Comments: Coekin wins appeal

The last paragraph of the Rev. Mr. Coekin's statement reads, “We organised the ordinations of the staff needed for our congregations because of our temporarily impaired relationship with the Bishop of Southwark. This is due to what we regard as a departure by the House of Bishops from the historic and orthodox moral teaching of the Bible. We continue to pray that the Church of England will remain loyal to its Biblical heritage.”

Surely this is at best marginal accession to the authority of the Bishop of Soutwark. The Bishop of Winchester's Report makes clear that it is not within Mr. Coekin's authority to determine an "impaired relationship" with the diocesan bishop, however "temporary." It's not that I question Mr. Coekin's sincerity in his belief as to what is historic, orthodox, or moral. However, surely he can claim no more than that difference of opinion, and not a change in the relationship between bishop and parish.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Monday, 5 June 2006 at 7:10pm BST

"This is due to what we regard as a departure by the House of Bishops from the historic and orthodox moral teaching of the Bible."

Is this analogous to "Fog in Channel: Continent cut off"?

That *one priest* can judge the orthodoxy of the *House of Bishops* turns catholicity completely on its head.

. . . and I fear that this decision (from ++Cantuar, via +Winchester) does nothing from dissuading Father Coekin (or some other *church of one*) from doing it again. :-/

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Monday, 5 June 2006 at 8:46pm BST

This is a good result.
Despite the claim of severe provocation, and there can be no doubt that this was deliberate and well aimed, the bishop of Southwark acted badly and in a peevish way that seems characteristic of some English bishops.
Contributors to TA had seen the well laid trap and he promptly hurled himself into it. It has not ended well for him and he ought to now consider his position.
I still maintain all he had to do was temporarily suspend Mr Coekin’s licence while an enquiry was held. The suspension would have been adequate and the enquiry could have been exhaustive and informative about all that lay behind this event, we all might have learned much.
I have heard nothing of the three Deacons and I hope they are flourishing.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 5 June 2006 at 11:26pm BST

well, I too hope they are flourishing, much in the same generous ecumenical spirit that I would wish well on all non Anglican Christian ministries!Bravo

Posted by Neil at Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 12:27am BST

I find it completely boggling. Where I would have said "you undercut me? Buzz off and join your friends in some other denomination and don't come back", Archbishop Williams seems to have placed unity over doctrine in saying that both Coekin's and the bishop's offences are equally bad. I'm trying to work out if that's right-leaning-sympathy (uhhuh), wishy-washiness (uhhuh), or him actually out-liberalling me (wow)!

Posted by Tim at Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 11:20am BST

I have just read Mr Coekin's statement on ANGLICAN MAINSTREAM. He still maintains that he is in 'impaired' communion with his diocesan bishop. I had thought that such a position was not possible. One is either in or out of communion with ones bishop. There is no middle ground. If Mr Coekin feels himself to be in impaired communion then he has broken his communion with the Bishop of Southwark and should return his licence himself to the Diocesan Registrar to be cancelled. The churches within which he exrcises the majority of his ministry, the Dundonald network, are not part of the Church of England anyway. He is free to carry on this ministry without any refrence to the Bishop of Southwark or the Church of England.

Why does he continue to want a licence from a bishop with whom he profoundly disagrees and in an area which he sees as definitive of Christian orthodoxy? The honourable action on the part of Mr Coekin would be to hold to his chosen position and not submit to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Southwark, or that of any bishop who is observing the collegiality of the House of the Bishops in England.

Posted by Anglicanus at Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 12:01pm BST

A lesson to be learned: it's no coincidence that the minster perceived as the most turbulent in the entire diocese is also just about the most effective in the entire diocese.

Protocol will never, never, never matter more than the gospel itself.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 12:16pm BST

As "effectiveness", Christopher, will never, never, never *define the Gospel*.

(re "effectiveness": I think that was effectively defined by the . . . nah, can't say that, without violating "Godwin's Law"! ;-/)

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Tuesday, 6 June 2006 at 11:00pm BST

Very interesting statement from the Bishop of Southwark on the ABC's decision - were it not for a grudging few words mentioning the reversal of his actions, it almost sounds as if Tom Butler was described as wise and correct in his persecution of Richard Coekin.

Sad to see a bishop bringing the CofE into disrepute and causing internal strife and discord....and then lacking the grace to repent when the ABC has to reverse his pernicious actions.

A bishop is supposed to be a figure of unity in the gospel and not make unwise decisions, persecuting his own ministers, which damage the reputation of the church. Tom Butler - are you sure you are in the right job?

Posted by Nersen Pillay at Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 8:45am BST

Re effectiveness / pragmatism:

Things are not true/right *because* they are effective. But it is not possible to imagine something true or right which was not simultanously effective. And *ineffectiveness* would be proof that something was *not* true, or right, and was in fact, devoid of power.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 1:28pm BST

The tone of your mail isn't very pleasant Nersen, and I am left confused as to why you think Richard Coekin was 'perniciously persecuted' in the first place? After all you cannot get more serious in bringing the CofE into disrepute than to plot and carry on as Mr. Coekin so unwisely and disobediently did, seriously damaging unity. Coekin certainly got away with 'coekin a snook' at everybody this time, and I guess precedent is set for any parish to search out an Episcope Vagrans whenever they fancy having an extra curate.

Posted by Neil at Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 2:44pm BST

Neil - sorry if you did not like my tone in the text.

The ABC was put into the difficult position of having to reverse the actions of Tom Butler - actions described as "disproportionate" and which were clearly not right or they would not have been reversed. This is why I think Richard Coekin was persecuted - in that the ABC's decision shows that he was treated unjustly because of his "conservative" beliefs.

Posted by Nersen Pillay at Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 5:35pm BST

Neil makes a point I am sure we have all been pondering on, I do not mean Mr Nersen's thoughtful and impartial analysis, rather the question of securing a bishop – even from outside the Anglican Communion – to achieve your ends when at loggerheads with your Ordinary.
This judgment seems to open doors “all around”, so to speak. It will take some time for my slow brain to fully work through just what this might mean.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 6:35pm BST

I can't agree with either Nersen's interpretation (or tone). The report makes clear that Mr. Coekin's actions were indeed worthy of a response; just not the specific response from Bishop Butler. Had the procedures been more rigorously followed, had the grounds for censure been more specifically described and related to canon and civil law, the outcome could have been quite different.

I understand that decisions on procedural grounds are valid and important. These procedures, these concerns over due process, do protect the rights of the larger community, even if on occasion they protect someone who has violated other standards of the larger community. But surely this report and this outcome do not justify Southwark's response as "pernicious persecution."

And to Christopher, who wrote, "And *ineffectiveness* would be proof that something was *not* true, or right, and was in fact, devoid of power." Perhaps; and then again perhaps not. Civil rights for persons of color in America was and is true and right, but it took more than a century to reach even the point where we are today. Sixty years ago the numbers, the legislative strength, and, arguably, the "effectiveness" was almost entirely in the other camp. And then there is always the question of "effective for what?"

This is not to say that the mission activities in question are not effective for the Gospel. If they are, perhaps they should not also be seen as effective for the C of E or the Diocese of Southwark, because while there by geography, they don't appeaer to be there by ecclesiology. They can be effective for the Gospel, and we can celebrate that, without justifying the actions of Mr. Coekin with respect to his relationship with the C of E and with Southwark.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Wednesday, 7 June 2006 at 6:53pm BST

Perhaps we are starting to get answers to a background question I have been pondering for a while: Who's next? After LGBTQ Folks, I mean?

Surely these events suggest: One group that is begging to be next are any bishops who dare to do anything which allows anybody - especially somebody with chutzpah and a modicum of MT street cred - defines as being too liberal or unorthodox.

Gee, this all makes our USA Vice President hunting quail in Texas seem like farm leagues action.

Who else might be next? I have been reluctantly supposing - women, sooner or later. Maybe the MT believers are sort of right after all, about the Anglican house being on fire. But it is less and less looking like Bishop VGR and New Hampshire alone in the dead night of public diocesan discernment actually lit the candle sitting on top of the huge historic pile of flammable Anglican differences.

Canterbury is certainly going to have itself painted into unpleasant corners, and rather quickly if these trends continue to escalate. Some fires cannot actually be put out once they get going. You just have to let the thing burn to the ground, and save as many real people as possible from burning up, too.

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 8 June 2006 at 5:32am BST

Proportionality is now a basic principle in sentencing in the UK courts, following the introduction of the Human Rights Act. It is not a "technicality" but is designed to achieve a greater degree of justice not only in the verdict but the outcome.

Fortunately there are new rules for clergy discipline from 2006 onwards, and no bishop will in future be able to cancel a licence just as he pleases. All English clergy, including bishops, are now legally entitled to a fair hearing.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Thursday, 8 June 2006 at 9:34am BST

I've been saying this for a long time , drdanfee - liberals will just have to get a bit of backbone and work positively for a split. Nothing worth having can ever exist whilst conservatives are part of it. Liberals must stop being so wet and recognise that conservatives are the enemy. Consevative Christianity is a TOTALLY different religion. Totally different.

As for Coekin,part of the judgment stated clearly that he was required to be in full communion with his Bishop. Does he then reject the judgment?

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 8 June 2006 at 5:47pm BST

drdanfee, who are the people causing the ABC so many problems, painting him into corners?
Griswold? Robinson? Harries? Gladwin? Butler?

With bishops like these, the ABC needs no enemies! He is being forced to choose between a small minority's revisionist agendas and keeping The Anglican Communion together. He certainly has a tough job .... made harder all the time by some of his old "liberal" friends, sadly.

Posted by Nersen Pillay at Friday, 9 June 2006 at 7:39am BST

Merseymike, we agree again! Yes, "conservatives" follow a different "religion" to "liberals" - but what they follow fits with the 39 articles and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion so the split you suggest makes sense if "liberals" join a new ECUSA led church which can set out its own "liberal" articles and get on with life with real unity.

Posted by Nersen Pillay at Friday, 9 June 2006 at 10:36am BST


Thanks for your helpful and accurate comments.
Really what I am trying to emphasise is that we need to examine how it can be that the very same person can be top for effectiveness at reaching people and bottom in some people's personal estimation.
(a) I don't think this is a coincidence - since it happens repeatedly;
(b) it emphasises the need to consider whether we in fact have the same gospel as each other;
(c) it forces us to think: what is more important - bureaucracy and protocol on the one hand, or the gospel on the other? And surely everyone knows what the answer is.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Friday, 9 June 2006 at 11:59am BST

Nersen ; I would be only too happy to do just that.
Indeed, until there is a split, I have decided to absent myself from the CofE.

However, it will not be a 'new' church but the Anglican church opting to divide. No-one is going to opt to 'leave' so if there is going to be any progress we need to avoid loaded terms such as people 'leaving'.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 9 June 2006 at 6:35pm BST
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