Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 19 September 2020

Jon Price Earth & Altar The issues are worth working through: Starting ministry during a pandemic

Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law In Defence of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003: Measure and Management

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Secrecy and an Unaccountable Church of England

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Reflections on the Dynamics of Control among Evangelical Anglicans

Micah Lazarus Earth & Altar The Fountain Of Life: Reclaiming Church And Tradition For Queer Flourishing


Vision and Strategy Group

Press release from the Church of England

Vision and Strategy Group: Tuesday 15th September

A consultation hosted by the Archbishop of York took place online from 14 to 16 September and was attended by over 150 delegates.

The consultation — dubbed ‘Living Vision, Walking Strategy’ — was part of the ongoing work on the Church of England’s Vision & Strategy led by the Archbishop of York and expected to conclude in early 2021. The consultation was an opportunity for all the bishops and diocesan secretaries to work together on the Church of England’s mission, vision and priorities for the next 10 years.

The consultation opened with sessions on where the Church is presently and what we are learning from this experience. On Tuesday the consultation considered the particular challenges facing the Church both internally and externally and what the vision for the Church over the next ten years might be. The final day covered potential practicalities of committing to the work needed to put the strategy and vision into action at a national, diocesan and local level.


House of Bishops Meeting – 17th September 2020

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops Meeting – 17th September 2020

A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today Wednesday 17 September 2020 via Zoom.

At the second meeting of the House this autumn, the focus of the meeting was on strategic planning and the on-going work of the Emerging Church groups.

Earlier this week, 130 of the Church’s Bishops and most senior leaders in the regions met in a zoom forum entitled “Not the College” which was chaired by both Archbishops. The forum considered how the Church of England can boost its mission and outreach to all communities in this country.

Reporting back to the House in his capacity as Chair of the Church’s Vision and Strategy Group which sponsored the meeting, the Archbishop of York spoke of the Church’s addressing the spiritual need of a society which is going through an economic and health crisis. In particular Archbishop Stephen focused on the themes of inclusion and broadening the Church’s engagement with younger and more diverse groups.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally in her capacity as Chair of the Recovery Group then updated the House on the recent ‘rule of six’ announcement by the government and how the announcement will affect church services and church related activities. These will continue to take place while building on the digital engagement and outreach which have been markers of the Church’s activities during the crisis.

The Chair of the Governance Review Group then gave an update on the various models of Church governance structures which are being considered by the group.

This was followed by a report from the Chair of the Transforming Effectiveness Group which is looking at what activities sit best at a local level and which are best resourced nationally. The House welcomed this initiative and agreed to feed in ideas and inputs to assist with structured conversations at diocesan and national levels about how all levels of Church activities are best supported.

The House then received an update on the financial position of dioceses and parish share, with the House supporting specific conversations and engagement with those dioceses facing financial strain.

This was followed by an update regarding ongoing plans for the 2022 Lambeth Conference. Although the Conference was unable to take place in 2020, supportive and productive dialogues are continuing between the Archbishop of Canterbury and his counterparts in all parts of the global Anglican Communion who are each facing the crisis in different ways.

The current position of the Church of England with respect to the distribution of Holy Communion and the use of the Common Cup during Covid was discussed with further theological reflection, discussion and work on this matter planned.


Opinion – 16 September 2020

Different views on individual communion cups:
Peter Anthony All Things Lawful And Honest A Shot of Salvation
“Peter Anthony reveals the murky racist past that lies behind the invention of individual communion cups in Nineteenth Century America and argues against their introduction in the Church of England for a number of theological and practical reasons.”
Steven Holmes Shored Fragments On the use of individual communion cups
Hilary Bogert-Winkler Montreal Diocesan Theological College Individual Communion Cups, Community, and Covid-19

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Richard Coekin and Jonathan Fletcher’s circle

Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News Solidarity, Oppression and the Church of England

Gilo Surviving Church Thoughts on the Elliott Review ‘translation’ by Archbishops Council


“The Government must decentralise to survive Covid”

Update: The Telegraph article is now available on the Archbishop’s website.

The Telegraph has published an article by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London today.

The Government must decentralise to survive Covid
Getting through the winter will only be sustainable if we resource, train and empower local parishes

When the covid pandemic began and lockdown took force across the country – shuttering shops and pubs, closing schools and barring places of worship – much of what we saw, heard and experienced was dictated and driven by “the centre”. Ministers and officials commanded our attention and determined the daily details of our lives. Few of us have experienced the sheer power of government like that in our lifetimes.

It makes sense to look instinctively for central direction in such an acute crisis, and we’re indebted to the roles many played in doing so, especially those who organised the NHS to cope with the increased demand. Within the Church there are lessons to be learnt about the role and importance of central guidance and its crucial interplay with government rules that exist for the benefit of all…

So here’s our challenge for the next phase of this complex, painful and hugely challenging time: let’s place our trust in the local, and make sure it is resourced, trained, informed and empowered. Some places will get things wrong – but that is true of central leadership too…

The Telegraph also has this news item: Exclusive: ‘Rule of six’ is damaging, Justin Welby tells Boris Johnson

Unfortunately these articles are behind a paywall, but there are freely available reports elsewhere.

Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury warns ‘rule of six’ is damaging family life and demands ministers stop making ‘centralised’ coronavirus rules and leave it to local ‘decision makers’

Independent Archbishop of Canterbury warns of ‘sheer power of government’ and says coronavirus rules must be decentralised


Opinion – 12 September 2020

Giles Goddard ViaMedia.News Sexuality & Christianity – Does One Size Fit All?

Church Times A case of reverse contagion?
Sheila Bridge reflects on the unexpected power of one of the lesser sacraments


Dean of Hereford to retire

The Dean of Hereford, the Very Revd Michael Tavinor, has announced that he will retire on 28 February 2021.

Hereford Cathedral press release
Statement from the Bishop of Hereford


Safeguarding News

Today’s Church Times has two safeguarding stories.

Oxford admits failings in spiritual-abuse case

“THE Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, has apologised for “shortcomings” identified by an independent review of his diocese’s handling of a case of spiritual abuse. These failings “contributed to the distress of the survivors”, he said…”

You can read the full report and information about how the diocese is responding here.

Elliott condemns PR response to his safeguarding review

“THE author of a strongly critical safeguarding review of the Church of England has condemned the revelation that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) responded to his recommendations by initiating closer ties between insurers, communications officers, and legal staff…”


General Synod September 2020

All the papers for the meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod on 24 September are now available online.

Note from the Chair of the Business Committee, September 2020
Guide for Synod Members, September 2020
GS 2174 Agenda
GS 2176 General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders)
GS 2176X Explanatory Note
GS Misc 1252 Note from Chief Legal Adviser

It should be noted that GS 2176 and GS 2176X and the timetable are revised versions of the papers originally published last month.


Clergy Discipline Measure

Update Saturday

A working party of the Ecclesiastical Law Society has been reviewing the operation of the Clergy Discipline Measure and has issued an interim report today. ELS members have been sent the following in an email; this is also available online. There are links to the report and an executive study below.


Members will be aware that earlier this year the ELS established a Working Party, under the leadership of Peter Collier QC, to review the operation of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. The Working Party has now produced its Interim Report which scopes out the issues to be addressed and provides an indication of direction of travel for reform. It is an impressive piece of work and merits careful reading in full, although an Executive Summary has also been produced.

The Interim Report indicates where further work is to be done in coming months, and this will be the subject of detailed consultation in due course in the expectation that a comprehensive Final Report will then follow. A notification inviting submissions will be circulated in due course.

The views stated in the Interim Report are not necessarily those of the ELS or its Trustees. The opinions expressed are those of the Working Party, whose membership is recorded in the Report. It represents an informed and expert consideration of a subject of pressing concern and considerable importance to the Church of England today. I commend it to you for study and comment, and in doing so I express the thanks of the Society to Peter and all the members for devoting their time and talents to this project.

Mark Hill QC

Chairman, Ecclesiastical Law Society

Download the ELS Working Party (CDM 2003) Interim Report
Download the ELS Working Party (CDM 2003) Executive Summary


Church Times CDM review: lawyers press for an immediate change


Opinion – 9 September 2020

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Reflections on Church Management and Structure. Time for Change?

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News A Tribute to Colin Blakely, Co-Founder of Via Media


Dean of Christ Church cleared of all safeguarding accusations

Updated again Wednesday evening

The Church of England has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford:

Bishop of Huddersfield, Jonathan Gibbs, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop said: “An independent investigation into allegations that the Dean, Martyn Percy, failed to fulfil his safeguarding responsibilities has concluded the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The National Safeguarding Team, NST, followed the House of Bishops guidance when the four separate allegations were referred earlier in the year relating to the Dean, a senior office holder. At no point was there any allegation or evidence that the Dean presented a direct risk to any child or vulnerable adult.

I am aware this has been a very difficult time for all parties, particularly Martyn and his family, and I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation. There will of course be lessons to learn about the processes, as there are with any safeguarding case, and that is an essential part of our guidance to make the Church a safer place for all. We welcome the Dean’s commitment to taking part in this. Now the investigation has concluded and the Dean has been exonerated of these safeguarding allegations, the NST’s involvement has come to an end. I continue to pray for his ministry and the life of the Cathedral and its mission in the diocese and wider Church.

As I have said before, the NST has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean at Christ Church, Oxford and this remains the case.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy
Statement on Christ Church, Oxford from the Bishop of Oxford
8 September 2020

In March this year it was alleged that the Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, a senior member of the clergy and Dean of Christ Church Oxford, had not fulfilled his safeguarding responsibilities. The National Safeguarding Team (NST) duly appointed an independent safeguarding person, who was asked to investigate and report back. The report has concluded that the Dean acted entirely appropriately in each case. The Bishop of Oxford has issued the following statement:

“I welcome the news that the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has concluded and that Martyn is exonerated. The investigation process was not without pain, and could have been concluded more quickly, but it is entirely right that allegations against clergy and church officers are properly investigated when they are made. This investigation brings full closure to the matter put before the NST, though these continue to be testing times for all at Christ Church. My prayers remain with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College at the start of this new academic year.”

The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford

The Church Times has published this news report: Dean Percy exonerated over safeguarding charges. This rehearses a good deal of the background.

Update 1:
Christ Church has now issued this: Statement from Christ Church on Church of England Safeguarding Investigation.

8 September 2020

“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has announced the outcome of its independent investigation into the handling of four disclosures to the Dean of Christ Church, made by survivors of sexual assault. The NST has now informed Christ Church that its report concludes there has been no breach of the Church of England’s protocols.

“Safeguarding is of the utmost importance at Christ Church, and it is our obligation to report such concerns appropriately. After a query from a national newspaper regarding a serious sexual assault, an independent QC advised that a referral should be made to the Church of England as the handling of such disclosures fell within its jurisdiction. It is vital that everyone has the confidence to report safeguarding concerns. We will be reviewing the NST’s findings with regard to Christ Church’s safeguarding responsibilities.

“Our thoughts are with all survivors of abuse. If anyone affected by this news requires support, they should contact the police or the relevant safeguarding authority.

Update 2
Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer: Church of England clears Martyn Percy of all safeguarding allegations.

Harriet Sherwood writes in the Guardian: Church clears Oxford college dean after ‘black ops campaign to discredit him’.
Headline later changed to Church clears Oxford college dean over alleged safeguarding failures.

Tim Wyatt at Religion Media Centre has Oxford dean cleared by abuse investigation and Christ Church Oxford timeline.

Update 3
The Times Dean of Christ Church Oxford cleared of safeguarding failures

Telegraph Oxford University dean finally exonerated after safeguarding dispute

Daily Mail Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church college is cleared of all safeguarding allegations in abuse row

Cherwell Christ Church dean exonerated after safeguarding allegations

Update 4
Stephen Parsons Loose ends in the Martyn Percy Affair.


Law Commission consults on wedding law

The Law Commission has issued a public consultation paper on reforming the law in England and Wales relating to the conduct of weddings. The press release is here.

The consultation paper is here:
Getting Married: A Consultation Paper on Weddings Law.
The consultation questionnaire is linked from this page.
Links to Welsh versions and other related documents are here.

The consultation document is very long indeed, but there is a helpful precis of what it is about here:
Law & Religion UK Reforming wedding law in England & Wales.

There are some media reports here:
Church Times Law Commission suggests sweeping marriage reforms
Religion Media Centre Wedding reform proposals allow humanist legally binding ceremonies

And there is some theological comment on the topic by Nicholas Henshall at Via Media Worldly Weddings – To Bless or Not to Bless?


Opinion – 5 September 2020

William Davage All Things Lawful And Honest By Law Established
“In the wake of suggestions that ordinations should take place without a celebration of the Mass, and that the common Eucharistic cup should be replaced with individual glasses, William Davage asks how these canonical irregularities came to be proposed in the first place.”

Stephen Lynas bathwellschap Bring it on home to me
“Today we did a ‘first’: the General Synod clergy held our own Zoom meeting”

Rachel Mann Church Times Honesty will supply a rich legacy

Paul Devonshire Surviving Church CDM. A Kafkaesque Nightmare


House of Bishops meeting Friday 4 September 2020

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops meeting Friday 4 September 2020

A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today Friday 4 September 2020 via Zoom.

In its first meeting following the Summer break, the House heard more about the shape and structure of the various workstreams which come under the auspices of the Emerging Church initiative. These are now well established and making good progress, with several due to report at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.

Specific updates were given from the chairs of the Governance group, the Vision and Strategy group and the Transforming Effectiveness group. The House looked ahead to the detailed discussion of the Vision and Strategy workstream which will take place at a virtual meeting attended by the College of Bishops and others, led by the Archbishop of York later this month.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally in her capacity as Chair of the Recovery Group updated the House regarding the progress made by churches across the country in re-opening Church buildings following the lifting of the lockdown restrictions. Bishop Sarah also reviewed the national picture of the online church services and other events which have been taking place in many hundreds of communities during the lockdown.

The current position of the Church of England with respect to the distribution of Holy Communion and the use of the Common Cup during Covid was then discussed with further reflection, discussion and work on this matter planned for future meetings.

A forward look towards Autumn and the remainder of 2020 was then given on a range of subjects including the publication of LLF resources, safeguarding matters, the Archbishop’s Commission on Racism and the Autumn Synod.


Opinion – 2 September 2020

LGBTQ Faith UK Hidden in plain site. Church clarity diocesan style

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The search for truth in the Smyth/Fletcher enquiries.


Opinion – 29 August 2020

James Hadley All Things Lawful And Honest Irregular & Unlearned
“In the light of attempts to hold irregular ordinations without the Eucharist, the Rev’d Dr James Hadley suggests it may be a sign of the lack of depth in current theological thinking and formation in the Church of England”

Gilo Surviving Church The bigger the mitre the larger the parachute!
“Fear of reputational damage is causing reputational damage”

Mary Harrington UnHerd England will miss our Church when it’s gone
“Without the steadying influence of Anglicanism, our politics could descend again into extremism”


Individual cups at Holy Communion

Updated Thursday afternoon

Are individual cups at Holy Communion legal in the Church of England?

Mrs Mary Durlacher asked a question about this at the online meeting of General Synod members in July and was told that the answer is “no”.

Mrs Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q68 Will the House of Bishops reconsider the prohibition of use of small individual cups as a valid ‘common sense’ pro tem way of sharing the Communion wine while current constraints remain?
The Bishop of London to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:
A The Legal Advisory Commission has stated “it is contrary to law for individual cups to be used for each communicant” and that “the doctrine of necessity cannot be appealed to in order to justify the use of individual cups even in circumstances where there is a fear of contagion from the use of a common cup. … the Sacrament Act 1547 makes provision for cases where a necessity not to deliver a common cup arises: in such a case the normal requirement that the sacrament be delivered in both kinds is disapplied by statute. Even if a shared cup cannot be used for medical reasons, the use of individual cups remains contrary to law … . In such cases reception should be in one kind only.” The House cannot authorise or encourage a practice which would be contrary to law.

The reply refers to this Legal Advisory Commission paper and to the Sacrament Act 1547. Also relevant is this Church of England advice Holy Communion and the distribution of the elements issued on 1 in mid-July 2020 after the Synod meeting.

Mrs Durlacher subsequently instructed a group of six barristers to prepare a legal opinion. They disagreed with the Bishop’s reply and concluded that there was nothing in law to prevent the use of individual cups at  the administration of Holy Communion. Their opinion is here: The legality of the use of individual cups for communion wine.

Ian Paul has published a number of relevant articles on his Psephizo blog.

Andrew Goddard Can we receive both bread and wine during the pandemic?
Andrew AtherstonReceiving Communion in individual cups: round two
Ian Paul Did Jesus use multiple cups at the Last Supper?

This has now been picked up by the secular and church press.

The Telegraph Row over Communion wine as lawyers challenge CoE ruling it is against Covid guidelines
Church Times Barristers challenge Bishops’ legal advice against individual communion cups

It has been pointed out (by Matt C on Twitter) that, even if legal, “Individual communion cups are not covered by either List A or List B of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules” (and so their introduction would require a faculty).


I have corrected the date of issue of the Holy Communion and the distribution of the elements paper above. The paper issued on 1 July was this COVID-19-Advice-on-the-Administration-of-Holy-Communion-v3-1.7.2020, although that has been subsequently updated. The current version is version 5.1.


Opinion – 26 August 2020

Charlie Bell Defining ecclesiology – alarming developments in the Church of England
Do read the full article, which is here.

Edward Dowler All Things Lawful And Honest Safety First
“It sometimes feels like the Church’s and Government’s response to COVID is governed by thinking that is not much more complex than the axiom ‘Safety First’. Edward Dowler explores what principles might undergird a more theologically robust and pastorally honest response to our present crisis.”

Rowan Williams New Statesman Covid and confronting our own mortality
“The pandemic has forced us to confront the issue of death: how do we think about dying, and what does it mean for how we live?”

Kevin Makins Experimental Theology Church is Gross


Opinion – 22 August 2020

Interview by Benjamin Wayman for Christianity Today
Rowan Williams: Theological Education Is for Everyone
“To do theology is to rediscover the strangeness of the Christian framework.”

Anna And Noah Sutterisch Earth & Altar Becoming Humble Skeptics: Rejecting Anglican Identity

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Thinking about bullying in the Church