Thinking Anglicans

Archbishops apologise

Church of England Press release

Statement from Archbishop Justin and Archbishop Sentamu following the College of Bishops Meeting
30/01/2020

We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust. We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.

At our meeting of the College of Bishops of the Church of England this week we continued our commitment to the Living in Love and Faith project which is about questions of human identity, sexuality and marriage. This process is intended to help us all to build bridges that will enable the difficult conversations that are necessary as, together, we discern the way forward for the Church of England.

In addition Martin Seeley, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, has issued a message, copied below the fold, which includes the text “I and a number of my colleagues asked that the document be withdrawn, but this was decided against by the majority.”

I have just returned from a two-day meeting of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England to review the developments in the “Living in Love and Faith” project. This project will produce resources that will help the Church to learn how questions about human identity, relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of what it means to embody a Christian vision of living holy lives in love and faith in our culture. It is seeking to find a way through our deep differences on these matters.

The meeting began and ended with expressions of great sorrow and distress about last week’s publication of “Pastoral Guidance on Civil Partnerships for same sex and opposite sex couples.” As you may be very aware, this and the resulting comments have caused a great deal of hurt to many people, both within the church and in wider society. An apology, signed by the Archbishops on behalf of the Bishops, is due to be issued on Friday.

Whilst this statement was generated when I was on sabbatical, I share in the corporate responsibility for its production. I am very sorry that it was published, and indeed produced in the first place, and for the deep personal pain and sense of rejection that so many have felt by its content and tone.

I and a number of my colleagues asked that the document be withdrawn, but this was decided against by the majority. Whilst I accept it expresses the existing official position of the Church of England on the place of sexual activity in our lives, I cannot grasp why it needed to be stated now and in this way, particularly since we are currently in the process of questioning, learning and reflecting as part of the “Living in Love and Faith” project.

I recognise that some hold that the current teaching is exactly what we should be saying; others feel that we can say it, but in a way that suggests it is an aspiration; and still others want the Church’s teaching to more clearly reflect the ways in which sex is part of relationships that are not, or not yet, marriage.

Personally, I would hope that we can move away from this narrow focus on sexual activity towards encouraging relationships which embody and reflect God’s love for us, in which we support one another, and those who seek our help, whether single or in a faithful and committed relationships, to deepen lives in which we ever more truly know and show the fullness of God’s love for us all.

+ Martin

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Susannah Clark
Guest

It’s the outcome of LLF that really matters. Action as well as words. Meanwhile let us pray for all our bishops. And also pray for all the people who are hurt, demeaned and alienated when their precious and devoted relationships are cast as ‘wrong’. Do we stand by them or not? Reading Martin Seeley’s post, it appears some bishops today or yesterday requested the ‘Pastoral Guidance’ be withdrawn, but a majority of bishops voted for it not to be withdrawn, notwithstanding the huge trouble it has cause. I fear that is just another disappointing decision. It makes the Archbishop’s ‘sorrow’… Read more »

Chris A
Guest
Chris A

I’d any of them had any gumption they’d resign. Now that would be a “pastoral” gesture.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

‘…expressions of great sorrow and distress…’

Obviously, after all these years, I’m a cynic so I wonder at the genuineness of these emotions. The bishops have been rumbled; no one believes what they say any longer. Obviously they are sorrowful and distressed. Yet again their actions reveal their continuing ignorance of the everyday world, of the fact that vanishingly small minorities of people within the church, let alone the real world, accept current church teaching. And actually there is nothing they can do about it.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Bishop Martin has courageously blown the issue open.

Apologising for an action because it was a breach of trust while simultaneously defeating a motion to withdraw the document isn’t just an empty apology but shows deep contempt for ordinary Christians. The two archbishops must resign. No modern archbishop can get away with apologising for taking an action while simultaneously taking steps to reaffirm the action. The betrayal and deceit involved cannot be reconciled with high Christian office.

It is hard to see where we go from here if the archbishops don’t resign since clearly they have forfeited all trust.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Why is Bishop Martin courageous? He’s master of all he surveys; of whom should he be afraid?

Kate
Guest
Kate

https://www.itv.com/news/2020-01-31/church-apology-after-guidance-declares-sex-only-for-straight-married-couples/

The ITV story shows how the apology would have played if Bishop Martin hadn’t revealed that withdrawal was blocked. It clearly was intended to play like this – as I say, deliberately deceit.

God 'elp us all
Guest
God 'elp us all

Another sorry state-ment from on high. ‘Sorry you don’t like it; sorry that so many of you complained and are revolting.’

Will no-one rid us of these troublous priests?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“We as Archbishops, alongside the bishops of the Church of England, apologise and take responsibility for releasing a statement last week which we acknowledge has jeopardised trust” The time to have those sorts of insights is before you sign it. This looks awfully what the less charitable would call deceitful. What Welby is presumably planning to do is to say “oh, those bad people forced me to send it, woe is me” to English liberals, and “oh, those bad people forced me to retract it, woe is me” to African conservatives, playing both ends against the middle. It’s an idiotic… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

I once heard Bishop Richard Hanson (Bishop of Clogher Church of Ireland) say “Are you able to say ‘Thank You’? If so you will make a good bishop because bishops are nothing more than ‘Thanking Machines'”. In the light of the above perhaps we should change that to “Apologising Machines””

Charles Read
Guest

Richard Hanson – my tutor at Manchester University and a great man (and a great scholar). Once when some visiting lecturer was waxing lyrical about bishops as guardians of the faith, Richard exclaimed in frustration “Well you clearly don’t know bishops like I do!”

badman
Guest
badman

I think this is unfair. Can you imagine say George Carey thinking an apology was necessary? Or having the grace to give it in these terms if he did?

It is also significant that so many new bishops have the courage to break ranks nowadays.

It is not good. But it is better.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Except it is a hollow apology. What is its practical effect? Does it express regret for what was said? No. Does it promise change, restitution or recantation? No. What does it say? Basically, “sorry you feel that way, but suck it up”. That’s the sort of apology that is, rightly, torn to shreds on self-help forums as being meaningless.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

George Carey has already apologised for his mishandling of the Peter Ball case. He did so some time ago, as soon as the IICSA report into it was published. I’m not sure why you have singled him out as being incapable of apology.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

On the subject of Archbishop Carey, I have responded at some length to Fr John Harris-White, below. The Osborne report is essential reading for a possible understanding of the Archbishop’s thinking at the time.

Chris. Priest St Eds & Ips
Guest
Chris. Priest St Eds & Ips

Today we wake to an apology form the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and a more fulsome one from Martin Seeley, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich; which includes an expose of the goings on in this week’s meeting of Church of England Bishops., from whence the apology came. Note: The apology only suggests they are sorry that the timing of the release of the statement on Civil partnerships clearly led to “a lack of trust”. It has not apologised for the content of the statement. Neither will it. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich s’ statement issued… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

My understanding is that Bishop Seeley is divorced and remarried. Before he became a bishop he was the principal of Westcott House, where if it was anything like my time there, had a huge proportion of LGBTQ ordinands amongst its students. It is sad that he didn’t win the vote at the college of bishops meeting but given the current cohort that was never likely to happen.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Bishops are learning the lesson that most politicians learnt a decade ago. Before social media and mobile phones, you could tell each audience what they wanted to hear. You could decry racism and terrorism to one audience, while going to smoke filled rooms and venting about some or all of mixed marriage, abortion, the IRA or Jews. You could be the loveable centrist to some, and the raging firebrand to others. Today, you can’t. Each audience gets to hear what you said to the other. Navigating that is hard, as the Labour Party has found recently as their elderly leaders’… Read more »

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

An excellent analysis of the situation. Thank you.

Fr John Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Harris-White

Welby should fall on his sword, and resign. The church, and the Anglican Communion is greater than him.

Fr John Emlyn

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

The other question I would raise, aside from why they released a document they must have realised would provoke a firestorm, is quite what they think this apology in particular actually means, or indeed what they think apologies more generally should look like. If you apologise genuinely, you give some sense of ownership of what you are apologising for, and then a proposal as to how you will do better in the future. The American proverb “fool me once, shame on your, fool me twice, shame on me” applies: if the House of Bishops are not going to say why… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

It’s not Martin Seeley who should resign but the Archbishops. If more diocesans were brave enough to be as outspoken as he has been, perhaps they would? Dream on!

Charles Read
Guest

And if he resigned we would lose another reasoned voice in the House of Bishops, in your estimate of him. So that is a classic foot-shooting approach. The parallel with cabinet posts breaks down precisely here. (I agree though that the mess has been made worse not better…)

Candour
Guest
Candour

Oh dear ….. apologizing for the truth. Whatever next?

Bill Broadhead
Guest
Bill Broadhead

What is more interesting is the email sent by William Nye to employees at Church House, Westminster, yesterday. Very interesting indeed. Sadly, the person who read it out to me over the ‘phone wouldn’t forward it because the secret police in Pyongyang make Putin look like a blithering amateur. There was also a veiled threat to those who are ‘active on social media’ not to rock the boat. Enough said. It was very clear that there has been considerable distress among staff at HQ in Dean’s Yard, and (without actually saying it explicitly) I was left in no doubt about… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

It’s just this minute clicked who the bishops remind me of: Nora Batty (Last of the Summer Wine) – pursed lips, fingers wagging, hectoring and chastising. This farce just keeps on running. If it were a Brian Rix farce, at some point trousers would come down. I eagerly await the next act.

In the meantime, I commend to their Lord/Lady/ships certain products familiar to country parsons and agricultural chaplains, of which one example may be purchased here: https://www.wynnstayonline.co.uk/ritchey-castration-rings-10157.html

Fr John Harris-White
Guest
Fr John Harris-White

in my opinion Badman is being unfair to George Carey. Lord Carey has become the whipping boy for Peter Ball, and all his failings. I knew George Carey and his dear wife Eileen as my Diocesan when working in the Canterbury diocese, and have met them since his retirement. Genuine Christian folk, with large pastoral hearts, unlike the present occupier of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Give George and Eileen a break

Fr John Emlyn

Jeremy Pemberton
Guest
Jeremy Pemberton

The Archbishop who concealed crucial evidence from the police? No, I don’t think Lord Carey of Clifton needs any more breaks, he needs to give back his PTO and retire definitively.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Archbishop Carey’s actions can to some extent be explained by the attitudes prevailing in the C of E at the time, as exemplified by the contemporary Osborne Report (written in 1989, but not published until 2012). Let’s not forget that the Heir Apparent and a Lord Justice of Appeal, among many others, were equally taken in. Lord Carey has apologised publicly and in the IICSA hearings. He didn’t understand, and wasn’t properly advised, about the nature and effect of a police caution; he mistakenly relied on the absence of penetration in the abuse as somehow lessening Peter Ball’s culpability. Serious… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer
Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

146 pages! Mark Bennet’s article quotes the salient points in half a page.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Apologies: I gave the wrong date. Mark Bennet’s article will be found at TA Opinion 22nd January.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

A police officer giving evidence at IICSA also said that Ball’s caution was not recorded or handled in the usual way. There was therefore some reason for Archbishop Carey to believe Ball’s crimes were not as serious as they in fact proved to be.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Can we really expect the withdrawal of, or apology for, the content of the Statement without immediately getting into stuff that properly belongs in LLF? So I am grateful for the apology for the process – which was pastorally bankrupt. I think the same of the content actually but I want the focus now to move firmly on to the LLF. I hope that this painful mess proves to be a tipping point and those who can lead the coming debates with conviction, courage and grace will feel emboldened to do so.

Jayne Ozanne
Guest
Jayne Ozanne

Yes we most definitely should have expected a withdrawal. It would have been the right and proper thing to do in the circumstances. Interestingly the decision to not withdraw it is made primarily by those it does not affect.

Cassandra
Guest
Cassandra

Does anyone know how voting works in the CoB? I’m assuming show of hands, what with all their ‘collegiality’ as also seen so clearly in the HoB when all but the one who couldn’t understand the voting system voted the same way on that defeated report that led to LLF…
If that is the case, how many people would put their hand up when their Archbishops don’t?

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

But how significant that it was even put to a vote in the first place. Instead of showing some leadership, grasping the nettle and doing the right thing, Welby & Sentamu throw it back at the bishops and relieve themselves of further responsibility. Thank God for bishops like Martin Seeley who are prepared to expose the Byzantine shenanigans of these two half-wits who are clearly out of their depth and being ‘managed’ by the lawyers and the men in suits.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Michael: This unhappy ‘saga’ exposes the need for a review of the way the House of Bishops conducts its business and the need for greater transparency: matters I have drawn attention to in my letter in today’s Church Times (31 January 2020, page 14) and the subject of a question I have submitted for answer at General Synod on 10 February 2020. However, to describe our two archbishops as ‘half-wits’ is unnecessary and wholly inappropriate personal abuse that does not serve to advance the argument.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I agree. Insults are unnecessary and only alienate people, rather than convincing them.

Bernard Silverman
Guest
Bernard Silverman

All this about apologies reminds me of an old joke about Stalin and Trotsky. A messenger brings a telegram in to Stalin. Stalin opens it and says—“Finally we’ve got this from Trotsky. ‘You were right. I was wrong. I should apologise.'”

But then one of Stalin’s assistants grabs the telegram and says…”You’ve read it wrong. It says ‘_You_ were right? _I_ was wrong? _I_ should apologise?”

Damian Miles
Guest

So, an apology that is not an apology on a day when few are listening because of BREXIT… (I have spent the day in prayer with local Christians and members of the wider community seeking reconciliation re BREXIT and come in to read this). Here we go again… In terms of the Bishop’s misguided statement (that was far from pastoral) it strikes me that serious reconciliation is now essential, for ‘hurt’ has been caused once again by our overseers. As mentioned already, much of this discussion properly belongs to LLF. But I do wonder if, the ‘poorly timed’ Pastoral Statement… Read more »

ACI
Guest
ACI

Your last sentence makes sense to me.

One wonders how long this Anglican bus can chug along? It is being held together with rubber bands and duct tape, and wheezing under the stress of trying to keep everyone ‘walking together.’ At some point that is just a very odd kind of walking tout court.

Dave
Guest
Dave

The Bishops (House of Bishops) issued a clear statement on Civil Partnerships. They must have had a reason to do so at that time, and they seemed happy with it. They chose to give no supporting comment or guidance to their statement. None of them seem to have regretted the statement until people began to complain. Most bishops continued to follow the ‘company’ line – one or two breaking ranks. Then as opposition built up in the country the Archbishops apologise and look! those bishops who were silent about the statement, and who didn’t break ranks, now see the company… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I may have chosen the wrong thread in pointing out elsewhere that all diocesan bishops owe canonical obedience to their respective archbishop and, indeed, swear an oath to that effect at their Consecration.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Canonical obedience can’t mean agree with everything the person you owe canonical obedience to does or says!

It is limited and surely allows freedom of conscience and belief.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

This is the form of the oath:

“THE OATH OF DUE OBEDIENCE TO THE ARCHBISHOP
“IN the Name of God, Amen. I N. chosen Bishop of the Church and See of N. do profess and promise all due reverence and obedience to the Archbishop and to the Metropolitical Church of N. and to their Successors: So help me God, through Jesus Christ.“

The relevant words are “all due reverence and obedience”. I merely drew attention to this as a possible (and likely) reason for bishops not ‘breaking ranks’.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

The oath is of “due” obedience. The word “due” is a significant qualifier. The oath does not promise any obedience beyond that which is “due”. If we want to know in what matters, and to what extent, a bishop is required to obey an archbishop, we must look elsewhere to ascertain what is due.. Similarly, clergy promise only “canonical” obedience to bishops. In a Privy Council judgement Lord Kingsdown, in 1863, said ‘canonical obedience does not mean that the clergyman will obey all the commands of the Bishop against which there is no law, but that he will obey all… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Gracious! I only quoted the oath as worded. The different ‘takes’ on it by TA readers have been as many as the people who have commented on both threads. Of course lawfulness is implied by “due”.

It isn’t, or shouldn’t really, be an issue.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Dave: As I’ve pointed out in my letter in this week’s Church Times (31 January 2020,page 14), briefing paper MS Misc 1238 “Summary of decisions by the House of Bishops and by its delegated committees”, circulated to General Synod members on 17 January ahead of this month’s meeting of the Synod, reveals that the House of Bishops did not vote on the original statement. Para 22 states that the House of Bishops Delegation Committee (HBDC), at their meeting on 22 November 2019, agreed the pastoral guidance “as deemed business for the House with a minor amendment.” So it was not… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

My view is that LLF was always going to struggle to achieve what people (of various persuasions) hoped – not because it isn’t a committed and good piece of work, but because there is at the heart of the Church of England a fundamental evasion. Bishops have for several generations (I believe this is capable of being evidenced, I don’t know the earlier history) been ordaining gay clergy they know are in relationships (the Osborne Report refers to gay clergy being “discreet”) – this has been the practical policy for some time, even though what is on paper and in… Read more »

ACI
Guest
ACI

I agree about this, with a footnote. Bishops thought they could finesse a matter and be ‘generous’ in handling (what they hoped were exceptional) cases. But then the ‘exceptional’ refused to be treated in this manner. The finessing ceased being that finesse-able. I’m not sure that the Bishops could have foreseen the matter completely clearly. I believe even Rowan Williams is an example of a Bishop who believed generosity to the same-sex oriented would be received with thanks and that would settle it. He was not convinced on the matter of same-sex marriage. Then the ‘generosity’ became insulting and unfair… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

Mark, for one piece of evidence try this recording of a talk by Jeffrey John. From about 26 minutes 28 seconds in he talks about the dishonesty of how the Bishops have had a public position of gay relationships which is 180 degrees opposed to their practise in affirming the relationships of their own clergy. But the entire recording (of a talk given to a church group in Salisbury) is well worth hearing.

https://www.lgbtpluschristiansinsouthampton.co.uk/copy-of-an-evening-with-the-very-revd-dr-jeffrey-john

Dave
Guest
Dave

Thank you so much for clarifying David.

Three points, if I may, which you may be able to answer:

1. I take it that a vote could have been called in the House of Bishops if requested.

and
2. Who are the 9 bishops who form the delegation committee that agreed the statement.

and
3. Do we know who initiated the statement – who asked for it to be drawn up and issued?

Thanks, Dave.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Dave – I’m afraid the information I can provide in answer to your questions is incomplete, but I’m hopeful that the position may become, at least partly, clearer after the Questions session at General Synod on 10 February (5.30 pm to 7.00 pm and live-streamed via the C of E website.) Responding to your three questions, however: 1. The procedure of the HoB is somewhat opaque. The Standing Orders of General Synod contain detailed provisions about voting, whether by show of hands or a counted vote, either of the whole Synod or by houses. SO 1 of the HoB Standing… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Many thanks David for a thorough and helpful answer. It would seem then that the bishops you list:
Blackburn, Lambeth, Stockport, Ely, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, Portsmouth, Lichfield, Sherbourne and Willesden (but noting St E and I was absent) must bear the responsibility for the statement and were in effect then also responsible for the timing of its issue.

It would be good if they could explain their position and why they inflicted the statement on the Church in this way and at this time. That, in my mind is a very reasonable question to ask of them.

T Pott
Guest
T Pott

Currently there is no bishop of Stockport. She moved to Derby. Whether she retained her membership I do not know.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Several people are speculating that the tone and timing of this Statement had something to do with the coming Lambeth Conference and reassurance to conservative Provinces. But how will we know, and who should be pinned down to tell us? And what was the role of William Nye?

Alan Davies
Guest
Alan Davies

Perry, I think Bill Broadhead’s comment, above, offers some hints in answer to your question.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

And there I was, hoping, praying, daring to believe that the CoE had actually decided to return to a more bible-based understanding of human sexuality & marriage… Whilst the report’s release could perhaps have been handled more carefully, the sight of the Archbishops apologising for a report that expresses truths which too many within the Christian church now regard as unpalatable & bad PR for the Church casts shame on us all.