Thinking Anglicans

New Bishop of Truro announced

The appointment has been announced of Canon Philip Mounstephen as the 16th Bishop of Truro.

Downing Street reports:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Philip Ian Mounstephen, MA, Executive Leader of the Church Mission Society, for election as Bishop of Truro in succession to the Right Reverend Timothy Martin Thornton, MA, following his resignation on 31 August 2017.

There is more information on the Truro diocesan website:

Philip is currently the executive leader of Church Mission Society, a role he has occupied since 2012. Prior to that, Philip was chaplain of St Michael’s Church, Paris. He has also previously worked for the Church Pastoral Aid Society in a number of roles, serving as deputy general director from 2004 to 2007.

Philip, 59, was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1988 and priested the following year, serving his curacy in Gerrards Cross and Fulmer in the Diocese of Oxford. From 1992 to 1998 he was the Vicar of St James’ Church, West Streatham, in the Diocese of Southwark.

Philip has significant family roots in Cornwall with several generations of his ancestors living in Tregony from the mid-18th century, before moving to Truro.

It also quotes the bishop-designate:

Philip said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been called to lead the Diocese of Truro in mission and ministry. With my family roots in Cornwall I am very well aware of what a rich Christian heritage we have. I rejoice in Cornwall’s strong sense of identity and I look forward under God into leading us in what I hope and pray will be a fruitful and exciting future.”



We have moved — welcome to our new home

Thinking Anglicans has now moved to its new home.

We hope that you’ll find all functionality and content here. If there are any transitional glitches, we’ll try and sort them out as quickly as we can. Issues can be reported by adding a comment to this article. If commenting itself is the problem then you can email

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We hope to introduce other improvements in the coming weeks and months.

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We’re moving

Later this week this Thinking Anglicans site will be moving to a new home. We hope to make the move as transparent and as painless as possible, but as it involves a little bit of internet magic (updating the DNS of there may be a short period when you can’t reach the new site. We hope this period will be no more than a few minutes, and most readers may not notice it at all.

All posts and comments will be moved across to the new system and no data will be lost. We’ll post a further note here before moving out, and after that point no further comments on the old site will be approved, only on the new site.

This represents the biggest change we have made in the 15 years we have been publishing Thinking Anglicans. From the start we have been hosted by our friends and colleagues at Justus. The new site continues at Justus, and we are grateful for their support.


Towards a Safer Church: Liturgical Resources

On Friday, the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England published “safeguarding resources, for use in churches across the country, including Bible readings, prayers and suggested hymns, chosen in consultation with survivors” under the title Towards a Safer Church: Liturgical Resources.

There is a press release here, and the liturgical resources are available in PDF format here

The Chair of the Liturgical Commission, Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter, in an introduction to the resources has written:

The Church needs to be at the vanguard of fostering a change of culture across society. Safeguarding is at the forefront of public consciousness and the Church needs to embody best practice in safeguarding in our network of parishes, schools and chaplaincies as part of our commitment to excellence in pastoral care.

Many of these resources are already being used widely across our churches, but we thought it would be helpful to gather them into one place for ease of access. Collectively they are neither the first word nor the last word on this subject, but they are offered in the hope that by God’s grace the Church may become a safer place where everyone is valued.

Libby Lane, Bishop of Stockport, has also written about the resources here

The resources have been compiled by the Liturgical Commission and staff, in consultation with survivors, who have themselves suggested some of the resources, with the aim providing prayers and other resources for various occasions. This includes use with survivors and others directly affected, as well as events such as the commissioning of safeguarding officers in parishes and dioceses. Most of the material had been previously published (including commended and authorized liturgical texts), but it has been brought together in one place so that it is easier to find and to use.

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Death of David Edwards announced

Southwark Cathedral has announced the death of the former Dean of Norwich and earlier Provost of Southwark, the Very Revd David Edwards.

The Very Revd David Edwards OBE 1929-2018
Thursday, April 26, 2018

It was with sadness that we heard of the death of the Very Revd Dr David Edwards, OBE in Winchester on Wednesday 25 April 2018. David, as well as being Sub Dean at Westminster, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Dean of Norwich, had been Provost of Southwark from 1983 until 1994. He was a man of huge distinction, a great academic, chronicling, amongst other things, the history of the church. Those who worked with him speak of his kindness and generosity, a man who lived out the principles of inclusion before they were ever fashionable in the Church of England. He was partly responsible for the first development of buildings on the north side of the Cathedral, work begun by his predecessor, Harold Frankham, but brought to fruition by David. Like a former Bishop of Winchester, Lancelot Andrewes, David would be at his studies and his writing before noon, a real scholar.

As Dean of Southwark, I am in awe of my predecessors who were men of stature within the life of the Church of England. They each helped to create Southwark Cathedral as a vibrant, engaged, welcoming and inclusive community in which theology, orthodox and radical, taught and lived, was central and vital. David was premier amongst these in terms of his scholarship.

We extend our love and prayers to his children and pray that he may now receive the reward that awaits him from the God he loved and knew and served.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Andrew Nunn



Joe Hawes to be next Dean of St Edmundsbury

Press release from the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich

Joe Hawes, currently Vicar of All Saints’ Fulham, is to be the next Dean of St Edmundsbury, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

A priest who substantially increased the number of families and young people worshipping at the major London parish he leads has been chosen as the new Dean of St Edmundsbury.

The Revd Canon Joe Hawes, Vicar of All Saints’ Fulham, who enjoys scuba-diving in his leisure time, will start his new senior role during the summer.

Bishop Martin, said there had been a strong field of applicants with more candidates than usual for a Dean’s post.

“I am delighted that it was a unanimous decision to appoint Joe. He is an outstanding and Godly priest. He is warm, engaging, caring and fun. He brings energy and wisdom, and a huge amount of experience in parish ministry.

“He has been Vicar of All Saints’ in Fulham for 15 years, and increased the regular congregation by 25% to more than 500 each Sunday, with a particular ministry with families and young people.

“In Fulham he has developed worship to be engaging and accessible for people of different backgrounds and ages, and a church looking outwards, engaged in loving service with those in need.

“He has strong leadership and organisational skills, sees the cathedral as serving the whole county, not just Bury St Edmunds, and I look forward to working with him across the county for the greater good.”

Roger Wright, Chief Executive of Aldeburgh Music, who was appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead the process of finding a new Dean, said: “It was a pleasure and privilege to chair the panel for this appointment.

“His considerable experience, and his warm and engaging personality will help the cathedral be a beacon of hope for Suffolk as it broadens its appeal to all.

“Joe will be strong and thoughtful leader in this new period of the life of the cathedral and we very much look forward to his presence in the diocese.”

Canon Joe’s parish of All Saints’ Fulham has been developing its broadcasting profile, the Christmas Day the service was live on BBC1, and Palm Sunday Morning worship will be broadcast on Radio 4 on 25 March.

Canon Joe, who will become one of the most senior Church of England figures in Suffolk, said: “I am really looking forward to getting to know the people of Suffolk and to taking my place among the Bishop’s Staff.

“I am keen to see even more people discover the beauty of the cathedral. We need to build our financial reserves so that we can further develop our excellence within music, worship, learning and care to the highest possible standards.

“We need to provide a place which is both sanctuary in an uncertain world, and also a forum for debate and reflection on the major questions which are challenging us as a society at the moment.”

Canon Joe, 52, is in a civil partnership with the Revd Chris Eyden, the vicar of All Saints’ Putney, who will remain serving in Putney for the time being.

Bishop Martin said he is looking forward to welcoming Joe, and Chris when he is able to be in the county.

Canon Joe will be installed as the Dean of St Edmundsbury in the Cathedral on Saturday 14 July.

The Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, acting Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, said: “The Cathedral Chapter are delighted at Joe’s appointment. He will bring many gifts, experience and skills from his present ministry in Fulham.

“Joe will be joining the cathedral at a time when our vision and strategy is taking shape, therefore he will be able to contribute greatly to our future plans for the cathedral, town of Bury St Edmunds and county of Suffolk.”


New Church of England Website

The Church of England website at has been relaunched today with a new design and structure.

screenshot of new website in use

Adrian Harris, Head of Digital Communications at Church House, Westminster, explains the rationale here

[T]he old website received lots of traffic and interest, the confusing user experience and the 75,000+ documents and pages on the site were identified as key issues. These were resolved by content and plain English workshops for staff.

The five major changes visitors will see from today are:

  • Simple navigation, a good search engine, improved website accessibility, mobile first and a clean design! Over 250 professional new images have been shared by local churches and taken nationally that show the breadth of the Church and activities that go on.
  • A transformed Our faith section that explains Christianity in an engaging way. Built in collaboration with Church House Publishing, new videos form a key part of this project.
  • New Faith in action films that bring to life the missional work of the Church. All of the Faith in action and Our faith videos are available for local churches and dioceses to use on their own websites and social media accounts from our YouTube page.
  • A streamlined Prayer and worship section, including liturgical and prayer resources, thanks to the work of Church House Publishing. Prayer will feature at the heart of the website with the day’s Collect now far more visible.
  • A new Life events section better explaining baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals as well as vocations.

One of the consequences of the redesign is that many old links no longer work. This will apply to previous links from this site. Users are recommended to use the search functionality on the new site to find documents from old links.


Gavin Ashenden "consecrated as missionary bishop"

Christian Today reports that Gavin Ashenden, who left the Church of England earlier this year, has been “consecrated as a missionary bishop to the UK in the Christian Episcopal Church”.

In her report, Ruth Gledhill writes that “he will work closely with Bishop Andy Lines, also recently consecrated a missionary bishop to work with conservative evangelical churches” and that Ashenden was consecrated in Vancouver “during the course of an Episcopal Synod”.

Ashenden is quoted as saying that the Church of England had “not been very generous” in providing conservative or traditionalist bishops. And further: “I will oversee anybody who asks. I have a trail of people coming to my door asking for support, spiritual direction and advice. Obviously my oversight will be informal, it will have no legal basis at all.” He said he was approached by the Christian Episcopal Church, which regards it as a “duty” to help traditionalist Anglicans across the globe.

There is a press release here which is dated “29 September”.


Open Letter to Primates

The General Synod Human Sexuality Group have published the text of a letter sent from them to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion ahead of their meeting next week.

In the letter the Group (which represents 240 synod members and wants the Church of England to be fully inclusive of LGBTI people) reminds the Primates that “the direction of travel” for the church is now “clearer than ever”.

In a press release, Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of the Group said:

Synod has shown both in its non-acceptance of the House of Bishops’ Report on Same-Sex Relationships and in its desire to condemn conversion therapy and welcome transgender Christians, that it wants to be a fully inclusive church. The status quo is no longer an option — people are deeply concerned about the impact on our mission to the nation of the Church’s current stance towards LGBTI people.

Group member Jayne Ozanne said:

The medical profession, including the World Health Organisation, is clear that conversion therapy causes stigma and prejudice towards the LGBTI community. It is critically important that the Church recognises this and takes a lead to condemn it.

The full text of the letter is copied below the fold.



Food Poverty in Britain

The Church Urban Fund has issued a report, introduced by its Executive Director, Canon Paul Hackwood …

… that sheds light on the extent of food poverty in the UK. It shows that 1 in 50 British adults used a food bank in 2016. It also shows that 5% of British adults missed meals last year because they could not afford to eat.

These figures offer a deeply troubling reflection of food poverty in Britain. At Church Urban Fund we are calling for a response to this from all sections of society. Government, businesses, and individuals all have a responsibility to make a difference. The responsibility for tackling this issue cannot be left with churches and charities, important though this work is.

I encourage you to take a look at the report and our recommendations for action. We are working hard to bring an end to hunger in the UK and so any contributions you can make to this work will be greatly appreciated.

The full report can be found at the CUF website here.


Michael Perham

The Diocese of Gloucester has this morning announced that Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester between 2004 and 2014, died on the evening of Monday 17 April.

In the announcement, Bishop Michael’s successor as Bishop of Gloucester, Bishop Rachel Treweek writes:

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Bishop Michael died peacefully at home on Monday evening, April 17, following a special Easter weekend with all the family.

I last saw Bishop Michael on Tuesday 11 April during Holy Week. Not only was it good to share together in the Eucharist on that occasion but also to preside at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday knowing that the Dean would then be taking Bishop Michael bread and wine from our service in Gloucester Cathedral with the love and prayers of the Diocese.


Exeter Cathedral

It has been announced that both the Dean and the Precentor of Exeter are to step down, following the critical Visitation report of the Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell. The statement on the Cathedral website says that:

the Dean, the Very Rev Jonathan Draper, has announced that he will retire at the end of August this year.

Until the end of August the Dean is on holiday, and then on sabbatical leave. Additionally:

Canon Victoria Thurtell has resigned from her post of Precentor with immediate effect, and is looking forward to a new ministry in due course.

The announcement continues:

To help the Cathedral continue its worshipping life, Bishop Martin Shaw has been appointed Acting Precentor, with immediate effect. The Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, will provide pastoral oversight to the Cathedral during this time. Canon Dr Mike D Williams will Chair Chapter.

BBC News has a report here.


Scottish Primus to retire

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane, is to retire at the end of July. He became a bishop in 2005 and has been Primus since 2009.

The official announcement can be read here on the SEC website.

With the recent retirement of the Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, there will soon be two new Anglican primates in the British Isles.


Bishops' report – BBC radio coverage

As the General Synod started its meeting today, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had an item on the Bishops’ report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships, and the forthcoming ‘take note’ debate. The piece featured a discussion between Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans and Chair of LGBTI Mission, and Susie Leafe, General Synod member and Director of Reform.

The 7-minute discussion can be heard here and begins at 1:21:45 in.


New name for merged Changing Attitude and LGCM

Following the recent announcement that LGCM and Changing Attitude are to merge, the two bodies have consulted on a new name for the combined body, which will be known as OneBodyOneFaith.

Details on the background to the choice of name can be read here.

Jeremy Pemberton, Chair of the LGCM Board writes:

We are proud to announce that from 14th February we will be known as


We will also use an explicatory strapline to help people locate what we do more easily. This is:

Affirming sexuality and gender in Christ

We will also be unveiling a new logo, and you’ll see a gradul change in our identity online, on social media and in the resources we produce to support our work.


New Bishop of Sheffield announced

The Rt Revd Philip North, currently suffragan Bishop of Burnley, is to be the next Bishop of Sheffield. The announcement from Downing Street reads:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Philip John North, MA, Suffragan Bishop of Burnley, in the diocese of Blackburn, for election as Bishop of Sheffield in succession to the Right Reverend Steven John Lindsey Croft, MA, PhD, on his translation to the See of Oxford on 6th July 2016.

The Right Reverend Philip North (aged 50), was educated at the University of York and trained for the ministry at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his curacy at Sunderland Saint Mary and Saint Peter, in the Diocese of Durham from 1992 to 1996. Since 1997 he has been a member of the Company of Mission Priests.

From 1996 to 2002 he was Vicar of Hartlepool Holy Trinity in Durham Diocese and also served as Area Dean of Hartlepool from 2000 until 2002. From 2002 to 2008 he was Priest Administrator at the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham and from 2004 to 2007 he was also Priest-in-Charge of Hempton in the diocese of Norwich. From 2008 to 2015 he was Team Rector of the Parish of Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London. Since 2015 he has been Suffragan Bishop of Burnley.

His interests include current affairs, cycling and walking.

The diocese of Sheffield carries further details here.

Comment and welcome from the Society of St Wilfred and St Hilda is here.


The Manifestation of Christ 

or Good news for non-believers

Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas, and tonight at evening prayer the Church begins the celebration of the Epiphany. The Christmas story in Matthew tells how the Magi, wise men, came from the east to visit the infant Jesus, and this has long been interpreted as showing the Christ-child to the wider world of non-Jews near the start of his human life, as well as a recognition by them of his birth. During the next few weeks of the Church’s year there is a continuing focus on the story of how Jesus first came to public attention and how he began to teach his message or good news.

Many of us, perhaps all of us, can look around at our lives, at our relationships, at the state of the world, and wish it were better — whether for ourselves or for others. We can all dream of living in a place where it is good to live. A place where everyone has security and shelter and enough to eat, where everyone has value and is treated fairly, where no one holds grudges against other individuals or groups. In short, a society that is not “broken” and that lives at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Jesus’s message is that this place can exist, and that we have it within ourselves to choose to live there, at least in part. Each one of us can make the choice to live in that place of reconciliation and trust, peace and social justice. If we choose to live our lives in that way then we will be citizens of that place.

In Jesus’s language this place is the “kingdom of God”, because it is the place where God’s will is done, and that will ultimately is “love”. Jesus’s good news is that this kingdom, this “living in love”, is already at hand, here and now — it has already begun. All that we have to do is open our eyes and see the simplicity of it.

Opting in is entirely voluntary, and even those who have opted in will get it wrong, perhaps more often than not. So it won’t be perfect, because it is a place inhabited by fallible human beings in a world where not everyone has opted in and where mistakes and natural disasters also happen. Living this way is vulnerable. Jesus’s followers have long said that the kingdom will come at the end of time — and this is a recognition of the fact that the whole world isn’t going to accept the message for a very long while, if ever. So though the kingdom in all its fullness is not yet here, that makes it all the more important to choose to live in it now, and to share the good news and to encourage others to join in. We can still live partly in the kingdom, glimpsing the possibilities of its fullness.

What then is the role of religion in this, and what is the role of the Church? These are good questions. They highlight the problem with institutional religion.

Jesus, in the gospel stories, doesn’t have a lot of time for organized religion, and those who considered themselves holy and religious. He criticised the Pharisees and the Sadducees, whom we might see as typical of local religious leaders and the religious establishment, types that existed then and still exist today. Many in both groups understood Jesus’s concept of God’s rule, God’s kingdom, but (like many others down the ages, and still today) they were caught up in their own concepts of spirituality and nationality and their own priorities, and either failed to grasp what Jesus was saying, or failed to act on it.

Where does this leave the Church? As people used to ask, do you have to go to church to be a good Christian? Certainly the Church has a lot to answer for. Over many hundreds of years it has helped to suppress and control individuals and populations, and allowed itself to be used by states to achieve their aims, or indeed has corrupted states to achieve institutional goals. It has allowed itself to be limited to a “spiritual” life, teaching a personal piety and obedience, and the promise that things will get better, sometime. It has sacrificed individuals and groups to its own ends. And it’s easy for its members to get caught up in its institutional life, serving on its boards and commissions and councils, even carving out a career in church politics. It’s easy too to get caught up in its “religiosity”: in personal piety, personal devotion and personal belief as ends in themselves.

The Church, however, has also preserved the teaching of Jesus, and other great figures, and never lost sight of the centrality of his message, even when it has largely failed to understand or implement it. Individual Christians have led some of the great reform movements, such as the abolition of slavery, moves to racial equality and sexual equality, mass education and healthcare, humane working conditions, prison reform and so on.

The Church, for all its many and profound failings, is the group of people who follow Jesus, and stand in line with him: the community of his followers down the ages, even if a divided community.

The Church is also the primary place where those who commit to trying to live in the kingdom can interact with each other. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where social justice and compassion are preached and practised. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where the hungry are fed, both literally and figuratively, and the homeless and destitute cared for. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where people forgive each other for the wrongs they have done to each other, and are reconciled. Here above all other places is (or should be) the place where Jesus’s good news is proclaimed and human beings welcomed to participate in it.

Where does that leave the believer and the unbeliever? No mention has yet been made of belief in God, belief in heaven, belief in the infallibility of this or that, or the special nature of someone or something. The story of the arrival of the Magi shows that Jesus is for Jew and Gentile alike: in today’s language, Jesus and his message are for the believer and also for the non-believer. The gospels do not record that Jesus required belief in any dogma or religious doctrine — only trust in what he was teaching, trust to begin to do it. There is no test of belief to be a citizen of this kingdom. There is no religious creed, no statement of religious belief.

Rather, what is required is to start again: to be willing to recognize (without unnecessarily beating ourselves up about it) that we don’t always get things right; to be willing to both give and receive forgiveness; to act to bring about reconciliation and social justice to all our neighbours, where Jesus’s definition of “neighbour” is “someone who needs our help”; to join with those who are trying to do the same; and to share this good news with others. The kingdom of God is built one person at a time — it is here, it is now, it is indeed at hand; and one day it will exist in its fullness.

What about God? Everyone must come to their own conclusions on that, and about the literal existence of God, because God’s kingdom — the place where the rules are love and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation and social justice for all — is a concept that exists whether you believe in God or not. Just as the arrival of the Magi in the Christmas story indicates that this baby is significant to Jews and non-Jews, so too he, and the kingdom he announced, are significant to believers and non-believers.

God’s kingdom is for all. And it’s there, in part, right here and now. Just open the door, and let the kingdom in.

Simon Kershaw is a founder and editor of Thinking Anglicans.

We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page Thank you.


Doing Good

The think tank Theos has marked its tenth anniversary with a new report called Doing Good: a future for Christianity in the 21st century, a title that echoes its first report in 2006, Doing God.

A press release from Theos can be read here. In the foreword, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster write:

Nick Spencer charts a view of the future for Christianity in the UK, drawing on the wealth of data and evidence that Theos has accumulated in its years of research.

That view is one in which service is central, but it is service-as-witness, service that is firmly rooted in, shaped by and unashamed of its faith in Jesus Christ.

The report’s idea of “Christian social liturgy” expresses how Christians can combine their fidelity to the two greatest commandments — loving God and loving neighbour — in a way that is simultaneously distinctive and inclusive.”

The report can be downloaded as a pdf from the Theos website, and an article by Nick Spencer here.


Advent Thoughts — and Actions

One evening a couple of weeks ago as I went to enter my parish church, I almost tripped over a homeless person sleeping on the ground in the church porch. It was a cold night in our fairly-prosperous middle-class town. Sheep and goats — parable. Real people — in a desperate situation. What can we do?

As the new liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent, Thinking Anglicans will once more be publishing a series of reflective pieces from a number of writers. We hope that this will challenge all of us to proclaim God’s love to the world, and also to take some practical action.

Much of what we publish and discuss is about sexuality and gender, whether that is women in the clergy or LGBT issues — so this is a reminder to us all that following Jesus Christ has other aspects too. It isn’t to diminish the importance of those topics, but there are other critical issues as well. This falls within the broad remit of the social gospel, and the very firm belief that the proclamation of social justice and the social gospel — and actually doing it, not just talking about it — is important and is a crucial part of our mission as Christians, as thinking Anglicans. Intelligent, considered discourse and engaging with such discourse in the rest of life (not just with other Christians), is something we can do to help proclaim God’s love for everyone, in a world which for some people is a very difficult place.

Over the next few weeks as we prepare to celebrate the mystery of the Word-made-Flesh, society around us indulges in a frenzy of consumption. And alongside publishing some pieces on a general theme of homelessness we want to give our readers an opportunity to do something about it. We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. At this time of year the CUF mounts its Advent Sleepout Challenge. It may be too late to join in the Challenge itself, but we invite you to donate money via their secure page

‘ “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” ’ (Matthew 25.44,45)


Trouble at York Minster

*** Updated Friday 21 October

There have been a lot of reports of the decision taken by the authorities at York Minster with respect to the Minster bellringers. The BBC’s coverage begins here with the headline “York Minster bells silenced after bell-ringers axed for ‘new team’”. In a letter shown on the BBC page, the Precentor of York, Canon Peter Moger writes to the ringers:

Chapter will recruit a Head Bell Ringer, who will then oversee the recruitment and activity of a new team of volunteer bell ringers. In order to begin this process, all current bell ringing activity will cease at the Minster, from today, Tuesday 11th October.

The York Minster Society of Change Ringers responded with this statement in which the Ringing Master, Peter Sanderson, commented:

I was appointed to the position of Ringing Master by Chapter in 2006 and have remained fully accountable to them ever since, always implementing Chapter’s policies as requested and being willing to work co-operatively with Chapter to resolve any issues as they have arisen. … You have also referred in the media to the review of the operation of the bell tower which raised health and safety concerns. That review was commissioned by Chapter, undertaken and completed without the knowledge of the bellringers and with no opportunity for them to provide input. Nor have the results ever been shared with us. I’m afraid that this is typical of the secrecy with which the Minster operates under the current leadership team under your direction. … When you arrived as Dean in 2012 the ringers invited you on several occasions to visit the bell-tower and meet the team. You declined all of those invitations and have never to my knowledge ascended the tower. As significant grievances between the ringers and Chapter have arisen over the past 18 months I have made numerous offers to meet with you and to work together to resolve them. You have rejected every one of those offers.

On Monday in a further brief statement, the Minster said that the issue was about safeguarding:

Earlier this summer, it was necessary for the Chapter to take action regarding a member of the bell ringing community on safeguarding grounds. … Some members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters. … This is why the Chapter took the decision to disband the bell ringing team last week.

This statement was read by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (as Visitor) and has been released on video here. It is followed by questions and answers.

In their response, here, the ringers have again appealed to the Dean and Archbishop to talk to them:

We are deeply disappointed that Dean Faull and Archbishop Sentamu have decided to release their statement this afternoon without any prior communication or consultation with YMSCR. Now, more than ever, we feel the need to sit down and talk in private with the Dean and Chapter of York Minster to discuss these issues. We make a direct appeal to Dean Vivienne Faull and Archbishop John Sentamu to make contact and to arrange this meeting.

*** Update (Friday 21 October)

There has been a lot of press coverage of this story. The Church Times summarizes how the story unfolded in an article headlined Safeguarding issue silences bells of York Minster, and the Guardian does similarly under the headline How York Minster bellringers’ sacking blew the lid off bitter dispute.

Because of the nature of this story we ask all commenters to be especially careful in what they write. Comments containing ad hominem remarks will not be published.