Heresy trials

02 November 2006

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 July.

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 procedures; and
(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.

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