Thinking Anglicans

Synod Question on Human sexuality and clergy preferment

Another question from General Synod on Tuesday with the question and answer from the booklet, and my transcription from the audio of the supplementary question and answer.

The Revd Dr Jo Spreadbury (St Albans) to ask the Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission:
Q15 The House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (15 February 2014) states:

“(25) The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.”

Given the high value the Church places on “theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity”, is the Chair of the Crown Nominations Commission able to assure Synod that its policy and practice is, and will continue to be, that clergy who “fashion their lives consistently with [the Church’s] teaching” will not be barred from preferment on the grounds that they have argued for “a change in [the Church‟s] teaching on marriage and human sexuality”?

The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply
A Yes. When candidates are being considered for a particular See their teaching on a range of issues is, however, among the many considerations that may properly be taken into account when considering their relative merits for that appointment.

Supplementary question

Jo Spreadbury: I just wanted to clarify what current policy and practice is and what it might continue to be if I may, to ask, having directed the CNC not to vote for one of the candidates in the Exeter and the Edmundsbury appointment processes because of the effect on the Anglican Communion, will Your Grace continue to use what amounts to an unconstitutional veto in future appointments?

Archbishop of Canterbury: I really can’t comment on what goes on in CNCs. We are bound by a promise of confidentiality which is strictly held in most cases. It is also the case that the Crown Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary keep a close eye on and follow up anything that looks like a breach of normal practice.

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JohnTobias HallerFather Ron SmithJeremyrobert ian Williams Recent comment authors
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John
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John

When I read this (having listened before), I laugh. One laughs for many reasons, but one is sheer pleasure at the integrity and grit of this fearless person.

Laurence Cunnington
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Laurence Cunnington

“The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply
A Yes. When candidates are being considered for a particular See their teaching on a range of issues is, however, among the many considerations that may properly be taken into account when considering their relative merits for that appointment.”

So it’s a ‘No’, then!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The Church needs more like Jo Spreadbury, in order to keep the Church honest.

In this instance – of a question about the acceptability of same-sex partnered clergy in the future – will the Church ever get around to legitimising what is already factual, in order to avoid the accusation of a culture of endemic hypocrisy? OR, is it still a matter of: “Don’t ask; don’t tell”.

It really does seem to encourage a culture of secrecy being the best policy – a polity where honesty and faithfulness doesn’t get a look in.
How healthy is this for the Church?

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

So, as has been stated here on earlier threads the only bishoprics now open to the likes of Philip North and Reform will be suffragan sees.
Their teaching will disqualify them from any diocesan post.

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

While adding my thanks to Dr Spreadbury, her statement comes in the wake of Tim Allen’s intervention at the last synod reported by the Daily Mail like this: Tim Allen, from the Edmundsbury and Ipswich diocese, called for “the appointment of as many as possible of the best of the Church of England’s excellent senior women as diocesan bishops, preferably with seats in the House of Lords”. He also said that openly gay men were the next group who should be treated equally, saying: “It is not only women who are excluded in a discriminatory and prejudiced way from the… Read more »

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

I read this to mean that, if any priest takes a position in the “Shared Conversations on Scripture, Mission and Human Sexuality” that deviates from the current official position, that priest can kiss any thoughts of being considered for being a bishop goodbye.

Realistically, that really seems to mean that the whole “Share Conversation” process is a waste of time.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” It is also the case that the Crown Appointments Secretary and the Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary keep a close eye on and follow up anything that looks like a breach of normal practice.” – the ABC –

Does this then mean that any future opening to clergy in a same-sex relationship might – if, indeed, who is supportive of such people – remain doubtful, simply because this might “look like of breach of ‘normal’ practice” ?

When will gays be considered ‘normal’ – if ever, in the C. of E.? (Homophobia is still alive & well)

Adrian Judd
Guest
Adrian Judd

I wonder
a) what the legal position under the Equality Act 2010 is for this apparent/alleged behaviour by the ++ ….
b) what recourse (if any) could be had, under the law, if the alleged behaviour and the alleged rationale for it were to be scrutinized
c) how long it will be before ministers of religion are granted employment rights, by the minister of state, under Section 23 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, if this kind of alleged behaviour continues
d) How Jeremy Pemberton’s case is coming along.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

It can be difficult to decipher cryptic references to the inner workings of the CofE, but, personally, I interpreted “the effect on the Anglican Communion” as referring to international relationships, and that Dr Spreadbury was questioning the propriety of the Archbishop blocking an Episcopal appointment which was wanted by the diocesan representatives, but which might cause protest from partner churches abroad. If that is the case then the relevant question is should Ugandan church leaders (for example) have a veto on who we appoint as bishops? And if that has been going on in the past, should we in the… Read more »

Michael Chancellor
Guest
Michael Chancellor

While we are all expressing our thanks to Jo Spreadbury for eliciting this tacit admission of unlawful discrimination (and its application to one person in particular), is it not time that the Christian LGBT organisations got together to mount a legal challenge to the whole CNC process and its shenanigans? I would have thought there is, at least, a case for requesting disclosure under current freedom of information provisions. Yes, all candidates in a selection process should be entitled to confidentiality. But where the Archbishops are acting unlawfully (and immorally) in instructing the CNC not to appoint the best candidate,… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

Michael Chancellor at 10.12

“I would have thought there is, at least, a case for requesting disclosure under current freedom of information provisions.”

Neither the Church of England nor the CNC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

I heard ++Justin as saying that leaks from the CNC would be scrutinized and stopped. These are meant to be confidential meetings but if you were present at one and observed something immoral happening, you might think you had a moral duty to blow the whistle, would you not? Confidentiality does not mean conniving at immorality. It does mean, here, that you should not reveal the identity of unsuccessful candidates or the discussions which led to the eventual appointment, where the process has contained no immoral goings on. It is the classic ethical dilemma of balancing two goods – the… Read more »

James A
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James A

@Richard “Neither the Church of England nor the CNC is subject to the Freedom of Information Act”. Says who? If I go to my bishop and pay £10, I may, under the Freedom of Information Act, access my blue file – even ask for anything inaccurate to be removed. If it applies here, why not elsewhere? Meanwhile, a legal challenge may be the most effective way to get some of this stuff out into the open (e.g. European Court of Human Rights).

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

My experience of the CNC is somewhat limited and predates the advent of interviewing, which has moved the goalposts and has resulted in rather less confidentiality as to who may or may not have been a candidate. However, I did sit as a central member on five vacancies and as a diocesan representative on one. The CNC works as one body and every member, archbishops included, only has one vote. I have seen occasions when one archbishop might have been seen not to get his own way (based on the flow of the discussion) and vice versa. If it is… Read more »

Adrian Judd
Guest
Adrian Judd

But they are subject to the Data Protection Act and a freedom of information request made under that Act must cost no more than £10.

John
Guest
John

Good post, Charles. It is nice when ideological opponents (let the term stand) can agree on elementary moral principles. So there must have been at least one principled person on the CNC.

Depressing to read there is no legal handle on these goings-on. But it’s important to keep up the publicity, because in the wider world this sort of thing does not play well.

Adrian Judd
Guest
Adrian Judd

In case anyone is interested in their legal rights to information held about themselves using a subject access request under the Data Protection Act:

https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/personal-information/

Remember that the diocese and the bishop are not synonymous, and that different parts of the Church of England each need a request.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Adding my thanks to the Rev Dr Jo Spreadbury for her excellent questions.

Tom Marshall
Guest
Tom Marshall

@Anthony Archer “For the time being, we need to work with the system we have got.” Is that another way of saying that institutionalised discrimination and injustice must be tolerated and colluded with – and immoral and potentially illegal behaviour by Archbishops ignored? Is it in our interest that one man be sacrificed lest the Communion be in uproar? I’m sorry, but this is simply unacceptable and cannot be defended on any terms. Anthony’s explanation of the process and his highlighting of the fact that the Archbishops have just one vote each is helpful. But that becomes irrelevant when members… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Now, perhaps, might be the right time to press for a more democratic way of appointing bishops in the Anglican mother Church of England. After all, this is the process used by most of her ‘children in the world-wide Anglican Communion. In ACANZP, for instance, the diocese gets a much greater choice in the appointment of a bishop who is considered to meet the requirements of the local Church. The decision is not left to a ‘commission’ more fitted to political choices than the pastoral needs of the diocese. For the Church of England to move out of the ild-time… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

“Anthony’s explanation of the process and his highlighting of the fact that the Archbishops have just one vote each is helpful. But that becomes irrelevant when members of the CNC are being told how to vote”. There is no evidence of the fact that members of the CNC are ever told how to vote. The voting is secret. Members vote on slips of paper and only the Secretaries see them and then have no real idea who is who (which makes no difference anyway). What does happen is that candidates may not secure the required 2/3 majority, in which event… Read more »

Tom Marshall
Guest
Tom Marshall

Forgive me if I seem to be labouring the point @Anthony Archer. But, surely, the whole purpose of this post is that members of the CNC for Exeter and St Edmundsbury WERE told how to vote (i.e. you may not vote for Jeffrey John). I assume Anthony was not a member of these CNCs; and, while it is fascinating to know what the system should be, and how Anthony has experienced it in the past, the point being made by Jo Spreadbury is that the Archbishop acted unconstitutionally. That, alone, is a very good reason not to prolonging ‘the system… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Firstly, I was of course not a member of the recent Exeter and St Eds & Ips CNCs. Secondly, it is idle to speculate more than is wise. However, as a former central member of the CNC, I am concerned that there do in fact seem to have been some “difficult” CNCs recently, including Canterbury, Hereford and now perhaps these two. Having not been a member of a CNC since the era of interviewing (a development I applauded) I do not know how any particular CNC decides who to invite for interview. I assume that on occasions it is necessary… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Evidently Uganda and Nigeria do have a veto over the appointment of English bishops. And that veto is exercised through the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If this doesn’t justify questions in Parliament, I don’t know what will.

John
Guest
John

Anyone who has served on appointing committees knows that strong-minded individuals can secure unfair representation for their views by upping the stakes in ways that most people would regard as uncivilised (e.g. by declaring: ‘I regard this candidate as unappointable’). Process is one thing, the way people behave another. In certain contexts, unscrupulous behaviour is difficult to counter. For these and other reasons I find myself completely persuaded that Jo Spreadbury’s challenge highlights a great wrong.

robert ian Williams
Guest
robert ian Williams

The flaw in the system Ron advocates is that it kept women from their full potential in the Anglican Church in his country. I ask how many women bishops are there in the Maori and Polynesian divisions? None. It also took nearly a quarter of a century to get two in his white section of the Church. In Ireland a similar set up, only got a woman elected because of an impasse, enabling the bishops to intervene. The Presiding Bishop in the US commented that the Episcopal Church had found the election process detrimental to the advancement of women and… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The real miracle, Robert, in ACANZP and the Church of Ireland, is that there actually ARE women bishops in both parts of the Church. This is not so in your own Roman jurisdiction.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Anyone who has served on appointing committees knows that strong-minded individuals can secure unfair representation for their views by upping the stakes in ways that most people would regard as uncivilised.” Similarly, if the Archbishop of Canterbury tells the CNC, “If you name this person, you will make my position in the Anglican Communion very difficult,” then no one is likely to cross him on this. Whatever the specific mechanism or words used, it seems from the Spreadbury question that the Global South is exercising an anti-gay veto over the Church of England’s bishop appointments. The sooner questions get asked… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Jeremy makes a very valid point here. The fact that episcopal appointments in any Anglican Province might be vetoed by the prelates of another province must surely be anachronistic. There seems to be a culture of reverse colonialism being practised in our Communion, when GAFCON can dictate who may be acceptable (to them) as an acceptable leader of the Church in the C. of E. When will our ‘Mother’ Church of England cease to kowtow to the cultural requirements of former colonial territories? ‘She’ does not seem to have been subject to the ‘demands’ of Western ex-colonials; whose forward looking… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest
Tobias Haller

It seems to me — and I think my own church is similarly afflicted, so it has less to do with the election / appointment mechanism — that we have lost sight of what it means to be a bishop, what are the primary tasks of this ministry; and all sorts of secondary (if not spurious) considerations have moved to the forefront. Years back, John Zizoulas, now a bishop but then a lay scholar, wrote of the bishop as the center of a eucharistic community. Does that even rise to a level of awareness these days? Have we so “professionalized”… Read more »

John
Guest
John

‘Questions in Parliament’. I agree, Jeremy (and thank you for going with my comment on appointing committees). But someone has to organise this. I might as well report that I’ve had four responses so far to my letter of protest to various eminent personages in the C of E. Two eminent theologians in effect said: we agree, but that’s unfortunately the way things are done in our church. Two well-known Deans of well-known cathedrals in effect said: go for it and prime synodical representatives to ask further questions. This I propose to do. After that, I’m afraid I will have… Read more »