Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – Wednesday session

Updated Thursday

General Synod met privately in groups this morning.

The afternoon session was entirely devoted to a series of four debates on discipleship and issues arising from the Task Group reports; the official summary is here: General Synod Feb 15: Wednesday afternoon.


order paper for Wednesday

audio of Wednesday’s business


Churches Mutual Credit Union formally launched

The Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of other member churches press the button to launch the Churches Mutual Credit Union

The Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of other member churches press the button to launch the Churches Mutual Credit Union. (photograph by Peter Owen)

The Churches Mutual Credit Union was formally launched at Church House today.

Church House issued this press release to mark the occasion.

Churches Mutual Credit Union formally launched
11 February 2015

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings receives a major boost today with the launch of the Churches Mutual Credit Union Ltd. (CMCU).

The Most Rev Justin Welby joined the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John Chalmers and the President of the Methodist Conference, The Rev Ken Howcroft, at Church House, central London, to celebrate their respective churches’ collaboration in forming the flagship credit union.

The CMCU, which also includes the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales, will offer a range of savings and loan products. Fairness will be at the heart of the CMCU’s values. Initially members will be able to invest in the ‘Founder Member’s Bond’ with ordinary savers accounts and loans becoming available in March. In due course CMCU will offer ISA savings accounts.

At least 60,000 individuals, notably ordained ministers, licensed lay ministers, elders, employees and trustees of churches (e.g. Parochial Church Council members) and church charities are eligible to join, along with churches and Anglican and Church of Scotland charities as corporate members.

Individuals can join CMCU from tomorrow (Thursday February 12).

Archbishop Justin said: “My congratulations go to all involved in establishing the Churches Mutual Credit Union as it is launched today.

“Credit unions have the potential to make a transformative contribution to our financial system and I am delighted that it will be possible for clergy, church employees and church trustees to belong to a credit union focused on supporting their particular financial needs.

“As the first supporter to sign CMCU’s application to the regulator in 2013 I am looking forward to being one of the first to sign up as a member when registration opens tomorrow.

“It is a notable strength of CMCU that it brings together churches from England, Scotland and Wales in this shared venture.

“I hope and expect that the experience of belonging to CMCU will encourage clergy and church workers to become increasingly effective advocates for credit unions in their communities.”

Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, CMCU President, and a former President of ABCUL (the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) said: “After several years of development this is a great day for our churches and a great day for the British credit union sector.

“We recognise the strength of the credit union model and wish to offer that to our ministers and employees. Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme.

“The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all.”


The CMCU project began in 2008 and is supported by the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church and the Church in Wales.

The CMCU was given formal authorisation by the regulatory authorities in December, after a rigorous process undertaken by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme covers deposits up to £85,000.


General Synod – Tuesday session

Updated Wednesday and Thursday

Official summary of the day’s business: General Synod Feb 15: Tuesday afternoon

Today’s Questions and Answers (but not the supplementaries) are online.

Press reports

John Bingham The Telegraph Personal chauffeurs and episcopal mansions – life for Church of England’s good shepherds
Church of England: Rural churches could disappear within ten years

Press Association (in The Guardian) Church of England questioned over ‘lavish’ spending on bishops’ homes

General synod cartoon by Dave Walker


Carey Lodge Christian Today Archbishop Justin Welby: Evangelism is vital to the Church

Jack Sommers Huffington Post Church Of England Warned It Could Disappear From Parts Of Britain Within A Decade

audio of Tuesday’s business

order paper for Tuesday


Christians in Iraq

Church House press release

Archbishop Warda addresses Synod about the persecution of Christians in Iraq
10 February 2015

Christianity in Iraq is going through one of the worst and hardest stages of its long history, the Archbishop of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil, Iraq, has told the General Synod.

In an address at Church House, Westminster, Archbishop Bashar Warda said Iraqi Christians who have been forced to flee their villages during the past year are in “desperate” need of financial and material support.

The Archbishop’s speech is available here.


Archbishop of Canterbury's presidential address

Archbishop Justin Welby gave the presidential address to the General Synod this afternoon.

Read the full text of the address here.

In his presidential address to Synod today, Archbishop Justin spoke about evangelism and witness, one of the three priority areas of his ministry.


Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham: Right Reverend Paul Williams

The next Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham is to be the Right Reverend Paul Williams, it was announced by Number 10 this morning.

Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham: Right Reverend Paul Williams
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
First published:10 February 2015
Part of: Community and society

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Paul Gavin Williams for election as Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Paul Gavin Williams, BA, Area Bishop of Kensington, in the Diocese of London, for election as Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham in succession to the Right Reverend Paul Roger Butler, BA, on his translation to the See of Durham on 20 January 2014.

Notes for editors

Paul Williams (aged 47) studied at Grey College, University of Durham and trained for the ordained ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He served his title curacy at St James Muswell Hill in the Diocese of London from 1992 to 1995 and then as Associate Vicar at Christ Church Clifton, Bristol from 1995 to 1999. From 1999 to 2009 he was Rector of St James Gerrards Cross with Fulmer in South Buckinghamshire and an Honorary Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford from 2007 to 2009. Since 2009 he has been Area Bishop of Kensington, with oversight for the mission of the church across a diverse and dynamic part of West London, covering 6 boroughs. Paul has made a wider contribution in the area of church growth, leadership training, schools development and the church’s ministry among children and younger people.

Paul is married to Sarah, and they have 3 sons, Edward (16), Thomas (14) and Joseph (12). They are also foster carers for their local borough and have a close engagement in wider issues relating to the care of looked-after children. Paul’s leisure interests encompass a number of sports, especially football and cricket. He grew up in the West County where his father was an electrical engineer and his mother was among the first women to be an ordained priest in 1994.


Financial issues around Resourcing Ministerial Education

The Bishop of Sheffield has issued this clarification of the financial issues around Resourcing Ministerial Education.

General Synod begins tomorrow and we are just a day or so away from the initial debate on Resourcing Ministerial Education.

My attention has been drawn to a couple of posts and circulars about RME which attempt to argue that the proposals, if agreed, signal “an end to residential training”.

This is very wide of the mark indeed. I look forward to answering the points raised fully in the Synod debate but it may help Synod members and others to have a few points of clarification in advance.

The RME Report is very clear that we are looking to see a very significant increase in the numbers of ordinands in training and that we see the importance of all current forms of training pathways (including residential training) as part of the mixed economy.

The Report is also very clear that this uplift in the numbers in training cannot be achieved without a significant increase in the total resource allocated (we have worked with a figure of a 50% increase in funding or £10 million per annum to correspond with the potential 50% increase in ordinands).

The overall background to the Report is therefore about growth and confidence in the sector not about erosion. Nor is the RME report about doing more with less resource but about increasing resource commensurate with the number of ordinands.

The anxiety which leads to some predicting (prematurely) the demise of residential training rests on some of the detailed proposals, particularly Proposals 6 and 7.

The Report signals clearly that all of these proposals will be subject to further detailed work and consultation with dioceses and TEI’s in the coming months. General Synod is not being asked to approve these proposals but to approve the general vision and direction of the Report.

Proposal 6 assigns a standard grant to each ordinand and proposes giving the diocese a larger role in decisions about training pathways. At present, the decision about pathways is entirely separate from the consequences in terms of costs. Under the RME proposals the diocese’s decision will be made within a framework in which Bishop’s Guidelines, the options available in training institutions and the candidate’s own vocation and preferences will all have a part. A diocese will be able to invest money not spent on one candidate’s training on another’s training and therefore able to fund candidates on both residential and non-residential pathways (as at present) providing we set the standard grant at the right level. Dioceses will have training budgets which have to be invested in the training of candidates – in others words there will be mitigating factors which will prevent this simply becoming a cost-cutting exercise.

Proposal 7 proposes discontinuing the pooling of maintenance grants for candidates families in training. Please note that we are not proposing discontinuing maintenance grants for families – simply the pooling of these costs (which currently amount to £5 million per annum or 25% of the total pooled IME budget of £20 million). This is a very large investment overall and again, one of the purposes of the proposal is to connect a decision about investment in a candidate’s support with the consequences of that decision. Dioceses will continue to have the discretion to invest the amount they currently invest in candidate support in the support of married students and their families. However dioceses may want to explore with students other means of support for candidates where this is a priority.

There is much still to be determined about how the funding will flow. This will be the subject of further consultation in the coming weeks.

However, we first need to establish through the Synod debates this week whether the General Synod will support the overall vision and acknowledge that additional funding will be needed to make it possible. Only when these prior questions have been answered will it be possible to explore in detail how the arrangements in Proposals 1-12 would work and the effect on institutions.

My own hope would be that as a result of the RME proposals we would see the number of ordinands rise overall and the number of candidates in residential training remain at at least its present level in terms of numbers. I therefore believe that residential training has a secure and long term future as a key part of the mixed economy of training the Church of England offers

+Steven Sheffield



Madeleine Davies A response to Stephen Fry

Giles Fraser The Guardian I don’t believe in the God that Stephen Fry doesn’t believe in either

Maurice Glasman Church Times After the bad and the ugly — good economics


Following up on the Green Report

Updated Friday

As the next General Synod meeting approaches, where several questions have been tabled about the Green Report, there have also been several articles published about it.

Andrew Lightbown has written The Green Report: ‘authors of the apocalypse?’ I think so.

..It is so shot full of assumptions as to beggar belief. It is the product of romantic and lazy thinking, especially with respect to the ‘cult of the leader,’ and the capacity of business school style training to offer appropriate forms of training outside the world of business. (It has many other faults as well – but lets leave these to one side).

I hope the report disappears into the long grass never to be seen again.I strongly believe that the style of management, and leadership, training it proposes will do real and long lasting damage to the Church and, therefore society for, a healthy society needs a healthy church.

My reasoning is that the proposals seek to mimic a mode of training that has caused significant damage in the corporate world

Mike Higton has adopted a different approach in a series of five articles headed Re-Reading the Green Report, in which

Rather than setting out yet another critique, I want to try for retrieval and repair.

The five articles are:


Andrew Lightbown has a response: Four questions to ask of the Green Review at Synod.

I’ve enjoyed Mike Higton’s blogs on the Green Review. I appreciate his analysis of the text and, the reconciliatory tone he adopts. I agree with the majority of what he says and, I hope Synod take on board his critique.

I have read, and re-read, the report and still find it difficult to accept that its recommendations can do anything other than damage the common good. My starting point has always been that the recommendations are an extension of the authors subjective biases and assumptions.

Below are four sets of questions which I hope might be useful when debating the report at Synod next week…


Forward in Faith: the new website

Forward in Faith has launched a new website. As their own announcement says:

The new Resources section includes detailed advice to PCCs and Parish Priests about passing a Resolution under the House of Bishops’ Declaration, together with leaflets and other resources to facilitate consideration of the issues. There is also a full commentary on the House of Bishops’ Declaration.

Here are links to some of the new materials:

And there is more. Worth a look.


Forward in Faith: The Ordination of the Bishop of Burnley

from the Forward in Faith website:

The Ordination of the Bishop of Burnley

Forward in Faith expresses its gratitude to the Archbishop of York for making arrangements for the Bishop of Burnley’s ordination which gave full expression to the Guiding Principles enshrined in the House of Bishops’ Declaration.

The first Guiding Principle speaks of the respect and canonical obedience that lawful office-holders deserve. The Archbishop of York presided in York Minister and the Bishop of Burnley took the oath of due obedience to him. No one present could have been in any doubt as to the Archbishop’s metropolitical authority or the respect in which he is held.

The fourth and fifth Guiding Principles embody commitments to enabling those who, for theological reasons, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests to flourish, and to making sacramental and pastoral provision for us ‘in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing’.

The reference to a ‘degree of communion’ recognizes that full communion cannot exist where some bishops and priests are unable to receive the sacramental ministry of others. For over twenty years traditional catholic priests have been granted ordination by bishops with whom they enjoy full communion (because they can receive the ministry of all the priests whom those bishops ordain). The ordination of women as bishops gives rise to a need for similar provision for ordination to the episcopate. Such arrangements contribute to enabling our priests and bishops to flourish, allowing them to experience at the moment of ordination the full communion with the ordaining bishops that all other ordinands enjoy.

We are grateful that the service in York Minster was nevertheless characterized by a very high degree of communion and fellowship, expressed not least in the fact that all could receive communion together.

The arrangements determined by the Archbishop of York also contributed to ‘mutual flourishing’. We trust that no one imagines that the flourishing of traditional catholic ordinands could involve their being ordained by bishops whose sacramental ministry they cannot receive. If all the male bishops present had participated in the laying on of hands, the Bishop of Stockport (whose gracious presence we acknowledge with gratitude) would therefore have been alone in having to refrain from doing so. It would be difficult to see that as an expression of ‘mutual flourishing’.

Plainly, a future female Archbishop of York could not be the principal consecrator of a traditional catholic bishop. By delegating that ministry to the Bishop of Chichester, Archbishop Sentamu has ensured that there need be no difference between his role on this occasion and that of a future female archbishop. We hope that those who support the ordination of women as bishops will agree with us that any such distinction should be avoided.

The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract


Consecration of Philip North as Bishop of Burnley

Updated Tuesday

Philip North was consecrated as the Bishop of Burnley in York Minster today.

BBC News Bishop of Burnley: Rt Rev Philip North consecrated

Diocese of Blackburn Consecration of the Eleventh Bishop of Burnley at York Minster

The Archbishop of York wrote in the Yorkshire Post today about the arrangements for the consecration: Church can find a way to defeat fear and suspicion.
This article is also available on the Archbishop’s website: Bishops in the Church of God in England.


The Diocese of Blackburn has published an album of photographs.

Madeleine Davies Church Times This shows there’s a future for us, says new traditionalist Bishop


More about mitochondrial replacement therapy

Updated Tuesday morning

As we noted earlier, there appeared to be a discrepancy between what the Telegraph had reported the Bishop of Swindon as saying on Friday and the subsequent article that appeared in the Comment is free article on Saturday, listing him as joint author with Brendan McCarthy. Here is the full text of the emails sent to the Telegraph.

Church of England statement on Thursday

The Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s national adviser on medical ethics, said: “The Church of England accepts in certain circumstances that embryo research is permissible as long as it is under taken to alleviate human suffering and embryos are treated with respect. The Archbishops Council, which monitors this issue, does not feel that there has been sufficient scientific study or informed consultation into the ethics, safety and efficacy of mitochondria transfer.

“Without a clearer picture of the role mitochondria play in the transfer of hereditary characteristics, the Church does not feel it would be responsible to change the law at this time.

“The Church of England has responded to the latest Government consultation and awaits further consultation on this issue in due course.”

full text of Bishop of Swindon statement to Telegraph on Friday

As a bishop who has been closely involved with consultations around the technology, ethics, permissibility and regulation of mitochondrial replacement, I was more than a little surprised to read that the Church of England regards changing the law to permit this as irresponsible. That is not my understanding of our position and does not do justice to the response given on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council to the public consultation conducted by the HFEA. That response was largely affirming but properly raised concerns about safety, possible interactions between the mitochondria and nucleus which were not well understood, and not opening the door to modifications of the nuclear DNA.

Having been a member of the Oversight Group convened by the HFEA for an extensive public consultation around this technique it is difficult to see how a more thorough job might have been done to engage with individuals and organisations, and to explore the ethical and scientific dimensions raised.

What is perhaps not well understood – and this may lie behind the caution expressed in your report and headline – is that changing the law to permit mitochondrial replacement will not mean it becomes immediately available in a clinic as soon as the legislation is passed. If Parliament does authorise this technique an Expert Group will continue to monitor and seek evidence around safety and efficacy; only when there is sufficient reassurance around these matters will applications for licencing be admitted.

Church of England later statement following Wellcome Trust intervention:

The Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s national adviser on medical ethics, said: “The Church of England is aware of the complex ethical issues raised over the possibility of mitochondrial replacement therapy and the extensive scientific research that has been carried out in this field over the years.

“Changing the human germline represents an ethical watershed; it is right to be cautious, requiring a comprehensive debate and degree of consensus with regard to the ethics, safety and efficacy of these techniques before any change to the current provisions are made.

“We accept in certain circumstances that embryo research is permissible as long as it is undertaken to alleviate human suffering and embryos are treated with respect. We have great sympathy for families affected by mitochondrial disease and are not opposed in principle to mitochondrial replacement.

“A wide number of questions remain to be answered before it would be wise to proceed. For example, the two proposed techniques involved in MRT are not ethically identical – little debate has been given to this. The Church has participated in the debate at every stage, making submissions to consultations run by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the HFEA and the Department of Health as well as participating in relevant seminars and workshops.

“Our view, however, remains that we believe that the law should not be changed until there has been further scientific study and informed debate into the ethics, safety and efficacy of mitochondrial replacement therapy.”

And yet both of them apparently signed this article.


The BBC website has an interview with Brendan McCarthy which you can view here.

The Guardian has an editorial comment (unsurprisingly in favour of the legislative proposal) which includes the following:

The two churches are urging MPs to vote against treatments that will give some parents their only chance of a healthy baby. The Catholics charge a process to create a healthy, wanted embryo from two fertilised eggs – one unwanted, one unsafe – with destroying both. The Church of England, or at least the apparatchik who seems to be speaking for it, is demanding “absolute certainty” that the new procedures will work, a test that would bar any advance in medicine ever. Despite regulations, drafted after years of research and debate, that require separate scrutiny and approval for every individual seeking treatment, both churches shriek about a dash into the unknown.

Organised religion is doing such a bad job of explaining what it doesn’t like about “mitochondrial donation” that it’s tempting to conclude that there is no ethical issue at all, merely the same sort of superstition that once fuelled moral panics about heart transplants. But in calmer mood, the churches could have produced three potentially more serious objections – none of which, however, are persuasive in the end…


Philip North writes about Positive Mission

The following article is reproduced, with permission, from the January 2015 edition of New Directions.

Positive Mission. Reach out

Philip North identifies some opportunities for community ministry for smaller churches

Our past can inspire. But it can also imprison and restrict. One aspect of our past that we love to recall as Anglo-Catholics is the stories of the great social reformers who fought poverty, stood with the poor and modelled the Incarnational faith that is at the heart of what we believe. People like Fr Jellicoe who invented the housing association through rebuilding the vermin-infested slum that was Somers Town in the thirties. Or Fr Lowder and his heroic ministry caring for the poor and the sick in London’s East End. Or the All Saints Sisters who alone had the courage to feed and care for cholera victims on the streets of Plymouth.

Feeling inadequate
We could go on and on telling these wonderful stories. They can and should inspire us in our own ministry today. But the problem is all too often they don’t. Rather than inspiring they leave us feeling inadequate. Where are the priests and religious today who are founding hospitals, rebuilding entire estates, forming schools and pioneering social care for the most vulnerable? It is so easy to feel weedy and second-rate compared to the heroes of the past.

But of course things are not quite so easy for us today. In a nation with a National Health Service, state education, social services and a highly developed voluntary sector, it is much harder for us to identify needs and work out where the Church fits in. Churches in areas of greatest deprivation tend to be the weakest, with limited resources and small, ageing congregations, and so it can be extremely hard for priests to know where to start or what to do. All too often this can lead to insularity and inactivity, with churches frightened to reach out in any meaningful way beyond their own doors.

More important than ever
And yet community ministry is more essential now than ever. The question that a post-modern generation asks of the Gospel is not ‘Is this true?’ but ‘How is this being lived out?’ Churches grow when they authenticate the Gospel that they proclaim through practical action. The Church of England is obsessed with the search for a superficial ‘relevance.’ Yet we find renewed trust and credibility not by changing our doctrines to suit the perceived needs of a secular culture, but when we stand alongside the poor. This is the lesson that Pope Francis is so powerfully teaching us.

By thinking intelligently and using resources wisely and well, even the smallest churches can do something to reach out the hand of love into the communities they serve. Here are some potential starting places.

It is impossible to meet the needs of a community if we are not clear what they are. Jesus begins most of his encounters through asking questions and listening, and that is a lesson that we need to learn. We are often too quick to leap to conclusions and tell people ‘what they need,’ but without proper listening our conclusions could be way off beam.

There are structured ways of listening. For example, many parishes conduct a community audit in which they carry out intellectual research on the parish, organize round tables of local professionals and arrange community meetings to allow people to have their say. It is a great approach if you have the resources to do it, but frankly most of us don’t.

A more sensible approach might be a Citizens UK style Listening Campaign. Quite simply, a small team of clergy and laypeople initiate as many conversations as possible in which people are asked three questions. What is good about living in this area? What is challenging? What changes would you like to see? When those who are doing the listening start to compare what they have heard, issues will begin to emerge. It was from a simple conversation like that some laypeople from St Michael’s Camden Town realized that there was a pressing need for free legal advice in our area for those who cannot afford solicitors’ fees. The result was a legal drop-in set up with a local law firm which now offers advice to upwards of twenty people a week. Good listening leads to appropriate action.

Making use of buildings
There was a time when the Church started to feel embarrassed about large buildings in deprived communities and it was all the rage clumsily to convert them so that they could be ‘multi-use spaces.’ Fortunately today we have recovered our confidence. The greatest contribution that a local church makes to its community is prayer and worship, and so making the Church building available is the start of effective community ministry.

The best approach is simply to leave the building open as much as possible for people to use, and the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group, which encourages this practice, has plenty of advice on how to overcome the obvious security problems that this will cause. there may be other ways of using the building for arts events, schools, concerts and groups of older people. Church halls also provide space where community groups can meet. Once people realize that the local church is generous with its buildings and wants to see them opened up and used, it is amazing what the results can be.

Witnesses in daily life
A group of older members of a congregation I once cared for were complaining one day about the young families. ‘Everything in this Church is down to us. Why don’t those young ones ever do anything?’ I tried to point out that the younger ones were bringing up children and witnessing to their faith in the workplace, but it did not convince. We find it very hard to see the Kingdom at work in activities that are not very clearly labelled ‘Church.’

Yet Christians have families. They go to work. They live in neighbourhoods. They stand in Post Office queues. They are school governors and volunteers. A much overlooked aspect of community ministry is enabling laypeople to live out their faith and bear witness in these mundane, daily activities. We need to help people to see that their Christian duties do not stop when they walk out of the church door.

Partners and volunteers
Your church may not have the strength to set up dynamic new projects or fundraise for ambitious new pieces of work. But there will certainly be others in your parish who are seeking to do so and need some help. The Vatican II documents talk about working with men and women of goodwill, even if they are not Christians, in order to build the Kingdom.

We can surprisingly easily form friendships and constructive partnerships with those on the front line. We can volunteer our services to schools and community groups. The Church is ideally placed to convene meetings of local community workers and offer support. In these ways we are building our presence without taking on unmanageable responsibilities.

Doing what we can
The more we get stuck into our neighbourhoods, the more the gaps in existing provision will begin to emerge. It is vital not to feel intimidated by the perceived need to do something massively bold or ambitious. Doing one thing well is enough for a smaller church.

It may be housing rough sleepers one night a week in partnership with others in a winter night-shelter. It may be offering lunch one day a week in the school holidays for children who receive free meals at school. It may be setting up a group for parents and toddlers. It may be training a few people as debt counsellors with the local credit union. What you do depends on context. But the pride and sense of purpose that a small church can gain from a community project is out of all proportion to the effort invested. It makes people think afresh about what and who the Church is for.

The interesting thing about community ministry is that people want it. On the whole the voluntary sector, local authorities and schools want the Church involved and will be enormously encouraging. By overcoming our fear, listening and then acting wisely, we can very easily place our churches back at the centre of the communities we serve. And the benefits of that can be transformational.


Affirming Catholicism and SCP on Bishop of Burnley consecration

Joint Statement by Affirming Catholicism and the Society of Catholic Priests on the consecration of Philip North as Bishop of Burnley

Affirming Catholicism and the Society of Catholic Priests are disappointed at the Archbishop of York’s decision not to lay hands on Philip North at his consecration as Bishop of Burnley, and the decision that only three bishops – none of whom ordains women – will lay on hands.

Whilst recognising that this is the Archbishop’s prerogative, the decision is particularly difficult to understand given that the Bishop of Burnley is a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Blackburn and as such will share in responsibility for female clergy in the Diocese and for parishes which welcome the sacramental ministry of women. We are especially exercised that the Bishop of Burnley’s own Diocesan Bishop will apparently not be laying on hands.

Affirming Catholicism and SCP recognise and commend the Church of England’s affirmation that those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests should be enabled to flourish within its life and structures. However, we are concerned that the Archbishop of York’s decision does not exemplify the commitment “to maintain the highest possible degree of communion possible” which is articulated in the Five Guiding Principles agreed by General Synod and to which Forward in Faith has explicitly assented. This commitment must be lived out in the light of the first two principles:

  • The Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
  • Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter.

The House of Bishops has emphasised that the Five Guiding Principles “need to be read one with the other and held in tension, rather than being applied selectively.” Affirming Catholicism and SCP recognise that the living out of the principles will be complicated. However, Ministry Division has required that from November 2014, all candidates for ordination should explicitly assent to the Five Guiding Principles. It seems reasonable that such explicit assent should also be demonstrated by all those to be consecrated bishop.

Affirming Catholicism and SCP would therefore welcome a statement from the new Bishop of Burnley and from the Bishop of Blackburn confirming their commitment to the first two of the Five Guiding Principles agreed by the Church of England, and specifically affirming the Bishop of Burnley’s responsibilities towards the female clergy of the Diocese of Blackburn and to the parishes under his care who welcome the ordination of women. We would similarly welcome a statement from the new Bishop of Stockport and the Bishop of Chester confirming the Bishop of Stockport’s assent to the Five Guiding Principles. Indeed, we believe that a case could be made that all licensed clergy in the Church of England should be expected so to assent.

1 February 2015