Thinking Anglicans

New Bishop of Sheffield announced

The Rt Revd Philip North, currently suffragan Bishop of Burnley, is to be the next Bishop of Sheffield. The announcement from Downing Street reads:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Philip John North, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, in the diocese of Blackburn, for election as Bishop of Sheffield in succession to the Right Reverend Steven John Lindsey Croft, MA, PhD, on his translation to the See of Oxford on 6th July 2016.

The Right Reverend Philip North (aged 50), was educated at the University of York and trained for the ministry at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his curacy at Sunderland Saint Mary and Saint Peter, in the Diocese of Durham from 1992 to 1996. Since 1997 he has been a member of the Company of Mission Priests.

From 1996 to 2002 he was Vicar of Hartlepool Holy Trinity in Durham Diocese and also served as Area Dean of Hartlepool from 2000 until 2002. From 2002 to 2008 he was Priest Administrator at the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham and from 2004 to 2007 he was also Priest-in-Charge of Hempton in the diocese of Norwich. From 2008 to 2015 he was Team Rector of the Parish of Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London. Since 2015 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Burnley.

His interests include current affairs, cycling and walking.

The diocese of Sheffield carries further details here.

Comment and welcome from the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda is here.


The Bishop of Liverpool reflects on the ministry of bishops

Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool has written a reflection on the ministry of bishops for Via Media.News.

Elders of the Tribe

“The weak bishops.” “The lying bishops.” “The bastard bishops.” “I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can spit.” “The only way they’ll give a straight-line response is if you ask them to design a corkscrew.”

A few months ago on this site I wrote a piece which spoke of the need for people to express their anger if they were angry. I have seen all the phrases above on social media in the past few days, and I am glad of them, though I am not a masochist and I do not enjoy them. I am particularly grateful to the people who have contacted me directly to express their emotion and to make their points about the recent bishops’ statement.

For some, the sense of betrayal is particularly acute when applied to people like me, who have spoken of the need for change in the Church. Where was I? What happened to my voice? How could I have been so weak as to stand with this document? …

Do read it all.


News and comment on the Bishops' report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships

news reports

Hattie Williams Church Times No change on marriage in view as Bishops pledge to update sexuality guidance

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian C of E bishops refuse to change stance on gay marriage

BBC Same-sex marriage: Church of England ‘should not change stance’

Ekklesia Disappointment at bishops’ report on same-sex marriage

Henry Bodkin The Telegraph Church of England bishops reject lifting opposition to same-sex marriage

Harry Farley Christian Today Church Of England Refuses To Budge On Gay Marriage


Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Sex and the bishops

Lucy Gorman Synod Scoop I trusted because what else was I to do?

Rachel Mann More Dust: Personal Response to the Statement on Sexuality

Archdruid Eileen Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Beaker Conversations on Sexuality

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Bishops, sexuality & marriage

Philip Blackledge frpip The old order. The C of E, LGBT, and holding on.

Marcus Green Salvation Songs glasses

Ian Paul Psephizo Where are the bishops leading on the sexuality debate?

Michael Sadgrove Woolgathering in North East England The Bishops’ Report on Same-Sex Relationships

Richard Peers Quodcumque Thoughts on the Holocaust Memorial Day Statement from the House of Bishops: becoming truth tellers

other comment

Paul Bayes Dioces of Liverpool Bishop Paul urges us to read the Marriage and Same Sex relationships document carefully and prayerfully

David Walker Diocese of Manchester Synod report on sexuality

Ruth Gledhill Christian Today The Church Of England And Gays: A Brave Attempt To Walk The Biblical Line

India Sturgis The Telegraph ‘Finding out my priest husband was gay was devastating. It was a death’

Martin Seeley East Anglian Daily Times Bishop Martin: Why is the Church agonising over homosexuality?

Michael Nazir-Ali Anglican Ink Statement on the Church of England’s Bishops’ Statement on Gay Marriage

Susie Leafe Anglican Ink Reform press statement in response to Bishops’ gay marriage document

GAFCON UK The Bishops’ Report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships: a response from GAFCON UK

Tim Dieppe Christian Concern Bishops uphold teaching on marriage

Jayne Ozanne Premier Christianity The House of Bishops’ statement on sexuality is unbelievable, unacceptable and ungodly

Ed Shaw Premier Christianity Why we should celebrate today’s reaffirmation of traditional marriage from the House of Bishops

Christina Beardsley Changing Attitude It’s a (Church of England) lock out


Opinion – 28 January 2017

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Baptising Aliens

Church Times leader comment God on Monday
[refers to Setting God’s People Free and Clergy wellbeing]

Andrew Brown The Guardian When faiths collide, the first victims are always the moderates

Kelvin Holdsworth Thurible How to change the Church of England – quick recap

Giles Fraser The Guardian Church language may be hard. But God must transcend words

Phil Groves Living Reconciliation Torture Works, but Love Conquers


LGCM responds to the Bishops

The Board of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has published a press release, and an Open Letter. Both are copied in full below (the press release is below the fold).


Dear brothers and sisters,

A Response to the House of Bishops’ Report to General Synod following the Shared Conversations

When the Pilling report came out you proposed a method, the Shared Conversations, that held the hope of finding a way forward in the Church of England in the controversial area of sexuality by encouraging ‘good disagreement’. We understood that to mean that members of the church were not to expect to see any one perspective dominate, but for them all to acknowledge their part in the Body of Christ, reflecting the relationship in him that they share, whatever their views of human sexuality. They were asked to participate in the process of Shared Conversations in a spirit of Christian openness and trust.

LGBTI+ Anglicans gladly did so, but for those who did so there was a high personal cost of putting themselves and their relationships on the line for public discussion and comment once again, as if to legitimise them. For some that was too much to contemplate. Others committed to the process, in the hope that this would lead, at last, to LGBTI+ people being given some real space in the corporate life of the Church of England. We all looked for an acknowledgement of the potential for holiness and growth in grace that many of us have found, not despite, but through embracing our God-given sexuality and the relationships into which we are convinced God has led us.

When the Conversations came to an end you told the church that you wished to give episcopal leadership to shaping what came next. You announced the timetable, but also made it clear that you were not at that stage inviting representations. You asked your people to trust you. As an ecumenical organisation with many Church of England members, we responded by acceding to that request, as we have all through this process.

It is now clear that the process has almost entirely failed to hear the cries of faithful LGBTI+ people. You are proposing to formalise ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ among clergy in same-sex relationships. This essentially asks clergy to dissemble and keep the nature of their relationships hidden – far from equalising the situation between straight and gay clergy it pushes LGBTI+ clergy back into the closet. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” diminishes everyone’s integrity: where it was used in wider society it was eventually discarded and discredited. Why are you introducing this now?

You write in your report about the need establish “across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people”. You say also that your responsibility is to clarify the issues at stake not find solutions. The issues at stake are principally the lives of these lesbian and gay people. You tell us that the bishops are not going to change an iota of the current teaching of the Church of England. If that is the case, then changes of tone will do nothing to improve the second-class position of the LGBTI+ faithful. Their relationships will be merely tolerated or judged wanting, and LGBTI+ clergy will be vulnerable if their relationships become known.

You have done nothing to acknowledge the goodness or sanctity of the relationships of LGBTI+ people, lay and clerical. Anglican LGBTI+ people are still labouring under the Higton motion and Issues in Human Sexuality as the last word on this matter. You could have made clear that issues of sexuality are not first order theological issues and that same-sex relationships, which the Archbishop described as sometimes being of “stunning quality”, could be a means of grace to those in them. You have done nothing. There is a failure of leadership and theological insight in the Church of England.

This outcome is an almost complete betrayal of the trust that has been placed in you by faithful disciples of Christ. There is no space for good disagreement. The old lines of dishonesty remain intact. Not an inch has been given to support LGBTI+ inclusion.

We have to tell you that this is completely unacceptable. Echoing the words of the late Una Kroll, “We asked for bread, and you gave us a stone”. You make much of starting processes to write more documents, but our observation is that anything written is unlikely to move the situation forwards. LGCM and Changing Attitude, who are shortly to merge, will now begin a series of campaigns to change this situation. We will use the levers of power available to us and will oppose and challenge your stance where it is intransigent at every opportunity. Those of us who are members of the Church of England will remain in communion with you and will insist on making our protests and acting in ways that seek to hold the Church of England together. We will work to help it move to a more diverse and inclusive future, bringing the message of Christ alive in the present day. Like you, we are deeply concerned with the decline of the Church of England not simply numerically, but in the estimation of the English people. Our concern is, therefore, missionary as well as pastoral and political.

Your actions and inactions will not commend your church to ordinary people. We will work to make the Church of England a body of which all Christians can be proud again. We are glad that your proposal for a new report to replace Issues will engage and include LGBTI+ Anglicans in the writing of it, and we remain ready to participate in that. In other initiatives where you allow us we will work with you, but our clear focus is on the changes that need to come.

Yours in the fellowship of Christ,

Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive Officer
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the Board
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement



Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations – A Report from the House of Bishops

The House of Bishops has released Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations (GS 2055). It was the main item at this morning’s pre-General Synod press conference and there is this press release, copied below.

[There is a very brief mention of other topics to be discussed at General Synod in the press release. I have updated my list of online papers to include the remaining papers, published today.]

General Synod Press Conference
27 January 2017

The Church of England’s law and guidance on marriage should be interpreted to provide “maximum freedom” for gay and lesbian people without changing the Church’s doctrine of marriage itself, bishops are recommending.

A report from the House of Bishops to be discussed by the Church’s General Synod next month upholds the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

But it also concludes that the current advice on pastoral provision for same-sex couples – which allows clergy to provide informal prayers for those marrying or forming a civil partnership – is not clear enough and should be revisited.

It also calls for a “fresh tone and culture of welcome and support” for lesbian and gay people and those attracted to people of the same sex throughout the Church of England.

The paper recommends that bishops prepare a substantial new teaching document on marriage and relationships to replace or expand upon documents drawn up in the 1990s.

And it calls for new guidance to be prepared about the kind of questions put to candidates for ordination – irrespective of their sexual orientation – about their lifestyle.

It also speaks of the need for the Church to repent of the homophobic attitudes it has sometimes failed to rebuke and affirm the need to stand against homophobia wherever and whenever it is to be found.

The report from the House of Bishops attempts to sum up the Church’s position after a two-year process of shared conversations on the subject of human sexuality, involving clergy and laity.

It acknowledges that it represents the consensus of opinion among the bishops rather than a unanimous view and sets out a process rather than attempting a final resolution.

The General Synod will discuss the paper in a “Take Note” debate on the afternoon of Wednesday February 15.

Members will have an opportunity to consider it in small groups immediately before the debate.

In a foreword to the document, the bishops explain: “We recognise our deficiencies and offer this paper with humility.

“We know that this report may prove challenging or difficult reading.

“We are confident, however, that the commitment that has been shown to listening to one another, not least through the Shared Conversations, in dioceses and in the General Synod, will have helped prepare us all as members of Synod to address together the challenges we face as a part of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“We would ask for it to be read as a whole.”

Presenting the paper at a press conference this morning the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James said:

“This isn’t the end of a process but we are somewhere in the middle of it.

“We are sharing where we have reached in order to be as transparent as possible, and open to other voices.

“We hope that the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some.

“This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same sex relationships within the Church, and within the House of Bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture.”

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, said: “The report will be the subject of a ‘take note’ debate. Such a debate is a neutral motion.

“It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report, but a vote in favour of the motion does not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report.

“The House of Bishops will listen carefully to the debate, and to any subsequent matters raised by members in correspondence, to inform their further work.”

The report is contained among papers circulated to members of the Church of England’s General Synod which meets in Westminster next month.

Other newly released papers include background papers ahead of debates on the reading of banns of marriage and fixed odds betting terminals.

Papers sent out in an earlier circulation last week included further updates on the process of simplification of Church regulations as well as material on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and a background document on clergy risk assessment regulations which will be debated on Thursday February 16.

The General Synod will meet at the Assembly Hall, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London from 3pm on Monday February 13 to 5.15pm on Thursday 16 February.

Notes to editors:

The full agenda and papers can be found here:

The comments from the Bishop of Norwich and Bishop of Willesden are below.

A Statement from the Bishop of Norwich:

When reports to the General Synod are launched at a press briefing they are often published at the end of a process and contain recommendations. This report on marriage and same sex relationships from the House of Bishops isn’t that sort of report. It describes where the bishops have reached in their reflections. It goes on to provide a framework identifying areas where we believe present advice, policies or practice need further consideration, and invites members of General Synod and the wider Church, to contribute. So this isn’t the end of a process but we are somewhere in the middle of it. We are sharing where we have reached in order to be as transparent as possible, and open to other voices.

We hope that the tone and register of this report will help to commend it, though we recognise it will be challenging reading for some. This is no last word on this subject. For there are very different views on same sex relationships within the Church, and within the House of Bishops, mainly based on different understandings of how to read scripture. The House is agreed, however, that our present teaching documents do not address some elements of the contemporary situation regarding marriage and relationships in our culture. I refer to the current teaching document on marriage, issued by the House of Bishops in 1999, and an earlier document on same sex relationships, Issues in Human Sexuality. Neither discusses nor even anticipates same sex marriage, a reminder of just how quickly things have changed. Issues, published in 1991, was written when Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was in force. It prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools and prevented local councils from spending money on lesbian and gay projects including anything which suggested support of what it called “pretended family relationships”. The temper of the time in which Issues was written was a very different one from ours. The later teaching document from 1999 simply assumes marriage is the union of one man with one woman. Hence, the House of Bishops believes it needs to commission a new teaching document which articulates such an understanding of marriage within a theology of relationships for our changed times. This report isn’t that document but it indicates why it is needed.

The House of Bishops believes that the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, which it holds in common with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and the majority of the churches of the Reformation, should continue to be expressed in the terms found in Canon B30, namely that “the Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is a union permanent and life-long, of one man with one woman…” But there is a great deal more than marriage alone to be considered in relation to same sex relationships. The report affirms the place of lesbian and gay people within the Church. Even in 1991 Issues in Human Sexuality said that those in same sex partnerships should be included within the life and fellowship of the Church. We reaffirm that gladly and decisively, recognising that for Christians our identity in Christ is primary, and of greater significance than gender, sexuality, age, nationality or any other characteristic. So no change in doctrine is proposed but it is often pastoral practice – how we treat people – which matters most. This means – as the report suggests – establishing across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people, for those who experience same sex attraction, and for their families, and continuing to work toward mutual love and understanding on these issues across the Church. And so we speak in the report about re-examining the existing framework of our pastoral practice to permit maximum freedom within it. We recognise two areas in particular where advice in relation to the pastoral care and support of lesbian and gay people needs fresh thought.

At present clergy are advised that they may offer “informal prayer” to those registering civil partnerships or entering same sex marriage. The parameters of such pastoral support are unclear. The House proposes that there should be more guidance for clergy about appropriate pastoral provision for same sex couples.

The House of Bishops also believes present arrangements for asking ordinands and clergy about their relationships and lifestyle are not working well. It’s felt that there’s too much concentration on whether ordinands or clergy are in sexually active same sex relationships rather than framing questions about sexual morality within a much wider examination of the way in which all ordinands and clergy order their lives. The Church of England has always been suspicious of intrusive interrogation of its members, preferring to trust clergy and lay people in their Christian discipleship. However, all clergy are asked at their ordination whether they will fashion their lives “after the way of Christ”. We believe we should revisit how this is explored beforehand so that the same questions are addressed to all.

At the General Synod next month I will give an address exploring why we believe some of our formulations on pastoral practice do not now seem adequate. The Bishop of Willesden, as Vice Chair of the Bishops’ Reflection Group, will introduce some case studies which members of Synod will examine in groups so that we consider the lived experience of people within our Church. Later there will be a take note debate on the report. We hope that in the groups and in the debate much will be offered to the House of Bishops for its further work in this area. I will now pass over to the Bishop of Willesden who will speak about the process in the House of Bishops over the past few months, and the Synodical process which lies before us.

A statement on process from the Bishop of Willesden:

This report evolved though discussion, study and reflection at meetings of both the House of Bishops (the Bishops who are members of General Synod) and the College of Bishops (all the currently serving Bishops of the Church of England). The Reflections Group took the raw material from those discussions to produce the document that is going to Synod. Some of the most useful and fruitful reflection came from our own group work as we discussed real life case studies, and, as the Bishop of Norwich has indicated, we shall be offering group work based on similar case studies to members of General Synod in February. We anticipate that the groups will enable further good listening and thoughtful reflection across the Synod between people of a diversity of viewpoints.

The report will then be the subject of a “take note” debate. Such a debate is a neutral motion. It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report, but a vote in favour of the motion does not commit the Synod to the acceptance of any matter in the report. The House of Bishops will listen carefully to the debate, and to any subsequent matters raised by members in correspondence, to inform their further work.

This may well include matters such as the teaching document and the guidance to clergy on pastoral provision.


Ken Leech Conference – 20 May 2017 in Liverpool

Kenneth Leech was a committed Christian Socialist, who drew on the historical precedents of the radical Anglo-Catholic tradition. As a priest and theologian, he was rooted in and resourced by a sacramental spirituality. A regular lecturer at Universities in the UK and the USA, he produced a range of books exploring theology and spirituality. They were practical, grounded in his work and ministry in the East End of London. Essentially, he was a theologian of the streets.

The Ken Leech Conference will be held on Saturday 20th May 2017 from 10 am to 4 pm at Liverpool Hope University. It has called by the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool to celebrate Ken’s life and work, to encourage those who value Ken’s wisdom and insight, to introduce Ken to a new generation and to foster an ongoing commitment to a prophetic theology and spirituality.

Bishop Paul and Professor Gerald Pillay, Vice-Chancellor & Rector of Liverpool Hope University, will open the conference. Keynote speakers will include Terry Drummond, Revd Professor Alison Milbank and Fr George Guiver CR.

Booking and further information can be found here.

Bookings should be made via Eventbrite no later than 15 May 2017.

There are further details below the fold.



Bishop of Bristol to retire

The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, has announced that he will retire on 30 September 2017.

1 Comment

Opinion – 21 January 2017

Kelvin Holdsworth marked Winnie the Pooh day with Prayer for the Day – Script 2.

Lynn Wray National Museums Liverpool LGBT artwork marks Saint Sebastian Feast day

Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury ‘It defies description’: Archbishop Justin on visiting Auschwitz

David Ison ViaMedia.News An Old Dirty Candle to Transform the Darkness…


Publication of General Synod papers

In conjunction with today’s release of General Synod papers (see my article below) the Church of England has issued the press release below.

Publication of General Synod papers
20 January 2017

The Church of England needs to undergo a major “culture shift” to mobilise lay members to spread the gospel in their everyday lives, a new report being presented to members of the General Synod argues.

The report, entitled “Setting God’s People Free”, calls for Christians to be equipped to live out their faith in every sphere – from the factory or office, to the gym or shop – to help increase numbers of Christians and their influence in all areas of life.

Laity and clergy should view themselves as equal partners in the task of evangelising the nation, it insists. The paper is a key element of the lay leadership strand of Renewal and Reform, an initiative from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, to help grow the Church.

The report is among papers being circulated to members of the Church of England’s General Synod which meets in Westminster next month. The first circulation of papers also includes further updates on the process of simplification of Church regulations. There is also material on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and a background paper on clergy risk assessment regulations which will be debated on Thursday February 16.

The first circulation of papers is available here.

A second circulation of papers will be published on Friday, January 27.

The synod timetable is available here.

The General Synod will meet at the Assembly Hall, Church House, 27 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London from 3pm on Monday, February 13 to 5.15pm on Thursday, 16 February.

Further information:

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of Church Army and member of Archbishops’ Council explains why a culture change is needed in the Church.

Fr Paul Cartwright, Parish Priest, St Peter the Apostle and St John the Baptist, Barnsley and General Synod Member writes on how he encourages his congregation to live out their faith in the world.

Renewal and Reform is the Church of England’s initiative to promote growth in the church in every community in England. The paper, Setting God’s People Free (part of the Lay Leadership strand) and the Simplification of Church regulations are part of Renewal and Reform. More information is here.


February General Synod – online papers

Updated 27 January, 12 February

All the papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online

The first batch of papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online. The remaining papers will be issued on 27 January and I will add links when these become available.

zip file of all first circulation papers
zip file of all second circulation papers
zip file of all papers from both circulations

Papers in numerical order with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration
Synod meets from Monday 13 to Thursday 16 February 2017.

GS 2014B – Draft Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2014Z – Report by the Steering Committee

GS 2027A – Draft Legislative Reform Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2027Y – Report by the Revision Committee

GS 2029A – Draft Amending Canon No. 36 [Tuesday]
GS 2029AA – Draft Amending Canon No. 37
GS 2029Y – Report of the Revision Committee

GS 2030 – Draft Statute Law (Repeals) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2030X – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2031A – Draft Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2031Y – Report by the Steering Committee
[Consolidation, Destinations and Origins]

GS 2032A – Draft Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2032Y – Report by the Revision Committee

GS 2042 – Agenda

GS 2043 – Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 2044 – Anniversary of the Reformation [Monday]

GS 2045A & GS 2045B – Preliminaries to Marriage [Tuesday]

GS 2046 – Draft Church Representation, Ecumenical and Minister Measure [Tuesday]
GS 2046X – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2047 – Draft Amending Canon No. 38 [Tuesday]
GS 2047X – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2048 – The Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 [Tuesday]
GS 2048X – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2049 – The Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2017 [Tuesday]
GS 2049X – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2050 – The Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016 [[Tuesday]
GS 2050X – Explanatory Memorandum

GS 2051 – Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2016 [deemed business – Tuesday]
GS 2051X – Explanatory memorandum

GS 2052 – Creation of Suffragan See for the Diocese of Leicester [Wednesday]

GS 2053 – Appointment to the Archbishops’ Council [Wednesday]

GS 2054A & GS 2054B – Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: Reduction of Maximum Stake [Wednesday]

GS 2055 – Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: A Report from the House of Bishops [Wednesday]

GS 2056 – Setting God’s People Free: Report from the Archbishops’ Council [Thursday]

GS 2057A & GS 2057B – Mission and Administration [contingency business]

Other papers

GS Misc 1148 – Central Stipends Authority Report
GS Misc 1149 – Diocese Commission Annual Report
GS Misc 1150 – Update on Renewal and Reform
GS Misc 1151 – Ecumenical Relations Report 2016
GS Misc 1152 – Simplification of Ecumenical Regulations
GS Misc 1153 – Report on the Archbishops’ Council’s Activities
GS Misc 1154 – House of Bishops Summary of Decisions
GS Misc 1155 – Holding Office under Common Tenure
GS Misc 1156 – Statement on the Reformation Anniversary
GS Misc 1157 – Simplification – the story so far

Questions Notice Paper


Bishop of Lancaster to retire

The Rt Rev Geoff Pearson, the suffragan Bishop of Lancaster in the diocese of Blackburn, has announced that he will retire later this year: The Anglican Bishop of Lancaster announces his retirement.


Sexuality and Anglican Identities

The University of Chester is engaged in a two-year project, Sexuality and Anglican Identities.

This seeks to engage the Academy, Chaplaincy and Church in conversation about current issues relating to sexuality within the contemporary Anglican context. A particular focus will be on how articulation of various positions on these matters, contribute to competing claims to Anglican identity. The project is funded by the Church Universities Fund.

The first of two open forums at Chester Cathedral, The Past, Present and Future of Christian Marriage, was held on Saturday 22 October, 2016. The second open forum, New Directions in Sexualities and Christianity, will be held from 1 pm to 3 pm on Saturday 11 February. The speakers will be

– Professor Adrian Thatcher, University of Exeter

– Dr Susannah Cornwall, University of Exeter

– The Rev Dr Mark Vasey-Saunders

– Dr David Hilborn, St John’s School of Mission

On Saturday 6 May there will be a day conference, for which there is a call for papers. Proposals of not more than 300 words to be with Dr Jessica Keady ( by 28 February.

More information is on a public Facebook page here.


Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion

There will be a day conference on this subject, held on Friday 24 February, at Whitelands College of the University of Roehampton.

Further details of the conference are available here, including a draft programme. Speakers include:

– Questioning Church Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion: David
Goodhew (Cranmer Hall, St Johns College, Durham University)
– Nigeria: Dr Richard Burgess (University of Roehampton)
USA: Dr Jeremy Bonner (Durham University)

– South America (Rt Revd Maurice Sinclair)
– Congo (Dr Emma Wildwood, Cambridge University)
– South Africa (Dr Barbara Bompani, University of Edinburgh)
– Ghana (Rev Dr Daniel Eshun, University of Roehampton)

– South America (Rt Revd Maurice Sinclair, retired)
– Congo (Dr Emma Wildwood, Cambridge University)
– South Africa (Dr Barbara Bompani, University of Edinburgh)
– Ghana (Rev Dr Daniel Eshun, University of Roehampton)

– England: Professor David Voas (University College, London)
– Theology, Growth and Decline: the Rt Revd Graham Kings (Mission Theologian,
Anglican Communion)

The conference is based upon a recently published book of the same title, edited by Professor David Goodhew, details of which – including a full table of contents – are shown on the publisher’s website here.


Opinion – 14 January 2017

Reactions to Martyn Percy’s 95 New Theses for the 21st century, which we listed last week

Ryan Cook A Reflection: Martyn Percy’s 95 Theses, Bishops & the Transcendent
Ian Paul Psephizo Can bishops save the Church?
Sam Norton Elizaphanian What’s really wrong with the House of Bishops

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Management, Leadership, success-failure, heresy & idolatry

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Hopes and Dreams

Nick Young Londonist How London’s Churches Got Their Unusual Names

Anne Jolis The Spectator How the Church of England changed my life: Death, grief and love in a strange city

Miranda France Granta Words and the Word

Nick Tolson Church Times Beware of the siege mentality


Changing Attitude and LGCM announce merger

Updated to add press link

Changing Attitude and LGCM announce plans to merge their work to create ‘new missional movement for transformation and change’.

Changing Attitude and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who have between them been working for over 60 years for LGBT inclusion across the Christian churches, have announced plans to merge.

Tracey Byrne, LGCM’s Chief Executive said, ‘We’ve been working closely with Changing Attitude for some time now and we have so much in common, and so much to gain from working together. We both bring wisdom and experience to our work, and Changing Attitude’s deep understanding of the Church of England is complemented by LGCM’s insights from across and beyond the denominations. We want to see all that energy, commitment and vision combined to bring about real and lasting change.’

LGCM marked its fortieth anniversary in 2016, and Changing Attitude celebrated 20 years of Colin Coward’s leadership on his retirement in 2015. Tracey went on to say, ‘Both LGCM and Changing Attitude have been blessed with extraordinary and prophetic founders and leaders – people like Colin, Malcolm Johnson, Jim Cotter and Richard Kirker. We shall not see their like again – but of course we’re also part of a world and a church which functions very differently to the way it did in 1976. We have a really firm foundation from which to build a new movement which draws in all people of goodwill who want to see the church welcome LGBT people on equal terms with our sisters and brothers.’

Jeremy Timm of Changing Attitude said, ‘This is a really exciting opportunity for us to further LGCM and Changing Attitude’s work, to make ourselves a resource and a force for change in the churches as they continue in their journey of understanding in relation to sexuality and gender. We firmly believe we can do this better together, and as both boards of trustees have been talking and listening to one another over the past six months, we’ve become really excited and energised about what the future holds.’

LGCM’s Chair of Trustees, Jeremy Pemberton added, ‘If we’re going to reach out to a new generation with the message that the gospel is good news for everyone, then we’ll all need to commit ourselves to making that a credible and authentic claim for LGBT people too. That will involve humble listening and prophetic action at every level of the churches, from our leaders and from the many people we know are longing for change. The new movement will be uniquely placed to resource that kind of transformation.’

Notes for editors:

1. LGCM is a charity which is committed to the full inclusion of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the life of the Christian churches.

2. Changing Attitude campaigns for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Church of England.

3. Further enquiries to Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive on 07497 203635

4. Further information about the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement can be found at

5. Further information about Changing Attitude can be found at


Carey Lodge Christian Today ‘We Want Real Change’: Gay Lobby Groups Join Forces To Fight For LGBT Inclusion In The Church


Opinion – 7 January 2017

Martyn Percy Archbishop Cranmer The Reformation 500 years on: do we need 95 New Theses for the 21st century?

Andrew Lightbown Only Connect! Thoughts on episcopacy and R&R

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes Church: Ice Dancing or Musical Statues?

Giles Fraser The Guardian A man recently broke into my church. Good on him, I say

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached this sermon during Evensong at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, South Africa, on Friday 30th December 2016.

Jonathan Jones The Guardian Crucifixion is horribly violent – we must confront its reality head on


Peterborough Cathedral: Bishop issues Visitation Charge

Updated Monday 9 January and Wednesday 11 January

Peterborough Cathedral has issued a press statement: Bishop of Peterborough issues Visitation Charge to the Cathedral. The full text of the statement is copied below the fold.

The full text of the Visitation Charge is available here. It is only three pages long, and is worth reading in full.

A statement from the Church Commissioners is also published over here.

The retired Dean of Durham, Michael Sadgrove, has published Peterborough Cathedral: thoughts on the visitation report and in particular he discusses the last six paragraphs of the report in which the Bishop of Peterborough argues that the current legal framework for cathedrals is inadequate.

The Peterborough Telegraph reports that there have been 12 redundancies and some property sales: “About half of the redundancies have been achieved by not recruiting to jobs as people have left for other career moves or retirement. The cuts have been made in several areas including administration, hospitality, vergers and welcomers.”



The Manifestation of Christ 

or Good news for non-believers

Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas, and tonight at evening prayer the Church begins the celebration of the Epiphany. The Christmas story in Matthew tells how the Magi, wise men, came from the east to visit the infant Jesus, and this has long been interpreted as showing the Christ-child to the wider world of non-Jews near the start of his human life, as well as a recognition by them of his birth. During the next few weeks of the Church’s year there is a continuing focus on the story of how Jesus first came to public attention and how he began to teach his message or good news.

Many of us, perhaps all of us, can look around at our lives, at our relationships, at the state of the world, and wish it were better — whether for ourselves or for others. We can all dream of living in a place where it is good to live. A place where everyone has security and shelter and enough to eat, where everyone has value and is treated fairly, where no one holds grudges against other individuals or groups. In short, a society that is not “broken” and that lives at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Jesus’s message is that this place can exist, and that we have it within ourselves to choose to live there, at least in part. Each one of us can make the choice to live in that place of reconciliation and trust, peace and social justice. If we choose to live our lives in that way then we will be citizens of that place.

In Jesus’s language this place is the “kingdom of God”, because it is the place where God’s will is done, and that will ultimately is “love”. Jesus’s good news is that this kingdom, this “living in love”, is already at hand, here and now — it has already begun. All that we have to do is open our eyes and see the simplicity of it.

Opting in is entirely voluntary, and even those who have opted in will get it wrong, perhaps more often than not. So it won’t be perfect, because it is a place inhabited by fallible human beings in a world where not everyone has opted in and where mistakes and natural disasters also happen. Living this way is vulnerable. Jesus’s followers have long said that the kingdom will come at the end of time — and this is a recognition of the fact that the whole world isn’t going to accept the message for a very long while, if ever. So though the kingdom in all its fullness is not yet here, that makes it all the more important to choose to live in it now, and to share the good news and to encourage others to join in. We can still live partly in the kingdom, glimpsing the possibilities of its fullness.

What then is the role of religion in this, and what is the role of the Church? These are good questions. They highlight the problem with institutional religion.

Jesus, in the gospel stories, doesn’t have a lot of time for organized religion, and those who considered themselves holy and religious. He criticised the Pharisees and the Sadducees, whom we might see as typical of local religious leaders and the religious establishment, types that existed then and still exist today. Many in both groups understood Jesus’s concept of God’s rule, God’s kingdom, but (like many others down the ages, and still today) they were caught up in their own concepts of spirituality and nationality and their own priorities, and either failed to grasp what Jesus was saying, or failed to act on it.

Where does this leave the Church? As people used to ask, do you have to go to church to be a good Christian? Certainly the Church has a lot to answer for. Over many hundreds of years it has helped to suppress and control individuals and populations, and allowed itself to be used by states to achieve their aims, or indeed has corrupted states to achieve institutional goals. It has allowed itself to be limited to a “spiritual” life, teaching a personal piety and obedience, and the promise that things will get better, sometime. It has sacrificed individuals and groups to its own ends. And it’s easy for its members to get caught up in its institutional life, serving on its boards and commissions and councils, even carving out a career in church politics. It’s easy too to get caught up in its “religiosity”: in personal piety, personal devotion and personal belief as ends in themselves.

The Church, however, has also preserved the teaching of Jesus, and other great figures, and never lost sight of the centrality of his message, even when it has largely failed to understand or implement it. Individual Christians have led some of the great reform movements, such as the abolition of slavery, moves to racial equality and sexual equality, mass education and healthcare, humane working conditions, prison reform and so on.

The Church, for all its many and profound failings, is the group of people who follow Jesus, and stand in line with him: the community of his followers down the ages, even if a divided community.

The Church is also the primary place where those who commit to trying to live in the kingdom can interact with each other. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where social justice and compassion are preached and practised. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where the hungry are fed, both literally and figuratively, and the homeless and destitute cared for. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where people forgive each other for the wrongs they have done to each other, and are reconciled. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where Jesus’s good news is proclaimed and human beings welcomed to participate in it.

Where does that leave the believer and the unbeliever? No mention has yet been made of belief in God, belief in heaven, belief in the infallibility of this or that, or the special nature of someone or something. The story of the arrival of the Magi shows that Jesus is for Jew and Gentile alike: in today’s language, Jesus and his message are for the believer and also for the non-believer. The gospels do not record that Jesus required belief in any dogma or religious doctrine — only trust in what he was teaching, trust to begin to do it. There is no test of belief to be a citizen of this kingdom. There is no religious creed, no statement of religious belief.

Rather, what is required is to start again: to be willing to recognize (without unnecessarily beating ourselves up about it) that we don’t always get things right; to be willing to both give and receive forgiveness; to act to bring about reconciliation and social justice to all our neighbours, where Jesus’s definition of “neighbour” is “someone who needs our help”; to join with those who are trying to do the same; and to share this good news with others. The kingdom of God is built one person at a time — it is here, it is now, it is indeed at hand; and one day it will exist in its fullness.

What about God? Everyone must come to their own conclusions on that, and about the literal existence of God, because God’s kingdom — the place where the rules are love and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation and social justice for all — is a concept that exists whether you believe in God or not. Just as the arrival of the Magi in the Christmas story indicates that this baby is significant to Jews and non-Jews, so too he, and the kingdom he announced, are significant to believers and non-believers.

God’s kingdom is for all. And it’s there, in part, right here and now. Just open the door, and let the kingdom in.

Simon Kershaw is a founder and editor of Thinking Anglicans.

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