Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 7 August 2021

Alister McGrath The Living Church Anglicanism and the Natural Sciences

Gavin Drake The Jill Saward Organisation Church of England’s High Court contempt threat for abuse victims

Rachel White Surviving Church Lessons Not Learned: an 18-Month Review

Helen King sharedconversations The Church of England as a WASGIJ

Alex Clare-Young Living in love and faith? The construction of contemporary texts of terror

Archbishop Cranmer Does it matter if Church of England parishes wither on the vine?

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Jane Thomas
Jane Thomas
1 month ago

How very interesting that Stephen Parsons has been on the receiving end of episcopal and legal bullying for publishing Rachel White’s account of the abysmal behaviour suffered by her partner during the ‘discernment’ process. Thankfully, many of us had read it before it was removed. I think I can guess which Bishop and DDO it refers to. Those of us who know the diocese have no doubt that the fictions peddled by the DDO (revealed under a SAR) are credible. It is a devastating account of malpractice that must leave anyone wondering how safe the C of E vocational journey… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
Reply to  Jane Thomas
1 month ago

Thank you Jane. I was disappointed with the bishop’s response, especially as I was careful not to make the diocese identifiable. We tried every route open to us in the C of E to make them listen and were just batted away at every turn. They defend the indefensible and try to make anyone who complains look like the problem.

In many ways, the absence of the blog says more than I ever could.

Will Richards
Will Richards
Reply to  Jane Thomas
1 month ago

When I first read Rachel White’s piece on Stephen Parsons’s blog it crossed my mind that even the redacted/anonymised account would likely cause episcopal splutterings and telephone calls to m’learned friend. I imagine the DDO would be pretty jittery lest anyone join the dots between his identity and the shenanigans he was engaged in. This way of ‘shaking the tree’ might bring other complainants into the open and the diocese in question wouldn’t want that.That’s why I copied and pasted it straight away. Apologies to Stephen & Rachel if I’ve infringed any copyright. Legal threats from a bishop to cover… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Will Richards
1 month ago

I think if the material can still be read in England you could still be liable in English law.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Simon Bravery
1 month ago

I didn’t read the original article in time. It is almost unimaginable that such a libel action could get off the ground in this post-Defamation Act 2013 world. Libel today requires actual or likely significant harm to reputation. The words “significant” and “likely” is a rather higher bar than “someone who reads a [with all due respect to the people involved] niche blog might think a little badly of us”. For a corporate body it would have to be a harm proportionate to the size and reputation of the body. For an individual who was not named they would have… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Thank you for the link to the Alister McGrath article on Anglicanism and the Natural Sciences. Earlier this summer I was fortunate to be able to attend (via Zoom) an Apologetics course Dr. McGrath offered through Regent College, Vancouver. I was very impressed with the way he moved the discussion of Apologetics beyond the purely intellectual ‘arguments for the existence of God’, embracing also the role of the imagination and story and the engagement of the whole person. His reading list was wonderful and has given me valuable guidance in continuing my interest in the subject. I was particularly glad… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Regarding Alister McGrath’s article: I have long thought the most beautiful of all the Eucharistic Prayers in the TEC’s Book of Common Prayer, is Rite II, Prayer C, which includes the following: God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise. Glory to you for ever and ever.At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being.From the primal elements you brought forth the human race,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

We have that one in the Book of Alternative Services, too, Pat – it’s Eucharistic Prayer #4. But I don’t care for those who call it the ‘Star Trek Prayer’; they tend to do it dismissively, but for me—like you—it’s the most beautiful and meaningful of all our Eucharistic prayers.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

The article by Gavin Drake on behalf of the Jill Saward organisation is very pertinent. It brushes away the chaff thrown into the air by the CofE and confirms that clergy who are respondents to a CDM can publicise that fact as they seek to collate evidence for their legal response to the complaint of alleged misconduct. In my experience complainants often tell everyone that they have put the Vicar on a ‘disciplinary’ and yet the CofE was trying to silence one party and this impede their prospects for a fair trial. The CofE has very few sanctions for a… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

I think it’s wider than that. This is the Supreme Court’s view https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/open-justice-principle-applies-to-all-courts-and-tribunals-supreme-court-rules/
 
If High Court contempt rules apply, then the principle of open justice also applies and even non-parties should be able to apply to obtain materials used in any CDM tribunal, subject to the need to prevent harm. The Church of England might be opening Pandora’s box here and might be well-advised to let sleeping dogs lie.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Thank you Kate. One cleric I helped had been the subject of several vexatious complaints by one individual. If the cleric had been unable to discuss the complaints, I’ve no doubt that the serial complainant would have carried on indefinitely. The diocese were very reluctant to challenge the complainant and were alarmed when we said we might apply to the secular court to have the person in question declared as a vexatious litigant. Only the CofE could think that closed justice was any kind of justice at all.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Kate: Not wishing to appear negative, but I’m not sure that the C of E (although the ‘State Church’) CDM counts as a court or tribunal “exercising the judicial power of the state” to quote from Lady Hale’s judgment. I’m happy to be shown to be wrong about this, but at present it’s a very real doubt.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Rowland, I agree, but they are now trying to claim that contempt of court applies,
 
So, I suggest (as a non-lawyer) that only two situations can apply:
a) the Church of England is right and then BOTH contempt of court and the principles of open justice apply, or
b) the Church of England is wrong and NEITHER apply.
 
It is either a tribunal within the meaning of the Courts and Justice legislation – or it isn’t. I see no reason to argue it is some third specie. (I would say the same of the Christ Church Oxford tribunal.)

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Kate: This is Rule 105 of the Clergy Discipline Rules 2005 having statutory force. So far as I am aware this is the up to date wording: Contempt 105.—(1) If any person does or omits to do anything which is a contempt in connection with proceedings before, or in connection with an order made by, the Registrar of Tribunals, the Chair or the tribunal, the Chair may certify the act or omission as a contempt and refer the matter to the High Court under section 81(3) of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963(1). (2) Failure to comply with an order shall not be… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Which suggests that the principles of open justice apply too and that, on conclusion of any CDM tribunal third parties can request copies of any documents used during the tribunal?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

I am not competent to answer that question. Lady Hale’s judgment needs to be read in its entirety, especially the two concluding paragraphs. It remains for the court to decide whether documents may be disclosed to third parties who request them; there is no automatic or blanket right and Lady Hale quotes relevant examples where the request could be properly disallowed. As I said in an earlier comment here, I am not able to say whether the CDM tribunal process falls within the ambit of the Courts Tribunals and Enforcement Act 2007. My instinct is that it does not, but… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

I’m not a lawyer either but I understood that the laws ecclesiastical are part of the legal system in England. As ever the CofE likes to pick and choose to suit the particular circumstances. Full Rumpole of the Bailey courtroom drama sometimes, with the sinfulness of errant clergy loaded up on the website; but on other occasions where perhaps the complainants are perhaps wealthy conservative evangelicals, you’re sworn to secrecy on pain of further legal sanction but apparently with no legal basis! Classic CofE.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

See the reply to Kate immediately above, and note the mandatory effect of the penal notice in paragraph (2). Without that, the reference is of no effect, and the contempt must be of a nature to justify the reference. I’m certain that we can be assured that a high court judge would deal very swiftly with any reference which did not meet both requirements.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Personally I find it hard to reconcile an ecclesiastical court using statutory powers with the Bible.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

That’s what you get with an established church, I would say.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Well, personally, I don’t make any such connection at all. How does TEC deal with disciplinary matters, and how is it better than the C of E?

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Well, we don’t use “statutory powers” granted to us by the legislature. We have our own canons and codes of ethics to handle internal disciplinary matters; it only gets into the government-run courts if an actual crime has been committed or someone files a civil suit.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Exactly the same here, just in a different form. I have already explained above that (in my opinion) the C of E CDM tribunal is not within the ambit of the (national state) Courts Tribunals and Enforcement Act 2007.

Contempt is a crime. But I’m sure this power will be used sparingly and only if justified. See also my reply to Father Dean. Our high court judges would robustly and swiftly dispose of any abuse of it.

Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I read Alex’s paper on LLF with interest. I too feel there was power imbalance in the whole process. The initiative seemed to me to be ‘top-down’, with participants being ‘called up’ to make their comments in isolation, and then sent away (with thanks). It all seemed carefully controlled and, as Alex suggests, there was a paucity of group sharing and open dialogue. That was my impression anyway. I am left with the concern I had from the beginning – that having yet another listening process, after 50 years of no real change in status quo, was not in itself… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

When I started to transition I had heard of trans people but I had never met any. When I did start meeting them, I was shocked by the sheer diversity. I confess that accepting some of that diversity was very, very hard. Learning about it took a lot of time, humility and a very open mind: if I was asking people to accept me, the least I could do was accept everyone else, no matter how far outside my prior experience that took me.   Maybe those raised to the episcopate are better than me and, through their other experience,… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Thanks Kate. Yes, you’re right, I think. Rather than have an intense one hour session, dragging psychological entrails out all in one go, it might have been more constructive for LLF teams to build relationships more gradually through a series of meetings, socialising with the trans individual, offering the trans person scope for some discussion in groups (if they wished) and of course, opportunities for the ‘learners’ (LLF team) to process through a commitment to a more gradual drawn out process too. It was an intense session, though I do think Eva tried her best to be kind. The experience… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Quite apart from the burden on you, I have reservations as to how effective such intense sessions can be – they are likely to settle into particular grooves and the interviewer probably doesn’t know enough to break out of them.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

In terms of what LLF is meant to achieve, Susannah, I think different people in senior positions have different intentions, hence the mishmash. Some are open to greater inclusion and respect for conscience among those who are affirming as well as those who are not, others a slight softening of the rules to make blessings easier (though even this will meet with fierce resistance) or to bat the issues into the long grass. The process, though flawed and costly, may be a necessary step towards a more welcoming and respectful Church of England at national (not just local and regional)… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Savi Hensman
1 month ago

I hope so Savi. The status quo is no longer acceptable. It is deeply harmful. Remain celibate all your life if you are gay or lesbian… that’s outrageous, and what a terrible message it sends out to non-Christians. At the very least (as a starting point) local priests, PCCs and church communities must be allowed freedom of conscience to bless, affirm and celebrate the civil marriages of gay and lesbian couples. Otherwise, I believe those local churches have a moral duty to take the lead and collectively go ahead with public blessings anyway – even if they have to be… Read more »

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