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Archbishops under pressure from conservatives in row over canons and same-sex blessings

01 September 2023

SAM ATKINS/church times

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York confer at the July meeting of General Synod

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York confer at the July meeting of General Synod

THE group of leaders of C of E organisations who told the Bishops that it was “unlawful, unconstitutional, and illegitimate” for them to commend blessings for same-sex couples (News, 5 July) received a reply from the Archbishops expressing “surprise” at their “negative and legalistic language”.

The group has now sent a second letter, expressing “sadness” at the Archbishops’ response.

The original letter, sent on 3 July, set out objections to the use of Canon B5 (commendation by the Bishops) or Canon B4.2 (approval by the Archbishops) to bring the Prayers of Love and Faith into use. Instead, the group argued that a full synodical process, under Canon B2, was required.

Signatories included current and former Vicars of Holy Trinity, Brompton: the Revd Archie Coates, and the Revd Nicky Gumbel.

Both Catholic and Evangelical groups were represented, though a proviso at the end of the letter states: “All signatories are leaders of networks/organisations but are signing in their personal capacities, recognising they cannot claim to speak for everyone that they lead.”

In a response, dated 12 July, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York thanked the group for the letter, and for their stated commitment to providing “pastoral responses to address concerns around homophobia and discrimination in the Church”.

The Archbishops go on, though, to say that they have been “a little surprised by the legalistic tone in some of your letter”, and invite the group to “see the matters at issue as primarily theological and pastoral rather than legal”.

The group responded on 14 August to the College of Bishops and “key officers in the Church of England” as well as to the two Archbishops.

Its new letter described the group as a “broad alliance of leaders across different traditions within the Church of England”. Two signatories from the first letter are absent from the second, however: the chair of the Prayer Book Society, Bradley Smith, and its former chair, Prudence Dailey, both of whom were criticised on social media for their initial participation.

The authors of the letter write that they are “saddened by the use of the word ‘legalistic’ in the response of the Archbishops”.

“On the issues currently being raised in Synod there are many different views and theological perspectives. However, whatever those differences may be, there should be no doubt that, in order to preserve the unity of the Church, due process must be followed and visibly so,” they write.

The group reiterate their objection to any form of ratification that is not subject to two-thirds majorities in the Houses of the Synod: “For the good of the Church, it is vital to guard against any impression or suggestion that attempts are being made to by-pass the constitutional role of Synod.”

This, they say, is backed up by the opinion of their legal counsel, Edward Morgan KC, and add that Mr Morgan “advises that any alternative route is likely to expose the Church and/or the Presidents of the General Synod and/or individual bishops to significant legal challenge”.

The signatories, subject to the same proviso as before, are listed below in the way that they appear in the letter:

 

Fr Adam Gaunt, Chair of Catholic Group in General Synod
Emma Joy Gregory (née Forward), Vice-Chair of Catholic Group in General Synod

Tom Middleton, Director of Forward in Faith and Secretary of the Council of Bishops of The Society

Busola Sodeinde, Church Commissioner and UK Global Majority rep
Ade Adebajo, Lay Chair of London Diocesan Synod, Chair of Lambeth Partners and UK Global Majority rep
Canon Dr. Addy Lazz-Onyenobi, Member of General Synod and UK Global Majority rep

Revd Dr. Rich Johnson, National Leader, New Wine
Revd Wole Agbaje, Head of Young Adults, New Wine
Revd John Coles, New Wine Ambassador
Revd Paul Harcourt, former National Leader, New Wine

Revd Archie Coates, Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton and Head of HTB Network
Revd Nicky Gumbel, President of Church Revitalisation Trust, HTB Network
Revd Sarah Jackson, CEO of Church Revitalisation Trust, and Chair of HTB Network on General Synod
Revd Jago Wynne, Vice-Chair of HTB Network on General Synod

Revd Canon John Dunnett, Chair of Evangelical Group on General Synod (EGGS)
Jane Patterson, Secretary of Evangelical Group on General Synod (EGGS)

Rt. Revd Julian Henderson, President of Church of England Evangelical Council
Sarah Tett, Trustee of Church of England Evangelical Council

Revd Kieran Bush, Chair of the ReNew Planning Team
Debbie Buggs, Member of ReNew and Member of General Synod and of the Crown Nominations Commission

Revd John McGinley, Executive Director of MYRIAD

Ed Shaw, Ministry Director of Living Out
Revd Canon Vaughan Roberts, Co-Founder of Living Out
Rt. Revd Keith Sinclair, Trustee of Living Out
Helen Lamb, Trustee of Living Out

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