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“Jonathan Pease examines recent trends and developments in the Church of England’s choral tradition. Although COVID has produced many problems for church choirs in the immediate term, might it be that the pandemic prompts a renaissance in traditional church music and the life of parochial choirs in the long term?”
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Coronavirus: Archbishops invite nation to pause, pray and remember 100,000 people ‘known to God and cherished by God’
“100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure – each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us.”
“Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are issuing a call to the nation to pause and reflect to remember the more than 100,000 people across the UK who have died after contracting Covid-19 and all those who know and love them.
In an open letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell invite everyone across England – whether they have faith or not – to pause, reflect on the “enormity of this pandemic” and to pray.
Death, they insist, does not have “the last word”, and the Christian faith promises that one day “every tear will be wiped away”.
God, they write, knows grief and suffering and “shares in the weight of our sadness”.
Acknowledging the wider impact of the pandemic on the whole of society through loneliness, anxiety and economic hardship, they invite people to “cast their fears on God”.
The letter also speaks of the particular impact of the pandemic on poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities.
It acknowledges many who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic and it speaks about those unable to be with loved ones as they died or even at their graveside because of the restrictions.
The archbishops give thanks for NHS and social care staff, who they describe as “a blessing and lifeline for our nation”; for clergy, other frontline workers and “so many good neighbours”. They give thanks for the development of vaccines and reiterate a call to everyone to take the vaccine when it is offered.
They also urge people to support each other both by following the guidelines to limit the spread of the virus and in practical ways, reaching out in care and kindness.
The letter includes an invitation to everyone – whether they have faith or not – to join the archbishops in pausing and praying each day at 6pm from February 1.
The archbishops write: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.
“We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.”
They conclude: “Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter.
“We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.
“Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.”
The tragic milestone comes amid lockdown conditions in which large gatherings such as a national memorial service are not possible in person.
It is expected that the Church of England will hold services of remembrance for those who have died and thanksgiving for all those who have cared for them when it is possible to do so.
A prayer for those who mourn is also being shared on social media and will be available to churches across the country. The Text is below.
A prayer for those who mourn
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
The Diocese of Oxford has issued this announcement:
The Bishop of Oxford has reinstated Permission to Officiate (PTO) for Lord Carey, who has issued the following statement.
“Following helpful and friendly discussions with the Bishop of Oxford, I am pleased to say that my Permission to Officiate has been reinstated.
My PTO was withdrawn last year on June 17th, when the independent Learning Lessons Case Review into the late John Smyth QC referred information comprising two letters to the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England. The letters gave rise to concerns that, when I was Principal of Trinity College Bristol in 1983/4, I had received a report concerning John Smyth’s evil conduct in the early 1980s without disclosing these concerns to the appropriate authorities. At that time Smyth attended the college for a short period of part-time study.
An NST core group was set up and the conclusion to their investigation was that I had seen the report. They also concluded that as a result of this investigation and further training that I have recently undertaken, they believe I do not pose a safeguarding risk.
I welcome this latter conclusion. However, I respectfully disagree with their judgement. I have no memory at all of John Smyth at Trinity College Bristol.
Let me say firmly that I condemn utterly the crimes of Smyth, and the damage he did to the lives of young people. I am fully committed to placing those who have survived abuse at the centre of our safe practices, thoughts and prayers, and to acknowledge how dreadful such abuse is and how lifelong the impact of such abuse.
Over the past few years, I have spent an immense amount of time focusing intensively on safeguarding through working closely with two Inquiries into Peter Ball, including the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and through undertaking specialised safeguarding training.
This year I have made a report to the NST of a disclosure I received about non recent clerical sexual abuse. I am strongly of the view that training in safeguarding is a vital tool to overcoming failures to protect children and vulnerable adults.
I am very willing to meet with survivors of John Smyth if they wish to meet with me.”
The Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Carey of Clifton
If you are affected
If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the themes raised on this page and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors:
A planned independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC is currently underway. In the course of that review, new information came to light in June 2020 regarding Lord Carey, which was passed by the reviewers to the National Safeguarding Team for their attention, as per the agreed Terms of Reference for the review.
A Core Group was formed, according to House of Bishops Guidance. The Core Group concluded that the concern, as outlined in Lord Carey’s statement above, is substantiated. This conclusion was also communicated to the Review team, which is expected to report in full during 2021.
However, the Core Group also concluded that if Lord Carey were made aware of a safeguarding concern, an allegation of abuse or a disclosure today, that he would report it to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor and the police or statutory authorities.
Church Times Lord Carey’s PTO reinstated
Janet Fife on Surviving Church A Fag End in the Gutter: The Case against George Carey
This contain a good deal of additional detail about the evidence submitted to the NST, and is well worth reading in full.
Ruth Wilde Inclusive Church Inclusion and the Church of Tomorrow: Talk to the Swedish Church
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Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Church of England and Safeguarding: the Pursuit of Excellence
Rosemary Lofty Church Times Mission needs pennies spent
“Numerical growth can be impeded by a lack of basic amenities”
The meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod planned for the end of February has been postponed, although there will be an informal online meeting on 27 February. Details are in today’s press release.
Synod to discuss challenges facing the Church and world amid coronavirus lockdown
General Synod is to hold a special online meeting next month examining challenges facing the Church and world in light of the coronavirus pandemic followed by a formal session in the spring, as a result of the current lockdown restrictions.
Members will discuss questions including the future shape of the Church in the wake of Covid-19, independent oversight of safeguarding and proposals by a Commission of the Church of England towards addressing the Housing Crisis at a meeting held entirely remotely on February 27.
Legislation and other business which can only be addressed in a formal session will be discussed slightly later – expected to be from April 23 to April 24. The two meetings will replace the planned group of sessions which would have taken place from February 26 to March 1.
The decision was taken by the officers of Synod – the Archbishops, Prolocutors of Canterbury and York of the House of Clergy, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity with the support of the Chair of the General Synod Business Committee.
It was taken in order to follow the Government’s call for people to stay at home to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The Officers of General Synod agreed that Synod chairs and the staff needed to manage formal proceedings should not be required to travel or gather together at the moment.
The decision to hold an extra meeting means Synod will be able to discuss vital questions facing the church and society in February and still address legislative business in the spring, without having to delay discussions to the July group of sessions.
Synod will also have an opportunity to engage in detail with the recently published Living in Love and Faith resources on human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage later in the year.
The Revd Canon Simon Butler, Prolocutor of Canterbury, said: “Clearly the Covid-19 situation needs to improve before we can ask staff and chairs of Synod to gather together or travel anywhere safely.
“What matters most is that we do the essential business we need to in the coming months and we all can hope that this will be much safer after Easter.”
Canon Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, said: “Deciding to change the focus of what we can achieve through a virtual Synod has not been easy.
“However, as a medical doctor, I am acutely aware of the need to keep us all safe, not least when I think about our excellent Synod staff and chairs.”
The Revd Canon Sue Booys, Chair of the General Synod Business Committee, said: “The February meeting will be focusing on looking ahead to the aftermath of the pandemic and how the Church can help our communities recover.
“I look forward to a formal session at the end of April when we can address some key remaining legislative business prior to July.”17 Comments
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House of Bishops – Tuesday 19th of January 2021
The House of Bishops met for its first meeting in 2021 on Tuesday 19th January via Zoom.
The bishops began with discussion and an acknowledgment of the ongoing seriousness of the pandemic, the rising death toll and the ongoing difficulty, sadness and loss faced by many. As a House and in breakout groups, the bishops continued to be mindful of the damage Covid-19 continues to wreak in our communities but expressed hope that the vaccines now being rolled out offer light at the end of this tunnel.
The House then turned its attention to the current and multi-year post-Covid environment, with broad discussion over the potential long-term impact of Covid-19 in a number of key areas. The House recognised the opportunities afforded by new kinds of engagement through the internet while regretting that many communities could not meet physically or in familiar ways, while underscoring the importance of Holy Communion for individuals and churches.
The bishops welcomed the creative, innovative ways ministers were finding to extend the Church’s outreach by streaming worship online and by developing other ways of building community online. The House affirmed it would be premature to make decisions on the eucharist in a digital medium and the administration and reception of Holy Communion, particularly in a time of national pandemic and resolved to undertake further theological and liturgical study and discussion on these issues over the coming months.
In the afternoon, the House was updated by the Bishop of London in her role as Chair of the Recovery Group. Bishop Sarah addressed the impact of Covid-19 over the Christmas season and the Church’s ongoing participation in the current national vaccination programme. She also reaffirmed that throughout the pandemic, churches will continue to work with other faith communities, local groups and volunteers to support their communities and local health providers. The House also heard that while many churches have decided to offer digital services only for the time being, while others are continuing to remain open in a Covid-secure way for individual prayer and public worship. The circumstances in each place will inform a local decision.
The House then received updates from the Chair of each of the Emerging Church workstreams: From the Bishop of Manchester in his capacity as Chair of the Coordinating group, the Archbishop of York as Chair of the Vision and Strategy workstream, The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich as Chair of the Transforming Effectiveness workstream (whose purpose is to make the operations of the National Church Institutions more effective) and the Bishops of Leeds as Chair of the Governance Review Group. The Governance Review Group plans to publish a consultation document which will suggest a number of options for future governance models and will consult widely.
The House then received an update on the Resourcing Ministerial Formation Review outlining the process so far, and how this fits within the wider vision emerging for the Church of England and the current challenges facing the Church. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich addressed the House which took note and agreed on the direction of travel of the report, with preliminary recommendations expected by Summer 2021 and final recommendations later in the year.
The House was then informed on progress towards independent oversight for Safeguarding, further to the House’s December discussion of this issue. Further engagement on this issue, including importantly with survivors of abuse, will take place in the coming weeks. The House heard from the Acting Director of Safeguarding, as well as the Director of Mission and Public Affairs who responded to questions from the House. The House was informed that the Interim Support Scheme has progressed well since it began actively dealing with cases in October 2020. The scheme has been developed collaboratively by the NST with important inputs from Legal and Finance, and, most importantly, survivor voices.
The Bishop of Rochester then spoke to the House regarding the Implementation and Dialogue Group Report. The House agreed for the Report to be considered further at a subsequent meeting.41 Comments
Press release from the Anglican Communion Office: Standing Committee review leads to shift of focus in the Anglican Communion Office (full text copied below)
Further information about the changes can be found on the Anglican Communion website: anglicancommunion.org/renewal2021.
The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion has announced changes to the operational priorities of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) which will see it taking more of a coordinating role; with programmatic activity instead focused in provinces, regions, networks and agencies. Currently, three charities serve the Anglican Communion through the ACO – the Anglican Alliance, the Lambeth Conference Company, and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Today’s announcement relates only to those staff employed by the ACC.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, was commissioned by the Standing Committee to chair an international review in May 2020. The review committee reported in September and, after continuing deliberations, the Standing Committee announced their decisions publicly today after they were shared with staff last week.
The Review recommended that the work of the ACC should focus on supporting the Instruments of Communion and those elements of programmatic work which could not be undertaken more effectively regionally or within provinces. The new focus for ACC staff will be to facilitate and coordinate programmatic work by member churches and authorised networks.
The restructuring has placed a number of staff at risk of redundancy and a formal process of consultation is underway.
In a written Case for Organisational Change distributed to staff, the Standing Committee said that the proposed changes were not only driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. It said that the re-focussing recognises that “the resource gaps between provinces in terms of education and technology have reduced significantly and the resource available to the Communion has increased as a result. It said that “aspects of the programmatic work undertaken at the ACO would be more effectively undertaken through provinces, regions or other agencies across the Communion with the ACO coordinating and communicating that work across the Communion.”
It went on to say that “the more centralised approach which currently dominates project / programme work, has a negative impact on diversity and inclusion and does not reflect the breadth of culture and diversity represented in the Communion, in particular those parts of the Communion who do not have English as their first language or as an official language of their country or province.”
Vice Chair Maggie Swinson, a lay canon in the Church of England’s Diocese of Liverpool, said: “The direction commended by the review report will draw provinces into active participation in the Communion’s work and our common mission to build the kingdom. Staff in the office have served us well and it is a sadness that, in our efforts to increase provincial engagement through devolving aspects of the Communion’s work, some redundancies may result.”
The President of the ACC, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said: “The Anglican Communion is a global family of churches that are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ in an extraordinary range of contexts. This review has been an important part of discerning how we can draw more fully on the gifts, resources and wisdom of provinces across the Communion, as we seek to serve a world in need.
“I’m grateful to Archbishop Thabo, Canon Margaret Swinson and all those who have led this work. I would also like to thank all the staff at the Anglican Communion Office who have served with such passion, commitment and faith over many years, and assure them all of my prayers throughout this process.”.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, responding to the changes by saying: “This review takes us back to the original rationale behind the setting up of the ACO. The new structure will enable the ACO to assist the 41 provinces to act out our Five Marks of Mission in a united collaborative manner, as well as enable them to become the family of churches that God wants us to be in order to advance God’s mission.”
Updated 21 January
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Update: a vesrion of this article has subsequently appeared in The Guardian The Conservatives think the Church of England can fill all welfare gaps. We can’t.
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Updated again Wednesday
See previous item.
Further statement in response to media interest
12 January 2021
Christ Church’s Governing Body and Cathedral Chapter have decided to take forward internal disciplinary proceedings, following a complaint that was reported in October 2020. These proceedings are part of Christ Church’s HR procedures for dealing with employment issues, as set out in its Statutes.
We fully recognise that this has been an extremely distressing time for each of the parties involved, exacerbated by high levels of media interest and the strong feelings the case has generated. It is now crucial that this internal disciplinary matter is left to be resolved, formally and properly, through the correct procedures, which will include the appointment of an external, independent chair. These procedures exist to protect all of our staff, students and congregants, and Christ Church as a whole, in equal measure.
Archbishop Cranmer has already published a further article on this: Martyn Percy is a ‘sex pest’: Christ Church Oxford in new attempt to oust the Dean
This contains much information about the letter from the Reverend Jonathan Aitken to the Chapter, mentioned here earlier, but also it reproduces the reply to him from the Reverend Canon Graham Ward. The whole article is worth reading.
The Church Times has now (Wednesday) published Dean of Christ Church faces new attempt to remove him from office. This contains a good deal of additional information about the internal disciplinary process to date, and what may happen in the future, and also summarises the status of the separate Clergy Discipline Measure action which is, apparently, proceeding in parallel.56 Comments
We reported on 19 November 2020 A new complaint about the Dean of Christ Church.
Since then we have also linked to several comment articles published on Surviving Church and Archbishop Cranmer relating to this, in particular (and in reverse date order) on 9 January, 2 January, and 9 December. Some of the linked articles contain fragments of information about developments in this case.
Today and yesterday, two news articles have appeared in mainstream media, both unfortunately behind paywalls, but here are the links, with their headlines, anyway:
Telegraph Camilla Turner Dean of Christ Church faces fresh attempt to be ousted
Times Andrew Billen Oxford college accused of ‘toxic’ bid to paint dean Martyn Percy as a sex pest
Both Christ Church and the Oxford diocese have issued statements (full texts copied below)
The Christ Church statement contains no reference to this incident still being treated as a Safeguarding matter, contrary to earlier reports. The Diocesan statement confirms that a CDM action is still proceeding. TA understands that Oxford diocesan officials, including the bishop, have recused themselves from participation in that action.
The Telegraph reports:
The College’s governing body and the chapter of the cathedral are due to vote on Monday on whether Dr Percy should be taken to an internal tribunal that could see him removed from office. This… follows an alleged incident which took place in Christ Church cathedral in October, where it is claimed that he stroked a woman’s hair and complimented her on her appearance.
The Times article includes this:
Few in the Church of England have voiced their concerns about a complicated affair over which the church has little say. Many, including the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, appear satisfied that Christ Church has acted responsibly over the latest complaint.
But Rev [Angela] Tilby told The Times: “The difference this time is that the patient machinations of those on the cathedral chapter who have consistently plotted against the dean have now borne fruit with other cathedral clergy apparently actively working for his sacking on the grounds of him being a ‘sex pest’. The mixture of malevolence and naivety is toxic and extremely disturbing in an institution supposedly dedicated to education, learning and holiness.”
Christ Church confirmed yesterday that the governing body would review its investigator’s report alongside the advice of an independent QC.
Both news reports mention that Jonathan Aitken has written to the Cathedral Chapter about the latest developments. In his letter he explains that if the Chapter endorses the Governing Body’s action (expected on Monday) to proceed with a new tribunal, he will seek a Judicial Review in the High Court. and outlines the legal and financial risks involved, both for the Chapter and its individual members. He also makes three suggestions for alternative courses of action by the Chapter.37 Comments
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Archbishop of Wales to retire in May
The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, is to retire in May after four years as leader of the Church in Wales.
Archbishop John, who will shortly celebrate his 68th birthday, has also served as Bishop of Swansea and Brecon for the past 13 years. The 13th Archbishop of Wales, he was also the first Bishop of Swansea and Brecon to be elected as Archbishop. He will retire from both roles on May 2…24 Comments
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“The election of practising Catholic Joe Biden is just one reason for religious progressives to be hopeful”