Thinking Anglicans

House of Bishops – 19 January 2021

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops – Tuesday 19th of January 2021
19/01/2021

The House of Bishops met for its first meeting in 2021 on Tuesday 19th January via Zoom.

The bishops began with discussion and an acknowledgment of the ongoing seriousness of the pandemic, the rising death toll and the ongoing difficulty, sadness and loss faced by many. As a House and in breakout groups, the bishops continued to be mindful of the damage Covid-19 continues to wreak in our communities but expressed hope that the vaccines now being rolled out offer light at the end of this tunnel.

The House then turned its attention to the current and multi-year post-Covid environment, with broad discussion over the potential long-term impact of Covid-19 in a number of key areas. The House recognised the opportunities afforded by new kinds of engagement through the internet while regretting that many communities could not meet physically or in familiar ways, while underscoring the importance of Holy Communion for individuals and churches.

The bishops welcomed the creative, innovative ways ministers were finding to extend the Church’s outreach by streaming worship online and by developing other ways of building community online. The House affirmed it would be premature to make decisions on the eucharist in a digital medium and the administration and reception of Holy Communion, particularly in a time of national pandemic and resolved to undertake further theological and liturgical study and discussion on these issues over the coming months.

In the afternoon, the House was updated by the Bishop of London in her role as Chair of the Recovery Group. Bishop Sarah addressed the impact of Covid-19 over the Christmas season and the Church’s ongoing participation in the current national vaccination programme. She also reaffirmed that throughout the pandemic, churches will continue to work with other faith communities, local groups and volunteers to support their communities and local health providers. The House also heard that while many churches have decided to offer digital services only for the time being, while others are continuing to remain open in a Covid-secure way for individual prayer and public worship. The circumstances in each place will inform a local decision.

The House then received updates from the Chair of each of the Emerging Church workstreams: From the Bishop of Manchester in his capacity as Chair of the Coordinating group, the Archbishop of York as Chair of the Vision and Strategy workstream, The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich as Chair of the Transforming Effectiveness workstream (whose purpose is to make the operations of the National Church Institutions more effective) and the Bishops of Leeds as Chair of the Governance Review Group. The Governance Review Group plans to publish a consultation document which will suggest a number of options for future governance models and will consult widely.

The House then received an update on the Resourcing Ministerial Formation Review outlining the process so far, and how this fits within the wider vision emerging for the Church of England and the current challenges facing the Church. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich addressed the House which took note and agreed on the direction of travel of the report, with preliminary recommendations expected by Summer 2021 and final recommendations later in the year.

The House was then informed on progress towards independent oversight for Safeguarding, further to the House’s December discussion of this issue. Further engagement on this issue, including importantly with survivors of abuse, will take place in the coming weeks. The House heard from the Acting Director of Safeguarding, as well as the Director of Mission and Public Affairs who responded to questions from the House. The House was informed that the Interim Support Scheme has progressed well since it began actively dealing with cases in October 2020. The scheme has been developed collaboratively by the NST with important inputs from Legal and Finance, and, most importantly, survivor voices.

The Bishop of Rochester then spoke to the House regarding the Implementation and Dialogue Group Report. The House agreed for the Report to be considered further at a subsequent meeting.

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God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
8 months ago

650 words; I don’t know how much time, energy, effort expended; strutting, fretting, signifying nothing. A lot of inconsequential reflection and deferral, to be considered another time.

Something buried? Resourcing Ministerial Formation Review- sounds like reduction coming in numbers and/or budget for ordinands?

Maybe missing something? Bless ’em.

Charles Read
8 months ago

So have I understood this right? At precisely the moment when a decision on the distribution of communion using individual cups is needed, the House has deferred the decision yet again under the guise of needing more time to study the question? We will very likely be reopening churches in a few weeks and it would have been opportune to enable communion in both kinds, as the Reformers contended was essential, or to grasp the nettle and say we don’t agree with the practice.

Ian Paul
Reply to  Charles Read
8 months ago

Hear hear. The use of individual cups for the distribution of wine in Communion is legal, reasonable and practical. It is disappointing that the House of Bishops don’t appear even to have engaged with the clear arguments in their favour, let alone offered a response. This is a puzzling omission, and fails to engage with the consistent concern of the Reformers to allow the reception of Communion in both kinds. I think it will inevitably encourage the proliferation of other, unAnglican, practices, and neglects to address an important spiritual need

Nigel LLoyd
Nigel LLoyd
Reply to  Ian Paul
8 months ago

I suspect there is an element here of trying to avoid any decision, on the basis that if they can hold the situation a little longer, it will resolve itself as the present pandemic dies back. It is unlikely that we will all be vaccinated until the end of the summer; we will not have addressed the challenges of this pandemic until the poorest in the world have been vaccinated, which will take longer; and even then, it will be a long time before many people will feel secure enough to start sharing a chalice again. I don’t like little… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Nigel LLoyd
8 months ago

Nigel Lloyd ends a fine summary of where we are with “thought needs to be given as to how this can be reinstated in a way that is both safe and gathers the worshipping community into one.” And therein lies the problem. If any on TA have an answer, please let us hear it. Meanwhile we should be careful not to let the best become the enemy of the good.

Jennifer ObJN
Jennifer ObJN
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

Easy! It has been regular practice in RCC in central Europe for decades: just sprinkle a little wine over the wafers, in the sacristy, before the service.
Of course this does mean using slightly more substantial wafers which do not disintegrate into a soggy mess the moment they come into contact with a single drop of liquid.
If some of the consecrated elements are to be reserved, eg for taking communion to the sick, prepare the breads ahead of time and dry them out on a radiator.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Jennifer ObJN
8 months ago

At last, some sense. Thank you Jennifer. The first time I did it for reservation a soggy mess was indeed the result. I learnt from my mistake. What astonishes me is that some people use “rules” to limit options in one instance, but dismiss them in others. Why can’t clergy use their brains to make decisions instead of waiting for bishops to issue edicts?

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Ian Paul
8 months ago

“I think it will inevitably encourage the proliferation of other, unAnglican, practices.” I like the irony, for what could be more unAnglican than individual cups?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

Since when have evangelicals like Ian Paul discouraged “unAnglican practices”? I thought that was one of their greatest skills.

Charles Read
Reply to  FrDavid H
8 months ago

That is unworthy. You might disagree with Ian (I often do) but he consistently argues his case from the basis of the scriptures and Anglican identity. To seek reform is not unanglican.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
8 months ago

Many things accepted as thoroughly Anglican today would have been considered ‘unAnglican’ before the Oxford Movement. I’ve sometimes been accused of ‘UnAnglican practices’, and my observation has been that what people really mean is ‘you’re not my kind of Anglican.’

Charles Read
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

Why? (=why is the practice unanglican.)

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Charles Read
8 months ago

Charles, as we both know, what is or is not ‘Anglican’ is notoriously difficult to get a handle on. That said, in 55 years as a communicant and in a number of churches of varying traditions I have never seen individual cups used. I have experienced individual cups in a LEP, when the talk among the Anglican communicants afterwards was about how alien this felt. Surely this counts for something. As you say, the Reformers regarded Communion in both kinds as essential. But that was in a context where, unlike today, the cup had been withdrawn from the laity unnecessarily.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

Funnily enough I too have been a communicant member of the Church of England for 55 years, and among the things I have never seen are notices on the door of my church telling me that public worship is now forbidden by law, or by the Archbishop, nor advice to share in Holy Communion by watching it on a computer screen. If we are prepared to swallow these camels why are we straining at the gnat of individual cups?

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Richard Pinch
8 months ago

Camels and gnats cut both ways. At a time when most of our churches are shut I’d feel blessed just to receive. One kind or both kinds – I’d be content with either. And as for the House of Bishops, I suspect weightier matters dominate the agenda.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

… which does not go any way towards answering my question, what is the objection to cups? If it’s mere novelty, why is that of overriding importance in a situation already so novel, and so distressing?

To be clear: I’m not advocating here for or against any particular way of administering the sacraments — I’m trying to understanding what the objections are that some people seem to have to this particular mode and which I currently do not understand, because I have not yet seen them explained.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Richard Pinch
8 months ago

This might answer your question
https://www.churchofengland.org/media/21113

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

“How alien this felt” doesn’t seem to be all that salient in the present situation. As I understand it, Ian’s view is that individual cups should be allowed, as a possible alternative to receiving in one kind, not that they should become permanently compulsory. Similarly, the excellent suggestions described by Jennifer above. I fail to understand why these practices couldn’t be authorised at least on a temporary basis, whether or not they feel “alien”—an interesting word because of its connotation of people feeling that something from outside will be polluting. It will be a long time till “normal service is… Read more »

Richard
Richard
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

Hear, hear!

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Allan Sheath
7 months ago

There is one thing “more Anglican” – dithering.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Martin Sewell
7 months ago

The CofE paper, Holy Communion and the Distribution of Elements, concludes (see link above): “The use of individual cups could be made lawful in the present circumstances only if they were lawful at all other times. Such a change can only be sanctioned by the House of Bishops or by the General Synod. In view of the above, such a change is likely to be highly contentious, and would generate significant controversy without the prospect of agreement being reached.” I feel this is a measured response. The reference to individual cups being made lawful in the present circumstances “only if… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  Charles Read
7 months ago

You beat me to it Charles.

There is a case for change and a case for no change. There is no case for prevarication!

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
8 months ago

Covid 19 pandemic – such a wonderful opportunity for the Church hierarchy to bury bad news, delay bad news – or simply disregard it.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
8 months ago

Yet another wholly meaningless statement from the bishops. The ship is sinking and all they are doing is setting up committees to discuss how to rearrange the deckchairs.

Patricia Harries
Patricia Harries
Reply to  Sam Jones
8 months ago

It is meaningless. I wonder why they are not accountable for allowing the ship to sink, to use your analogy. Bishops criticised Dominic Cummings for breaking lockdown. Bishops criticised the government’s intention to break international law. But when bishops exceed their authority, there are no consequences. They have no authority to order churches to be closed, when the government has allowed churches to remain open. They have no authority to tell clergy that they can have a Sunday off and not provide cover. When they are criticised, sometimes severely so, for safeguarding failures, there are no personal consequences, just the… Read more »

Dave
Dave
Reply to  Patricia Harries
7 months ago

Well said, Patrricia, very well said. We could, of course, say lots more. Bishops have far exceeded their authority in several areas, without consequence. They have singularly failed in their pastoral care of clergy and their families. They have presided over the misuse of the money given to them by parishes by creating bloated hierarchies and advisers… who generate more and more zoom meetings and bland statements. The parishes and parish clergy are so often working so hard in a time of national pandemic – despite the heirachy of Archdeacons, Bishops and advisers. Who will call this to account –… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  Sam Jones
8 months ago

I was going to liken it to handing out more sheet music to the band on the Titanic. The briny is lapping around the legs of the deckchairs and as Patricia Harries points out the bishops have scuttled the ship. More bishops and archdeacons on the bridge than ever before and no one with a sense of direction to steer the ship effectively. No sense of responsibility or of being accountable but lots of time to micro manage and moan about the deck hands.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
8 months ago

Maybe I just got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning but this report seems to be of something happening in another universe. It’s real life, and real C of E, with Covid in the parishes where we get on with it as best we can, and make difficult decisions with little guidance or advice, pray that we won’t be infected by the infected family member who decides to attend a funeral, and try to care for everyone – that’s everyone whether or not they ever darken our church doors – in the communities whose cure we… Read more »

Helen King
Helen King
8 months ago

“The House was then informed on progress towards independent oversight for Safeguarding” – so, was there any?

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
Reply to  Helen King
8 months ago

Indeed – another obvious question begged! These bland ‘passive voice’ press releases tell us no more than would a copy of the meeting’s agenda.

Father Ron Smith
8 months ago

Concerning the use of the ‘Common Cup’, versus the proliferation of using the Non-Conformist individual cups (proposed by Ian Paul); the question might be asked: “Is partaking of the Host a sufficient participation in the Sacrament of Holy Communion to ensure the full participation of the Believer in the ‘Real Presence of Christ’?” In Aotearoa/New Zealand, where it is now possible to partake of ‘Both Kinds’ (Deo gratias) in the act of Holy Communion; we were – in the earlier part of our partial Lockdown situation – limited by our bishops to the process of receiving the Sacrament in ‘one… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
8 months ago

This presumes, of course, that the ‘Common Cup’ is theologically more consistent with the idea of the unity ‘en Christo’ demonstrated by Jesus at the Last Supper.’

Ron, I assume that you are therefore against the use of individual communion wafers rather than the ‘one bread’ mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians?

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

A simple answer, Tim: NO!. the ‘One Bread’ dispensation has been recognised in the individual wafer by long Tradition; while the ‘One Cup’ – in the Catholic and Orthodox Traditions – has never been extended to individual cups for each communicant. (as a Freeman of your hometown City of Coventry, I have partaken of the ‘Loving Cup’ a like ceremony of solidarity with other Freemen of the city!.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
7 months ago

Ron: a. My home city is Leicester, not Coventry. b. I can’t honestly see the logic of citing the ‘unity in Christ’ argument against individual cups, but not individual wafers. If it’s not an argument against the one, why is it an argument against the other? Here’s my prediction: when we are able to come together again for Holy Communion and the powers that be allow us to restore the common cup, a large percentage of my congregation will refuse it. They will be too spooked by what they see as the continuing dangers. We used to tell them we… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
7 months ago

But this is to allow convenience, or lack of imagination or even tight-fistedness to overrule sound ecclesiology. Individual breads ruin the symbolism of the one bread standing for the gathering of the Church into the Kingdom.
These times of Covid are not the right time to be making the change, but large breads (concelebration hosts) which can be broken into many pieces can be bought from communities of women Religious and church suppliers.

Dave
Dave
7 months ago

The House affirmed it would be premature to make decisions on the eucharist in a digital medium and the administration and reception of Holy Communion, particularly in a time of national pandemic and resolved to undertake further theological and liturgical study and discussion on these issues over the coming months.”
Errr.. it is precisely because we are in a ‘time of national pandemic’ that even interim action is being called for.
In a time of national pandemic please could the House of Bishops give creative guidance on engagement in the Eucharist through digital media?

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
7 months ago

I’m happy to own up that I moved the motion to defer. I’ll explain why. (1) There is no agreement among us in the House (or in the Church at large) about the meaning of various options for virtual communion (a range of options from prior distribution of pre-consecrated, through “virtual” consecration over the ether, to distribution of the antidoron [cf Orthodox practice] to Methodist love feasts, have all been canvassed). It would not be appropriate (in my view – or in the view of many members of the House, apparently, who agreed with me) to make what would amount… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
7 months ago

Pete, are you allowing intinction in the C of E, then? Here in Canada, in all dioceses I’m aware of, it’s strictly communion in one kind – if the churches are even open for on site services (which they are not in the entire province of Alberta, where I live).

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
7 months ago

being present and receiving is still strongly advocated by those with a range of eucharistic theologies

… not to mention those members of congregations who have been locked out from being present at holy communion and receiving the sacraments at various times over the last year. They were asking for bread and were given a stone: the stone walls of a locked church.

we don’t do doctrinal and liturgical change in haste, even in a pandemic

That seems to some of us exactly what did happen when churches were closed last Easter.

Revd Dr Thomas Renz
Revd Dr Thomas Renz
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
7 months ago

Is withholding the cup from the laity for months without end not a liturgical change? Is allowing clergy to celebrate private masses in their homes not a liturgical change? Yes, these are changes which can appeal to precedent in our history, but this does not make them uncontroversial, given the reasons why these practices had been abandoned in the Church of England.

And is it possible to know more about any response to the legal opinion by Stephen Hofmyer QC et al. which claims that there is no need for enacting legislation to permit the use of individual cups?

Ian Paul
Reply to  Pete Broadbent
7 months ago

Pete ‘we don’t do doctrinal and liturgical change in haste’. If you don’t think hasty change is being made on the ground all the time, then you are missing something. Many clergy I have spoken to are either doing ‘virtual consecration’ or ‘love feasts’ or encouraging their virtual congregations to ‘gaze upon’ their own acts of consecration. People are acting to fill the massive lacuna left by the HoB’s lack of action. Individual cups are not illegal; withholding the cup from congregation is clearly against reformed concerns that has shaped C of E practice. And all the while the HoB… Read more »

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