Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Oxford: further developments

Following the Charity Commission intervention made public on 28 January, there have been further developments:

Stephen Parsons at Surviving Church made comments on that letter and the Christ Church response: The Charity Commissioners intervene in the Christ Church bullying of the Dean.

Gabriella Swerling at the Telegraph disclosed on 29 January further details about the Christ Church response: Christ Church trustees express anger after watchdog questions efforts to oust embattled Dean. This contains numerous details from an email sent to the trustees commenting on the Charity Commission’s action and suggesting ways that individual trustees might respond to enquiries.

A week later on 5 February, the Church Times published a letter to the editor from the complainant, which can be read in full here (scroll down to Complaint against Dean of Christ Church, Oxford) and carried a lengthy news story about this letter and the background to it, see Complainant in Percy case says she acted alone.

This morning, 8 February, Archbishop Cranmer has published an article by Martin Sewell, titled Christ Church Oxford Trustees could be personally liable for £85K each. This article (which includes a link to a Daily Mail report of 22 November) contains a large number of criticisms of the Trustees.

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Jarel Robinson-Brown and the Diocese of London

Updated yet again Tuesday

There have been numerous news reports and comment articles in both mainstream and social media concerning a tweet posted last Wednesday.

On Thursday the Church Times reported this story under the headline Cleric apologises for ‘White Nationalism’ remark.

A LONDON clergyman, the Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown, has apologised for posting on social media that the clap for Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died this week, was linked with “White British Nationalism”.

His post on Twitter — “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism. I will offer prayers for the repose of his kind and generous soul, but I will not be joining the ‘National Clap'” — was interpreted as a criticism of the man himself. It was quickly taken down, and Mr Robinson-Brown posted an apology in its place: “I offer an unreserved apology for the insensitive timing and content of my tweet regarding the clap for Captain Tom.”

A statement by the diocese of London said that the matter was being reviewed by the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller. “As a Church, we expect clergy to ensure that all online activity is in line with the Church of England’s social media guidelines and built on truth, kindness and sensitivity to others.”.

The Diocese of London statement can be found here: A statement from the Diocese of London regarding Jarel Robinson-Brown and reads in full as follows:

Jarel Robinson-Brown’s comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged. The fact that he immediately removed his tweet and subsequently apologised does not undo the hurt he has caused, not least to Captain Tom’s family. Nor do Jarel’s actions justify the racist abuse he is now receiving.

A review is now underway, led by the Archdeacon of London. As a Church, we expect clergy to ensure that all online activity is in line with the Church of England’s social media guidelines and built on truth, kindness and sensitivity to others. It is incumbent upon all of us to make social media and the web more widely positive places for conversations to happen.

A subsequent report appeared on Saturday in the Church Times: Support grows for Jarel Robinson-Brown.

A GROWING number of churchpeople have voiced their support for the Revd Jarel Robinson-Brown, the Black ordinand and former Methodist minister, whose Twitter post last week was widely interpreted as an attack on Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died on Tuesday…

..Mr Robinson-Brown’s post was quickly taken down, and an apology from him was posted in its place: “I offer an unreserved apology for the insensitive timing and content of my tweet regarding the clap for Captain Tom.”

A petition was none the less started for his removal from office (he has not yet been licensed, but has secured a title post at All Hallows by the Tower, London). By the weekend it had gained more than 20,000 signatures. Many of the signatories referred to Mr Robinson-Brown’s race, with comments such as “Racism is a one way street according to some. When a white person is accused of racist tendencies they are rightly called out and vilified. When a BAME person does the same it seems to be their right to do so based on the wrongdoings from generations ago.”

Racist trolling has been one trigger for expressions of support for Mr Robinson-Brown. Another has been the statement put out by the diocese of London, which read: “Jarel Robinson-Brown’s comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged. The fact that he immediately removed his tweet and subsequently apologised does not undo the hurt he has caused, not least to Captain Tom’s family.”

Many social-media posts have viewed this as undermining Mr Robinson-Brown’s apology — “throwing him under a bus” has been a common expression — as was the announcement that the Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller, was to conduct an investigation into the matter…

On Sunday afternoon, a second statement was issued from the Diocese of LondonStatement from the Bishop of London regarding Jarel Robinson-Brown

“After Jarel Robinson-Brown posted his now-deleted tweet last Wednesday, my primary concern has been to ensure that he received immediate pastoral support in the face of the most appalling racist and homophobic abuse, aimed at him and at others. I am particularly thankful for the ongoing care that was quickly put in place, through so many different routes.

“I believe it is right that the original matter is reviewed properly and swiftly by the Archdeacon of London, to enable us all to reflect and learn, and that work is taking place. I also believe, and have made clear to Jarel, that there is no excuse for anyone to be sent the shocking messages he has been receiving. Jarel did of course quickly acknowledge that his tweet was ill-timed and pastorally-insensitive.

“I am deeply concerned to hear reports within the Church that United Kingdom Minority Ethnic clergy and ordinands have been affected by recent events, and by the Diocese’s response. I want to ensure that in London, and right across the Church of England, our clergy and those training for ministry feel safe. I look forward to the report of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Task Force launched last year, and the work of the Archbishops’ Commission that will follow, which I know will help to achieve this shared end.

“Any form of online abuse, including racism, homophobia and threatening behaviour, cannot be tolerated. I sincerely hope that those perpetuating it will desist and consider the hurt they are causing. We must all work to ensure the digital world becomes a more loving and generous place.”

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally
Bishop of London

Updates

The Church Times has reported further: Racist attacks on Jarel Robinson-Brown ‘appalling’, says Bishop of London.

The Archbishops’ Anti-racism Taskforce issued this: Statement from the Anti-Racism Taskforce.

The Diocese of London issued this Response to the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce.

The Church Times has again reported this development: London diocese will look at its own actions in Jarel Robinson-Brown review.

56 Comments

Opinion – 6 February 2021

Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law The Constitution of Marriage: Consensus-Copula

Ed Henderson Church Times CDM reform must reduce harm to clergy mental health
“Some who are subject to complaints become suicidal… A new disciplinary process should prioritise their well-being”

Simon Dawson has written two articles about the Living in Love and Faith process
Learning from the Underside of History (long essay)
The Silent Centre Ground (short essay)

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Archbishops and Bishops

Giles Fraser UnHerd We’ll have to shut some empty churches
“To save its poorer parishes the C of E needs to slash its middle management”

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News LLF – Has There Been a Murder?

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Lincoln Affair – some comments

39 Comments

Informal Meeting of General Synod members – 27 February 2021

As we published earlier the February meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod has been postponed to April, but there will be an informal meeting on Saturday 27 February. The timetable for this has been published today, and is copied below.

There will be no question time in February, but the Business Committee has agreed that members can submit questions for written answers only not later than 12 noon on Tuesday 16 February. Supplementary questions will not be taken at this informal meeting. The questions booklet will be circulated on Thursday 25 February.

INFORMAL MEETING OF SYNOD MEMBERS SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2021

10.30am Opening Worship
10.40am Introduction by the Chair of the Business Committee
10.50am Reflections from the Presidents

11.35am BREAK

12.00pm Worship
12.10pm Vision and Strategy
12.50pm Story of hope and salvation
1.00pm Voting Test

1.10pm LUNCH

2.00pm Story of hope and salvation
2.10pm Safeguarding update, including screen break
3.15pm Story of hope and salvation
3.25pm Archbishops’ Commission on Housing

4.10pm BREAK

4.30pm Story of hope and salvation
4.50pm Worship
5.00pm Close of meeting

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Finance Statistics 2019

The Church of England has recently published its Finance Statistics 2019. These provide the latest financial information, including:

  • Income
  • Expenditure
  • Giving

Tables showing parish finances aggregated to diocese level are available as an excel file. Finance statistics for previous years, and other publications of the Research and Statistics Unit can be found on the resources, publications, and data page.

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Financial threats to Church of England plans

Updated again Thursday evening

The Sunday Times published a news story with the headline:  Church to cut paid clergy as a fifth of flock wanders off which is based on a report circulating among diocesan secretaries etc.

The damage inflicted on the Church of England by the pandemic is revealed in a leaked internal document which warns up to 20 per cent of its regular worshippers may never return.

It calls into question “the sustainability of many local churches” and the continued financial subsidy given to 5,000 loss-making parishes out of a total of 12,000…

The next  day, the Church Times published a news story which includes the full text of that document. You can read that here: Financial crisis threatens Church’s strategic plans.

(Note the Church Times  paywall arrangement: if you are not a subscriber to the newspaper, but you register with the site you get two additional free articles each month, i.e. a total of four items.)

DECLINING income, accelerated by the pandemic, means that dioceses are facing “indiscriminate cuts” to clergy posts, undermining the Church of England’s attempts at strategic reform.

New assistant curates, recruited in the recent push for vocations, could struggle to find incumbencies, an internal document suggests.

Details of the scale of the challenge are contained in a discussion paper circulated to all bishops and diocesan secretaries in the middle of last month. It confirms that the C of E’s income fell 8.1 per cent in the year to November 2020. It projects a further fall of ten per cent for 2021, calculated before the latest lockdown was announced. Expected savings on expenditure for 2021 are currently three to four per cent. These overall figures disguise a large variation between dioceses.

The document, Perspectives on Money, People and Buildings, seen by the Church Times on Monday, has not been made public, despite confusion from parish priests and others about media reports on its contents, and a declaration at the start: “Honest sharing of information on how those resources of money, people and buildings are being stewarded for greatest impact is vital.”

Updates

The Archbishop of York has published an article on his own website which comments on the above, The Church of England still needs clergy. This article is also available in the Church Times with the strapline There are no central plans to cut the number of priests, says Stephen Cottrell. Do read the full text of what he says.

The Church Times also has this news report: Clergy won’t be pushed out in cost cuts, says Archbishop of York

CLERGY are still needed to serve the Church of England, and “are not being pushed out” of their posts to make up for the continued decline in income, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, says.

None the less, the Church will have to make “tough” and “challenging” changes to spread both its wealth and stipendiary clergy fairly across the 42 dioceses, he warns. This is likely to result in some cuts to stipendiary posts in all dioceses, many of which — especially in the north — are being left vacant after clerics retire…

The Spectator has published an article by Emma Thompson with the title Holy relic: what will be left of the Church of England after the pandemic? (registration may be needed).

William Nye has published a furious response on the Church of England website. Copied below.

(more…)

49 Comments

Opinion – 3 February 2021

Simon Butler ViaMedia.News Who Are The Prophets in Charismatic Churches?

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Forty LGBTIQ+ people and allies write a second letter to thirty five bishops

David Brown Surviving Church The Problem is not CDM, but a significant Relational Deficit

13 Comments

Bishop of Salisbury to retire in July 2021

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, will retire on 3 July 2021, a month short of his 67th birthday. He will have been Bishop of Salisbury for 10 years. There are more details in the diocesan press release.

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Bishop of Lincoln to resume ministry

The Church of England has issued this: Statement on resolution of disciplinary process regarding Bishop of Lincoln

…The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, has accepted a penalty for misconduct in relation to the management of one safeguarding issue.  At their meeting the Archbishop apologised to the Bishop for the long process that he has endured.  The Archbishop expressed his full support for the Bishop as he now begins the process of returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “I am very sorry that Bishop Christopher and his wife Susan have had to endure such an ordeal over the last 20 months.  I have expressed my regret to Christopher and am very grateful to him for the gracious way he has responded.  I want to make it clear that I am fully supportive of Christopher returning to ministry as the Bishop of Lincoln.  We have both agreed that there are many lessons we and the Church need to learn from this very difficult season, as we also continue to learn lessons from the scrutiny of IICSA which highlighted our poor response to survivors…

And the Diocese of Lincoln has issued this: Letter to the people of the Diocese of Lincoln

We write as episcopal colleagues to the people of the Diocese to share news of the Bishop of Lincoln’s return to ministry and our shared sense of encouragement for the future.

1. What has happened?

On 12th January 2021 the Bishop of Lincoln had a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They met together to pray and discuss next steps following the conclusion of the clergy disciplinary process instigated after the Bishop’s suspension in May 2019, and subsequent investigation. That process resulted in a judgment by the President of Tribunals, Dame Sarah Asplin, following which the Bishop agreed to accept a rebuke in relation to his handling of an allegation made against a priest in the diocese. Bishop Christopher has offered an unreserved apology for the way in which he handled this matter.

Archbishop Justin expressed his full support for Bishop Christopher as he now begins the process of returning to ministry as Bishop of Lincoln…

The Church Times carries this report: Bishop of Lincoln can return to duty after 20-month safeguarding investigation. That account reminds us how it began:

…The Church’s safeguarding procedures were triggered in May 2019, after police informed the church authorities about an allegation (News, 17 May 2019). Bishop Lowson was immediately suspended because, as Archbishop Justin Welby said at the time: “If these matters are found to be proven I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people.”

Bishop Lowson agreed to co-operate fully, while expressing his bewilderment at the charge, and hoped that the investigation would be completed “as quickly as possible”.

Part of the delay was down to the police, who did not conclude their investigation until January 2020, deciding that, on the evidence before them, there was no case to answer. The Church’s investigation, carried out for the National Safeguarding Team, began at that point, and it was later confirmed that Bishop Lowson was being investigated under the Clergy Discipline Measure…

40 Comments

Opinion – 30 January 2021

Laudable Practice “Maintenance of Thy True Religion”: is use of 1662 reactionary?

Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News “It’s a Sin…Not to Care and Listen”

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love LLF and Systemic Homophobia in the Church of England

George Carey The Telegraph The Church’s unjust treatment of clergy has created a climate of fear
“I am far from alone in having fallen foul of a slow and secretive approach to disciplinary matters”

59 Comments

Review into Bishop Whitsey

The review into Bishop Whitsey, originally published in October and then withdrawn, has now been republished, along with the press release below. There are several statements below the fold.

Review into Bishop Whitsey
29/01/2021

A Betrayal of Trust, the independent report into the Church’s handling of the allegations concerning the late Hubert Victor Whitsey, former Bishop of Chester, was originally published in October 2020 and concluded that Whitsey sexually abused a large number of children and young persons (both male and female) and vulnerable adults. The review has now been republished following the resolution of a legal issue – we apologise to those who were affected by this. The Church is committed to taking very seriously criticisms in the report about how and where it failed to respond.

The learning lessons review was carried out by His Hon David Pearl and independent safeguarding consultant Kate Wood.

The Church supported the police in an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by Whitsey dating from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. A public apology was issued in October 2017 following this investigation which included a commitment to a learning lessons review.

(more…)

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Charity Commission writes to Christ Church Governing Body

The Charity Commission has written to each of the 65 members of the Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford, concerning the proposed second tribunal relating to the Dean, Martyn Percy.

The full text of the two page letter is available here: Christ Church – Charity Commission letter to trustees 27.1.2021 and the salient portions are copied below.

The College has issued this press statement:

Statement in response to media interest

Christ Church’s Governing Body and Cathedral Chapter earlier this month decided to take forward internal disciplinary proceedings, following a complaint of sexual harassment made by a junior member of staff. Christ Church is clear that, as an employer, a charity, and an educational institution, it will always treat such an allegation fairly. We should not and cannot ignore such serious allegations.

Christ Church has followed the formal requirements in our statutes to deal with such an allegation, as well as the Charity Commission’s guidance on “Safeguarding and protecting people for charities and trustees,” in the handling of this complaint. On 12 January 2021, we provided a further update to the Commission accordingly. We welcome the opportunity to share the process in a transparent way with the Charity Commission and we know they will take as seriously as we do all accusations of sexual harassment. We continue to keep the Commission fully informed and respond to any questions they may have.

Extract from Charity Commission letter:

…We are writing to all members of the Governing Body in their capacity as trustees of the above foundation which was registered as a charity in August 2011…

…Further to the earlier stages of our regulatory engagement with the charity, we have concerns about the prudent application of charitable funds and the proper process of decision making within the charity as the dispute involving the Dean continues. We understand from your legal adviser that members of the Governing Body have now agreed to establish a second Tribunal to examine the conduct of the Dean.

We have determined that it is appropriate in these circumstances to:

  • contact each member of the Governing Body in their capacity as charity trustees about their responsibilities and duties for the management and administration of the charity; and
  • advise each member of the Governing Body of the actions we are taking to verify that they have acted in accordance with their responsibilities and duties as charity trustees and complied with our published and regulatory guidance.

To begin with, we will be seeking further information and assurances from the members of the Governing Body about why establishing a Tribunal is:

  • in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries.
  • a responsible use of the charity’s resources.

We will also examine how, when reaching this decision, the members of the Governing Body:

  • took account of our published guidance and previous regulatory advice; and
  • identified and managed any conflicts of interest and / or loyalty.

This is not an exhaustive list. Full details of the information and assurances we require will be set out in a separate letter to the charity’s registered main contact.

We acknowledge that the Governing Body may have sought professional advice about these matters. That does not relieve them, as trustees, of their responsibilities – collectively and individually – for the management and administration of the charity, although that will be considered accordingly. For that reason, we may want to discuss these matters with individual trustees directly…

66 Comments

Opinion – 27 January 2021

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love How pro-LGBTIQ+ bishops responded to letter about LLF process

Jonathan Pease All Things Lawful And Honest Build Bach Better
“Jonathan Pease examines recent trends and developments in the Church of England’s choral tradition. Although COVID has produced many problems for church choirs in the immediate term, might it be that the pandemic prompts a renaissance in traditional church music and the life of parochial choirs in the long term?”

Helen King ViaMedia.News IICSA, ‘Living in Love and Faith’ & Lockdown 3.0

George Sumner The Living Church Concerning Asymmetry

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Coronavirus: Archbishops write to the nation

Church of England press release copied below.  The letter itself in full is available here, as a PDF.

Coronavirus: Archbishops invite nation to pause, pray and remember 100,000 people ‘known to God and cherished by God’
26/01/2021

“100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure – each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us.”

“Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.”

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are issuing a call to the nation to pause and reflect to remember the more than 100,000 people across the UK who have died after contracting Covid-19 and all those who know and love them.

In an open letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell invite everyone across England – whether they have faith or not – to pause, reflect on the “enormity of this pandemic” and to pray.

Death, they insist, does not have “the last word”, and the Christian faith promises that one day “every tear will be wiped away”.

God, they write, knows grief and suffering and “shares in the weight of our sadness”.

Acknowledging the wider impact of the pandemic on the whole of society through loneliness, anxiety and economic hardship, they invite people to “cast their fears on God”.

The letter also speaks of the particular impact of the pandemic on poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities.

It acknowledges many who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic and it speaks about those unable to be with loved ones as they died or even at their graveside because of the restrictions.

The archbishops give thanks for NHS and social care staff, who they describe as “a blessing and lifeline for our nation”; for clergy, other frontline workers and “so many good neighbours”. They give thanks for the development of vaccines and reiterate a call to everyone to take the vaccine when it is offered.

They also urge people to support each other both by following the guidelines to limit the spread of the virus and in practical ways, reaching out in care and kindness.

The letter includes an invitation to everyone – whether they have faith or not – to join the archbishops in pausing and praying each day at 6pm from February 1.

The archbishops write: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.
“We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.”

They conclude: “Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter.
“We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.

“Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.”

The tragic milestone comes amid lockdown conditions in which large gatherings such as a national memorial service are not possible in person.

It is expected that the Church of England will hold services of remembrance for those who have died and thanksgiving for all those who have cared for them when it is possible to do so.

A prayer for those who mourn is also being shared on social media and will be available to churches across the country. The Text is below.

A prayer for those who mourn

Gracious God,
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
Amen.

4 Comments

Lord Carey’s PTO is reinstated

Updated Tuesday

The Diocese of Oxford has issued this announcement:

The Bishop of Oxford has reinstated Permission to Officiate (PTO) for Lord Carey, who has issued the following statement.

“Following helpful and friendly discussions with the Bishop of Oxford, I am pleased to say that my Permission to Officiate has been reinstated.

My PTO was withdrawn last year on June 17th, when the independent Learning Lessons Case Review into the late John Smyth QC referred information comprising two letters to the National Safeguarding Team of the Church of England. The letters gave rise to concerns that, when I was Principal of Trinity College Bristol in 1983/4, I had received a report concerning John Smyth’s evil conduct in the early 1980s without disclosing these concerns to the appropriate authorities. At that time Smyth attended the college for a short period of part-time study.

An NST core group was set up and the conclusion to their investigation was that I had seen the report. They also concluded that as a result of this investigation and further training that I have recently undertaken, they believe I do not pose a safeguarding risk.

I welcome this latter conclusion. However, I respectfully disagree with their judgement. I have no memory at all of John Smyth at Trinity College Bristol.

Let me say firmly that I condemn utterly the crimes of Smyth, and the damage he did to the lives of young people. I am fully committed to placing those who have survived abuse at the centre of our safe practices, thoughts and prayers, and to acknowledge how dreadful such abuse is and how lifelong the impact of such abuse.

Over the past few years, I have spent an immense amount of time focusing intensively on safeguarding through working closely with two Inquiries into Peter Ball, including the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and through undertaking specialised safeguarding training.

This year I have made a report to the NST of a disclosure I received about non recent clerical sexual abuse. I am strongly of the view that training in safeguarding is a vital tool to overcoming failures to protect children and vulnerable adults.

I am very willing to meet with survivors of John Smyth if they wish to meet with me.”

The Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Carey of Clifton

If you are affected
If you or anyone you are in contact with are affected by the themes raised on this page and want to talk to someone independently please call the Safe Spaces helpline on 0300 303 1056 or email safespaces@victimsupport.org.uk

Other support services are also available.

Notes for editors:

A planned independent review into the Church of England’s handling of allegations against the late John Smyth QC is currently underway. In the course of that review, new information came to light in June 2020 regarding Lord Carey, which was passed by the reviewers to the National Safeguarding Team for their attention, as per the agreed Terms of Reference for the review.

A Core Group was formed, according to House of Bishops Guidance. The Core Group concluded that the concern, as outlined in Lord Carey’s statement above, is substantiated. This conclusion was also communicated to the Review team, which is expected to report in full during 2021.

However, the Core Group also concluded that if Lord Carey were made aware of a safeguarding concern, an allegation of abuse or a disclosure today, that he would report it to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor and the police or statutory authorities.

Updates

Telegraph  Lord Carey free to minister again as he condemns child sex abuse

Church Times Lord Carey’s PTO reinstated

Janet Fife on Surviving Church A Fag End in the Gutter: The Case against George Carey
This contain a good deal of additional detail about the evidence submitted to the NST, and is well worth reading in full.

48 Comments

Opinion – 23 January 2021

Ruth Wilde Inclusive Church Inclusion and the Church of Tomorrow: Talk to the Swedish Church

Ysenda Maxtone-Graham The Spectator The man behind Justin Welby

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Church of England and Safeguarding: the Pursuit of Excellence

Rosemary Lofty Church Times Mission needs pennies spent
“Numerical growth can be impeded by a lack of basic amenities”

20 Comments

February General Synod postponed

The meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod planned for the end of February has been postponed, although there will be an informal online meeting on 27 February. Details are in today’s press release.

Synod to discuss challenges facing the Church and world amid coronavirus lockdown
20/01/2021

General Synod is to hold a special online meeting next month examining challenges facing the Church and world in light of the coronavirus pandemic followed by a formal session in the spring, as a result of the current lockdown restrictions.

Members will discuss questions including the future shape of the Church in the wake of Covid-19, independent oversight of safeguarding and proposals by a Commission of the Church of England towards addressing the Housing Crisis at a meeting held entirely remotely on February 27.

Legislation and other business which can only be addressed in a formal session will be discussed slightly later – expected to be from April 23 to April 24. The two meetings will replace the planned group of sessions which would have taken place from February 26 to March 1.

The decision was taken by the officers of Synod – the Archbishops, Prolocutors of Canterbury and York of the House of Clergy, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity with the support of the Chair of the General Synod Business Committee.

It was taken in order to follow the Government’s call for people to stay at home to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The Officers of General Synod agreed that Synod chairs and the staff needed to manage formal proceedings should not be required to travel or gather together at the moment.

The decision to hold an extra meeting means Synod will be able to discuss vital questions facing the church and society in February and still address legislative business in the spring, without having to delay discussions to the July group of sessions.

Synod will also have an opportunity to engage in detail with the recently published Living in Love and Faith resources on human identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage later in the year.

The Revd Canon Simon Butler, Prolocutor of Canterbury, said: “Clearly the Covid-19 situation needs to improve before we can ask staff and chairs of Synod to gather together or travel anywhere safely.

“What matters most is that we do the essential business we need to in the coming months and we all can hope that this will be much safer after Easter.”

Canon Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, said: “Deciding to change the focus of what we can achieve through a virtual Synod has not been easy.

“However, as a medical doctor, I am acutely aware of the need to keep us all safe, not least when I think about our excellent Synod staff and chairs.”

The Revd Canon Sue Booys, Chair of the General Synod Business Committee, said: “The February meeting will be focusing on looking ahead to the aftermath of the pandemic and how the Church can help our communities recover.

“I look forward to a formal session at the end of April when we can address some key remaining legislative business prior to July.”

17 Comments

Opinion – 20 January 2021

Francis Young All Things Lawful And Honest In defence of the clerical antiquary

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes 10 top tips for running a church discussion group online

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News The Reckoning – Will the Church of England Survive?

6 Comments

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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Organisational change at the Anglican Communion Office

Press release from the Anglican Communion Office: Standing Committee review leads to shift of focus in the Anglican Communion Office (full text copied below)

Further information about the changes can be found on the Anglican Communion website: anglicancommunion.org/renewal2021.

Press release:

The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion has announced changes to the operational priorities of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) which will see it taking more of a coordinating role; with programmatic activity instead focused in provinces, regions, networks and agencies. Currently, three charities serve the Anglican Communion through the ACO – the Anglican Alliance, the Lambeth Conference Company, and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Today’s announcement relates only to those staff employed by the ACC.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, was commissioned by the Standing Committee to chair an international review in May 2020. The review committee reported in September and, after continuing deliberations, the Standing Committee announced their decisions publicly today after they were shared with staff last week.

The Review recommended that the work of the ACC should focus on supporting the Instruments of Communion and those elements of programmatic work which could not be undertaken more effectively regionally or within provinces. The new focus for ACC staff will be to facilitate and coordinate programmatic work by member churches and authorised networks.

The restructuring has placed a number of staff at risk of redundancy and a formal process of consultation is underway.

In a written Case for Organisational Change distributed to staff, the Standing Committee said that the proposed changes were not only driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. It said that the re-focussing recognises that “the resource gaps between provinces in terms of education and technology have reduced significantly and the resource available to the Communion has increased as a result. It said that “aspects of the programmatic work undertaken at the ACO would be more effectively undertaken through provinces, regions or other agencies across the Communion with the ACO coordinating and communicating that work across the Communion.”

It went on to say that “the more centralised approach which currently dominates project / programme work, has a negative impact on diversity and inclusion and does not reflect the breadth of culture and diversity represented in the Communion, in particular those parts of the Communion who do not have English as their first language or as an official language of their country or province.”

Vice Chair Maggie Swinson, a lay canon in the Church of England’s Diocese of Liverpool, said: “The direction commended by the review report will draw provinces into active participation in the Communion’s work and our common mission to build the kingdom. Staff in the office have served us well and it is a sadness that, in our efforts to increase provincial engagement through devolving aspects of the Communion’s work, some redundancies may result.”

The President of the ACC, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said: “The Anglican Communion is a global family of churches that are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ in an extraordinary range of contexts. This review has been an important part of discerning how we can draw more fully on the gifts, resources and wisdom of provinces across the Communion, as we seek to serve a world in need.

“I’m grateful to Archbishop Thabo, Canon Margaret Swinson and all those who have led this work. I would also like to thank all the staff at the Anglican Communion Office who have served with such passion, commitment and faith over many years, and assure them all of my prayers throughout this process.”.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, responding to the changes by saying: “This review takes us back to the original rationale behind the setting up of the ACO. The new structure will enable the ACO to assist the 41 provinces to act out our Five Marks of Mission in a united collaborative manner, as well as enable them to become the family of churches that God wants us to be in order to advance God’s mission.”

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