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Bishop of Leicester names ‘provisos’ for continuing as LLF co-chair

02 February 2024

Diocese of Leicester

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow

THE Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, said on Thursday afternoon that, after the Bishop of Newcastle’s resignation, he would continue as co-chair of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process, “with several provisos”.

That morning, the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, had cited “serious concerns relating to the recent process of appointing an interim theological adviser to the House of Bishops” as her reason for resigning as the other co-chair (News, 1 February).

In his statement, Bishop Snow says that he is “deeply saddened” by Dr Hartley’s decision, which came just two months after they were appointed as co-chairs.

“I greatly enjoyed working with her on this process and I want to express my personal thanks for her support and encouragement, and my respect for her decision to prioritise her ministry in her own diocese,” he writes.

He says that he has spoken to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and told them that he would stay on, provided that another co-chair was appointed who commanded “similar respect” to that commanded by Dr Hartley.

Bishop Snow and Dr Hartley have made public their differences on the issue of blessings for same-sex couples, which lies at the heart of the LLF process. In an article for the Church Times last week, they appealed for “reconciliation and bridge-building” in the Church (Comment, 26 January).

Bishop Snow says that the Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, “will need to appoint a second interim theological adviser to the House of Bishops so that there is a similar model of working together across difference”.

Bishop Snow indicates that the co-lead bishops for LLF should be involved in the appointment of future advisers, and writes that “the Faith and Order Commission must remain a diverse group which resources the House of Bishops through careful, rich and nuanced theological work.”

Though he is not mentioned by name in either statement, the appointment referred to is that of the Revd Dr Tom Woolford, who is to be the interim theological adviser to the House of Bishops and secretary to the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC), until the position is filled permanently in September.

On Thursday, the chair of the FAOC, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, explained the appointment process, which involved interview by a panel on which Dr Innes was joined by Mr Nye and two clergy members of the FAOC.

Dr Woolford, who is the Vicar of All Saints’, New Longton, and a tutor at Emmanuel Theological College, was shortlisted and and interviewed by the panel in a “proper process”, Dr Innes said.

“I am a bit concerned that people who are outside the process are wanting influence what was a proper process, and from my point of view we can’t have people chosen for effectively civil service roles by popular vote.”

Dr Innes said Dr Woolford would be in an “advisory role, not an executive role”.

The appointment had been criticised online, with a focus on an article published in 2019 in which Dr Woolford wrote: “I think it would be disastrous and desperately wicked if the Church were to prepare blessings for things we must not bless.”

Speaking to the Church Times, Dr Woolford said “I’m still a conservative on blessings and on sexuality; so that part hasn’t changed . . . but I’d put a lot of things differently in light of the journey that we’ve been on in Synod and in the wider Church.”

He emphasised that the article had been written for a conservative readership, and pre-dated the conclusion of the discussion stage of LLF and his election as a General Synod representative for the diocese of Blackburn — a position that he has relinquished to take up his new role.

In his statement, Bishop Snow also emphasises that the diocese of Leicester is his “first priority”, and asks the Archbishops to “consider leading a time of prayerful reflection at General Synod which sets this whole process once again in the context of discernment about what sort of Church we are called to be in the coming years”.

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