Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Maidstone

The new Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, now has a website, with quite a lot of information about his role.

Here it is:


SSWSH: A Catholic Life in the Church of England

Earlier this month, The Council of Bishops of the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda (SSWSH) published a statement Communion and Catholicity in the Church of England: A Statement of Principles.

Today the Council has published the promised second statement A Catholic Life in the Church of England: A Statement of Policy and Pastoral Guidance.

You can download the full text of the new statement here.

In the Society’s own words:

This statement by the Council of Bishops of The Society, issued in September 2015:

  • considers the relationship of parishes to the bishops of The Society and, through them, to its other parishes;
  • explains the criteria that the bishops follow in deciding whether to commend the ministry of bishops and priests, for the purpose of sacramental assurance;
  • explains the rationale for registering Priests, Deacons and Ordinands of The Society;
    sets out the bishops’ policy with regard to ordination;
  • considers what living in the highest degree of communion that principle and conscience will allow should mean in practice;
  • offers pastoral guidance on receiving Holy Communion and on concelebration.

The bishops call for openness to the Spirit, and for decisions to be taken ‘according to conscience and principle, and remembering the primacy of charity in the Church’.

There is also a leaflet titled Communion and Full Communion, based upon both statements, and available here.

The main press release about this is over here. The full text is copied below the fold.




Jonathan Langley Christian Today Five reasons why Paula Gooder is going to influence your theology

Nigel Genders Church Times Education: A vision to transform the world
This is one of several feature articles on education in this week’s Church Times; the others are behind the paywall.


November General Synod – timetable

The timetable for the November meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England is now available for download, and is copied below.


Monday 23 November
Induction of new and returning members

Tuesday 24 November
am Inauguration of the Synod

2.45 pm – 7.15 pm

2.45 pm Prayers, welcomes
Presidential Address: Archbishop of Canterbury
Business Committee Report
Introduction to Synod Worship by the Chaplain to the General Synod
Reform and Renewal Presentation followed by a Question and Answer session

*5.40 pm Questions

Wednesday 25 November

9.30 am – 1pm

9.30 am Morning Worship
Loyal Address
Presentation by the Archbishop of York on Global Warming
Debate on a motion moved by a member of the House of Bishops on the Migrant Crisis

Legislative Business
*11.30 am Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order

Presentation from the Mission and Public Affairs Council on research on “Public Perceptions of Jesus”

2.30 pm – 4.30 pm

2.30 pm Debate on a Report from Church Buildings Review Group

*4.00 pm Farewell

4.30 pm Prorogation

4.45 pm (or 15 minutes after the prorogation if business is completed earlier):
Meeting of the House of Laity

*=not later than


General Synod – diocesan candidates

Updated Friday

All the lists of candidates for General Synod for the diocesan constituencies, and their election addresses, are now available. There are links to all of them on my website.

Ian Paul has taken a look at the gender balance (or lack of it) of the candidates: Synod, representation and gender.


Tim Wyatt and Hattie Williams have also been looking at this for Church Times: Male candidates outnumber female in Synod elections.


Lord Harries: speech in Lords debate on LGBTI Citizens Worldwide

On September 17, the House of Lords debated a motion

That this House takes note of the treatment of LGBTI citizens worldwide.

The record of the entire debate can be found starting here.

Readers may be most interested in the contribution of crossbencher Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries. His speech starts here. Two extracts follow.

…Some Christians, while not able to accept same-sex marriage as a Christian option, have, however reluctantly—some have been very reluctant indeed—come to accept civil partnerships as a valid option for society as a whole. It is that second kind of change that I believe we have to work to achieve first in relation to conservative religious institutions.
In short, church leaders and institutions in those countries where LGBTI people are criminalised have to be urged to make a distinction between teaching which may be applicable for their own members in their private lives and the basic rights and dignity that need to be accorded to everyone in their society, whatever their religion or belief. Of course, working through secular channels to challenge the laws in those countries is fundamental. But behind those laws is a culture, as the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Paddick, mentioned and stressed—very often, as the noble Lord, Lord Black, said, a “toxic” culture. That toxic culture is, sadly, intertwined with religion.
It is no secret that the Anglican Communion has become very frayed at the edges on this issue. That is what I wrote in the first draft of this speech, but from what we read on the front page of some papers today, “frayed” is much too weak a word. The churches in countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are taking a very conservative and hard line and see themselves as quite apart from churches in North America. Nor is that the sum of it: the frontier of the culture wars in the USA has moved to Africa, with conservative forces in America lining up with and reinforcing the conservative forces in some African countries, as the noble Lord, Lord Black, quite rightly mentioned. Indeed there is evidence, which the Human Dignity Trust has on film, of some American churches actively proselytising in Uganda with a view to strengthening hard-line attitudes to gay and lesbian people.In those countries, the Christian churches have been and continue to be very strong. In contrast to Europe, they are a major influence in shaping the lives of people. If it is unrealistic to think of changing the minds of those churches on the issue itself in the short term, what can and should be done is to work on getting them to accept the legitimacy of the civil sphere, and, in particular, laws which protect the rights of minorities, not least LGBTI people.
The way that such people are treated in those countries is an affront to any concept of human decency, and the church must be challenged to see that its support for their criminalisation is a direct cause of this. It is an offence against the human person: the unique value and dignity of the individual, whatever their sexuality. It is a violation of everything that the Christian faith is meant to stand for. As a minimum, those states must be urged to act against those who commit acts of violence against LGBTI people…

And this:

…Behind those wider discriminatory attitudes there is a strong religious influence because, as I mentioned, most of those Commonwealth countries still have a strong Christian presence and continuing influence. That has to be addressed. I know that the main focus of diplomatic work is Government to Government, but there are opportunities to relate to wider civic society.
My concern, of which I hope that the Government take account, is that all those involved in setting up diplomatic meetings or organising conferences recognise the key role that Christian leaders play in many of the countries which have the most conservative attitudes, such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. If they are not to change their church teaching, they might be encouraged at least to acknowledge, and to help their churches to acknowledge, the validity of the civil sphere in its own right as safeguarding the rights and dignity of all human beings, whatever their sexuality.
I recognise that the main responsibility lies with the Christian churches here to help the churches in those countries to acknowledge the validity of this distinction, but I believe that our Government, through our normal diplomatic channels and intergovernmental agencies, also have opportunities to engage with wider civic society. Here, the Christian leaders, especially in the countries I mentioned, the Anglican archbishops and bishops, have an influential role. They themselves need to be decisively influenced to speak out for the human rights of LGBTI people…



Christine Hardman's election as Bishop of Newcastle confirmed

Christine Hardman’s election as the next Bishop of Newcastle was confirmed last night (22 September) at a service in York Minster. She will be consecrated in York Minster on 30 November.

Confirmation of Election Service for the 12th Bishop of Newcastle

Christine now moves to the top of the list of diocesan bishops waiting for a place in the House of Lords. She will take the place of the next Lord Spiritual to retire, but will not have long to wait as the Bishop of Lichfield retires next week. A date for Christine’s introduction to the Lords has yet to be announced.

Rachel Treweek, the Bishop of Gloucester, will be introduced into the House of Lords on Monday 26 October at 2.30pm. David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK notes that the Parliamentary web site refers to her as the Lord Bishop of Gloucester, rather than the Lady Bishop [emphasis added].


Canadian Church report on Marriage Canon is published

Message from the Primate on the Report of The Commission on The Marriage Canon


Dear Friends in Christ,

Today the Council of General Synod received The Report of The Commission on The Marriage Canon. The report is very comprehensive and reflects the commitment of the members to address General Synod 2013’s Resolution C003 in its fullness.

You will recall that the resolution requested consideration as to whether the proposal for amending The Marriage Canon would contravene The Solemn Declaration of 1893; and called for a theological and biblical rationale for the blessing of same sex marriages. The Commissioners take us into a deep exploration of the theology of marriage and present several models for understanding same sex marriage. In accord with the request in Resolution C003 for broad consultation throughout the Church the report includes a succinct summary of feedback received from Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners.

On behalf of the whole Church, I want to thank the Commissioners for the diligence with which they went about their work and fulfilled the mandate given them by The Council of General Synod. They have laboured long and produced a fine report which will be a valuable resource to the Church.

In commending it for widespread study, I pray we be guided by the wisdom of the Spirit’s leading in our preparation for conversations at General Synod 2016.

Fred J. Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate

Download the report (PDF)

There is a further page which contains more information, and links to all the submissions that the commission received, here.


More responses to the primates gathering announcement

Updated Tuesday morning

The GAFCON Primates Council Chairman, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya, has published his September Pastoral Letter. The full text is here.

In it he says:

…Real discipleship will be marked by sacrifice and by love for Jesus Christ, and if we truly love Jesus Christ, we will love another and we will work together love the lost. It is therefore very sad that the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling a meeting of Primates to see if the Communion can be saved by making relationships between its Churches more distant rather than closer.

A statement in response to the Archbishop’s invitation can found on the GAFCON website. Let me simply say here that a global Communion embracing widely different cultures should strengthen its member Churches by mutual wisdom to see where adaptation becomes compromise, each Church being submitted to the revelation of Jesus Christ as we have it in Scripture as our final authority in all times and in all places. Instead, it has become clear over the last twenty years that the Communion is becoming a source of weakness as Churches which have rejected the truth as Anglicans have received it spread false teaching, yet continue to enjoy full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Our GAFCON movement believes in a much richer vision. We seek to unite. We recognise and embrace those who sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, not only those who persevere in the face of violent persecution but also those who persevere despite being marginalised and even forced out of their traditional spiritual homes by the rise of false teaching in the Church. To them we say ‘You are not alone’ as we join together to make Christ known…

Fulcrum has published an article by Andrew Goddard From Communion to…..Federation ? Andrew is clearly opposed to any such move.

Episcopal Café has published Editorial: Anglicanism-the muddle way. Andrew Gerns takes quite a different view.

Tuesday updates

Anglican Mainstream has published this article by Andrew Symes The wages of spin: death of truth? After discussing his own recent appearance on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he concludes with this:

We are seeing a combination of spin, intimidation and hypocrisy as revisionist church leaders join with the secular media in creating distance between (in their narrative) ‘good religion’ of liberal Western Anglicanism, and the ‘bad religion’ of the orthodox version in the developing world. In North America the faithful confessing Anglicans have faced this, taking a public, costly stand, articulating the Bible’s clear teaching about sex, marriage and what it means to be human as part of a fully-orbed presentation of the counter cultural Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have not been ashamed of association with African Christian leaders, warmly welcoming close fellowship and even oversight from them. The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to show at the January meeting that he rejects the revisionist tactics of the BBC/Guardian/Bishop of Manchester (that is, if the GAFCON Primates accept the invitation). Otherwise English evangelical Anglicans and orthodox anglo-Catholics will need to be moving ahead organizationally along the same lines as ACNA.


Petition calls for Bishop of Sodor and Man to resign

An online petition was launched on 7 September calling on the Bishop of Sodor and Man to resign: Bishop Stop the Bullying!. The petition is now closed with 194 signatures.

The Manx media picked up the story earlier this week.

John Turner Isle of Man Today Online petition calls for Isle of Man’s Bishop and Archdeacon to resign

Manx Radio Petition calls for bishop’s resignation

It is also reported that the bishop had a heart attack on Monday, although he appears to be well on the way to recovery.

Adrian Darbyshire Isle of Man Today Bishop recovering from heart attack

Isle of Man Today Bishop speaks to iomtoday about heart attack ordeal



Kelvin Holdsworth Dear Straight People – Greenbelt Talk 2015

Tim Schenck 7 Habits of Highly Annoying Clergy on Social Media

The Bishop of Swindon Disruptive Learning

Archdruid Eileen Automating the Vicar


Church in Wales votes narrowly in favour of same sex marriage


The Governing Body of the Church in Wales met this week and voted on the subject of same sex marriages. As the Church Times reports:

Archbishop Morgan cautious after majority vote in favour of same-sex marriage

THE Governing Body of the Church in Wales has voted narrowly in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry in the Church. But it appears that the non-binding, advisory-only secret ballot has not produced enough votes in favour to persuade the Bishops to frame new legislation.

The vote on Thursday does not constitute a decision of the Governing Body. Instead, the results — and the two-and-a-half-hour debate that preceded the vote — will be used to guide the Province’s Bench of Bishops when it meets to discuss the issue in October.

Three options were under consideration: the first would mean no change to the Church’s current teaching and practice on marriage and partnerships; the second would allow same-sex unions to be blessed in the Church in Wales; the third would enable same-sex couples to be married in church…

Other news reports:

BBC ‘Foolish’ to bring forward gay marriage now, Archbishop says

Christian Today Church in Wales shows support for same sex marriage

Wales Online Church in Wales votes YES for gay marriage but we’re still a long way from real change

A more official report is now available from this page.

Anglican Mainstream carries this report: The Church in Wales steps back from Same-Sex Marriage.


Reactions to the announcement of a primates gathering

Updated 4 pm Friday

GAFCON has issued this press release: GAFCON calls for ‘truth on the table’

Media Statement

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for a meeting of Primates in January 2016 shows that he has recognised the deep concerns of faithful church leaders around the world, including those belonging to the GAFCON movement who represent the majority of the global Communion’s membership.

GAFCON began with the first Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008 as an initiative to restore the integrity of Anglican faith and order as the Communion descended into deepening crisis.

We are now a global family standing together to restore the Bible to the heart of the Anglican Communion with a strength and unity that comes from our common confession of the Lord Jesus Christ, not merely from historic institutional structures.

It is on this basis that the GAFCON Primates will prayerfully consider their response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter. They recognize that the crisis in the Communion is not primarily a problem of relationships and cultural context, but of false teaching which continues without repentance or discipline.

Consistent with this position, they have previously advised the Archbishop of Canterbury that they would not attend any meeting at which The Episcopal Church of the United States or the Anglican Church of Canada were represented, nor would they attend any meeting from which the Anglican Church in North America was excluded.

It is therefore of some encouragement that the Archbishop of Canterbury has opened the door of this meeting to the Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach. He has already been recognized as a fellow primate of the Anglican Communion by Primates representing GAFCON and the Anglican Global South at his installation in Atlanta last October and he is a full member of the GAFCON Primates Council.

In the end, our confidence is not in any structural reorganisation, useful though it may be, but in the saving grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and in the abiding truth of the Bible. That is what empowers us and this is the assurance we bring to our broken world.

Editorial in the Guardian The Guardian view on the Anglican communion: catching up with reality

Andrew Brown Dissolving the Anglican communion would simply be a recognition of reality

Andrew Lightbown Thoughts on ‘our’ Anglican communion; Justin’s potential genius.

Mark Langham Too early to call time on the Anglican Communion

Ruth Gledhill How to understand Justin Welby’s vision for Christian unity

Peter Carrell Just In Time: ABC Changes Communion to Federation

Peter Stanford Justin Welby’s last throw of the dice won’t save the church

Irish Times Editorial Anglicanism in crisis: Canterbury’s risky move

Trevor Grundy RNS Proposal to loosen Anglican Communion ties draws mixed responses


Ian Paul A bluffer’s guide to the Anglican Communion controversy

David Moxon Explaining the Anglican Primates’ Meeting

Tom Ferguson It’s The End of the Anglican Communion As we Know It – And I feel Fine

Martyn Percy Diversity not divorce: Anglicans must aim for a broad church if they can’t agree


Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Primates' Gathering

Updated again 10 am Thursday

From Lambeth Palace: Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Primates’ Gathering

Wednesday 16th September 2015

The Archbishop of Canterbury today wrote to all 37 Primates inviting them to attend a special Primates’ gathering in Canterbury to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Communion.

The meeting, to be held in January 2016, would be an opportunity for Primates to discuss key issues face to face, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion and to decide together their approach to the next Lambeth Conference.

The agenda will be set by common agreement with all Primates encouraged to send in contributions. It is likely to include the issues of religiously-motivated violence, the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the environment and human sexuality.

Archbishop Justin Welby said: “I have suggested to all Primates’ that we need to consider recent developments but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion and especially as Primates, paying proper attention to developments in the past.

“Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates’ meetings since then. It must also be a way forward, guided by the absolute imperative for the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to make disciples and to worship and live in holiness, and recognising that the way in which proclamation happens and the pressures on us vary greatly between Provinces. We each live in a different context.

“The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity. A 21st-century Anglican family must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together.

“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted. In that light I long for us to meet together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to seek to find a way of enabling ourselves to set a course which permits us to focus on serving and loving each other, and above all on the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.”

The proposed dates for the meeting are 11-16 January 2016.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will also extend an invitation to Archbishop Foley or his representative to be present for part of the time.

See also Response from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for a special Primates’ meeting in January 2016

And see this response from ACNA: A Statement from Archbishop Beach on the Proposed Primates Gathering

Initial media coverage:

John Bingham Telegraph Justin Welby launches ‘last throw of the dice’ to avert worldwide Anglican split

Andrew Brown Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury plans breakup of divided Anglican communion headline was quickly changed to Archbishop of Canterbury plans to loosen ties of divided Anglican communion and story then was revised and expanded for front page of newspaper edition. The paper headline is Archbishop in high stakes bet to save church.

Madeleine Davies Church Times Crunch time for the Communion as Welby summons Primates to Canterbury summit


Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Archbishop of Canterbury moves to heal Anglican divide

Jessica Elgot Guardian What is the Anglican communion and why is it under threat?

Desmond Busteed Premier Radio Welby calls meeting of world’s Anglican leaders in bid to prevent schism over gay marriage includes audio of interview with Bishop Alan Wilson

BBC Archbishop calls talks over divisions in Anglican communion

Atlantic Monthly The Archbishop of Canterbury: Dissolving the Anglican Church to Save It

New York Times Meeting of Anglican Leaders Could Lead to a Looser Federation

Steve Doughty Daily Mail Welby launches bid to tackle ‘deep divisions’ in the Church after writing to other leaders of world’s Anglican churches to summon them for talks

Ian Johnston Independent Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Anglican Church to ‘abandon idea it has global consensus’


General Synod elections 2015 – candidates' election addresses

The nomination period for this year’s elections to General Synod has closed. Dioceses are now required to post candidates’ election addresses on their websites before sending out voting papers. Some of these have already appeared, and the remainder should be available by the end of the week. I am compiling a list of links to all the addresses, which you can find here. I will update this during the coming week. So far as I am aware there is no similar requirement for the special constituencies.

I am also compiling a list of the members of the new synod here. Apart from ex officio members a few people have already been elected unopposed.

Additions and corrections to either list can be emailed to me here.



Church Times leader Alan’s legacy

Sally Hitchiner Church Times Why the Synod is important

Philip Johanson Church of England Newspaper Does the C of E require radical emergency surgery or should it be allowed to continue its slow death?

Andrew Lightbown Beware the tinker men; thoughts on episcopal leadership

Tim Wyatt Why I was wrong about writing off Giles Fraser

Christopher Howse The Telegraph A hymn written for the bright dawn of socialism


SSWSH statement on Communion and Catholicity

The Council of Bishops of the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda (SSWSH) has published a document entitled ‘Communion and Catholicity in the Church of England: A Statement of Principles’.

It appears in the September issue of New Directions and is also available on the Society website here.

According to the SSWSH website:

The statement explains

  • the nature of communion;
  • The Society’s aspiration to be an expression of full, visible communion;
  • the communion that the parishes and people of The Society continue to share with other members of the Church of England.

It reflects on the vocation of catholic Christians in the Church of England.

The Chairman of the Council of Bishops, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson (Bishop of Wakefield), has commented:

“This teaching document is our contribution to shaping understanding and custom that will engender greater trust in our position. We believe, humbly and with hope and trust for the future, that the tradition of Anglican identity exemplified by The Society has a distinctive contribution to make to our common life in the Church of England and to its mission.”

This statement will be accompanied by a second statement focusing on the practical application of these principles, which will be published in the October issue of New Directions.


Bishop Peter Ball pleads guilty

The Church of England issued this press release today.

Statement on conviction of Bishop Peter Ball
08 September 2015
Statement from the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, lead bishop on safeguarding

“Following a hearing at the Central Criminal Court today Bishop Peter Ball has pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault and one charge of misconduct in public office.

We offer an unreserved apology to all the survivors and those affected by this news. We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

We are aware that two individuals will not have the opportunity to have their case heard in criminal court following the plea agreement.

Peter Ball was charged with the offences following his arrest in November 2012 and as a Church we have provided full co-operation with the police throughout their investigation.

The Church of England always takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344.”

Sussex Police statement

Our earlier articles
Bishop Peter Ball to be prosecuted [March 2014]
Chichester sexual abuse: two arrests [November 2012]

Press reports

Sandra Laville The Guardian Former bishop admits sexually abusing young men
Peter Ball victims accuse C of E, police and CPS of sexual abuse cover-up

BBC News Former bishop Peter Ball admits sex offences

The Telegraph Ex-bishop admits sex abuse 20 years after victims complained

Comments are closed for this article.


Next Bishop of Grantham announced

Press release from Number 10

Suffragan Bishop of Grantham: Nicholas Alan Chamberlain

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
First published: 8 September 2015

The Queen has approved the nomination of Reverend Nicholas Chamberlain to the Suffragan See of Grantham in the diocese of Lincoln.

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Nicholas Alan Chamberlain MA PhD, Vicar of St George and St Hilda, Jesmond, in the diocese of Newcastle, to the Suffragan See of Grantham in the diocese of Lincoln in succession to the Right Reverend Timothy Ellis AKC PhD on his resignation on 26 September 2013.

Notes for editors

Dr Chamberlain was educated at St Chad’s College, Durham, and trained for the ministry at Edinburgh Theological College.

He served his title at St Mary’s, Cockerton, in the diocese of Durham from 1991 and was ordained priest in 1992. He went on to serve as curate at St Clare’s, Newton Aycliffe in 1994 before becoming Team Vicar there in 1995, continuing to serve in this role when it became the Great Aycliffe Team Ministry.

In 1998 he took up the post of Officer for Continuing Ministerial Education and Post Ordination Training in the Diocese of Durham as well as serving as Priest in Charge of St Barnabas, Burnmoor. He took up his current post of Vicar of St George and St Hilda, Newcastle upon Tyne, in the diocese of Newcastle in 2006.

His interests include music, reading, running and cycling.

The Lincoln diocesan website has New Bishop of Grantham Announced.


Faith leaders unite to oppose Assisted Dying Bill

A letter signed by over 20 faith leaders has been published in the Observer newspaper today. See the press release copied here, and the full text of the letter is copied below the fold.

The newspaper also carries a lengthy article by Archbishop Justin Welby, Why I believe assisting people to die would dehumanise our society for ever.

The Observer’s front page news report of all this: Welby urges MPs: reject right-to-die bill that ‘crosses the Rubicon’ and the newspaper’s own editorial view (to support the bill) is here.

Faith leaders join to oppose Assisted Dying Bill
06 September 2015
Vulnerable people would be placed at risk should Parliament approve proposals to legalise assisted suicide, leaders of faith communities in Britain warn today in a letter to MPs.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis have joined more than 20 other faith leaders in signing a letter to MPs highlighting the dangers of the Assisted Dying no 2 Bill.

The Private Member’s Bill proposes legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people with six months or less to live and will be debated on Friday September 11 in the House of Commons.

In their letter, the faith leaders warn that the Bill has the potential to affect the lives of a ‘great number” of people whose circumstances make them vulnerable in different ways.

“If passed, it will directly affect not only those who are terminally ill and who wish to end their lives, but also their families and friends and the health professionals who care for them,” they say in the letter.

“It also has the potential to have a significant impact on other vulnerable individuals: those who believe that they have become burdens to family and carers and feel under pressure within themselves to ‘do the decent thing’ and, tragically, those who might be pressured by others to seek a medically-assisted death.

“In the UK some 500,000 elderly people are abused each year, most by family members, often for financial reasons. Many of these would also be vulnerable to pressure to end their lives prematurely.”

For very many people, the natural processes of dying, along with good palliative care, enable them and their families to experience precious moments of love, care, reconciliation and hope – processes that ought not to be cut short, the faith leaders write.

The best response to individuals’ end of life concerns lies in ensuring that all receive compassionate, high quality palliative care and this is best pursued under current legislation.

“Sadly, there are still instances of painful or distressing death, though due to advances in palliative care, these are much less common than was once the case,” they say.

“For very many people, however, the natural processes of dying, allied with good palliative care, enable them and their families to experience precious moments of love, care, reconciliation and even hope; processes that ought not to be truncated. For many, a change in the law would result, not in greater comfort, but in an added burden to consider ending their lives prematurely; a burden they ought not to be asked to bear.

“We believe that the best response to individuals’ end of life concerns lies in ensuring that all receive compassionate, high-quality palliative care and that this is best pursued under current legislation. A law based on this Assisted Dying Bill would put at risk many more vulnerable people than it seeks to help.”