Thinking Anglicans

Episcopal Consecrations: Lewes, Horsham, St Germans

Updated

Three suffragan bishops will be consecrated in Lambeth Palace chapel on 15 July: Will Hazlewood as Bishop of Lewes, Ruth Bushyager as Bishop of Horsham, both in the Diocese of Chichester, and Hugh Nelson as Bishop of St Germans in the Diocese of Truro.

Forward in Faith has issued this press release: Statement regarding the Consecration of The Revd Prebendary Will Hazlewood. In this they say that Prebendary Hazlewood will be consecrated in a separate service from the other new bishops. In his case the Bishop of Richborough will act as the Archbishop’s delegate as chief consecrator, and the Bishops of Ebbsfleet and of Fulham will act as co-consecrators. This is because “all candidates must experience the sacramental assurance and joy of full communion with the bishops who ordain them”.

I assume that the Archbishop of Canterbury will be the chief consecrator for the other two new bishops, but I can find nothing online to confirm this. [But see the comments.]

Update

The Diocese of Chichester has published links for the livestreaming of the two consecration services

MORNING SERVICE: Consecration of the Bishop of St Germans and the Bishop of Horsham at 11.30 am

https://youtu.be/r7zIK5ojkgI

AFTERNOON SERVICE: Consecration of the Bishop of Lewes at 2.30 pm

https://youtu.be/NUpxLoJCCWc

47 Comments

General Synod reports

Updated Sunday (twice)

Reports on today’s virtual meeting of General Synod

Video of the whole day’s proceedings

The presidential address was given by the Archbishop of York, but with contributions from others.
Video of the address
Full text of the presidential address
Official press release: Church must ‘learn afresh how to share the gospel’, Archbishop of York tells Synod

Church Times reports Archbishop of York: God wants a Church of ‘glorious and profligate diversity’
Welby browned off after grilling on church closures
Commissioners are trying to help cathedrals to weather financial crisis, Dr Poole tells Synod

The Guardian ‘Tribal and divided’: Church of England faces turbulent times

Yorkshire Post Newly confirmed Archbishop of York speaks of ‘devastating impact’ of pandemic in first public address

Glasgow Times Bishop of Manchester defends tweets criticising Dominic Cummings

Update

Andrew Nunn Unprecedented

Stephen Lynas Oh Zoom! You chased the day away

22 Comments

General Synod – preview and comment

General Synod meets tomorrow and the Church of England has put out this press release today: General Synod members to meet remotely.

A further paper has been added to the Church of England website.

GS Misc 1251 – Covid-19 General Synod Update

Two Synod members preview tomorrow’s meeting.

Stephen Lynas I’ve just seen a face
Andrew Nunn Zooming into Synod

Some bloggers have been looking at the questions and answers.

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church  General Synod and the Questions around Safeguarding
Richard Bastable All Things Lawful And Honest Archiepiscopal Contradictions II

My favourite is the breath of fresh air in the answer given by Rogers Govender, the Dean of Manchester, to question 121, which I have copied below the fold.

(more…)

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Confirmation of Election of Stephen Cottrell as the Archbishop of York

Updated Thursday morning

As was announced in May Stephen Cottrell will be confirmed as the next Archbishop of York tomorrow, Thursday 9 July 2020, at 11am. The proceedings will be via video conference.

You will be able to watch the live stream of the service from this page.

Update

Download the Order of Service in PDF

Second update

Bishop Stephen’s election as Archbishop of York was duly confirmed. A recording of the confirmation service is available on YouTube.

19 Comments

House of Bishops meeting

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops meet to discuss Covid-19, clergy discipline and the Lambeth Conference
08/07/2020

The House of Bishops met via Zoom this afternoon, as it has done regularly throughout the current pandemic.

The Bishop of Manchester updated the House on the overall work of the Church in responding to the crisis. The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally, Chair of the Church’s COVID-19 Recovery Group updated the House regarding how churches are experiencing the gradual lifting of restrictions to enable the re-opening of churches for physical services.

The Bishops also discussed the interim findings of the working group which is reviewing the current Clergy Discipline Measure. This was followed by an update from the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the postponed Lambeth 2020 conference and future planning.

The Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Rev Tim Thornton commenting on the Clergy Discipline Measure said: ‘We are now actively seeking to improve processes, minimise delays and identify other improvements needed to make the system more effective. I am personally committed to replacing the CDM with a new system and hope to bring proposals forward as soon as practicable.’

The House concluded with a forward look to the informal meeting of Synod on 11 July.

1 Comment

General Synod – Questions

The Questions paper for Saturday’s virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod has been published today. This contains the 131 submitted questions and their answers. A total of two hours has been allocated on Saturday for supplementary questions and answers.

Other papers are here.

The meeting will be streamed online here.

31 Comments

Christ Church vs Martyn Percy

Updated Tuesday

Martin Sewell and David Lamming issued a letter to fellow members of the CofE General Synod, which was published by Archbishop Cranmer on 19 June: Martyn Percy: Synod challenges Christ Church abuse of CofE safeguarding process.

Peter Adams, another General Synod member, responded to that letter on reconciliationtalk.org on 28 June: When a safeguarding referral is made no amount of special pleading should change that.

Today, Archbishop Cranmer has published a further article, which contains a very detailed response from Martin Sewell to Peter Adams: Christ Church vs Martyn Percy: a conspiracy of lawyers, divine PR, and the purgatory of CofE Safeguarding. That letter will also be sent to all General Synod members ahead of the online “meeting” planned for next Saturday. As “Archbishop Cranmer” writes:

Members of Synod should read both letters and ask themselves three questions:

1) Am I prepared to publicly defend the Church of England’s conduct in this ?
2) Would I wish myself or someone I care for to be subject to such processes?
3) What exactly am I going to do about this?

TA readers are encouraged to read all these letters in full.

Update

Surviving Church has published A guide to the situation at Christ Church Oxford. Which is subtitled Trying to make sense of what is going on.

30 Comments

Restarting Public Worship in England

Updated again Thursday

On 29 June, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4 July

On 30 June, the Church of England House of Bishops Recovery Group published COVID-19 Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship.

The legal annex to the preceding document, which deals with what parishes are supposed to do if they do not plan to re-start public worship  on 4 July is also available separately.

Update: other documents have now been revised:

72 Comments

General Synod papers for 11 July

Updated 10 July to add extra papers

A number of papers for the informal and virtual meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod on 11 July are now available online. Links to them are below.

If any more appear I will add them to the list.

Timetable
Handling of Questions in the Meeting of Synod Members
Members’ Guide to Virtual Synod Proceedings
Note from the Chair of the Business Committee to Synod Members

GS 2171 – Audit Committee Annual Report
GS 2172 – Archbishops’ Council Annual Report (2019)
GS 2173 – Financial Update and AC Original Budget

GS Misc 1249 – Covid-19 Response
GS Misc 1250 – The Emerging Church of England
GS Misc 1251 – Covid-19 General Synod Update

Notice of Delay – Corporation of Church House AGM

Questions paper

5 Comments

Bishop Stephen Cottrell: safeguarding statements

A set of three related statements have been published today, and are copied in full below.

There is some additional detail in this Church Times report: Bishop Cottrell owns up to safeguarding lapse.

Statement from Bishop Stephen

“Ten years ago I was approached about a safeguarding allegation regarding a priest. I was able to see the survivor and begin to hear what was a difficult and harrowing story. However, I was moving between roles at the time and although I did speak with colleagues about the actions that needed to be taken, I failed to ensure that these were properly documented and followed through in the way I would expect. Now that I have discovered that this incident was not followed up as it should have been, I am deeply distressed and extremely sorry. Because this has recently come to light, I am both thankful that it is being addressed properly now, but also mindful that in my new position as Archbishop of York it is absolutely essential that I am open and transparent about the need for the whole of our church to be scrupulously honest with each other about any failings in safeguarding.

“In the past, the Church of England has been too quick to protect its own reputation and slow to admit its failings. This must change. Those in public office should be subject to scrutiny. Good safeguarding is an absolute priority for the Church of England and for me personally.

“In the diocese of Chelmsford where I have served for the past 10 years, I have been helped by survivors I have worked with as well as a first rate safeguarding team to have a much greater understanding of why safeguarding itself is so important and how we must be prepared to confront our failings and learn from them. Therefore, although I am embarrassed that I did not follow this up as scrupulously as I should have done 10 years ago, I want to go on the record about what has happened in order to demonstrate a new spirit of openness and transparency over how we ensure that the church is as safe as it can be, that survivors are listened to and dealt with honestly, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Statement from Archbishop Justin

“I have been fully briefed on this matter and have read the independent legal advice.  I have also spoken at length with Stephen. He clearly should have informed the authorities and made fuller notes of what he did in this case. He has shown humility in immediately admitting he failed to act as he should have done in this case, when the matter was raised with him by the NST this year.  He has also said so publicly. I am also reassured that he did refer it on and saw the significance of offering support and contacting the survivor who must always be the priority. While I cannot comment further on this case, our IICSA hearings have shown the journey the Church is still on to be a safer place for all and I pray that this experience will strengthen his commitment to safeguarding and ministry as the Archbishop of York.

“I am looking forward to working with Stephen and we commit ourselves to continue to learn lessons and to recognise and accept we all need to be open and forthright in striving to make the church a safe place for all.  This means listening to survivors and constantly examining our own actions and recognising our vulnerability as well as calling on all to demonstrate our commitment to care for all.”

Statement from National Safeguarding Team

“Concerns were referred to the National Safeguarding Team, NST, earlier this year about the handling of a case by Bishop Stephen 10 years ago after information came to light from a clergy file. The concerns raised were about the action taken following allegations of domestic abuse perpetrated by a parish priest. At the time Bishop Stephen responded to the survivor, offered support and subsequently referred the allegation within the diocese, but did not ensure the matter was referred to the statutory authorities or directly to the diocesan safeguarding adviser. The NST has now investigated the matter, taken independent advice and interviewed Bishop Stephen.

“He has shown insight and humility in accepting that he failed to act as he should have done in relation to a serious matter and acknowledged his own ability to fully recognise and respond to safeguarding concerns in 2010 was compromised by a lack of training and understanding, which he has subsequently sought to address.

“The NST investigation concluded that he posed no current risk of not responding appropriately to safeguarding disclosures and that informal action was a reasonable and proportionate response to the case.”

36 Comments

Charity Commission calls for urgent mediation at Christ Church

Updated again Sunday (scroll down)

The Charity Commission has issued this press release: Christ Church Oxford – mediation required by charity regulator.

The Charity Commission has told both sides in the dispute at Christ Church, Oxford, to enter into a mediation process.

The Commission is concerned that the very protracted and public dispute between the College’s governing body and its Dean is damaging to the reputation of the charity, and affecting its ability to govern itself.

The situation risks harming the reputation of charity more generally, in the eyes of the public.

Both parties in this dispute have called on the Charity Commission to intervene further. However, any regulatory intervention can be effective only if relationships between all parties are stable. The Commission has therefore today told the parties to the dispute that it expects them to enter into formal mediation within a limited time frame, with a mediator selected by the Commission, and without delay.

Helen Stephenson, Charity Commission Chief Executive, said:

It is not our job, as charity regulator, to referee disputes. Our role is, instead, to ensure that charities are governed effectively, charitable funds are properly accounted for, and trust in charity is maintained. In these exceptional circumstances, we have told the parties to the dispute to enter mediation, without which it is difficult to resolve issues in the charity in any reasonable timescale.

The Commission will not comment further on the case until the mediation has been completed.

It has also asked both sides to refrain from public, or private, commentary whilst the mediation process takes place.

Notwithstanding the clear request in the last sentence above, Christ Church promptly issued this Statement about mediation:

25 June 2020
The ongoing dispute between Christ Church and the Dean has undoubtedly gone on for far too long. Its impact on Christ Church’s daily life, its staff, students, teaching and research, all risk being affected without the prospect of a resolution. We were therefore delighted to learn at our meeting with the Charity Commission today that it has now agreed to intervene. For some time, we have sought to address the impasse through independent mediation, but that process was unfortunately put on hold earlier this year. We hope that the Dean responds quickly and positively to the Commission’s announcement and we look forward to attending the mediation it is facilitating as soon as possible.

In other shenanigans, the Regius Professor of Hebrew has been convicted in France (where he lives) of sex offences, see this in the Guardian Oxford professor sentenced to jail in France over child abuse images and also this in the student newspaper Christ Church professor sentenced to jail over child abuse images.

Christ Church has published a statement on its website, now changed from the version published on 22 June.
It appears from this that the French authorities had made no contact with anyone in Oxford prior to the court’s decision.  However, it has today been admitted by the college that Professor Joosten was one of the 41 signatories of the letter to the Charity Commission which the Church Times described as accusing Dr Percy of “sacrificing the best interests of Christ Church to his own”.

And the Financial Times carries this: Oxford college rocked by allegations of leaks and blackmail.

Updates

The Bishop of Huddersfield has written a letter to the Church Times which has also been published on the CofE website:

Sir, — In response to your report “C of E is ‘being used’ in campaign against Dean of Christ Church” (News, 19 June), I would like to point out that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) has no view about, and is not involved in, the wider issues relating to the College and the Dean.

When a referral is made alleging that a senior member of the clergy has not fulfilled his or her safeguarding responsibilities, the NST has a duty to consider the management of any safeguarding risk. In this case, an independent safeguarding person has been asked to investigate and report back.

As I am sure your readers would agree, the Church must take all safeguarding issues very seriously, and all this is being done in accordance with the House of Bishops guidelines. For reference, the Dean of Christ Church is a “Church officer” within the definition contained in the House of Bishops practice guidance.

There is no agenda behind this and we hope that with the cooperation of all concerned this matter can be concluded quickly.

Further media coverage:

Guardian Bitter row ruining Oxford college reputation, says watchdog

Telegraph Christ Church row is ‘affecting its ability to govern itself’, charity watchdog warns

Sunday update

Archbishop Cranmer has Christ Church’s PR agency colludes with FT journalist (and alumnus) to defame Dean. This is a long and detailed discussion focusing initially on the Financial Times article linked above, but do read all the way through, and in particular note the letter from the Senior Censor which replies to questions from an abuse survivor.

26 Comments

Publication of Living in Love and Faith announced

The Church of England has published this press release: The House of Bishops: Living in Love and Faith

The House of Bishops has confirmed, following a meeting held by Zoom on Wednesday 24 June, that it will proceed with the publication of the Living in Love and Faith teaching and learning resources in early November this year.

The publication of the resources, originally scheduled for July 2020, had been deferred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioned by the House of Bishops and led by the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth, the aim of the Living in Love and Faith project is to help the whole Church to learn how relationships, marriage and sexuality fit within the bigger picture of a humanity created in the image of God.

Commenting on the decision to proceed in the autumn of 2020, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us and none of us knows what challenges we will face in the months to come.

“The LLF resources are about vital matters which affect the wellbeing of individuals and communities. That is why it is important for the Church to move ahead with publishing the resources as soon as possible.

“They will help the Church to live out its calling to be a people who embody the reconciliation of Christ as together we explore matters of identity, sexuality and marriage.”

The House endorsed the plan to enable bishops, dioceses, deaneries and local church communities to explore the resources together from the beginning of 2021.

The House acknowledged that engagement with the materials will need to be responsive to local contexts and fully recognises the impact of COVID-19 and other challenges on the health, the economy and the wellbeing of the nation. It is envisaged that in 2022 learning and engagement with the materials will move to discernment, decision-making and if necessary, synodical processes. The group that will take this part of the LLF process forward on behalf of the House of Bishops will be led by Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London.

The Church Times has reported this here: Living in Love and Faith resources to be published in November which includes some additional comments by the Bishop of Coventry.

18 Comments

General Synod asked to consider Martyn Percy case

The Church Times has a report  C of E is ‘being used’ in campaign against Dean of Christ Church.

THE Church of England is being “dragged into a vendetta” against the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, General Synod members have been told.

In a letter circulated last week to other Synod members, David Lamming and Martin Sewell characterise the investigation by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) — initiated after a complaint lodged by the Senior Censor, Professor Geraldine Johnson, and others (News, 29 May) — as an abuse of the C of E’s processes by “well-connected persons”…

Archbishop Cranmer has published the full text of the letter mentioned above, see Martyn Percy: Synod challenges Christ Church abuse of CofE safeguarding process.

This letter is currently being circulated to members of General Synod of the Church of England, in advance of their virtual meeting in July. There will be two Q&A sessions, and it is hoped that this summary of the situation will encourage Synod members to look carefully into the way the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, is being appallingly treated – not only by the Governing Body of the College, but also now by the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England.

The authors, lawyers Martin Sewell and David Lamming, have worked tirelessly on the chronic mishandling of the Bishop George Bell case, and it is profoundly disappointing to see many of the problems identified by the Carlile Report seemingly replicated in the case now being considered against Prof Martyn Percy…

5 Comments

Oxford diocese removes Lord Carey’s PTO

Updated Friday evening

There are various press reports this evening about Lord Carey.

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this statement:

Lord Carey PTO

The following statement was issued in response to requests from the BBC and Channel 4 news on 17 June 2020. 

A planned independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC is currently underway. In the course of that review, new information has come to light regarding Lord Carey, which has been passed to the National Safeguarding Team for immediate attention as per the agreed Terms of Reference for the review.

A Core Group was formed, according to House of Bishops Guidance, and it advised the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford, to withdraw Lord Carey’s Permission to Officiate (PTO) while the matter is investigated.

Lord Carey’s PTO was revoked by the Bishop of Oxford on Wednesday 17 June. Lord Carey is currently unauthorised to undertake any form of ministry in the Diocese until further notice.

While the investigation and review are ongoing, we will not be commenting further on this matter. However, for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to make clear that the new information received relates only to the review currently underway, and that there has not been an allegation of abuse made against Lord Carey.

Notes for editors:

  • In the wake of Dame Moira Gibb’s review, Lord Carey stood down from the role of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Oxford in June 2017, and withdrew from public ministry for a season. Lord Carey accepted the criticisms made of him at the time and apologised to the victims of Peter Ball.
  • In February 2018 Lord Carey contacted the Diocese of Oxford to request PTO (permission to officiate). Following senior legal opinion, PTO was granted by the Bishop of Oxford later the same month to allow Lord Carey to undertake his priestly ministry at the church where he worships. The granting of PTO was conditional on no further concerns coming to light.
  • As with all granting of PTO’s, Lord Carey was subject to a fresh DBS check and appropriate safeguarding training at the time.
  • The new information referred to relates to the independent review currently underway, details of which can be read at: https://www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding/promoting-safer-church/reviews-and-reports/john-smyth-review
  • The Core Group first met on 16 June.

Lord Carey has issued this statement (as reported by Channel 4 News)

“I am bewildered and dismayed to receive the news a short time ago that due to ‘concerns’ being raised during the review of John Smyth QC I have had my PTO revoked. I have been given no information on the nature of these ‘concerns’ and have no memory of meeting Mr Smyth. In 2018 the National Safeguarding Team and the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury invited me to meet with them to arrange safeguarding training and facilitate a meeting with survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse. They have failed to deliver action on either of these matters which were the subject of mutually agreed action. As a result, I have little confidence in their ability to pursue a proper investigation.”

Updates

According to Anglican Ink, the statement from Lord Carey as reported above is incomplete. Their report has an additional sentence:

“As a result, I have little confidence in their ability to pursue a proper investigation. I understand from the testimony of victims and survivors of clerical abuse that this lack of confidence is widely shared.”

Surviving Church has published George Carey: An Archbishop under siege.

The Church Times has this: Lord Carey loses his permission to officiate over Smyth allegation.

71 Comments

Ministry Statistics 2019

The Church of England released its Ministry Statistics for 2019 today.

The accompanying press release (copied below) highlights that, for the first time, women made up the majority of deacons ordained, but there is much else in the report.

Statistics for earlier years are available here.

Women majority of deacons ordained last year, new report shows
17/06/2020

Women made up the majority of deacons ordained in the Church of England last year for the first time, according to new statistics published today.

A total of 570 deacons were ordained in 2019, with women making up just over a half, or 51% of the new intake.

Deacons are the first of three orders of ordained ministry. Whilst all clergy continue as deacons throughout, the majority are also ordained as priests at the end of their first year of ministry.

The statistics show that women made up around 32% of the 20,000 active clergy last year, with a growing proportion of senior posts such as Bishops, Archdeacons and Cathedral Deans, occupied by women, from 25% in 2018 to 27% last year.

Women were in the majority starting training for ordained ministry for the third year running, with equal numbers of men and women sponsored to train for ‘incumbent’ posts – such as Rector or Vicar – over the last two years. However currently only 25% of incumbent posts are occupied by women.

The number of stipendiary, or paid clergy, remained stable, at 7,700, between 2018 and 2019, following a period of decline. There were 7,830 Readers or licensed lay ministers compared to just under 10,000 in 2010. Readers and licensed lay ministers are not ordained but can lead worship and preach in churches, among other roles.

The statistics show the number of stipendiary clergy from black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds stood at 3.8%, while 7.8% of people entering training for ordained ministry last year were from a BAME background.

Out of a total of 550 people beginning training for ordained ministry last year, nearly a quarter, or 24%, were under 32 years old and more than two fifths, 44%, were aged under 40.

The Rt Revd Chris Goldsmith, Director of Ministry for the Church of England, said: “In recent years there has been an increasing diversity among our clergy, but we will not be content until those in public ministry truly reflect the whole church and the communities which they serve.”

He added: “The contribution of lay ministers to the mission and ministry of the church is hugely valued both in terms of sustaining the ongoing life of parishes and chaplaincies but also in the innovation and spiritual entrepreneurship increasingly characterising frontline expressions of the church as a Christian presence in every community.”

The Bishop of Derby, Libby Lane, who was consecrated as the first female bishop in the Church of England in 2015, said: “Women are now a widely visible presence among clergy in the Church of England – praise God. However there are still other under-represented groups whose vocations to ordination are being missed.

“I pray that the lessons learnt in encouraging women can make a difference for those who are not yet recognised, so Church of England clergy, at every level, better reflect the glorious diversity of our country.”

She added: “Last year marked 25 years since I was ordained priest. For over a quarter of a century women and men together have been selected, trained, ordained and appointed to serve in the Church of England.

“I thank God for the privilege of my ministry, and for the thousands of women and men who have shared this calling in that time.”

More information

27 Comments

Christ Church shenanigans: update

Following on from our last update, More Christ Church shenanigans,  Surviving Church now has a detailed discussion of  the involvement of the CofE National Safeguarding Team, see The Martyn Percy affair – further comments. As usual, this article needs to be read in full, but here’s the last two paragraphs:

…Another question that is being asked by many of us is this.  If Martyn Percy deserved investigation over safeguarding issues with apparently such flimsy evidence being offered, then why not are other more pressing cases given attention?  There are several outstanding CDM claims against serving bishops which lie on file.  Presumably these can now be activated by victims and complainants? There is the case of Jonathan Fletcher which seems to be ignored by central church authorities, even though it reached front-page headlines of the Daily Telegraph.  If the allegations against Fletcher are even half-true, he still poses a safeguarding threat which should be a priority for the NST.  To focus on Martyn, who poses no such threat, and ignore Fletcher can only be described as a deeply political choice.

Unless someone explains the real basis for NST involvement in the Christ Church factional disputes, Martyn’s supporters will conclude that the NST has become a political tool at the service of certain unaccountable factions within the Church of England.  If that surmise is correct, one would hope that the General Synod would wake up to this fact and vote the NST out of existence.  We cannot afford to have a rogue structure within the Church which operates with so much secrecy, factionalism and sometimes overt bullying.  Whoever authorised the unleashing of the NST on Martyn Percy has been responsible for taking an enormous gamble with the Church’s assets and reputation.  They have gambled on an outcome which, even if successful at one level, does no credit to the Church.  If the anonymous power brokers are, however, unsuccessful in what they are doing in Oxford, this may have the effect of destroying the NST structure altogether and their future ability to exercise power through it.

And the Telegraph reports on the financial implications for the college: Christ Church loses more than £3m in donations in row over Dean, it is claimed

Christ Church has suffered losses of more than £3m in bequests and donations due to an ongoing “farce” over the Dean’s tenure, it is claimed.

A row between the Oxford college’s governing body and the Very Rev Martyn Percy has become increasingly bitter, fuelled by accusations that the latter’s critics will stop at nothing to have him deposed.

Rev Jonathan Aitken, one of Dr Percy’s allies, has now claimed that the dispute is costing the college dearly, not just in legal fees and tribunal costs but also in lost donations as alumni take action to make their voices heard.

He accused the Censors, dons who take on responsibility for the academic life of the college, of becoming “financial alcoholics” who could not stop pouring away the charitable funds of the college on legal fees.

“The failed coup and the continuing attacks by the Censors and their allies on the Dean have been a financial catastrophe for Christ Church,” he told the Telegraph.

“The majority of the governing body have not been told what the costs are and do not know, to the nearest million, what they might be.

“But as a conservative estimate, legal bills are already in excess of £2.5m.”

9 Comments

Government advice on safe use of churches

Updated Friday evening to include Church of England latest advice issued at 17.15

This morning the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has issued:

COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic

This is a comprehensive document. The whole needs to be read carefully before allowing any opening for individual prayer, which is now permitted (date was changed by Government yesterday) from tomorrow, Saturday.

A PDF copy of the Government document, at the time of writing is available here.

A summary of section 4 is found in this  Law & Religion UK post: Guidance on supervised individual prayer

Update The Church of England has now issued the following:

Version 3 of the Risk Assessment document

51 Comments

Funerals allowed in CofE churches from 15 June

Updated again Thursday morning 

The Church of England House of Bishops issued a statement earlier today: Bishops revise and produce further guidance. The text is copied below.

The House of Bishops today discussed a range of issues around COVID-19 and approved further advice on funerals, the celebration of Holy Communion and ordinations.

The guidance advises that funerals may be carried out in church buildings from June 15.

It has been issued in light of the easing of restrictions on individual private prayer in places of worship, the reduction in death rates linked to Covid-19 and the pastoral needs of those who have been bereaved. It is in line with guidance from Public Health England.

In keeping with the Church of England’s wider approach to a phased reopening of places of worship, it will be up to each diocesan bishop and senior team how they use the guidance to support churches and cathedrals depending on their local context.

The House noted that this guidance is permissive and not prescriptive. If a building could not open because staff were ill or shielding or could not be easily cleaned, for example, it would be a local decision by those with authority over the building as to whether the permission was used or not.

The funeral may take place at a local crematorium or cemetery if the decision is taken not to open the church as is the case now.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: “While the restrictions on everyday life necessary to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have been difficult for us all, I’m only too aware that those who have lost loved ones have suffered most of all. I know that the grieving process has been even more difficult because of the limitations on funerals themselves.

“There are now least some signs of hope of an improvement with a fall both in the number of new infections and the death rate, but there will still, sadly, have to be significant limitations on how we mark funerals for some time to come.

“Nevertheless the House of Bishops has agreed that in light of the changing circumstances it is time to review our advice so that it will soon be possible for funeral services to be conducted inside church buildings following Government guidelines.

“At the same time we are actively planning for a wider phased reopening of places of worship when it is safe and practical to do so and look forward to the time when we can meet and worship together again in our buildings which mean so much to so many.”

Separate funeral and bereavement resources for clergy and officiants for funerals can be found on our website.

Funerals: the most recent COVID-19 Advice for Conducting Funerals version 2.2 dated 3 June is here.

Ordinations: see COVID-19 Advice on Ordinations

On Holy Communion, see COVID-19 Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion

Updated risk assessment document for opening church buildings (version 2 dated 9 June). It carries this warning

THIS IS A PLANNING DOCUMENT ONLY. IT WILL BE UPDATED AND CONTENT MAY CHANGE ONCE GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE ON REOPENING PLACES OF WORSHIP HAS BEEN PUBLISHED. We are awaiting clarification from government on the extent and nature of what ‘supervised individual prayer’ means and what exactly will be required. We will update this document as further information becomes available. SUPERSEDED by version 3 at 17.15 Friday

This COVID-19: update from the Church of England on reopening church buildings by Becky Clark via Law & Religion UK is also very helpful.

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More Christ Church shenanigans

Surviving Church has published a lengthy analysis of the recently reported development involving the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England: The Martyn Percy affair … a proper case for official Church involvement?

Here’s an extract (but do read the whole article):

…But more disturbingly, I have heard on good authority and am aware that others have also heard, that at a recent Governing Board of the college, one of the senior college figures boasted to the Trustees “the wily Censors have made sure they complained to the right part of the National Safeguarding Team”. If true, both ends of that statement are extraordinary. I don’t know if the NST are aware of this. I don’t imagine so. There would be an outcry across the Church if the NST had been complicit in their own ugly appropriation. It would raise questions about who is controlling different bits of this structure, and in particular who is pulling the strings of the “right part” of the National Safeguarding Team. I suspect Synod members would throw their hands up in horror and ask: how the hell does one rescue a Church’s national safeguarding so far down a road of ethical dysfunctionality?

But this core group sets an interesting precedent. Quite a few Church of England Bishops have been accused of safeguarding failings, cover up, poor response or no response towards survivors, gaslighting, blanking and fogging, dishonesty – yet how many have had core groups convened about them by the National Safeguarding Team? It would now seem that a complaint from a single source against a senior church officer is no longer time-limited, but will result in the formation of a core group on which the complainant can be personally represented. The person under investigation will presumably be asked to step aside from safeguarding responsibilities during the investigation. Although the circumstances in which this has come about are ugly and point to church officialdom targeting a well-known critic – the situation has unexpected potential for survivors. There are a significant number of survivors who have credible and legitimate claims that serving bishops have mishandled disclosures of abuse or have been dishonest in their response. We might welcome the opportunity to have core groups established, and to have complaints acted upon at last. I suspect the number of bishops who could feasibly be asked to stand down through such action might be surprising…

And then there’s another weird development, reported exclusively (so far) by Archbishop CranmerChrist Church dons launch new attack on the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life.

Again, you need to read the whole article, but here’s a taster

…a few weeks ago Professor Biggar received a letter from the College’s lawyers on behalf of the Governing Body, demanding that the McDonald Centre remove all references to Christ Church from its website, including the Centre’s logo, which has the appearance of the famous Tom Tower. The request was effectively to sever all association between the McDonald Centre and Christ Church.

It is curious, after more than a decade of harmonious scholarship and manifest fraternal accord, that that the Governing Body or ‘Censors’ of Christ Church would seek suddenly to censor this academic relationship. Curious, that is, until you consider that Nigel Biggar has been vocal and very public in his defence of Dean Martyn Percy, who is currently being bullied out of his job by a faction of Censors. Having failed to tarnish him with “conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature“, they have now turned for assistance to the Church of England to try and oust him for “a consistent lack of moral compass“…

Update 11 June

The Telegraph now also has a report on this, Row escalates between Christ Church Dean and dons as Oxford college tries to distance itself from McDonald Centre.

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General Synod July 2020

Update Tuesday A press release was issued this morning; I have copied it below the timetable.
Update Saturday A note on the Handling of Questions in the Meeting of Synod Members has been added to the website. The Questions Notice Paper will be published by 10.00am on Wednesday 8 July.

A provisional timetable for a meeting of General Synod members on Saturday 11 July 2020 has been published today. This will be the informal remote meeting proposed by the officers of Synod last month when the residential meeting in York was cancelled. There are no details as yet about how this virtual meeting will be conducted.

The timetable is copied below.

GENERAL SYNOD: July 2020 Timetable
Saturday 11 July
10.30 am – 12.45 pm
10.30 am – 10.45 am Opening worship
Introduction and welcomes
10.45 am – 11.30 am Presidential Address
11.30 am – 11.45 am Pause for reflection
*11.45 am – 12.45 pm Question Time part one

1.30 pm – 4.30 pm
1.30 pm – 2.45 pm Response to Covid-19: Presentation followed by Questions
*2.45 pm – 3.00 pm BREAK
3.00 pm – 4.00 pm Question Time part two
4.00 pm – 4.15 pm Reflections and/or Scriptural thought
4.15 pm – 4.30 pm Closing worship
*4.30 pm Close of Business

* not later than
Please note that all timings are indicative unless marked with an asterisk.

Deadline for receipt of questions for the formal Question Time: 1200 hrs Tuesday 30 June 2020

Update – press release

Informal virtual meeting of General Synod members to take place
09/06/2020

The timetable for an informal virtual meeting of General Synod members has been published.

The timetable for an informal virtual meeting of members of General Synod on Saturday July 11 has been published. This has the support of the Business Committee of the General Synod after it was confirmed that the residential meeting due to take place in York in July had been cancelled in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. The term of the current General Synod has been extended for a year with planned elections to the General Synod postponed until next autumn. Synod officers continue to explore options to enable the Synod to transact its business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person in November.

The timetable can be found on the Synod area of the Church of England website.

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