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General Synod chaplain plays down resignation after row over Pride reflection

21 July 2022

Sam Atkins/Church Times

General Synod members in York at the start of this month

General Synod members in York at the start of this month

THE chaplain to the General Synod, the Revd Andrew Hammond, who has resigned after complaints about a reflection he gave in York about the value of Pride, was on the point of quitting in any case, he said on Thursday.

During worship preceding the final session of the July gathering of the Synod in York, Mr Hammond reflected on the virtue of humility and the vice of pride. He noted a difference between pride, the opposite to humility, and “Pride the movement”, which was characterised by equality and love. Its opposite was humiliation rather than humility, he suggested.

After the worship session had ended, several members spoke to Mr Hammond and complained that his words were inappropriate and political, especially in the context of a Private Member’s Motion having been proposed that called for the Pride flag to be banned in church buildings (News, 9 June).

Further complaints about Mr Hammond’s words were sent to the secretary-general, William Nye, over the course of the following week.

On Wednesday this week, Mr Nye sent an email to Synod members saying that Mr Hammond had “offered his resignation, and the Archbishops have, with regret, agreed to accept it”.

In a statement attached to the email, Mr Hammond wrote: “My reflection at worship on the last morning of General Synod was heartfelt and grounded in theological conviction, but it was clearly the cause of offence to some, which I regret.”

Concerning his resignation, he wrote: “For some time I have been concerned that my Synod duties are difficult to dovetail logistically with my commitments as a college chaplain, and this has prompted me to offer my resignation as Synod Chaplain.”

On Thursday afternoon, Mr Hammond said that he had been considering stepping away from the post before this incident, owing to the challenges of balancing the responsibility with his position as Chaplain of St John’s College, Cambridge.

The conflicting reactions to his words had merely brought forward a decision which was already “floating there as a distinct possibility”.

Mr Hammond also spoke of his dismay at the way that the episode had been covered in The Daily Telegraph, in which his homily was referred to as “pro-Pride speech”.

“It never occurred to me that it would be construed as political,” he said, though he “knew it would be challenging”.

The article quoted a member of the Synod saying that the chaplain had been “hounded out” by conservatives. Mr Hammond said that he did not feel that this was an accurate description, though it was well intended.

“Some things have got conflated,” he said. “The criticisms were about what I said and the context in which I said them: not about me personally.”

Jayne Ozanne, who campaigns on LGBT issues and is a member of the Synod, spoke on Wednesday of “a sustained attack from anti-LGBT members of Synod” since Mr Hammond’s appointment, “many of whom have purposefully boycotted his excellent acts of worship.”

She was very concerned, she said, “about what this means for our corporate future, as it shows the hardening of attitudes amongst those who oppose an inclusive Church of England that welcomes and accepts everyone.”

A Church of England spokesman said that Mr Hammond’s resignation had been accepted “with regret”.

“Many Synod members have expressed their appreciation for Andrew’s time in the role, and for the wide pastoral support he provided to many those members, visitors and staff on a range of issues.”

In discussion of Mr Hammond’s resignation on social media, several people — including members of the Synod — noted that the period of worship in question had been removed from recordings of the sessions posted on the Church of England’s YouTube channel.

A spokesman for Church House said that the recording had been “trimmed” earlier in the week in accordance with a policy to not include acts of worship, which were sometimes inadvertently included in the livestream.

As of Thursday afternoon, several other acts of worship were still included in recordings from the July sessions of the Synod.

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