Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Inclusive Church event: Calling from the Edge

Calling from the Edge celebrates the first 5 years of conferences on Disability & Church, a partnership between St Martin in the Fields and Inclusive Church. This lunchtime event alongside General Synod will share the experience and ideas and be of interest to all interested in disability, social justice or inclusion.

Friday 9 February 1.00 pm to 2.15 pm
Aldersgate Suite, Central Hall Westminster

Chair: The Very Revd Dianna Gwilliams, chair of Inclusive Church
Speakers include: Emily Richardson, Ann Memmott, Fiona McMillan, and Revd Tim Goode.

Registration by email to

Access information: step-free (lift) access, hearing loop, autism friendlier

Lunch available

“Centred on lived experience, underpinned by robust theology, disabled people are gathering to resource each other and the Church”

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Bishop George Bell: new information reported

Updated again Friday evening

Two press releases today from the Church of England:

Statement on Bishop George Bell case: Bishop Peter Hancock

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead Safeguarding bishop said: ”There are ongoing queries and comments around the Bishop Bell case and we would all like this matter to come to a conclusion. However, in light of General Synod questions that need to be responded to and the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing yesterday, I would like to draw your attention to this statement from the National Safeguarding Team. I would ask that we keep all those involved in our thoughts and prayers. Due to the confidential nature of this new information I regret I cannot disclose any further detail until the investigations have been concluded. We are currently developing an action plan in response to Lord Carlile’s independent report which makes a number of considered points as to how to handle such cases in future and we have accepted the main thrust of the recommendations.”

Statement on Bishop George Bell case: National Safeguarding Team

“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has received fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell. Sussex Police have been informed and we will work collaboratively with them. This new information was received following the publication of the Carlile Review, and is now being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile’s recommendations. The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments. As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.”

See also Church Times report: New Bell material sparks fresh investigation.

In relation to the IICSA hearing yesterday, the transcript of that is available here.
The Church Times report of it is headlined: Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse pores over 75,000 pages about Chichester diocese.
There is also a report in The Tablet.

In relation to the forthcoming General Synod session, the only documents issued relating to Safeguarding are copies of two previously published reports:

GS Misc 1172 An Abuse of Faith relating to Peter Ball

GS Misc 1173 The Independent Review relating to Bishop George Bell

Wednesday Update

Telegraph Church accused of launching new ‘shameful’ attack on memory of Bishop George Bell

…The Telegraph understands the Church has known about the case for at least a fortnight before making it public 24 hours before the Church House debate…

…Lord Carlile said he was astonished that the Church had gone public with the new claim against Bishop Bell. Among his recommendations was that people accused of abuse should remain anonymous until the allegations are proven.

Lord Carlile said last night: “I am not privy to the information that is referred to in the church’s press release. But I think it was unwise, unnecessary and foolish to issue a press release in relation to something that remains to be investigated and which was not part of the material placed before me over the period of more than a year in which I carried out my review.

“During that period the review was well known and it was open to anybody to place information before me.”

Thursday Update

There’s been a further flurry of items during Thursday:

Church Times
Lord Carlile says new statement about Bishop George Bell is unwise and foolish

Christian Today
George Bell, Justin Welby and the perils of navigating a binary argument
EXCLUSIVE: Bishop blasts disgraced priest allowed to defend George Bell at Church of England’s headquarters

“Archbishop Cranmer” Lord Carlile denounces ‘foolish’ Church of England for casting further doubt on the name of Bishop George Bell

Peter Hitchens New ‘information’ about George Bell. A Coincidence Theorist Writes

Friday Updates

Argus Church waited weeks to reveal new claims

THE Church of England waited six weeks to release an allegation of historic sexual abuse, The Argus can reveal.

The “fresh information” about Bishop George Bell came on Wednesday.
The General Synod is due to discuss Bell’s case next week.

A senior Church of England source said the “fresh information” came to light “within days” of a press conference at Church House on December 15 at which Lord Alex Carlile was damning about the Church’s handling of the affair.
The source said internal discussions were taking place “well before Christmas” on how to handle the new allegations…
…The “fresh information” is believed to be an allegation received by another complainant.

The George Bell affair hit the headlines in mid-December when Lord Carlile accused the Church of unfairly maligning the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most revered churchmen.

At the time Lord Carlile said the Church investigation of Carol’s complaint had been “deficient in several ways”.

He added: “The statement [of October 2015] was wrong, it should never have been issued. I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.”

Yesterday he said: “My clear view, which I’ve expressed to the Church, is that the press release issued yesterday should never have been released.
“It flies in the face of my recommendations.
“I recommended strongly that there should be a case investigated before any announcement was made.”

When informed of the time delay, Lord Carlile pointed out that a demonstration had been planned for yesterday by those seeking an apology from the Church and a full restitution of Bell’s legacy.

Lord Carlile said: “If the timing was deliberate, it’s a disgrace.
“And if it was not deliberate, then it’s incompetent.”

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Canon Susan Jones to be next Dean of Liverpool

Press release from Number 10

Dean of Liverpool nominated: 31 January 2018
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Susan Helen Jones as Dean of Liverpool.

Published 31 January 2018
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Canon Susan Helen Jones, BEd, MPhil, PhD, Residentiary Canon at Derby Cathedral and Director of Mission and Ministry in the Diocese of Derby, to be appointed to the Deanery of the Cathedral Church of Christ, Liverpool, on the elevation of the Very Reverend Peter Jonathan Wilcox, MA, DPhil as Bishop of Sheffield on 23 September 2017.

Announcement from Liverpool Cathedral

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Ministry and Mission in Covenant


On Friday 9 February, from 5.15 pm until 7 pm, the General Synod will consider the Church of England’s relationship with the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Following an address from a Methodist Church speaker, there will be a debate on the document GS 2086 Mission and Ministry in Covenant. The 24 page joint report is prefaced by a 7 page Note from the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission which summarises itself thus:

Mission and Ministry in Covenant responds to a resolution of the General Synod in 2014 by outlining proposals for bringing the Church of England and the Methodist Church into communion with one another and enabling interchangeability of their presbyteral ministries. As Synod members prepare to debate the report, it is important they consider its proposals in the context of the Covenant relationship between our churches established in 2003 and of work associated with that. Members also need to be mindful of the longer history of relations between our churches, including the defeat of proposals for union at the General Synod in 1972. Having briefly outlined that background, this introductory note then comments on three key questions that have emerged from the reception of the report so far:

  • What difference will the proposals make?
  • Do the proposals fit with Anglican theology and with existing ecumenical agreements?
  • What consultation has there been with other churches?

Finally, it explains why some further work is being recommended before a decision is taken on initiating legislation, in response to discussion within the House of Bishops.

Today, a statement has been issued by Anglican Catholic Future which can be read in full at Statement from Anglican Catholic Future on the Report ‘Mission and Ministry in Covenant’. It begins this way:

Over the past 40 years the Church of England has invested an enormous amount of time and energy debating who may or may not be ordained, and therefore who may or may not duly administer the sacraments. Some catholic Anglicans have passed resolutions under the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests because they cannot accept the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Many catholic Anglicans have remained happily within the inherited structures of the Church of England: this is the place in which we have received, been nurtured in, and minister the catholic faith. With the publication of the report Mission and Ministry in Covenant, we are left wondering what all that debate was about, and quite what the future looks like for those of us for whom orders and sacraments are naturally a central part of what it means to hold to the catholic faith as the Church of England has received it.

Fundamental to the Church of England’s understanding of its catholicity is the historic episcopate. This, like the other aspects of the Lambeth Quadrilateral (the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist) we recognise as gifts from God for the unity of the Church, through which the Church is maintained in the faith once delivered to the saints. Through the Act of Uniformity, the Prayer Book, the Ordinal, and the Canons of the Church of England, English Anglicans recognise that a bishop focuses the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the whole Church, as well as calling the Church into ever closer fidelity to those marks. Astonishingly, it is proposed that these historic formularies, so long the repository of the Church of England’s self-understanding and a framework for her unity, be open to suspension or amendment simply because the principles they uphold – both Anglican and ancient – are taken to be inconvenient…

The Church Times had this report last week: Renewed plans to unite the Church of England and Methodist Church to be scrutinised by the Synod.


Forward in Faith has also issued a statement: The Anglican-Methodist Proposals

..Of even greater concern are the consequences of these proposals for catholic order in the Church of England. To permit those who have not been ordained by a bishop to minister as Church of England priests, even for a ‘temporary’ period (which might last for sixty or seventy years) is for us not a ‘bearable anomaly’ but a fundamental breach of catholic order. We deeply regret that the report rules out further consideration of this issue. As loyal Anglicans, we uphold the doctrine and discipline regarding Holy Orders that is enshrined in the historic formularies of the Church of England, and in the 1662 Ordinal in particular. We shall oppose any proposals that would effectively set that doctrine and discipline aside. We note that it is to the inheritance of faith embodied in these formularies that all who minister in the Church of England must affirm their loyalty by making the Declaration of Assent…

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Saturday, 27 January 2018

Blackburn motion on Welcoming Transgender revisited

We reported on this last July, but the subsequent rebuild of the Church of England website has broken all the links that we made at the time. So here’s a recap.

The Blackburn diocesan motion reads:

That this Synod, recognizing the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.

The motion was supported by GS 2071A Welcoming Transgender People, A note from The Revd Chris Newlands.

There was also GS 2071B - Welcoming Transgender People, A note from The Secretary General,which includes a discussion of some theological considerations, and reviews the existing liturgical provisions which might be relevant.

OneBodyOneFaith has published an article by Christina Beardsley Welcoming and affirming transgender people: reflections and resources for the Blackburn Motion,which comments on some of the opposition to this motion, and links to a number of resources that reflect modern scientific thinking on this topic.

There was an amendment proposed by Dr Nick Land (York) moved as an amendment:

Leave out everything after “That this Synod:” and insert ̶
“(a) recognise the dignity of all people as made in the image of God and so affirm our commitment to welcome unconditionally in all our churches people who experience (or who have experienced) gender dysphoria;
(b) acknowledge different understandings around gender dysphoria and the field of gender identity more widely;
(c) consider that the preparation of liturgies to mark gender transition raises substantial theological and pastoral issues that the Church of England has not yet considered; and
(d) ask the House of Bishops to consider the theological, pastoral and other issues that gender transition raises for the Church and to report back to General Synod by the end of this quinquennium.”

The amendment was defeated in all three houses of Synod.

bishops: 11 for, 19 against, 2 recorded abstentions
clergy: 64 for, 103 against, 4 recorded abstentions
laity: 75 for, 108 against, 3 recorded abstentions

The Blackburn motion (as originally worded) was passed following a vote by houses.

bishops: 30 for, 2 against, 2 recorded abstentions
clergy: 127 for, 28 against, 16 recorded abstentions
laity: 127 for, 48 against, 8 recorded abstentions

Official press release: Welcoming Transgender People

The audio recording of the Sunday afternoon session is over here.

The video recording of the session is here.

The transcript of the entire July 2017 group of sessions is here.

The detailed voting record for the amendment is here.

The detailed voting record for the motion is here.

The full details of how each bishop voted are below the fold.

Voting by bishops:


Bishops in favour
Pete Broadbent 46
Christopher Cocksworth 14
Tim Dakin 5
Julian Henderson 8
Robert Innes 17
Alistair Magowan 48
James Newcome 10
John Sentamu 2
David Urquhart 7
Andrew Watson 20
Paul Williams 40

Bishops against
Donald Allister 31
Nicholas Baines 22
Jonathan Baker 45
Paul Bayes 26
Stephen Cottrell 11
Christopher Foster 32
Richard Frith 21
Jonathan Gibbs 51
Christine Hardman 28
John Inge 42
Michael Ipgrave 24
Alan Smith 34
Martyn Snow 23
Nigel Stock 44
Tim Thornton 41
Rachel Treweek 19
David Walker 27
Glyn Webster 53
Trevor Willmott 43

Bishops recorded abstentions
Martin Warner 13
Justin Welby 1


Bishops in favour
Donald Allister 31
Nicholas Baines 22
Paul Bayes 26
Christopher Chessun 39
Christopher Cocksworth 14
Stephen Cottrell 11
Tim Dakin 5
Christopher Foster 32
Richard Frith 21
Jonathan Gibbs 51
Christine Hardman 28
John Inge 42
Robert Innes 17
Michael Ipgrave 24
Christopher Lowson 25
James Newcome 10
Martin Seeley 35
John Sentamu 2
Alan Smith 34
Martyn Snow 23
Nigel Stock 44
Tim Thornton 41
Rachel Treweek 19
David Urquhart 7
David Walker 27
Martin Warner 13
Glyn Webster 53
Justin Welby 1
Paul Williams 40
Trevor Willmott 43

Bishops against
Jonathan Baker 45
Pete Broadbent 46

Bishops recorded abstentions
Julian Henderson 8
Alistair Magowan 48

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Opinion - 27 January 2018

Bosco Peters Liturgy Lex Photographi, Lex Orandi

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of governance, speaking of leadership

Simon Reader Church Times Welcoming, not screening out
The Synod debate on the Down’s test could send a powerful message

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Fr Bill Kirkpatrick RIP

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Friday, 26 January 2018

England's cathedrals

We noted last week’s release of the draft report by the Church of England’s Cathedrals Working Group here.

General Synod members have been sent a copy of the draft report (GS Misc 1177) today; it includes a covering letter from the chair and vice-chair of the group

Here are some media reports and comment articles that have appeared since the report was released.

media reports

Madeleine Davies Church Times Praise and warnings in cathedrals review

“SERIOUS governance mistakes” have been made at cathedrals, and legislative change is needed to correct “inadequacies” in their regulation, are the conclusions of a review commissioned in the wake of a cash-flow crisis at Peterborough. It also says that many cathedrals are struggling financially…

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian England’s cathedrals face financial crisis as running costs soar
Inquiry criticises management of some Anglican buildings and urges CoE to ask for state funds

Anglican Communion News Service Review proposes law change to improve governance of English Cathedrals

For a list of the report’s principal recommendations read Frank Cranmer Law & Religion UK Governance of Church of England cathedrals: the draft report


Miachael Sadgrove Woolgathering in North East England A New Report on Cathedrals

Stephen Cherry Another Angle How to run a Cathedral

Adrian Newman Church Times How to make cathedrals fitter for the future
If they are to flourish in the long term, they need changes in management and governance

Church Times Letters to the editor from John Searle, Richard Austen-Baker and Richard Lewis {scroll down]

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Thursday, 25 January 2018

More coverage of the Archbishop's statement on George Bell

Updated Friday evening

Continued from this earlier post… (Comment pieces are at the bottom of that article.)

Martin Sewell has written at Archbishop Cranmer The George Bell saga evidences a CofE legal culture which is not merely incompetent, but predisposed toward deception and injustice.

This is a very long and detailed article but is well worth the time to study. Here’s a teaser excerpt:

…The problem may be succinctly put: Archbishop Justin has a handful of advisors to guide him in these matters – not one of whom has a credible claim to expertise in this increasingly complex specialism. What is especially ironic is that, in the person of the President of Clergy Discipline Tribunals, Lord Andrew McFarlane QC, the Church of England has the country’s leading expert on Safeguarding Law. The legal tome Hershman and McFarlane’s Children Law and Practice is every child practitioner’s bible: it runs to four volumes and is updated every three months with interchangeable loose-leaf inserts. This is a fast evolving field for the specialist: what major institutions do not need is people from other disciplines doing their incompetent best…

And a second one:

…The Church of England needs to found its Safeguarding on the well-established principles of English Law. It has been off on a frolic of its own, and it has not ended well. Speaking to a very senior figure at Synod I was gently chided: “You want to create a system in accordance with the Law – we are creating one suitable for the Church of England.” Well, just look where that has got us.

Even if it were right for the Established Church to attempt to develop a jurisprudence divergent from that of English and Welsh Law, on what basis do we suggest that we have the knowledge and basic competence to undertake such a project?

There is also a letter from Martin Sewell in the Telegraph (h/t AC)

Christian Today has Bishop of Peterborough breaks ranks over Church’s handling of George Bell case (for full parliamentary text see here).

…Explaining his remarks to Christian Today, Allister said the name of the accused should only be disclosed ‘when there was a substantial body of evidence suggesting guilt’.

‘I suggest that if a complainant is allowed to be anonymous, there should be a presumption that the respondent should normally be afforded the same right,’ he told Christian Today.

‘I am simply asking for a public debate and for the government to review this matter. I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers, merely that I believe such a review is necessary.’


Church Times has a leader Saint, tarnished which concludes this way:

…It is because innocence is harder to prove than guilt that the UK legal system insists on assuming innocence until guilt has been proved. It is this assumption that Bishop Bell is being denied, and it is for this reason that Lord Carlile and others have advocated anonymity for those accused of abuse. Sir Cliff Richard, at the end of a successful fight to clear his name, re­­­marked: “It hurt me so much I don’t think I can ever recover personally.” Of course, Bishop Bell knows nothing of the accusation. Instead, it is the Church of England’s own history and reputation that is being harmed, despite this talk of heroes.

It is clear that the Lambeth psyche has been seriously bruised by the Peter Ball affair. Archbishop Welby named the disgraced former Bishop of Gloucester three times in his short statement about Bishop Bell on Monday. Possibly, too, there are personal scars from the John Smyth cover-up. But an unwinnable wrangle over an unprovable case undermines the Church’s efforts to construct a credible response to present-day instances of abuse.

Andrew Brown in the Church Times press column covers the subject: Newspapers circle as Archbishop Welby digs in

…When you have The Economist, The Times, the Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Mail on Sunday all attacking you, it is safe to say that you have lost the press. And it is really hard to see what is gained as a result.

Economist The case of Bishop George Bell

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Responses to 'Welcoming Transgender People'

Updated again Friday evening

See previous items for response from Tina Beardsley, and from OneBodyOneFaith.

At ViaMedia Giles Goddard has written: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot – Again!

…This is inadequate on so many levels. The Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is designed for use in a parish church after, say, a baptism as part of a confirmation service in a cathedral. It does not allow for the adoption of a new name or a newly gendered identity. To squeeze the liturgy to make it fit such a purpose would be hard – it would sound like a patched together piece of work, rather than a seamless and exciting whole, created specially for the occasion.

How hard would it have been to have listened to the request of Synod and asked the Liturgical Commission to come up with something? Not very – and I am sure that there are many on the Liturgical Commission who would be delighted to accept the challenge, and to consult widely with trans people about what they would like to see. Further, I have been told on good authority that the issue was not ‘considered prayerfully by the House of Bishops’ but was dealt with by a subcommittee which made a brief recommendation – to the dismay of many members of the House…

Harry Farley at Christian Today has reported on this and added new information:

…But questions were also raised over whether the Church of England had been misleading in how the decision was made. In a press statement it said ‘the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered’ the issue.

However Christian Today understands the issue was not debated by the House of Bishops in full and instead the verdict was reached by a sub committee of nine bishops. That committee, including the Bishop of Blackburn, Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, and the Bishop at Lambeth, Tim Thornton, then briefed the remaining bishops who rubber-stamped the decision.

A spokesman for the Church of England said that, because the House of Bishops only meets twice a year, decisions that require more thought are made in a sub committee and brought to the others for approval.

‘The House of Bishops Delegation Committee considers issues relevant to mission, ministry and general public policy, so is an ideal forum to give this question detailed consideration,’ the spokesman said.

‘The full House of Bishops was briefed on the committee’s recommendation and accepted it at the December meeting.’

Church Times Special liturgy for transgender people not needed, Bishops say

…A statement issued by Church House on Monday said that the House of Bishops had “prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition”. It emerged on Wednesday, however, that the Synod’s request had been considered by the Delegation Committee, made up of nine bishops. A spokesperson said that the committee “considers issues relevant to mission, ministry, and general public policy, so is an ideal forum to give this question detailed consideration”. The committee’s report was listed as “business for deemed approval” for the December meeting of the House and was accepted without debate…

Andrew Lightbown Bishops, rites and people; some thoughts.

Jeremy Pemberton Honouring the whole Body

Richard Peers Of bishops, trans people and liturgies

Ian Paul On welcoming transgender people

Martin Davie A failure to take sex seriously: A response to GS Misc 1178

Christian Concern Bishops display an appalling lack of leadership in affirming transgenderism

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Opinion - 24 January 2018

Richard Rohr Center for Action and Contemplation At-One-Ment, Not Atonement

Bosco Peters Liturgy Divorcees & Committed Same-Sex Couples part 1

John Gillibrand Ekklesia Anglicanism – the road ahead of us

James Woodward ViaMedia.News Refining and Owning our Anger…

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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Ritual transitions and liturgical loopholes

Tina Beardsley has written for the Church Times about the decision not to provide a liturgy for trans people, which she says undermines the Church’s claim to welcome them.

Please do read the full text of her article which can be found here.

DLT Books has released an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Transfaith: A Transgender Pastoral Resource by Chris Dowd and Christina Beardsley.

A Liturgy for a Renaming Ceremony

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Update on 'Welcoming Transgender People'

GS Misc 1178 has today been sent to all members of the General Synod. It is reproduced in full here: The press release issued on Sunday has been re-dated to today, and the text amended to add a link to this document.

GS Misc 1178


An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People’

1. In July 2017 the General Synod carried, with strong support in all three Houses, a motion, brought forward by the Blackburn Diocesan Synod,

that this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.

2. Speakers in the preceding debate agreed that the Church of England needed to offer what the Revd Chris Newlands called ‘a Christ-like’ welcome, ‘arms outstretched in love, as Christ’s arms were outstretched to draw all people to himself’. Many members offered stories about compassion and sensitivity to the needs of transgender people. In the words of a trans person, shared by Synod member Lucy Gorman, ‘it’s [about] having a Church that is eager to make sure you feel safe and accepted.’

3. The House of Bishops welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation of trans people, equally with all people, within the Church, the body of Christ, and rejoices in the diversity of that one body, into which all Christians have been baptized by one Spirit.

4. The motion also called on the House of Bishops to consider whether the recognition of a transgender person’s new identity was a moment which should be marked in a particular way in worship. After taking time to consider the issue prayerfully, the House would like to encourage ministers to respond to any such requests in a creative and sensitive way. If not already received, baptism and confirmation are the normative ways of marking a new or growing faith in Jesus Christ. If the enquirer is already baptized and confirmed, the House notes that the Affirmation of Baptismal Faith, found in Common Worship, is an ideal liturgical rite which trans people can use to mark this moment of personal renewal.

5. The Affirmation of Baptismal Faith is an existing, authorized part of Common Worship which is used in all types of churches, and can be part of services of different kinds. It points out that the candidate has already been baptized (and is therefore not a ‘re-baptism’). It provides the opportunity, requested in the Diocesan Synod Motion, for ‘a liturgical marking of a person’s transition which has the full authority of the Church of England, as an appropriate expression of community and pastoral support’.

6. The rite of Affirmation includes the opportunity for the candidate to renew the commitments made in baptism, and for the congregation to respond. The emphasis is placed not on the past or future of the candidate alone but on their faith in Jesus Christ. The Affirmation therefore gives priority to the original and authentic baptism of the individual, and the sacramental change it has effected, allowing someone who has undergone a serious and lasting change to re-dedicate their life and identity to Christ. The image of God, in which we are all made, transcends gender, race, and any other characteristic, and our shared identity as followers of Jesus is the unity which makes all one in Christ (Galatians 3.27-28).

7. In inviting ministers to use this rite, the House wishes to point out that everyone’s Christian journey—like the journey to find one’s true identity—is unique and encourages ministers to treat these possible pastoral encounters accordingly. This approach, familiar to all who care for people during other major life events, takes into account each person’s unique experiences.

8. Some guidance on the usage of these resources for the important work of welcoming and affirming transgender people will be issued by the House later in 2018.

William Nye
Secretary to the House of Bishops
January 2018

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Archbishop's statement on Bishop Bell: media coverage

Updated again Wednesday

Media Reports

BBC Bishop George Bell not to be cleared over ‘abuse’

Guardian Archbishop refuses to retract George Bell statement

Telegraph Justin Welby under fire over refusal to say sorry over ‘trashing’ of Bishop George Bell’s name

Church Times Welby declines to lift the cloud hanging over Bishop Bell

Christian Today Archbishop of Canterbury stands by statement saying there is a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell’s name

Press Association via Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury refuses to clear late Bishop Bell of child sexual abuse

Premier Radio Justin Welby: ‘I cannot with integrity rescind my statement’ on Bishop George Bell


Express Fury as Archbishop Of Canterbury refuses to clear innocent Bishop of child sexual abuse

Times I won’t retract statement on Bishop Bell, says Archbishop Welby

Chichester Observer Archbishop refuses to lift ‘significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell


Peter Hitchens What Does the Archbishop Think He is Doing?. This is a lengthy and detailed rebuttal of Welby’s statement which needs to be read in full. Here’s an extract:

…Mr Welby, in his very thin responses to the Carlile report, has never really addressed this. He has said that the report didn’t rule on Bell’s guilt or innocence, an almost childishly absurd response, since Mr Welby had told Lord Carlile in his terms of reference that he could not rule on this. In any case, Lord Carlile has repeatedly said since, in response to media questions, that no court would have convicted George Bell on the evidence which has been produced against him. It is clear that had Lord Carlile been asked to rule on George Bell’s guilt or innocence, he would have pronounced him ‘not guilty’. So what, precisely is the evidence on which the Archbishop of Canterbury, supposedly spiritual leader of millions, guardian of the foundations of truth and justice, maintains that there is still a ‘cloud’ over George Bell’s name? Does he have second sight? Does he know something he is not telling us? If so (though I cannot see how this can be so) , why will he not say what it is? If not, why is he of all people exempted from the good rule, surely Biblical in origin, that if you cannot prove that a man is guilty, he is innocent and you shouldn’t go round saying that he is guilty just because in some way it suits you to say so. Some miserable rumour-monger in a pub might be entitled to drone that there is ‘no smoke without fire’, but not the inheritor of the See of Saint Augustine, I think. I doubt Mr Welby is familiar with the catechism in his own Church’s Book of Common Prayer, it having fallen rather out of use since that Church became happy and clappy. But I am sure the Lambeth library can find him a copy, and point him to the passage in which the candidate for confirmation is asked ‘What is thy duty towards thy neighbour’? I commend it to him…

Separately, a Question was asked in the House of Lords yesterday about this matter, and the full Hansard record of what was said, by Lord Lexden, Lord Cormack, and others can be read here.

Lord Lexden asked:

I urge my noble friend to study a recent report by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, into the way in which a group within the Church of England investigated a single uncorroborated allegation of child sex abuse against one of the greatest of all Anglican bishops and a prominent Member of your Lordships’ House, George Bell, who died 60 years ago. While the noble Lord was precluded from reviewing the Church’s decision to condemn Bishop Bell, it is clear from his report that the case against that truly remarkable man has not been proved, to the consternation of a number of Members of this House including my noble friend Lord Cormack. I ask my noble friend to consider the recommendation from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, that,“alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be identified publicly unless or until the Core Group has … made adverse findings of fact, and … it has also been decided that making the identity public is required in the public interest”.

Should there not be a legal requirement in all cases to ensure that that is met before anyone, alive or dead, is named publicly? Does my noble friend agree that institutions of both Church and state must uphold the cardinal principle that an individual is innocent until proved guilty?

And Lord Cormack said:

My Lords, I urge my noble friend to think again on this. It is a deeply shocking case. The reputation of a great man has been traduced, and many of us who are Anglicans are deeply ashamed ​of the way that the Anglican Church has behaved. This can surely be a spur to the Government to review the law to try to protect the anonymity of people who are accused of something years—decades—after their death with one uncorroborated alleged witness. Please will she take this on board and talk to the Secretary of State about it?

The Bishop of Peterborough said:

My Lords, this has been a very difficult case, but Bishop Bell is not the only person whose reputation has been severely damaged by such accusations—some are dead and some still alive. I urge the Minister and the Government to take very seriously the call for a major review of anonymity. In all cases where the complainant has a right to be anonymous, there seems to be a case for the respondent also to be anonymous, and in cases until there is overwhelming evidence to suggest guilt, it seems reasonable for people’s reputations not to be damaged in this public way.


Tim Wyatt in the Spectator The Church of England’s Bishop Bell battle

“Archbishop Cranmer” Justin Welby has staked his reputation and legacy on the maintenance of a profound injustice to Bishop George Bell

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Monday, 22 January 2018

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury following letter from historians regarding the Bishop George Bell case

We noted here more criticism of response to Carlile report, including a letter from seven academic historians criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments in response to the Carlile report. The Archbishop has now released this statement in reply.

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury following letter from historians regarding the Bishop George Bell case
Monday 22nd January 2018

Archbishop Justin Welby said today:

Following a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and also to the Telegraphnewspaper by a group of academics, I felt it important to send a considered, personal response and this statement reflects the essence of my reply.

“I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

“Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focussed in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

“The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

“I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the Church.

“He indicates that in his judgement, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been ‘so what else are you concealing?’. The letter from the historiansdoes not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

“As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit, but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement, the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th Century.”

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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Bishops decline to request any new Transgender liturgy


Jonathan Petre reports for the Mail on Sunday that: Church of England bishops throw out Synod demand for prayer celebrating a transgender person’s change of sex.

Church of England bishops have blocked the introduction of a new prayer celebrating a transgender person’s change of sex.

The House of Bishops was strongly urged to draw up the ‘baptism-style’ services for sex-change Christians by the Church’s ‘Parliament’, the General Synod, last summer.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was among senior figures who implored Synod members to vote for a motion asking the bishops to consider new official liturgies designed to welcome a transgender person under their new name.

The Reverend Chris Newlands, who proposed the motion, said it was ‘a wonderful opportunity to create a liturgy which speaks powerfully to the particularities of trans people, and make a significant contribution to their well-being and support’.

But The Mail on Sunday has learned that the bishops rejected the move at a private meeting at Lambeth Palace last month.

One senior member of the Synod said: ‘I am surprised that they have decided that new liturgies weren’t necessary given the force of the arguments and the feeling of Synod. You need to be able to respond to people’s life events.

The Reverend Christina Beardsley, a transgender woman and a Church of England chaplain who attended the Synod debate, said she was ‘very disappointed’.

Dr Beardsley, a member of the transgender group the Sibyls, said many Christians would be hurt by the decision, which showed that the bishops ‘don’t seem to be engaging with transgender people’…

The Church of England has today issued a news item: Welcoming Transgender People – an update

Following the debate and vote at General Synod in July 2017 on Welcoming Transgender People, the House of Bishops has prayerfully considered whether a new nationally commended service might be prepared to mark a gender transition.

The Bishops are inviting clergy to use the existing rite Affirmation of Baptismal Faith. New guidance is also being prepared on the use of the service.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said: “The Church of England welcomes transgender people and wholeheartedly wishes for them to be included in the life of the Church.

“On the matter of whether a new service is needed, the House of Bishops has decided that the current service that is used to affirm baptism can be adapted.

“Clergy always have the discretion to compose and say prayers with people as they see fit.”

A paper discussing the decision will be published before the February session of Synod.

The service can be found here, under the full heading: ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith within a Celebration of Holy Communion’.


OneFaithOneBody responded to this statement on Sunday evening: Into the long grass - again

Campaign group accuses bishops of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass’

The leading LGBT Christian campaigning group, OneBodyOneFaith has accused the Bishops of the Church of England of ‘kicking trans people into the long grass’ following their decision not to commend special services of welcome following gender transition and naming, despite General Synod passing a Motion in July which called for them to consider such a move. The news was leaked to the Daily Mail and had Church House officials scurrying to issue a clarifying statement today, Sunday 21 January.

Tracey Byrne, CEO and a General Synod member said, ‘This feels like kicking trans people into the long grass – just like the wider LGBT communities were kicked into the long grass by the bishops’ woeful report last February. More fine words about welcome - but denying trans people the services and pastoral support they themselves have told us would actually make a real difference.’

She went on to say, ‘It’s no particular surprise that the bishops have fallen so short of the mark, given their failure to consult with or listen to trans people’s experiences, but that’s no excuse. Officially authorised services would have sent a strong message from the very top of the institution that trans people really matter; that was the message at July synod. Sadly once again the bishops have failed to step up to the challenge set them by General Synod, the Church’s own governing body.’

Canon Peter Leonard, Chair of OneBody and also a General Synod member, said that he already knew of many positive examples of clergy devising beautiful and moving services for trans people, and that he felt it likely they would continue to do so, but that such a situation could not be allowed to remain the church’s official position. He said, ‘All those of us who want to see a church which reflects the radical inclusion of Jesus will stand alongside our trans sisters and brothers who are once more being let down by the church of which we’re a part. Our message to the bishops is simple, as it was last February; we’ll work with you, but we won’t wait for you. This latest move demonstrates once more that they are out of step not just with the mind of Synod, but with the broader church and society too’ He said OneBody would be working with its partners and allies on General Synod and in the wider church to continue to press for change, and to ensure that the voices of those who had most to add to the debate – trans people themselves - did not continue to be relegated to the sidelines.

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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Discerning in Obedience: the Crown Nominations Commission

On the afternoon of Thursday 8 February, the synod will hear a presentation about GS Misc 1171 and this will be followed by a “Take Note” debate. An hour and a half has been allocated for these items:
Discerning in Obedience: A theological review of the Crown Nominations Commission.

This is the report of the theological review group set up in Autumn 2016 under the chairmanship of Professor Oliver O’Donovan, and which concluded its work in Autumn 2017. An interim report of its work was delivered at the July 2017 meeting of synod.

The report itself is 40 pages long and should undoubtedly be read in full. It is of a quality far superior to all recent Church of England reports.

The full membership of the group was:
- The Revd Professor Sarah Coakley - Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge;
- Professor Tom Greggs - Marischal Professor of Divinity, University of Aberdeen;
- The Most Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon - Secretary General of the Anglican Communion;
- The Revd Professor Morwenna Ludlow - Professor of Christian History and Theology, University of Exeter;
- The Revd Professor Oliver O’Donovan FBA (chair) - Emeritus Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Edinburgh, Honorary Professor of Divinity, University of St Andrews;
- Father Thomas Seville CR - Faith and Order Commission;
- The Revd Dr Jennifer Strawbridge - Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, University of Oxford;
- The Revd Canon Dr James Walters - Chaplain and Senior Lecturer, London School of Economics

There is another document which has been published to accompany this debate, GS 2080, with the same title. This sets out the background to the report, and lists a series of proposed actions by which the recommendations should be progressed. (This section is copied below the fold.) It is then followed by an annex of 11 pages of tables which list out, not only all the recommendations of this report, but also all the CNC-related recommendations of the report by Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer, on the Review of Nomination to the See of Sheffield and Related Concerns.

Progressing the reflections and recommendations
11. It is proposed to progress work through a number of existing bodies. In addition, the Archbishops will, in consultation with the Appointments Committee, establish a small oversight group to monitor the progress on the discussion and implementation of recommendations. This group will report back to General Synod, starting in July. This structure will allow improvements to current processes to progress whilst proposals requiring wider consideration can be addressed over a longer timescale. In addition, the theological reflections set out in the report will provide the underpinning for the longer-term work.

12. Archbishops and Central Members to

  • Review proposals about changes to the culture and operation of the CNC and Vacancy in See Process not requiring Standing Order changes and which can be introduced on an ongoing basis. This will enable the introduction of some of the recommendations over the next few months - indeed some are already in place; and
  • Report to General Synod in July 2017 following the meeting of central members in March 2017. [presumably typographical errors: should be in 2018]

13. The Secretary General of the Archbishops Council to be invited to

  • Liaise with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and the Diocese of Canterbury in relation to exploring proposals in relation to the nomination to the See of Canterbury following which the Archbishops Council to develop recommendations for consideration by General Synod for this See (and also for the See of Dover) and to report back to General Synod when this work is completed.

14. The Appointments Committee to be invited to set up a working group to

  • Review the process for election of Central Members to the Crown Nominations Commission and diocesan representatives to the Vacancy in See Committee to report to General Synod in 2019.

15. The House of Bishops, through the Development and Appointments Group, to be invited to

  • Reflect on the nature of episcopacy in the light of Section 3 of the report “Discerning in Obedience: A Theological Review of the Crown Nominations Commission”, learning from the Leadership Programmes they have participated in and aspirations as set out in nominations processes; and
  • Reflect on the purpose, nature and management of the Strategic Development Programme and Episcopal Lists.

16. The Standing Orders Committee to be invited to

  • Consider the proposed changes to Standing Orders following consultation with the central members of the Crown Nominations Commission. Changes would be progressed and discussed through General Synod in the normal way.
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Opinion - 20 January 2018

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Can the C of E learn a lesson or two from Tim Farron
Speaking of inclusivity and disagreement

David Walker Via Media.News A Changing View From Across the Pond…

Three related Church Times articles
Why I left church in my teens - A poll of parents has suggested that 14 is the average age when their children stopped going to church. Five people reflect on why they left as teenagers
Becca Dean It’s time to start listening - The insights of the young and frustration that they voice are gifts to be received
Hannah Barr What I wish the Church knew about young people - It’s hard to be a young person. What each needs to be shown is grace

Clifford Longley The Tablet Is it time for the bishops to make a ‘bonfire of their vanities’?

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Friday, 19 January 2018

General Synod agenda - press reports

Updated Saturday night

Like the official press release, press reports on the agenda for next month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod concentrate on one item.

Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Church of England set to lobby Government over rising Down’s Syndrome abortions

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Down’s syndrome test could see condition disappear, C of E warns

Madeleine Davies Church Times C of E report seeks neutral approach to new Down’s test
More heavyweights wanted on the Bishops’ bench

Harry Farley Christian Today CofE to consider call for women pregnant with Down’s syndrome babies to get ‘unbiased’ information
Church of England braced for ‘controversial’ next step in ending 200-year split with Methodists

Cara Bentley Premier Valuing people with Down’s Syndrome on Church of England’s General Synod agenda

Anglican Communion News Service Anglican Communion primates invited to Church of England’s General Synod


Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Church of England braced for ‘controversial’ vote on using Methodist ministers

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General Synod papers published

The Church of England has issued the press release below about papers for next month’s meeting of General Synod.

See my previous article for my list of papers.

General Synod papers released

People with Down’s Syndrome should be welcomed, celebrated and treated with dignity and respect, members of the Church of England’s General Synod will hear next month.

A motion affirming the dignity and humanity of people born with Down’s Syndrome is to be discussed by the General Synod at its February sessions in London. It comes as a new form of prenatal screening, Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), is set to be rolled out in the NHS to women deemed to be at ‘high-risk’ of having a child with Down’s syndrome.

The motion welcomes medical advances and calls for the Government and health professionals to ensure that women who have been told that their unborn child has Down’s Syndrome are given comprehensive, unbiased information on the condition.

A background paper, Valuing People with Down’s Syndrome, produced by the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council is among documents released today.

With the UK throwing away £13bn of food every year food waste is another social issue to be debated by the General Synod.

Other subjects on the agenda include a presentation on safeguarding, the development of new monastic communities, and proposals for bringing the Church of England and the Methodist Church into communion with one another and enabling interchangeability of ministries.

For the first time, the General Synod will welcome a group of representatives from other Anglican Communion provinces.

Archbishop Moon Hing of South East Asia, Archbishop Humphrey of Pakistan, Archbishop Thabo, from South Africa and Archbishop Winston Halapua, Bishop of Polynesia and Primate (Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) will attend the February sessions.

The General Synod will meet at Church House Westminster from Thursday February 8 to Saturday February 10.

A full set of papers from the first circulation is available on the Church of England website.

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February General Synod - online papers

Update - the second batch of papers has been released today (26 january) and links added below.

The first batch of papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online. The remaining papers will be issued on 26 January and I will add links when these become available.

zip file of all papers

Papers in numerical order with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration are listed below the fold.
Synod meets from Thursday 8 to Saturday 10 February 2018.


GS 2029D Amending Canon No. 36 (Enactment) [Friday]
GS 2029DD Amending Canon No. 37 (Enactment) [Friday]

GS 2046A Draft Ecumenical Relations Measure (Revision) [Friday]
GS 2046Y Report by the Revision Committee [Friday]

GS 2047A Draft Amending Canon No. 38 (Revision) [Friday]
GS 2047Y Report by the Revision Committee [Friday]

GS 2064A Draft Church of England Miscellaneous Provisions Measure (Revision) [Friday]
GS 2064Y Report by the Revision Committee [Friday]

GS 2077A and GS 2077B Food Wastage [Friday]

GS 2078 Agenda

GS 2079 Guide to the February 2018 group of sessions (Report by the Business Committee) [Thursday]

GS 2080 Discerning in Obedience [Thursday]
[see also GS Misc 1171 below]

GS 2081 Companion Links and the Anglican Communion [Friday]

GS 2082 Appointment of the Chair of the Appointments Committee [Friday]

GS 2083 Church Property Measure (First Consideration) [Friday]
GS 2083x Explanatory Memorandum [Friday]
Table of Origins
Table of Destinations

GS 2084 Pensions Measure (First Consideration) [Friday]
GS 2084x Explanatory Memorandum [Friday]
Table of Origins
Table of Destinations

GS 2085 See of Richmond Petition for change of name to See of Kirkstall [Friday]

GS 2086 Mission and Ministry in Covenant [Friday]

GS 2087 Religious Communities [Saturday]

GS 2088 Valuing People with Down’s syndrome [Saturday]

GS 2089A and GS 2089B Long Term Sustainability of the National Health Service [contingency business]

Other papers

GS Misc 1171 Discerning in Obedience [Thursday]

GS Misc 1172 An Abuse of Faith [Saturday]

GS Misc 1173 The Independent Review [Saturday]

GS Misc 1174 Digital Evangelism [Saturday]

GS Misc 1175 Code of Conduct

GS Misc 1176 Dioceses Commission Annual Report

GS Misc 1177 Report from the Cathedrals Working Group

GS Misc 1178 An update on ‘Welcoming Transgender People

GS Misc 1179 House of Bishops Summary of Decisions

GS Misc 1180 Report on the Archbishops’ Council’s Activities

GS Misc 1181 Recent Appointments - A(18)1

GS Misc 1182 English Anglican Roman Catholic Quinquennial Report 2012 - 2017

GS Misc 1183 Introduction to Annual Report on Ecumenical Relations

GS Misc 1184 Central Stipends Authority Annual Report

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Bishop Bell: more criticism of response to Carlile report

Updated Saturday

First, Dr Irene Lancaster wrote in Christian Today Bishop George Bell was a hero who saved Jewish children. It is time his reputation was restored.

Then, Bishop Peter Hancock replied to this with Why the Church insisted on transparency with the George Bell case.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that a letter has been sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury from seven academic historians criticising his comments in response to the Carlile report: Archbishop’s claims against Bishop George Bell ‘irresponsible and dangerous’.

The full text of the letter is copied below the fold.

Earlier criticism was reported here, here, and here. and there is another item not previously linked.


A further letter has been published in The Times:

Sir, As individuals much involved in the international ecumenical movement for Christian unity, we have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury welcoming the review by Lord Carlile of Berriew of the investigation by the Church of England into allegations of child sexual abuse by the late Bishop George Bell. We believe that in the light of the review Bell’s reputation should now be fully and unreservedly acknowledged and restored by the church.

Bell was a tireless worker for Christian unity and international peace and reconciliation. He belongs as a prophetic figure within the ecumenical movement just as much as he belongs as a bishop in his own church. The way in which the allegations against him were dealt with has shocked people well beyond both the Anglican communion and Britain. There has been a miscarriage of justice for one who himself fought so earnestly for the victims of injustice.

We with many others of different churches all over the world will now expect that the Church of England will acknowledge its responsibility to that wider community of which it is part and renew the respect due to George Bell, to the benefit of Christians everywhere and all who believe in justice and humanity.

Revd Dr Keith Clements, former General Secretary, Conference of European Churches;
Professor Jaakko Rusama, Lutheran Co-Moderator, International Anglican-Lutheran Society;
Professor John Briggs, former member, Executive Committee, World Council of Churches;
Dr Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, Pastor Emeritus, Evangelical Church of Germany, Dusseldorf;
Revd Canon Dr David Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Modern Church History, University of Cambridge;
Dr Guy Carter, Roman Catholic theologian and writer, York, Pennsylvania;
Bob Fy]e, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland;
David Carter, former secretary, Theology and Unity Group, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland;
John W de Gruchy, Emeritus Professor of Christian Studies, University of Cape Town;
Revd John W Matthews, Senior Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota;
Dr Jacob Phillips, Theology and Religious Studies Programme Director, St Mary’s University, Twickenham

Both letters are reported on in the Church Times Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report:

THE Archbishop of Canterbury faces gathering international opposition and criticism over his response to the Carlile review of the Bishop Bell affair.

Two letters — one from seven academic historians, and another from 11 correspondents associated with the wider Church internationally and ecumenically — have been sent to the Archbishop. A third, from a group of theologians, is understood to be in preparation…

Dear Archbishop,

We are writing to you following the publication of Lord Carlile’s independent review of the case of Bishop George Bell and the public statement which you have issued in consequence. We wish to express our profound dismay with the position you have taken. We are all academic historians of the twentieth-century who have, over many years of university research, made our considered assessments of Bishop George Bell. Our many publications will speak for themselves. Lecturing students of history and teaching them the various crafts and responsibilities of credible historical analysis and interpretation has been central in our careers.

We regard George Bell as a significant historical figure and our assessment of his life and career has been an important aspect of our academic work. On this basis we suggest that our collective view on these matters constitutes a genuine and very pertinent authority. In your public statement of 15 December 2017, the authority of your position was used to perpetuate a single allegation made against Bishop Bell, and you did so in face of the independent review which the Church itself commissioned. We believe that your statement offends the most basic values and principles of historical understanding, ones which should be maintained firmly by those in positions of public authority across society. They must never be ignored or abused. You have insisted that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bishop Bell. It deepens the impression deliberately conveyed by previous Church statements by adding, purposefully: “No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness.” On what ground does such a statement now stand? In the past you have insisted that the Church’s view was based on an investigation that was ‘very thorough’.

But Lord Carlile has plainly, and utterly, devastated this claim. Historians and lawyers both attach great importance to the presumption of innocence. Your comment seems to imply that a case against Bell has actually been established. It has not. History cannot be made out of allegations. It is the study of sources. Lord Carlile’s review sets out the material of the allegation for everyone to assess for themselves, and he invites them to do so. There is nothing in it that connects in any way with what is firmly known about Bishop Bell. The allegation is not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible. Furthermore, even on its own terms we find it to depend wholly on scenarios which simply could not have occurred, given what is firmly known and authoritatively established. There is no credible representation of personalities, relationships, patterns or locations which is remotely recognisable. Far from enhancing the allegation, the insistence on vivid quotations undermines critically a testimony in which the experiences of infancy are ‘recollected’, not immediately but at a distance of many decades. Even a modest historical sensitivity would have established the basic implausibility of such a testimony.

The material supporting this allegation does not in our view constitute a credible basis for the writing of history and it flies in the face of our customary critical method. It represents something quite different, an unhistorical, indeed anti-historical, testimony, explicable, perhaps, but in different terms. We cannot understand how such an unsupported, indeed insupportable, allegation can be upheld by a responsible public authority. Quite simply, it is indefensible. You have written that Lord Carlile’s review does not pronounce whether Bishop Bell was guilty or not. Yet the Terms of Reference by which Lord Carlile was invited to work by the Church itself deliberately excluded this. Now we do not believe that your office in itself gives you the authority to pronounce on the reputation of Bishop Bell in the manner you have done.

We are prepared, in this letter, to claim that authority. We state our position bluntly. There is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was a paedophile. We state this after reviewing all that is known about his character and behaviour over many years. This letter is not the place to set that assessment out in detail but in the further consideration which must now be surely given we would be very willing to set it out clearly. We note, and emphasize, that there was never so much as a whisper of such an allegation in his lifetime. It is the testing of accusations which shows the integrity of a society, not the making of them. It is in no way to impugn the sincerity of the complainant, or to resist the claims of compassion, to say that the allegation seems to us self- evidently mistaken. We believe that the historical figure of George Bell is safe in the hands of historians even though, very sadly, it would appear to have been impugned from within his own Church of England. There is today no cloud at all over Bishop Bell. Nobody employing credible critical method could think otherwise.

Two of us are biographers of former Archbishops of Canterbury and we all acknowledge the many difficulties and pressures which any archbishop must face, not least in a position which Archbishop Lang once called ‘incredible, indefensible and inevitable’. None of us may be considered natural critics of an Archbishop of Canterbury. But we must also draw a firm line. The statement of 15 December 2017 seems to us both irresponsible and dangerous. We therefore urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done and thus to restore the esteem in which the high, historic office to which you have been called has been held.

Professor Charmian Brinson
Professor Andrew Chandler
Professor John Charmley
Professor Michael J. Hughes
Professor Sir Ian Kershaw
Professor Jeremy Noakes
Professor Keith Robbins

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New ideas to secure England’s cathedrals for the future

Press release from the Church of England

The draft report referred to below is available for download here.

New ideas to secure England’s cathedrals for the future

England’s historic cathedrals are one of the real success stories of the Church in the 21st Century, but should make changes to secure them for the future, a report published today finds.

The paper from the Church of England’s Cathedrals Working Group sets out new ideas on how cathedrals could be governed and funded.

The proposals, emerging from seven months of meetings and discussions, aim to recognise and enhance the vital role that cathedrals play while building a robust framework for the future.

A consultation on the recommendations opens today, seeking views from interested groups.

They range from recommendations on how the structure of Chapter – a cathedral’s traditional governing body – could be reformed to new financial auditing processes.

The Working Group was set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York after a small number of cathedrals highlighted challenges in governance and management.

The working group consulted with people from all parts of the cathedral sector and elsewhere, including charities and wider civil society, to develop the proposals.

At the heart of the recommendations is the retention of Chapter as the governing body of a cathedral, but with a clearer emphasis on its governance role. There would be a separate management function provided by a Senior Executive Team who will oversee day- to-day cathedral operations.

The report also makes proposals on key areas of leadership, financial control, safeguarding, oversight of building projects and stresses the urgency of opening a dialogue with Government about state funding for cathedrals.

Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney and Chair of the Cathedrals Working Group, said: “Cathedrals buck the trends of numerical decline, exert a growing influence in civil society, and demonstrate an effective way of engaging with contemporary culture.

“They are inspirational in their impact on our national life and on the lives of millions of worshippers and visitors each year.

“We hope that the recommendations in our report will encourage a much closer collaboration between cathedral and diocese, dean and bishop and point towards good practice in a cathedral’s wider relationships with the diocese and the national church. The mutuality of these relationships is vital.

“In proposing changes to governance structures and aspects of cathedral operations, we do not wish to inhibit the entrepreneurial flair that has characterised so much that is good about the world of cathedrals nor impose unnecessary red tape.

“However, we are committed to ensure that cathedrals do not get into situations which prevent them from thriving in their role as pioneers in mission and ministry.

“England’s cathedrals are an immense gift to Church and nation, and we hope that our report can help to form a better understanding of how this gift can be nurtured and protected, celebrated and safeguarded long in to the future.”

Adrian Dorber, chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, and Dean of Lichfield, said: “Cathedrals are the nation’s treasures – from protecting invaluable heritage such as Magna Carta and ancient shrines to supporting social enterprises helping the homeless and the vulnerable and offering inspirational daily worship to lift the spirits and providing a place for the nation to come to be healed at times of mourning or national crisis.

“Surely no-one would argue with a fresh look at the way we are run and financed, so we are excited about where this report may take us and look forward to the responses the consultation may bring and the final report.

“Our cathedrals have been here for hundreds of years, vibrant seats of mission, of learning, of heritage and of love, let’s ensure they are here for hundreds more.”

Notes for editors:

  • There are 42 Anglican cathedrals in England. More information here.
  • A review by the Faith Minister, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, published last month found that cathedrals play a crucial role in communities.
    It highlighted figures showing that cathedrals draw in an estimated £220 million per year in spending to local economies per year and provide more than 5,500 local jobs. Full details here.
  • The latest statistics on cathedrals show average weekday attendances were up, and visitor numbers exceeded 10 million in the past year, 16,500 people attended Fresh Expression services and 310,000 young people came to cathedrals through special educational visits, both of which were significant increases on previous years.
    Cathedrals continued to be centres of civic life, with 1.2 million people reported at 6,000 civic services and events throughout the year.
    More details here.
Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 10:12am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Opinion - 13 January 2018

Jeremy Morris ViaMedia.News A Theology of Reception that Pays Attention to People…

Ali Campbell Church Times Home is where the faith is; so focus on the family
The reason why there are so few young people in the pews is clear — but is the Church listening?

David Voas Church Times A lost generation
Many congregations have fewer than five under-16s. The Church has failed to retain the children and grandchildren of its members, says

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (52) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Friday, 12 January 2018

Bishop of Ramsbury Announces Retirement

The Diocese of Salisbury has announced that the Suffragan Bishop of Ramsbury, the Rt Revd Dr Edward Condry, will be retiring at the end of April.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 12 January 2018 at 12:34pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | News

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Opinion - 10 January 2018

Richard Peers Quodcumque God made it grow: panickers, deniers and the future of the Church

James Alexander Cameron Stained Glass Attitudes Bad art in cathedrals

Jonathan Draper Afterthoughts Official: Steve Chalke is the Anti-Christ!

Archdruid Eileen Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley The Bible is a Library

Julianne Simpson John Rylands Library Special Collections Blog What price would you pay?

Ian Paul Psephizo How much are clergy worth?

Jeremy Pemberton OneBodyOneFaith Why we are in business, and why we need you

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 10 January 2018 at 10:22am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Monday, 8 January 2018

Priest found guilty of spiritual abuse

Updated Friday

The Church Times reports: Oxfordshire vicar, Tim Davis, guilty of spiritually abusing a teenage boy.

The full text of the tribunal decision is here.

A VICAR in Oxfordshire has been convicted of spiritually abusing a teenage boy, in what is thought to be the first judgment of its kind. The victim was judged to have been put under “unacceptable pressure” during one-to-one Bible-study sessions in his bedroom over a period of 18 months.

The priest, the Revd Timothy Davis, of Christ Church, Abingdon, was found guilty under the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) 2003 of “conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work of a clerk in holy orders through the abuse of spiritual power and authority” by a five-strong Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Oxford diocese, chaired by His Honour the Revd Mark Bishop. Their judgment is dated 28 December and was published by the diocese on Monday.

It is thought to be the first CDM tribunal that has found a case to answer over allegations of the abuse of spiritual power and authority. A penalty has not yet been set…

There are also reports in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers and on the BBC website:

The Church Times also has this: Two-thirds of Christians in new survey say they have been spiritually abused.

The research report mentioned is available in summary form here.

VIa Media News has Are You Suffering From Spiritual Abuse?

Law & Religion UK reports this here: Clerical abuse of spiritual power and authority. There are links to some relevant policy documents.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 January 2018 at 10:35pm GMT | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 6 January 2018

Opinion - 6 January 2018 - Epiphany

From this week’s Church Times
Margaret Barker explores the legends and traditions of the Magi: Unpacking the gifts to the Christ-child
In a society that now functions around the clock, John Cheek looks at churches that are open to people ‘out of hours’: 24-hour parish people
The Corporation’s renewed commitment to religion is welcome — but we will keep asking hard questions, says Jan McFarlane: The BBC has listened; now for action

Charles Clapham pneuma Murder at the Vicarage

David Goodhew The Living Church A theology for Anglican church growth

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of mission: something old, something new.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 6 January 2018 at 11:09am GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Friday, 5 January 2018

Unrest in the Diocese of Aberdeen

Updated again Friday

Christian Today reports Scottish Episcopal Church clergy rebel after ‘divisive’ appointment of bishop to conservative diocese.

…A letter to bishops of the Anglican SEC on Friday accused them of fostering ‘disquiet and division’ by nominating Canon Anne Dyer, the first female bishop in the SEC who is also strongly in favour of gay marriage, to be bishop of the largely conservative Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney.

Dyer is now being urged to step down from her promotion with clergy protesting her appointment.

Two senior clergy have already quit over the issue and the letter threatens that ‘others are considering similar action’ in a diocese that is already struggling to fill a number of empty posts across its 41 churches…

To read the letter in full, and see the entire list of signatories, go to the original news article.

…The protest letter, seen by Christian Today, is signed by seven stipendiary priests, half the clergy in the struggling northern diocese, which was the only one of the SEC’s seven dioceses to reject the proposals to change its teaching on marriage, as well as several non-ordained senior churchgoers.

It accuses the bishops of being ‘divisive and also disrespectful’ by failing to appoint someone conservative clergy would agree with…

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has responded to this letter, which can now be more comfortably read from this copy.

Bishop Mark Strange’s reply can be read in full here.

…We have been greatly concerned to receive your letter. We regard it as particularly
regrettable that you have chosen to communicate with us by publicly releasing your
letter and press release without any prior indication to us of your intentions and we are
dismayed at the invidious position in which it places Canon Dyer as the Bishop elect of
the diocese. We deplore that you have sought to subvert the outcome of the canonical
process which led to Canon Dyer’s election. Members of the College are unanimous in
supporting Canon Dyer in her acceptance of election and will continue to support her
throughout her consecration and future episcopal ministry in the diocese…

Do read the whole response.

The Church Times reports this as Scottish Primus accuses protesters against next Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney of ‘subversion’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 January 2018 at 3:40pm GMT | Comments (57) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Scottish Episcopal Church

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Opinion - 3 January 2018

James Alexander Cameron Stained Glass Attitudes How to defuse the parish church crisis

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Letting go into . . .

Martin Sewell Archbishop Cranmer How has the Church of England failed to grasp the core finding of the Carlile Report, that a superficially ‘truthful’ complainant might be an unreliable historian of fact?

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion