Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Chester criticised for not reporting a paedophile priest

The Telegraph reported on 13 March: Longest serving Church of England bishop faces calls to resign after court hears he knew about paedophile priest.

The longest-serving bishop in the Church of England is facing calls to resign after it emerged he knew about a paedophile priest in his diocese and did nothing.

The Bishop of Chester, Rt Rev Peter Forster, found out Rev Gordon Dickenson had become embroiled in a child abuse scandal decades earlier when the retired vicar wrote a letter about the affair in 2009.

Dickenson was convicted earlier this month of eight counts of sexual assault after pleading guilty to abusing a boy during the 1970s inside a church hall and even his vicarage.

But ten years ago, Dickenson had written to the Diocese of Chester which was conducting a review of past abuse cases admitting he been accused of the abuse during the 1970s and had promised the then Bishop of Chester he would “never do it again”.

Despite this admission, Bishop Forster failed to pass on the letter to the police or order an internal church inquiry…

Another report from the local Cheshire newspaper is here: Former Warrington vicar jailed for sexually abusing teenage boy.

…This case came to light in 2017 after Cheshire Constabulary published a report into the findings of an investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual abuse made against a former Bishop of Chester.

Operation Coverage focused on allegations made against the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey, dating back to the 1970s and 1980s…

The Church Times reported:Diocese apologises as abuser pleads guilty.

The Diocese of Chester issued this statement on 15 March:

A statement from the Diocese of Chester in response to the sentencing of retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, who was jailed for a total of 27 months during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court on 15 March 2019.

We can confirm that retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, has been sentenced and jailed for a total of 27 months during a hearing at Liverpool Crown Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexual activity with a child. This refers to his time as Vicar of Christ Church, Latchford, in 1973 and 1974.

We offer an unreserved apology to the survivor who has shown bravery and courage to share his experiences with the police and we acknowledge how difficult and distressing this must have been for him.

The Diocese has provided full co-operation with the police throughout the current investigation and anyone affected by today’s news should contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.

It has been reported that Gordon Dickenson wrote a letter to the Diocese, dated 2009, in which he admitted he had been accused of abuse during the 1970s.

The Diocese wishes to apologise for not acting on this information in 2009 and acknowledges that, had it done so, the police may have brought a prosecution against Gordon Dickenson sooner.

An independent review will be conducted into the handling of the case to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned.

On the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme this morning, Meg Munn chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, was interviewed about this matter. You can hear what she said here, from about 27.5 minutes in, or in this extract over here.

Martin Sewell has referred to this matter in an article published at Surviving Church: Too important to care about child sexual abuse? Problems for Church and State. Concerning Bishop Forster, he writes in part:

…In both cases, plainly those exercising misjudgement are not bad people. I constantly remind readers that the context of the time must be factored in.  However, the time for this to be an excuse allowing us to continue, simply apologising, undertaking a “learned lesson review’ and moving on, has surely passed. That scenario has been played out too many times in too many places. Victims need to see more robust responses either from the individuals concerned or from the relevant institutions.

Until such public figures pay a price, either through voluntarily resignation, through the withdrawal of honours conferred upon them, or through being shunned by the court of public opinion, we shall continue to have a culture of minimisation and cover-up. Hitherto the only ones who have paid a price for these matters coming into the public domain are the victims who have to revisit their history of pain, humiliation, anger and all the tragedies within their personal lives that go with this.

If the Establishment, secular or faith, is to retain any credibility, it is time for its members to grasp the personal responsibility that such cases require. Great reputation and personal advantage goes with public status: with great privilege goes great responsibility. Respect for both victims betrayed and the institutions served requires no more feet shuffling but bold moral acceptance of consequence through principled resignation…

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Opinion – 16 March 2019

Jesse Zink Church Times The ACC: A spurned Instrument of Communion
“As Primates assume more authority, the Anglican Consultative Council is being marginalised”

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church How abuse survivors are betrayed
and Too important to care about child sexual abuse? Problems for Church and State

Richard Moy A Reasonable Enthusiast The Myth of Episcopal Oversight in the UK Church

ViaMedia.News is continuing its series of Daily Reflections for Lent 2019; details are here. An example is this one by Alex Clare-Young.

William Cook The Spectator Taking the God option: why I send my children to C of E schools
“No, it’s not because they get better results, but because they teach peace, hope and compassion”

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More about the exclusion of some spouses from the Lambeth Conference

Updated Friday evening scroll down for additional press releases from TEC House of Bishops meeting

Updated again Monday

Here is the response from the University of Kent to those who have written to them complaining about their hosting of a discriminatory event:

We reported previously on the row about invitations to spouses of bishops attending the Lambeth Conference next year, first here, and then also here.

On 14 March Ben Bradshaw MP asked in the House of Commons about this matter.

Watch the video here.

Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

May we have a statement from the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, on the outrageous decision by the Church of England to issue the official invitation to next year’s Lambeth conference and explicitly forbid the same-sex spouses of bishops from attending, when the heterosexual spouses of bishops have been warmly invited? This is a totally unacceptable position for our established state Church to adopt, and this House needs to tell the Church we have had enough of it.

Andrea Leadsom Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

I was not aware of that situation, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising it. If he would like to write to me, I will certainly raise it with my right hon. Friend Dame Caroline Spelman.

Today the Church Times has a report about the Canadian bishop, Kevin Robertson, affected by this:  Gay bishop accuses Primates of homophobia.

…When asked if he believed the fierce opposition to his presence, let alone Mr Sharma’s invitation, from GAFCON­ aligned Primates was driven by homophobia, he replied “I do.”

“Because it appears there’s an inconsistency,” he said, pointing to a blog by the Secretary-General of the Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, which announced the policy of barring gay spouses (News, 22 February).

Dr Idowu-Fearon wrote that it was because same-sex marriages were inconsistent with a resolution on marriage from the 1998 Lambeth Conference which defined marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

“I know as we approach 2020 that there are bishops who have been divorced and remarried, in some cases more than once, who are being invited, and their spouses are also being invited,” Bishop Robertson said.

“So to hold up Lambeth 1.10 as the reason for Mohan and Becki not to be invited seems a little thin; it doesn’t seem particularly consistent…”

Meanwhile, the American bishop affected, Mary Glasspool, has addressed the American House of Bishops. Read the whole of what she said: The Way of Love and Lambeth: Bishop Mary D. Glasspool speaks to the House of Bishops. (more…)

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General Synod – electronic voting lists

The electronic voting lists from last month’s Church of England General Synod are now available. Readers may be most interested in the list for item 35. This item was the proposed, but defeated, amendment to Standing Orders to remove the requirement for secret ballots at meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission.

Also available is the official summary of Business Done.

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Opinion – 13 March 2019

Women and the Church Transparency or Opacity – declarations, websites and jargon

Jude Smith Christian Today Women priests 25 years on: How are we flourishing?

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes ‘Women’ priests?

Women and the Church 25th Jubilee!

Sarah Mullally Contemplation in the shadow of a carpark  “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

Jeremy Pemberton Openly The Church of England must break its toxic colonial legacy

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Reviewer investigates complaint about Wakefield Cathedral

Updated Tuesday

The Independent Reviewer in relation to the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, Sir William Fittall, has issued a report, following a complaint from a worshipper at Wakefield Cathedral.

The full text of the report is published here.

Forward in Faith has issued this press release.

Law & Religion UK has this report and comment:Independent Reviewer’s Report – Wakefield Cathedral.

The Church Times reported it as: It was pastorally insensitive to traditionalist to refuse to name celebrant, says reviewer.

Christian Today: Wakefield and women’s ministry: CofE’s reviewer finds against cathedral.

Premier: Cathedral ‘should help conservative worshippers avoid women priest-led services’.

Update
The Bishop of Wakefield has written for Christian Today: Bishop of Wakefield: Why Christians need to find ways of generously living together.

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House of Lords considers clergy exemption for same-sex marriage, again

A month ago, we reported that House of Lords considers removal of clergy exemption on same-sex marriage. Another attempt occurred on 1 March. There is a report in the Church Times Bishop of Oxford resists gay-marriage amendment.

This time the exact text of the amendment was longer:

1: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause–

“Removal of exemption for clergy under the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013
(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument make such provision as is necessary to amend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to enable the Church of England and the Church in Wales to opt in to the provisions of that Act allowing the solemnization of the marriage of a same sex couple.
(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless it has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.
(3) Subject to subsection (2), regulations under this section must be in force by the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(4) Regulations under subsection (1) may not amend–(a) section 1(3) of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013,(b) section 1(4) of that Act, or(c) section 2(5) or (6) of that Act.”

The Church of England in Parliament reported on the debate: Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill – Bishop of Oxford responds to amendment on same-sex marriage.

This includes first the full text of the Bishop of Oxford’s interventions, followed by a transcript of the entire debate. The latter is well worth reading to see the arguments being put forward by peers in favour of this change.

Here is an extract from the Bishop of Oxford:

As noble Lords are aware, together with other Churches and faith communities across the world, the Church of England is exploring these issues in depth–and, I accept, at length. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle chairs our pastoral advisory group, and last week brought a helpful series of pastoral guidelines to the General Synod. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry chairs a process of exploration under the title Living in Love and Faith, which was referred to by noble Lords. Both processes are due to report to the General Synod in 2020. It is true that these proposals will contain resources for reflection. They may not contain recommendations for action but they will be followed by further work, debate and proposals to be tested by the General Synod in due course–as soon as possible, I hope.

Recently, I issued a pastoral letter with my fellow bishops to our own diocese of Oxford under the title, Clothed with Love. We are taking pastoral steps in the diocese to encourage greater inclusion and support within the Church’s existing guidelines. That letter has been warmly welcomed by many LGBTI clergy and laity, and more widely across the Church by those who want to see further change. It has led to many fruitful conversations. However, it is also a sign of where the Church is, and of the deep views held in good conscience on the issue, that the same letter has dismayed and unsettled some others who fear that the Church will change what is regarded as essential and core doctrine. The correspondence illustrates the need for further deep and respectful dialogue within the Church, and I remain committed to that.

My response to the amendment is that, as a Church, we need more time for deeper reflection and prayer; for listening, recognising the urgency of the situation; for listening to those outside and within the Church; and for developing our responses. I am grateful for the intention behind this amendment and the opportunity to air these issues in this Chamber. Nevertheless, I need to resist the amendment on two grounds, both of which have been referred to.

First, the legal powers already exist to enable the Church of England and the Church in Wales to begin to solemnise same-sex marriages should they choose to do so. That change will be registered through a change in the doctrine of marriage and therefore in canon law. It is important for the overall process that the Church is seen to make its own decisions first, and only then for those decisions to be taken through Parliament.

Secondly, the Church itself must continue its conversation and debate, and reach conclusions through the careful process of listening, exploration and discernment about the right way forward and the right time for such a move. While I am grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment and deeply grateful for the speeches that have been made, and will gladly commit to passing on to my colleagues all the views expressed here, I hope the Government and the House will resist the amendment, as on previous occasions in this Chamber.

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Opinion – 9 March 2019

Martin Sewell Archbishop Cranmer Emotional abuse in the Church: Bishops need psychological help

Justin Welby Church Times Good news — without coercion
“How should Christians evangelise people of other religions?”

Pat Ashworth Church Times The future of Christian ministry is collaborative
“Are we seeing the end of the individual vocation?”

David Ison Church Times The looking-glass world of the judgemental
“It is wrong to use St Paul’s teachings to deny LGBT people the sacrament of communion”
[also available at Via.Media.News]

13 Comments

Death of John Habgood, former Archbishop of York

The death has been announced of John Habgood, who served as Archbishop of York between 1983 and 1995, and before that as Bishop of Durham for 10 years. He was 91, and died on Wednesday, 6 March.

There is a statement from Archbishop John Sentamu here:

The sad news of the death yesterday of former Archbishop of York, John Stapylton Habgood, comes as northern bishops gather for a Diocesan mission in Liverpool. As a hugely distinguished scientist, theologian and philosopher, Archbishop Habgood’s faith in Christ gave him a particular perspective and a persuasive witness both to church and nation for his time. His many books simplified big and complex questions, revealing an incredibly perceptive intellect. I’m very glad to have confirmed his grandchildren and dedicated a room in his honour at Bishopthorpe Palace.

His towering presence, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, was a gift to all who knew him. My prayers are with his family at this time. May he Rest in Peace, and rise in glory.

Further coverage at the Church Times and the BBC.

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Opinion – 6 March 2019 – Ash Wednesday

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Honesty and Truthfulness in the Church
and What do I believe? Paradigm thoughts of a feral Christian

Michael Sadgrove Woolgathering in North East England The Ordination of Women as Priests – 25 Years On

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Why do Good People do Bad Things?

Meg Warner ViaMedia.News Elephants, Penguins, Procreation & Japanese Knotweed (Part 2)

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Impression Management. How Organisations control truth

Ian Paul Psephizo What are the issues in ministerial training?

ViaMedia.News is launching a series of Daily Reflections for Lent 2019, which are written by 40 LGBTI+ Christians from around the UK. There will be a daily posting, except on Sundays, with the first one today (Ash Wednesday). Full details are here.

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Opinion – 2 March 2019

Peter Leonard ViaMedia.News The Lambeth Conference & Those 6 Evils…

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The DARVO phenomenon. How abusers blame and silence the abused

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Archbishop Justin invites all gay bishops to Lambeth 2020 – but refuses to invite their spouses

Ed Thornton Church Times What causes people to lose their faith?
“A combination of ingredients, preparation, and environment can lead to a crisis of faith”

Lynne Cullens Church Times A middle-class culture dominates the Church
“Barriers that hinder working-class people from responding to their call should be removed”

Opinion articles relating specifically to last week’s meeting of General Synod are in my article below.

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Pastoral Advisory Group presentation to General Synod

At the synod session on Thursday evening last week, members of the Pastoral Advisory Group (PAG) read out a Living Letter.  The text of this is now available online from OneBodyOneFaith. More background on the PAG is here.

It needs to be read in conjunction with the Pastoral Principles documentation  available over here, and the background paper for the presentation GS Misc 1200 also online here.

OneBodyOneFaith has published this press release: OneBodyOneFaith welcomes new Pastoral Principles from CofE.

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