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Review of the year 2017

21 December 2017


Jubilation: Zimbabweans celebrate in Harare after the resignation of Robert Mugabe

Jubilation: Zimbabweans celebrate in Harare after the resignation of Robert Mugabe


REUTERSExpectant: Donald Trump in the lobby of Trump Tower, New York, before his inauguration as President of the United StatesDONALD TRUMP assumed office. Washing­ton National Cathedral was caught up in a row after agreeing to host a prayer service after his inauguration. The Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Michael Curry, urged prayer for President Trump.


Deans came out fighting after the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald Allister, said that cathedrals’ independence posed “serious risks” to the reputation of the Church. He was speaking after Peterborough Cathedral experienced financial troubles. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, chair of the Association of English Cathedral, disputed Bishop Allister’s argument, saying: “What went wrong at Peterborough cannot be used as a stick with which to beat the rest of the cathedrals with.”

The Church Commissioners distributed a further £9 million to dioceses as part of a drive to achieve statistical growth. Much of the money went to Evangelical church-plants.

Canon Joanna Penberthy was consecrated for the see of St Davids in Llandaff Cathedral, the first woman bishop in Wales.

At the end of the month, it was announced that the Bishop of Burnley, in Blackburn diocese, the Rt Revd Philip North, a tradition­alist, had been nominated as the next Bishop of Sheffield. He spoke of his determination to be a “Bishop for all”.



THE General Synod voted not to take note of the House of Bishops’ report on marriage and same-sex relationships. Afterwards, the Archbishops sketched out a way forward, including the creation of a Pastoral Oversight Group, chaired by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman. The teaching document promised in the report would still go ahead, they said.

The Synod bade farewell to the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, who, after 22 years in office, was visibly uncom­fortable at receiving a prolonged standing ovation.

The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, revealed that he was a survivor of the “appalling activities” perpetrated by John Smyth QC, a former chairman of the Iwene Trust, who faced multiple allegations of abuse. A six-month Channel 4 News investigation found that Mr Smyth had beaten boys from Winchester College, Bishop Watson among them.

Church leaders condemned the Govern­ment’s announcement that only 350 unaccompanied refugee children would be transferred to the UK from Europe. Archbishop Welby said that he was “shocked and saddened” by the decision, which did not “meet the spirit” of the commitment made last year under Lord Dubs’s amendment.



DESPITE the support he had received, Bishop Philip North withdrew his acceptance of the nomination to the see of Sheffield after calls for him not to take up the position. The Archbishops referred the matter to the Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer.

Diocese of BlackburnDiocese of Blackburn

Many of the measures in the Budget were welcomed by the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, acting as a C of E spokesman. But he was anxious about in-work poverty and social care.

Seven bishops voted against an amendment to the Brexit Bill requiring the Government to put any Brexit deal to the people in a second referendum.

The former IRA chief-of-staff-turned-politician, Martin McGuiness died, aged 66. The news was met with a mixture of tributes from senior politicians.

The Bishop of Yei, South Sudan, the Rt Revd Hilary Adeba, warned that starvation was “imminent” in his diocese, where food was being used as a weapon.

A date was set for the next Lambeth Conference: the last week of July 2020, in Canterbury. The Dean of St Albans, the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, failed to be elected Bishop of Llandaff, despite diocesan support.

A terrorist attack in Westminster carried out by Khalid Masood, a Muslim convert, killed four people and injured 50.



IT WAS announced that the national safe­guarding team of the Church of England would overhaul its safeguard­ing policies and training for all clergy and churchpeople, after the Elliott review, published last year, called its processes “fundamentally flawed”.

The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Revd June Osborne, was announced as the next Bishop of Llandaff. The Dean of Liverpool, the Very Revd Dr Pete Wilcox, was announced as the next Bishop of Sheffield.

At least 45 were killed and more than 100 were injured in bombings that targeted Egyptian Coptic churches. “These acts will not harm the unity and cohesion of the people,” the Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, said. During a visit to Egypt later in the month, Pope Tawadros called on all religious leaders to “unmask” violence that masqueraded as piety.

The Archbishops launched an investigation into the governance of cathedrals, after the cash-flow crisis at Peterborough Cathedral.

The Prime Minister called a snap General Election for 8 June. Bishops said that it would give voters a chance to act on behalf of the poor. During the election campaign, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, faced repeated questions about whether he believed that gay sex was sinful. After several awkward days, he said that he did not believe that it was.

PAHumbled: Theresa and Philip May, the day after the General Election



THE Archbishop of Canterbury embarked on a 12-day visit to the Holy Land, meeting King Abdullah II of Jordan and the Israeli Presid­ent, Reuven Rivlin, to whom he described his meetings with Christians in Gaza and the West Bank as “moments of great concern”.

A meeting of GAFCON Primates in Lagos agreed to provide a “missionary bishop” for conservative Evangelicals in the UK, especially with the prospect of a vote in favour of gay marriage in Scotland.

Soon afterward, to GAFCON’s surprise, the Assistant Curate at Jesmond Parish Church, the Revd Jonathan Pryke, was consecrated bishop by bishops of a breakaway South African Church, the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa.

Twenty-two people were killed and 59 were in­­jured in a suicide bombing at Manchester Arena during a pop concert. Thousands attended a vigil in Albert Square. The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said: “There is a proper anger and rage in the face of events like this. Our challenge will be to direct that range and anger to be a force for good.”

A gun attack in Egypt left 29 Coptic Chris­tians dead. Egypt responded with air strikes in Libya.

Parishes rallied to support the Pentecost prayer initiative for evangelism, Thy Kingdom Come. A growing number overseas joined in.



THREE men armed with knives killed eight and injured 48 more on London Bridge and in Borough Market.

John Smyth was formally expelled from his church in South Africa.

CHANNEL 4 NEWSCalled to account: John Smyth is doorstepped by Channel 4 News

President Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Conservatives lost their parlia­mentary majority. They entered talks with the Demo­cratic Unionist Party. Jeremy Corbyn’s stock rose. Tim Farron resigned as Lib Dem party leader, saying that it was “impossible” for him to reconcile his position with being a “faithful Christian”.

Seventy-one people died and about 80 were injured when a fire destroyed a 24-storey residential block, Grenfell Tower, in west London. The response from churches in the area was immediate.

The Scottish Episcopal Church’s General Synod voted to allow its clergy to solemnise marriages for same-sex couples in church. Immediately after the vote, Canon Andy Lines was announced a Missionary Bishop for Europe, on behalf of GAFCON.

Lord Carey issued an apology and resigned from his position as an honorary assistant bishop after the publication of failings in the treatment of a serial abuser, Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester.



BEFORE the General Synod meeting in York, the media were told that bishops would spend the next two years developing a new teaching document on sexuality. A final text would be brought to the House of Bishops for approval by early 2020.

At the meeting, two motions seeking changes in the pastoral care of LGBT people passed comfortably: one condemning conver­sion therapy and calling for a government ban, the other asking the House of Bishops to consider producing a special liturgy to mark gender transitions.

An Iranian-born woman, Canon Guli Francis-Dehqani, was chosen to be the first Bishop of Loughborough, in the diocese of Leicester.

Aid agencies urged the world not to ignore the crisis in Burundi, where millions were in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of conflict.

WILL BAXTER/TEARFUNDForgotten: children sit waiting together, hungry and malnourished, in Gitega Province, Burundi

Forty new church schools would be opened as part of the Government’s next wave of free schools, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, confirmed.

Sudan was inaugurated as the 39th Prov­ince of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Welby installed the new Primate of Sudan, the Most Revd Ezekiel Kumir Kondo, Bishop of Khartoum.



THE Episcopalian Bishops in Virginia warned the Church not to be mute “in the face of evil”, after a far-Right rally took place in Charlottesville. “It’s hard to imagine a time when the Church is more needed in the public square,” the Bishops said.

Barcelona suffered a terrorist attack. Sus­pects behind the attack said that they had planned a much larger atrocity, targeting the city’s world-famous church, the Sagrada FamÍlia.

The 11,000 who attended Greenbelt en­­joyed a rare weekend of sunshine as they explored the theme of “the Common Good”. Among the highlights was the homily delivered at the Sunday eucharist by 14-year-old Becky Tyler, composed on the computer that enables her to communicate despite her cerebral palsy.

The Bishop of Gippsland, the Rt Revd Kay Goldsworthy, was elected Archbishop of Perth, making her Australia’s first woman archbishop.

The “Musicians’ Church”, St Sepulchre’s, in the City of London, announced that it would no longer be available for hire for perform­ances or rehearsals from outside organisa­tions, provoking an outcry from musicians.

Visit England reported a large drop in visitors to cathedrals in 2016, especially at St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey in London.



ARCHBISHOP Welby made a significant public intervention, saying that the British economic model was “broken” and in need of fundamental reform. He made the comments in a newspaper article written to launch the interim report of the Commission on Economic Justice, of which he is a member.

The new Archbishop of Wales was to be the Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Most Revd John Davies, it was announced.

The BBC’s Panorama broadcast revelations of abuse and mistreatment of detainees at Brook House, an immigration removal centre, with the help of the Revd Nathan Ward, a priest in Chatham who used to work for G4S.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, 17 bishops, and other church leaders, demanded that the Government end indefinite detention.

Anglicans paid tribute to the former RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who died, aged 85.

Churches across the United States gave shelter, supplied aid, and prayer for the victims of Hurricane Irma.

Sir Philip Mayer’s review of the Sheffield affair questioned the C of E’s commitment to the Five Guiding Principles.

Statistics from the Ministry Division showed that more women than men were going forward for training for ordination for the first time in more than 15 years.



ON THE first night of the month, a gunman opened fire on crowds at a country-music festival in Las Vegas, killing 59 people and injuring more than 520. It was the deadliest gun attack in recent US history.

At the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange, was told that, after its approval of same-sex marriage, his Province should expect the same consequences as the Episcopal Church in the US.

“Walking together”: the 34 Primates gather for a photograph in Canterbury Cathedral, at their meeting in October

Hereford diocesan synod carried a motion asking the House of Bishops to commend an “order of prayer and dedication” to be used for same-sex couples after a civil partnership or marriage.

Wiltshire Police, at the end of a two-year investigation into sexual-abuse allegations against Sir Edward Heath, said that, had he been alive, he would have been interviewed under caution about seven of the allegations.

On the Eve of All Saints, 500 years after Martin Luther’s 95 theses triggered the Reformation, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and others came together at a service in Westminster Abbey.

Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner of Kenya’s Presidential election. The National Council of Churches of Kenya stated that the country was “grossly divided along ethnic and political lines”.



IINCREASING numbers of adult women in the Church came forward to tell of their experiences of sexual abuse, after the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo campaign.

Twenty-six worshippers were killed, and dozens more were injured, when an ex-serviceman opened fire on the congregation at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

New guidance on preventing the bullying of LGBT pupils in C of E schools was issued.

Australians voted to legislate for same-sex marriage. The diocese of Sydney had contrib­uted $AUD1 million to the “No campaign”.

Robert Mugabe resigned, one week after a military intervention curtailed his four-decade-long rule. He was succeeded by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a senior member of the ruling ZANU–PF party and long-time ally of Mr Mugabe. In response, Dr Sentamu wore a clerical collar for the first time in ten years.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, signing an appeal in Moscow to world leaders, called for effective measures to defeat terrorism and help Christians who were suffering persecu­tion in the Middle East.

The engagement of Prince Harry to the American actress Meghan Markle, a divorcee, was wel­comed by church leaders, including Cardinal Nichols.



NINE men were ordained as the first deacons and priests of the Anglican Mission in England, at a Baptist church in east London. Until then, every clergyman associated with AMiE had come from the C of E or been ordained by Anglican bishops overseas.

A service of national remembrance for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire was held in St Paul’s Cathedral. The Bishop of Kensing­ton, Dr Graham Tomlin, preached. “Today we ask why warnings were not heeded; why a com­munity was left feeling neglected, uncared for, not listened to,” he said.

REUTERSSignalling hope: the Grenfell heart banner is held up for mourners gathered outside St Paul’s Cathedral, after the memorial service, by Fr Gerard Skinner (left) of St Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, Notting Hill, and Imam Fahim Mazhary of the Al Manaar Mosque

Dr Bernard Palmer, a former Church Times editor and proprietor, died, aged 88.

The Archbishop of Canterbury described the expansion of grammar schools as “con­trary to the common good”.

The Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, called for peace amid “turmoil and confusion”, after President Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

An independent review by Lord Carlile concluded that C of E officials had “rushed to judgement” when they concluded that a former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, had sexually abused a young girl in the 1950s. “For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong,” the review said.

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