Synod news in brief

by
26 February 2016

THE Bishop to the Forces, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, told the Synod that he had written to the Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt, and had offered to meet her to challenge a Parliamentary answer that she had given about same-sex marriages in military chapels. In her answer, in December, the Minister had said that, while the MoD allowed same-sex marriages in military chapels, none of the Churches that provided chaplains allowed same-sex marriages to be performed in them. And she had said that she would ask the chaplaincies “to advise me on how Parliament’s sanction of same sex-marriages may be fully implemented”.

In reply to a question from April Alexander (Southwark), Bishop Stock said: “I explained that it was not legally possible for a marriage of two people of the same sex to be solemnised according to the rites of the Church of England; and, so far as I am aware, none of the other Churches whose ministers serve as military chaplains had opted in to same-sex marriage.

“The clergy did not, therefore, conduct such marriages, whether in military chapels or in their own churches and chapels.”

He said that the Secretary of State could apply for those chapels that were not consecrated to be registered for same-sex marriages; but these would need to be conducted by a minister from a denomination that permitted this, and would require the presence of a civil registrar.

In response to a supplementary question from Jayne Ozanne (Oxford), the Bishop said that it would not be possible for a priest from the Episcopal Church in the United States, operating under licence in England, to conduct a same-sex marriage in a consecrated chapel. When asked about un-consecrated chapels, he replied: “They would have to have overseas permission; and whether they would get that is another matter.”

 

THE use of the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) to make vexatious complaints was “a distressing form of personal harassment”, the Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) said as he asked what steps could be taken to reform the Measure.

But the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said that Clergy Discipline Commission, of which he was a member, did not consider reform of the Measure was necessary. “If a complaint is vexatious, the bishop already has powers to dismiss it at the preliminary scrutiny stage,” he said, “and if he or she does so, the respondent cleric is not even required to answer the complaint.”

In 2014, the last year for which figures were available, 79 complaints had been made under the CDM, of which 15 had been dismissed at the preliminary stage, he said.

 

PROFESSOR MICHAEL CLARKE, whose tenure as chairman of the Dioceses Commission was extended at the start of the Synod, said that this year was “one of transition”, as a considerable number of its members would be replaced in April. It had “no immediate plans for a major diocesan reorganisation scheme”, although, he said, “I continue to visit bishops’ regional groupings with a view to identifying geographical obstacles to mission which we as a Commission could help to unblock.”

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