This post will be updated as the meeting proceeds.
Live Video etc
All sessions are streamed live on YouTube and remain available to view afterwards.
Monday afternoon – live from 1.45 pm
Tuesday morning – live from 10.15 am
Tuesday afternoon – live from 2.00 pm
Wednesday morning – live from 9.15 am
Wednesday afternoon – live from 2.00 pm
Thursday morning – live from 9.15 am
Thursday afternoon – live from 2.00 pm
There is an official Twitter account.
OP1 – Monday afternoon
Official press releases
Press reports and comment
ISB remains off the Synod’s agenda despite members’ concerns
Synod, trust parishes to discount funeral and wedding fees when needed – this refers to this financial statement
Use language that unites not divides, Archbishop Welby asks, as the General Synod begins
Synod members’ blogs
The final lap
For previous items, see More safeguarding updates.
Surviving Church has published this article by David Lamming: Will General Synod be allowed to debate the Independent Safeguarding Board? It appears that at present the answer is No.
Hattie Williams has a further detailed update in the Church Times: ISB remains off the Synod’s agenda despite members’ concerns
…By Friday, Mr Sewell had been informed by the Acting Clerk to the Synod, Jenny Jacobs, that the chair for the safeguarding items (the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn) had ruled the motion out of order because it was not compliant with Standing Orders. Specifically, the following motion was not “relevant to and within the scope of its subject matter” of the original NST motion.
Mr Sewell and David Lamming, a former Synod member, redrafted their motion to refer to a previous motion from Dr Gibbs, carried by the Synod during its July sessions last year, which had requested “regular updates on progress at each group of sessions, especially concerning the strengthening of independent accountability and oversight of the Church’s safeguarding work at all levels” (News, 15 July 2022).
Over the weekend, however, this, too, was ruled out of scope, again, on the grounds that: “The ISB is not a workstream for which the NST is responsible.”
Charlie Bell ViaMedia.News No More Delay: A Call to General Synod
Charlie Bell For whom the Bell tolls A response to ‘The Church of England’s Doctrine of Marriage’, +Fulham et al
Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law Canon B5 and the Prayers of Love and Faith
Lorraine Cavanagh Modern Church What Price Unity?
Colin Coward‘s vlog – episode 2
Catherine Pepinster Religion News Service Church of England submits blessings for same-sex couples to fierce debate in Synod
Francis Martin Church Times MPs plan to put pressure on the C of E after Welby’s disestablishment remarks
Sarah Meyrick Church Times Fourteen bishops publish a defence of traditional marriage
Jayne Ozanne The Guardian One side of the C of E preaches LGBT+ acceptance, the other says I’m going to hell. This can’t go on
Andrew Davison Church Times We will bless couples, not just people
Church of England press: House of Bishops – Monday 20 January 2023
20 is clearly a misprint for 30.
A Monument of Fame (Lambeth Palace Library blog) Partners at the Palace: the story of the wives of the Archbishops of Canterbury
Peter Reiss Surviving Church Unheard and Un-noticed but not uncommon – Why are we so bad at listening?1 Comment
The Questions (and answers) for next week’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod were sent to Synod members today. They are not yet online with the other Synod papers but I have put copies online. They come in four parts.
The first of these starts with this note.
The Business Committee has scheduled two hours for Questions at the February 2023 Group of Sessions of the General Synod. This is divided between 80 minutes on Monday 6 February and 40 minutes on Tuesday 7 February. Notice has been given of 206 questions, of which just under one third or 64 are questions of the House of Bishops relating to Living in Love and Faith and ancillary matters. The Business Committee has determined that the two questions sessions will take the following format. There are two Questions Notice Papers. This first Notice Paper contains all questions other than those relating to the Living in Love and Faith process. The second Notice Paper contains all questions to the House of Bishops on Living in Love and Faith. The first session for questions will begin at the start of the first Notice Paper and will continue until the time provided for in the agenda comes to an end. The second session will then begin at the start of the second Notice Paper and will continue until the time provided for in the agenda comes to an end.
The order in which questions are answered follows convention. The three bodies or individuals of whom questions were asked and who appeared at the bottom of the Notice Paper at the previous occasion questions were asked are taken first in this group of sessions. The remaining bodies and individuals follow in the same order as previously.
The previous occasion questions were asked was November 2022. This means questions to the Secretary General, the Clerk to the Synod and National Society Council will be taken first at this group of sessions.
Bishop David Urquhart to be the new Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Stephen Cottrell have announced the Rt Revd David Urquhart as the new Bishop to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Bishop David will work directly for both Archbishops and closely with the entire College of Bishops. Bishop David takes over from Bishop Emma Ineson who has been appointed Bishop of Kensington.
As a senior member of the Archbishops’ teams, Bishop David will play a key role in supporting the Archbishops and liaising with the House and College of Bishops, as well as alongside NCI and Diocesan colleagues and other key stakeholders.
Bishop David will be part-time in this one-year interim role while continuing in his other part-time role as Assistant Priest for St Mary at Hill in the City of London. He will start in post next week.
Bishop David was ordained in York Minster in 1984 and served in parishes in Hull and Coventry. In 2000 he became Bishop of Birkenhead and in 2006 Bishop of Birmingham, succeeding John Sentamu after he became Archbishop of York, stepping down in October 2022.
He became the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual in May 2015, and was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG) for services to international relations in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018.
As previous chair of the West Midlands Bishops, and former member of the Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners, Bishop David has wide experience of many aspects of Church and national life.
Bishop David said: “I am looking forward to supporting the ministry of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and to sharing with them the pastoral and practical needs and opportunities of our episcopal colleagues across the Church of England”.
Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Stephen Cottrell said: “We are delighted to welcome Bishop David to this important role. We know he will bring his considerable wisdom, humour and humility to the role, as well as his wealth of experience as a bishop and leader in the Church and the national life.”31 Comments
Updated Thursday and Friday
My previous post on this topic is here: Church Safeguarding: Updates for General Synod
Some more recent items:
Church Times Hattie Williams Disputes undermine effectiveness of the Church’s Independent Safeguarding Board
THE Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has upheld a third complaint of a data-breach made by a survivor against the chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), Professor Maggie Atkinson, the Church Times has learned.
This paper also understands that, despite being informed of this, the Archbishops’ Council, who employ the ISB as independent contractors, has recently reinstated Professor Atkinson’s access to her ISB email account against the wishes of the two other ISB board members.
The two have requested that her access be removed until they are reassured and can assure survivors that their data is safe…
and the report continues with a great deal of detail on the confusion, ending with:
“…However, due to ongoing concerns about the current working relationships, the Council agreed at its January meeting that members should enter into a dispute-resolution process to ensure this important independent work can continue with effective collaborative working between its members. This will enable the ISB to reach decisions including on outstanding work and to provide services to the Church agreed in its contract.”.
Read the whole report if you can.
The Acting Bishop of Lincoln has written this letter: The Retirement of the Dean of Lincoln, The Very Reverend Christine Wilson. It concludes:
…It is well-known that Dean Christine was caught up in the safeguarding debacle leading from allegations made against the Canon Chancellor. He was subsequently found not guilty; but both the Bishop of Lincoln and Dean Christine were disciplined for a reporting error with regard to the safeguarding breach. Dean Christine voluntarily stepped away from her duties. The Bishop was suspended. Later the Bishop received an apology from the National Church for the undue duration of his suspension. Perhaps because the Dean’s situation was more informal and local, she received no corresponding recognition. A subsequent independent review of the case found that Dean Christine paid too high a price for her mistake, which she apologised publicly for on her return to work. The review, conducted by a senior and highly-esteemed barrister, also found that Christine was never a threat to children or vulnerable adults as had been asserted.
Of course, the first priority of the Diocese was to ensure that no breach of process could possibly lead to a vulnerable adult being hurt. The Court finally determined that there was no case to answer; but the two senior leaders involved paid the price in the meantime. That price has been high and provides a media narrative which will linger for a long time. However, the whole matter can now be seen in perspective, and Dean Christine should in the years ahead be allowed to celebrate her many achievements in ministry under God, as I am celebrating today.
Archbishop of York Press Release: Bishopthorpe Palace publishes its Independent Safeguarding Audit from SCIE and the full text of the audit report is here.
Church of England Press Release: Statement on ISB and Christ Church review
The Archbishops’ Council, at its meeting last week, has agreed that the review of the handling of safeguarding issues regarding the former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Dr Martyn Percy, originally referred to the Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, should be led by another person.
All parties have been informed of this decision and next steps will be announced in due course.
The Archbishops’ Council and the Diocese of Oxford originally referred the review to the ISB early in 2022 and Terms of Reference were announced in May. In the autumn, the ISB announced it was pausing work on the review due to finite resources, current workload and a desire to study the outcomes of other independent reviews into Christ Church.
Due to ongoing concerns about current working relationships and the conclusion of the ICO investigation into the Chair the Council also agreed at its January meeting that the three ISB members should enter into a dispute resolution process to ensure this important independent work can continue with effective collaborative working between its members. This will enable the ISB to reach decisions including on outstanding work and to provide services to the Church agreed in its contract.
The ISB, was set up to provide vital scrutiny of the Church’s safeguarding work and we remain committed to this principle and would like to thank members for their work to date.
…Early last year, the ISB had agreed — at the request of the diocese of Oxford and the Archbishops’ Council — to undertake a review of the quality of earlier safeguarding investigations into what became a long and protracted dispute between the college authorities and Dean Percy (News, 24 June 2022). The Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, later defended the ISB’s ability to do so, after its competence and capacity to investigate were questioned by a General Synod member, Martin Sewell (News, 1 July 2022).
Last October, however, the ISB “paused” its review indefinitely because it was not confident in its own independence and resources (News, 21 October 2022).
On Wednesday, the Archbishops’ Council announced that the Christ Church review “should be led by another person” — the day after the Church Times reported that a third complaint of a data breach had been made by a survivor against the ISB, and that this had been upheld by the Independent Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The complaint concerned an email exchange between the survivor and the chair of the ISB, Professor Maggie Atkinson.
The full text of this motion as originally submitted appears in the comments below.
“The Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) is committed to sharing its thinking and emerging findings. Despite attempts to secure an opportunity to update Synod in person, no time was made available. We do not believe that the importance of ISB work is consistent with a ‘fringe’ activity. This paper is published in accordance with our commitment to transparency and accountability.”
A new document has been published today, signed by the following bishops
The Bishop of Fulham, Jonathan Baker
The Bishop of Horsham, Ruth Bushyager
The Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cocksworth
The Bishop of Woolwich, Karowei Dorgu
The Bishop of Lancaster, Jill Duff
The Bishop of Rochester, Jonathan Gibbs
The Bishop of Hereford, Richard Jackson
The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcombe [sic]
The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow
The Bishop of Islington, Ric Thorpe
The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner
The Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson
The Bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox
The Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, Paul Williams
The full document can be read here.
The paper begins this way:
Since the publication of the Bishops’ LLF Proposal for the consideration of General Synod, a range of lay and ordained people from across the church have asked for some guidance in understanding why many Christians in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, together with Christians from across the churches of world Christianity, continue to believe that marriage is given by God for the union of a man and woman and that it cannot be extended to those who are of the same sex.
We felt, therefore, that it would be constructive to make available a relatively short theological summary of the doctrine of marriage as the Church of England has received it, and how it relates particularly to changes in society around same-sex partnerships. This paper does not seek to repeat what is set out more comprehensively in chapter 3 of the LLF Book but rather to build upon it.
This paper emerged from study and conversations in recent months among a number of bishops, evangelical and catholic. It was helpful not only to us but also to other bishops of the same mind, in clarifying some of our own thinking and prayerful discernment on these important matters as we contributed to the LLF deliberations in the College of Bishops. We now offer the paper below to clergy and congregations at this important time in the life of the Church to inform their understanding, recognising that for some it will be welcome support while for others it may clarify points of disagreement. In offering this paper we are committed to continue to listen and learn from those with whom we disagree.
Few readers of this paper will feel neutral about it. Some will be instinctively grateful for it, while for others it may compound their sense of disappointment. Without seeking to diminish the value of many committed same-sex relationships, for which there is much to give thanks, we find ourselves constrained by what we sincerely believe the Scriptures teach which cannot be set aside. We pray this will be a constructive contribution to the life and ministry of the Church while the work of discernment continues in General Synod and elsewhere.
Spectator Theo Hobson The C of E is right to prevaricate on gay marriage
Church Times Jayne Ozanne Why the Church must decide now on same-sex marriage
ViaMedia.News Neil Patterson Time for the Church to Come Out
St Helen’s Bishopsgate PCC Letter to Bishop of London
Premier Christianity Sean Doherty 8 reasons why the CofE’s same-sex proposals won’t work
College of Deans Living in Love and Faith: College of Deans response
Trevor Thurston-Smith Same Sex Marriage – A Battle for the Soul of the CofE?
Fulcrum Andrew Goddard Last Rites for LLF?27 Comments
GS Misc 1339 Prayers of Love and Faith: a note from the Legal Office has provoked a lot of critical comment on social media.
This further* blog post by Paul Roberts analyses some of the reasons for this:
*see his two earlier articles here.
The Church Times has published a news article: Clergy will bless same-sex couples not their marriage, say church lawyers57 Comments
David Voas British Religion in Numbers Christian decline: How it’s measured and what it means
Ted Harrison Church Times Most kind and gentle death
“Ted Harrison offers a reflection for Candlemas”
Colin Coward has started a new vlog – here is the first episode.34 Comments
The Church of England Evangelical Council has published its formal response to the House of Bishops’ proposals and subsequent public communications. The full text of the response can be found at the link above, and is copied below the fold.
CEEC calls for action and offers the Church of England a better way forward
CEEC is grieved and dismayed by the House of Bishops’ response to Living in Love & Faith, and subsequent public communications, believing them to be contrary to the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England. If pursued, we believe these proposals will create further division and broken fellowship within the Church of England and a greater tearing of the fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
We wish to alert the House of Bishops to the depth, breadth and strength of opposition to their proposals among members of CEEC, which represents lay and ordained, charismatic and conservative and open, egalitarian and complementarian evangelicals. The Council is drawn from numerous networks including Diocesan Evangelical Fellowships, EGGS, The Junia Network, ReNew, New Wine, Living Out, Latimer Trust, JAEC, Fulcrum, Fellowship of Word and Spirit, Crosslinks, CPAS, Count Everyone In, CMS, Christianity Explored, Church Society and evangelical College Principals.74 Comments
Updated Thursday and again Friday
An additional General Synod document has been published today: GS Misc 1339 (Prayers of Love and Faith: a note from the Legal Office).
Update this post from Law & Rellgion UK helpfully brings together on one page the two items on LFF from the Legal Office.
In the House of Commons yesterday, 24 January, Ben Bradshaw asked an Urgent Question to the Second Church Estates Commisioner:
To ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner if he will make a statement on the outcome of the meeting of Church of England bishops on Equal Marriage in the Church of England
Update On Thursday, while answering Questions, he issued this clarification of his earlier remarks:
With you permission, Mr Speaker, following my response to the urgent question on Tuesday, the advice I was given then was by the Church legal office, and I was yesterday asked to make a small clarification. A simple majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod could suffice to pass a measure and amending canon to change the definition of marriage in ecclesiastical law, but circumstances could also arise in which two-thirds majorities in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy would be needed, and, as with all authorised forms of service, a two-thirds majority in each House would be required for the approval of the Synod as a form of service for the marriage of a same-sex couple. I apologise, Mr Speaker, but I was only informed yesterday. Given that I was answering questions today, I thought you would find it acceptable that I put that slight clarification on the record.
Christopher Landau has written, at Psephizo, Good disagreement? This isn’t it.
Ruth Harley has written Wrestling for a Blessing in a Time of “Theological Nonsense”.
Church Times news reports:
The full text of the statement from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches is available here. The Church of England has issued this press release in response: Statement from the Church of England regarding GSFA statement.
Two opinion articles in the Church Times:
The General Synod has an item on Safeguarding scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday 9 February.
Presentation under SO 107
Note: the Business Committee has determined under SO 107(3) that this presentation should include an opportunity for questions.
The Bishop of Rochester to move:
‘That this Synod do take note of this Report.’
There are two synod documents relating to this topic
A group of survivors has also published a briefing for synod members which can be found here. This is something that all synod members should also read.
Martin Sewell has written an article for Surviving Church which discusses this, see General Synod and Safeguarding Issues: Will the problems be faced?
The Church Times has published a detailed report on all this, see Survivors of abuse in the C of E still feel threatened — and so do church staff helping them.
See also a more recent post.7 Comments
There is a video recording of Friday’s press conference to launch the LLF proposals, available here. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London were among those taking part.
St Edmundsbury A message from Bishop Martin and Bishop Mike
Salisbury Ad clerum | Living in Love and Faith
Lincoln Pastoral Letter to the Diocese
Birmingham Living in Love and Faith
Derby Living in Love and Faith
Canterbury (Bp of Dover)
Rochester Next Steps for Living in Love and Faith
Peterborough Living in Love and Faith
More to be added as I discover them. Readers are welcome to submit additional links via the comments.48 Comments
Updated Monday evening
Several organisational responses in support of the statement from the bishops have already been published:
There are also several responses expressing opposition to the statement
Some of these items were issued before the release of the full LFF response on Friday. I will update them if newer statements appear, and I will update this post with additional items as I discover them.62 Comments
The full texts of the proposed Prayers of Love and Faith can be found here.
Paul Roberts has written two blog posts, discussing the concept of blessing, and then analysing these texts, and comparing them with others from the Church of England and the Church in Wales.
…The House of Bishops’ draft of Prayers of Love and Faith that will be laid before the General Synod next month do not contain any prayer or statement in which a priest blesses a same-sex couple. God, however, is petitioned to bless the couple. So, indeed, the bishops have hedged their bets in a way which says “God, we’re not sure you approve of homosexual acts, so if you do, could you bless this couple? But we’re not going be doing it ourselves, just to be on the safe side…”
Bosco Peters Liturgy Ordination Requirements
Rebecca Chapman Church Times General Synod should be more than a talking shop
“Its members need clarity about who is making decisions and what they are voting on”
Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel National Redress Scheme7 Comments
Updated 25 January to add GS Misc 1339 (Prayers of Love and Faith: a note from the Legal Office) – see Monday’s papers.
Updated 5 February to add various notice papers.
The Church of England has published the papers for next month’s meeting of its General Synod, which meets in London from 6-9 February. I have linked to them all below the fold, but these three, in different ways, give an outline of the business.18 Comments
The Church of England issued the following press release this morning.
Draft prayers of thanksgiving, dedication and for God’s blessing for same-sex couples published
Prayers asking for God’s blessing on same-sex couples as they give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership are published today.
The draft texts, proposed by the bishops of the Church of England, will be considered by General Synod next month alongside other proposals in response to a six-year process of listening, learning and discernment on questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage known as Living in Love and Faith.
The bishops have also made a direct public apology to LGBTQI+ people for the way in which the Church has rejected or excluded them, admitting: “We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.”
The apology is set out in a pastoral letter from the bishops of the Church of England which also recognises that they disagree over same-sex marriage and proposes a way forward which could be put in action within months.
A report – Living in Love and Faith: A response from the Bishops of the Church of England about identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage – sets out the bishops’ proposals and recommends areas for further work.
There is also a book of draft worship resources – Prayers of Love and Faith. It is a range of prayers and readings which could be used in a church service, such as a Service of the Word or a Service within a Celebration of Holy Communion.
There are prayers of thanksgiving and dedication and a prayer for God’s blessing as well as prayers for use with specific elements of a service, such as a Prayer when Rings are Worn and Prayers at the lighting of a candle.
Opening the letter the bishops write: “We want to apologise for the ways in which the Church of England has treated LGBTQI+ people – both those who worship in our churches and those who do not.
“For the times we have rejected or excluded you, and those you love, we are deeply sorry.
“The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this we repent.
“As we have listened, we have been told time and time again how we have failed LGBTQI+ people.
“We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong. We affirm, publicly and unequivocally, that LGBTQI+ people are welcome and valued: we are all children of God.”
Describing the prayers and readings, they explain: “This resource will offer clergy a variety of flexible ways to affirm and celebrate same-sex couples in church, and will include prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and for God’s blessing.”
They continue: “This resource will represent a significant move that is intended as a loving and celebratory response to same-sex couples who are cherished and deeply valued by the Church.”
They explain that the prayers will be entirely discretionary and that the formal teaching of the Church of England as set out in the canons and authorised liturgies – that Holy Matrimony is between one man and one woman for life – would not change.
“While there is a range of convictions held by the bishops about this important matter, we have not found sufficient consensus to propose a change in doctrine at the present time,” they write.
The bishops’ proposals will be discussed in detail at General Synod which meets at Church House, Westminster, from February 6 to 9.
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chaired the group which led the process of discernment and decision making, said: “We are so grateful to the thousands of people across the Church of England who have taken part in this unique exercise in listening and learning together.
“I would like to thank all those who took part, sharing often deeply personal experiences, with great patience and courage.
“This has shown us vividly the diverse beliefs and hopes that are found among those who call the Church of England their spiritual home.
“We have taken all of those responses to heart and they have been vital in helping shape the proposals which we are putting forward today.”
Synod will debate the Following motion on February 8:
‘That this Synod, recognising the commitment to learning and deep listening to God and to each other of the Living in Love and Faith process, and desiring with God’s help to journey together while acknowledging the different deeply held convictions within the Church:
(a) lament and repent of the failure of the Church to be welcoming to LGBTQI+ people and the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church;
(b) recommit to our shared witness to God’s love for and acceptance of every person by continuing to embed the Pastoral Principles in our life together locally and nationally;
(c) commend the continued learning together enabled by the Living in Love and Faith process and resources in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage;
(d) welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance;
(e) welcome the response from the College of Bishops and look forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes;
(f) invite the House of Bishops to monitor the Church’s use of and response to the Prayers of Love and Faith, once they have been commended and published, and to report back to Synod in five years’ time.’