This change applies only to England and Wales. It is for the Scottish Parliament to decide on whether to do this in Scotland too, but the Scottish Government has introduced a bill to do so.
The regulations do not permit opposite-sex couples who enter a civil partnership to subsequently convert their relationship into a marriage (as is the case for same-sex couples). The Government has conducted a separate consultation on conversion rights generally, but has not yet announced the outcome of that, or decided what actions it will take. Further regulations relating to this may be made in 2020.
The position of the Church of England on this new form of civil partnership has not yet been announced. I will update this post when it does. But it does seem unlikely that the policy statement of 2005 can be applied unchanged now.
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Martin Charles William Gorick, MA, to the Suffragan See of Dudley, in the Diocese of Worcester,
Published 4 November 2019
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Venerable Martin Charles William Gorick, MA, Archdeacon of Oxford, in the Diocese of Oxford, to the Suffragan See of Dudley, in the Diocese of Worcester, in succession to the Right Reverend Graham Barham Usher BSc, MA, following his translation to the See of Norwich.
Martin was educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge and trained for ministry at Ripon College Cuddesdon. He served his title at St John the Evangelist, Birtley in the Diocese of Durham and was ordained Priest in 1988. In 1991, Martin was appointed as Chaplain to the Bishop of Oxford. He became Vicar of Smethwick Old Church in the Diocese of Birmingham in 1994 and was additionally appointed Area Dean of Warley in 1997. Martin was appointed as Vicar of Stratford-upon-Avon in the Diocese of Coventry in 2001 where he was also Hon. Chaplain for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He took up his current role as Archdeacon of Oxford and Residentiary Canon of Christ Church in 2013 and also serves as Diocesan Inter-faith Advisor. He is married to Katharine who is County Lead for Visual Impairment in Oxfordshire and they have three adult children.
Should same sex couples be able to marry in church? How can the church respond to the climate emergency? How do we equip the church for the challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st Century? Do you ever find yourself asking these questions? And do you ever wonder who in the church has the job of answering them?
In the Church of England the big questions of the day are debated by the General Synod. It can seem like a remote body, with little effect at parish level and no place for ordinary clergy and churchgoers, but that is a common misperception. Many significant changes in how local churches operate come from decisions in General Synod, and the policies of the national church are shaped and decided in Synod. Next year will see full elections for the next five year term of the General Synod, and whoever is elected will have a voice in how the church grapples with the big issues and shape its future.
Could you serve on General Synod? Maybe you know someone you could encourage to stand for election. The Church needs a diverse range of people on Synod, different ages, backgrounds and experience to represent the full breadth of the Church. Inclusive Church is leading a campaign to organise for the 2020 elections, working in partnership with other inclusive organisations across the life of the church. We have just launched our main campaign leaflet, saying what will be happening and how you can be involved. Please download it here, and share it far and wide among people you know in the church who have inclusive values…
Who is organising the Inclusive Synod Campaign?
This campaign is being organised by a coalition of key organisations from across the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England – evangelical, catholic, liberal. We represent the broad mainstream of the Church, those who want our national Church to be for everyone, regardless of gender, age, disability, tradition, race, socio-economic background or sexuality. Members include Inclusive Church, WATCH, One Body One Faith, Ozanne Foundation, Affirming Catholicism, Accepting Evangelicals, Modern Church, the Society of Catholic Priests, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the C of E, the Progressive Christianity Network and Thinking Anglicans. We are the only campaign for Synod organising across the whole of the Church…
on Friday, 11 October 2019 at 5.51 pm by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of England
Two news articles about the dispute concerning the Dean, Martyn Percy, have appeared on the same day. Each contains new information, but there is surprisingly little overlap. Do read both articles all the way through. (Warning: the FT piece is very long.)
A NEW row is brewing in Christ Church, Oxford, despite the exoneration of the Dean, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy (News, 30 August). The Cathedral Chapter has now sought its own legal advice about the actions of a group of senior dons who accused the Dean of “immoral, scandalous, and disgraceful behaviour” (News, 5 November 2018).
As a consequence, there are reports that members of the Chapter have, in turn, been harassed and threatened with legal action. On Wednesday, Dr Percy declined to comment.
The small group of dons used an estimated £1.6 million of college funds to pursue the Dean, who is also Head of House (i.e. Master of the college) after he raised questions about governance and pay scales, including his own. He was cleared of all charges in August, in an internal inquiry led by Sir Andrew Smith, who produced a judgment of more than 100 pages. It is this document that is at the centre of the new row…
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on the relationship of the Channel Islands to the wider Church of England has published its final report, including a recommendation for Episcopal oversight of the Islands to be transferred to the Bishop of Salisbury.
on Monday, 7 October 2019 at 3.02 pm by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of England
The Oxford bishops write:
We may be about to exit the European Union and begin a new relationship with our European neighbours and with the world. +Steven, +Alan, +Colin and Bishop-elect Olivia have written a joint letter to every church, school and chaplaincy in the Diocese of Oxford reminding us all of the important roles that our churches and schools hold at this time. The bishops are encouraging parishioners across the diocese to read the letter too: “Don’t underestimate what we can achieve if every church, chaplaincy and school does something and if every Christian disciple takes some action, however small”.
Members of the Church of England General Synod have been sent the following email inviting questions for answer next month. As noted written answers will be given (and published); ie no supplementary questions will be possible.
Dear Synod members,
Mindful of the exceptionally high number of questions in February and July, the Business Committee has decided to use its powers under Standing Order 117(1) to give members the opportunity to submit questions for written answer between groups of sessions. This is a process last used in 2008.
But more significantly there is a very long leader article, which is highly critical of the statement: The Bishops’ misplaced respect. Do read the whole of this critique, which starts out:
IT WAS a very Anglican betrayal. No Gove-like rush of blood to the head, stolid Johnsonian plotting, or Momentum bullying. Just a throwaway line at the start of the College of Bishops’ statement on the tenor of political discourse. It was a clearing of the throat, a testing of the microphone. “In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured.”
All three parts of this sentence deserve a closer look…
But these are indeed critical moments in our national life, and thankfully our bishops rarely presume to have ‘the last word’ in such moments. With whatever authority they seek to speak, their interventions are invitations (implicit or explicit) to further reflection and conversation – and it is to that implicit invitation that I cannot help but respond – with some ‘wonderings’ that can claim no more authority than the bishops’ statement, and certainly no more claim to be ‘the last word’ of a vital ongoing conversation.
I can only imagine the anguished discussions, in person, on the phone, by email, between the bishops in the process of agreeing this unanimous statement. The felt importance of presenting a ‘united front’, a single message – when they will no doubt have, among themselves, had passionate disagreements about the content, the tone, and even whether they should be saying anything public at all. I feel for them in those struggles. None of this is easy. To say anything, as much as to say nothing, is risky, costly, weighty in its responsibility…
And here is his concluding paragraph:
…Here, then, is the dilemma confronting the Church of England, in a nutshell: how do we ‘own up’ with penitent honesty to our own profoundly imbalanced and compromised social location and institutional reality (dominated by White, upper-/middle-class men), while seeking complex solidarities with diverse and marginalized ‘others’ who present challenges to both the church and wider society, and courageously challenging the powers-that-be where power is both concentrated and abused? The answer must, surely, include a willingness to give up – or be stripped of – most of the traces of institutional power that the Church of England, especially, continues to benefit from – even that of presuming to speak into political debate with some kind of ‘authoritative voice’. It must also, equally certainly, include an unshakeable commitment to listen acutely, attentively, enduringly, and with a radical receptivity, to the many within, and beyond the Church who are not White, or not middle-class, or not male, in ways that challenge and change us, to our very DNA. Only in the context of that ongoing commitment to listening, repentance and change can we humbly and courageously seek to ‘speak truth to power’.
Bishops call for respect on all sides amid Brexit debate 27/09/2019
The bishops of the Church of England have issued a call for respect on all sides amid growing acrimony over the debate on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
A joint statement issued on behalf of the Church of England’s College of Bishops calls for a new tone of listening and respect in debates and describes the use of language in some cases as “unacceptable”.
It calls for the 2016 referendum to be honoured and for the rule of law and impartiality of the courts to be upheld.
It adds: “We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen. We should do this especially with the poor, with the marginalised, and with those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation.
“We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.”
The full statement reads as follows:
As Bishops of the Church of England, we make this statement conscious of the great challenges to our nations and to their leaders. In writing, we affirm our respect for the June 2016 Referendum, and our belief that the result should be honoured.
In the last few days, the use of language, both in debates and outside Parliament, has been unacceptable.
We should speak to others with respect. And we should also listen. We should do this especially with the poor, with the marginalised, and with those whose voices are often not heard in our national conversation. We should not denigrate, patronise or ignore the honest views of fellow citizens, but seek to respect their opinions, their participation in society, and their votes.
The teachings of Jesus Christ call for us to be generous and humble servants; virtues which are for all leaders, whatever their faith.
We call on politicians to adhere rigorously to the rule of law and on all to respect and uphold the impartiality of the courts and our judiciary.
Our concern is also for the structure and the constitution of the United Kingdom. To use the words of Jesus, we must renew the structures that enable us to “love one another”. Changes to our principles and values of government, if necessary, should be through careful planning and consultation.
It is easy to descend into division and abuse – climbing out and finding unity again takes far longer. Further entrenching our divisions, whether from uncertainty or from partisanship, is not worthy of our country nor the leadership we now need. We are a body that understands from our own experience the dangers of division. It is our view and most solemn warning that we must find better ways of acting.
The statement was drafted by a group of senior bishops on behalf of the Church of England’s College of Bishops following its three-day residential meeting in Oxford last week.
The Church of England is encouraging individuals, churches and other organisations to help make social media and the web more widely positive places for conversations to happen by signing the Digital Charter, a voluntary pledge. Find out more and sign up to the Digital Charter here.
on Thursday, 26 September 2019 at 5.33 pm by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of England
The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines published this comment on the proceedings in the House of Commons yesterday: Language and leadership
The language used in the House of Commons last night is probably unprecedented. Drawing the name of a murdered MP into the fight was, at the very least, questionable. To describe the contribution of female MPs, pleading with the PM to moderate his language in the light of violence and death threats, as ‘humbug’ is appalling.
I am the bishop of a diocese in which Jo Cox is remembered with massive affection and in which there is great sensitivity to utilisation of her for political purposes. Her family are not just names to be traded.
Words are not neutral – they can become weapons. Words in the mouth of leaders can shape the language and behaviour of all sorts of people, and not always positively. The challenge of leadership is to lead, to behave like the adult in the room, to see the big picture, to hold the long-term perspective, and not to lose sight of the key issue…
The Archbishop in fact made two interventions yesterday, here are the transcripts:
The Archbishop of Canterbury
Does the Minister agree that Parliament has, justifiably or not, seen its reputation sink very low over the last few months and that one of the ways of dealing with that is transparency? Regardless of how many letters there may or may not be, will he therefore undertake that the Government will be completely transparent and honest in the spirit and not merely the letter of the law about the actions they take over the next few weeks in connection with an extension?
The Archbishop of Canterbury
My Lords, this debate –for want of a better word–demonstrates, I am sure the noble Lord would agree, the total division across Parliament. It is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every level, as they are immersed in every local community. The divisions are shaking this country apart. They are shaking us apart in all our great institutions, whether it is Parliament or the courts, which are portrayed as having launched a coup d’état–a slightly unlikely idea–and it is causing serious damage to our economy. We are hearing in our debates the incapacity of Parliament not only to make a decision but to find any way through the deadlock. The divisions are so deep that we cannot expect, I fear, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, suggested, that cross-party work could bring a decision on what we do, but can we not at least ask the Government to look for alternative means of setting a path to making a decision?
At the moment, all we hear regarding a decision is that one side says it is definitely this and the other side says that. I am used to this in an organisation that is split at every level; I am well aware of division, so I am speaking from deep familiarity. The way forward must be, as we have done on numerous occasions, to work out how to get to a decision, because the present means of handling it through Parliament is not working. We need to draw on wider experience, on mediation and other forms, so that Operation Yellowhammer and the Statement that we have heard at least form part of a clear plan to arrive at a firm decision. Does the Minister agree?
The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said this yesterday in response to the reading in the Lords of the Prime Minister’s statement:
My Lords, speaking on behalf of these Benches, I struggle to have to say that I was shocked as I listened to the repeat of the Statement. I could not believe that I was hearing it, from someone who knows that the nation is deeply divided and needs to find ways of working together. We need humility, repentance when necessary and an approach that listens carefully to the views of others rather than simply “Attack, attack, attack”. The Leader was not in the House earlier when my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury was here, but I encourage her to read his comments about the need for reconciliation–to find a different way forward to work together that is good for the nation. In one sense I am simply adding to the mood of the House as a whole, but I come at it from a very different point of view; I am not part of a political party and I have no axe to grind. I simply want to reflect that this was terrible. It was shocking. It is not worthy. I am sorry.
And today, Thursday. the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun, said this:
My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement and for making and underlining the commitment that the Government will obey the law. May I test that a little further? It seems to me that, in the current very fractious debate, what is needed is to respect the impartiality of those institutions upholding the constitution and the law. Will the Minister counsel his colleagues to use language that is appropriate and not excessive and that reflects respect for our institutions, the taking of personal responsibility and a degree of restraint? When Prayers are said by Bishops in this House, we pray every day for the well-being of all the estates in this realm. We all have a duty to make our own contribution towards that.
on Thursday, 19 September 2019 at 10.30 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Church of England
The Church of England’s College of Bishops met earlier this week. The college comprises all diocesan and suffragan bishops and meets twice a year. A very brief press release has been issued and is copied below.
College of Bishops
The College of Bishops met in Oxford from 16th to 18th September 2019.
Time was spent in prayerful reflection. The bishops reviewed the work of the Pastoral Advisory Group and considered progress to date of Living in Love and Faith, the Church of England’s teaching and learning resources on relationships, marriage, identity and sexuality, which are currently under development.
The College also reflected on the national situation, discussing the outlook for Brexit.
They also considered the vision for theological education and explored ministry plans in dioceses.
Oxford University dons have been accused of trying to avoid ‘damning criticism’ of their ill-fated effort to force out a college dean by having their names removed from a report.
Trustees at Christ Church college have spent more than £1 million on legal fees during a year-long feud with the dean, the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy.
The senior dons levelled charges of ‘immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct’ against the dean – but the case was thrown out at a tribunal chaired by retired High Court judge Sir Andrew Smith earlier this year.
Now Jonathan Aitken, the former Tory Minister and a Christ Church alumnus, has alleged that further funds are being spent to ensure that the names of some of the accusers are redacted from the 110-page tribunal report, which the dean’s supporters want published in full.
In a letter to Baroness Stowell, chairman of the Charity Commission, he wrote: ‘It is now known that some parts of the tribunal’s report… contain devastating criticisms of individual members of the governing body, particularly those officers of the college who led the attack on the dean.
‘It is those same officers who are now fighting the battle to have the tribunal report redacted.
‘They are, without the authority of the full governing body, instructing more expensive lawyers (paid for by charitable funds) to provide them with opinions to justify the attempted censorship.’
Calling on the Charity Commission to intervene, Mr Aitken claims the college has already spent £1.6 million on bringing the tribunal and the bill could soar to more than £2 million.
‘The scandal of wrongful charitable governance at Christ Church has grown, is continuing to grow and will soon become notorious as a result of media coverage, action by angry members of the wider Christ Church community, withdrawal of support by charitable donors and possible questions in Parliament,’ he added…
…Alongside his letter to the charity commission, Aitken gave Cherwell the following comment, “Like many members of the Christ Church Alumni Association, I regard it as a scandal of governance that the full Governing Body of the College has been refused sight of a full, unredacted copy of the Tribunal’s findings and reasons for clearing the Dean of all charges.”
“The notion that a small cabal of anti-Dean Dons can censor the Tribunal’s report is an attempt at self-serving protection for themselves because they are severely criticised in the Appendices of the report.”
“The wounds at Christ Church need to be healed, in the longer term, by a sustained effort by all parties towards truth and reconciliation. This remains impossible as long as the truth contained in the Tribunal’s findings is not allowed to be seen by the Governing Body. In my mind the big question is: ‘Can the Governing Body govern itself?”
…In a recent letter to undergraduates, Dean Martyn Percy said: “I am writing to thank you for your support of Christ Church over these past months. This has not been an easy year for the House, but I want to reassure you that we are committed to Christ Church and its flourishing. Like a family, even in the midst of difficult times, we retain our core purposes and identity.
“It will take time to reflect on the events of the past year, and we would ask you to allow us the space to do this. The House will need to carefully consider the tribunal process and, more generally, its governance arrangements. The latter will be reviewed through an independent review as has been recommended by the Charity Commission. I ask you to please bear with us whilst we undertake this important work. As you can appreciate, we will not be commenting further until the review has been concluded.”
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Richard Charles Jackson MA MSc for election as Bishop of Hereford.
Published 3 September 2019
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Richard Charles Jackson MA MSc, Bishop of Lewes, for election as Bishop of Hereford in succession to the Right Reverend Richard Michael Cokayne Frith BA MA, who is due to retire on 30th November 2019.
Richard was educated at Christ Church, Oxford and Cranfield University and trained for ministry at Trinity College, Bristol. He served his title at All Saints, Lindfield in the Diocese of Chichester and was ordained Priest in 1995.
In 1998, Richard was appointed Vicar of Holy Trinity, Rudgwick and in 2005 took up the additional role of Rural Dean of Horsham. Richard became Diocesan Adviser for Mission and Renewal in 2009 and took up his role as Bishop of Lewes in 2014.
The Hereford Diocesan website has more details here, and the Chichester website has this.
The Church of England has published its Ministry Statistics for 2018 today. Available are the Ministry Statistics 2018 themselves and a commentary provided by the Revd Dr Mandy Ford, interim Director of Ministry. In addition detailed diocesan tables can be found in a separate excel file. There is also the following press release.
Ministry Statistics published
The number of female clergy in the Church of England continues to rise with more women than men entering training for ordained ministry for the second year running, according to statistics published today.
More women, 54%, than men began training for ordained ministry in 2018, for the second year running. Just under a third, or 30%, of the estimated 20,000 active clergy in the Church of England were female compared to 27% in 2014, according to Ministry Statistics for 2018.
The report also shows the proportion of senior posts such as dean or bishop occupied by women rose from 23 per cent to 25 per cent over the last year. The figures do not take into account six new appointments of female bishops this year, bringing the total so far to 24.
The proportion of people identifying as from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds starting training for ordained ministry in the Church of England rose to 8% in 2018, compared to 4% in 2016.
Around a third, or 33%, of people beginning their training last year were under 35 years old and more than half, or 53%, were under 45.
Meanwhile the number of men and women being ordained as deacon rose from 485 in 2016 to 535 in 2019.
The figures have been released as the Church of England seeks to fulfil a key target of a 50% increase in the number of candidates for ordination as part of its programme of Renewal and Reform.
Mandy Ford, Interim Director of the Ministry Division of the Church of England, said: “I am thankful for the hard work and prayers of the parishes and dioceses in helping us to increase the numbers of people coming forward for ordained ministry, a key aim of the Renewal and Reform programme.”
Ministry Statistics 2018 and commentary can be found here.
Renewal and Reform is part of a programme to ensure that the Church of England once more becomes a growing church for all people in all places.
on Wednesday, 28 August 2019 at 1.05 pm by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of England
A group of Church of England bishops has issued an open letter on the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and the need for national reconciliation, notwithstanding the potential prorogation of Parliament.The full text and list of signatories can be found here: Bishops issue open letter on Brexit.
“It is an unexpected privilege to be asked to chair this proposed Citizens’ Forum on Brexit. In the past this kind of gathering has, in many places and in difficult situations, opened the way for careful deliberation if at the right time and genuinely representative.
“I am honoured to be approached and would be willing to accept in principle, subject to some conditions which have not yet been met. The main three are first, and indispensably, that the forum should not be a Trojan horse intended to delay or prevent Brexit in any particular form. That power can only be exercised by the government and MPs in parliament. A forum must be open to all possibilities. Second, that it has cross party support (although its members will not be politicians). Third, the process must have time to be properly organised.
“Jesus Christ is the source of reconciliation and healing for individuals and society. It is obviously right that among many others the churches should contribute to the emergence of a dynamic and united country post-Brexit, however it may be achieved. Every one of us must play the part they can in this task.
“The need for national healing and eventually for a move towards reconciliation is essential, and will take much time, a deep commitment to the common good, and contributions from every source. This Forum is only one of many different efforts being made inside the political world and across the country before and after Brexit. Every effort counts.
“Let us pray for all those in government, parliament and political leadership. Let us pray for the people of this country whose lives will be affected in many ways by the momentous decisions that are made.”
As required by Christ Church’s Statutes, an internal tribunal was convened to consider a complaint raised against the Dean in September 2018. Following a thorough investigation, the tribunal has decided that the charges are not upheld and that there is no cause to remove the Dean as Head of House. However, the tribunal made some criticism of the Dean’s conduct and found that there was one breach of his fiduciary duty.
We can therefore announce that Martyn Percy will resume his duties as Dean of Christ Church, on his return from holiday on 27th August. The complaint process has now concluded.
Following the announcement by Christ Church this evening, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has issued this statement:
“I am delighted to learn that this matter is now resolved. I look forward to seeing Martyn return to the Cathedral and his duties as Dean of Christ Church. This news will be widely welcomed across the Diocese of Oxford. These have been testing times for all involved, and my prayers are with Martyn and Emma, the Chapter and wider College in the coming months.”