Thinking Anglicans

OneBodyOneFaith writes to the Welsh bishops

The Chair of the Board of OneBodyOneFaith, Jeremy Pemberton, and Chief Executive Tracey Byrne have written an open letter to the bishops of Swansea and Brecon, Bangor, St Asaph, Monnmouth and St David’s regarding the process of appointing a new bishop to the diocese of Llandaff. The text of the letter is as follows:

An Open Letter to the Bishops of the Church in Wales

Dear Bishop X,

OneBodyOneFaith this morning published our concerns about the way the process to appoint a bishop for the See of Llandaff has been handled. The confidentiality of your processes has been blown open in a way that is very uncomfortable for you.

Jeffrey John has accused you collectively of not following due process in the way you have treated his candidature; of using his supposed notoriety, his sexuality and his relationship as an excuse for not appointing him. It is more difficult to fathom why you have acted in this way when three factors are taken into account: first, that he fulfilled the requirements of the Church in Wales in relation to the status and nature of his relationship. Secondly, that in the only other case of an appointment after a deadlocked Electoral College, the candidate appointed was arguably just as controversial as Jeffrey John. Lastly, the reported unanimity of the Llandaff electors is a strong indication of what they wish to happen.

We are very concerned that in your management of this situation you are repeating the mistakes that the Church of England has made over GS2055 and the See of Sheffield (for very different reasons). Those examples demonstrate starkly that the churches need bishops in whose leadership people can feel confident – regardless of the process for their appointment. As a candidate, Jeffrey John displays the integrity required in offering such leadership and had strong local support; it is a tragedy your people have been denied that opportunity. With the choices you have made, you risk weakening the authority of your personal and your collective episcopal office if people do not believe that there has been fair treatment or integrity in this process.

The dissonance between the views of individual bishops and their actions collectively is at best puzzling and at worst unhealthy for them, and for the church. That this should be manifest in such a small group of bishops as the Welsh bench is undermining not only of your authority, but also of your work in your dioceses. False collegiality militates against accountability and transparency. For example, the Bishop of St Asaph has recently established and endorsed an excellent initiative to support LGBT people though a dedicated chaplaincy. This now appears patronising, if he continues to be unwilling to challenge the collective structural homophobia of the bench of which he is a part. Again, the Statement from the bishops last April, which struck a notably positive note for LGBT people and assured them of work to make the Church in Wales a safe place, and which offered prayers for same-sex couples, is seriously compromised by your actions over the last few weeks.

Finally, we are very struck by the comment made by one of your number in a phone call to Jeffrey John on March 3rd that you are collectively “just too exhausted” to deal with the problems you believe his appointment would cause. If the bishops are ‘exhausted’ by this process, consider how much more so those many LGBT people who have been working for inclusion for decades. It seems quite remarkable that a bench of five people, none of whom has been in office more than nine years, would find this task beyond them. It is entirely unacceptable to problematise a gay man in the way you have. Indeed, it is an insult to him and to every other LGBT+ person in your church. We are not problems, we are part of the body of Christ and deserve to treated with dignity, and to be seen as a gift. The capacity of churches to throw talent away because it doesn’t come packaged in easily manageable forms is not a reason to discard both the gift and the bearer of the gift, nor does it make that an acceptable policy option. This issue is not one of energy or enthusiasm, but one of integrity, commitment and obedience to the Spirit.

For the health of your church and the recovery of confidence in leadership that is needed, and for the sake of the mission of God in Wales, we urge you to think again, halt the appointment process, review all that has happened, reconsider the candidates from the electoral process heeding the voices of the people of Llandaff, the standing of the bench of Bishops with the people of the Church in Wales, and how the church you lead is presently perceived by the wider public.

Yours in faith and hope,

Tracey Byrne, CEO
Jeremy Pemberton, Chair
for the Board of
OneBodyOneFaith

1 Comment

OneBodyOneFaith writes about the See of Llandaff

Dean Jeffrey John and the Bishops of the Church in Wales

As an ecumenical organisation OneBodyOneFaith surveys the actions of all the churches in the UK in relation to their policies and practices with regards to LGBTI people. The Church in Wales is engaged in the process of replacing the Bishop of Llandaff, following the retirement of the previous bishop, Barry Morgan. The election process failed to produce a clear result, no candidate achieving a two-thirds majority of the electoral college in the time set. This means that the process now becomes an appointment process without a specified time scale, in the hands of the bishops of that church, in consultation with other designated representatives from the diocese in question and the other dioceses.

What has happened is that one of the members of the Electoral College broke the confidentiality of the meeting and let it be known that the Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John, who is in a civil partnership, had attracted over half of the Electoral College vote, but failed to meet the two-thirds majority required by, it is alleged, only two votes. The electors from the diocese in question, Llandaff, had unanimously backed Jeffrey John.

OneBodyOneFaith commends the individual who had the courage to break confidence on this occasion, and Dean John in publishing his letter. Far from showing a lack of integrity or faith in the process, what they have exposed is just the tiny tip of an iceberg in terms of injustices which are meted out to ‘rank and file’ LGBTI+ people by bishops on a weekly basis, behind closed doors, and under the cloak of ‘confidentiality’. Such behaviour – lack of accountability and transparency – is shameful and homophobic. It does not belong in the processes of any organisation and certainly not a Christian church.

There has only ever been one other occasion on which an Electoral College has failed to make a choice. This was in 2004 when Tony Crockett failed to receive a two-thirds majority for his election as Bishop of Bangor. He was a divorced and remarried man, and notwithstanding the controversy that this provoked, the bishops went ahead and appointed him almost immediately. He proved to be a faithful, popular and successful bishop, sadly dying in post only four years later.

It now appears that the bishops of the Church in Wales have decided to omit Jeffrey John from the short-list for the appointment process, notwithstanding the precedent set in 2004 and his popularity in the diocese. In the published notice about the appointment process there is no mention at all that previous candidates for election will be excluded from further consideration. Jeffrey John has now published his response to a letter from the Chair of the College of Bishops, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies. Bishop Davies’s original letter has also now been published on the internet.

In his letter, Jeffrey John accuses the bishops of anti-gay discrimination. Despite declaring that being gay and in a civil partnership is no bar to appointment, he claims that they have decided to bar his candidature on precisely and specifically those grounds, in contravention of their own rules.

It appears that they told him that they were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems that they believed his appointment would cause. There is no evidence of any problems being caused by his candidature, and no reason to think that it would cause any particular problems as Jeffrey’s personal relationship falls within the permitted guidelines. A divorced and remarried man they appointed immediately, a gay man in a relationship they exclude.

The bishops’ behaviour is a very clear example of the instability and inconsistency of the institutional practices of this Anglican church in the way it treats LGBTQ+ people. The open integrity of Jeffrey John causes them more psychological disturbance than gay clergy who are closeted or semi-closeted, certainly far more than a heterosexual man who was divorced and remarried, and they have been unable to act with professional and pastoral integrity themselves. Despite their own published codes relating to this matter, they cannot manage the stress. The consequence is unjust and discriminatory behaviour. It is the kind of tension and response that is well-described in a recent article in Theology, Ledbetter, Charles, Sexuality and informal authority in the Church of England, Theology 2017. Vol. 120(2) 112-121.

OneBodyOneFaith makes an urgent call to the Bishops of the Church in Wales to think again. It is vital for the good health of their church that they re-establish confidence in their leadership and the credibility of the election/appointment process. With this in mind, we ask them:

  • To undertake a full enquiry into all the processes in this case before proceeding any further with an appointment
  • Not to exclude any previous candidates from further consideration, as they gave no notice of this
  • To follow the precedent of their church established in 2004 in appointing a bishop after a failed election, having regard to the support a particular candidate attracted in the diocese in question
  • To abide by their own guidelines regarding candidates who are gay and in civil partnerships
  • To apologise publicly to Jeffrey John for homophobic remarks and attitudes, and
  • To listen to the voices of the people of the diocese of Llandaff and the Church in Wales

Jeremy Pemberton
For the Board of
OneBodyOneFaith

Monday 20th March 2017

7 Comments

Llandaff: letter from Dean of St Albans

Updated again Monday afternoon

A letter has been made public today (Sunday) by the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. It has already appeared in numerous places on social media, and has been reported on by Christian Today:

Harry Farley Gay cleric Jeffrey John speaks out: My homosexuality was the only reason I was blocked as Bishop of Llandaff

And also on the BBC Callum May ‘Homophobia’ row over Bishop of Llandaff selection

Harriet Sherwood at the Guardian has Anglican clergyman accuses Church in Wales of homophobia.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Readers may care to refer to this earlier article: Church in Wales publishes pastoral letter, authorises prayers for same sex couples.

Updates

Readers may also care to refer to the Llandaff diocesan profile, available here. And the provincial perspective, over here.

The Church Times has published a very detailed report by Madeleine Davies Jeffrey John replies to exclusion from Llandaff: ‘This is how discrimination works’. This includes a statement from the Church in Wales which says:

“The Bishops strongly deny allegations of homophobia.”

Wales Online has The furious letter a gay cleric sent to Welsh bishops after they refused him a top post.

The Guardian has a second article: Church in Wales urged to rethink rejection of gay candidate for bishop

The BBC has Bishop of Llandaff sexuality row ‘wholly wrong’.

And Harry Farley at Christian Today has a further article: Jeffrey John: Pressure mounts on Church in Wales after allegations of homophobia.

27 Comments

More about choosing a new Bishop of Llandaff

See earlier report here.

Today, this press release was issued: Bishop of Llandaff – appointment process

The Church in Wales’ bishops will consult on candidates for the next Bishop of Llandaff before meeting on March 14-16.

They will consult with members of diocesan bodies who will be invited to suggest names for the bishops to consider at the meeting.

The See of Llandaff has been vacant since the retirement of Dr Barry Morgan, who was also Archbishop of Wales, at the end of January.

A full statement follows:

APPOINTMENT OF A BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

At a meeting of the Electoral College of the Church in Wales held from February 21st to 23rd, no candidate nominated received the necessary two-thirds of the votes cast to be declared Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Llandaff.

Under the provisions of the Constitution of the Church in Wales, the right to fill the vacancy has passed to the Bench of Bishops, and the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, as the Senior Bishop and President of the Electoral College, has determined that there should be a process of consultation before names for possible appointment are considered. The consultation is intended to focus upon the ongoing and future needs of the Diocese of Llandaff and its communities and the needs of the wider church in the life of which a new Bishop will also have an important role. Those consulted will be invited to suggest names of individuals who might be considered suitable for appointment as Bishop of Llandaff, and names must be suggested in time for the next meeting of Bishops which begins on March 14th.

In the Diocese of Llandaff those being consulted are:
1. Members of the Electoral College
2. Members of the Diocesan Standing Committee
3. The Area Deans

In the remaining five Dioceses, Bishops are consulting:
1. The members of the Electoral College
2. Members of the Diocesan Standing Committee

In addition to those being directly consulted, others may send (brief) E-mails to their Diocesan Bishop (please send them to Bishop John for the Diocese of Llandaff).

When they meet, the Bishops will consider all the names suggested to them as potential candidates for appointment in the hope that a suitable candidate can be identified. Unlike the Electoral College process, there is no fixed timetable for an appointment process. However, the Bishops would wish to announce any appointment made as soon as all necessary formalities are finalised.

The Bishops continue to ask for the prayers of the church both for the Diocese of Llandaff and for their own work as they continue to discharge their responsibility for discerning the person whom they believe will serve not only the Diocese of Llandaff but also the wider church in the office of Bishop.

Please note that the Llandaff Diocesan Profile and Person Specification for Bishop of Llandaff, and a note on the provincial perspective, may be found at:

http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/resources/electoral-college/

Earlier today, a question was asked in the House of Commons about this election:

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

But discretion is not always good in the Church, is it? Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, has been barred from becoming a bishop in the Church in Wales, which I know is separate from the Church of England, because the other bishops have refused to do what they have done in every other case—accept what the members of the local diocese have wanted.

Dame Caroline Spelman

I am not responsible for the Church of Wales—[Interruption]—because I am responsible for the Church of England. However, I appreciate the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make. This is a really serious matter, and we should heed what the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the head of the Anglican communion, said about the need to have radical Christian inclusivity. The Church of England is working within the current legal and doctrinal context towards a culture change that is inclusive.

11 Comments

Church in Wales fails to agree on a new bishop for Llandaff

The official Church in Wales statement: No result from the Bishop of Llandaff election.

After a three-day meeting of the Church in Wales’ Electoral College to elect a Bishop of Llandaff, none of the candidates considered received the number of votes required for election – a two-thirds majority.

The business of the College was rooted in prayer, worship and quiet reflection, as well as open and friendly debate and discussion.

Under the terms of the Constitution of the Church in Wales the responsibility of filling the vacancy falls to the Bench of Bishops.

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, who is President of the Electoral College, said the process leading up to an eventual appointment would include a wide-ranging consultation of both the laity and the clergy from across the Church in Wales.

Harry Farley at Christian Today has a more detailed report: Leading Gay Cleric Jeffrey John Narrowly Rejected As Bishop In Wales.

A leading gay cleric has narrowly missed out on becoming a bishop after his appointment was rejected for the fourth time.

Very Rev Jeffrey John, who has twice been turned down for senior roles over his sexuality, was in the running to be Bishop of Llandaff, Christian Today understands.

But despite winning support from more than half of the nominating body, he just missed on the two-thirds majority required.

Christian Today understands Dr John’s long-term civil partnership with Grant Holmes, another Anglican priest, was a factor in his rejection by traditionalists.

After three days of discussions the electoral body of 47 people, made up of locals from the diocese, bishops and the official nomination committee, failed to agree on any candidate. The final decision will now be down to senior bishops despite Dr John winning strong support among electors in the mainly Anglo-Catholic region of Llandaff.

Neither the Church in Wales nor the Church of England are opposed to clergy being in civil partnerships as long as they vow to remain sexually chaste, which Dr John has done.

Currently Dean of St Albans, Dr John was previously nominated to be Bishop of Reading in 2003 but was forced to withdraw himself under intense pressure from traditionalists.

He was later in the running for Bishop of Bangor in 2008 and then again for Bishop of Southwark in 2010 but was both times turned down with conservatives threatening a split in the Church.

But Dr John’s latest rejection to be Bishop of Llandaff is particularly striking because of the strong support he received among local clergy and parishioners in the largely liberal diocese…

14 Comments

Bishop of St Davids: Joanna Penberthy elected

The Church in Wales has issued this press release today.

New bishop of St Davids elected

History was made today as the Church in Wales elected its first woman bishop.

Canon Joanna Penberthy was elected as the 129th Bishop of St Davids having secured the necessary two-thirds majority vote from members of the Electoral College which has been meeting behind locked doors at St Davids Cathedral since Tuesday morning.

The announcement was made by the Archbishop of Wales at the West door on Wednesday at 1pm.
Canon Joanna, 56, was one of the first women to be ordained as a priest in Wales in 1997 and is currently Rector of Glan Ithon, in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon in Llandrindod Wells.

The Archbishop, Dr Morgan, said, “This is an historic moment for the Church in Wales as it hasn’t been possible to elect a woman bishop until now. But what is really important to stress is that Joanna wasn’t elected because she was a woman but because she was deemed to be the best person to be a bishop. She has considerable gifts – she is an excellent preacher and communicator, can relate to all sections of the community, is a warm, charismatic, caring priest and someone who is full of joy.

“Joanna knows this diocese – she worked here for 11 years and was a Canon of this cathedral so she is on familiar territory. She has also worked in the dioceses of Llandaff and St Asaph and has been the Provincial evangelism officer so she knows the province intimately. She has also been serving in the diocese of Bath and Wells so she brings that experience too. The diocese of St Davids is enormously lucky to have her as its next bishop and I shall be absolutely delighted to consecrate her.”

Canon Jo said, “I am immensely humbled and honoured at the trust that has been placed in me. I am very much looking forward to returning to St Davids and serving God’s people as their Bishop.”

Canon Jo will be Bishop Elect until the appointment is formally confirmed by the Archbishop at a Sacred Synod service on November 30. She will then be consecrated as a bishop at Llandaff Cathedral – the seat of the current Archbishop of Wales – on January 21 and enthroned in St Davids Cathedral on February 11.

Canon Jo is married to Adrian.

The election follows the retirement of Wyn Evans, who served as Bishop of St Davids for eight years. St Davids diocese takes in the west Wales counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

The Electoral College is made up of representatives from all six Welsh dioceses. The “home” diocese is represented by six lay people and six clergy, and the other five dioceses by three lay people and three clergy each, plus the five remaining Bishops.

Its discussions are confidential. Candidates for election are nominated at the meeting, discussed and voted on by ballot. Any candidate receiving two-thirds of the votes of those present is declared Bishop-Elect.

ACNS has this: Church in Wales appoints first female bishop

13 Comments

Holy Communion in the Church in Wales to be open to all the baptised

The Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales has announced that, with effect from Advent Sunday, everyone who has been baptised can participate fully in Holy Communion, regardless of their age or whether they have been confirmed.

The website of the diocese of St Davids states that “The news came in a Pastoral Letter handed out to members of the Governing Body at their meeting in Lampeter [15 September 2016] and was warmly and widely welcomed. Copies of the letter, together with guidance notes and practical advice for clergy and congregations, are being sent to all parishes.”

The letter can be viewed here, and I have put a transcript below the fold. There is also this theological background.

David Pocklington writes about this here for Law & Religion UK The comments there look at the potential implications for the Church of England whose Canon B15A states that:

1. There shall be admitted to the Holy Communion:
[…]
(b) baptized persons who are communicant members of other Churches which subscribe to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and who are in good standing in their own Church.

(more…)

10 Comments

Archbishop of Wales speaks on Homosexuality

Archbishop Barry Morgan addressed the Governing Body of the Church in Wales today.

Press Release from the Church in Wales:

Studying the Bible in its full context can lead to a very different view of same-sex relationships than that traditionally held by the Church, the Archbishop of Wales said today (SEPT 14).

In his final address to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, responded to claims that he and his fellow bishops had been “swayed by the liberal culture of our age” and “ignored Holy Scripture” in issuing prayers earlier this year that could be said with same-sex couples following their civil partnership or marriage.

He showed how the Bible had more than one view on homosexuality, as well as other important issues, as the authors of its books developed and changed their opinions. To understand God’s will, he suggested, meant seeing the different views in the context of the Bible as a whole, and, in particular, the ministry of Jesus.

Dr Morgan, who will retire in January, said, “It absolutely will not do to quote texts from parts of the Bible in a simplistic way without reference to their contexts. One has to treat the Bible as a whole and discern, often through stories, the direction in which it is leading. Holy Scripture, in other words, contains not just ethical injunctions but stories, and stories convey truth about peoples’ understanding of God. After all, Jesus spent most of His life telling stories to get people to understand the nature and character of God.”

He compared biblical interpretations of same-sex relationships with those of slavery – a practice once defended by the Church. As opinions on that changed, he suggested, so may the Church’s view on same-sex relationships.

“In spite of all the passages in favour of slavery, when you examine the Scriptures as a whole and the ministry of Jesus in particular, you realise it is about freedom from all that diminishes and dehumanises people. No Christian I hope would today argue that slavery is good, but for nineteen centuries the Church accepted it and defended it. God through His Holy Spirit has led us into the truth of seeing things in a totally different way today and we are rightly horrified when we read about people who have been kept as slaves by others.

“What all this amounts to is that one cannot argue that there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting Scripture that is true and orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned. Scripture itself is diverse and theological views held in some biblical books are reshaped in the light of experience by other writers….

“So taking the Bible as a whole and taking what it says very seriously may lead us into a very different view of same-sex relationships than the one traditionally upheld by the Church…..

“Given that each of the passages purported to be about homosexuality can be interpreted in more than one way, we come to the fundamental question as to whether taking the Bible as a whole, we can come to the same conclusions about committed, faithful, loving, same-sex relationships as we did about slavery.

“We are not thereby abandoning the Bible but trying to interpret it in a way that is consistent with the main thrust of the ministry of Jesus, who went out of His way to minister to those who were excluded, marginalised, and abandoned by His society because they were regarded as impure and unholy by the religious leaders of His day, either because of their gender, age, morality or sexuality. Taking Holy Scripture seriously means paying attention to Jesus’ ministry of inclusivity.”

The Archbishop concluded his address by quoting from a book edited by Andrew Davison, called Amazing Love:

“We are most truly ourselves when we live for others and we gain life not by clutching to it but by giving it away. Living for others underlines the truest meaning of sexuality. Christians have discovered that most people flourish best when this living for others finds its focus in a commitment to one other person: when a couple make a lifelong commitment within which sex properly belongs.”

He said, “Those of us who were or are married have found that to be the case. Why would we want to deny such a possibility for those who are attracted to their own gender?”

The full text of the address is available here.

17 Comments

Archbishop of Wales to retire in January

Press release from the Church in Wales

Archbishop of Wales to retire in January

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, will retire next year after nearly 14 years at the helm of the Church in Wales and 24 years as a bishop.

Dr Morgan, who is the longest serving archbishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion and also one of the longest serving bishops, will retire on his 70th birthday at the end of January. He will also retire as Bishop of Llandaff after more than 17 years service, having previously been Bishop of Bangor for nearly seven years. He will continue his work and engagements in both roles as normal until then…

1 Comment

Reflecting on the outcome of the EU Referendum

Updated again Monday afternoon

Following the initial flurry of statements from bishops, there have been several more reflective articles published by various people writing from a Christian perspective.

Anna Rowlands wrote The Fragility of Goodness: Brexit Viewed from the North East.

Nick Holtam wrote this on the Referendum Result.

Luke Bretherton wrote Brexit as Theodicy and Idolatry.

Angus Ritchie had Brexit: How can we reflect and respond?

Philip North has this in today’s Church Times: Northern foodbank Britain finds its voice

There is a lot more material in this week’s Church Times but it is behind the paywall. However, Andrew Lightbown discusses some of the points raised in his blog, entitled Bishop David Walker or Richard Lewis? Who is correct?

Michael Sadgrove has Brexit: An Open Letter to the Archbishops of the Church of England.

Earlier he had also written Brexit: how to go positively into exile and On Saying Farewell to the EU: the morning after.

Brian Castle wrote Brexit – Now is not the time for Reconciliation.

Updates

Martyn Percy has written a major essay which is summarised here: After Brexit – Can we find a broad and middle way? Senior cleric calls for new social-progressive political party and the full essay can be read by following that link.

Tanya Marlow has written Brexit, hate crime, fear: what’s the Christian response?

Bishops of the Lincoln diocese The EU Referendum: responding to the vote to leave

15 Comments

Church responses to the EU Referendum

Updated Friday evening, Saturday morning, Sunday morning

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint statement.

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

The Bishop of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe has written a message to the diocese, copied below, and has also published this further reflection.

“The UK referendum campaign has been a bruising one, and I hope very much that there will now be a period of reconciliation and healing between those on different sides of the debate.

“The news that a majority of those in the UK wishes to leave the UK does not lessen the fervent desire of the Church of England Diocese in Europe to work co-operatively with our brother and sister Christians in Europe.

“The vote will, however, have particular implications for some members of our diocese. Of course, the vote itself only signals the intent to launch a long process of negotiations with the European Council. It is only as that process gets underway that we will know exactly how UK citizens living in Europe will be affected. Meanwhile, I want to assure our ecumenical partners in Europe of our heartfelt and continuing commitment to them.”

The Suffragan Bishop in Europe has written: We remain a European Church which serves all people. Let us resolve to be even more faithful to this calling.

Updates

Scottish Primus

Archbishop of Dublin and Archbishop of Armagh

Church in Wales bishops

Bishop of Blackburn

Bishop of Coventry

Bishop of Leeds

Bishop of Liverpool

Bishop of London

Bishop of Newcastle

Bishop of Norwich

Bishop of St Albans

Bishop of Sheffield

30 Comments

Church in Wales publishes pastoral letter, authorises prayers for same sex couples

The Bishops of the Church in Wales have today issued a pastoral letter and the text of some prayers, all of which is copied below. There is also a press release: Same-sex marriage statement.

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Church in Wales to all the faithful concerning gay and lesbian Christians.

One of the most contentious issues for Christians in our day has been the question of how the Church responds to those attracted to the same gender who seek the blessing of the Church upon the committed partnerships they form.

Over the last eighteen months, we have conducted a wide consultation in Governing Body and with the dioceses to explore whether the faithful of the Church in Wales felt it would be appropriate to acknowledge same sex unions in Church, by offering a Blessing, or even permitting the marriage of same sex couples in Church. Given that the civil law of the realm has now been changed to permit marriage of same sex couples, many see this as a natural next step.

The results of the consultation have been very varied: in some dioceses there was a strong voice for the status quo, in others a majority who wanted to see change. In the subsequent debate in Governing Body, it became clear that although a majority of members supported change, there was certainly no consensus, and any move to introduce changes in canon law would not meet the required two thirds majority of Governing Body, voting in houses, to enable such changes. Furthermore, any change to the teaching of the Church on Marriage, or the authorisation of any blessing of these unions in the life of the Church, would depend on legislation by bill procedure, which requires such enhanced majorities to take effect.

Since the conclusion of our consultation, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have also met in Canterbury in January of this year. The issue of the Church’s ministry to gay and lesbian persons was at the centre of their agenda, especially since The Episcopal Church (of the United States) has taken steps to amend their marriage canon to remove references to the gender of the couple.

The Primates condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and affirmed their commitment again to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation. They also rejected criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people. They recognised that the Christian Church, including Anglicans, has often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. They expressed their profound sorrow and affirmed again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the Church should never by its actions give any other impression.

Nevertheless, they also reasserted the understanding within the Anglican Communion as a whole that marriage is between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. They indicated that they believed that any move away from this understanding is considered by many of them as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.

What this all means is that we, as Bishops of the Anglican Communion, mindful of the results of our consultation and the Statement of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and of all our members, including those who are gay and lesbian, do not feel that we can support at this time a move to change the discipline of the Church in Wales with respect to the teaching on marriage, nor can we permit the celebration of public liturgies of blessing for same sex unions.

Nevertheless, we acknowledge the gay and lesbian members of our Church as part of our family, and we wish to address them directly:

“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We recognise that you have often been persecuted and ostracized by the Church for your sexuality, that you have been mistreated by the Church, and forced into secrecy and dissimulation by the attitudes of prejudice which you have faced. We deplore such hostility, and welcome and affirm the words of the Primates that condemn homophobic prejudice and violence. We too commit ourselves to offering you the same loving service and pastoral care to which all humanity is entitled, and we commit ourselves to acting to provide a safe space within the Church and within our communities in which you can be honest and open, respected and affirmed.

While as a Church we remain unable to bless the committed partnerships you form in marriage or in civil partnership, yet we commit ourselves as bishops to work for a Church in which you can be fully affirmed as equal disciples of Jesus Christ or seekers after truth. We will pray with you and for you, that together we may seek God’s blessing on our lives, and for faithful discipleship.”

Since 2005, the Bench of Bishops has acknowledged that there are a range of views with respect to homosexuality, which have to be recognized as “honest and legitimate differences” within the diversity of opinion in the Church in Wales.

Given that diversity in the Church in Wales, and our commitment to affirm the place of gay and lesbian disciples within the Church, we believe that it is appropriate to offer prayers in response to the pastoral need of those gay and lesbian persons who are making profound commitments to friendship or partnership. With this pastoral letter, we offer prayers which we believe are suitable for those who are marking a committed relationship. Whilst we do not prescribe their use, where they are found suitable or helpful, we are happy to commend them.

The issues around human sexuality that are being debated in the Church will not go away, and the pain and tensions experienced in the debate are not over. We do believe however that we are called to live in love and charity with one another, whatever our experience or convictions on this issue, and we call upon all followers of Jesus Christ to respond with grace and as much accommodation as possible to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, including those who are gay or lesbian.

May the Lord bless his Church with such love and understanding that we may always walk in his ways of mercy.

(more…)

40 Comments

Church in Wales votes narrowly in favour of same sex marriage

Updated

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales met this week and voted on the subject of same sex marriages. As the Church Times reports:

Archbishop Morgan cautious after majority vote in favour of same-sex marriage

THE Governing Body of the Church in Wales has voted narrowly in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry in the Church. But it appears that the non-binding, advisory-only secret ballot has not produced enough votes in favour to persuade the Bishops to frame new legislation.

The vote on Thursday does not constitute a decision of the Governing Body. Instead, the results — and the two-and-a-half-hour debate that preceded the vote — will be used to guide the Province’s Bench of Bishops when it meets to discuss the issue in October.

Three options were under consideration: the first would mean no change to the Church’s current teaching and practice on marriage and partnerships; the second would allow same-sex unions to be blessed in the Church in Wales; the third would enable same-sex couples to be married in church…

Other news reports:

BBC ‘Foolish’ to bring forward gay marriage now, Archbishop says

Christian Today Church in Wales shows support for same sex marriage

Wales Online Church in Wales votes YES for gay marriage but we’re still a long way from real change

A more official report is now available from this page.

Anglican Mainstream carries this report: The Church in Wales steps back from Same-Sex Marriage.

5 Comments

Churches Mutual Credit Union formally launched

The Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of other member churches press the button to launch the Churches Mutual Credit Union

The Archbishop of Canterbury and representatives of other member churches press the button to launch the Churches Mutual Credit Union. (photograph by Peter Owen)

The Churches Mutual Credit Union was formally launched at Church House today.

Church House issued this press release to mark the occasion.

Churches Mutual Credit Union formally launched
11 February 2015

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings receives a major boost today with the launch of the Churches Mutual Credit Union Ltd. (CMCU).

The Most Rev Justin Welby joined the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev John Chalmers and the President of the Methodist Conference, The Rev Ken Howcroft, at Church House, central London, to celebrate their respective churches’ collaboration in forming the flagship credit union.

The CMCU, which also includes the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church in Wales, will offer a range of savings and loan products. Fairness will be at the heart of the CMCU’s values. Initially members will be able to invest in the ‘Founder Member’s Bond’ with ordinary savers accounts and loans becoming available in March. In due course CMCU will offer ISA savings accounts.

At least 60,000 individuals, notably ordained ministers, licensed lay ministers, elders, employees and trustees of churches (e.g. Parochial Church Council members) and church charities are eligible to join, along with churches and Anglican and Church of Scotland charities as corporate members.

Individuals can join CMCU from tomorrow (Thursday February 12).

Archbishop Justin said: “My congratulations go to all involved in establishing the Churches Mutual Credit Union as it is launched today.

“Credit unions have the potential to make a transformative contribution to our financial system and I am delighted that it will be possible for clergy, church employees and church trustees to belong to a credit union focused on supporting their particular financial needs.

“As the first supporter to sign CMCU’s application to the regulator in 2013 I am looking forward to being one of the first to sign up as a member when registration opens tomorrow.

“It is a notable strength of CMCU that it brings together churches from England, Scotland and Wales in this shared venture.

“I hope and expect that the experience of belonging to CMCU will encourage clergy and church workers to become increasingly effective advocates for credit unions in their communities.”

Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, CMCU President, and a former President of ABCUL (the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd) said: “After several years of development this is a great day for our churches and a great day for the British credit union sector.

“We recognise the strength of the credit union model and wish to offer that to our ministers and employees. Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme.

“The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all.”

Notes:

The CMCU project began in 2008 and is supported by the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church and the Church in Wales.

The CMCU was given formal authorisation by the regulatory authorities in December, after a rigorous process undertaken by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme covers deposits up to £85,000.

5 Comments

Welsh Code for Women Bishops published

The Church in Wales has published its Code of Practice in relation to the Ministry of Bishops following the Canon to enable the Ordination of Women as Bishops. Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops, it was presented to the Governing Body, which is meeting in Lampeter, this afternoon. The Church issued this press release.

Code for Women Bishops aims to keep all included – Archbishop

Guidelines for new legislation to ordain women as bishops aim to make everyone feel valued in the Church, regardless of their views on the issue, the Archbishop of Wales said today (September 17).

Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops at the request of its Governing Body, the “Code of Practice” accompanies the women bishops’ legislation which came into effect on September 12, exactly a year after the Church’s historic vote.

Publishing the Code at the Church’s Governing Body meeting today, the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, said it was designed to be as inclusive as possible as the bishops saw God’s call in people on both sides of the debate.. He urged the Church to unite in proclaiming the Gospel.

He said, “The Code of Practice we have produced has not been produced for the benefit of one side or the other in the debate but for the whole church. That is what you asked us to do. The Bill explicitly says that the Code should be drawn up in such a way that every member of the Church in Wales might feel secure. In other words, this Code is not just for those who in conscience dissent but is a code for every member of the Church in Wales.”

He added, “Bishops have a particular responsibility for matters of faith and order and we want to be as inclusive as possible which is why we are able to affirm wholeheartedly the ordination of women to the episcopate and can also accept that provision should be made for those who cannot accept their sacramental ministry. By making such a provision, our hope is that no-one will feel the need to leave the Church in Wales…

“In the Church in Wales, we, as your bishops, quite frankly see Christ at work in our members, married or single, gay or straight, we perceive the call of God in women to all three orders, and we are respectful of the faith of those who cannot in conscience receive such ministry. In these issues, as in others, we invite the Church to unite in the greater task of proclaiming the Gospel.”

The bishops wrote the Code after consulting widely across the Province. Its guiding principles were:

  • Any woman Diocesan Bishop becomes such on exactly the same terms, and with the same jurisdiction, as any other Diocesan Bishop in the Province;
  • Provision for those who object to the ministry of women bishops has to be pastoral, not structural;
  • Those who in conscience cannot receive the sacramental ministry of women should not be excluded from being considered for ordination;
  • No specific alternative bishop should be provided for those who are unable in conscience to accept the ministry of a woman bishop, but there should be a means to request and receive alternative sacramental provision.

The Code of Practice itself, and the Archbishop’s address to the Governing Body are also online.

The Code of Practice and explanatory note.

The bishops’ full explanation of the Code of Practice, as outlined by the Archbishop in his Presidential Address to the Governing Body.

The Code is short, and is copied in full below the fold.

(more…)

7 Comments

Church in Wales Governing Body meets in Llandudno

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales met this week in Llandudno.

The full agenda can be found here.

Earlier we published an article linking to the various documents issued for this meeting, relating to Same Sex Marriages.

The Archbishop’s Presidential Address is the subject of a press release: Quoting Bible texts does not settle moral disputes – Archbishop.

The full text of the address is available here.

This was reported by Wales Online as Church risks being seen as ‘homophobic’ if it doesn’t evolve, says Archbishop and by the BBC as Gay marriage ‘patience’ urged by Archbishop of Wales.

Another press release reports Church launches mediation service.

16 Comments

Church in Wales – Same Sex Marriages

updated Thursday and Saturday

The Church in Wales has published some of the papers for next month’s meeting of its Governing Body, including three under the heading Same Sex Marriages.

The main paper is a report by the Standing Doctrinal Commission entitled The Church in Wales & Same Sex Partnerships. There is also an Executive Summary of the report. The executive summary is reproduced below the fold.

Finally there is a Procedural Note explaining how the Governing Body will have an initial discussion of the report at its meeting in April.

update 1

The procedural note referred to a number of background papers from the Standing Doctrinal Commission. These are now available.

Marriage as a Sacrament
Sexuality and the Image of God
The concept of Flourishing in Relation to Marriage as a Good, and the Question of Gay Partnerships
Same Sex Marriage – Biblical Considerations
Fundamental Scriptural Approaches

update 2

David Pocklington of Law & Religion UK has published this useful article: Same-sex partnerships and the Church in Wales.

(more…)

14 Comments

First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014

Yesterday, the Government made this announcement: First Same Sex weddings to happen from 29 March 2014.

Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller has announced that the first same sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from Saturday 29 March 2014.

Following the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 successfully completing its journey through Parliament in July 2013, the government has been working hard to ensure that all the arrangements are in place to enable same sex couples to marry as soon as possible.

As a result of this work, the first same sex weddings can now happen several months earlier than anticipated, subject to Parliament’s approval of various statutory instruments, to be laid in the new year.

David Pocklington reports today on the details of this, and notes the various further steps required, in Same-Sex Marriage from 29th March 2014?

He then adds the following Comment in relation to the Church of England:

On 9-10 December, the House of Bishops met for two days in York to discuss a wide range of business, including the Pilling Report. The Minister’s announcement that the first same-sex weddings are likely to happen several months earlier than anticipated brings a new urgency to their deliberations on the approach of the Church of England to human sexuality. As noted in the Report, [at paras. 382, 383],

382 […] Moreover, some form of celebration of civil partnerships in a church context is widely seen as a practice that would give a clear signal that gay and lesbian people are welcome in church.

383. This is a question on which our group is not of one mind – not least since a willingness to offer public recognition and prayer for a committed same-sex relationship in an act of public worship would, in practice, be hard to implement now for civil partnerships without also doing so for same-sex marriage (which, like civil partnerships, makes no assumption, in law, about sexual activity).

19 Comments

Bishop of Rochester to be next Bishop to Prisons

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is to be the next Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, the senior church advocate for Christian values in the criminal justice system in England and Wales

Bishop of Rochester to be next Bishop to Prisons
Monday 18th November 2013

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, is to be the next Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, the senior church advocate for Christian values in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. He will succeed the Rt Revd James Jones, who retired as Bishop of Liverpool in August.

The church makes a major contribution to public debate on criminal justice and the Bishop to Prisons speaks on criminal justice issues in the House of Lords.

As Bishop to Prisons, Bishop James will support the practical work of the Chaplain- General to the Prison Service, Canon Michael Kavanagh and the network of 300 Prison Service Chaplains who share in the front-line care of prisoners. The Bishop to Prisons also develops church links with other agencies concerned with the reform and improvement of prisons. In addition the churches provide the largest single pool of voluntary support and assistance to the criminal justice system.

(more…)

3 Comments

Women bishops and the recognition of Orders

The recent decision of the Church in Wales to allow women to be consecrated as bishops, and the election of a woman bishop in the Church of Ireland have prompted an article, Women bishops and the recognition of Orders, by Will Adam, editor of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, in Law and Religion UK about the implications for the Church of England.

… This is bound to bring up again the question of the recognition in a Church which does not permit the ordination of women as bishop of episcopal acts performed by a bishop who is a woman …

However, the consecration of a woman as a bishop in the Church of Ireland changes the situation. Deacons, priests and bishops of the Church of Ireland, Church in Wales and Scottish Episcopal Church are not considered as “overseas” clergy by the law applying to the Church of England. This is significant, because the permission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is not required for such ministers to be invited to exercise the ministry of their orders in England …

The article refers to this 2004 opinion from the Legal Advisory Commission of the Church of England: The Effect of Acts by women Bishops of Churches in Communion with the Church of England.

Kelvin Holdswoth writes about the same topic in Taint. He concludes with

What I’m interested in is that with respect of our current bishops in Scotland, all of them have either had a female co-consecrator present at their consecration, joined in consecrating someone with a female co-consecrator present or have been consecrated by someone who has had a female co-consecrator present at their own consecration.

What I wonder is whether those who apply the theology of taint believe that anyone at all (bishops, priests or deacons) now ordained in Scotland is legit.

Oh, and by the way an English bishop was present and joining in when this situation began. I was there – I saw it with my own eyes.

Where does this leave the Scottish Episcopal Church in relation to those who would deny the legitimacy of women to act as bishops? …

Do we, or do we not, remain in full communion with [all of] the Church of England?

10 Comments