Thinking Anglicans

PCC of St George’s Headstone – report by Independent Reviewer Sir William Fittall

Updated Friday, Saturday and Tuesday

This report was published yesterday; the press release is copied below.

St George’s PCC had requested, in accordance with the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, that episcopal sacramental and pastoral ministry in the parish be entrusted to a male bishop. Their requirements included this:

iii. whose marital status conforms with Apostolic teaching and practice expressed in the historic teaching and practice of the Church of England.

The PCC complained that the bishop proposed by the Bishop of London had remarried after divorce and was therefore unacceptable to them. In his report on their grievance Sir William concluded that

“the resolution making procedure set out in the House of Bishops’ Declaration concerns theological conviction in relation only to gender and ordained ministry. It does not extend to matters of marital status or indeed any other consideration. The PCC’s grievance against the decision of the Bishop of London to invite the Bishop of Fulham to provide episcopal ministry is therefore unjustified.”

Read the full report for the other parts of the PCC’s grievance.

press release

PCC of St George’s Headstone – report by Independent Reviewer Sir William Fittall
13/12/2018

The report by Sir William Fittall, Independent Reviewer in relation to the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, can be found at the link provided below.

Report
Grievance from the PCC of St George’s Headstone

Update

Madeleine Davies Church Times London PCC’s criteria for accepting a bishop went too far, Sir William Fittall decides

Anglican Mainstream Church of England’s Independent Reviewer supports Bishop of London against parish refusing the Bishop of Fulham over divorce and remarriage

David Pocklington Law & Religion UK Seven Bishops and a PCC: St George’s, Headstone

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Paul WaddingtonJill ArmsteadJanet FifeNeil PattersonDavid Runcorn Recent comment authors
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Simon Sarmiento
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A search of Crockfords shows that the incumbent of this parish has served there, first as curate, then as priest-in-charge, and now as vicar, continuously since 1990. But no other biographical information is provided.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Some fine obiter dicta in the Fittall judgment! I think it will be politic of me not to stray into the ratio decidendi and the arguments of the PCC!

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

The Bishop of London’s letter of the 1st Nov is interesting for the statistics relating to the Fulham and Maidstone parishes which i havent seen elsewhere.

cassandra
Guest
cassandra

Richard Chartres is a ‘fourfold doctor of Divinity’ – oh, he must be right on everything then! Hang on though, all four of those are honorary degrees… What faith some people have in pieces of paper.

Mark Brunson
Guest
Mark Brunson

The Anglican obsession with the Holy Order of the Graduate Degree. Of course, those too poor or too unlucky to be able to get a degree are lesser – it’s the 21st Century clericalism.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

To quote from the BCP (St George’s is a BCP and FiF church), clergy are expected to be “husbands of one wife, ruling their … own houses well”. They are to be “wholesome and godly examples and patterns for the people to follow”. Furthermore, the institutional church expects higher standards of the ordained than of the non-ordained. If I were scrupulous about rules (I’m not) and if I wanted to avoid cherry-picking (I don’t), I would share the PCC’s reservations about oversight from a divorced bishop. There are other dissonances lurking in the shrubbery. Here’s one. One of my parishes… Read more »

Peter Mullins
Guest
Peter Mullins

The future Archbishop George Appleton was briefly Vicar of this parish in the late 1940s and early 1950s and took the funerals of my grandparents from the congregation in that time. All three of them would then have assumed the Book of Common Prayer, exclusively male ordained ministry, and a level of social exclusion of the divorced were normative, as the core influencers of the congregation still do today. These influencers simply assume that they are still normative and it is the rest of us who have drifted away.

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

Was “a level of social exclusion” normative – everywhere ? My grandmother (married in 1899) and my mother (married in 1930) were lifelong members of our parish’s Mothers Union branch, but they (with I think most local MU members) whom in the 40s I heard discuss this matter, strongly disagreed with the Mothers’ Union exclusion then of those who were divorced. MU, thank God, has since changed its rules. With regard to the clergy, though not the laity, sadly my Diocese (Sydney) still has hard rules, even though in S.Matthew’s Gospel and in S.Paul, exceptions to the strict rule attributed… Read more »

Matthew Howey
Guest

Hi – I think that’s a really good point about many of Jesus’ commands not being taken literally, even by conservatives (and sometimes especially by them). What has always struck me is that conservatives will apply Jesus’ commands on marriage/ divorce with complete rigour, but in almost all other cases will understand the commands as illustrating a broader principle to be applied differently depending on the circumstance. What conservative would take literally the command ‘Do not judge’? Or ‘Resist not the evil man’? (Except maybe for strict pacifists). Of ‘Do not swear by anything, whether on heaven or on earth?’… Read more »

Brian Ralph
Guest
Brian Ralph

And at St James King Street in the Diocese of Sydney, the excellent assistant priest has had to serve under at least 2 Rectors because he committed the grievous sin of marrying a divorced woman. It is the only church in Sydney that I would be bothered entering and despite the 9 years since my departure, I still receive a warm welcome from Father John.

crs
Guest
crs

“These influencers simply assume that they are still normative and it is the rest of us who have drifted away.”

This used to be a possible position to take on just about anything, but now it is to be swept up into the narrative of endless and unending “progress” as the IPhone 4 is now replaced by newer and better models and will continue to be so.

Matthew Howey
Guest

I think we need to make a distinction between genuine social progress in civil rights (gender, race, slavery) and the consumerist society which just wants the latest in technology. They may sometimes be confused as forms of ‘freedom’ in modern secular society, but I believe they are based on fundamentally different principles – the one is based on Christian values of justice and social inclusion, the other is based on anti-Christian values of covetousness and greed.

crs
Guest
crs

Interesting story on the radio here in France. Innovation, c’est destructrice. What it means to so quickly declare things obselète. As for the obviousness of “Christian values” — Whose Virtue, Which Rationality? Alisdair MacIntrye.

crs
Guest
crs

Whose Justice, Which Rationality — sorry for the error in citation.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

That problem of the rara avis – ‘Flying Bishop’ is now coming home to roost in the Church of England.

The real irony here, of course, is that the Bishop of Maidstone is himself a protester against the Ordination of Women. However, he is not an acceptable minister to the Parish of St.George’s because – Horror of Horrors – he was himself ordained by Bishops who have become ‘tainted’ by laying hands upon women in ministry, allowing them to become priests and bishops!

There ought to be no double standards in Catholic Order. This is why Sir William, bless him, legitimately objects.

Robert Ellis
Guest
Robert Ellis

What an incredible waste of time and money this all is. Words like “angels” “dance” and “needle” come to mind. Come on St Georges get real!

david Rowett
Guest
david Rowett

I thinks it’s in ‘The Screwtape Letters’ that Lewis talks of a particular fastidiousness which ‘only wants x, and the increasingly fissiparous nature of our society seems to encourage a mind-set wherein it’s possible to have exactly what one wants in terms of services and goods. Are we surprised when the Church (so often both often in and of this world), composed of folk like me who go for á la carte rather than table d’hôteet ransfer that same pattern onto their spiritual buying preferences? Mission-shaped Ministry rather encouraged such a consumerist mindset with its advocacy of socially and culturally… Read more »

PaulWaddington
Guest
PaulWaddington

The big question is: Where does the parish of St George, Headstone, go from here? There seems to be an impasse. Could this be the start of another splinter group within the C of E?

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Another question, surely, is whether the stance of the PCC is representative of the whole congregation, and whether they (i.e. the congregation) consider that this is really important, given the over-riding commission of Christ in Matthew 28 v.19 to “… go and make disciples of all nations…”

Dave
Guest
Dave

Indeed David and whether the PCC / congregation is representative of the parish which the church serves.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I note that the bishop asked to see all the PCC and hear their views, but the PCC resolved that only the vicar should attend the meeting. Maybe they just want to stay out of it?

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

The PCC is an elected body. Presumably, if the congregation generally finds them unrepresentative, hey will be replaced next time round. I would expect that that is how it works.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

That’s how its supposed to work. But, unless the church is huge, there are rarely enough candidates to force an election, so everyone who stands gets a place. And even in quite big churches, there seems to be an aversion to elections in case someone’s feelings get hurt by losing.

Paul Waddington
Guest
Paul Waddington

If everybody who stands gets a place on the PCC, presumably it is representative of those who take an interest in the governance of the parish.

Malcolm Dixon
Guest
Malcolm Dixon

If it was necessary, or indeed possible, to provide any further evidence to the general public that those of us who still cling to the church are all barking mad, this could conceivably be it. Let’s hope that it remains buried in the pages of ecclesiastical arcana and doesn’t get picked up by the general press. I must confess, to my shame, that I have sometimes flippantly used the term ‘headbangers’ to describe people who cling to extreme theological convictions so persistently that they lose contact with reality. It has usually, I am sure, been quite inappropriate and insulting but,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

It is sort of baked into the system, though, isn’t it?

The status quo says that people may object to a minister bishop on certain grounds. Once one does that, the specific grounds on which an objection is, or is not, upheld becomes arbitrary. I don’t support the precise line taken by St George’s, but I struggle to see a theological rationale for some of their objections being seen as valid and others invalid. I think they have usefully highlighted the nonsensical nature of the status quo and would be unsurprised were the Spirit involved.

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

Kate, I would say the critical difference is that the conscientious choices available to a parish are only those the whole Church (well, Synod and the bishops) has agreed to make available in a deliberate decision for mutual flourishing, policed by a Reviewer appointed as he is by the national Church.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

You are right Neil, but I find it ironic that (if my Bible study is correct) the grounds which are allowed (objecting to women priests and bishops) have little evidence from scripture, yet the grounds that are not allowed (objecting to divorce) have strong direct scriptural backing.

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

Simon, oh, absolutely. I don’t think any of us can pretend for a moment that the polity of the Church of England is devoid of irony!

Bernard
Guest

I note from the St George Headstone website that they use the BCP 1549. Is that a form of service authorised by canon?

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

I asked permission to use 1549 in a very specific ‘one off’ setting (Requiem mass to mark the return of just short of 3000 sets of historic human remains from a university lab) and was told that it was not authorised.

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

I had a different episcopal answer a few years ago when a 1549 Requiem with the music of Merbecke was held to commemorate Bishop John Hooper’s immolation in the churchyard in 1556. While Hooper’s ashes doubtless turned a few times at such popish proceeding, it was as close as we could get to something he might have known. It probably helped that the bishop was Michael Perham, who was consulted throughout, face to face. Lest it be thought that only Anglo Catholics do such things, a conservative evangelical in this diocese retained his living until he died in his 90s,… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

I think Simon, Peter and Janet are quite right to draw attention to the incumbent. So many parishes like this have a headstrong priest who forcefully leads. Opponents ‘fall off the edge’ and supporters move in. I don’t know the incumbent, or the parish, but I suspect this is the situation here. I’ve seen several parishes oppose women priests and then when the vicar leaves drop resolutions. I could even name a few where women priests have stepped in after an anti-women priest. It is so sad that so much energy is spent by such parishes on such issues. It… Read more »

Neil Patterson
Guest
Neil Patterson

I am very encouraged by this judgement, which seems to mark a welcome limit to the expanding pick-your-own-bishop tendency and the bringing of the whole system more firmly under a coherent ecclesiology. But it raises a challenging question for the Society, viz., if the objection to Rod Thomas on the grounds of his consecration by ++Justin was invalid (on the basis of the Society’s own admirable statement rejecting ‘taint’). what was the basis on which Philip North was consecrated by traditionalist bishops only (led by +Chichester) whilst ++York looked on? And what will happen at the next traditionalist consecration? My… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Neil Patterson raises an interesting question, worthy of an answer.

The situation at Walsingham I think should be clarified too, and bears a relation to this.

I’m told that only male priests ordained by male bishops may celebrate the Eucharist at the Anglican shrine. However Orthodox priests and RC priests (Ordinariate, for example) may celebrate at the shrine.

At one time women deacons could minister at the shrine. I understand they no longer are permitted to do so.

Are bishops who have ordained women permitted to celebrate at Walsingham?

Chris
Guest
Chris

Dave – I can’t answer your question about bishops, but the restrictions are even tighter on priests now. When I first went with my parish on pilgrimage, there was no issue with me presiding at the Eucharist for my parishioners only. But two years ago I was told that I couldn’t preside unless I became a Priest Associate. So although the Walsingham website states that “The Guardians maintain the discipline of reserving sacramental ministry in the Shrine to male priests ordained by a male bishop,” the reality is that you now must become a Priest Associate to be permitted to… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

‘maintain the discipline’ – that’s one way of putting it.

Charles K
Guest
Charles K

All this sort of thing leaves me sad and even more dissolusioned with the Church of England. Yes we are supposed to be a generous and broad and apparently inclusive church in theory. The challenge of the practice of this means that churches spend a disproportionate amount of time arguing over gender and churchmanship to the extent that our outreach and mission and transforming the world for good is lost in endless PCC discussions about what to me seem to be side issues rather than the core of the gospel. Only recently, there was an interregnum of two AB (and… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

Ah, I had got confused – I had thought this was St George’s, Hanworth. This is the other nutty parish that embarrasses trad ACs. This is not the parish of the vexatious litigant who likes to interrupt consecrations.

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

It’s a suburban parish in the Northolt Archdeaconry and the Willesden Area. The use of 1549 liturgy was the choice of the incumbent. It has connections with the Prayer Book Society, and a liking for the artistic panache of Martin Travers. It was my next door parish when I was an incumbent and Area Dean. A studied and cultivated suburban eccentricity.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Do we know how many people actually attend St Geos Headstone. Are they mostly eclectic?

Richard
Guest
Richard

There are 88 on the electoral roll according to the diocesan website so, on the assumption the majority on the ER attend and that there are those who attend who are not on the ER, I would guess at an ASA of 60-70 – but that is a complete guess as I’ve never been.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Long term memory is slowly kicking in. I began my ministry in the next door parish to Headstone nearly 40 years ago. The vicar retired after a very long incumbency and I helped out while they were in vacancy. It was BCP then as I recall. But at the vicar’s farewell the congregation presented him with a personal copy of the ASB. He presented the congregation with an altar copy of – the ASB.

Jill Armstead
Guest
Jill Armstead

And your point is?