Wednesday, 12 May 2004

Lyonsdown suspends parish share

UPDATE Revised Thursday 21 May
More on this can now be found at this website. More precisely, what is there is a copy of the letter sent by Mr Dobbie to the Bishop of St Albans, and another covering email note from Mr Dobbie to the general public. Some quotes from that below.

The Telegraph reports today that Holy Trinity Lyonsdown has said it will refuse to pay any money to the Diocese of St Albans.

In what is thought to be an unprecedented act, Holy Trinity church in Barnet, north London, has told the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, that it will not pay a penny of the £33,600 the diocese expects.
The Rev Charles Dobbie, the vicar, said that he blamed Bishop Herbert for approving the appointment of Dr John, the openly homosexual cleric who was forced to stand down as Bishop of Reading last summer.
Mr Dobbie, a member of the conservative evangelical Church Society, said he hoped that other churches, some of whom already withhold parts of their quotas, would follow Holy Trinity’s lead and pay nothing.
“We were shocked and grieved by the appointment of Jeffrey John last month,” he said. “We have decided to stand up and be counted.”
He added that he would not now expect the Church Commissioners to pay for his upkeep, and any extra money the parish held would go to a Christian charity ministering to homosexuals.
Church sources said that the decision would have little impact on central finances, though the position could change if a large number of parishes followed suit.

This parish, which serves a population of 6500 Barnet citizens, had in the year 2003 an electoral roll of 97 though Easter communicants totalled 77.

The story was reported in more detail later in the day by the Barnet and Potters Bar Times which had Church rebels over gay dean:

A conservative evangelical church in Barnet made history this week by refusing to pay its diocesan ‘tax’ in a rebellion against the appointment of an openly gay Dean of St Albans.
In what is thought to be an unprecedented step in the Diocese of St Albans, Holy Trinity Lyonsdown, a C of E church in Lyonsdown Road, New Barnet, is withholding its yearly quota of around £33,600 in protest against the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John, who was forced to stand down following a public outcry after his appointment as Bishop of Reading last year.
Canon John professes to live a celibate life, but as the new Dean of St Albans supports same-sex relationships.
The Rev Charles Dobbie, vicar of Holy Trinity, said the church unanimously agreed at a Parochial Church Council (PCC) meeting on Sunday not to pay a penny of the voluntary contribution.
Mr Dobbie said: “We have suspended the quota in its entirety with immediate effect and until further notice until the situation changes for the better.
“It is our expression of protest against the diocese for putting in place someone who is in a position of considerable influence and authority but is so far outside the standards of Anglican orthodoxy.
“We are just an ordinary parish church in the Church of England and we hope other churches will follow our lead.”
Because Anglicanism is an established church, Canon John’s appointment was decided by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert. Rev Dobbie said the church’s quarrel is not with Dr John, who has always been candid about his position, but rather with Bishop Herbert, who approved the appointment.
He also revealed the money that would have gone to the Diocese was being donated to a Christian charity ministering to homosexuals, the True Freedom Trust. The charity aims to support Christians who are gay to live a celibate life with the support of the church.
Bishop Herbert criticised Holy Trinity’s decision as ‘misdirected’ and one which would not help resolve different views.
He said: “Where honestly-held views are at variance, the action by Lyonsdown does nothing constructively to carry forward the discussion. We need to listen deeply to each other and not take precipitate action.
“As an action of protest, it is misdirected. I suggest that the way forward is now to work for greater understanding, whilst acknowledging our differences, rather than making public gestures of protest.”

The Diocese of St Albans issued the following statement today:

Statement on the decision of Holy Trinity Lyonsdown to suspend their parish share contribution.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert has noted and is saddened by the unilateral decision of the Revd Charles Dobbie and the Parochial Church Council of Holy Trinity Lyonsdown to suspend the payment of its parish share.

The Bishop comments:
‘I am deeply aware that there are strongly and sincerely held views about the appointment of Dr John as Dean of St Albans. There are many who welcome the appointment but some who find it distressing. In these circumstances, where honestly held views are at variance, the action by Lyonsdown does nothing constructively to carry forward the discussion that needs to continue between and amongst Christians and others. We need to listen deeply to each other and not take precipitate action.
Parishes in the Church of England are asked to make a payment, known in this diocese as the parish share, not to the Bishop, or even to the diocese of which they are a part, but as a contribution to the ministry and mission of the Church of England as a whole. Anglican churches throughout England receive the stipend for their clergy from the common source of these payments. The withholding of such funds can only place more pressure on other churches which continue to work hard to raise the requested payment for the good of the whole. As an action of protest, it is thus misdirected.
I suggest that the way forward is now to look to the ministry and mission to which all Christians in this diocese are called and to work for greater understanding, whilst acknowledging our differences, rather than by making public gestures of protest.’

From Mr Dobbie’s covering email:

Anticipating publicity, we have sought to make our stand (which reflects, as far as I can tell the wish of every member of our church which feels privileged to remain at the centre of historic mainstream Anglican orthodoxy) as principled as possible. To that end we have made clear to our diocese that we do not wish to receive any financial benefits from them at all with immediate effect. Allowing for this, we reckon that we will have about £5,500 left over from our quota which we intend to donate to True Freedom Trust - an evangelical Christian charity that works amongst homosexuals. We have thus sought to avoid any charges of profiteering or financial opportunism in our action.
In suspending our quota we have simply invoked (as a matter of conscience) an existing right to choose not to pay what is voluntary. I have confirmed with counsel that this is legally watertight and the diocese has no right of redress, retaliation or punishment against us. Indeed, I understand from legal advice that the quota system is “may be unlawful since it’s not made under the authority of parliament” - which is probably why it remains voluntary. I hope that other churches might follow suit and use their existing legitimate rights in this matter.

Mr Dobbie seems to have overlooked the fact that he currently lives rent-free in a house belonging to the diocese. To avoid receiving any financial benefit from the diocese, will he voluntarily move out?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 May 2004 at 10:05 AM GMT | TrackBack
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