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“The Archbishop of Wokeness Welby and the equally inept Nichols are not leaders that the faithful deserve”
Simon Jenkins The Guardian If the Church of England worships online, how can its historic buildings survive?
“Congregations have shown great adaptability in the pandemic, and churches could again be at the heart of British life”
Today is the 850th anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the hands of four of King Henry II’s knights. To mark the date we republish a piece that we originally published on this day in 2007.
‘Since Christmas a day:
and the day of St Stephen, First Martyr.
‘Since St Stephen a day:
and the day of St John the Apostle.
‘Since St John the Apostle a day:
and the day of the Holy Innocents.
‘Since the Holy Innocents a day:
the fourth day from Christmas.
‘To-day, what is to-day?’
So wrote T S Eliot at the start of the second act of his play Murder in the Cathedral, written for the 1935 Canterbury Festival, and first performed in the Chapter House at Canterbury, just a few yards from where, on this day in 1170, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, was killed.
The murder, or assassination, of Thomas Becket within his cathedral church shocked the whole of western Christendom. Within three years he had been canonized, his name added to the roll of saints of the Church, and King Henry II forced to do penance for his role in Becket’s death. From Iceland to Italy there are churches dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, and relics, statues and images from just a few years after 1170.
The cause for which Becket died, however, is not one that today we necessarily regard as unambiguously right. As Eliot has the assassins remind his audience, the rule of law that we treasure as a great protection was begun by the reforms of Henry II that Becket stood against. ‘Remember,’ says the Second Knight in his speech to the audience, ‘remember that it is we who took the first step. We have been instrumental in bringing about the state of affairs that you approve.’ On the other hand, the rule of law that Henry II was introducing was harsh, whereas the rule of the Church, which Becket wanted to encompass as many people as possible, was more lenient.
And yet we cannot easily regard the murder of Becket as justified, even if we can agree with some of the sentiments Eliot has the knights express. The end does not justify the means. The powerful cannot go around murdering those they disagree with, whether they be political rivals or obstacles (as Becket had become to Henry II), or the weak and impoverished (as the boys of Bethlehem were to Herod, or indeed today). The prophets of the Old Testament remind us of this too: we see David brought to book by Nathan for arranging the death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11, 12); and Elijah foretells disaster on the house of Ahab for his complicity in bearing false witness against Naboth and causing him to be executed (1 Kings 21); and there are plenty of other examples.
The very rule of law that Henry II wanted to introduce requires that arbitrary exercise of power is not allowed. The murder of Thomas Becket reminds us still that the rule of law (tempered by equity and mercy) is fundamental to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and that it applies as much if not more to the rich and powerful and to the rulers as it does to the dispossessed, the powerless and the ruled. Those in power must always be held to account for their treatment of those who are in their power.
‘To-day, what is to-day?’
‘Let our thanks ascend
To God, who has given us another Saint in Canterbury.’
‘Blessed Thomas, pray for us.’
Simon Kershaw is Lay Chair of the Ely diocesan synod and a lay canon of Ely Cathedral. He was also a founder member of the TS Eliot Society in 2006.8 Comments
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The Anglican Communion News Service has links to Christmas messages from Anglican Primates.13 Comments
We reported in October on the coverage in the press asking why the recently retired Archbishop of York had not been given a peerage. The Prime Minister’s office has today released a list of Political Peerages 2020, and Dr Sentamu is included in the Crossbench section of the list. Despite the title of the press release, the crossbench nominations are for public service.26 Comments
Date 16 December 2020
ST HELEN’S BISHOPSGATE ANNOUNCES “BROKEN PARTNERSHIP” WITH HOUSE OF BISHOPS
St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead the House of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England. Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.
Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is in marked contrast to the House of Bishops’ muddled message.
In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.
The loving summons of the Lord Jesus to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’ leads his followers into a life of rich fulfilment that stretches into eternity. Thus, when Church of England bishops depart from proclaiming and defending clear biblical teaching, it is not just a breach of the Canons of the Church of England, but more seriously it is unloving and painful to the many people within the Church of England who want to live faithful and sacrificial lives following Jesus, and it risks causing others to stray from the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures.
St Helen’s has a deep love and concern for those in the church who experience same-sex attraction, and seeks to provide support and care for such men and women in our own congregations. Sadly when Church of England leaders contradict or fail to promote the clear teaching of scripture in the area of sexual ethics, they are heard by our and other congregations to say that scripture does not matter and the personal obedience of committed Christians desiring to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching does not matter.
St Helen’s, like the great majority of Anglicans around the world, believes that scripture clearly and consistently teaches that it is God’s good plan that the only loving and God-honouring place for sexual practice is within the marriage of one man and one woman, and that this is a matter of primary biblical importance. It is not merely a ‘secondary matter’ over which faithful Christian disciples can ‘agree to disagree’, rather it is a matter of the authority of God’s word to which all disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to submit (and not reword).
Tracey, a member of St Helen’s who knew she was gay when she was 12, lived an active gay lifestyle in her twenties until she became a Christian a few years ago.
She says, “Now that I’m a Christian it doesn’t mean that I have become straight. I’ve always been attracted to girls. The thing that helped me was understanding that temptation and sin were different things. I have a choice: I can either honour God with my actions or dishonour him.”
She continues, “I find it upsetting when Christians take different bits of the Bible and say, I’ll go with this and not that, as it was quite clear to me what the Bible taught on homosexuality. There is a cost and it is tricky, but holding onto the truths in the Bible, I choose to honour Jesus. I have a wonderful church family who are incredibly supportive.”
St Helen’s is not leaving the Church of England and will remain a member of its Deanery and Diocesan structures for the most part. However St Helen’s will be withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership. This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches. We have been in regular communication with both the current Bishop of London and her predecessor about our developing concerns. We are grateful that the Bishop of London has, in response, proposed working with St Helen’s to assess how the potential consequences of broken partnership could be addressed.
William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s says, “The House of Bishops has responsibility for spiritual leadership in the Church of England-teaching the truth, correcting error and exercising discipline. Their failure of leadership over many years is responsible for the confusion that the Church of England now finds itself in. By contrast the Bible’s teaching is clear, authoritative and loving as is the historic doctrine of the Church of England. Sadly, therefore, we find that although authentically Anglican, we are not, for the time being, in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops. We feel obliged to take this step to differentiate ourselves visibly from the House of Bishops.”
He continues, “We are grateful for the ongoing faithful ministry of the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, who is not himself a voting member of the House of Bishops but has repeatedly and faithfully raised these concerns about departure from the Scriptures. Rod will review me annually in my role as Rector of St Helen’s, with input from the churchwardens and other members of the team at St Helen’s. We will also continue to pray for the leadership of the Church of England and for the House of Bishops, especially that they will stand strong in the orthodox truths and have the confidence to be unashamed in preaching the gospel as set out in scripture – the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, no matter how counter-cultural it may seem to contemporary society.”
Many local church leaders, from different Anglican churches across the country, share similar concerns to those expressed by St Helen’s. We wish to support and remain in full partnership with these likeminded churches, who seek to teach the good news of Jesus with faithfulness and compassion and provide on-going care, love and support for those within their congregations experiencing same-sex attraction.
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The Church of England General Synod next meets from Friday 26 February to Monday 1 March 2021. The draft timetable for the meeting was published today, and is copied below the fold.7 Comments
Bishop of Chelmsford: 17 December 2020
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Dr Gulnar (Guli) Francis-Dehqani BA MA PhD, Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough, for election as Bishop of Chelmsford.
Published 17 December 2020
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Dr Gulnar (Guli) Francis-Dehqani BA MA PhD, Suffragan Bishop of Loughborough, for election as Bishop of Chelmsford, in succession to the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell following his appointment as Archbishop of York.
Guli was born and raised in Iran and her faith was nurtured in the tiny and much persecuted Christian community there. Her father was Bishop in Iran and her brother was murdered subsequent to the Iranian Revolution. He is commemorated in the Chapel of the Modern Martyrs at Canterbury Cathedral. Guli and her family were forced into exile.
Now a UK Citizen, Guli was educated at Nottingham University and Bristol University and trained for ministry at The South East Institute for Theological Education. She served her title at Mortlake with East Sheen, in the Diocese of Southwark and was ordained priest in 1999. She also has a doctorate in theology on cross cultural mission.
In 2002, Guli was appointed Chaplain of the Royal Academy of Music and St Marylebone Church of England School, in the Diocese of London. In 2009, she took up the role of Inter-faith Liaison Research Assistant at the University of Northampton and in 2011 was appointed Curate Training Officer, in the Diocese of Peterborough.
In 2017, Guli took up her current role as Bishop of Loughborough, in the Diocese of Leicester.
She is married to Canon Lee Francis-Dehqani, also ordained, and they have three children, one at university and twins at school.
There is more on the Chelmsford diocesan website.21 Comments
The Diocese of Durham has today published the report by Dr Stephanie Hill into the case of convicted sexual abuser Granville Gibson, formerly the Archdeacon of Auckland.
Statement by Bishop Paul Butler which explains why the report, completed in 2017, has been delayed in publication until now.
The full text of the report is here: Independent Report into the case of George Granville Gibson.
The diocesan responses to the recommendations in the report are tabulated here.9 Comments
The Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives has brought together over 350 senior faith leaders from around the world to call for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT people and for a global ban on conversion therapy.
They are holding a one day conference today, 16 December, which is available as a livestream from 0930 – 1630. This is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
The programme of the conference can be viewed here.
The Bishop of London has recorded this welcoming video.
This will be followed at 1730 by a Celebration at Westminster Abbey with both the Dean of Westminster and the Dean of St Paul’s.
They invite all people of faith to sign the declaration with them.
The full text of the press release is copied below the fold.
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House of Bishops Meeting, December 2020 via Zoom
The House of Bishops met for a scheduled two-day meeting on Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 December 2020 via Zoom
The two-day meeting is customary for the House at year end, with the House approving items to feature on the agenda for February Synod.
Amongst the key issues covered were discussion and updates on the Emerging Church workstreams, Safeguarding (particularly independent oversight), updates from Ministry and further developments related to the reform of the Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM).
The Bishop of London gave an update to the House regarding the on-going situation with regards to COVID-19 in her role as Chair of the Recovery Group. In her update, she addressed the impact of COVID-19 in preparation for the Christmas season and the possibility of future restrictions over the coming months. She noted that every effort has been made to ensure that Christmas church services are held safely and in compliance with the law and that churchgoers can be assured of this. The House was reminded that throughout the pandemic, churches have worked with other faith communities, local groups and volunteers to support their communities and local health providers. The Bishop of London confirmed that this work will continue as the nation recovers from the pandemic but noted that we are not yet through the crisis and urged caution and care to all in the community.
The House was updated by the Bishop of Manchester in his capacity as Chair of the Coordinating group of the Emerging Church Workstreams. This was followed by discussion of a Perspectives paper outlining how dioceses individually, and the Church as whole, are responding in the short and medium terms to the challenges of COVID-19. The paper reviewed the impact of the pandemic and the changes dioceses are making to their mission and ministry plans, as regards finances, people and buildings. The house broke into groups to discuss the issues raised in the paper.
The conversation continued in the second day, when breakout groups reported on their discussions. The focus of the feedback and the discussions was how resources should be directed to where they will have the most impact, how national strategies should relate to diocesan strategies and where resources should be maximised for longer term transformation. The House also reviewed how bishops can work collaboratively to respond to the changing picture at ground level.
The Bishop of Leeds addressed the House in this capacity as Chair of the Governance Review Group and was joined by the Bishop of Willesden, who is a member of the group. A progress report was presented the House in line with the Group’s terms of reference which tasks the Group with reviewing the effectiveness of the existing governance structures and process across the national functions of the Church of England. The House noted the report and agreed to the direction of travel for phase two of the Group’s work. The Governance Review Group plan to publish a consultation document which will suggest a number of options for future governance models and will consult widely on them with all relevant stakeholders.
The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich then spoke to the House regarding the work of the Transforming Effectiveness workstream, whose purpose is to make the operations of the National Church Institutions more effective to enable the Church of England to better serve God’s mission.
The Bishop of Huddersfield (Lead Bishop for Safeguarding) introduced Melissa Caslake, Director of Safeguarding to speak to the House with contributions also from Meg Munn, the Secretary General and the Chair of the Independent Safeguarding Panel. In addition to a progress update on the interim support scheme following the recent ICSA report and recommendations and last month’s Synod debate, the House agreed in principle to interim arrangements to provide for independent oversight and scrutiny in the immediate future.
The Bishop of Huddersfield thanked Melissa Caslake for her contribution over the last 18 months prior to her forthcoming departure in January next year. He gave his personal thanks for her support and leadership within the National Safeguarding Team (NST) and National Safeguarding Steering Group. During her tenure, Melissa led and worked with colleagues towards the creation of new independent structures for the oversight of safeguarding and has helped the Church to become a safer and healthier place for all.
The Bishop at Lambeth updated the House on the progress to date on Clergy Disciplinary Measure (CDM) reform. The House noted the direction of travel of CDM reform, which will also take into account recent IICSA recommendations. Feedback was given by the House on three proposals with further discussion to form part of a wider consultation process, prior to proposals being put forward to General Synod.
The Bishop of Chester gave a short presentation to the House on the Revised Formation Framework for Ordained Ministry. The Ministry Council has overseen this process on behalf of the House which began in September 2019, with the purpose of renewing the Formation Framework which is used to assess the suitability of ordinands to be an ordained and to assess the suitability of curates to be moved to a new post. The House gave its blessings to the work of Ministry Council on the framework and noted the protocol which has been devised to enable good practice in withdrawing ordinands from training.
The House also engaged in a discussion regarding Brexit. The House considered the current situation and the impact of the various future scenarios on churches and communities across the country. The Bishops in the House of Lords will continue to contribute to discussions in the House of Lords on this matter.1 Comment
The Church of England has today issued this press release:
Update on NST independent oversight
The Archbishops’ Council has voted unanimously that a proposal on interim independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team is to be put in place before February Synod (2021) to pave the way for full independent oversight, by February Synod 2022. Both the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops have already endorsed the principle of independence for the Church’s safeguarding work.
The House of Bishops also discussed this at its meeting today supporting the direction of travel for these proposals while noting the importance of engaging with dioceses. The interim oversight model would include the creation of a new safeguarding board with a majority of entirely independent members, including a Chair, who would have delegated responsibility for the oversight of the NST, to ensure independence of scrutiny and feedback. The Board could then help determine the approach to implementing full independent oversight which will include proposed structural changes for closer working with and oversight of diocesan safeguarding officers, particularly on casework, as outlined in the IICSA recommendations. The detailed arrangements for this, and the resulting allocation of responsibilities, will need to be worked out fully through this process of consultation.
Consultation with survivor representatives has made it very clear that they want to see independent oversight for all cases, not just national ones. This particularly reflects the first IICSA recommendation. There will be full consultation with survivor groups and with dioceses as detailed proposals are drawn up. The Archbishops’ Council noted the importance of how the principle of independence is worked out in relation to dioceses and of ensuring input and feedback from parishes and PCCs. There will be a more detailed timeline in place by February Synod for the following 12 months as this work is progressed. The Council agreed the importance of increased resources to ensure this structure is in place by February Synod.
The Council also unanimously endorsed the setting up and funding of the Interim Support Scheme for survivors.0 Comments
The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, has accepted a post as Associate Chaplain at St George’s Anglican Church in Paris, after seventeen years at St Albans Cathedral. St George’s is an Anglican Church of the Diocese in Europe.16 Comments
The Rt Revd Christopher Foster announced today that he will retire as Bishop of Portsmouth in April 2021.21 Comments
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(Warning, the picture at this link may cause distress.)
The Governing Body of the Church in Wales has published on this page its proposals for: A Bill to authorise experimental use of proposed revisions of the Book of Common Prayer (service of Blessing following a Civil Partnership or Marriage between two people of the same sex).
The documents are all in MS Word format:
The Church of England’s CDM Working Group published a progress report last Friday. The group proposes that there should be a new measure rather than revision of the current measure. It also proposes a number of interim changes that do not require primary legislation. Consultation meetings are being held this week and next; details of how to join are in the report.
The accompanying press release is copied below the fold.
Also on Friday the Ecclesiastical Law Society announced a further public consultation on the Measure. Responses, to be submitted by 20 December 2020, are welcome from non-members.7 Comments