Thinking Anglicans

Weekly attendance at Church of England services in 2023

Press release from the Church of England

Weekly Church attendance up five per cent in third year of consecutive growth

Average weekly attendance at Church of England services rose by almost five per cent in 2023 – the third year of consecutive growth, preliminary figures show.

Meanwhile weekly attendance by children was up by almost six per cent last year, according to an early snapshot of the annual Statistics for Mission findings.

While total attendance is still below 2019 levels, the last year before the Covid-19 lockdowns, the analysis suggests in-person attendance is drawing closer to the pre-pandemic trend.

In 2021 all-age Sunday attendance was 22.3 per cent below the projected pre-pandemic trend, but the new figures reveal that the gap had narrowed to 6.7 per cent last year.

All-age weekly attendance rose to within 8.3 per cent of the trend last year, compared with 24.1 per cent in 2021.



LLF: proposals made for same-sex prayers and marriage

Francis Martin at the Church Times has a report on what happeed last weekend in the LLF group discussions:
Same-sex prayers and marriage: latest Love and Faith proposals considered by the Bishops.

See previous article for the official report on what happened at the House of Bishops meeting on Thursday.

The Church of England Evangelical Council has published two items:

John Dunnett says:

There’s a lot of water going under the Living in Love and Faith Bridge right now, including today, the 16th of May, a discussion at the House of Bishops. Whilst we do not know what they will conclude and what therefore will be brought to General Synod in July, it is clear that two things are going to happen. One, that the so-called ‘standalone services’ for blessings of same-sex relationships will be made possible.

And secondly, that, probably by the removal of ‘so-called’ discipline, that clergy in some dioceses are going to be able to marry their same-sex partners. Maybe as soon as this autumn. These are big changes, and I think it’s fairly clear that they are indeed indicative of a change of doctrine…


House of Bishops meets in York

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops meets in York

The House of Bishops met in York from 15th-17th May for their annual May meeting.

The meeting began with a discussion of figures presented by Vision and Strategy that indicate a growth in weekly church attendance in 2023 for both adults and young people year on year, and the further work being undertaken to build on this progress. A number of Bishops shared experiences of growth in their own dioceses.

The House discussed recent work on Living in Love and Faith (LLF) and how the Church might move forward together towards a unifying position around the further use of the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF), accompanied by Pastoral Guidance, and proportionate Pastoral Reassurance measures, while recognising the challenges.

Bishop Martyn Snow expressed his thanks for the constructive, gracious, and generous atmosphere of the recent residential weekend undertaken by the LLF working groups who came together in Leicester. The Bishops encouraged the Programme Team and LLF working groups to continue their work before outlining a more detailed proposal to the College and House of Bishops in June.

The House heard an update on the work of the Racial Justice Unit and of the Church Commissioners on Project Spire and the Fund for Healing, Repair and Justice. The Bishops recognised the importance of the work being undertaken and a number reflected with sadness and disappointment on the harmful tone of some of the expressions of opposition to the work. The Bishops indicated their continued support for both the Unit and Project.

The House had a first discussion of the material produced by the working group on the Seal of the Confessional. They noted the importance of further reflection before this work comes back to the House of Bishops later in July.

The Bishops received an update from the co-chairs of the Wilkinson/Jay Response Group ahead of General Synod which will discuss independence and safeguarding in July.

The House agreed the proposals from the Governance Review Group to be presented to General Synod in July.

During the three days Bishops attended St Edward’s Church in Dringhouses together for services of morning prayer and Holy Communion.


Opinion – 18 May 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Hidden in plain sight: Soul Survivor again

Philip North ViaMedia.News On Conscience

Paul Bickley and George Lapshynov Church Times Does religion influence votes?
“Yes, but not in a straightforward way”


Bishop of Sodor and Man

Press release from 10 Downing Street. Further information on the Sodor and Man diocesan website.

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Patricia Hillas for election as Bishop of Sodor and Man.

Appointment of Bishop of Sodor and Man: 16 May 2024

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 16 May 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Patricia Hillas, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Archdeacon of Westminster, for election as Bishop of Sodor and Man, in succession to The Right Reverend Peter Eagles following his retirement.


Patricia was educated at University of East London and Birkbeck College, University of London. She trained for ministry by completing the North Thames Ministerial Training Course validated by Middlesex University in 2002. She served her title at St Mark’s Kensal Rise, in the Diocese of London, and was ordained Priest in 2003.Patricia served as Vicar of St Barnabas, Northolt Park, from 2005 and was appointed Canon Pastor at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2014.In 2020 Patricia took up her current role as Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons whilst also serving as Priest in Charge of St Mary at Hill, City of London. Since 2021, after leaving St Mary at Hill, she has served jointly as Speaker’s Chaplain in Parliament and at Westminster Abbey as Canon Steward and Archdeacon of Westminster.


Update – John Smyth review

Press release from the Church of England

Update – John Smyth review

Update from independent reviewer Keith Makin

I am aware of the ongoing impact that the delays in the publication of my report is having on all those affected by this review, particularly the victims and survivors. I would like to underline my apology and outline next steps which I hope will provide some reassurance. The review has now reached the stage where those individuals and organisations named and criticised in the report are to be sent the relevant extracts to permit them an opportunity to respond to the criticism.

This stage is starting later than planned and later than we outlined in our statement at the start of the year. This was because there was a substantial change to a contribution to the review, at the final stages of completion. The consequence of this was the need to review and edit those parts of the review which drew upon this contribution.

Once this next stage is complete the final report will be handed to the Archbishops’ Council for publication. This will be done as soon as practically possible, but we cannot give definitive dates until this stage of the process is completed.


Both the reviewers and the Church recognise that giving information to this review has the potential to be re-traumatising for victims and survivors. While support has previously been offered the NST has now secured the service of a specialist advocacy service. FearFree Support provides specialist support to victims and survivors of abuse, offering trauma informed and victim led bespoke support. Its director of services has identified an experienced independent advocate for victims and survivors – Nina Tanner – to deliver this service and this information has been relayed to the survivors and victims.
Contact: 07825 741751

There is an additional offer of therapeutic support for victims and survivors @ Homepage – Yellow Door

Yellow Door is an organisation that can offer evidence-based therapy to support victims and survivors of abuse and those that have experienced trauma.

Contact Yellow Door confidentially at


Appointment of Dean of Chichester

Press release from the Prime Minister’s Office
There is more on the diocesan website.

Appointment of Dean of Chichester: 14 May 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Dr Edward Dowler, Archdeacon of Hastings and Priest-in-Charge of St John the Evangelist, Crowborough, both in the Diocese of Chichester, to be appointed as Dean of Chichester.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 14 May 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Dr Edward Dowler, Archdeacon of Hastings and Priest-in-Charge of St John the Evangelist, Crowborough, both in the Diocese of Chichester, to be appointed as Dean of Chichester, in succession to The Very Reverend Stephen Waine, following his resignation.

Edward was educated at Christ Church Oxford and trained for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge, subsequently completing a doctorate at Durham University. He was ordained deacon in 1994, and served his title at Christ Church, Southgate, in the Diocese of London.

From 1997, he served as Assistant Curate of St Mary’s, Somers Town, London and in 2001 he was appointed Tutor and Director of Pastoral Theology, at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, where he served as Vice Principal from 2003 to 2009.

In 2010, he was appointed Vicar of St John and St Luke, Clay Hill, London, and from 2013, he additionally served as the Continuing Ministerial Education Officer for the Edmonton Episcopal Area and Chair of Governors at Bishop Stopford’s School, Enfield.

In 2016, he took up his current role as Archdeacon of Hastings in the Diocese of Chichester and, since 2020, has also been serving as Priest-in-Charge of St John the Evangelist, Crowborough. He is currently Chaplain to the High Sheriff of East Sussex.

Edward is married to Anna, a journalist for The Guardian, and they have two children at university.


General Synod outline of business for July 2024

The outline of business for the July 2024 meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod was issued today. It is copied below.


Full details of each item will be on the agenda

Friday 5 July
House of Laity to meet 12.15 pm -1.30 pm
2.30 pm – 7.00 pm
Opening worship
Presidential Address
Address from Archbishop of Finland and presentation by Finnish confirmands
Business Committee Report
Report from the Wisdom of Trust Working Group
*5.45 pm Questions

Saturday 6 July
8.45 am – 12.45 pm
Opening worship
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Church Funds Investment – Revision Stage
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Chancel Repair Liability – Revision Stage
Standing Orders Committee report
Archbishops’ Council Budget 2025 and Apportionment
2.00 pm – 7.00 pm

Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Clergy Conduct Measure – Revision Stage
Sports and Wellbeing Ministry
Living in Love and Faith: presentation with questions

Sunday 7 July
2.30 pm – 6.00 pm
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Human Dignity of Disabled Children: Liverpool
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business National Church Governance Measure – First consideration
Special Agenda III: Private Members’ Motions Inquiry into allegations of abuse within the Soul Survivor Network
8.15 pm – 9.45 pm
Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners’ Annual Report

Monday 8 July
8.45 am – 12.45 pm
Opening Worship
Update on Safeguarding Independence
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Foodbanks and Inadequacies in Social Security: Sheffield
2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Living in Love and Faith
8.30 pm – 10.00 pm
Reserved for deemed items and contingency business

Tuesday 9 July
8.45 am – 1.45 pm
Opening Worship
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Abuse (Redress) Measure – Revision Stage
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Chancel Repair Liability Final Approval
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Church Funds Investment Final Approval
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Day of Prayer and Action for the Persecuted Church: London
*12.35pm Hearing and Responding to the Voices of Young People
*1.35pm Farewells
*1.45pm Prorogation

Deemed business
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2024
Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2024
Learning & Development Framework (Safeguarding)
AC Audit Annual Report

* not later than

Contingency Business
Rest Periods for Office Holders (Winchester)

Please note that all timings are indicative unless marked with an asterisk

Deadline for receipt of questions: 1200 hrs Tuesday 25 June 2024


The Jay Files

Updated 17 May – episode 2 added; and again 24 May – episode 3 added

Regular readers will recall the publication last February of The Wilkinson Files.

Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness have now produced a further video series: The Jay Files which explain very clearly what is in Alexis Jay’s report on The Future of Church Safeguarding.

The first of three videos was published this morning, and two further episodes will be published on successive Fridays. I will link all three of them in this article as they become available. These are strongly recommended viewing, particularly for General Synod members.

The Jay Files episode 1 The Background

The Jay Files episode 2 Fully or Semi-Detached

The Jay Files episode 3 Safeguarding the Jay Way

A press release says

…The Jay Files are a series of 3 short documentary-style films which highlight the key findings of Professor Jay’s Report and are a sequel to The Wilkinson Files which examined the report by barrister Dr Sarah Wilkinson into the investigation of the closure of the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board. Each film will be no longer than 15 minutes in duration. The Wilkinson Files have been viewed thousands of times by people both inside and outside of the Church.

These films are presented by Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness, both Members of the House of Laity of the General Synod and both very active in matters relating to Safeguarding. Martin is a retired solicitor specialising in Child Protection. Clive is a Certified Auditor who is still in practice and is also an elected member of the Audit Committee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Clive said “Like the Wilkinson Report, Professor Jay’s Report is packed with detail, including the results of a substantial survey that included abuse survivors as well as members of Safeguarding Schemes. She spoke with over 180 people in multiple dioceses, and it is clear that her recommendations were based on the evidence from her work and were not confined to any one parcular group of interviewees.”

“Members of the General Synod are given very little time to discuss in depth the details of these complex reports which lie at the heart of creating a Church which is safe for all before being asked to make critical decisions on how we will move forward. We are all in agreement that there must be proper measures to prevent a repetition of the abuse scandals of the past, as well as the means to care for existing survivors of past abuse. Martin and I hope that these films will help Members to better understand the issues before making decisions.”


Membership of LLF groups announced

The Church of England issued the press release below yesterday. The Church Times has a report with further information: New LLF-group members to gather in hotel for talks.

Membership of LLF groups announced

Three working groups will include bishops and members of General Synod

Following an update last month on the membership of the Living in Love and Faith Project Board, membership of the three working groups has now been confirmed.

The three working groups are looking at specific questions connected to implementation of the Prayers of Love and Faith, and the pastoral guidance and pastoral reassurance accompanying this.

The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, the Lead Bishop for the LLF process, said: “I am hugely grateful on to all the members of the working groups for offering their time, energy and broad experience to supporting this process.

“I know that this comes at some cost for many people but I am confident that these groups will be fruitful both in terms of good relationships, and that they will enable us to make real progress in the LLF work.”

The groups will feed into the Programme Board, helping to shape recommendations to be presented for consideration at the House and College of Bishops ahead of bringing an outline proposal to the July meeting of the General Synod.

The group membership, which includes bishops and members of the General Synod, is as follows: (more…)


Opinion – 8 May 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Opening the jar, carrying the load

Hatty Calbus Surviving Church


Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich to retire

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, will retire on 28 February 2025. He will be 70 on 29 May 2024, but has given an extension by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The CNC meetings to choose a successor will be held on 4 March 2025 and 28-29 April 2025.

So far as I am aware this has not been publshed anywhere online, although I understand that diocesan clergy were advised of the date in an ad clerum some time ago.


Opinion – 4 May 2024

Hatty Calbus Surviving Church HTB: Extraordinary Influence

Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News Time to be Civil about Marriage

Stephen Andrews The Living Church Thoughts on Church Scandal

Yin-An Chen ViaMedia.News The Majority or the Minority? A Rhetorical Question


Bishop of Worcester announces his retirement

The Rt Revd John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester since 2008, has announced that he will retire on 9 October 2024. Details are on the diocesan website.


Asylum seeker “conveyor belt” baptism claims refuted

The Archdeacon of Auckland, Rick Simpson, gave written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, which provides the detailed facts concerning baptisms of refugees or asylum seekers in Darlington.

Read his evidence in full here (dated 5 April).

The Church Times reports on this: Archdeacon of Auckland rejects claims of ‘conveyor-belt’ conversions 

…In Febuary, the Home Affairs Committee heard evidence from a former Church of England priest, the Revd Matthew Firth, who repeated claims that he had made in the media about witnessing a “conveyor belt” of cases, in which asylum-seekers were being baptised so that they could say that they risked persecution if deported (News, 16 February).

Mr Firth was Priest-in-Charge of St Cuthbert’s, Darlington, between 2018 and 2020, before leaving the C of E to become a minister in the Free Church of England.

Giving evidence to the committee, he said that he had been approached every two to three weeks by groups of six or seven asylum-seekers who wanted to be baptised, but had turned them down, after which they did not attend church again…

On Thursday 25 April, Mr Firth issued this statement on Twitter in rebuttal.

The original Daily Telegraph reports, dated 8 February, in which Mr Firth first made his claims are here (£):  

The transcript of the committee hearing on 12 March can be found here.


National Redress Scheme: financial award proposals published

The National Redress Scheme is for survivors and victims of Church-related abuse. See here for links to earlier press releases about this.

Details of the proposed financial award framework for the Church of England’s national Redress Scheme have now been published. If approved, the framework would be used to calculate offers of financial redress to survivors and victims of Church-related abuse. Details of the proposed approach to funding the Redress Scheme have also been announced.

The Redress Project Board has agreed the recommended financial award framework for the national Redress Scheme. If approved through the Church of England’s legislative processes, the framework would result in individual awards of between £5000 and £660,000 in rare and exceptional circumstances. For more details read the latest press release: National Redress Scheme: Proposed financial award framework and approach to funding.

Church Times report: Survivors could be paid £660,000 in C of E’s four-stage redress scheme


Opinion – 27 April 2024

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Transformational Christian Life

Judith Maltby ViaMedia.News Safeguarding & Living in Love and Faith: Learning for the Church of England from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse & Lessons Learned Reviews
[This is the paper referred to in the comments to last Saturday’s Opinion piece.]

Justin Humphreys/Ian Paul Psephizo Can safeguarding be integral to Christian mission?


Dean of Lincoln

Press release from the Prime Minister’s Office

Appointment of Dean of Lincoln: 23 April 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Dr Simon Jones, Chaplain and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, to be appointed as Dean of Lincoln.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Published 23 April 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Dr Simon Jones, Chaplain and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, to be appointed as Dean of Lincoln, in succession to The Very Reverend Christine Wilson following her resignation.

Simon was educated at the College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham and also at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

He trained for ministry at Westcott House, Cambridge and served his title at Tewkesbury (St Mary the Virgin) with Walton Cardiff and Twyning, in the Diocese of Gloucester. He was ordained priest in 2000.

In 2002, Simon was appointed Chaplain and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He was installed as an Honorary Canon of Christ Church, Oxford in 2015, and as a Wiccamical Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral in 2016. He is a consultant to the Church of England Liturgical Commission and chairs the steering committee of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation. He served as Interim Dean of Lincoln for nine months in 2023.


Opinion – 20 April 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Jesus is coming, look busy: onwards with Living in Love and Faith?

Neil Elliot NumbersMatters Is yours an Easter or a Christmas Church?

Harriet Symonds The House Scrolls of Doom: Why Gen Z is shunning the church

Christopher Landau Psephizo What is the place of charismatic theology after Mike Pilavachi?

Christopher Landau Church Times Landing zone needed for LLF
“‘Compassionate orthodoxy’, not a divisive settlement, is required”


Co-chair named for Wilkinson Jay response group

Church of England press release
Independent co-chair for safeguarding Response Group appointed

Lesley-Anne Ryder, an experienced CEO and chair who has worked in national and local government and the health and charity sectors, has been appointed the independent co-chair of the Response Group looking at two important reports on independence and safeguarding in the Church of England. These are from barrister Sarah Wilkinson and former IICSA (Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) chair Alexis Jay.

Lesley-Anne brings a proven track record in leading complex change management and restructure programmes involving safeguarding professionals and volunteers in diverse organisations and is an experienced leader, coach and mentor of senior teams. She has more than 20 years’ experience of work supporting vulnerable adults and children and has played an active role in shaping Health and Social Care policy at a senior level in the NHS, worked on a Government department merger and continues with a range of charity work which has included being a supervisor for Cruse Bereavement Care and chair of a local charity.

An independent recruitment firm was responsible for the selection of candidates and Lesley-Anne was interviewed by members of the Response Group including meeting with survivor representatives. One of the key criteria for selection was a professional, external voice who had not previously worked with the national Church. She will start work this week.

Speaking on her appointment Lesley-Anne said: “I am delighted to bring both my experience of leadership and managing complex change in a variety of settings, along with my personal experience and qualifications in engaging and supporting those whose trauma and circumstances have in some way stopped them having a voice. I believe that I inspire confidence, commitment and focus for those that I am called to lead and support, and that this role provides a unique opportunity for me to use my skills to the full. I have chaired several multidisciplinary boards, and I look forward to working closely with Bishop Joanne and the whole of the Response Group. I am an active member of my local church and work to support vulnerable people in my local community”.

The Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop and co-chair of Response Group, Joanne Grenfell, said: “I welcome this appointment and the wide-ranging professional experience Lesley-Anne will bring to this role. It is vital that we have an independent voice that can offer challenge and scrutiny while the work of the Response Group moves forward on these two important safeguarding reports.”

The ToR for the group have been updated to include this: Wilkinson and Jay Reports Response Group Terms of Reference

Some additional information is available at LinkedIn and at Anume.

The Church Times reported it this way (scroll down):

New independent co-chair for Response Group

THE independent co-chair of the group responding to recent reports on safeguarding in the Church of England (News, 15 March) has been appointed. It is Lesley-Anne Ryder, a former charity chief executive with experience of work supporting vulnerable adults and children. She has worked on social-care policy in the NHS, is a supervisor for Cruse Bereavement Care, and chairs a local charity. The other co-chair of the Response Group is the Bishop of Stepney, Dr Joanne Grenfell, who is the lead safeguarding bishop. It is understood that the Response Group will conduct a consultation on responding to the recommendations in the reports by Professor Alexis Jay (News, 23 February) and Dr Sarah Wilkinson (News, 15 December 2023). The announcement on the C of E website, on Tuesday, says that an independent recruitment firm was responsible for the selection of candidates, and that Ms Ryder was interviewed by members of the Response Group and survivor representatives.