Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 15 June 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Transparency, trust and bishops

Neil Elliot NumbersMatter From Creation to Revelation: why seven is the most special number

Philip North Church Times It is time for a new deal for underpaid clergy
“A culture of low remuneration and overwork can be addressed only by more funding at a national level”


Transparency of the work of the House of Bishops

One of the papers just released for next month’s meeting of the General Sunod of the Church of England is this one. As a GS Misc paper it is provided for information and not for debate.

  • Transparency of the work of the House of Bishops (GS Misc 1387)

This is an interim report from the House of Bishops Transparency Group. There are four recommendations, listed below, which the covering page states have been approved by the House.

Recommendation 1:
Minutes of all meetings of the House of Bishops should be published on the relevant section of the Church of England website once they have been approved at the subsequent meeting. These should be minutes rather than transcripts.

Recommendation 2:
The House of Bishops will adopt a “maximum transparency” approach so that the analysis and information that the House has had to make decisions will be made available. In particular formal legal advice from the Legal Office or written advice from the Faith and Order Commission and other such groups should be provided to the General Synod as an annex to the relevant GS paper. The agenda for each House of Bishops meeting will be published with the circulation of papers. Papers to the House of Bishops should continue not to be published.

Recommendation 3:
The House of Bishops should continue to meet without public attendance, and should amend its standing orders to be honest that it is doing so, removing the fiction of public participation in Standing Order 13.

Recommendation 4:
The House of Bishops will propose changes to Canon H 3 and potentially other legislation to provide for acting diocesan bishops to vote at meetings of the House and General Synod. In advance of that chairs might ask acting diocesan bishops informally to indicate how they would have voted were they eligible to vote.


July 2024 General Synod – Papers

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in York from Friday 5 to Tuesday 9 July. A few of the papers, listed below the fold, are now available online. I will update the list when more papers are released next week.



House of Bishops Meeting – June 2024

The Church of England’s House of Bishops met today and issued the following brief press release.

House of Bishops Meeting – June 2024

The House of Bishops met in London on June 12.

The bishops heard updates on the developing proposals from the Living in Love and Faith Programme Board and working groups which represent a variety of theological convictions, traditions and views on sexuality and marriage.

Following a wide-ranging debate, the House of Bishops voted clearly in favour of the proposals being explored further and discussed by Synod which meets in York next month.

Earlier in the day the full College of Bishops met and heard directly from members of the LLF working groups who reflected a strong desire from across the range of views to remain together as one church despite differences.

The rather fuller Actions & Decisions from two earlier meetings of the House are now available online.


Opinion – 12 June 2024

Catherine Bennett The Observer Your sermons on integrity are a bit rich, archbishop, given your faith in Paula Vennells

Richard Peers Oikodomeo The Five Guiding Principles and LLF – why the Church of England is immoral

Giles Fraser Save the Parish Only chaos can redeem the Church

Christopher Cocksworth The Living Church Sent to Coventry, Called to Windsor


Opinion – 8 June 2024

David Monteith ViaMedia.News PRIDE: More than Sparkling Spandex

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church To Jay or not to Jay, that is the Question for C/E Safeguarding

Paul Middleton ViaMedia.News Church of Scotland Welcomes Trans Members and Ministers

Martyn Snow Church of England Newspaper LLF: unity matters – it really matters


Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich

Press release from 10 Downing Street. Further information from Southwark diocese.

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Alastair Cutting, Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich, for nomination to the Suffragan See of Woolwich in the Diocese of Southwark.

Appointment of Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich: 6 June 2024

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 6 June 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Alastair Cutting, Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich, for nomination to the Suffragan See of Woolwich in the Diocese of Southwark in succession to the Right Reverend Karowei Dorgu following his untimely death.


Alastair was educated at Westhill College, Birmingham University, trained for ministry at St. John’s, Nottingham, and gained a Masters at Heythrop College, London University. He served his title at All Saints Woodlands, Doncaster, in the Diocese of Sheffield and was ordained priest in 1988. He served as Assistant Curate at Wadsley from 1989 and in 1991 he was appointed Chaplain to The Nave Arts Centre and the Town Centre, Uxbridge, in the Diocese of London.

In 1996, Alastair was appointed Vicar of Copthorne, West Sussex, in the Diocese of Chichester, and from 2010 he served as Vicar of Henfield and Rector of Shermanbury and Woodmancote. He was elected twice to General Synod, in Chichester and Southwark Dioceses, and twice also elected as ProProlocutor of the House of Clergy.

Alastair has served in his current role as Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich in the Diocese of Southwark since 2013.



Dean of Lichfield

Press release from 10 Downing Street. And Lichfield Cathedral has “First Female Dean of Lichfield Appointed”.

The King has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Janet Elizabeth McFarlane, Interim Dean of Lichfield and an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Lichfield, for appointment as Dean of Lichfield.

Appointment of Dean of Lichfield: 5 June 2024

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 5 June 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Janet Elizabeth McFarlane, Interim Dean of Lichfield and an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Lichfield, for appointment as Dean of Lichfield, in succession to The Very Reverend Adrian Dorber, following his retirement.


Janet (known as Jan) was educated at Sheffield University, and trained for the ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham. She served her title in the Stafford Team Ministry, in the Diocese of Lichfield and was ordained priest in 1994. She became Chaplain of Ely Cathedral in 1996, before being appointed as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Norwich in 1999. Between 2001 and 2009, Jan served additionally as Chaplain to the Bishop of Norwich. In 2009, she was appointed Archdeacon of Norwich, whilst remaining Director of Communications for the Diocese.

In 2016, Jan was appointed Suffragan Bishop of Repton, in the Diocese of Derby, and has been the non-stipendiary Canon Custos at Lichfield Cathedral and Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Lichfield since retiring as Bishop of Repton in 2020. She has been Interim Dean for the last year.



Church Commissioners report for 2023

The Church Commissioners issued their report for 2023 yesterday alongwith a press release, which is copied below.

Church Commissioners for England endowment fund delivers 4.1% return in 2023

The Church Commissioners for England, which manages the Church of England’s endowment fund, delivered a 4.1% return in 2023, marking the fifteenth year of positive returns, with the fund valued at £10.4bn at the end of 2023.

“Managing the endowment fund in a way that generates sustainable funding to support the mission and ministry of the Church of England, now and for the long-term, is our core purpose – and 2023 was another successful year with that in mind,” said Alan Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner. “In 2023, in addition to paying pensions of £120.6m, we made £223m in charitable expenditure, up 19.4% from £186.8m in 2022, with more than two-thirds of that going towards supporting dioceses and, through them, local churches.”

The in-perpetuity endowment fund delivers long-term financial support for the Church’s ministry, contributing around 20% towards the total annual running costs of the Church of England.

The Church Commissioners has provided the Church with over £3.5bn in funding since 2009, with £1.2bn to be distributed during the current 2023-2025 triennium – a 30% increase on the previous triennium, thanks in large part to the excellent investment returns generated by the Commissioners’ Investment team. The fund has delivered positive returns while building a reputation as a global leader in responsible investment.

The annual report is available for download here.


Bishop of Exeter

Press release from 10 Downing Street. Further information on the Exeter diocesan site “New Bishop of Exeter announced on Devon Day”. St Edmundsbury & Ipswich has this report.

The King has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Mike Harrison, Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, for election as Bishop of Exeter.

Appointment of Bishop of Exeter: 4 June 2024

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 4 June 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Right Reverend Mike Harrison, Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, for election as Bishop of Exeter, in succession to The Right Reverend Robert Atwell, following his retirement.


Mike’s undergraduate studies were in Mathematics & Statistics at Selwyn College, Cambridge, after which he worked as both a Management Consultant and a Social Worker in London. He trained for ministry at Oxford and served as Assistant Curate at St Anne and All Saints, South Lambeth in the Southwark Diocese for four years. During this time he studied for a PhD in Doctrine at King’s College, London University. Mike went on to be Chaplain at Bradford University and Bradford and Ilkley Community College, where he was also Diocesan World Development Advisor, and completed an MA in International Development Studies at Bradford University. From 1998 he was Vicar of Holy Trinity, Eltham in the Diocese of Southwark, also serving as Rural Dean of Eltham and Mottingham. He moved to Leicester Diocese in 2006 as Director of Mission and Ministry.

In 2016, Mike took up his current role as Suffragan Bishop of Dunwich in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich with a keen focus on mission & evangelism, discipleship, engaging children & young people and cultivating vocations.

Mike is married to Rachel, an Occupational Therapist and they have four adult children. He is a passionate supporter of Bolton Wanderers (having been born in Bolton) and (not unrelatedly) has an interest in live comedy, as well as being a beekeeper and baker of cakes.


Wilkinson-Jay Response Group survey findings

The Church Times reports on a survey commissioned by the Jay Response Group but as yet not published by them.

Survey uncovers reservations about outsourcing church safeguarding work

MOST bishops and safeguarding professionals in the C of E oppose the outsourcing of church safeguarding work to an independent body, according to the results of a survey commissioned this spring.

The Church Times has obtained the unpublished results of a survey on the future of church safeguarding, which was commissioned in March (News, 25 March). The findings from the survey are due to form part of a paper which will be debated at General Synod in July.

The 2003 responses show that — while there is strong support for the creation of a body that would provide independent scrutiny of safeguarding — Professor Alexis Jay’s chief recommendation, outlined in her report (News, 21 February), that day-to-day safeguarding work should be completely handed over to another independent body, has not found widespread support….

The full text of the survey report is available here: Wilkinson-Jay Initial Survey Research Paper.

The following graphs summarise the most important findings, namely that support for the creation of “Charity A” is lower among both bishops and those currently employed in church safeguarding work than it is among either those who are survivors of abuse and their advocates,  or those who are ordinary church members.


Opinion – 1 June 2024

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love The God I Never Believed In

Gavin Drake Church Abuse Who are Ecclesiastical? And why does it matter?

Fergus Butler-Gallie Church Times Preacher who triggered a riot
“On the tercentenary of the death of Henry Sacheverell, Fergus Butler-Gallie revisits the clergyman’s life and pulpit polemics”


Opinion – 25 May 2024

Ian Paul Psephizo Once more: whither the Church of England?

Gavin Drake Church Abuse

Penelope Doe ViaMedia.News Queering the Church: The Theological and Ecclesial Potential of Failure


Diocese of Argyll & The Isles elects new Bishop

The Rev David Railton was yesterday elected to be the next Bishop of Argyll and the Isles in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Details are in a press release, copied below.

Diocese of Argyll & The Isles elects new Bishop
May 21, 2024

A new Bishop has been chosen in the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles, with the Rev David Railton elected to the position that has been vacant since the death of Bishop Keith Riglin in September 2023.

Mr Railton accepted the post following a vote of the Electoral Synod, held today in Oban. He becomes Bishop-Elect, and a Consecration is expected be arranged during the next three months.

The current Rector of the linked charges of Holy Trinity in Dunoon and St Paul’s in Rothesay becomes the second consecutive Rector from those charges to become a Bishop, following the election of Bishop Andrew Swift in Brechin in 2018.



Weekly attendance at Church of England services in 2023

Press release from the Church of England

Weekly Church attendance up five per cent in third year of consecutive growth

Average weekly attendance at Church of England services rose by almost five per cent in 2023 – the third year of consecutive growth, preliminary figures show.

Meanwhile weekly attendance by children was up by almost six per cent last year, according to an early snapshot of the annual Statistics for Mission findings.

While total attendance is still below 2019 levels, the last year before the Covid-19 lockdowns, the analysis suggests in-person attendance is drawing closer to the pre-pandemic trend.

In 2021 all-age Sunday attendance was 22.3 per cent below the projected pre-pandemic trend, but the new figures reveal that the gap had narrowed to 6.7 per cent last year.

All-age weekly attendance rose to within 8.3 per cent of the trend last year, compared with 24.1 per cent in 2021.



LLF: proposals made for same-sex prayers and marriage

Francis Martin at the Church Times has a report on what happeed last weekend in the LLF group discussions:
Same-sex prayers and marriage: latest Love and Faith proposals considered by the Bishops.

See previous article for the official report on what happened at the House of Bishops meeting on Thursday.

The Church of England Evangelical Council has published two items:

John Dunnett says:

There’s a lot of water going under the Living in Love and Faith Bridge right now, including today, the 16th of May, a discussion at the House of Bishops. Whilst we do not know what they will conclude and what therefore will be brought to General Synod in July, it is clear that two things are going to happen. One, that the so-called ‘standalone services’ for blessings of same-sex relationships will be made possible.

And secondly, that, probably by the removal of ‘so-called’ discipline, that clergy in some dioceses are going to be able to marry their same-sex partners. Maybe as soon as this autumn. These are big changes, and I think it’s fairly clear that they are indeed indicative of a change of doctrine…


House of Bishops meets in York

Press release from the Church of England

House of Bishops meets in York

The House of Bishops met in York from 15th-17th May for their annual May meeting.

The meeting began with a discussion of figures presented by Vision and Strategy that indicate a growth in weekly church attendance in 2023 for both adults and young people year on year, and the further work being undertaken to build on this progress. A number of Bishops shared experiences of growth in their own dioceses.

The House discussed recent work on Living in Love and Faith (LLF) and how the Church might move forward together towards a unifying position around the further use of the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF), accompanied by Pastoral Guidance, and proportionate Pastoral Reassurance measures, while recognising the challenges.

Bishop Martyn Snow expressed his thanks for the constructive, gracious, and generous atmosphere of the recent residential weekend undertaken by the LLF working groups who came together in Leicester. The Bishops encouraged the Programme Team and LLF working groups to continue their work before outlining a more detailed proposal to the College and House of Bishops in June.

The House heard an update on the work of the Racial Justice Unit and of the Church Commissioners on Project Spire and the Fund for Healing, Repair and Justice. The Bishops recognised the importance of the work being undertaken and a number reflected with sadness and disappointment on the harmful tone of some of the expressions of opposition to the work. The Bishops indicated their continued support for both the Unit and Project.

The House had a first discussion of the material produced by the working group on the Seal of the Confessional. They noted the importance of further reflection before this work comes back to the House of Bishops later in July.

The Bishops received an update from the co-chairs of the Wilkinson/Jay Response Group ahead of General Synod which will discuss independence and safeguarding in July.

The House agreed the proposals from the Governance Review Group to be presented to General Synod in July.

During the three days Bishops attended St Edward’s Church in Dringhouses together for services of morning prayer and Holy Communion.


Opinion – 18 May 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Hidden in plain sight: Soul Survivor again

Philip North ViaMedia.News On Conscience

Paul Bickley and George Lapshynov Church Times Does religion influence votes?
“Yes, but not in a straightforward way”


Bishop of Sodor and Man

Press release from 10 Downing Street. Further information on the Sodor and Man diocesan website.

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Patricia Hillas for election as Bishop of Sodor and Man.

Appointment of Bishop of Sodor and Man: 16 May 2024

From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 16 May 2024

The King has approved the nomination of The Venerable Patricia Hillas, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons and Archdeacon of Westminster, for election as Bishop of Sodor and Man, in succession to The Right Reverend Peter Eagles following his retirement.


Patricia was educated at University of East London and Birkbeck College, University of London. She trained for ministry by completing the North Thames Ministerial Training Course validated by Middlesex University in 2002. She served her title at St Mark’s Kensal Rise, in the Diocese of London, and was ordained Priest in 2003.Patricia served as Vicar of St Barnabas, Northolt Park, from 2005 and was appointed Canon Pastor at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2014.In 2020 Patricia took up her current role as Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons whilst also serving as Priest in Charge of St Mary at Hill, City of London. Since 2021, after leaving St Mary at Hill, she has served jointly as Speaker’s Chaplain in Parliament and at Westminster Abbey as Canon Steward and Archdeacon of Westminster.


Update – John Smyth review

Press release from the Church of England

Update – John Smyth review

Update from independent reviewer Keith Makin

I am aware of the ongoing impact that the delays in the publication of my report is having on all those affected by this review, particularly the victims and survivors. I would like to underline my apology and outline next steps which I hope will provide some reassurance. The review has now reached the stage where those individuals and organisations named and criticised in the report are to be sent the relevant extracts to permit them an opportunity to respond to the criticism.

This stage is starting later than planned and later than we outlined in our statement at the start of the year. This was because there was a substantial change to a contribution to the review, at the final stages of completion. The consequence of this was the need to review and edit those parts of the review which drew upon this contribution.

Once this next stage is complete the final report will be handed to the Archbishops’ Council for publication. This will be done as soon as practically possible, but we cannot give definitive dates until this stage of the process is completed.


Both the reviewers and the Church recognise that giving information to this review has the potential to be re-traumatising for victims and survivors. While support has previously been offered the NST has now secured the service of a specialist advocacy service. FearFree Support provides specialist support to victims and survivors of abuse, offering trauma informed and victim led bespoke support. Its director of services has identified an experienced independent advocate for victims and survivors – Nina Tanner – to deliver this service and this information has been relayed to the survivors and victims.
Contact: 07825 741751

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