THE HOUSE of Laity, meeting on Monday afternoon last week, voted by more
than three to one to ask the Bishops to bring back the “heresy” part of the
Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) proposals, which were rejected by the Synod in
Margaret Brown (Chichester), a member of the Clergy
Discipline (Doctrine) working party, proposed a motion calling on the Bishops
to introduce proposals to the Synod to “retain the principles and standard for
doctrinal adherence” that had been in the working party’s proposals. The debate
in July had been lost because “ritual and ceremonial had got mixed up with
doctrine,” she said.
Peter Leroy (Bath & Wells) said that a three-year-old
survey of clergy had shown that fewer than 60 per cent thought that Jesus
Christ was the only way to salvation.
Prudence Dailey (Oxford) said that the former Dean of
Clonmacnoise (in the Church of Ireland), the Very Revd Andrew Furlong, had
explicitly and “enthusiastically” denied the divinity of Christ and the
Trinity. Yet “it was clear that he would not have resigned without the threat
of heresy proceedings.” The Church of England should act now.
Brigadier Ian Dobbie (Rochester) said that the laity, too,
should be more disciplined in doctrine. Those seeking confirmation should have,
in writing, evidence that they could recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’
Creed, and the Ten Commandments.
But Tom Sutcliffe (Southwark) said that there was a place
for “people like me, bland, wishy-washy liberals”. When he had been working on
The Guardian, it was the appointment of the Bishop of Durham that had sparked
interest for the first time in his atheistic colleagues: “David Jenkins was
performing a missionary function,” he said.
Mrs Brown’s motion, amended by Anthony Archer (St Albans)
to extend the time at which the proposals should be brought back to the Synod
until 2006, was carried by 121 to 35. It will be presented to the House of
Bishops and the Business Committee. It said:
That this House:
(a) believe that it is vital for the future of the Church of England that
its clergy uphold the doctrinal teaching of the Church;
(b) recognise the concerns expressed during the debate at the July 2004
group of sessions on the report on Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) (GS 1554)
regarding matters of ritual and ceremonial and the details of the proposed
(c) call upon (i) the House of Bishops to produce proposals for
consideration by the General Synod at the July 2006 group of sessions for a
Clergy Discipline (Doctrine) Measure retaining the principles and standard for
doctrinal adherence set out in GS 1554 and (ii) the Business Committee to
allocate time for a debate on those proposals at that group of sessions.