to be completed and the person chosen may then have several months’ notice to serve from their present role. The Archbishops have, therefore, asked that the process for securing a successor should be put in hand immediately.

When the time comes, there will be more to say about the experience and privilege of having occupied this unique role. In the meantime there is still much work to be done, not least in relation to the reform and renewal programme, the Church’s engagement with government after the forthcoming election and the preparations for a new synodical quinquennium.”

William Fittall
Secretary General


A Programme for Reform and Renewal – Post-Synod Briefing

General Synod members have been sent A Programme for Reform and Renewal – Post-Synod Briefing, written by William Fittall, the Secretary General. The briefing outlines the programme, details what Synod decided last week, and looks ahead to what happens next.

The briefing does not appear to be available on the Church of England website, but David Thomson, the Bishop of Huntingdon, has published it on his website.


House of Bishops' pastoral letter – reports and comments

Updated Tuesday evening and Wednesday

Tim Wyatt Church Times House of Bishops calls for a new politics ahead of election

Esther Addley The Guardian Church of England calls for ‘fresh moral vision’ in British politics

BBC News Church of England urges ‘fresh moral vision’ from politicians
Church of England: Public should ‘ask the big questions’

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Church of England calls for a ‘new direction’ in British Politics

John Bingham The Telegraph Bishops vow to take on ‘sex appeal’ of Russell Brand’s ‘don’t vote’ message
John Bingham and Ben Riley-Smith The Telegraph Thatcherism is finished – declares Church of England

Nigel Morris The Independent Russell Brand’s ‘sex appeal’ will deter voters, the Church of England says

David Pocklington Law & Religion UK Bishops’ Pastoral Statement: 2015 General Election

Nick Baines Bishops and politics

Malcolm Brown (Director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England) blogs: Who is my Neighbour?


Aisha Gani The Guardian Church of England bishops’ pastoral letter: key points

The Guardian editorial The Guardian view on the church and the election: talking sense

Kiran Stacey and Barney Thompson Financial Times Church of England rebukes political parties for lack of vision

Anoosh Chakelian New Statesman How the Church wants you to vote

James Kirkup and Tim Stanley The Telegraph Does the Church have a place in politics?

Symon Hill Ekklesia The bishops’ election letter is mild, not radical

Further update

Isabel Hardman The Spectator Tories and the Church: the 30-year war continues

Archbishop Cranmer “Tory Fury” over Church of England letter is a confected Tory tantrum

Peter Dominiczak The Telegraph Church of England campaigning for EU integration

Giles Fraser The Guardian The bishops have a point: our politics is stale and unambitious

Michael White The Guardian C of E’s naive intervention in politics prompts fierce storm in a teacup

Steven Swinford The Telegraph Iain Duncan Smith mocks Church of England’s ‘dwindling relevence’

Nick Spencer Theos Burning bishops’ fingers

Jonathan Chaplin KLICE ‘Who is my neighbour?’ – the Church of England finds a new political voice (also republished on Fulcrum)


House of Bishops' Pastoral Letter on the 2015 General Election

Updated Tuesday evening

Press release

House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the 2015 General Election
17 February 2015

The House of Bishops of the Church of England have today expressed the hope for political parties to discern “a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be” ahead of the General Election in May of this year.

In a pastoral letter from the House of Bishops to the people and parishes of the Church of England, the Bishops urge Christians to consider the question how can we “build the kind of society which many people say they want but which is not yet being expressed in the vision of any of the parties?”

The letter also encourages church members to engage in the political process ahead of the General Election and to put aside self-interest and vote for ‘the common good’: “The privileges of living in a democracy mean that we should use our votes thoughtfully, prayerfully and with the good of others in mind, not just our own interests.”

The letter also states that: “In Britain, we have become so used to believing that self-interest drives every decision, that it takes a leap of imagination to argue that there should be stronger institutions for those we disagree with as well as for those ‘on our side.’ Breaking free of self-interest and welcoming our opponents as well as our supporters into a messy, noisy, yet rich and creative community of communities is, perhaps, the only way we will enrich our almost-moribund political culture.”

The letter defends the right of the Church to enter into the political arena: “It is not possible to separate the way a person perceives his or her place in the created order from their beliefs, religious or otherwise, about how the world’s affairs ought to be arranged. The claim that religion and political life must be kept separate is, in any case, frequently disingenuous – most politicians and pundits are happy enough for the churches to speak on political issues so long as the church agrees with their particular line.”

The pastoral letter draws on the experience of the Church of England as a Christian presence in every community to warn of the disengagement between politicians and the people. They note that “with few exceptions, politicians are not driven merely by cynicism or self-interest” but nevertheless, “the different parties have failed to offer attractive visions of the kind of society and culture they wish to see…. There is no idealism in this prospectus”.

The letter encourages political parties across the spectrum to seek bold new visions of hope and idealism rather than “sterile arguments about who might manage the existing system best.”

The bishops also argue Britain is in need of a stronger politics of community to boost solidarity between people and reverse a drift towards social isolation: “The extent of loneliness in society today, with the attendant problems of mental and physical health, is one indication of how far we have drifted into a society of strangers. But that drift is far from complete – and few people, if asked, would say that a society of strangers represents a vision of society which they desire.”

The letter specifically avoids advocacy for one any political party but instead encourages those in the Church to seek from political candidates a commitment to building a society of common bonds over individual consumerism. The bishops say Britain is hungry for a new approach to political life which reaffirms our ties at a national, regional, community and neighbourhood level. There is a need for a strong corrective to halt the move towards increasing social isolation, they say, through strengthening the idea that that Britain is still a “community of communities.” This, they say, is a theme which has roots in the historic traditions of different parties: “We are seeking, not a string of policy offers, but a way of conceiving and ordering our political and economic life which can be pursued in a conservative idiom, a socialist idiom, a liberal idiom – and by others not aligned to party.”

The pastoral letter argues that the Church of England finds its voice through being a presence in every community with churches remaining one of the primary agents of social action and social care in parishes across the country. The letter argues that Intermediate institutions such as housing associations, credit unions and churches are needed for their role in building stronger communities. A thriving society needs many intermediate institutions, they say, including those who disagree with each other.

The letter also recognises the inherent danger in the current situation where people are disengaging from politics, arguing that restoring faith in both politicians and the political process requires a new politics that engages at both a deeper more local level within a wider, broader vision for the country as a whole.

In the letter, the bishops warn against despair and urge people to vote in the General Election: “Unless we exercise the democratic rights that our ancestors struggled for, we will share responsibility for the failures of the political classes. It is the duty of every Christian adult to vote, even though it may have to be a vote for something less than a vision that inspires us.”


The Pastoral letter can be read here.

A guide to the pastoral letter and its contents can be found here.

The statements from the Bishop of Norwich and Bishop of Leicester can be found by clicking on the link on their names.

The Church of England & Church Urban Fund research “Church in Action” can be found at:

Updated to add links to pdf versions of dock files.

guide to the pastoral letter
statement from Bishop of Norwich
statement from Bishop of Leicester


Bishop of Sherborne

Graham Kings, the suffragan Bishop of Sherborne in the diocese of Salisbury, will be moving to be Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion in the summer.

Mission Theology website: Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion

Salisbury diocesan website: New Job for Bishop Graham

Fulcrum website: Partnership for Publishing New Voices: Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion

Southwark diocesan website: The Rt Revd Dr Graham Kings


Green report: after Synod now what?

Our previous roundup was: Following up on the Green Report.

Since then, there wasn’t any proper debate on it at the General Synod.

Andrew Lightbown has continued to offer comment:

Both of these articles deserve to be read in full, and taken seriously by the management of the Church of England. Here is an excerpt, but do read both of them in full.

…Let’s have a look at the ‘Christian leadership tradition’ drawing on the Rule of Benedict…

In chapter 3 of his rule Benedict acknowledges that some decisions can only be taken by the most senior member of the community. Accordingly he places two obligations on the abbot or abbess:

  • when any business of importance is to be considered in the monastery, the abbot or abbess should summon the whole community together and,
  • the community should be summoned for such consultation because it often happens that the Lord makes the best course clear to one of the younger members. Benedict endorses, and actively seeks out, the ‘wisdom of youth.’ Does the Church?

Benedict also tells his audience that it is only ‘when questions of lesser importance arise in the concerns of the monastery,that the abbot or abbess should consult with seniors alone.’

If we accept Benedict’s logic and apply it – reasoning by analogy – to the ‘discussions’ around the Green Report we can only presume that the House of Bishops regard the identification and development of the next generation of leaders as a matter of ‘lesser importance!’ Matters to be discussed by the bishops alone…


Synod Question on Human sexuality and clergy preferment

Another question from General Synod on Tuesday with the question and answer from the booklet, and my transcription from the audio of the supplementary question and answer.

The Revd Dr Jo Spreadbury (St Albans) to ask the Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission:
Q15 The House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (15 February 2014) states:

“(25) The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.”

Given the high value the Church places on “theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity”, is the Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission able to assure Synod that its policy and practice is, and will continue to be, that clergy who “fashion their lives consistently with [the Church’s] teaching” will not be barred from preferment on the grounds that they have argued for “a change in [the Church‟s] teaching on marriage and human sexuality”?

The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply
A Yes. When candidates are being considered for a particular See their teaching on a range of issues is, however, among the many considerations that may properly be taken into account when considering their relative merits for that appointment.

Supplementary question

Jo Spreadbury: I just wanted to clarify what current policy and practice is and what it might continue to be if I may, to ask, having directed the CNC not to vote for one of the candidates in the Exeter and the Edmundsbury appointment processes because of the effect on the Anglican Communion, will Your Grace continue to use what amounts to an unconstitutional veto in future appointments?

Archbishop of Canterbury: I really can’t comment on what goes on in CNCs. We are bound by a promise of confidentiality which is strictly held in most cases. It is also the case that the Crown Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary keep a close eye on and follow up anything that looks like a breach of normal practice.


Synod question on Task Groups and their membership

This is one of the questions answered at General Synod on Tuesday. As an experiment at this group of sessions the questions and original answers were printed in a booklet and not read out, and the person answering merely referred to the printed answer. Any supplementaries were then taken orally, and I have transcribed these from the audio.

Mrs Anne Martin (Guildford) to ask the Secretary General:
Q46 Could the Secretary General please supply General Synod members with a list of all the Task Groups in existence (including those presenting reports in this Synod, those not presenting reports and the Spending Plans Task Group), along with their current membership?

Mr William Fittall to reply
A The reports of five Task Groups have been circulated to the Synod in connection with the February Group of Sessions, namely, Resourcing the Future (GS 1978), Resourcing Ministerial Education (GS 1979), Simplification (GS 1980), Discerning and Nurturing Senior Leaders (attached to GS 1982) and Optimising the Role of the NCIs (GS Misc 1094). The membership of the groups is included in each report.

It is difficult to produce a comprehensive list of other task groups because there is no standard definition of the term and groups can be established to undertake focused work in a wide variety of circumstances by any number of national bodies. I have, however, placed on the notice board the membership of the Archbishops’ Task Group on Evangelism, the Task Group on responsible Savings and Credit, the Spending Plans Task Group, the Turning up the Volume Group, the Church Buildings Review Group, the Environment Working Group and the Deployment Task Group.

Supplementary questions

Anne Martin: Thank your for the reply and the action taken. Can I also ask, will the terms of reference for each task group be made available to General Synod members?

William Fittall: We can certainly seek to do so. I think that the point, just to draw out, is that even at national level the Church of England is quite a complex institution and some people may have a fantasy that there is a sort of central air traffic control that ensures that all these bodies are set up in an orderly fashion with terms of reference and a single process for appointing members. The reality is that a lot of commissions, councils, boards and so on do set up groups to undertake particular tasks. So I can certainly try and assemble those for you, but it doesn’t all sit neatly on a database.

Vasantha Gnanadoss: Given that black and asian people are very poorly represented in the membership of the task groups will you encourage the people responsible for making appointments to do better in future?

William Fittall: I think in an earlier question there was a reference to guidance that the Appointments Committee has produced on making appointments, and that does very much make the point that’s just been expressed in relation to diversity, and that guidance does apply to all appointments, not just those for which the Appointments Committee itself is responsible. So that is a long way of saying yes.

This last answer refers to an earlier question, which is given below the fold.




Today is Valentine’s Day. Kelvin Holdsworth has 10 Tips on How to Date a Priest.

Brian Orme 10 Dangerous Myths About Church Growth

Giles Fraser The Guardian I regret that the devil is being made redundant. He’ll be much missed

Christopher Howse The Telegraph A throne like a church spire

A conversation about Time with Br Geoffrey Tristram and the Rt Rev Nick Knisely: Eternity is Real


Statement on the work of Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint

The Church of England issued this statement today.

Statement on the work of Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint
13 February 2015

The Church of England have today issued the following statement:

“The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are grateful to Lord Green for the contribution and expertise that he has brought to the work of the group on leadership training and formation. The leadership report stands on its own merits: it is about preparation and consideration for appointment to posts of wide responsibility, pastoral care of those being considered and a means of ensuing proper inclusion across the whole range of the church. The report was completed and submitted before the current media focus on historic allegations against HSBC at the time Lord Green was either CEO or Chairman.

In the recent coverage concerning Lord Green none of the reports suggest there is evidence that he personally encouraged or orchestrated any scheme of tax evasion. The Church of England’s opposition to tax evasion or aggressive tax management strategies remains firm. The reported actions of HSBC Switzerland were wrong and there is obviously deep concern about the issues revealed.

Lord Green’s involvement in the production of the report on leadership development has been valuable and the Archbishops thank him for his contribution to this important ongoing work for the Church of England.”


Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill 2014-15

The Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill 2014-15 had its second reading in the House of Lords on Thursday. The verbatim Hansard record of the debate is here.

The remaining House of Lords stages are scheduled for 26 February (Committee stage) and 12 March (Report stage).

There are links to the text of the bill, and a summary of its progress through Parliament here: Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill 2014-15.


General Synod – Thursday sessions

Updated Sunday

order paper for the day

official summary of business
Thursday morning
Thursday afternoon

Speech on draft safeguarding legislation by Geoffrey Tattersall

Speech on the report on mission and growth in the rural church by the Bishop of Knaresborough

Press reports

BBC Funeral law change voted through by Church of England

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Suicides can receive Anglican funerals, says General Synod
No sin, no devil: Church of England debates its baptismal liturgy


audio of Thursday’s business


Shared Conversations website

There is now an “official website for the Shared Conversations on Scripture, Mission and Human Sexuality taking place in the Church of England” here.

The information already on the site includes:

Dates and regional groupings

Programme – each of the regional Shared Conversations will take place over three days, beginning at 10:30 am on the first day and finishing at 4:00 pm on the third day. The full programme is here.

FAQs – How are participants selected?
What is the intended outcome of the Shared Conversations?
How is the safety of participants in the Shared Conversations being protected?

St Michael’s House Protocols – to govern the conversations

1 Comment

Resources for the shared conversations

Resources for the shared conversations on scripture, mission and sexuality published have been published today.

Press release

Resources for the shared conversations on scripture, mission and sexuality published
12 February 2015

The Church of England has today published a set of resources called ‘Grace and Disagreement’ for the Shared Conversations on Scripture, Mission and Sexuality.

The first booklet outlines the thinking behind the conversations, the process and their place in the life of the church. The second booklet comprises four essays, with varying views, which participants in the conversations are asked to read prior to taking part in the conversations.

The resources are available here.

The available resources are two booklets.

The first booklet, which can be downloaded here, outlines the thinking behind the conversations, the process and their place in the life of the church.

The second booklet, download here, comprises four essays, including two on scripture, which participants in the conversations are asked to read.