Thinking Anglicans

LLF: Statement from the Bishop of Newcastle

Updated 4 pm Thursday

Living in Love and Faith: A Statement from Bishop Helen-Ann
First published on: 1st February 2024

My first commitment, and priority, is to continue to respond to God’s calling to be Bishop of Newcastle, and I rejoice in this calling. It has become clear to me in the last 48 hours that there are serious concerns relating to the recent process of appointing an Interim Theological Advisor to the House of Bishops. This was, and is not, an LLF appointment, and neither Bishop Martyn nor myself were involved in it. Whilst the remit of the theological advisor is broader than any matters relating to LLF, there is no doubt that LLF remains front and centre in the life of our Church at this time. What has transpired in the last 48 hours has had a critically negative impact on the work Bishop Martyn and I were seeking, in good faith, to do. My role as co-lead bishop for the LLF process is now undermining my capacity to fulfil my primary calling, to lead and care for the people and places of the Diocese of Newcastle.

I am fully committed to the vocation and life of the Church of England, its place in our diverse communities across this land, and in the wider Anglican Communion. Mindful of different views within my own diocese, I am also fully committed to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people. I do not believe these are mutually exclusive, and I am not naïve in saying this. As I approach the 10th anniversary of my consecration as a bishop, my decision to step down from my LLF role is not one I have taken lightly, but is one built on all I have learnt about being a bishop, both here and in Aotearoa New Zealand. I will continue to be involved in the LLF process as a diocesan bishop, and will endeavour to prayerfully and actively work towards fulfilling the commitments expressed above, and those already agreed to in General Synod.

+Helen-Ann Newcastle,

February 1st 2024.

Update

The Church Times has this: Bishop of Newcastle stands down from LLF over ‘serious concerns’ about interim adviser

This report is comprehensive, and I urge you to read it in full. But here are two excerpts:

…Earlier in the week, the Vicar of All Saints’, New Longton, the Revd Dr Thomas Woolford, a tutor at Emmanuel Theological College, was announced as the interim secretary to the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) and adviser to the House of Bishops, before a permanent post-holder takes up the position in September.

After his appointment, an article by Dr Woolford, published in 2019 on the website of Church Society, a conservative Evangelical organisation in the C of E, began to be circulated on social media.

In the article, Mr Woolford wrote: “I think it would be disastrous and desperately wicked if the Church were to prepare blessings for things we must not bless, alter the canons to accommodate worldly thinking, give up the standard of chastity for ordained office-holders, or sanction false teaching.”

Speaking shortly after Dr Hartley’s announcement, Dr Woolford distanced himself from the tone of the article. “I’m still a conservative on blessings and on sexuality; so that part hasn’t changed,” he said. “But I’d put a lot of things differently in light of the journey that we’ve been on in Synod and in the wider Church.”

And the report later continues:

…On Thursday afternoon, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, who chairs the FAOC, said that Dr Woolford’s was an “advisory role, not an executive role”.

“He is an adviser among other advisers, and advisers come from an appropriately diverse array of positions,” he told the Church Times, and emphasised that it was a six-month interim appointment.

“It’s testament to the very febrile nature of the Church at the moment that the appointment of a temporary adviser attracts so much interest and controversy, and I do regret that.”

He described Dr Woolford as a “a very able theologian indeed”, who understood that he had to “behave in a neutral way”.

The article by Dr Woolford can be found here.

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Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

There’s obviously some back-story here that I don’t know, but the appointment of an Interim Theological Advisor appears to have caused this fall-out. I’m left wondering if the C of E is now so divided that no-one can be appointed to anything without someone else being offended. Whither good disagreement?

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
4 months ago

Until recently I imagined that you had to know quite a bit about theology to even be considered to be a senior bishop. But under the current leadership being head of the Post Office is enough to get you on the shortlist.
If the Church of England reverted to the idea of that theological knowledge and long pastoral experience were requirements to be a bishop then a theological adviser wouldn’t be necessary?
Less on job training, more in depth knowledge and relevant experience to get the job ?

rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  David Hawkins
4 months ago

I think it might take a while to find that golden age to ‘revert’ to – Benson (admittedly at least previously ordained) went to Truro then Canterbury from being a headmaster.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  rural liberal
4 months ago

There was an admittedly fairly short period of time in the twentieth century when Bishops could be assumed to have a sound theological knowledge base gained from their studies. It sat between a far lengthier period in which some were learned theologians, but societal connections and breeding played a far more influential part in preferment, and one in which ability in ecclesiastical networking conspired with fundamental changes in selection and training gradually skewed the profile away from theological understanding, overseen by the guiding hand of Ms Boddington. Then the period we are still in arrived, where theological ability consciously fell… Read more »

Martin Sewell
Martin Sewell
Reply to  rural liberal
4 months ago

His family had a “ colourful” life that would have frightened the horses if someone hadn’t already left the stable door open.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  rural liberal
4 months ago

Geoffrey Fisher likewise, from Repton, where his pupils included Michael Ramsey, to Bishop of Chester. Ramsey’s parental home was in Cambridge. Over 50 years ago when I was doing sixth-form mathematics, the recommended text was by Quadling and Ramsey. That Ramsey was Michael’s father. Michael’s sister-in-law Lettice Ramsey was a partner in the Cambridge photography business Ramsey and Muspratt.

I have seen photos of Fisher’s brother Leonard, who was Bishop of Natal. The resemblance is very clear.

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Clifford Jones
4 months ago

Re the Bensons: https://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/title/godliness-and-good-learning-four-studies-on-a-victorian-ideal/author/newsome-david/
and https://www.abebooks.co.uk/9780719536908/Edge-Paradise-A.C.Benson-Diarist-Newsome-0719536901/plp
(Newsome was fellow of Emmanuel, head master of Christ’s Hospital and a successor of E. W. Benson as master of Wellington).

Re the Ramseys, there is, in addition to the Chadwick biography, detail in this: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/frank-ramsey-9780198755357 (also available in PB; other detail about Frank’s remarkable output is here: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/ramseys-legacy-9780199279555?cc=us&lang=en&). Michael apparently used to say that he was the dunce of the family.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Froghole
4 months ago

It was my privilege to meet (though certainly quite briefly) Frank Ramsey’s daughter in Leeds in the 1970s. She was by then Dr Elizabeth Burch, a part-time lecturer in biochemistry. When she retired from the university she devoted her time to Citizens Advice in Leeds.

pam Walker
pam Walker
Reply to  David Hawkins
4 months ago

The case of Paula Vennells has been nagging at me, firstly the idea of her being considered for a bishopric but more importantly when the church has spoken about Horizon and the PO, it is to defend MS Vennells, I have heard pecious little genuine public sympathy from the church leadership for the plight of the subpostmasters, their families and communities. Of course had the Church made loud public statements, acknowledging their part in promoting this person it would open itself to criticism, and we couldn’t have that. Nor could the PO. Similarly the mess that is safegurding has left… Read more »

James Allport
James Allport
4 months ago

Do we know who is the Interim Theological Advisor?

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago
Last edited 4 months ago by Simon Kershaw
David Smith
David Smith
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

So the theological advice to the HoB will be entirely free of even the slightest misogynistic or homophobic bias? Really?
Our church depends on a shared credo. When will the HoB realise that credibility in their decision making matters. Clearly not yet.!

Paul
Paul
Reply to  David Smith
4 months ago

The shared Credo of the Church includes Canon B30 which some call homophobic – but the Synod and Bishops have repeatedly emphasised that they are not changing this. Dr Woolford appears to wholeheartedly affirm the shared credo of the church. B 30  Of Holy Matrimony1. The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

‘the intractably physical nature of gathered and sacramental Christian worship.’ Hm. The communion of saints is not intractably physical.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

kyrie eleison

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

When I saw this, I wondered if Dr Woolford had done any theological studies other than at Oak Hill, but then I saw in his Synod manifesto, posted by Simon Kershaw, that he appears to have obtained his doctorate at Cambridge. But this is still a most unsuitable appointment in the present circumstances.

Cantab
Cantab
4 months ago

Trouble at mill…

Simon Kershaw
Admin
4 months ago

The CofE website prefaces her statement with the comment that “[t]he Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, remains in post and is in discussions with the archbishops about the future shape of the leadership team.” https://www.churchofengland.org/media/press-releases/living-love-and-faith-statement-bishop-helen-ann-hartley

David G
David G
4 months ago

Revd. Tom Woolford, who is a lecturer at Emmanuel College in the NW, and represents of Blackburn Diocese at General Synod: https://www.blackburn.anglican.org/storage/general-files/shares/News%20and%20events/2021%20-%20General%20Synod/C%20Woolford.pdf Tom is a supporter of both the Church Society (Conservative Evangelical) and The Society (Anglo-Catholic). Both groups oppose women priests and bishops, and are anti-LGBTQ+. It is hard to fathom how a person with such views could be a wise choice. In any case, it is unclear how such a decision was reached. Obviously not by consultation.

Peter
Peter
4 months ago

On any reasonable reckoning, the Bishop of Newcastle has over reacted.

This is a time that needs the people in charge to navigate the crisis – not further precipitate it.

Last edited 4 months ago by Peter
pam Walker
pam Walker
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

knowing the Bishop of Newcastle I doubt she over reacted, but I would like to understand more of what is happening

Alastair (living in Scotland)
Alastair (living in Scotland)
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

My personal view is that +Helen-Ann is one of the great theological minded communicators on the Bench and, given her NZ and E experience, will not have ‘over reacted’. The process for the appointment of the interim adviser is alleged to have been “sound and competitive”. However the profile, any required consultation and required discernment on part of appointing people was tragically lacking. May they repent and confess.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Alastair (living in Scotland)
4 months ago

A determination as to the proportionality of her actions can only be based on the facts of the particular matter. Her experience elsewhere is an entirely different issue.

Revd Woolford will, no doubt, want to make a contribution in his role. However people surely need to get a grip.

An interim theological advisor is not going to alter the direction of the Church of England.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

The issue seems to be at least partly that there was no consultation about this appointment. That is a fact, and I don’t think it’s disproportionate of her to resign. Though I do think that perhaps it ought to have been Dr Woolford who resigned, when he realised his appointment had not been carried out according to accepted procedures.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

On the contrary, Dr Hartley has once again shown her mettle, as in her firm treatment of ++Sentamu after his refusal to apologise for his safeguarding failures. She loyally accepted the unwanted ‘poisoned chalice’ of being a lead bishop on LLF but this unwise and insensitive appointment was too much for her, and shows that her seniors have completely lost the plot.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
4 months ago

“Too much for her”.

In the real world people put up with plenty that they do not like and just get on with their jobs.

I am not buying the idea it was all too much to cope with.

If she did not like the advice this chap offered all she had to do was say so as often as she needed to. Diocesan bishops are not short of chances to say what’s on their mind.

Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

Sounds as though she is getting on with her job–being Bishop of Newcastle. And she made that point rather strongly. See the first sentence of her statement, posted above.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
4 months ago

I have rarely found the judgement within the House of Bishops in the making of these kind of appointments to be sound. To be fair, there would not have been a galaxy of candidates, and this is only an interim one, but it is highly sensitive. To have failed to ascertain how it might land was negligent. Added to which, Bishop Helen-Ann is I think the only member of the House of Bishops to have first hand experience of an Anglican province navigating the same-sex marriage debate.

Last edited 4 months ago by Anthony Archer
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Anthony Archer
4 months ago

“To have failed to ascertain how it might land was negligent.” Would you have said the same if somone committed to the revisionist position were appointed as Interim Theological Advisor?

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

Personally I think there is a substantial difference between accomodating a plurality of views and accepting views which are exclusionary. (I don’t know what the appointee’s views are so this is a comment on the general case, not the specific one.)

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

That rather begs the questions on which we are supposed to be learning to disagree well.

Philip Groves
Philip Groves
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

I certainly would. When I was appointed at Facilitator for the Listening Process membership of any group lobbying on LGBTI+ inclusion or otherwise was expressly asked not to apply. I understand the complexities of employment law, but I don’t think it is appropriate to have civil servants in government who are members of a political party. it is wrong to exclude someone who has strong views, but they can’t be a member of a party. The same here. This is a church civil servant. They will have views, but they can’t be a member of a campaigning group.

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Philip Groves
4 months ago

Hear hear. I would suggest that having a single individual providing such advice at this time is probably a poor decision in any case.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

Yes, if it had evoked a similar response from the conservative stable. It makes no sense to appoint an advisor whose views (and therefore whose theological views) are most likely to be, or seen to be, at one end of a spectrum. Their ability to advise on an even-handed basis must be called into question. This is about optics and nuance. For the price already to be the resignation of the Bishop of Newcastle clearly demonstrates a failed process. And why is it that the House of Bishops even needs a theological advisor? Isn’t the place stuffed with them?

Dr Stephen Foster
Dr Stephen Foster
4 months ago

It says on the FAO website that the post of Interim Theological Advisor was filled after an open and competitive process.
According to the Bishop of Newcastle, it is the process she is aggrieved at.

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

‘an open and competitive process’ – where was the post advertised? How were applications considered and by whom?

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

She is absolutely right to be so. Normally, when making an Interim appointment, they tend to be of two kinds – either with a brief to do a particular piece of work that is better undertaken by one who will then move on rather than live with the consequences (for example an interim priest going somewhere to knock a few heads together in a toxic parish before a new Incumbent comes), or to do the same job as the permanent appointee for a shorter period, as seems to be the case here. In the former, there would be a job… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

On what basis do you assume that someone who holds a traditional view on certain matters would not be able to command the confidence of a diverse range of people? There seems to be a real prejudice at work here which would cause an outcry if it were a conservative bishop refusing to work with a revisionist advisor.

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

Surely the evidence that Dr Woolford cannot command the confidence of a diverse range of people is that upon his appointment one bishop has resigned from leading an important initiative in the church and another has only agreed to stay on if a public list of demands has been met that include appointing a counterpart (counter-balance) to the man. I suppose it is easier for some to dismiss it as prejudice and think no more of it. I’d rather understand the context of this and why this has happened.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

On the outcry, and the resignation of one of the lead Bishops.

Last edited 4 months ago by Realist
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

With respect, that’s a rather circular logic. How can the resignation of the Bishop of Newcastle be cited as evidence to justify the resignation of the Bishop of Newcastle?

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

The real key issue at play here is the apparent lack of any process for making this appointment. It might well have been that had one been followed, any misgivings on both sides could have been aired, discussed and it might have been that Dr Woolford could have commanded that confidence. I don’t know him, as I’ve pointed out, so I can’t say. But he seems to have been parachuted in with no warning, and given how delicate the current position is, to do that with anybody in a role like this is a huge risk. As it stands, such… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

If the key issue here is the process by which Dr Woolford was appointed then that raises another question. No bishop put their head above the parapet to protest at the lack of due process in appointing an interim chair of the ISB. Why does this appointment merit such a response from a bishop? And what does that say about episcopal priorities?

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
4 months ago

In my view, they should have done.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

“An interim priest going somewhere to knock a few heads together in a toxic parish before a new Incumbent comes”. Seriously ?

Clergy who think this way should resign their orders.

The local congregation are the people of God; not a dysfunctional department in need of a robust management intervention.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

I think there are quite a number of clergy who, even though pastorally hearted, would beg to differ. I’m thinking of those whose lives, ministries and health have been ruined by toxic people in toxic parishes. I could, if I wouldn’t be breaking confidentiality by doing so, give you some heartbreaking examples. But perhaps your heart may not be broken, I don’t know you, so I wouldn’t presume to say. So by all means disagree with me, but please do not presume to tell me I should resign my orders. God’s people are indeed bought with the precious blood of… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

You have mis understood me. Obviously mis-treatment of clergy by the laity happens and is reprehensible.

The point is that the church does not belong to the clergy.

Sending in people to “sort out” a parish ready for the next incumbent obviously reflects a clergy-centric view of the parish.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

How would you handle making an appointment to a difficult parish which had a track record of inflicting genuine harm on clergy and laity?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

That’s a fair question, Janet. I would not agree with the idea of a “difficult” parish, though I realise you are using that as shorthand. I take your point to be that there will be plenty of church wardens and pcc members across the 12,000 parishes in England who have the capacity to make a bad situation worse, rather than better. The simple answer is that the only defensible way to deal with that situation is to win the trust and confidence of the congregation(s) in question and move them to elect a better set of lay leaders. It may… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

Who, in that case, is to undertake the laborious and painful work of winning the trust and confidence of the congregation, in cases where several good and caring clergy have already been forced out? How are the congregation to elect a ‘better’ set of lay leaders, if no one dares to stand against those in situ, or if there are no other eligible candidates?

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Please can you say what you think should happen in such situations.

They obviously involve choosing between a small number of options all of which are really bad.

My point is clergy have no right to turn up in order to “sort out” laity who are viewed as difficult. There is just no such authority vested in clergy.

Last edited 4 months ago by Peter
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

I think that in cases where parishioners have bullied successive priests, driving them to a breakdown or driving them out, it can indeed be a good solution to put in an experienced priest for a short term of 2 or 3 years. That priest will need to be tough, and to have back-up support from the diocese and deanery clergy. Then they may be able to tackle some of the most thorny issues and challenge the most difficult people to amend their behaviour or step down from their roles. Obviously this should only be necessary in extreme cases – but,… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

I’m not unsympathetic to the general point you are advancing, Janet.

Congregations can be “captured” by unsuitable leaders who may be ordained or members of the laity – or both, in collusion.

I remain convinced that the answer is to work for the good of the Gospel in that situation by the means that are always relevant rather than to go in to do a specific job of sorting out the troublemakers.

I do not think we are necessarily in disagreement. We are just putting the emphasis in different places.

Last edited 4 months ago by Peter
David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Janet, the latest issue of the Church Times (2 February 2024) has an advert on page 42 for ‘Interim Change Ministers‘ in the Diocese of Durham. The number sought, and the parishes where they would serve, is not given, but the advert says that “the posts are funded for a minimum of 7 years” and that “They would work as agents of change in parishes, equipping and enabling PCCs and congregations to deal with barriers to growth and change.” The advert goes on: “This will include enabling the parishes to: come to terms with the past, lose old fears, find… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  David Lamming
4 months ago

Presumably they are employed by the DBF and therefore do not get a stipend for parish work. So they are technically self-supporting.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Excellent questions, Janet. I suspect like you, I am well aware of parishes where difficult people have become so entrenched (and so far away from God in their spiritual lives) that they have lost sight of the concept of service, and have no interest in trusting anyone other than their own little cabal, as to trust means to sacrifice power, and that’s the one thing they won’t do. One quite frequently found page in the toxicity playbook is the behaviour eventually gets disguised – when the light from above is shone on the parish (not a messenger from the Lord… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

I entirely accept the general the shape of your analysis.

I was affronted by your initial shorthand version, and took it to be the work of a secular manager “holding forth” on the subject.

That is clearly not who you are. Your extended commentary on what is a painful issue speaks of wisdom and experience. I wish you well.

Last edited 4 months ago by Peter
Realist
Realist
Reply to  Peter
4 months ago

And I you. Thank you both for engaging, and for this gracious response, Peter.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Realist
4 months ago

There are always good people, but they are not always in a position where they can change things. Sometimes they are themselves targets of bullying behaviour, and need to be protected.

I found this video by Clive Billenness helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpJCgb5EY2s

NJW
NJW
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Surely, it is for the parish priest to seek to bring about change. It is clearly articulated (in the ordinal) that priests are ‘to teach and to admonish….’ and ‘…call their hearers to repentance and to declare in Christ’s name the absolution and forgiveness of their sins’. In those cases where there is systemic abuse of power by lay officers within a parish, every priests declaration at ordination that they will ‘minister the discipline of this Church’ is a clear expression of that responsibility they hold. It is equally clear (and similarly expressed in the ordinal) that a bishop has… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  NJW
4 months ago

Agreed – though that priest will need meaningful support from the diocesan hierarchy.

David Keen
David Keen
Reply to  Dr Stephen Foster
4 months ago

would the Bishop have quit if the appointment had been someone of the same theological stance as herself?

David Runcorn
Reply to  David Keen
4 months ago

Why this question at all? She has made it quite clear why she quit. It is not because this she personally disagrees with someone. At a stroke this extraordinary appointment has made her role in holding together diverse factions and leading all this forward completely impossible.

Paul
Paul
4 months ago

Dr Woolford is one of the most moderate voices in the conservative camp. He is very, very keen to find a way to stay in the Church of England – conservatives worry he is willing to give far too much away to stay in the Church of England and find accommodation with progressives. He successfully brought a Private Member’s Motion to trial dropping statutory fees for wedding (in the face of a lot of organised opposition) General Synod backs regional wedding fees trial following debate | The Church of England He managed it by working with people holding a broad… Read more »

David Runcorn
Reply to  Paul
4 months ago

A moderate voice? Have you read the piece that is causing the trouble? You call that moderate? It is a rant. He is utterly opposed to what bishops and synod have agreed re prayers and blessings. (I am told, but cannot confirm, he is opposed to the ordination of women and a member of The Society too). He believes the church is being led by wolves – the very ‘wolves’ who are expected to now receive his theological advice. The thought he is ‘the moderate end of conservatives’ is actually rather scary.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

I fear few have read the rant, including the Bishop in Europe. He (Dr Woolford) is completely unfit for the office to which he has been appointed.

Jane Charman
Jane Charman
Reply to  Anthony Archer
4 months ago

Anthony, I have read Tom Woolford’s article and I disagree with you and David Runcorn when you call it ‘ a rant’. I think that’s unfair. The article states what conservative evangelicals believe about same sex relationships. It’s what I thought we all knew they thought. As such I’m neither surprised nor shocked by it. It goes without saying that those who believe same sex relationships are sacred will think that Tom is profoundly wrong and some may feel personally insulted and offended by his position. But it’s really important to distinguish between an article we strongly disagree with and… Read more »

Paul
Paul
Reply to  David Runcorn
4 months ago

Hi David, I can confirm that I have read the piece and it is much more moderate than much of what is said in conservative circles. He wants to stay in the Church of England at any cost. I know he has recently given lectures at Walsingham: When-did-Mary-become-so-contrary.pdf (walsinghamanglican.org.uk), but if you read the paper he doesn’t like a member of The Society. Being opposed to the ordination of women is hardly an extreme position – it’s a position the CofE has committed to respecting (as is opposing same-sex marriage). Regarding the language of wolves, Jesus tells his hearers to… Read more »

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Paul
4 months ago

Correction, not “if you read the paper he doesn’t like a member of The Society” rather “if you read the paper he doesn’t *sound* like a member of The Society.” It is possible that there is also a member of The Society he doesn’t like, but that’s not obvious from his paper and not the point I wanted to make. He also appears to be a member of the “Young Priest Theologians Network” which is convened by John Inge; so there are bishops who are supportive of same-sex marriage and who do feel able to work with Dr Woolford. Someone… Read more »

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

I was also wrong about him not being a member of The Society. He is, see here: The Revd Dr Thomas Alan Woolford (emmanueltheologicalcollege.org.uk)

His PhD was on “Natural theology and natural philosophy in the late Renaissance” and is available to download here: (PDF) Natural theology and natural philosophy in the late Renaissance | Tom Woolford – Academia.edu
It is a PhD in history, but is about theology. I don’t know who his supervisor was, but I guess it was done in the history department.

Peter Owen
Admin
Reply to  Paul
4 months ago

According to the acknowledgements page of his thesis, Dr Woolford’s supervisor was Dr Richard Serjeantson, a lecturer in the Faculty of History at Cambridge.

Lorenzo
Lorenzo
Reply to  Paul
4 months ago

Perhaps you could give us examples of people more conservative or extreme than Dr Woolford, if he’s at the moderate end?

Mike Nash
Mike Nash
Reply to  Paul
4 months ago

Paul, thank yo for the link to the lecture on post-Reformation Marianism. I’ve been seeking an introduction to understand better the marks in our small, local and rural churches.

Simon Kershaw
Admin
4 months ago

The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, has just issued this statement. https://www.leicester.anglican.org/statement-from-bishop-martyn-on-his-role-as-co-lead-bishop-for-llf.php “I have indicated to the Archbishops that I am willing to continue in the role of Co-Lead Bishop with several provisos.”

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

“I recognise that confidence and trust in the Living in Love and Faith process is low,” writes Bishop Martyn. Well, that’s one way of putting it. I see people on social media, from a variety of perspectives, now describing this whole process in terms that could not be repeated in polite company. ‘Good disagreement’ RIP.

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

Looking at this from a position safely outside Synod but with a long perspective of working with troubled families what I am beginning to pick up is a systemic addiction to chaos to maintain an unsatisfactory status quo and avoid making any changes which have previously been committed to- this is on an industrial scale of course, not a small interpersonal one. But the XXs have no intention of bringing forward Living in Love and Faith (unless you do it as a straight couple). So delay is the name of the game – they will call it reflection. Bring on… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susanna ( no ‘h’)
4 months ago

Susanna, with respect, I would disagree with your assertion that both sides are equal in their assertion that they alone have the truth. It is behaviour not belief that is the issue here

Both sides obviously and naturally believe that their own interpretation of scriptures is more correct. But when it comes to behaviour, the pro LGBTQ side, in general, is willing to compromise and allow freedom of conscience to those who disagree with them. Only one side, the conservative side, are demanding a veto, and insisting that their view is the only one that can be allowed.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Surely this asymmetry is hugely important. It’s often presented simply as two different sides with opposing opinions. But in fact only one of those sides is willing to allow the other the freedom to follow their conscience. The two sides are clearly not going to agree. Given this, to allow freedom of conscience really is the ONLY way for one side not to impose its will on the other. The conservatives are effectively saying that they have 0% doubt that they are right and that progressives are wrong and cannot be allowed to do what they believe to be right.… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Nigel Jones
4 months ago

I think the interesting question is where the new theological advisor stands on this freedom of conscience question.

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

Hello Simon, I am replying to this having read all the other posts on this thread all the way from the top the bottom. I was trying, probably not very well, to look at the process of what seems to maintain the Church of England perpetually going round in ever decreasing circles, and I was very deliberately not commenting on the relative merits of either side of the argument and particularly not about behaviour- though this is a sure way to upset both sides I realise! Given that one has to assume that the people involved are highly educated and… Read more »

Marian Birch
Marian Birch
4 months ago

One issue that does not seem to have been raised is as follows. Normally in formal applications for such posts as a ‘Theological Adviser’ (which I have been myself in the past – though not to the C of E House of Bishops) candidates are asked to list their publications. In this particular case it would or should have included Dr Woolford’s 2019 article. Even if he has modified his views since then that article should have acted as a ‘red flag’. Bishop Robert Innes seems not to be aware of this article. Either Dr Woolford did not list the… Read more »

Marian Birch
Marian Birch
Reply to  Marian Birch
4 months ago

I might add to the above comment that if a list of publications was NOT required from candidates for the position of ‘Theological Adviser’ then actually it calls into question the competency of those, including the Secretary-General, who devised the process and indeed whether the process was ‘fit for purpose’

David G
David G
4 months ago

On the basis of the Church Society 2019 article by Woolford, I cannot fathom what planet Dr Innes is on when he describes the author as “a very able theologian indeed”. The 2019 article would rank as a pretty partisan sermon at best, and so poor in exegetical reading as to be embarrassing. If this is the best that we can do as the CofE, and the head of the Faith and Order Advisory Group thinks this kind of material is good, then it’s game over. In other breaking news, I see the Archbishop of Canterbury has launched an initiative… Read more »

David Hawkins
David Hawkins
Reply to  David G
4 months ago

I think Welby’s mistake is rather to imagine that you should run the Church of England like the Post Office. Here is an alternative based on Christian love. “A few us began to meet: four clergy who were opposed to the ordination of women and four newly ordained women priests. Our early meetings, as you might imagine, were profoundly uncomfortable, tense and difficult. But we committed to meeting three or four times a year to share lunch, to pray together and to discuss. Our purpose was not to try and change one another’s minds, but to learn what it means… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  David G
4 months ago

In answer to your probably rhetorical question, David, it is the planet ConEvo, I fear. As it happens, I was in Brussels in 2012, the weekend after the announcement of Welby’s appointment as ABC. We went to the chaplaincy/ pro-cathedral on the Sunday only to find that the advertised Eucharist had been replaced by a service of the word for no apparent reason. Dr Innes, then the senior chaplain there, was beside himself with joy at Welby’s appointment. He said that he was great friends with Justin and his wife, and thought that it was a marvellous appointment which would… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
4 months ago

Is there any evidence, or reason to imagine, that bishops take any notice of theological advisers? If not, why have one? What does one actually do?

Helen King
Helen King
4 months ago

On Dr Woolford, Dr Innes’s “He is an adviser among other advisers” really doesn’t convince. There is only one ‘theological advisor to the HoB’ at any one time.

Simon Kershaw
Admin
4 months ago

What does this statement from the two archbishops add? Apart from an anodyne “thank you”. https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/news/news-and-statements/statement-archbishop-canterbury-and-archbishop-york

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

I would have liked them to recognise their responsibility for the mess but clearly my hopes were dashed.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
4 months ago

I am curious to know upon whom their graces believe there to have been “unjust and inappropriate personal attacks”.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
4 months ago

This is all very sad, and predictable? The CofE’s recruitment procedures are at best somewhat opaque and all too open to ‘abuse’- ‘people like us’, unconscious (and conscious) bias, etc. How were Bishops Hartley and Snow identified/ selected/ encouraged/ facilitated for their role, however well-intentioned. The CofE,’in its wisdom’ created General Synod and its associated systems. It has many similarities with the UK parliamentary system. Sir Harmar Nicholls was elected in 1966 to serve Petrborough by a majority of three votes. The narrowness of the vote is inconsequential. ‘The people’ voted for Brexit; they voted against independence for Scotland. Trump… Read more »

Flora Alexander
Flora Alexander
4 months ago

I’m sure this must have been said before, so I apologise for lateness. Maybe it’s because I was originally in the Church of Scotland, but I don’t really understand why the House of Bishops needs a theological adviser. Especially I can’t see the use of an adviser with the views expressed in this paper.

Jane Charman
Jane Charman
4 months ago

Maybe those of you who sit closer to the synodical life of the Church of England than I now do can help me understand this because at the moment it’s puzzling me mightily. What are the ‘serious concerns relating to the recent process of appointing an Interim Theological Advisor to the House of Bishops’ that +Helen-Ann refers to in her statement? Tom Woolford’s 2019 article, although I disagree with most of it, is hardly scurrilous. It’s not vituperative, or threatening, or targeted at individuals, it simply states what I thought we all by now understood to be the position of… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Jane Charman
4 months ago

I think +Newcastle and +Leicester were working well together. My surmise is simply that had they been on the appointment panel Dr Woolford (or indeed any candidate like him) would not have been appointed to this interim role.

Graham Watts
Graham Watts
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

Click boom!!

Marian Birch
Marian Birch
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

If that was the ad it is extraordinary if, the Bp of Newcastle seems to suggest, she and the Bp of Leicester were not involved in the appointment process. On those grounds alone – apart from any question of difference in views with the post-holder – she is entitled to be very very annoyed.

Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Marian Birch
4 months ago

Entirely agree. And she is well within her rights to make the point to the CofE superstructure in a very public way.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

The fact that neither +Newcastle and +Leicester were involved with the appointment (had I advised, both would have been on the Panel) proves a wholly deficient (and amateur) process. The job description proves this. The worry is, who was pulling the strings on this appointment? The Archbishops? The Bishop in Europe? The Secretary-General? The damage is now done. At a push, if the appointment is rescinded, might Bishop Helen-Ann be persuaded to reconsider?

Jane Charman
Jane Charman
Reply to  Anthony Archer
4 months ago

If the appointment is rescinded? Do you really think that would improve matters, Anthony? Tom Woolford has already been publicly humiliated over this. +Newcastle has made it clear that she regards him as beyond the pale, ‘unshakehandable’, impossible to respect or work with. Clearly some people are delighted by this. It’s exactly the message they want to send to those they disagree with. To me it looks like the exact opposite of the kind of ‘bridge building’ and ‘reconciliation’ that the LLF bishops were saying only a week ago that they wanted to model. If Tom Woolford now chooses to… Read more »

Jane Charman
Jane Charman
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

It would be really helpful to have some clarification from +Newcastle on that very point. Her statement cites ‘serious concerns relating to the recent process’ but she doesn’t say what they are. Did the LLF bishops not know this post was being advertised? Did they know, but were refused input into the decision? Or did they have input into the decision but didn’t like the outcome? Any of those would be disgruntling but it’s the kind of thing you’d usually try and sort out behind the scenes. Derailing a key piece of work in a very public way at such… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
Reply to  Jane Charman
4 months ago

All good questions, Jane. Hopefully, one (or more) General Synod members will table these questions, and other questions related to the process by which Tom Woolford was appointed, for answer at GS later this month. An undated statement “Interim Theology Adviser appointed” on the Faith and Order Commission page of the C of E website, includes this paragraph: “It is not expected that the permanent post-holder will be able to take up this role until September so the Chair of FAOC, Bishop Robert Innes, is pleased to appoint the Rev Dr Tom Woolford as Interim Theology Adviser, following an open… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
4 months ago

Precisely.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Anthony Archer
4 months ago

Indeed. Very opaque. As Stacey writes above, who actually makes significant decisions in the C of E? Where does the power and authority lie in the C of E now?

Francis James
Francis James
4 months ago

Neither the Bishop of Leicester nor the Bishop of Newcastle were happy with this interim appointment, so one has resigned & the other will only stay on if his provisos are met. What is interesting is that all the flak is directed at the one who resigned, none towards the one with serious reservations. Does the fact that one is female, while the other is male, have something to do with those different reactions? No of course not, perish the thought! 

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Francis James
4 months ago

The CofE doesn’t like uppity people from minority groups whether they be women, queer people or the survivors of clerical abuse.

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Fr Dean
4 months ago

Are women part of a minority group?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Simon Bravery
4 months ago

Very much so.

Jeremy
Jeremy
Reply to  Simon Bravery
4 months ago

Would you prefer the phrase, “historically marginalized group?”

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Jeremy
4 months ago

As females comprised 51% of the population of England and Wales at the time of the 2021 census, I think that is nearer the mark.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Francis James
4 months ago

Perhaps because the one expressing reservations is trying to seek a resolution, and the other one has simply stropped off wthout bothering to tell the public exactly why.

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
Reply to  T Pott
4 months ago

‘has simply stropped off’

Are you sure?

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Lister Tonge
4 months ago

Well no. But that is her fault not mine. She hasn’t told us.

Lister Tonge
Lister Tonge
Reply to  T Pott
4 months ago

I see.

Jeremy
Jeremy
4 months ago

Both Bishops have suggested that this interim appointment has put at risk their primary work–that of being a diocesan bishop. Bishop Helen-Ann: “My role as co-lead bishop for the LLF process is now undermining my capacity to fulfil my primary calling, to lead and care for the people and places of the Diocese of Newcastle.” Bishop Martyn: “Like Bishop Helen-Ann, my diocese is my first priority…. [T]he people and communities of this wonderful diocese know my views on LLF. They may not all agree with my views but we have had regular discussions at Diocesan Synod, in small groups and… Read more »

angusian
angusian
4 months ago

somewhat late in the discussion but why would a bishop with the theological qualifications, experience and seniority require a ‘theological adviser’?
That the ABC appointed a theological advisor for York and Canterbury is understandable bearing in mind their limited training, but someone with a background of Oak Hill being appointed adviser to a senior bishop …..

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
4 months ago

Thanks for Helen King’s piece. It illustrates how slippery things are in the inner workings of the C of E.

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