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2013: The year in review

20 December 2013

A year of change: main photo: Mary Good helps her friend Pat Storey choose the cloth for her new cassock for her consecration as Bishop of Meath & Kildare. Above: the bones of Richard III, awaiting a final resting-place; below, left to right: the Queen inthe diamond-anniversary year of her coronation; winter storms in Boston, US; summer bushfires in Tasmania; bottom: Dr Philip Giddings, who weathered a confidence vote in the General Synod's House of Laity; Pope Benedict XVI, who announced his abdication

A year of change: main photo: Mary Good helps her friend Pat Storey choose the cloth for her new cassock for her consecration as Bishop of Meath &am...


THE resignation of Dr Rowan Williams on the last day of 2012 meant that the year began with a vacancy in Canterbury; the Rt Revd Justin Welby was formally elected to succeed him.

The lifting of the 2011 moratorium on the nomination to the episcopate of clergy in celibate civil partnerships divided opinion sharply. Church leaders in Northern Ireland condemned Loyalist rioting in Belfast. The European Court of Human Rights reprimanded the UK Government over its treatment of Nadia Eweida, banned from wearing a small cross at work. Statutory fees for C of E weddings and funerals rose by 40 per cent, and BBC Radio 2 moved Sunday Half-Hour from its traditional evening slot to 6 a.m. Open Doors' World Watch List reported a dramatic increase in the persecution of Christians in Africa during 2012. Peers raised concerns about the implications of the proposed Succession to the Crown Bill.

A motion of no confidence in the chairman of the General Synod's House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings, was voted down. The Bishop of Stepney's wife went to the aid of Syrian refugees, crossing the border with £2000 strapped to her body. The Government introduced the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill into the Commons.


THE QUEEN led the tributes as the Church Times celebrated its sesquicentenary.

Pope Benedict XVI stunned observers with the announcement that he would abdicate at the end of the month, aged 85. The last Pope to do this was Gregory XII in 1412.

The Bishop of Oxford led concerns about the Government's policies on the provision of RE in schools. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons by 400 votes to 175.

The One Billion Rising movement organised a worldwide day of dance to protest against violence against women and girls.

In the House of Lords, the Bishop of Leicester criticised the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill, arguing that as it stood it would contribute to child poverty.

The second Bloxham Festival of Faith and Literature, sponsored by the Church Times, took place in warm Oxfordshire sunshine. Speakers included Wendy Cope, Francis Spufford, Patrick Gale, Jasper Fforde, James Runcie, John Pritchard, and Stephen Cottrell.


THE diocesan synods of Bradford and Ripon & Leeds voted in favour of being subsumed into a new "super-diocese" in Yorkshire. Wakefield rejected the proposals.

The College of Cardinals met in conclave to elect a new Pope. After the white smoke appeared, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, appeared on the balcony of St Peter's as Pope Francis.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury was enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral, having undertaken a pilgrimage of prayer around the country. The Archbishop of York represented the C of E at Pope Francis's inauguration mass at the Vatican.

The BBC apologised for a sketch in which Rowan Atkinson played an Archbishop of Canterbury who claimed that prayer did not work. It drew more than 2000 complaints, and was removed from BBC iPlayer. The Bishop of Winchester suspended the Dean of Jersey, the Very Revd Robert Key, over his handling of an abuse allegation.

The Disasters Emergency Committee began an appeal for funds to help efforts to alleviate the constantly deteriorating situation in Syria.


EASTER DAY was the coldest on record. Thousands of ewes and their lambs were thought to have died in heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures. The Bishop of Hereford called for more support for Britain's farming community.

The Dean of Durham challenged the new manager of Sunderland FC, Paolo di Canio, about his alleged fascism. (Di Canio was sacked in September after 13 games.)

The former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher died, and the Queen led the mourners at the ceremonial funeral in St Paul's Cathedral. Honest to God turned 50. The £1.1-million Templeton Prize was awarded to Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Pope Tawadros II criticised the President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, for failing to provide adequate protection for the Coptic community after a mob attacked St Mark's Cathedral, in Cairo, killing a number of worshippers. Morsi was deposed in July.

The Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mar Yohanna Ibrahim, and his Greek Orthodox counterpart, the Most Revd Paul Yazigi, were kidnapped in northern Syria.


THE Bishop-elect of Meath & Kildare, the Ven. Leslie Stevenson, withdrew his acceptance of the see after revelations about his personal life appeared in the Irish press.

Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York, was revealed to have assets of more than $2 billion. Rare books - 1400 of them, apparently stolen more than 40 years ago - were returned to Lambeth Palace Library.

The 34th Kirchentag, in Hamburg, drew more than 130,000 worshippers. The Archbishop of York announced an inquiry into allegations of abuse against a former Dean of Manchester, the late Robert Waddington. All complaints against the Rt Revd Wallace Benn over safeguarding failures during his time as Bishop of Lewes were dismissed.

Pope Tawadros II travelled to Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis, where they discussed the problems facing Christians in the Middle East. Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered on a busy street in Woolwich.

Anglicans in the diocese of Manicaland, in Zimbabwe, returned to their churches after the Zimbabwean Supreme Court ruled in their favour.


THE Queen gave thanks for the 60th anniversary of the Coronation in a service at Westminster Abbey. The Archbishop of York was treated for cancer. The Syrian crisis continued to worsen, and the UN launched the largest appeal in its history to provide aid.

It was announced that the General Synod discussions in July would be preceded by small-group discussions, led by David Porter, Archbishop Welby's Director for Reconciliation. The Guides revealed their plans to remove the religious aspect of their pledge.

Archbishop Welby met Pope Francis at the Vatican, before embarking on a five-day tour of the Middle East. Iran elected a moderate candidate, Hassan Rowhani, as President. Anti-government demonstrations spread across Turkey. The Anglican Church in Hong Kong became the seventh province to adopt the Anglican Covenant.

Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, which offered homosexuals "orientation-change" therapy, announced that it would close, and apologised to the LGBTQ community for any "pain and hurt" it had caused.


THE General Synod met at York, and carried a motion from the House of Bishops to enable new legislation to be drafted to enable women to serve as bishops in the C of E. It also approved the creation of a new "super-diocese" of West Yorkshire & the Dales (Leeds).

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent; Archbishop Welby conceded that the Church's opposition to the Bill had been "utterly overwhelmed". A cross-party parliamentary group recommended that the Abortion Act be urgently reformed to end discrimination against the unborn disabled.

The Lord Chief Justice ruled that a man who suffered from locked-in syndrome before his death in 2012 had not had the right to ask a doctor to end his life.

Archbishop Welby vowed to force payday lender Wonga out of business with church-run credit unions. Pope Francis celebrated a mass on Copacabana beach, at the end of the World Youth Day celebrations, with an estimated congregation of three million.

Royal salutes were fired in London, and bells pealed from churches up and down the country to mark the birth of Prince George.


THE number of refugees from Syria reached two million, and the Syrian government was alleged to have used chemical weapons against civilians. Parliament was recalled, but the Prime Minister's motion of military intervention under a UN mandate was voted down.

In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood supporters destroyed Christian churches, businesses, and homes. Robert Mugabe won another five-year term as President of Zimbabwe: Christian Aid suggested that the absence of bloodshed in the elections masked other events that undermined the legitimacy of the process.

The Revd Paul Nicolson, 81, appeared in court in London after refusing to pay his council tax in a protest against benefit changes. Thieves stole two rare 15th-century panels from the rood screen at Holy Trinity, Torbryan.

Archbishop Welby declined the RSPCA's invitation to become its vice-patron. Dr Glenn Davies was enthroned as Archbishop of Sydney. Greenbelt enjoyed its last ever festival, its 40th, at Cheltenham Racecourse, starring Clare Balding, Richard Coles, and Barbara Brown Taylor. The festival moves to Boughton House next year.


POPE FRANCIS led a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in the Middle East, as thousands of refugees continued to flood out of Syria. Clergy were threatened with arrest as they protested against an arms fair at the ExCel Centre. Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis succeeded Lord Sacks as Chief Rabbi.

The Governing Body of the Church in Wales approved a Bill to enable the consecration of women to the episcopate, without statutory safeguards for those unable in conscience to accept their ministry.

A suicide-bomb attack on All Saints', Peshawar, killed more than 100 worshippers. In Kenya, the Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi which left more than 60 people dead.

The Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said that there should be a national debate on whether young women should be protected from having the niqab imposed upon them. The diocese of London won the Church Times Cricket Cup, beating Lichfield by 8 wickets.


THE charity Christians Against Poverty said that a survey showed that nearly 80 per cent of people who took out payday loans had done so to be able to afford food. OFSTED inspectors urged the Government to improve the provision of religious education in schools. They reported that in some schools RE had been virtually abandoned, and that many teachers were afraid of giving offence while teaching the subject.

Archbishop Welby presided at the eucharist in All Saints' Cathedral, Nairobi, on the day before GAFCON II began, but did not attend the conference. Cyclone Phailin destroyed homes and crops, and displaced more than one million people from their homes in the Indian state of Orissa. Masked gunmen opened fire on worshippers as they left a Coptic church in Cairo after a wedding, killing four members of the same family.

The steering committee for the new women-bishops legislation recommended the appointment of an ombudsman to deal with future disputes. Prince George was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the chapel of St James's Palace.


TYPHOON HAIYAN caused devastation in the Philippines, killing more than 6000. The Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama pleaded for international help after more than 40 members of his flock were killed during the occupation of the town of Sadad, north of Damascus, by Islamist militants.

The World Council of Churches met in Busan, South Korea. The General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of proceding with new women-bishops legislation. Lord Carey warned that the Church might only be a generation away from extinction.

The Pilling report on human sexuality recommended allowing consenting clergy to "mark" same-sex unions in church. The Government announced that it would cap the interest charged by payday-loan companies.

GAFCON 2 met in Nairobi, and promised to act as an extra-territorial province for conservatives. Al Madinah Free School in Derby was heavily criticised by OFSTED.

Channel 5 started broadcasting a mini-series, The Bible. Worshippers in the diocese of Exeter were issued with heated cushions in an attempt to reduce churches' energy bills.


TRIBUTES were paid to Nelson Mandela, who died at the age of 95. The Most Revd Patricia Storey, Bishop of Meath & Kildare, became the first Anglican woman bishop in the British Isles. Eight senior women clergy joined the C of E House of Bishops for the first time, an interim measure until the first women bishops are appointed.

Archbishop Welby invited senior executives from energy companies to a meeting at Lambeth Palace, after serious criticism of the rise in heating bills. Serious unrest broke out in the Central African Republic, driven by sectarian violence. The effect of the Syrian conflict on an estimated 1.1 million children was highlighted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The biggest storm surge in the North Sea for 60 years flooded a number of areas, but warnings and defences were better than in 1953.

In the courts, Celestina Mba, who resigned over having to work on Sunday, was found to have been treated fairly, but Lord's Day observance was recognised as a core belief. A wedding dispute saw the Church of Scientology recognised as a religion.

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