Thinking Anglicans

bishops and divorce

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports for the Sunday Telegraph Divorced bishops to be permitted for first time by Church of England.

Divorced clergy are to be allowed to become Church of England bishops for the first time in a move which has been condemned by traditionalists.

Critics described the change in Church rules as “utterly unacceptable” and warned it would undermine the biblical teaching that marriage is for life.

Conservative and liberal bishops have been deeply divided over the issue, which they have been secretly discussing for months.

While Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, supported relaxing the rules, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is understood to have fiercely argued against a change.

But The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the change was agreed at a meeting of the House of Bishops in May.

The Church is set to issue a statement announcing the new policy next month after legal advice made clear that there is no obstacle to a divorcee, or a priest married to a divorcee, being consecrated.

It means that a number of clergy who have been rejected in the past by the Crown Nominations Commission, the body responsible for appointing bishops, will now be put forward for consideration.

The first beneficiary of the change could be the Rev Nick Holtam, vicar of St Martin in the Fields in London, whose supporters want to propose as the next Bishop of Southwark.

Despite having gained a reputation as an accomplished preacher and a formidable fund-raiser, having masterminded his church’s £36 million renovation appeal, conservatives had warned that his name would be blocked because his wife of 29 years had a brief marriage as a teenager.

Senior figures in the diocese of Southwark were angered by the prospect of not being able to appoint a man they saw as an outstanding candidate for the post. They have welcomed the change in the Church’s position…

…Under current rules, trainee clergy who are divorced, or are married to a divorcee, are required to obtain permission – known as a faculty – before they can be ordained, but priests with such a personal history are currently blocked from becoming bishops.

Now the moratorium is to be dropped in favour of clergy being considered for promotion on a case-by-case basis, a Church spokesman said…

The Press Association has what appears to be the full quote from the CofE spokesman:

“The House had asked previously for clarification of the relevant legal background and, in the light of that, has now agreed that a statement setting out its approach to these issues should be prepared.

“It is expected that the statement, addressing the relevant legal and theological issues, will be available in July when the General Synod meets.

“There is no legal obstacle to persons who have remarried after divorce, or are married to spouses remarried after divorce, becoming bishops. The agreed policy is to pursue a discretionary approach on a case-by-case basis. It is a clarification in an area where there has previously been some uncertainty both about the legal background and the policy.”

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Frances
Frances
11 years ago

At last.

Nom de Plume
Nom de Plume
11 years ago

Finally the Church of England seems prepared fully to implement Article XXXII: “…it is lawful for [Bishops, Priests and Deacons], as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion…” Of course marriage is intended for life. But clergy, like lay people, are capable of making mistakes in life and have access to the Grace which would give them a second chance. Clergy may be called to live exemplary lives (though I emphatically reject any suggestion that might put them on some pedestal), but they are not required to live infallible or perfect lives – nor can they… Read more »

Counterlight
11 years ago

So, now one is still eligible to become a bishop after a failed marriage, but ineligible with a successful marriage to someone of one’s own sex.

makes sense to me.

Fr. Orear
Fr. Orear
11 years ago

So, Archbishop, it’s NOT lawful for two people of the same sex to form a lasting union, but it’s OK for straight people to discard their marriages? And I say this as a divorced and remarried priest.

Grumpy High Church Woman
Grumpy High Church Woman
11 years ago

I welcome this. But shouldn’t we check it out with the rest of the Communion first? As the Bishop of Gloucester said recently, we can only move at the pace of the slowest. And those who don’t agree will certainly need a ‘complementary bishop’ to look after them – perhaps even their own province or ‘society’. And if not, why not? It is good enough for women and gay people. This is a matter on which Anglicans of conscience disagree. And certainly we are not being selective? (And I trust readers of TA will recognize irony when they see it.)

Leslie Fletcher
Leslie Fletcher
11 years ago

The late, and much missed, Anthony Crockett was the first divorced and remarried person in the UK to become a bishop when he became Bishop of Bangor in 2004. The appointment, made by the Bench of Bishops because the (diocesan) electoral college were unable to reach a decision, caused some controversy in the diocese.

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
11 years ago

Here is something else to consider. Archbishop Rowan liberalized, quite rightly and pastorally, the rules for marriage under what is called an Archbishop’s Special Licence to allow clergy to marry people with a former spouse still living. For many of us in ‘sector ministry’ a Special Licence is the only legal way we have to conduct weddings in our chapels and this has allowed us to exercise the same pastoral care as colleagues in parish ministry. This is a good thing. We must follow the House of Bishops’ Advice to Clergy, seeking the permission of our diocesan and giving assurances… Read more »

Caelius Spinator
Caelius Spinator
11 years ago

If you allow for the possibility of re-marriage after divorce (which is a Scripturally ambiguous proposition), the biblical standard for bishops is that they be the husband of one wife, which always has been my chief objection to bishops like +Gene Robinson and +Barry Beisner of Northern California.

In the case of Nick Holtam+, there really should have been no issue in light of the current teaching of the Church of England on divorce. And so his case is not an excuse to open up the doors to divorced and remarried episcopal candidates generally.

Pantycelyn
Pantycelyn
11 years ago

‘…conservatives had warned that his name would be blocked because his wife of 29 years had a brief marriage as a teenager.’

No wonder church participation and respect for church is declining (we’re told) with nonsense like this, wasting good people,in this way.

AND it will of course, make gay and lesbian bishops the very next logical step. More good people to bring in from the cold !=

Pantycelyn
Pantycelyn
11 years ago

welcome this. But shouldn’t we check it out with the rest of the Communion first? As the Bishop of Gloucester said recently, we can only move at the pace of the slowest. And those who don’t agree will certainly need a ‘complementary bishop’ to look after them – perhaps even their own province or ‘society’. And if not, why not? It is good enough for women and gay people. This is a matter on which Anglicans of conscience disagree. And certainly we are not being selective? (And I trust readers of TA will recognize irony when they see it.) Posted… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Pantycelyn
11 years ago

Kenneth Woolcombe (of Oxford) married a divorced deaconess too I seem to recall.

What dearer people could one hope to find ?

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
11 years ago

Bishop Mark Santer, then a widower, married a divorcee while Bishop of Birmingham with, I believe, the blessing of Abp Carey. More interesting perhaps is how small the pool for bishops has got in the C of E. No women priests of course despite their growing numbers ( 30%??),age range usually 40 to 60 (and mostly 45-57);at least 10, usually more, years in orders ( despite average age at ordination being 41); I think 99% trained at residential colleges when 55% of ordinands are trained on courses ( and considerably more from some colleges than others),scarcely any without a degree… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
11 years ago

About time. But this just goes to make the whole of the church’s stand against gay and lesbian laity and clergy look even more complete nonsense. How much longer can the church hold on to its completely untenable position?

Bill Dilworth
11 years ago

“How much longer can the church hold on to its completely untenable position?”

Probably for as long as the episcopate is in the hands of straight men — and those passing for straight men. Until then, relaxation of the Church’s discipline concerning divorce will be a legitimate pastoral approach, while relaxation of the Church’s discipline concerning gay people is damnable heresy, undisguised paganism, and veritable ickiness.

karen macqueen+
karen macqueen+
11 years ago

I wait with bated breath for the fulminations of +Tom Wright. And the Primates of Nigeria, Uganda, the Southern Cone, et al. Don’t worry. I’m just slowing my breathing, yoga style. Otherwise, I might turn blue and depart this existence.

peterpi
peterpi
11 years ago

There’s something about conservative doctrinaire Christianity that makes my head hurt. According to the writers of the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth scorned those who strictly adhered to the letter of Law while ignoring the underlying meaning of the Law or ignoring the humanity of the people to whom the Law was applied. St. Paul also condemned the Law, which he saw as a burden. So why are the conservatives so legalistic? To reject a candidate for bishop because of something his wife did almost 30 years ago is absurd. It’s the height of Jesus’ complaint against the Pharisees: Their strict… Read more »

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
11 years ago

“If you allow for the possibility of re-marriage after divorce (which is a Scripturally ambiguous proposition), the biblical standard for bishops is that they be the husband of one wife, which always has been my chief objection to bishops like +Gene Robinson and +Barry Beisner of Northern California.”

While Beisner has had three wives, Robinson has had only one “wife.” Biblical literalism cuts both ways …

Hector
Hector
11 years ago

What a terrible, terrible idea. I actually don’t have strong feelings about ordination of women and gay people. I don’t think homosexuality is a sin, and I think it’s a good thing that the Anglican communion is becoming more tolerant of homosexual relationships. And my experiences with receiving the sacraments from women priests in the Episcopal church persuade me that a woman can be a perfectly fine priest or bishop. I wish that the church of England and the Episcopal church had waited longer before ordaining women and gays, to allow more of the communion as a whole to come… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Sara MacVane
11 years ago

Comment on Judith Maltby’s (yes, guys, now you can say ‘O these American women’) So, we can’t bless civil partnerships (legally) BUT a former civil partner still alive would bar a clergy person from …. what? marriage? another (unblessed) civil partnership? Tying themselves in knots (as usual?)……

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
11 years ago

Hector:

“I wish that the church of England and the Episcopal church had waited longer before ordaining women and gays, to allow more of the communion as a whole to come round to their point of view, but I don’t think they are wrong on the merits.”

The Episcopal Church first ordained women more than 30 years ago. In all that time, only a handful of other provinces–notably the “western” ones (CoE, Australia, NZ, etc.)–have followed suit. How long would you have had us wait for “more of the communion” to come round? Two generations? Three?

Father Ron Smith
Father Ron Smith
11 years ago

“Bishop Mark Santer, then a widower, married a divorcee while Bishop of Birmingham with, I believe, the blessing of Abp Carey.” – Perry Butler – From his post-ABC position we have Lord Carey campaigning against any rights in the Church for the LGBT community – and yet he accepts the humanity of Bishops in the Church when they seek to contract marriage with a divorced person. One might ask: “Does one’s view of divorce change when a member of one’s own family is involved?” If so, it’s a pity more Bishops in the Church are not more aware of the… Read more »

Achilles
Achilles
11 years ago

Richard Ashby – A little OT, and not wanting to take anything away from LGBT persons but I think the laity has a difficult enought time of it in attempting to be involved in any event. As alluded to elsewhere in this thread, it’s about hierarchy and position, and those ‘closet’ gay folk who have made it will keep a tight hold on the reins they have been able to snatch, as much as the straight ones will. Wanting to realize one’s talents in the CoE is unfortunately to have to play the long game, for the committee structures are… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
11 years ago

“I wish that the church of England and the Episcopal church had waited longer before ordaining women and gays, to allow more of the communion as a whole to come round to their point of view, but I don’t think they are wrong on the merits.”

Justice delayed is justice denied.

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