Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 24 February 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Questions of fornication

Lisa Oakley University of Chester Response from Professor Lisa Oakley to the ‘Future of Church Safeguarding’ report recommendation 10 the removal of spiritual abuse

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General Synod – 23-27 February 2024

This post will be updated as the meeting proceeds.

The Church of England’s General Synod is meeting this weekend. The timetable is here, the agenda is here and the papers are here.

House of Laity meeting

In addition the House of Laity will meet on Sunday evening.

Live video etc

All sessions are streamed live on YouTube and remain available to view afterwards. Links have been provided in advance.

There is an official Twitter account.

Order papers

  • OP I – Friday afternoon
  • OP II – Saturday morning
  • OP III – Saturday afternoon [see NP10 for text of item 38A]

Business done

Official press releases

Press reports and comment

Church Times

Members’ blogs

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Safeguarding – pre-Synod news and comment

Updated Friday to add a second Church Times article

Gavin Drake Church Abuse

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Future of Church Safeguarding – A look at the Jay Report
also online at Modern Church

Ruth Peacock Religion Media Centre Celebration but concern at proposed new CofE independent safeguarding

Francis Martin Church Times Jay calls for root-and-branch reform of church safeguarding

Simon Walsh Church Times Varied responses to Jay report on Church of England safeguarding

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General Synod Questions

The Questions (and answers) for this weekend’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod were issued today. They can be found online here: Questions Notice Paper February 2024.

Questions will be taken in two groups; on Friday from 5.30pm to 7.00pm, and for about an hour on Saturday morning. There are 225 questions.

Update

There is a correction to the answer to Question 62 in Notice Paper 7.

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Opinion – 21 February 2024

Unadulterated Love ‘Valuing all God’s children – including trans people!

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Freeing the Church of England from Mental Slavery

Helen King ViaMedia.News Slouching Towards Synod

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Jay report on Church of England safeguarding published

UPDATED

This report was commissioned by the Church of England and first announced on 20 July 2023. Details followed in August: see Future of Church Safeguarding.

The report is now published: The Future of Church Safeguarding (55 pages)

There is also a press release: Report into the future of safeguarding in the Church of England

And there is a video.

There is also this Legal Advice note (35 pages)

——–

The Church of England has issued a press release.

And there is this: Terms of Reference for the Jay and Wilkinson Reports Response Group

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Bishop of Leicester writes to General Synod members

The Bishop of Leicester has written to all members of the General Synod this morning, ahead of the LLF debate at Synod this coming weekend. The original is here and I haved copied the body of the letter below the fold.

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Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has announced with great sadness the unexpected death of his colleague, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.

Paying tribute to Bishop Alan, Bishop Steven said: “Alan was a dear friend and colleague to many across the Diocese. Alan has deep friendships and pastoral relationships across both church and community in Bucks. He has offered remarkable leadership to our work in education and church schools over more than a decade. Alan has been a friend and advocate for survivors of abuse and a strong ally and supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community for many years.

“Alan had recently begun a well-earned sabbatical and was planning to use the time to plan and prepare for retirement in the next year. Alan loved God and loved God’s church with a rare passion. He was a bishop who prioritised the parishes and clergy in his care above everything else and served the people of Buckinghamshire with devotion over a long and demanding ministry.

“I will miss him as a friend and colleague. The Church has lost a wise, pastoral and prophetic bishop.”

There is more on the Oxford diocesan website.

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The Wilkinson Files

Sarah Wilkinson’s report into the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) was published in December. A debate on Safeguarding Independence (GS 2336) is scheduled to take place on Saturday 24 February at General Synod.

In advance of this debate six short documentary-style films (“The Wilkinson Files”) which highlight the key findings of Dr Wilkinson’s Report are being released by two Synod members. They explain these findings while displaying their precise location within the report. Each film is between 8 and about 15 minutes in duration.

The films are being released daily. So far two are available, but links are available for all six.

The films are presented by Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness, both Members of the House of Laity of the General Synod and both very active in matters relating to Safeguarding. Martin is a retired solicitor specialising in Child Protection. Clive is a Certified Auditor who is still in pracce and is also an elected member of the Audit Commiee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Clive said “When the Wilkinson Report is considered at the forthcoming meeting of the General Synod, speakers will probably only have 2 or 3 minutes each to speak about it. The Report itself reflects the legal background of its author and is packed with painstaking detail. We wanted to help Synod members to be as fully-informed as possible before Synod considers this. We have approached this like a forensic examinaon and have only included in the films any information contained in Dr Wilkinson’s Report, information of which she was aware or information in the Public Domain at the time she wrote her report.

“We have not invited anyone else to comment in our films or to appear on them in the interests of strict imparality. We leave it instead to our viewers to draw their own conclusions about how these sad events came to pass and how we can avoid a repetition. Dr Wilkinson’s report makes it clear that some fundamental changes are needed to the way the Church of England and the Archbishops’ Council conducts itself when dealing with Safeguarding.”

The films detail how the ISB was created, how it struggled to achieve the proper independence which abuse survivors and others expected, how it was closed down, followed by an detailed examinaon of the failures in governance which Dr Wilkinson highlights, a summary of the voices of the survivors who spoke to her and, finally, a short analysis of the “Magic Moments” where serious mistakes occurred which led to the failure and closure of the ISB.

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Opinion – 17 February 2024

Ben Phillips The Critic How can we pay for our cathedrals?
“Critics of silent discos in Canterbury Cathedral are silent on how to fund our churches”

Bosco Peters Liturgy God is Immoral

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The danger of endowing Jesus and his followers with divine powers at the expense of humanity – theirs and ours

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Opinion – 14 February 2024

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Can we find Integrity and Accountability in the Leadership of the Church of England?

Neil Elliot NumbersMatters God loves statistics

Anon ViaMedia.News Mini-MBA Course for the Talent Pipeline in the Church of England: Safeguarding Strategy

Andrew Brown The slow deep hover Evangelical Pantaloons

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Bishop Martyn Strangelove to the rescue, or How I learnt to Stop Worrying and Love LLF

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Correspondence re Secretary General

On 18 January, we published a letter addressed to the archbishops calling for the suspension and investigation of the Secretary General, William Nye. This letter was written by Martin Sewell and signed by 20 members of General Synod. The full text of the letter is here.

A reply to this letter was sent on 6 February from Carl Hughes, Chair of the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Martin Sewell replied to this on 8 February. The formal response is here, and there is also a covering note and an addendum.

Carl Hughes replied to this on 11 February.

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Cathedral Statistics 2022

The Church of England has published its Cathedral Statistics 2022 and an accompanying press release, which is copied below.

Cathedral attendance continued post pandemic bounce back, 2022 figures show
08/02/2024

Attendance at Church of England cathedrals continued to bounce back following the pandemic, new statistics for 2022 published today show.

Figures show that adult usual Sunday attendance rose 60% between 2021 and 2022 for the 42 Church of England mainland Cathedrals to 12,300 adults. A total of 28,200 people including children attended services every week, according to Cathedral Statistics 2022.

Over the year there were 584,000 attendances at specially arranged services – not included in average weekly attendance –  such as school services. The number of special services stood at 2,100. The total reported attendance at Christmas services stood at 104,000.

However the figures had not yet reached pre pandemic levels of attendance.

The number of girl choristers in Cathedrals stood at its highest total in 2022 at 790, out of 1,500 child choristers. The number of Cathedral choirs stood at 165, also the highest number reported.

Cathedrals hosted 530 graduation ceremonies in 2022 with 434,000 people attending – the highest numbers ever reported.  There were more marriage services in Cathedrals in 2022 (290) than in 2019 (270).  Both the graduation and marriage figures reflect efforts that have been made, where possible, to catch up after the lifting of Covid restrictions.

These 2022 figures have been published following a survey by The Times of 30 Church of England Cathedrals that found congregations at Christmas (2023) for many, were higher than pre-pandemic levels.

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Opinion – 10 February 2024

David Runcorn Inclusive Evangelicals Marriage in the Garden

Adrian Thatcher Modern Church A ‘Theological Vision’, or ‘Myopic Homophobia’?

Anne Richards Modern Church Spiritual Abuse

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Living as if . . .

Alex Frost ViaMedia.News Response to the ‘Letter from Seven Bishops’: A Theology of Inclusion

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February 2024 General Synod – Agenda and Papers

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London from Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 February. The agenda (GS 2332) and papers were released today. The report of the Business Committee (GS 2333) includes a guide to the group of sessions.

The papers can be downloaded as two zipped files, and there are links to individual papers below the fold.

(more…)

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Pre-General Synod Press Release – February 2024

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London later this month, and the usual pre-Synod press release, copied below, was issued today.

Synod to address biodiversity, safeguarding, racial justice and Prayers of Love and Faith
09/02/2024

General Synod papers published for February 2024 Group of Sessions

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet later this month in London to discuss the biodiversity agenda of the Church’s overall Environment Programme, racial justice, and Prayers of Love and Faith which ask for God’s blessing for same-sex couples. General Synod will meet at Church House on February 23 to 27.

A Land and Nature Motion will seek to give biodiversity equal consideration with net zero carbon, recognising the need to respond urgently to the ecological crisis. The motion also addresses land and property owned by the Church, at parish, diocese and national level. Dioceses would be encouraged to develop a ‘Land’ action plan. A separate net zero carbon routemap was approved by General Synod in July 2022.

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, said: “With this motion, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the Church’s responsibility to safeguarding God’s creation by adding commitments to be responsible stewards of the land to our existing Net Zero ambitions.

“There are around 17,500 acres of churchyards in England – that’s around twice the size of a City like Oxford. I want them to be places for the living as well as the dead.

“With these free programmes, church and local communities can answer this call straight away by counting species, planning mowing regimes, allowing plants to flower and joining the Eco-Church scheme.

“The Church is also setting out clear commitments to be at the forefront of responsible investment and, in partnership with our tenants, responsible land ownership.”

“I hope Synod will vote strongly in favour of this motion, and send a clear signal to those all around the country, and to Government, that responsible land stewardship is good for nature, good for business and good for people.”

Synod will be invited to discuss and endorse the process for engaging with two reports on safeguarding in the Church: firstly a report on lessons learned by the barrister Sarah Wilkinson, published in December, and secondly recommendations from the forthcoming review from Professor Alexis Jay into the Future of Church Safeguarding. The Archbishops’ Council has set up a group to advise it on how to respond to the reviews.

There will also be an update from the Redress Project Board, outlining the significant progress that has been made in designing a National Redress Scheme for survivors of Church-related abuse, since the draft Redress Measure was brought to General Synod for First Consideration in November 2023.

An update will be shared on the work of the Estates Evangelism Task Group, which was set up in 2016 to renew the Church on social housing estates and other low-income communities.

There will be a report on progress on the work on Living in Love and Faith. The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, has produced a paper proposing that the Church work towards adopting a set of commitments for love, faith and reconciliation, to provide a way to implement the decisions that the Synod has previous taken in a way that that encourages reconciliation and unity.

The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, said: “Synod has set a clear direction for us to move forward, but there remains profound disagreement across the Church. As we move to implement what has been decided, we must also find ways to unify and reconcile these disagreements, mindful particularly of the narrow majorities in key votes.

“The leadership of the Church of England has apologised to LGBTQI+ people for the lack of welcome and pastoral care they have received, and it is time that all churches show this apology in action.

“At the same time, there is a weariness among many in the Church and a longing to focus on other questions related to our calling to serve the nation.

“The 10 Commitments I have suggested to Synod do not represent words to be agreed upon, but a basis on which we can continue to pursue the implementation of motions previously passed on Living and Love and Faith.”

Synod will also discuss racial justice and the Church Commissioners’ response to its research into historic transatlantic slavery; the war in Ukraine and its wider impact; and the report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households, “Love Matters”. There will also be an update on the Governance Programme.

The Synod will also be invited to consider various items of Church legislation.

More information

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Opinion – 7 February 2024

Janet Fife Surviving Church Putting My Name to My Story

The Guardian view on crumbling churches: a social vocation can save them for the nation

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Time to challenge toxic theology and poisoned prejudice in the Church

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LLF: roundup of recent statements and news reports

Updated

Since we posted the statement of the Bishop of Newcastle on Thursday morning, there have been several further statements. Some of these have been linked in the comments, but I am repeating them all here, as not everyone reads all the comments…

The Church Times has carried several news reports so far:

These include quotes from others, including from Dr Tom Woolford, and the Bishop in Europe.

Monday Updates

Helen King has written: Processing the process: LLF continues which contains much detail concerning these recent events.

A second interim theological advisor has been appointed: Statement: Interim Theology Advisers

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the appointment of a new interim Theology Adviser, the Revd Canon Dr Jessica Martin, currently Canon Residentiary for Learning and Outreach at Ely Cathedral, to work alongside the Revd Dr Tom Woolford. Tom and Jessica will work as Joint Interim Theology Advisers to the House of Bishops and Secretaries to Faith and Order Commission (FAOC), on secondment for a six-month period starting in March 2024. These interim roles are in place while a substantive recruitment process is underway for a permanent successor to the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, who leaves the NCIs at the end of February to take up the role of Principal of Ridley Hall…

Tuesday Updates

Helen King has written a further blog article:One down, one to go: the LLF appointment saga continues

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Independent Safeguarding Board: radio interview transcript

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme carried an item on 28 January about the now defunct Church of England Independent Safeguarding Board.  You can hear the item from the BBC website (starts at about 20 minutes, 30 seconds into the programme).

The interviewees were the clinical psychologist David Glasgow, whose report we linked to earlier when it was published by House of Survivors, Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity of the General Synod, and a survivor of abuse.

A transcript of this is now available. You can read that here.Transcript temporarily unavailable.

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Opinion – 3 February 2024

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love This week’s events bring me close to despair

Phil Groves ViaMedia.News To be Evangelical is to Challenge ‘Orthodoxy’

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Can we ever rediscover the Trust we once had of the Institutions in our Society?

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