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Review of the Year 2018

21 December 2018

Read our round-up of the news this year


The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, preaches at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, in May. See gallery, and below, for more pictures from the year

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, preaches at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Mar...


THE Vicar of Christ Church, Abingdon, the Revd Timothy Davis, was convicted by a church tribunal of spiritual abuse against a teenage boy, in what was thought to be the first judgment of its kind.

Pope Francis hailed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 70 years old this year, for recognising that the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace”.

The Cathedrals Working Group reported that “serious governance mistakes” had been made at cathedrals. The group’s chairman, the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, wrote in the Church Times that, at the heart of its proposals, “is the retention of the Chapter as the governing body of a cathedral . . . but with a clearer emphasis on the part it plays in governance”.

A group conducting a theological review of the Crown Nominations Commission warned against “the false unity offered by candidates who are merely bland and inoffensive”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury drew criticism when he said that he could not, with integrity, clear the name of Bishop George Bell. At the end of the month, the C of E’s national safeguarding team announced that it had received “fresh information” concerning Bell. This has not yet been disclosed.



THE Archbishop of Canterbury, in an interview with the Church Times, said that the woman who alleged that Bishop George Bell had abused her was “not an inconvenience to be overlooked”.

The House of Bishops, responding to a review of the botched nomination of the Rt Revd Philip North to the see of Sheffield, expressed regret that “not nearly enough” had been done to create an understanding of the practical outworkings of the settlement that had introduced women bishops to the C of E.

Plans to bring the Church of England and the Methodist Church closer together were advanced. The General Synod approved full interchangeability of ministers between the two Churches, moving towards full com­munion, if not full unity.

GEOFF CRAWFORD/CHURCH TIMESThe Revd Rachel Wilson, a wheel-chair user, tells the Synod, in February: “Being born with a disability is not a disaster”

The Synod also carried, unanimously, a motion demanding unbiased information for parents who were told that their unborn child had Down’s syndrome.

Revelations emerged of sexual misconduct by a few identified Oxfam staff in the after­math of the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Arch­bishop Welby said that that the foreign-aid budget should not be cut as a result.

The installation of a new President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, “instilled a sense of hope”, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said.



IN HIS book Reimagining Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned that Brexit could act as “a catalyst of British introspection, xenophobia, and self-pity”.

Archbishop Welby visited the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to the surprise of Anglican clergy in the country. The poisoning of a former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury prompted prayers in the city’s churches amid a general avoidance by the public.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, was shut for three days in a protest by church leaders at a “systematic campaign of abuse against Churches and Christians”.

AKPARTIArchbishop Welby meets the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the Presidential Palace, in March

Violence in Syria continued to escalate, despite the United Nations’ agreeing a 30-day emergency ceasefire.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), in London, began a public hearing into how far the Anglican Church had failed to protect children from sexual abuse. After the hearing had finished, the Archbishops sent a pastoral letter to C of E parishes, which said that the Church must “demonstrate clearly” that lessons had been learnt.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton — who had married his partner, Laurence Cunningham, in 2014 — lost his legal case against a bishop who had refused to grant him a licence and thus deprived him of an NHS post.



CHRISTIAN AID attacked “international indifference” to the plight of Palestinians on the Gaza Strip, in the wake of protests on Good Friday in which 16 Palestinians were killed and 1000 were injured.

reutersTony Blair and Bill Clinton at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, in April

Political and religious leaders condemned a chemical attack suspected to have been carried out by Syrian government forces against civilians in the rebel-held region of Eastern Ghouta. Later in the month, Western countries, including the UK, launched air strikes against Syrian targets, which were condemned by Syrian church leaders.

The Prime Minister apologised to members of the “Windrush generation” who had been threatened with deportation despite having lived in Britain for decades. She promised that no one would be deported.

Sussex Police closed their latest investigation into Bishop George Bell.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, led prayers for Toronto after a van attack left ten dead and 15 injured.

At the end of the month, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, was among members of the House of Lords who voted for an amendment to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill which could allow Parliament to force ministers to reopen negotiations in a “no-deal” scenario.

PAThe Archbishop of Canterbury at The Four Candles, the smallest brewery pub in Britain, during a Holy Week mission in Thanet, in April



PRAYER trails, tents, picnics, and parties popped up in parishes around the UK and abroad in the name of Thy Kingdom Come — a recently instituted campaign for prayer from Ascension Day to Pentecost.

A proscription of “intrusive questioning about someone’s sexual practices or desires” was among the guidelines issued by the Bishops in the diocese of Lichfield in a letter that set out what “radical Christian inclusion” entailed.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, was widely acclaimed for his sermon at the marriage in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle, who became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

PACrowds outside Dublin Castle celebrate the landslide referendum vote to remove a constitutional ban and liberalise abortion laws, in May

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said that the Government had made the “right decision” in announcing plans to limit the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2.

Canterbury diocese stated on its website that, before hearing a confession, priests should tell the penitent that they were duty-bound to pass on to the relevant agencies matters regarding safeguarding. This was con­tested.

A referendum in Ireland on removing a constitutional ban and liberalising the abortion law was won by a landslide by the Yes side.



THE Episcopal Church of Brazil’s General Synod voted overwhelmingly to amend canon law to allow its priests to conduct same-sex marriages in church. It became the third Province of the Anglican Communion to change its marriage canon, following the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the United States.

PARomelu Lukaku, of Belgium, prays during the World Cup in Russia, in June

An independent inquiry led by a former Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, found that more than 450 lives had been cut short at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1988 and 2000 by the “institutionalised practice” of over-prescribing opiate painkillers to elderly patients.

An estimated 2000 people — C of E bishops and priests among them — attended the third GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem.

A heterosexual couple — Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan — whose legal bid to enter into a civil partnership had been rejected by the Court of Appeal last year, won their appeal to the Supreme Court.

A report published by the National Safeguarding Steering Group said that all C of E clergy should be required by canon law to submit their name and ministerial authority to a new national register.

The Duke of Cambridge visited the holy sites in Jerusalem. The tour included a visit to the Occupied Territories.

getty imagesPrince William in Jerusalem’s Old City, accompanied by the Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, and his chaplain, the Revd David Longe



AFTER nearly seven years’ deliberation, the third Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission issued a 34,000-word statement, Walking Together on the Way, on how the two traditions might learn from each other (receptive ecumenism).

The Methodist Conference welcomed pro­posals to redraft its official position on marriage before the 2019 Conference to include a more “adequate” position on both same-sex and heterosexual couples in the 21st century.

The General Synod, meeting in York, called for a world free of nuclear weapons. It also instructed the investors in charge of the C of E’s £8-billion funds to disinvest from unreformed fossil-fuel companies by 2023; and it welcomed proposals from the Cathedrals Working Group to change the management of cathedrals.

It was announced that strategic development grants totalling £27 million would create more than 100 churches.

PASir Cliff Richard arrives at the High Court of Justice in London, in July, to hear the judge’s ruling in his privacy case against the BBC

The singer Sir Cliff Richard was awarded £210,000 in damages after winning his privacy suit against the BBC over coverage of a police raid on his home.

IICSA investigated the case of Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester. Lord Carey defended his decision to grant Ball permission to officiate.



AN EARTHQUAKE on the island of Lombok, in Indonesia, left more than 100 people dead and more than 2000 injured. The General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, expressed “profound grief”.

reutersEvening prayer is held by villagers inside a temporary shelter on the island of Lombok, in Indonesia, after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake

Boris Johnson, lately Foreign Secretary, was criticised for writing in The Daily Telegraph that Muslim women wearing the burqa and niqab looked like “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”.

The former Iwerne Trust chairman John Smyth QC, accused of administering brutal beatings to boys and young men, died at his home in Cape Town, South Africa, aged 77.

Derby Cathedral defended its decision to show horror films that contained nudity, at a film festival.

Religious-education bodies expressed concern over a drop of 20 per cent in the number of students sitting A levels in religious studies in the UK.

The Ministry Division reported that the number of people recommended for ordination training in 2018 had grown by seven per cent on the previous year: from 541 to 580.

PAPope Francis arrives to preside at the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin, during his 36-hour visit to Ireland, in August.

Shortly before visiting Ireland, the Pope, in an open letter, apologised for the crimes of abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests.

The payday lender Wonga went into administration.



THE report Prosperity and Justice argued that wealthy individuals and corporations must contribute more to ensuring a just society. Later, Archbishop Welby launched a scathing attack on the tax system in the UK, in a speech. He criticised Amazon, in which the Church Commissioners held a large stake.

The College of Bishops formally adopted the definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Frank Field resigned the Labour Party whip to sit as an independent Labour MP in the House of Commons. Mr Field, an Anglican, cited the Party’s “toleration of anti-Semitism”.

The 35th instalment of the annual British Social Attitudes survey found that only 14 per cent of respondents would describe themselves as “belonging to the Church of England”.

Bristol broke London’s dominance of the Church Times Cricket Cup tournament.

A former MP, Meg Munn, was appointed the first independent chair of the National Safeguarding Panel.

The Moscow Patriarchate cut ties with Constantinople over the issue of Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine.

Thirty-four students were found dead in a church on Sulawesi, in Indonesia, after an earthquake and tsunami. More than 2000 were killed in total.



THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that, if global temperatures rose by 1.5°C to 2°C, twice as many people would be affected by water scarcity and three times as many by heat stress.

PAThe Prime Minister dances on to the stage at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, in October

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, announced that he would retire in June 2020.

The owners of a bakery in Northern Ireland who refused to supply a gay customer with a cake iced with the words “Support gay marriage” won their appeal to the Supreme Court.

More than 30 bishops signed a petition to the Prime Minister to fix Universal Credit, after evidence suggested an increased use in foodbanks in the areas where the benefit change had been rolled out.

Eleven Evangelical bishops, including four diocesans, warned that a future pronouncement on sexuality might have “practical consequences” for the structure of the Anglican Communion and the Church of England.

The UN warned that almost 13 million people in Yemen were at risk of starvation, and that six million in South Sudan faced crisis levels of hunger.

Eleven people died after a gunman opened fire at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman imprisoned on death row for eight years after being accused of blasphemy, was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.



A FORMAL complaint was made against the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy, by members of the college. He faces a tribunal.

Church leaders and campaigners urged the Government to adopt a more generous, voluntary “real living wage”.

The UN and aid agencies said that the condi­tions for the return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar had not been met.

PAMembers of Christian Climate Action protest as part of the “Extinction Rebellion”, in November

The centenary of the Armistice was commemorated by a national service in Westminster Abbey, attended by the Queen and the German President. Churches around the country also had special services, instal­lations, and events.

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who leads on Europe for the Lords Spiritual, said that, if Parliament rejected the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, the electorate should have another chance to decide whether to leave the European Union.

The Supreme Court refused a terminally ill man, Noel Conway, permission for a final appeal against a ruling that he may not be assisted to die.

The Church Times participated in a quest to find 21 young Christians, Jews, and Muslims engaged in leading interfaith endeavours.

Blackburn Cathedral launched its own brand of gin.



AT A service in Westminster Abbey celebrating the contribution of Christians in the Middle East, the Prince of Wales paid tribute to the “inspiring faith and courage” of those “battling oppression and persecution or who have fled to escape it”.

The European Court of Justice ruled that the UK could return to the EU on the same terms as before.

The Prime Minister won a confidence vote of Conservative MPs. It came after the postponement of a Parliamentary vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement. It was announced that the vote would be delayed until 14 January. The Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, was among the many who declared that a no-deal scenario would be “disastrous”.

Guidance published by the House of Bishops said that churches could use existing baptismal liturgy “in a creative and sensitive way” to mark a person’s gender transition. The House had decided earlier in the year that special liturgical provision on gender transition was not needed.

reutersA woman holds a malnourished boy in a treatment centre at the Al Sabeen Hospital, in the Yemeni city of Sanaa

Cardinal Pell, Secretary of the Economy at the Vatican, was convicted in Australia of historic child sex abuse. A countrywide media ban was imposed by the judge.

Famine in Yemen finally brought the warring sides to the negotiating table, and a ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations.

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