Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford to act on complaint against Dean

Updated again Wednesday
See previous item.

press release from Christ Church

Further statement in response to media interest
12 January 2021

Christ Church’s Governing Body and Cathedral Chapter have decided to take forward internal disciplinary proceedings, following a complaint that was reported in October 2020. These proceedings are part of Christ Church’s HR procedures for dealing with employment issues, as set out in its Statutes.

We fully recognise that this has been an extremely distressing time for each of the parties involved, exacerbated by high levels of media interest and the strong feelings the case has generated. It is now crucial that this internal disciplinary matter is left to be resolved, formally and properly, through the correct procedures, which will include the appointment of an external, independent chair. These procedures exist to protect all of our staff, students and congregants, and Christ Church as a whole, in equal measure.

Updates

Archbishop Cranmer has already published a further article on this: Martyn Percy is a ‘sex pest’: Christ Church Oxford in new attempt to oust the Dean
This contains much information about the letter from the Reverend Jonathan Aitken to the Chapter, mentioned here earlier, but also it reproduces the reply to him from the Reverend Canon Graham Ward. The whole article is worth reading.

The Church Times has now (Wednesday) published Dean of Christ Church faces new attempt to remove him from office. This contains a good deal of additional information about the internal disciplinary process to date, and what may happen in the future, and also summarises the status of the separate Clergy Discipline Measure action which is, apparently, proceeding in parallel.

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Christ Church Oxford to consider new tribunal action against Dean

We reported on 19 November 2020 A new complaint about the Dean of Christ Church.

Since then we have also linked to several comment articles published on Surviving Church  and Archbishop Cranmer relating to this, in particular (and in reverse date order) on 9 January, 2 January, and 9 December. Some of the linked articles contain fragments of information about developments in this case.

Today and yesterday, two news articles have appeared in mainstream media, both unfortunately behind paywalls, but here are the links, with their headlines, anyway:

Telegraph Camilla Turner Dean of Christ Church faces fresh attempt to be ousted

Times Andrew Billen Oxford college accused of ‘toxic’ bid to paint dean Martyn Percy as a sex pest

Both Christ Church and the Oxford diocese have issued statements (full texts copied below)

The Christ Church statement contains no reference to this incident still being treated as a Safeguarding matter, contrary to earlier reports. The Diocesan statement confirms that a CDM action is still proceeding.  TA understands that Oxford diocesan officials, including the bishop, have recused themselves from participation in that action.

The Telegraph reports:

The College’s governing body and the chapter of the cathedral are due to vote on Monday on whether Dr Percy should be taken to an internal tribunal that could see him removed from office. This… follows an alleged incident which took place in Christ Church cathedral in October, where it is claimed that he stroked a woman’s hair and complimented her on her appearance.

The Times article includes this:

Few in the Church of England have voiced their concerns about a complicated affair over which the church has little say. Many, including the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, appear satisfied that Christ Church has acted responsibly over the latest complaint.

But Rev [Angela] Tilby told The Times: “The difference this time is that the patient machinations of those on the cathedral chapter who have consistently plotted against the dean have now borne fruit with other cathedral clergy apparently actively working for his sacking on the grounds of him being a ‘sex pest’. The mixture of malevolence and naivety is toxic and extremely disturbing in an institution supposedly dedicated to education, learning and holiness.”

Christ Church confirmed yesterday that the governing body would review its investigator’s report alongside the advice of an independent QC.

Both news reports mention that Jonathan Aitken has written to the Cathedral Chapter about the latest developments. In his letter he explains that if the Chapter endorses the Governing Body’s action (expected on Monday) to proceed with a new tribunal, he will seek a Judicial Review in the High Court. and outlines the legal and financial risks involved, both for the Chapter and its individual members. He also makes three suggestions for alternative courses of action by the Chapter.

(more…)

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St Helen’s Bishopsgate announces “broken partnership” with House of Bishops

St Helen’s Bishopsgate has issued the following statement:

STATEMENT

Date 16 December 2020

ST HELEN’S BISHOPSGATE ANNOUNCES “BROKEN PARTNERSHIP” WITH HOUSE OF BISHOPS

St Helen’s Bishopsgate, following much prayer and reflection, has announced a state of broken partnership with the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

St Helen’s and many other churches have over a prolonged period called for and prayed for Bishops, as the denomination’s senior leaders, to uphold their vows to teach what the Bible says, including in the area of sex and marriage, and to deny false teaching and practice. Instead the House of Bishops is divided on sex and marriage; its official orthodox doctrine is expressly undermined by how some bishops speak and act, and by the failure to speak and act of many others. This has resulted in a muddled message and confusion for churchgoers across England. Despite their consecration vows, Bishops have overseen the appointment to influential leadership positions of people who openly advocate change to the Church of England’s doctrine and/or forms of service, and Bishops have permitted alternative services and events that do not uphold the Church of England’s stated doctrinal position on sexual ethics.

Seven years ago the House of Bishops published the Pilling Report which called for ‘facilitated discussions’ on sexuality. Earlier this month the House of Bishops published the Living in Love and Faith book, course, and library of resources which call for yet further discussion. Living in Love and Faith demonstrates the division in the House of Bishops with some sections setting out the orthodox biblical teaching but others erroneous alternative views. The overall effect suggests that the clear biblical teaching on sex and marriage is not clear. The House of Bishops is responsible for upholding biblical doctrine in the Church of England. Whilst St Helen’s is encouraged by the faithful work of some involved in the LLF project, the clarity and consistency of the bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is in marked contrast to the House of Bishops’ muddled message.

In good conscience, St Helen’s is no longer able to remain in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops until they again speak and act consistently in accordance with the plain reading and plain teaching of scripture on sex and marriage, as recognised by the church down the centuries.

The loving summons of the Lord Jesus to ‘repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand’ leads his followers into a life of rich fulfilment that stretches into eternity. Thus, when Church of England bishops depart from proclaiming and defending clear biblical teaching, it is not just a breach of the Canons of the Church of England, but more seriously it is unloving and painful to the many people within the Church of England who want to live faithful and sacrificial lives following Jesus, and it risks causing others to stray from the way of salvation revealed in the scriptures.

St Helen’s has a deep love and concern for those in the church who experience same-sex attraction, and seeks to provide support and care for such men and women in our own congregations. Sadly when Church of England leaders contradict or fail to promote the clear teaching of scripture in the area of sexual ethics, they are heard by our and other congregations to say that scripture does not matter and the personal obedience of committed Christians desiring to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching does not matter.

St Helen’s, like the great majority of Anglicans around the world, believes that scripture clearly and consistently teaches that it is God’s good plan that the only loving and God-honouring place for sexual practice is within the marriage of one man and one woman, and that this is a matter of primary biblical importance. It is not merely a ‘secondary matter’ over which faithful Christian disciples can ‘agree to disagree’, rather it is a matter of the authority of God’s word to which all disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to submit (and not reword).

Tracey, a member of St Helen’s who knew she was gay when she was 12, lived an active gay lifestyle in her twenties until she became a Christian a few years ago.

She says, “Now that I’m a Christian it doesn’t mean that I have become straight. I’ve always been attracted to girls. The thing that helped me was understanding that temptation and sin were different things. I have a choice: I can either honour God with my actions or dishonour him.”

She continues, “I find it upsetting when Christians take different bits of the Bible and say, I’ll go with this and not that, as it was quite clear to me what the Bible taught on homosexuality. There is a cost and it is tricky, but holding onto the truths in the Bible, I choose to honour Jesus. I have a wonderful church family who are incredibly supportive.”

St Helen’s is not leaving the Church of England and will remain a member of its Deanery and Diocesan structures for the most part. However St Helen’s will be withdrawing from those activities which indicate full spiritual partnership. This is likely to include the selection and recommendation of people going forward for ordination, as well as planting new Church of England churches. We have been in regular communication with both the current Bishop of London and her predecessor about our developing concerns. We are grateful that the Bishop of London has, in response, proposed working with St Helen’s to assess how the potential consequences of broken partnership could be addressed.

William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s says, “The House of Bishops has responsibility for spiritual leadership in the Church of England-teaching the truth, correcting error and exercising discipline. Their failure of leadership over many years is responsible for the confusion that the Church of England now finds itself in. By contrast the Bible’s teaching is clear, authoritative and loving as is the historic doctrine of the Church of England. Sadly, therefore, we find that although authentically Anglican, we are not, for the time being, in gospel partnership with the House of Bishops. We feel obliged to take this step to differentiate ourselves visibly from the House of Bishops.”

He continues, “We are grateful for the ongoing faithful ministry of the Bishop of Maidstone, Rod Thomas, who is not himself a voting member of the House of Bishops but has repeatedly and faithfully raised these concerns about departure from the Scriptures. Rod will review me annually in my role as Rector of St Helen’s, with input from the churchwardens and other members of the team at St Helen’s. We will also continue to pray for the leadership of the Church of England and for the House of Bishops, especially that they will stand strong in the orthodox truths and have the confidence to be unashamed in preaching the gospel as set out in scripture – the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, no matter how counter-cultural it may seem to contemporary society.”

Many local church leaders, from different Anglican churches across the country, share similar concerns to those expressed by St Helen’s. We wish to support and remain in full partnership with these likeminded churches, who seek to teach the good news of Jesus with faithfulness and compassion and provide on-going care, love and support for those within their congregations experiencing same-sex attraction.

End

For more information, please see www.st-helens.org.uk/about/cofe and/or contact media@st-helens.org.uk

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Safeguarding: Durham diocese publishes Granville Gibson report

The Diocese of Durham has today published the report by Dr Stephanie Hill into the case of convicted sexual abuser Granville Gibson, formerly the Archdeacon of Auckland.

Statement by Bishop Paul Butler which explains why the report, completed in 2017, has been delayed in publication until now.

The full text of the report is here: Independent Report into the case of George Granville Gibson.

The diocesan responses to the recommendations in the report are tabulated here.

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UK government hosts launch of Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives

The Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ Lives has brought together over 350 senior faith leaders from around the world to call for an end to violence and discrimination against LGBT people and for a global ban on conversion therapy.

They have released a video of senior faith leaders saying this declaration.

They are holding a one day conference today, 16 Decemberwhich is available as a livestream from 0930 – 1630. This is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

The programme of the conference can be viewed here.

The Bishop of London has recorded this welcoming video.

This will be followed at 1730 by a Celebration at Westminster Abbey with both the Dean of Westminster and the Dean of St Paul’s.

They invite all people of faith to sign the declaration with them.

The full text of the press release is copied below the fold.

Media coverage

(more…)

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Independent oversight of safeguarding proposed

The Church of England has today issued this press release:

Update on NST independent oversight
The Archbishops’ Council has voted unanimously that a proposal on interim independent oversight of the National Safeguarding Team is to be put in place before February Synod (2021) to pave the way for full independent oversight, by February Synod 2022. Both the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops have already endorsed the principle of independence for the Church’s safeguarding work.

The House of Bishops also discussed this at its meeting today supporting the direction of travel for these proposals while noting the importance of engaging with dioceses. The interim oversight model would include the creation of a new safeguarding board with a majority of entirely independent members, including a Chair, who would have delegated responsibility for the oversight of the NST, to ensure independence of scrutiny and feedback. The Board could then help determine the approach to implementing full independent oversight which will include proposed structural changes for closer working with and oversight of diocesan safeguarding officers, particularly on casework, as outlined in the IICSA recommendations.  The detailed arrangements for this, and the resulting allocation of responsibilities, will need to be worked out fully through this process of consultation.

Consultation with survivor representatives has made it very clear that they want to see independent oversight for all cases, not just national ones. This particularly reflects the first IICSA recommendation. There will  be full consultation with survivor groups and with dioceses as detailed proposals are drawn up.  The Archbishops’ Council noted the importance of how the principle of independence is worked out in relation to dioceses and of ensuring input and feedback from parishes and PCCs. There will be a more detailed timeline in place by February Synod for the following 12 months as this work is progressed. The Council agreed the importance of increased resources to ensure this structure is in place by February Synod.

The Council also unanimously endorsed the setting up and funding of the Interim Support Scheme for survivors.

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Church in Wales proposals for blessings after same-sex marriages

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales has published on this page its proposals for: A Bill to authorise experimental use of proposed revisions of the Book of Common Prayer (service of Blessing following a Civil Partnership or Marriage between two people of the same sex).

The documents are all in MS Word format:

The covering letter is copied in full below the fold.
A PDF version of the Explanatory Memorandum (in English only) is available here: Explanatory_Memorandum.

(more…)

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CofE National Director of Safeguarding resigns

Updated Friday morning

Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph reported last night: Exclusive: Church of England’s child protection director quits after 18 months

The Church of England’s child protection boss has quit after 18 months amid claims that she faces too much resistance from clergy.

Melissa Caslake was appointed as the church’s first permanent Director of Safeguarding in April last year. She will take up a role as Director of Children’s Services with a local authority in the New Year.

However, The Telegraph has spoken to sources who claim that after just over a year and a half in the role, Ms Caslake “wouldn’t be leaving unless she felt that task had become impossible”…

…A source said: “Half of the leadership of the Church of England knows that it needs to change to survive, but the other half feels that survival depends on preventing change at all costs.”

“Melissa Caslake is a dedicated and competent safeguarding professional. She was brought in to reform the church’s safeguarding practice. She wouldn’t be leaving unless she felt that task had become impossible. Perhaps she has discovered what many victims know from bitter experience – that the church is simply too complex, too defensive, and too self-absorbed to face up to its own cruelty…”

…In response to the claims surrounding her departure, she said: “I have been privileged to work with survivors, members of clergy, diocesan and safeguarding professionals and others in the national church and beyond.

“I hope their expertise will continue to be respected and heard. I would like to thank all those who have supported the safeguarding journey so far, and wish the church well as it reflects on how best to implement the IICSA recommendations for the future…”

This morning no official announcement from the Archbishops’ Council has so far appeared, but this afternoon the Church Times has published: C of E safeguarding director resigns.

THE Church of England’s Director of Safeguarding, Melissa Caslake, is resigning after just 18 months in post (News, 12 April 2019), it was announced this week.

Ms Caslake is to take up the post of director of children’s services for Devon County Council…

…A small group of survivors replied on Thursday with a statement wishing her well, saying that she would “leave with respect from many in the survivor community and beyond, for the energy she brought to transforming the Church’s safeguarding, and rescuing a moribund National Safeguarding Team.

“Some have offered legitimate criticism of the controversies over which she nominally presided, but still recognise that she has left a good mark of the changes required for the future. Indeed, she has done more than anyone to change the culture. She ‘got it’. We note that she came from a local authority context and returns to a similar position where she will have clear unambiguous roles, rules, and structures, none of which currently exist within the Church of England in general and Church House in particular.

“Until these are sorted out the position of Director of Safeguarding is virtually impossible to do with integrity, and we don’t blame Melissa for leaving whilst hers is still intact. . . It is crucial that her successor picks up on and carries forward the direction of change and reform. We wish her well.”

The Bishop of Huddersfield, Dr Jonathan Gibbs, the lead safeguarding bishop, said: “Melissa has brought experience, skills and commitment to her role and I would like to express my personal thanks for her support and leadership within the NST and National Safeguarding Steering Group. . .

“I am conscious that this has been a very demanding and personally costly role, facing challenges from many different directions. Melissa has sought to help the Church to become a safer and healthier place for all and we owe her a real debt of thanks for all her work on our behalf.”

The full text of the statement from survivors mentioned above is as follows:

Melissa Caslake will leave with respect from many in the survivor community and beyond, for the energy she brought to transforming the Church’s safeguarding, and rescuing a moribund National Safeguarding Team. Some have offered legitimate criticism of the controversies over which she nominally presided, but still recognise that she has left a good mark of the changes required for the future. Indeed, she has done more than anyone to change the culture. She “got it”. We note that she came from a Local Authority context and returns to a similar position where she will have clear unambiguous roles, rules, and structures, none of which currently exist within the Church of England in general and Church House in particular. Until these are sorted out the position of Director of Safeguarding is virtually impossible to do with integrity, and we don’t blame Melissa for leaving whilst hers is still intact. We suspect Moses would struggle to reshape the culture and mindset of Church House. We feel Melissa Caslake has done well to survive there for eighteen months. It is crucial that her successor picks up on and carries forward the direction of change and reform. We wish her well.

Friday morning update

An official announcement has at last appeared and can be read here: National safeguarding director takes up new role. It is copied in full below the fold. (more…)

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A new complaint about the Dean of Christ Church

Updated Friday evening

The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Martyn Percy is now the subject of a complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure, according to the Diocese of Oxford, which has amended the statement it first issued on 18 November and it now reads as follows:

19 November 2020
Following media reports, our statement is updated as follows

We are disappointed that those seeking to support the Dean are reportedly trying to downplay the severity of the complaint. Such actions belittle the complainant and only add to the distress of anyone else considering a complaint against someone in a senior position. The complaint, which has been brought to the Church under the Clergy Discipline Measure, will be properly and thoroughly investigated.

18 November 2020

The Bishop of Oxford has agreed with the Very Revd Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, that Martyn will step back from office, while a complaint is properly considered.

Christ Church is a complex institution and, uniquely in the Church of England, the Dean of the Cathedral is also Head of an Oxford College. Christ Church has written to students and staff with the following statement. The statement has also been shared with the Cathedral congregation and those at the Cathedral School.

“The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Martyn Percy, has voluntarily withdrawn with immediate effect from all duties and pastoral responsibilities in his role as Dean of the College and Cathedral. Christ Church will not be commenting further whilst necessary inquiries are under way. The Charity Commission and relevant Church of England authorities are being kept fully informed.”

The Bishop of Oxford is in close contact with all concerned. His prayers, and those of the Diocese, are with everyone at Christ Church.

Christ Church itself has today issued the following press release:

Statement regarding the Dean of Christ Church

Yesterday Christ Church wrote to internal stakeholders to say that the Dean of Christ Church has stepped back from his duties in the College and Cathedral.

There have been some suggestions in the media that the Dean has resigned. We can clarify that this is not the case. The wording of Christ Church’s statement is set out below:

“The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Martyn Percy, has voluntarily withdrawn with immediate effect from all duties and pastoral responsibilities in his role as Dean of the College and Cathedral. Christ Church will not be commenting further whilst necessary inquiries are under way. The Charity Commission and relevant Church of England authorities are being kept fully informed.”

The Church Times has reported this as Supporters warned off as Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, steps back. This story was updated on Friday, and now contains the following:

SUPPORTERS of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, have been reprimanded by the Oxford diocese. The supporters, in turn, have asked why members of the college’s Governing Body have not been criticised…

…The diocesan statement, in turn, has been criticised by David Lamming, a friend of Dean Percy and a General Synod member, as a “wholly inappropriate public comment while the current allegation is under investigation”. He objects, in particular, to the reference to “severity”, and asks for information about the authorship of the statement.
Other allies of the Dean have pointed out that the diocesan reprimand is one-sided. It is said that at least one member of the college’s Governing Body was known to have briefed journalists anonymously about the case…

 

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Churches to hold month of prayer as second lockdown begins

Church of England press release

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and a number of senior church leaders are inviting Christians across the nation to participate in the month of prayer as a second lockdown in England comes into force.

Throughout the month, Christians will be encouraged to pray daily for a specific area of national concern, wherever they are, culminating in a collective moment of prayer at 6pm each evening, with cathedrals and churches across the country invited to ring a bell at this time.

Christians will be encouraged to follow a simple seven-day prayer cycle, praying for a specific area each day including the NHS and frontline workers, the bereaved, and those struggling with physical and mental ill-health, and for children and young people.

Prayers and other resources will be shared on social media with the hashtag #PrayerForTheNation.

The prayer call has the support of senior church leaders including Churches Together in England (CTE) Presidents Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Pastor Agu Irukwu, the CTE Pentecostal president; His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, and the CTE Orthodox President; and Pete Greig, Founder of 24-7 Prayer International and Senior Leader of Emmaus Road, Guildford. It is also being supported by the Church of England’s House of Bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “On the brink of this second lockdown we might understandably feel helpless, anxious and vulnerable. And we do what we can to halt the spread of this virus – but we can still feel powerless.

“Is there anything else we can do? Really do?

“Yes. Yes there is. We can pray. Prayer is my first response when I feel out of my depth, when I need help, when I am worried, when I am concerned for those I love.
It is a gift that God gives to all – whether you are a regular pray-er or not – bring your cares and the cares of the nation to God. For God loves and hears and holds. Prayer changes things.”

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “Prayer changes things. It changes things by inviting God into the room.

“At this challenging time when all of us are fearful and anxious, and when so many are suffering, it is the one thing we can all do.

“We can pray and invite God to change us, giving us the solace, strength and comfort we need for the difficult winter that is ahead of us.

“Let’s pray together at this difficult time.”

A selection of resources to suit Christians from across all denominations and traditions, and those exploring faith at this challenging time, will be made available on the Church of England website to guide prayer during this period.

This includes several newly written prayers for the nation from Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, NT Wright and Pete Greig.

Cathedrals will ring a bell as a call to prayer for the nation throughout the month. The Dean of Lichfield, Adrian Dorber, who is Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said:

“We know our cathedrals are places of assurance and inspiration for many people when life is tough and hope is short, and now more than ever, it is important to show our presence and mark each day of this lockdown with prayers, and keep a time each evening to ring our bells as a call to pray for our nation.”

The call to prayer comes as both Archbishops, in a letter issued last weekend, encouraged churches to redouble their efforts to serve their local communities – caring for the elderly and most vulnerable – ahead of the second lockdown.

To find out more information about the invitation to pray visit: churchofengland.org/PrayerForTheNation.

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Archbishops write to the nation

Church of England press release
Calm, courage and compassion needed in face of new lockdown – Archbishops

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited the nation to join them in prayer, in a message encouraging ‘calm, courageous and compassionate’ responses to the difficulties of the second national lockdown in England.

In an open letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, assure the nation of their prayers. They highlight the love of God for us all in the midst of ‘deeply challenging and difficult’ times facing the country.

“We are writing to share our belief that whoever you are, and whatever you happen to believe, you are loved by God. Beyond measure. We also want you to know that we are praying for you, particularly asking that Christ’s love will comfort us, calm our fears, and lead our nation and our world through this terrible pandemic,” they say.

In the letter, the Archbishops encourage everyone to adopt ‘calm, courageous and compassionate’ responses in the face of the difficulties posed by the lockdown.

“So many of us are holding so much pain – our own and the pain of those we love. We will need to be gentle, kind and patient with each other,” they write.

“In the first wave, we showed we are a nation of compassion and kindness. Let’s dig deep and keep that love for our neighbours strong in this second time of struggle.

Anyone who wishes to do so is invited by the Archbishops to join them in daily prayer at 6pm during lockdown using resources that will be published later today on the Church of England’s website and social media channels.

The resources mentioned above can be found here.
A PDF version of the open letter is available here.

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Archbishops join interfaith call to PM to allow public worship

Church of England press release

Archbishops join interfaith call to PM to allow public worship

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the Bishop of London, have joined national faith leaders in calling on the Government to permit public worship during the forthcoming lockdown in England.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the faith leaders set out how public worship can play a vital role in supporting social cohesion and mental health and offer “an essential sign of hope”.

They conclude: “We call on government to recognise and support this, and enable us to continue to worship safely, as part of the essential fabric of the nation.”

Read the full letter.

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Archbishops, +London write to all clergy

This letter from both archbishops and the Bishop of London first appeared on social media this morning. It is now available on the Church of England website  in PDF format.

A plain text copy appears below.

To the clergy of the Church of England

1 November 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Greetings to you on this All Saints Day and as we are reminded again that we are indeed part of a universal company of saints.

We are writing to you to set out some of our thinking in the light of the most recent announcement by the Prime Minister. We are very aware that details are still not clear and there is much discussion still to be had about what the impact of the new lockdown will mean. We are also writing to assure you of our prayers for you and our thanks for all you do. We are clear that we do now need to call all Christian people to pray and to do so continually over this next month. In this letter as well as reflection we also set out an invitation to you to join in this call to prayer and to keep both praying and serving our communities.

This is a difficult and challenging time for all of us. We are sure that some of you reading this letter will wish we had made other decisions during the period of the first lockdown, or even challenged the government harder on the decisions it has made. You may be right. However, it is our view that the best way we can serve our nation now is by pouring our energy into doing the things that we can do, which is to pray and to serve. We also dare to hope that we will be kind to each other and that God will give us the courage and humility we need to be faithful witnesses to the gospel of peace.

A second lockdown will be upon us on Thursday. It is going to be different from the first one. The days are getting shorter and colder. We are anxious for ourselves, for those we love, especially those who are vulnerable and elderly, and for our families. We know that this pandemic is having a devastating effect on our economy and on people’s mental health. Thousands of people are dying. The National Health Service is being stretched to the limit. We also know and must continue to bear witness to the fact that the poorest communities in our nation are suffering the most. We are in for a long haul. It is going to be a hard winter.

But this second lockdown will also be different in other ways. There is much that we have learned from the first lockdown and there is much to celebrate and be proud of. Of course we are full of gratitude and respect for the amazing courage and commitment of all key workers especially those working in the NHS. Their contribution is rightly and widely recognised. We also applaud the many creative ways that churches up and down the land have been serving their local communities and working with others to make sure that the hungry are fed and the vulnerable cared for. We have managed to maintain and, in many cases, extend our outreach by streaming worship online and by developing other ways of building community online.

We are grateful for people’s energy, hard work and creativity in making this happen and we hope and pray this will continue. We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building. We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible, making sure that their buildings are Covid secure in the ways that we have learned in recent months, and to broadcast services from their church buildings. However, if you do not have the resources or wherewithal to do this, please do not feel that you have failed in any way. The good thing about provision of worship online, is that people can join in from anywhere and therefore we can support each other more easily in this endeavour. Our national digital team will continue to offer training and support and provide national services each week.

However, worship online still means that the people of God do not have access to the sacraments which are so central to our life in Christ. This is a huge loss and since we were not consulted about the lockdown provisions, we fully intend to speak with government about why certain exemptions are made and not others, emphasising the critical role that churches play in every community. The sacramental life of the church cannot be seen as an optional extra. Nor can we separate out our worship from our service, it is always both and not either or.

Nevertheless, we will of course abide by the law and ask you to do the same. We must do all that we can to keep our communities safe and to enable the NHS to manage this crisis. The Recovery Group chaired by the Bishop of London will be issuing specific guidance in the next day or two.

Bearing in mind our primary vocation as the Church of Jesus Christ to pray and to serve we call upon the Church of England to make this month of lockdown a month of prayer. More than anything else, whatever the nation thinks, we know that we are in the faithful hands of the risen Christ who knows our weaknesses, tiredness and struggles and whose steadfast love endures for ever.

Above all we recall people to some of the fundamental spiritual disciplines that shape our Christian life. How we do this is up to each congregation and clergy person. We will publish resources to support you before the first day of lockdown. During the first lockdown we cheered for the NHS every Thursday. During this second lockdown we invite you to fast in a way appropriate to you as well as pray for our nation every Thursday, for its leaders, its health and essential services and all those who suffer.

We thank you for your service and ministry and pray that God will sustain you and encourage you. After consulting the House of Bishops we will be writing a more general letter to the whole nation we serve, a letter expressing the hope we have and calling for courage, calm and compassion.

In one of the climactic passages of the New Testament, Paul says to those who follow Christ that their “love must be genuine, that they hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.” He asks them to “serve the lord”, exhorting them to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (See Romans 12.9-12.) None of this is easy. Especially not at the moment. But it is our calling.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell

Archbishop of York

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally

Bishop of London

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WATCH and the Five Guiding Principles

Women and the Church has published an introduction and guide to the Five Guiding Principles. The Guide and two supporting documents can be found here:

There is also an earlier document from the Diocese of Chelmsford which is recommended in the code of behaviour

There is a press release which explains the intention of these documents: WATCH Publish an introduction and guide to the Five Guiding Principles. This is copied below the fold. (more…)

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Bishop of Albany announces his resignation

We reported recently on the disciplinary hearing: Bishop of Albany found guilty of violating ordination vows. The further hearing planned to decide on the consequences of this was scheduled for next Monday.

Today, at the annual convention of the Diocese of Albany, Bishop Love announced his retirement.

Episcopal News Service: Presiding Bishop and Albany Bishop Reach Accord in Disciplinary Matter

Living Church: Bishop Love Ends Lonely Fight on Same-Sex Marriage

Here is an extract from his address to the diocesan convention:

…A second meeting of the Hearing Panel under the leadership of Bishop Knisely, was scheduled for this coming Monday, October 26 , to determine what disciplinary action should be taken against me. After much thought and prayer, recognizing that whatever disciplinary action would be offered would not be anything I could in good conscience agree to, I have made the very difficult, but necessary decision to resign as Bishop of Albany, effective February 1, 2021 – the 14th Anniversary of my becoming the Bishop Diocesan. Given all that has happened, and that which was still to come, I believe that to stay any longer would be more of a detriment to the Diocese than a help.

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and I, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love, Bishop of Albany voluntarily entered into an Accord which became effective October 21, 2020, with the unanimous approval of the Disciplinary Board of the House of Bishops. The Accord resolves the matter of my case, thus discharging any further action from the Hearing Panel.

The Accord stipulates the following: I will resign as Bishop Diocesan of the Diocese of Albany, effective February 1, 2021; I will begin a one month terminal sabbatical beginning January 1, 2021; I agree to continue to abide by the January 11, 2019 Restrictions placed upon my ministry by the Presiding Bishop until the effective date of my resignation as Bishop; I will work with the Presiding Bishop through the Office of Pastoral Development to help foster a healthy transition from my leadership as Bishop Diocesan, as the Diocese begins a new chapter in its history; and lastly, I acknowledge that upon February 1, 2021, the effective date of my resignation as Bishop Diocesan, my November 10, 2018, Pastoral Directive regarding B012 will lose force. Until then, however, it remains in effect.

In signing the Accord, the Presiding Bishop has agreed to allow me to notify the clergy and people of the Diocese of Albany of my pending resignation, before he sends out an announcement to the wider community. I am very appreciative of his willingness to agree to that pastoral request..

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Church of England Safeguarding: weekly roundup 24 October

See separate articles for the recently published reports on Victor Whitsey and on Stowe and Maids Moreton.

See also several relevant items in our twice-weekly comment roundups, first here, and then here.

Media coverage of the Whitsey report has been extensive:

Media coverage of the Maids Moreton case:

Other Church Times reports:

And see House of Bishops Meeting – Monday 19 October 2020.

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Events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton

The Diocese of Oxford has published a summary briefing and recommendations, along with the full report, from the independent review into events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

Press release (also copied below)

Summary briefing: this page includes all the recommendstions and diocesan responses (scroll down) and also links to a Seven Minute Briefing.

Full report

Press release:

In 2017 Peter Farquhar was murdered. His need for an emotionally close relationship had been exploited, and an intelligent, talented man was made vulnerable. Peter was a member of his local church; his strong personal faith featured in the abusive relationship, and his murderer, Ben Field, also had roles within the church.

This was an extraordinary and unusual case. Everyone who came into contact with the murderer, Ben Field, was manipulated by him. He made a pretence of being a committed Christian and gained the confidence of the people of Stowe Parish Church.

The Church and wider society need to be ever more vigilant of those who can be made vulnerable by the likes of Ben Field, simply because they are elderly or lonely. For this reason, the Diocese of Oxford commissioned an independent review to establish lessons learnt from the events in the parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton.

The review, commissioned by the Diocese of Oxford Safeguarding Panel, was carried out by Dr Adi Cooper, OBE, an independent consultant in adult safeguarding and adult social care. Dr Cooper makes 13 recommendations for improving safeguarding awareness and prevention as well as supporting a shift to a more open culture within the Church of England around safeguarding in all its complexity for parishes.

“Although the events in the Parishes of Stowe and Maids Moreton were unusual, there is learning from them that can inform improvement in safeguarding policy and practice,” writes Dr Cooper. “The lessons from the harm done by Ben Field presents a challenge for the Church regarding specific themes: the abuse of trust in a religious paradigm, attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and safe recruitment both of clergy and volunteers.”

Responding to the report, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, said: “I welcome the report and the recommendations it contains. The events to which it relates have caused immense distress to many. Following the trial and conviction of Ben Field, the Diocese was determined to learn what further action was required to ensure that potentially vulnerable adults attending church are adequately protected from harm. This review helps to challenge the commonly-held view that safeguarding is solely about preventing child abuse, and it is a clarion call for further improvements to our work on LGBTI+ inclusivity, our selection processes for clergy and volunteers, and the training and support the Church provides.”

23 October 2020

Notes for editors:

  • The independent report and recommendations were published in full on 23 October. The Diocese will report progress against each of the recommendations during 2021.
  • We believe this to be the first independent review concerning the Ben Field case. A Domestic Homicide Review is due to report in 2021
  • The report and recommendations are published at oxford.anglican.org/events-in-stowe-maids-moreton/
  • For media enquiries, call Steven Buckley 07824 906839 or Liz Hudson on 07702 563211
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Bishop Victor Whitsey: safeguarding review published

From the Chester diocesan website:

A Betrayal of Trust, the independent report into the Church’s handling of the allegations concerning the late Hubert Victor Whitsey, former Bishop of Chester, has been published today. The learning lessons review was carried out by His Hon David Pearl and independent safeguarding consultant Kate Wood.

The Church supported the police in an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by Whitsey dating from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. A public apology was issued in October 2017 following this investigation which included a commitment to a learning lessons review…

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New format and new dates for Lambeth Conference

From the Lambeth Conference website: Dates for the Lambeth Conference announced.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced revised dates for the 15th Lambeth Conference. Hosted in Canterbury, Kent, the face-to-face conference will be planned for the 27th July – 8th August 2022 (with the official conference ending on the 7 August and departures on the 8th August).

The conference has been rescheduled from the original 2020 dates due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference organisers will continue to monitor the implications of COVID-19 and follow official health guidance in the months ahead.

With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World – Walking, listening and witnessing together’ the conference will focus on what it means for the Anglican Communion – shaped by the five marks of mission – to be responsive to the needs and challenges of a fast changing world in the 21st Century.

This will be the first Lambeth Conference to meet both face-to-face and virtually. As well as the meeting in Canterbury in 2022, the Lambeth Conference will now be planned as a conference journey, that runs in phases before, during and beyond the face-to-face gathering.

Starting in 2021 the focus of phase one will be on introducing some of the major themes and strategic pillars of the conference programme. The conference community of bishops and spouses – and wider Anglican audiences – will be invited to take part in the Lambeth Conversation in different ways. This will be facilitated through a combination of online, regional and intraregional meetings and supporting resources.

With bishops and spouses invited from 165 countries of the Anglican Communion, the conference community represents a diversity of cultures and Christian tradition. The virtual phase of the conference will give more time to meet one another, start to discuss conference topics and have greater opportunity to share insights and experiences from their provinces and church communities.

It will also ensure that the use of conference resources and planning for future outcomes in the life of the Anglican Communion can be as effective as possible.

A working group is being appointed to shape the conference journey, comprised by representatives from around the communion. These are the Bishop of Penrith, Emma Ineson (who also serves as a member of the conference Design Group); the Right Revd Bishop Anthony Poggo, (Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser on Anglican Communion Affairs); the Revd Prof Joseph D Galgalo (Vice Chancellor and associate professor of Theology at St. Pauls University in Kenya) and the Bishop of Amritsar, The Right Revd Pradeep Samantaroy (The Church of North India – United). The group will work with the Archbishop of Canterbury and wider conference teams to construct an engaging programme relevant to key issues in the world and the life of the Communion.

Phil George, the CEO of the Lambeth Conference Company, said:

With the message of ‘God’s Church for God’s World’, it’s vital that planning for our meeting of bishops and spouses responds to the new world we find ourselves in since COVID-19. Despite the challenges and disruption that the pandemic has caused, we’ve also seen huge creativity and adaptability as churches have started to meet virtually. The opportunities that technology provides for online meeting and engagement, have opened up new ways for us to connect, pray and be community for one another. I’m looking forward to collaborating with the Working Group to help develop and deliver the Lambeth Conference conversation.

The timetable and further details for the pre-conference programme will be released in 2021.

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Primates unite to sign letter opposing UK internal market bill

This letter to the editor of the Financial Times has been signed by:

The Archbishop of Armagh
The Archbishop of Canterbury
The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
The Archbishop of Wales
The Archbishop of York

As the Anglican primates of the four nations of the United Kingdom and Ireland, we wish to highlight the grave responsibility of peers in the House of Lords today as they debate the UK internal market bill (Report, October 15).

We are taking the rare step of writing together because the decisions implemented in this bill will profoundly affect the future of our countries and the relationships between them.

The bill represents a profound shift in how trading relationships within the UK will be regulated and governed. This will not be a return to a trade regime that existed before UK joined the EU; it will be an entirely novel system, replacing one that evolved slowly and by careful negotiation over decades.

The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd have made clear that the bill’s weakening of both the principles and the effect of devolved policymaking is of constitutional significance. Moreover, if the bill is made law without consent from devolved legislatures (as will happen if it is not amended to address their concerns), this will further undermine trust and goodwill among those who govern the different parts of the UK.

The bill is, of course, not just concerned with domestic law. It currently asks the country’s highest lawmaking body to equip a government minister to break international law. This has enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences.

We believe this would create a disastrous precedent. It is particularly disturbing for all of us who feel a sense of duty and responsibility to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement — that international treaty on which peace and stability within and between the UK and Ireland depends.

The UK negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU to “protect the 1998 Agreement in all its dimensions”.

One year on, in this bill, the UK government is not only preparing to break the protocol, but also to breach a fundamental tenet of the agreement: namely by limiting the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights in Northern Ireland law.

If carefully negotiated terms are not honoured and laws can be “legally” broken, on what foundations does our democracy stand?

We urge lawmakers to consider this bill in the light of values and principles we would wish to characterise relationships across these islands long after the transition period.

The Most Reverend John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Reverend Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
The Most Reverend John Davies, Archbishop of Wales
The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York

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