Thinking Anglicans

When was Issues in Human Sexuality added to the selection process?

Updated 9 July

A Private Member’s Motion has been tabled at the General Synod relating to the use of Issues in Human Sexuality in the ordination process. The text of that motion is copied below:

Vocations process and Issues in human sexuality

Revd Mae Christie (Southwark) to move:

‘That this Synod request that the House of Bishops remove any requirements relating to Issues in Human Sexuality from the Vocations (Shared Discernment) Process.’

In connection with the above, there is also a Question, published today, which is also copied below:

The Revd Mae Christie (London) to ask the Chair of the Ministry Council:
Q62 When and by what mechanism was Issues in Human Sexuality formally written into the Selection Criterion of the Church of England?

The Bishop of Chester to reply as Chair of the Ministry Council:

A We do not have a record of the date or the mechanism by which Issues in Human Sexuality was formally written into the former Selection Criteria. Unfortunately, since the information is not readily available it could not be obtained within the time-frame available for responding to Synod questions.

The answer is quite extraordinary. Maybe some of our readers can help out here?

PS Mthr Mae has not moved dioceses.

For the benefit of those wondering what exactly was in the former selection criteria about this,, here’s the wording:

E 5: Candidates should be able to accept the standards of sexual morality expected of ordained ministers
Evidence for this may be drawn from a candidate’s capacity to:

  • Confirm that he/ she has read the House of Bishops’ Guidelines Issues in Human Sexuality and is prepared to live within them. (This is normally handled by the DDO and evidenced in the Diocesan Sponsoring Papers)
  • Reflect on how he/ she will work with those with whom he/ she differ in this area

And in the new (current) selection criteria, it says this

  • Have you discussed with the Candidate, and have they read, understood and agreed to live within the guidelines in Issues in Human Sexuality

Update

The following supplementary question was put on Friday evening by Mae Christie

If it cannot be established that IHS was inserted into the discernment process , having been ordered so by the House of Bishops, and is therefore in place illegitimately, will the house of bishops, in coordination with ministry division, consider removing it from the shared discernment process with immediate effect?

This was ruled out of order by the chair on the grounds that it raised a hypothetical situation.

 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
42 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Susannah Clark
1 month ago

This is a wholly inadequate answer to the question. The said requirement should be summarily removed from the vocations process until such time as an answer and justification can be found for its inclusion.

Given the indeterminate developments yet to be arrived at after LLF, which may allow for more than one theological position on human sexuality, it should be removed anyway, if they can’t even say how it was mysteriously written in to the process.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I totally agree. I spent some years as a DDO required to ask people if they were willing to conform to it and say so on their selection report – while always knowing it was wholly inadequate and was in case originally advisory not some kind of policy. I found it excruciating.

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Then why did you go along with it?

Last edited 1 month ago by Laurence Cunnington
Sue Penfold
Sue Penfold
1 month ago

I was an associate DDO 1996-2001 and DDO in a different diocese 2001-8. Trying to dredge my memory I think it was early in the second of those posts.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Sue Penfold
1 month ago

I was a DDO 1997 to 2008. Sometime in the early 2000’s I think. It came rather out of the blue.I seem to remember making some enquiries with no clear answer.

Tim Goodbody
Tim Goodbody
1 month ago

I’m a DDO. Some of my bi, trans and gay candidates for ordination have commented that IHS contains hate speech (e.g. Bisexual people are incapable of fidelity) Asking people who are in civil partnerships to assent to guidelines written before their relationship was formally recongised is just ridiculous.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Tim Goodbody
1 month ago

LLF doesn’t say that about bisexual people. It just ignores them, which may or may not be a sign of progress.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
1 month ago

So essentially a fraud has been perpetrated by some people on the Church of England and conditions imposed on those seeking ordination which seem to have no authority, due process or legitimacy behind them.

Judith Maltby
Judith Maltby
1 month ago

I served on Ministry Council as an elected rep from General Synod in the early 2010s (+Steven Croft was chair) and I’m pretty sure we discussed it at one of our meetings (unless my memory is based on a nightmare). I don’t have my papers from back then any more but the Minutes of Ministry Council from that Quinquennium should provide an answer. Whether it goes back farther – maybe others can say? More recently, I was a member of one of the LLF work streams and some of us thought we’d better take a deep breath and (re)read Issues… Read more »

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
1 month ago

“A We do not have a record of the date or the mechanism by which Issues in Human Sexuality was formally written into the former Selection Criteria.”
So what is the case under the current Selection Criteria?

Neil Patterson
Neil Patterson
1 month ago

Kat Alldread asked in 2018, prompted by me as a DDO, why only the chapter of Issues titled “The Homophile in the Life of the Church” was on the CofE website. It was admitted that the Church did not own the copyright to the book. This has, I believe, now been remedied.

Charles Clapham
1 month ago

What a brilliant question, and what an inadequate response: the kind of answer Boris Johnson might give. Which leads you to question how truthful it is. It is surely the case that selection criteria are regularly reviewed and revised by a national board or committee (and perhaps signed off by the House of Bishops?) and it’s difficult to believe there is no paper trail on this. Even if the date of the original introduction of Issues can’t be tracked down now, some comment, however brief, on how the criteria as a whole are now agreed and by whom (and therefore,… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

My DDO in 1989 couldn’t bring himself to talk about such mucky matters face to face so he went and stood in the bay window and looked out over the garden as he explained the Bishop of Hereford’s expectations of single ordinands. The requirements were not at all onerous and the statement seemed not to demand any response from me so I just smiled sweetly when the DDO reappeared and the conversation carried on with no further drama. There is much that is quite quaint about Issues but it was written by middle aged and middle class former public schoolboys… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

‘Issues in Human Sexuality: A Statement by the House of Bishops’ is of 1990 vintage and reflects the mores of Establishment England at that time; specifically the heterosexual male’s fear of or antipathy to penetration. In the decade prior to Issues I was a juror in a case where a respected judge plainly saw a violent attempt at rape less abhorrent than rape itself (in law, the latter requires penetration). The women jurors were not impressed and, had the HoB included women back then, I suspect they might have pointed out the deeply flawed nature of Issues to their brethren.

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

“Have you discussed with the Candidate, and have they read, understood and agreed to live within the guidelines in Issues in Human Sexuality”

Isn’t this an improvement? It states that Issues in Human Sexuality sets out guidelines. Guidelines aren’t binding.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

In answer to Kate, and to Stephen below… I was wondering along the same line as you, Kate. It wasn’t my understanding that ‘Issues’ (1991) and ‘Some Issues’ (2003) were agreed doctrinal rules, but rather, offered guidelines on differing theological views on these issues, and how to learn from them, and navigate them within the Church of England? They are discussion books, outlining said ‘issues’, encouraging further understanding, and suggesting what guidelines might be helpful. Guidelines are not the same as mandatory rules, so I’m not clear how they ‘morphed’ into rules for ordinands, if they did. If they were… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

A combined reply to you and Kate. The fact that guidelines are not mandatory does not mean that they are of no effect once a candidate has “read, understood and agreed to live within the guidelines”. Not doing so becomes a situation of a broken vow. I’m not offering any solutions to the problem, merely pointing out that it is muddled and wrong thinking to suggest that something seen as ‘optional’ isn’t binding once the promise has been made.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Personally I wouldn’t see it as a broken vow because someone has undertaken to treat them as guidelines – which may therefore need to be varied when faced with the complications of life. But I would guess that most of those in ordained ministry have broken the ‘guidelines’ of Issues in some way. Heterosexual couples who use contraceptives or who have sex when one isn’t fertile (including after the menopause) break the guidelines that sex is for procreation. Those who submit Synod motions against Pride flags have broken the guidelines because we should support ‘homophiles’. I think the problem is… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

Kate: It’s part of a wider issue (which I deliberately avoided as outside my competence) but Froghole has well summarised it below and which the Church should address. The fact that people may have departed from the guidelines is an entirely different matter from making a promise with no intention of keeping it from the outset. Rightly or wrongly, that is the scenario which your previous comment conveyed. I don’t think that stance can be justified by any moral or legal argument.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

I agree with that nuance but the same almost certainly applies to many heterosexual candidates. How many do you think will have been promiscuous (ie had some form of sex outside of marriage)? I suspect very many. How many do you think are actively using contraceptives? Again, probably very many.

As I say, Issues is applied selectively and that bias is homophobia. It is also obviously out of date.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Kate
1 month ago

As I understand it, the question is about making a commitment to behave a certain way in the future, not a claim to have done so in the past. To take the point of promiscuity: on the website for Tribunal decisions you will see several cases of adultery and at least one of promiscuity (“swinging”). It would need a careful analysis to sustain a case of bias in such cases.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

But perhaps the vow could be understood ‘in the spirit of the guidelines’. ‘Issues’ acknowledges multiple theological positions within the Church, not just one. The ‘spirit’ of ‘Issues’ is to find ways of opening up to these diverse realities in the Church, recognising them, because they exist. While ‘Issues’ certainly seeks to protect the socially conservative view, it acknowledges the reality of other views. It seeks openness, not narrowing and closing everything done. That ‘spirit’ has continued through the past 20 to 30 years, with successive encouragement towards openness, and understanding. That ‘spirit’ is at work in LLF, much as… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Please see my reply to Kate. There may well be a case for reform on the part of the Church – in fact Froghole makes a powerful case for it. But I’m afraid it is sophistry to defend making a promise with no intention to keep it.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
1 month ago

Which makes the addition of such promises a weighty matter. I think the answer to the Question makes it clear that this requirement was added to the selection criteria without due authority (*) and should be removed pending proper discussion and, if agreed, proper authorisation.

(*) I say this because “due authority” would surely imply at the very least some form of record.

Last edited 1 month ago by Unreliable Narrator
Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

I walk in front of the firing squad as I ponder out loud that if Issues expresses the doctrine and liturgy of the CofE then it’s fair to ask ordinands whether they will abide by it. After all they will be making assents about their life, doctrine and use of liturgy at their ordination. Better to have the discussion earlier than on the morning of their ordination. How vocation criteria are updated is a very fair question and the need for transparency is crucial to retain confidence in the system.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

Since when did ‘Issues’ become doctrine? How does the C of E go about making ‘doctrine’? Where can I read what the ‘doctrine’ of the C of E is?

If we accept that ordinands need to avow that they will abide (whatever than means) by the ‘doctrine’ of the Church of England, why single out this dubious article in particular to question them about? Shouldn’t ordinands be questioned on each article of ‘doctrine’ of the Church of England, that is, if somebody can find a list of what that is somewhere?

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

I think the Catechism is still extant, is it not?

David Rowett
David Rowett
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

A fascinating observation, though, that this seems to have become such a deal-breaking question for a potential cleric when other issues have not.

Somewhere on my shelves is a copy of a CofE doctrinal report from about 1928. It takes a very dim view of biblical fundamentalism, as we would now call it, but I doubt that any ordinand was quizzed deeply by a sponsoring bishop on their understanding of scriptural infallibility. Perhaps if they had we’d be in a rather different place today?

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

It is, and contains within it no mention of sexuality other than the seventh commandment.

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  Jo B
1 month ago

Are the 39 Articles still in force?

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
1 month ago

This summary of a legal case establishes that there is still recourse to the 39 Articles to establish the doctrine of the CofE (along with other sources) and that ministers can be required to uphold that doctrine https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/the-end-of-the-pemberton-appeal-saga/

Jo B
Jo B
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
30 days ago

Apparently not, as some clergy have had their licence removed or not renewed because they got married, something the 39 Articles declare them to be at liberty to do.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

I once suggested that a short commentary on the Declaration of Assent would be useful. I often wonder at what point would-be ordinands are acquainted with it.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

I suspect that very few hear it before they take the oaths immediately before ordination.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

The Faith and Order Advisory Group has just produced such a booklet. We (at ERMC and in Norwich LLM training) are giving copies to all final year students. I have just taught about the Declaration of Assent to first year students (Ordinands and LLMs) and teach both ordinands (in liturgy classes) and LLMs (in formation groups) about the oaths they will be taking. I suspect I am in a minority…

Booklet details here.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

I was thinking of the assents in the ordinals. For instance this one for deacons:
Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, and in your ministry will you expound and teach it?
Ordinands   I believe it and will so do.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

With so many divorced and remarried clergy in the CofE; as a gay man I reckoned that they ought to remove the plank from their own eye before attempting to find any specks in mine

Jeremy
Jeremy
1 month ago

From a quick web search: Some background is provided by a doctoral thesis, to which Appendix A gives the date as 2005, the process as one begun in 2004, and the IHS “expectation” language : Keith, Elisabeth Grace (2017) Vocation to Witness: Insights from a Research Study on Ordained Vocation in the Church of England. Doctoral thesis, Durham University, http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/12133/ The wording in E5 posted by Simon above is used in “Bishops’ Selection Criteria” which is Appendix D to a draft Diocese in Europe document dated 2012. It’s not clear whether the “Bishops” were those of that diocese or the… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago

“Have you discussed with the Candidate, and have they read, understood and agreed to live within the guidelines in Issues in Human Sexuality?” This is reminiscent of the controversies associated with subscription to the Articles. Before 1865 the clergy had to subscribe ‘ex animo’: “I A B do willingly and from my heart subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion…”. Then, from 1865 to 1975 (and in recognition that full subscription was turning many clergy into liars or perjurers) that was reduced to a mere ‘assent’: “I A B do solemnly make the following declaration: I assent to the Thirty Nine… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Froghole
1 month ago

But should we pin everything down to a kind of human control of God’s agenda? Cannot openness and ambiguity actually imply that we mortals have stopped doing all the talking, and rigid fence building, and made space for the grace of God, whose Spirit wanders where she will? Yes, we all know that the Church of England has historically tried to accommodate differing views, rather than be a narrow sect. There is even some conscious ambiguity in some of the wording in the 16th Century prayer books. We are a Church tradition that has existed with multiple theological views. Pinning… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Many thanks indeed. I rather agree with you. I am in two minds about this. I think we need to acknowledge that this is part of a long continuum of ecclesiastical fudge, so we should not be shocked by it (or pretend to be shocked by it; I myself am ‘shocked, shocked!’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1H-PS_pr-t0). However, I also have some sympathy with those who consider this sort of half-baked pretence at political ‘vetting’ inherently dishonest (and, as such, that it sullies the ordination process), and that it has been included in an impossible attempt to square an unsquareable circle. I stress that… Read more »

42
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x