The Mail on Sunday reported: Revealed: The emails dripping in poison that dons at Oxford’s most prestigious college tried to cover up – including one which read, ‘Think of the Morse episode we could make when his wrinkly body is found!’
And: The alma mater of 13 Prime Ministers, Christ Church is Oxford’s grandest college… but now a toxic feud among its dons is set to spill out in court – threatening what one distinguished alumnus calls ‘a horror movie’
There are later reports (£) in the Telegraph: Oxford College dons in ‘poison’ email row over attempt to oust Christ Church Dean who was labelled ‘little Hitler’
and in The Times: Oxford dons and dean of Christ Church in feud over email slurs
Christ Church has issued this statement: Christ Church statement in response to media interest 14 Feb 2020
In response to recent media interest, we can confirm that we are in receipt of two Employment Tribunal claims from the Dean of Christ Church. We are all too conscious that a disagreement over pay and remuneration with the Dean has led, over the last two years, to significantly-heightened tensions between him and Governing Body. Personal relationships have undoubtedly suffered, and we all regret this deeply. We take our responsibilities towards all members of our community very seriously, and believe that we have acted in the best interests of Christ Church, including its students and staff.
While the specific matters being raised by the Dean should be left to the Employment Tribunal to consider, the Governing Body remains committed to achieving a satisfactory resolution. Christ Church expects members to show respect towards one another at all times, but equally we acknowledge that individuals are entitled to their personal opinions. Frustrations conveyed about – but not to – the Dean, exacerbated by the dispute over his pay, were in the past expressed in some private emails. However, mediation with the Dean, funded by Christ Church, resumed in November 2019 and is now ongoing. We very much hope that we can find a way forward through this process, and avoid considerable further cost.
The Diocese of Oxford has issued this: The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy
Sunday 16 February: following media reports this weekend the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has issued this statement:
“Martyn is a close and valued colleague, widely respected across the Diocese of Oxford and the wider Church. What happens next is for the employment tribunal to determine, but it is never too late to begin a process of reconciliation. This will require acknowledgement of responsibility, and also transparency on all sides. Recent events, while painful, are but a moment in the lifetime of this historic and unique dual foundation which contributes so much to the University and to the Diocese of Oxford. My thoughts and prayers are with all involved.”
Updated Thursday evening
A group of survivors of sexual abuse committed by Church of England clergy have written an open letter to General Synod members. The full text of that letter is copied below the fold (and is also on the Surviving Church blog).
Amendments, supported by the survivors, to the proposed motion due to be debated next week regarding the recommendations from IICSA to the Church of England have been proposed by David Lamming and Peter Adams.
Peter Adams has written an article about the need for stronger action by General Synod: Closing the door on a shameful past: the need for a fully rounded response by CofE General Synod to IICSA.
These amendments have however been ruled out of order. See today’s Church Times news report Safeguarding amendments to give Synod motion ‘more teeth’ are rejected.
The full text of the proposed motion if the proposed amendments had been accepted, is as follows.
GENERAL SYNOD FEBRUARY 2020 GROUP OF SESSIONS WEDNESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2020
AGENDA ITEM 9 Safeguarding: Response to recommendations in IICSA May 2019 Investigation Report (GS 2158)
COMPOSITE DRAFT OF THE MOTION AS IT WOULD BE IF AMENDED BY THE AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY DAVID LAMMING (GS 399) AND PETER ADAMS (GS 392)
That this Synod:
(a) lament the Church of England’s abject failures in dealing with reports of abuse, as revealed during the hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and documented in its interim report, Anglican Church Case Studies: Diocese of Chichester and The response to allegations against Peter Ball (May 2019), and accordingly welcome the terms of the Diocese of Blackburn ‘Ad Clerum’ letter dated 17th June 2019, reflecting on the IICSA report and commend its victim-centred approach to all in authority within the Church as a suitable model for developing reconciliation with those who have been wronged by our sins of commission and omission;
(b) affirm (in the words of the National Director of Safeguarding at para 4.1 of paper GS 2158) that the Church of England “remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions to improve how all worshipping communities across the whole Church in its many forms – across its parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, religious communities, national church institutions and other church bodies – respond to concerns and allegations of abuse and to all victims and survivors of abuse and others affected by this, whilst at the same time working to prevent such abuse from occurring in the first place.”
(c) endorse the Archbishops’ Council’s response, set out in paper GS 2158, to the five recommendations made by IICSA at pages 206 to 207 of its said report;
(d) request the Archbishops’ Council, National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG), National Safeguarding Team, and House of Bishops to respond immediately to the recommendations of the final IICSA report on the Anglican Church when it is published, and bring their response to General Synod for debate no later than July 2021; and
(e) request the Archbishops’ Council, NSSG and House of Bishops, working in conjunction with the Church Commissioners, to bring forward proposals for an appropriate and properly resourced compensation and redress scheme, so that words of apology are matched by actions that truly reflect the justice and righteousness of God’s kingdom.
The original signatories of the Open Letter have issued this public response
“MORE THAN WORDS ARE NOW NEEDED” – RESPONSE TO THE ARCHBISHOPS’ APOLOGY
Whilst we are grateful for the Archbishops’ apology and the recognition that their statement has jeopardized our trust, the fact is more than words are now needed.
Over 3500 people have now signed our open letter, which includes nearly 90 members of General Synod and a range of other senior church leaders. This shows the strength of concern that exists across the Church of England that its mission is being significantly damaged and that their promise of a “radical new Christian inclusion” must now be delivered.
We await the evidence that they have truly heard and taken onboard our concerns by what comes out in the Living in Love and Faith report, and the willingness to engage directly with those whose lives it primarily affects.
Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain
Ven Peter Leonard
Statement from the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England about the recent apology from the house of Bishops for their ‘Pastoral Statement on Same sex Civil Partnerships
We welcome the Archbishops’ apology and acknowledgement of the hurt & division their words have caused.
We regret that they have neither withdrawn their ill-advised Statement nor sought to amend its harsh and cruel wording. It still stands in its entirety as an attack on the integrity and lives of not just many in the LGBTI communities but also to the countless committed and faithful straight couples and lone parents raising children whose love and commitment they have disparaged.
We are disappointed that they do not address the undermining of the trust in their leadership and the Living in Love and Faith process that the release of the Statement has caused. Trust cannot be simply rebuilt by ignoring that reality. Bridges have to be built from both sides and the Statement released last week demolished the foundations on the Bishops’ side.
We had hoped that the Bishops might have learnt from this embarrassing experience but they appear not to have done so. We invite the Bishops to reach out and ask to meet with representatives of the LGBTI communities and sit down and ask how trust can be rebuilt. Telling us it will simply be so suggests that they are still unwilling to listen, unable to learn from this very public embarrassment and does nothing to inspire confidence for the future.
We would welcome an invitation to meet with the Bishops to discuss how that trust can be re-established.
Friday 31st January 2020
At Via Media, Giles Goddard an LGBT member of the co-ordinating group for the Living in Love and Faith project has published After the Apology – What Next?
…I have heard a great deal of contrition from the College of Bishops and from the Archbishops and I am grateful for that. I hope it will help us to move on. But I also have a strong sense that the underlying causes for the publication of the Statement have only just begun to be addressed. I have had very recent conversations with bishops who remain dismayed by the Church’s way of being: still, deep down, dominated by a world-view which feels white, male and patriarchal in its teaching on sexuality and relationships. Women still find it hard to be heard. There is still a huge problem with BAME representation. There is only one out LGBTI+ bishop…
Do read it all.30 Comments
Simon Butler and Chris Newlands, the prolocutors of Canterbury and York respectively in the General Synod, have made public the letter they have written to the archbishops. The full text of this is available here.22 Comments
In response to the recent House of Bishops statement on Civil Partnerships, an Open Letter has been published. If you are based in England or are part of the Diocese in Europe you are invited to sign.
Signatures can be added by going to this page.
The list of those who have already signed is over here.
The full text of the letter is
We write to express our anger and disappointment regarding the recent House of Bishops ‘Pastoral Statement’ concerning Same Sex and Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships.
Since the public defeat of your ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships’ report to General Synod in 2017, we have waited for you to deliver on your promise of ‘a radical new Christian inclusion’. We have been patient believing that nothing further would be said regarding sexuality and relationships until after the publication of the Living in Love and Faith report. It seems our trust has been misplaced and we feel badly let down.
The pastoral statement makes clear there has been no desire to listen or learn from those of us who spoke to explain how offensive we found the tone of the House of Bishops’ previous document. Indeed, the statement is anything but “pastoral”- it is cold, defensive, and uncaring of its impact on the millions of people it affects.
The Church of England has this week become a laughingstock to a nation that believes it is obsessed with sex. More importantly this statement has significantly damaged the mission of the Church and it has broken the trust of those it seeks to serve.
We ask you to consider how we can, together, build a truly radically inclusive Christian Church.
Updated again Sunday evening
Andrew Foreshew-Cain has written a detailed response to the document published on Wednesday. You can read it here.
Jeremy Pemberton has written this: Making a Case for Pastoral Guidance.
Trevor Thurston-Smith has written this: The Bible, Bishops and Bedrooms.
LGBTQ UK Faith Blog published The Bishops’ unpastoral statement.
Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester A message from Bishop Rachel to the Diocese of Gloucester regarding the release of the House of Bishops statement re civil partnerships.
Olivia Graham, Bishop of Reading, has tweeted this
As @ ‘s newest bishop (though not in HoB) I was deeply saddened by the unpastoral tone of the HoB statement on civil partnerships. Cold. Legalistic. Loveless. Astonishing timing – mid LLF discussions. Please know that Bishops are not of a mind on this # ☹️
Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich has tweeted this:
1/2 With @ I’m frustrated by the process which led to the publication of a House of Bishops statement on civil partnerships, not least because it was deemed business and not discussed and debated by the House. But more, I’m deeply saddened by the hurt is has caused.
2/2 I pledge to do all I can to ensure that the Living in Love and Faith project has a tone and warmth and care that seeks a way forward that, whilst acknowledging different opinions, puts precious life and love at the heart of the conversation and our welcome.
The BBC has transmitted a two-part television documentary programme:
Exposed: The Church’s Darkest Secret.
The Church of England has issued two press releases. The first one was issued last week, the second one yesterday after both episodes had been shown:
Response to BBC 2 documentary on Peter Ball from the Bishop of Bath & Wells, Peter Hancock
The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, has also issued a response (includes video).
Media coverage includes:
Daily Mail Sister of a man who took his own life after being abused by bishop Peter Ball claims the paedophile’s ‘friends in high places’ like Prince Charles are ‘to blame’ for her brother’s death in a new documentary
Church Times Bishops shamed by BBC documentary33 Comments
Three articles from the Anglican Communion Office:
The Church Times has this report:
The Church of England has published a Charter and resources to support schools in delivering Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE).
The Charter features eight commitments which all schools, Church of England and others, can sign-up to prior to the new guidelines becoming law in autumn 2020.
The Church of England’s lead Bishop for Education, Stephen Conway said in April that RSHE would require a shared duty of care between parents and schools, with the contents of the curriculum discussed and clearly communicated in advance.
To enable this, a skeleton agenda for parents’ meetings has also been published, together with a framework for school staff discussion, a policy template and activities and prayers.
The eight commitments include delivering the curriculum as a professional and identifiable part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), building resilience of pupils, promoting healthy relationships, using honest and medically accurate information, meeting individual requirements including special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and seeking pupils’ views to make teaching relevant to their lives….
Relationships, Sex and Health Education
Faith sensitive and inclusive Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education (RSHE)
From September 2020, all primary schools will be required to teach Relationships Education. They will also be required to teach Health Education. Secondary schools will be required to teach Relationships Education and Sex Education.
The legislation makes it clear that all schools should approach RSHE in a faith sensitive and inclusive way, seeking to explain fairly the tenets and varying interpretations of religious communities on matters of sex and relationships and teach these viewpoints with respect. The Church of England Education Office supports the approach taken by the government, including recommending an age-appropriate provision of sex education at primary level, and is issuing a Charter which we hope schools of all foundations, faiths or otherwise will sign up to as they affirm the broad principles about how RSHE is taught.
The Charter is accompanied by guidance, given to help dioceses and schools as they develop policy in this area. Based in the principles established by the Church of England’s Pastoral Advisory Group which has set out some principles for living well together with difference and diversity and in Valuing All God’s Children, we have developed the following documents:
- Relationships and Sex Education Principles and Charter
- Suggested format for parents’ meetings with associated resources
- Suggested policy template
It is our intention to add to these resources during the year.
Lincoln diocese issued this brief statement yesterday:
The Venerable Mark Steadman has been appointed as acting Dean of Lincoln
The Rt Revd Dr David Court, acting Bishop of Lincoln, has appointed the Venerable Mark Steadman, Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey, as acting Dean of Lincoln from Friday 22nd November 2019. This decision is to enable the continuing governance and functioning of the cathedral. Mr Steadman continues in role as Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey alongside his new duties.
The Lincolnite has two news reports that shed further light on what has recently happened:
The most surprising item in the first report is this:
Dean Christine Wilson added that on Monday, the President of Tribunals made a determination that a complainant and the bishop had not followed the proper process at the outset and therefore the complaint, which led to Christine’s absence, was void and invalid.
The President of Tribunals stated that this was “unfortunate” and the complainant may wish to issue another complaint.
It now appears that this is likely to happen, which leaves the cathedral without their dean for a further period of time.
She added that she had over the last seven months respected the processes of the church throughout the inquiry and cooperated fully.
And this is further amplified in the second report:
…A Church of England spokesperson said: “The Church is taking this issue very seriously and is aware how difficult it is for all parties involved.
“As the Dean said in her statement, the President of Tribunals made a determination that the complainant and bishop had not followed the proper process at the outset, that this was ‘unfortunate’ and the complainant may wish to issue another complaint.
“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team will be issuing another complaint, however, it should be noted that the President of Tribunals made no decision on the actual substance of the complaint.
“Nothing further can be said as this process continues but we ask prayers for everyone involved…”
This story is of Anglican interest as the Church of England is a constituent member of Churches Together in England.
The Church Times reports today that CTE block appointment of fourth president because the nominee is in a same-sex marriage
THE appointment of a new President of Churches Together in England (CTE) has been blocked because the nominee is in a same-sex marriage.
There are six Presidents of CTE, the Churches’ ecumenical instrument. They include the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols. The fourth presidency became vacant in October 2018, when Billy Kennedy finished his four-year term.
In May, Hannah Brock Womack, an active Quaker, was formally appointed to the position by the fourth presidency group: Quakers in Britain; the Lutheran Council of Great Britain; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England; German-Speaking Lutheran, Reformed, and United Congregations in Great Britain; and the Church of Scotland.
On learning that Ms Womack had recently been married to a woman, however, a majority of the member Churches of CTE, through its enabling group, voted in September to request that the fourth presidency group “refrain from enacting its Presidency, leaving the Fourth Presidency as an ’empty chair’ for the current term of office”.
The CTE was due to publish its decision in a statement today: “Over recent months CTE has been engaging with the reality of living with diversity, acknowledging that although so much unites us as Churches, we remain in disagreement over certain issues…
The CTE Statement is here: Churches Together in England statement on the Fourth Presidency
The Quakers in Britain have issued this: Churches’ plan for new President falters because of equal marriage which is copied in full below the fold.
Update There is also this article: Walking together with difficulty.29 Comments
The archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued this press release:
The full text of the message is available as a PDF here.
A direct link to the video which shows the archbishops reading the message is here.7 Comments
The Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England has published a teaching document entitled God’s Unfailing Word. This is available as a PDF here.
There is a press release:
Church of England teaching document calls for repentance over role of Christians in centuries of antisemitism
Christian theology played a part in the stereotyping and persecution of Jewish people which ultimately led to the Holocaust, a new reflection on Christian-Jewish relations issued by the Church of England acknowledges.
The teaching document, entitled God’s Unfailing Word, is the first authoritative statement on the subject from the Church of England. It speaks of attitudes towards Judaism over many centuries as providing a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism”.
It urges Anglicans and other Christians not only to repent of the “sins of the past” towards their Jewish neighbours but to be alert to and actively challenge such attitudes or stereotypes.
The document, published by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, encourages Christians to rediscover the relationship of “unique significance” between the two faiths, worshipping one God, with scriptures shared in common.
The Christian-Jewish relationship should be viewed as a “gift of God to the Church” to be received with care, respect and gratitude, it makes clear.
Christians should, therefore, be mindful of the difficult history of the two faiths and apply sensitivityin the use of some passages of scripture and liturgy, hymns and art as well as in sharing their faithwith Jewish people and in discussions about Israel.
The document includes an honest and challenging afterword by the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, in which he speaks of “profound friendship” but also a “substantial misgiving” on the question of evangelism.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, responds in a foreword, describing the Chief Rabbi’s reflection as doing Anglicans a “great service” and making clear that Christians sharing their faith must do so with “gentleness and grace” and recognising the “weight of that history”.
The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Faith and Order Commission, said: “Assumptions about Judaism and Jewish people, past and present, colour Christian approaches to preaching, teaching, evangelism, catechesis, worship, devotion and art, whether or not Christian communities are conscious of their Jewish neighbours, near and far; teasing out those assumptions and exploring them theologically is therefore a challenge that pertains to the whole Church.
“That challenge is also, however, a precious opportunity. As the first ‘principle’ underpinning this report states, we are convinced that ‘the Christian-Jewish relationship is a gift of God to the Church, which is to be received with care, respect and gratitude, so that we may learn more fully about God’s purposes for us and all the world’.”
The Church Times has a news report, which gives some background information: New book seeks to repair the harm done to Jewish people. And also has a helpful page containing extracts from the document.5 Comments
Both Houses of Parliament have now approved The Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019. The regulations will come into force no later than 2 December.
There is an accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.
This change applies only to England and Wales. It is for the Scottish Parliament to decide on whether to do this in Scotland too, but the Scottish Government has introduced a bill to do so.
The regulations do not permit opposite-sex couples who enter a civil partnership to subsequently convert their relationship into a marriage (as is the case for same-sex couples). The Government has conducted a separate consultation on conversion rights generally, but has not yet announced the outcome of that, or decided what actions it will take. Further regulations relating to this may be made in 2020.
The position of the Church of England on this new form of civil partnership has not yet been announced. I will update this post when it does. But it does seem unlikely that the policy statement of 2005 can be applied unchanged now.
There is further discussion of these regulations at Law and Religion UK: Civil partnerships, marriage registration, stillbirths – update.
And Russell Sandberg has written Religion and Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships: An Update.36 Comments
Nic Tall is Election Campaign Coordinator for the IC and partners’ 2020 Synod Campaign. Inclusive Church has published this article by him: 2020 Synod Elections: Shaping the future of the Church of England.
Should same sex couples be able to marry in church? How can the church respond to the climate emergency? How do we equip the church for the challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st Century? Do you ever find yourself asking these questions? And do you ever wonder who in the church has the job of answering them?
In the Church of England the big questions of the day are debated by the General Synod. It can seem like a remote body, with little effect at parish level and no place for ordinary clergy and churchgoers, but that is a common misperception. Many significant changes in how local churches operate come from decisions in General Synod, and the policies of the national church are shaped and decided in Synod. Next year will see full elections for the next five year term of the General Synod, and whoever is elected will have a voice in how the church grapples with the big issues and shape its future.
Could you serve on General Synod? Maybe you know someone you could encourage to stand for election. The Church needs a diverse range of people on Synod, different ages, backgrounds and experience to represent the full breadth of the Church. Inclusive Church is leading a campaign to organise for the 2020 elections, working in partnership with other inclusive organisations across the life of the church. We have just launched our main campaign leaflet, saying what will be happening and how you can be involved. Please download it here, and share it far and wide among people you know in the church who have inclusive values…
The campaign leaflet, Planning for the 2020 Elections to the General Synod, contains more detailed information:
Who is organising the Inclusive Synod Campaign?
This campaign is being organised by a coalition of key organisations from across the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England – evangelical, catholic, liberal. We represent the broad mainstream of the Church, those who want our national Church to be for everyone, regardless of gender, age, disability, tradition, race, socio-economic background or sexuality. Members include Inclusive Church, WATCH, One Body One Faith, Ozanne Foundation, Affirming Catholicism, Accepting Evangelicals, Modern Church, the Society of Catholic Priests, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the C of E, the Progressive Christianity Network and Thinking Anglicans. We are the only campaign for Synod organising across the whole of the Church…
Two news articles about the dispute concerning the Dean, Martyn Percy, have appeared on the same day. Each contains new information, but there is surprisingly little overlap. Do read both articles all the way through. (Warning: the FT piece is very long.)
Church Times Christ Church continues to struggle to find peace
A NEW row is brewing in Christ Church, Oxford, despite the exoneration of the Dean, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy (News, 30 August). The Cathedral Chapter has now sought its own legal advice about the actions of a group of senior dons who accused the Dean of “immoral, scandalous, and disgraceful behaviour” (News, 5 November 2018).
As a consequence, there are reports that members of the Chapter have, in turn, been harassed and threatened with legal action. On Wednesday, Dr Percy declined to comment.
The small group of dons used an estimated £1.6 million of college funds to pursue the Dean, who is also Head of House (i.e. Master of the college) after he raised questions about governance and pay scales, including his own. He was cleared of all charges in August, in an internal inquiry led by Sir Andrew Smith, who produced a judgment of more than 100 pages. It is this document that is at the centre of the new row…
Financial Times Scheming spires: trouble at Oxford’s Christ Church
Update: this second article, which was available freely earlier today, has now gone behind a paywall. I am sorry about the inconvenience. See comments below about possible ways around this.31 Comments
The Church Times has a news report today (which covers other episcopal Brexit responses too) This is how to honour the referendum: Welby clarifies Bishops’ statement. In it the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a fairly lengthy response to last week’s leader column. Do read it all.35 Comments
The Oxford bishops write:
We may be about to exit the European Union and begin a new relationship with our European neighbours and with the world. +Steven, +Alan, +Colin and Bishop-elect Olivia have written a joint letter to every church, school and chaplaincy in the Diocese of Oxford reminding us all of the important roles that our churches and schools hold at this time. The bishops are encouraging parishioners across the diocese to read the letter too: “Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small”.
Read the whole letter here. A Christian response to Brexit.
And there are further resources here.26 Comments
Today’s Church Times carries three items relating to the Church of England bishops’ intervention in the Brexit debate.
There is a news story, Bishops defend statement in which they endorse Brexit
and there is the Press column Press: Bishops back Brexit — but no one reports it.
But more significantly there is a very long leader article, which is highly critical of the statement: The Bishops’ misplaced respect. Do read the whole of this critique, which starts out:
IT WAS a very Anglican betrayal. No Gove-like rush of blood to the head, stolid Johnsonian plotting, or Momentum bullying. Just a throwaway line at the start of the College of Bishops’ statement on the tenor of political discourse. It was a clearing of the throat, a testing of the microphone. “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured.”
All three parts of this sentence deserve a closer look…
There are also some Letters to the Editor.37 Comments
The Reverend Al Barrett is the incumbent of Hodge Hill Church – a partnership between St Philip & St James (Church of England – Birmingham Diocese) and Hodge Hill United Reformed Church. He blogs regularly at This estate we’re in and he has written this: “Not peace, but a sword”: a response to the bishops’ statement.
This is quite a long analysis and deserves to be read in full He starts out this way:
There is, I realise, something slightly perverse about criticising a unanimous statement, from the Church of England’s bishops, attempting to speak with urgency into a time of profound national division. I also realise it’s not the first time I’ve responded publicly, and critically, to a statement made by my denomination’s senior leadership at a moment of political ‘crisis’. I’m sure there are words for people like me, and ‘irritant’ is probably the politest of them.
But these are indeed critical moments in our national life, and thankfully our bishops rarely presume to have ‘the last word’ in such moments. With whatever authority they seek to speak, their interventions are invitations (implicit or explicit) to further reflection and conversation – and it is to that implicit invitation that I cannot help but respond – with some ‘wonderings’ that can claim no more authority than the bishops’ statement, and certainly no more claim to be ‘the last word’ of a vital ongoing conversation.
I can only imagine the anguished discussions, in person, on the phone, by email, between the bishops in the process of agreeing this unanimous statement. The felt importance of presenting a ‘united front’, a single message – when they will no doubt have, among themselves, had passionate disagreements about the content, the tone, and even whether they should be saying anything public at all. I feel for them in those struggles. None of this is easy. To say anything, as much as to say nothing, is risky, costly, weighty in its responsibility…
And here is his concluding paragraph:
…Here, then, is the dilemma confronting the Church of England, in a nutshell: how do we ‘own up’ with penitent honesty to our own profoundly imbalanced and compromised social location and institutional reality (dominated by White, upper-/middle-class men), while seeking complex solidarities with diverse and marginalized ‘others’ who present challenges to both the church and wider society, and courageously challenging the powers-that-be where power is both concentrated and abused? The answer must, surely, include a willingness to give up – or be stripped of – most of the traces of institutional power that the Church of England, especially, continues to benefit from – even that of presuming to speak into political debate with some kind of ‘authoritative voice’. It must also, equally certainly, include an unshakeable commitment to listen acutely, attentively, enduringly, and with a radical receptivity, to the many within, and beyond the Church who are not White, or not middle-class, or not male, in ways that challenge and change us, to our very DNA. Only in the context of that ongoing commitment to listening, repentance and change can we humbly and courageously seek to ‘speak truth to power’.
But do, please, read the whole thing.19 Comments