Scott-Joynt hears Southwark appeal

02 November 2006

AN APPEAL by the Revd Richard Coekin against the revocation of his licence by the Bishop of Southwark, Dr Tom Butler, began on Tuesday at St Dunstan-in-the-East, Fleet Street, in London. It is presided over by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt.

Dr Butler revoked the licence of Mr Coekin, Minister of Dundonald Church, a church plant in Wimbledon, and leader of a group of church-plants in south London known as the Co-Mission Initiative, on 7 November last year (News, 11 November 2005). His action followed the irregular ordinations of three men on 2 November by Bishop Martin Morrison of the Church of England in South Africa (CESA), a Church not in communion with the Church of England.

The ordinations, arranged by Mr Coekin, were done without Dr Butler’s knowledge. The three men, Andy Fenton, Richard Perkins, and Loots Lambrecht were to serve as ministers within Mr Coekin’s congregations, all of which are self-financing and operate independently of the diocese and of the C of E in general. Dundonald’s candidates did not go through diocesan selection procedures.

Church-planting in Southwark without the consent of other Evangelical clergy in parishes concerned has been a bone of contention since 2001. The Bishop had refused to ordain any more clergy for Mr Coekin’s congregations unless he was prepared to work collaboratively and within diocesan guidelines. Thirty-six Evangelical clergy in the diocese signed a letter of support for Dr Butler’s disciplinary action.

Lawyers adjourned early on Tuesday to see whether agreement could be reached without the necessity of a hearing, but to no avail. It was revealed that the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, was prepared to fly over to the UK to be called to speak by Mr Coekin’s counsel. Dr Butler’s counsel indicated, however, that he wanted to hear only from Mr Coekin.

It will be judged whether Mr Coekin breached Canons C3 and C5 governing the ordination of priests and deacons, and whether the ordinations are in accordance with the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordinations) Measure 1967.

He was licensed as Assistant Minister at Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon, but has rejected the Bishop’s authority in Southwark. The appeal is to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who could either confirm, vary, or cancel the revocation of Mr Coekin’s licence. The hearing continues.

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