Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 18 December 2021

Martyn Percy Modern Church Rickety Religion (Part Three: Advent, Time and Structures)

‘Graham’ Surviving Church Will anyone ever be held to account over John Smyth?

Giles Fraser UnHerd Secular Christmas is a lie
“Only the Christian understanding of the festival makes sense”

Jayne Ozanne ViaMedia.News Evangelical Alliance: “Loving & Orthodox” or “Damaging & Dangerous”?

Russell Sandberg Law & Religion UK Christmas: a subversive legal history

Emma Beddington The Guardian Schmaltzy, saccharine or sinister? A brief guide to the worst Christmas carols
There are some readers’ letters in response: No crying he makes? Let’s sing the truth in our Christmas carols


Christ Church Oxford seeks to remove dean on medical grounds

Updated Thursday

Gabriella Swerling reports in today’s Telegraph: Oxford college dean accused of being ‘mad and unfit to govern’

The Dean of an Oxford college will face a medical assessment after he was accused of being “mad and unfit to govern” in the latest attempt by dons to oust him, his supporters claim.

The Very Rev Martyn Percy, who presides over Christ Church college and cathedral, has been embroiled in a four-year row with fellow Oxford dons over his tenure…

…the college has alerted the dean to a “notice of motion” ahead of a crunch meeting on Friday to determine whether he is mentally fit to govern.

The Telegraph has seen a copy of the summons which states that the college’s governing body will “determine whether or not the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered by a medical board”.

A statute in the Christ Church governance states that figures can be removed on grounds of mental incapacitation. However, the dean’s supporters claim that this loophole is being “exploited” in a bid to remove him.

The mental incapacitation clause was added in a redraft of the college’s statute in 2011, but a bylaw dating from August 2021 enabled other members of the governing body – not just the dean – to initiate action on medical grounds…

Archbishop Cranmer comments: Martyn Percy is ‘mad and unfit to govern’ Christ Church, Oxford, including this:

…According to the summons document, Prof Lindsay Judson, the senior ex-censor and philosophy tutor, has “considered the matter very carefully and having taken legal and medical advice”, has concluded that “the dean’s condition or any mental or physical quality affecting him is such as substantially to interfere with the performance of his duties”.

As a result, he is “obliged to consider the removal of the dean” in accordance with college statutes, and that “the dean’s removal on medical grounds should be considered and therefore that the case should be forwarded to a medical board”.

Prof Judson, who signed off the summons, has been involved in previous proceedings regarding the dean. However, the document states that the professor “does not believe that he has a conflict of interest” in any part of the process…

Private Eye, Issue 1562 has this: Clique Bait. Some extracts:

…The sums already spent in the war against Percy are huge: estimates range from £2m to £5m in fees for PR firms and lawyers. The Eye can reveal that one of the college’s solicitors, Herbert Smith Freehills, has just dropped out, explaining that “it is no longer proportionate in terms of legal fees for Christ Church to continue to instruct HSF on this matter”.

Too late. This wild spending has brought down the wrath of the Charity Commission. Helen Earner, its director of regulatory services, wants to know what charitable purpose is served by the campaign against the dean. She asks exactly how much has been spent, how budgets were revised as costs spiralled, and by whom. She also demands to see the legal advice received about prospects of success in the various tribunals. She finishes with a reminder that it is a criminal offence for anyone knowingly to provide false or misleading information to the commission: “This includes suppressing, concealing, or destroying documents.”

If the college’s answers are unsatisfactory, the commission could make individual trustees personally responsible for the sums the college has spent. Or it could make the trustees, which is to say all 65 fellows, collectively responsible. Though Christ Church itself is wealthy, with an endowment of more than £500m, many of the individual dons are not…

and this:

…Meanwhile, the savage pettiness within Christ Church grinds on. The sub-dean of the cathedral, Richard Peers, who had sided against the dean, is now himself the subject of a CDM complaint brought by members of the congregation over rumours he allegedly repeated. The governing body, while refusing to contribute to the dean’s legal costs, has asked the Charity Commission for permission to fund an action for defamation by one of its own members against another, who is a supporter of the dean. It appears the case is to be brought by the man who himself called Percy “a manipulative little turd” and “the little Hitler” in emails which the governing body has tried to suppress.

Now that the governing body has had to change lawyers, the hair-touching tribunal against the dean may be delayed until 2023. He remains suspended. Mediation has broken down again. Unless both sides can reach an agreement, the whole system by which Oxford colleges are governed may change as a result of a dispute over whether a clergyman once touched a verger’s hair.


Andrew Billen has a report in The Times: Oxford college turns to medical team in row over dean’s future. Some brief extracts:

…Deborah Loudon, a former head of human resources at the Home Office who is supporting Percy, said yesterday: “No one who knows Martyn would describe him as mentally ill. He has suffered from the stress of the campaign against him which has resulted in anxiety and depression but he has received excellent treatment and is much better and ready for a phased return to work.”

….Christ Church dons, who make up the governing body, have previously made unproven assertions about his mental health. A year after describing Percy as “thick and a narcissist” in an email, Karl Sternberg, a fellow of the college, sent colleagues another saying he was “not necessarily thinking rationally”. Sarah Rowland-Jones, an immunology professor, told fellow members of the governing body that Percy was not “schizoid or mad” but had “classic signs of a narcissistic personality disorder.” She had not examined him and no such diagnosis has ever been made…

…Christ Church was unable to comment on a “sensitive HR matter”.


Opinion – 15 December 2021

Martyn Percy Modern Church Rickety Religion (Part Two: The Advent of Structures)

Timothy Goode ViaMedia.News A Story of Transforming Love – and My Mother

Jeremy Marks ViaMedia.News The Thorny Question of Desire!


Meeting of the House of Bishops, 13 December 2021

Church of England press release

Meeting of the House of Bishops, 13 December 2021

The House of Bishops met remotely via Zoom for its final meeting of 2021 on Monday 13 December.

The House agreed with the current direction of travel of the proposed changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Bishops, which will permit UK Minority Ethnic / Global Majority Heritage (UKME/ GMH) to attend as observers. The House agreed to delegate the drafting and approval of the proposed changes to the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops.

The House was then addressed by the Bishop of Huddersfield in his capacity as the lead Bishop for Safeguarding and the Interim Director of Safeguarding. The House approved revisions of the guidance Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults, discussed at the last meeting of the House, which will come into effect at the beginning of July 2022.

The House then went on to take note of a report by the Triennium Funding Working group on Financial Planning for Ministry Support.

The House then turned its attention to preparations for discussions with diocesan secretaries at a joint informal meeting scheduled for February. The House noted the outline and proposed approach.

The House was then addressed by the Bishop of London in her capacity as chair of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF), Next Steps Group. The House was invited to reflect on issues raised in an interim report on a set of responses to the Living in Love and Faith resources. The House took note of the interim report.

The meeting closed in prayer.


Monmouth Enquiry and Review Report

Update There are reports in the Church Times: Monmouth review: Archbishop of Wales apologises and Review lists catalogue of errors in Monmouth and the Church in Wales.

The Church in Wales has published the Monmouth Enquiry and Review report today in a news item which is copied below.

The full (but redacted) report is here, and there is an overview here. There is also a statement from the current Bishop of Monmouth.

Monmouth Enquiry and Review Report

Provincial news Posted: 13 December 2021

In May 2020 the Bench of Bishops and the Representative Body of the Church in Wales established an Enquiry and Review into the events surrounding the retirement of the Rt Revd Richard Pain as Bishop of Monmouth in April 2019, and to review the procedures followed and decisions made by all those involved.

The Enquiry and Review Panel was chaired by the Rt Revd Graham James and the other members were Lucinda Herklots and Patricia Russell.

The Panel’s report has now been published, together with an overview of it written on behalf of the commissioners by the then Senior Bishop, now Archbishop, the Most Revd Andrew John, and the former chair of the Representative Body, James Turner. The overview explains that the report has been partially redacted in order to protect the anonymity of some of those involved.

The Commissioners commit to implementing the report’s recommendations quickly and comprehensibly. They also apologise profoundly for the Church’s failures highlighted in the report and, in particular, to those whose reputations, ministries and working life were damaged as these events unfolded.

In December 2018, the Church in Wales issued a statement which was included in an article in the Western Mail on 22 December and subsequently reused in a number of media reports. This statement had not been agreed with the members of the Diocese of Monmouth senior team and caused them considerable distress. It was misleading. The Church in Wales formally withdraws the statement and unreservedly apologizes for the hurt and distress it caused.


The Review Panel

Graham James was Bishop of Norwich from 1999 to 2019. He chaired the independent Paterson Inquiry which reported to Her Majesty’s Government in February this year.

Lucinda Herklots was Diocesan Secretary of the Diocese of Salisbury for nearly 15 years until November 2018. She is currently a Chapter member of Salisbury Cathedral and a governor of the local NHS hospital trust.

Patricia Russell is an ecclesiastical lawyer specialising in human resources and safeguarding matters. She was deputy registrar to the Dioceses of Winchester and Salisbury from 2014 to 2019.


Opinion – 11 December 2021

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Thirtyone:Eight and the Culture of the Titus Trust

Zachary Guiliano The Living Church Inns and Stables

Church Times Leader comment: Why does HTB get it right (and everyone else get it wrong)?

Church Times Gospel translations: That openeth the window, to let in the light
Madeleine Davies explores theories behind translations of the Gospels


Statistics for Mission 2020

The Church of England has published its Statistics for Mission 2020 report today. The accompanying press release is copied below. Reports for previous years can be found here under the heading Church attendance statistics.

Statistics for Mission 2020

The Church of England’s Statistics for Mission 2020 report has been published.

Figures published recently show that more than 9,000 churches (eight in 10 parishes) offered ‘Church at Home’ worship, such as online or dial-in services, during the March-July 2020 lockdown.

The full report also details in-person attendance figures for services which were, as expected, significantly lower than usual, amid legal restrictions on numbers because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of the figures are based on an annual snapshot taken in October, which fell just before the second full national lockdown in England, when adult average weekly attendance was 57 per cent lower than 2019.

Despite the restrictions, the figures were still collected by the Church of England Research and Statistics Unit to record and recognise those things that churches were able to do in such difficult circumstances, understand the impact of the pandemic on church life and give context to future figures.

A spokesperson for the Church of England said: “The 2020 Statistics for Mission figures are very much in line with expectations and really underline the scale of the challenge churches faced in the first year of the pandemic.

“The main figures represent a snapshot in time in October last year, as the second wave of Covid-19 gathered momentum, while many churches in England were still closed for public worship, and all were under a legal requirement to limit numbers.

“The Advent and Christmas figures show this even more starkly – given the restrictions we all remember being introduced just a few days before Christmas last year.

“So they bear tribute to the resilience of local churches in the face of real challenges to which they responded in remarkable ways.

“We know that eight in 10 parishes offered ‘Church at Home’ online, via email, post and telephone during the first lockdown, helping sustain parish life when it was so dearly needed and also bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to some people for the first time.”


Opinion – 8 December 2021

LGBTQ Faith UK Yes Bishop. Sir Humphrey 2 – Church of England 0

Andrew Knight ViaMedia.News Blessings & Same-Sex Relationships

Martyn Percy Modern Church Rickety Religion: Advent Calling
“The first in a short series of Advent reflections on mission, money, sex, power, integrity and identity within the Church of England”

Jeremy Morris has fairly recently started a blog Ad fontes. His latest piece is The faith of poetry and the poetry of faith.


Titus Trust Culture Review

The report of a culture review of The Titus Trust has been published today. The review was commissioned by the Trust and undertaken by Thirtyone:eight.

The full report can be read on the Titus Trust website here, together with an executive summary, and a statement from the Trust.

Thirtyone:eight have also published a webpage and a separate  statement on their website.

A couple of extracts from the Executive Summary, together with the recommendations are copied below.



Archbishop of Wales elected

The electoral college of the Church in Wales met today in Llandrindod Wells and elected Andy John, Bishop of Bangor, as the 14th Archbishop of Wales by a two-thirds majority.

Andy John has been Bishop of Bangor for 13 years and is currently the longest-serving bishop on the Welsh bench.

More details on the Church in Wales website, and a recording of the announcement of the election is here.


Opinion – 4 December 2021

Martyn Percy Meander The Lowly Cattle Shed

Joe Hawes ViaMedia.News Making a Stand: From Kilroy to Synod

Guli Francis-Dehqani The Church of England in Parliament Bishop of Chelmsford calls for justice for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in Lords maiden speech

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Quality Assurance

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church CEEC and its new Study Material


Why Botswana is different

There is another African country, whose Court of Appeal has just confirmed the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships.  See for example, this Reuters report: Botswana appeals court upholds ruling that decriminalised gay sex, or this in the Guardian: Botswana upholds ruling decriminalising same-sex relationships.

The Anglican Peace and Justice Network reports: Alice Mogwe Receives Prestigious Award

Botswana activist Alice Mogwe spoke about the African and Anglican roots of her commitment to human dignity as she was presented with the prestigious Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Human Rights Award for 2021. Mogwe, the President of the International Federation of Human Rights, is a leading figure in the world-wide human rights community and in 2018 she became the first person from civil society to address a High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

In her acceptance speech entitled ‘What I learnt on the Way’ she emphasised the significance of human dignity as the basis of all right relationships between people and peoples. The concept of Botho – made famous as Ubuntu by her friend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – is the foundation of all she has fought for from her awakening to the present day…

The full text of her acceptance speech can be found here.


Opinion – 1 December 2021

Peter Crumpler Christian Today Three words for Justin Welby about TV vicars

Savitri Hensman ViaMedia.News Advent Reflections: Seeking Justice; Showing Mercy

Zachary Guiliano The Living Church The Poverty of the Holy Family: against Ian Paul


Bishop of Barking

The name of the next Area Bishop of Barking has been announced from 10 Downing Street. There is more information at the Diocese of Chelmsford website.

Appointment of Suffragan Bishop of Barking: 30 November 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Lynne Cullens to the Suffragan See of Barking.

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 30 November 2021

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Lynne Cullens, Rector of Stockport and Brinnington, in the Diocese of Chester, to the Suffragan See of Barking, in the Diocese of Chelmsford, in succession to The Right Reverend Peter Hill, following his retirement on 4th August 2021.


Lynne was educated at Manchester University and trained for ministry at the Southern North West Training Partnership. She served her title at St Peter’s, St Stephen’s, St John the Evangelist and Holy Trinity, Congleton, in the Diocese of Chester and was ordained Priest in 2013.

In 2015, Lynne became a non-stipendiary minister at St John the Evangelist, Sandbach Heath, and was appointed Priest in Charge at St Andrew with St John the Baptist Church, Crewe in 2016.

In 2019, Lynne took up her current role as Rector of Stockport and Brinnington, also in the Diocese of Chester.


Opinion – 27 November 2021

Freddie Hayward New Statesman “The parish system is a kind of spiritual NHS”: Anglican priest Alison Milbank on saving our churches
“The co-founder of Save The Parish discusses her campaign and why she’ll never be a bishop.”

Rogers Govender ViaMedia.News Spiritual Guides – The Key to Transformation?

The Guardian view on clergy on TV: not just ‘rogues or idiots’
“Anglican vicars may often be portrayed as bland, benign and bumbling, but the Archbishop of Canterbury is missing something”

Clare Amos Exploring faith in Europe Kingship… not from this world


Christ Church Oxford: criticism of proposed tribunal

We last reported on this topic on 7 October: Christ Church Oxford: a further update. Since then there have been a number of developments, but two items were published this morning:

Martin Sewell argues that the public can have no confidence in the current arrangements for a further disciplinary tribunal hearing, and that the Charity Commission is also deeply concerned.

The Church Times report gives further detail on the latter:

On 4 November, Helen Earner, director of regulatory services, wrote to the Revd Professor Sarah Foot, Censor Theologiae and chair of the Governing Body, requesting a long list of background information about the dispute. This includes Governing Body minutes from June 2018 covering the salaries-board dispute that sparked the original complaint against the Dean; the money that the college has spent on its action hitherto, including payments for legal advice and public-relations support; and details of the mediation process and why it was halted.

Also requested are copies of the emails from senior figures in the college made available to Sir Andrew Smith, who conducted the internal inquiry that exonerated the Dean (News, 21 August 2019). Sir Andrew included them in an appendix to his report, but they were redacted from the version circulated to members of the Governing Body. One email about the Dean read: “I’m always ready to think the worst of him. . . Does anyone know any good poisoners?”

Ms Earner also responds in her letter to two questions by Professor Foot. On the question whether the college could contribute to Dean Percy’s legal costs in the tribunal process, she writes: “Based on what we understand to be the current situation, we would see that it is likely to fall within the range of reasonable decisions that trustees could make.”

Professor Foot’s other question is whether the college could pay for legal advice for individual members of the Governing Body who want to take action for alleged defamation “and/or misuse of private information”. The Governing Body has been disturbed by leaks throughout this process, and Ms Earner’s letter acknowledges that “some members of the Governing Body have identified themselves as whistleblowers.”

Before ruling whether this is a permissible use of funds, Ms Earner asks whether the Governing Body has set a budget or cap on money to be advanced to individual members.

Her letter ends by reminding the Governing Body that it is a criminal offence knowingly or recklessly to provide false or misleading information.


Meeting of the House of Bishops, 24 November 2021

Church of England press release

The House of Bishops met on Wednesday 24 November remotely via Zoom.

The House was updated and approved the direction of travel of work currently relating to the review of ministerial formation. The House then received a series of updates on the Emerging Church workstreams. An update was given to the House on the Transforming Effectiveness workstream, followed by reflections on the reception given to the Governance Review Group and Vision and Strategy presentations at November Synod.

The meeting ended in prayer.


Opinion – 24 November 2021

Richard Peers Oikodomeo Sermon: Launching the Movement for the Abolition of the Feast of Christ the King

Ian Gomersall St Chrysostom’s Church News and Views What will be the shape of the Church to come?

Helen King ViaMedia.News General Synod: “Gone Fishing!”

Bruce Bryant-Scott The Island Parson General Synod of the Church of England November 2021: A Comparison with the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada


Bishop of Willesden

The name of the next Area Bishop of Willesden has been announced from 10 Downing Street. There is more information at the Diocese of London website.

The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Mission and Ministry Enabler, in the Diocese of Leicester, to the Suffragan See of Willesden, in the Diocese of London, in succession to The Right Reverend Peter Broadbent who resigned on 30th September 2021.


Lusa was educated in Theology at the Faculté Universitaire de Théologie Protestante, Brussels and trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham. He served his title at All Saints, Staplehurst, in the Diocese of Canterbury and was ordained Priest in 2009.

In 2012, Lusa was appointed Vicar at St Aidan, Gravesend, in the Diocese of Rochester and in 2017, he took up his current role as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Mission and Ministry Enabler in the Diocese of Leicester.

He is married to Mirjam who works as Discipleship Officer at Leicester Cathedral. They have three young children.


Opinion – 20 November 2021

Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News Ghana, Synod & the “Othering” of LGBTQI People

Giles Fraser UnHerd Don’t blame the Church for terrorism

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Is it sometimes good to change one’s mind? A question at General Synod.

Helen King sharedconversations General Synod: feeling the weight of the Church of England