Religion and Law round up – 10th February

The last seven days: the important, the interesting and the downright weird

Archbishop Welby “elected”

On 4 February Justin Welby became Archbishop of Canterbury at the Confirmation of Election ceremony at St Paul’s presided over by Archbishop of York. The new Archbishop took the oath of allegiance to the Queen and made a formal written declaration of assent to his election.

The Confirmation of Election is a very quaint procedure indeed. Justin Welby’s daughter Katharine (who has previously wondered on Twitter whether she was about to become the ABCD) tweeted: “Anywhere else in the world an ‘election’ that had only 1 candidate it was illegal to vote against would be called corruption”, followed up with “Just for clarification purposes: I don’t think he’s corrupt, I have known him many years + I am a supporter of the one candidate available”!

Archbishops’ websites

Now that Archbishop Justin is in office (even if he hasn’t yet been enthroned) he has a new website: However, his predecessor’s site has been archived rather than junked and the material relating to Archbishop Rowan can still be found at

Vacant sees – the queue for a crozier

Thinking Anglicans reports that following the recent announcements of the retirements of the Bishop of Exeter and the Bishop of Liverpool, a significant queue of potential candidates is forming for consideration by the Crown Nominations Commission, (CNC).  The CNC meets on two occasions per Vacancy in See to nominate candidates to the Crown for diocesan bishoprics and has only one unallocated slot in its programme for 2013.

This is relevant to two ongoing concerns of this blog: the length of time involved in decision-making within the Church of England and the representation of the laity. The CNC deliberations form only the central part of the lengthy decision-making process, the timing of which can be evinced from the lists maintained by Peter Owen of vacant sees and of suffragan bishoprics, here and here.

Vacancies are subject to the General Synod General Synod Vacancy In See Committees Regulation 1993, as amended, on which the CofE has issued a helpful briefingWith regard to the laity, the electoral college for a diocesan vacancy in see committee is the diocesan synod, which is required to meet on at least two occasions. For the CNC, lay representation is three members of General Synod and a minimum of three members elected by the diocesan vacancy in see committee.

Women in the C of E episcopate 

Following the facilitated conversations arranged by the Working Group on women bishops legislation this week and the meeting of the House of Bishops on February 7, the Church of England has published a “next steps” consultation paper: Women in the epIscopate: a new way forward GS MISC 1042. The paper suggests that there are various ways of interpreting the vote that took place on 20 November:

“But one thing on which there is a very wide measure of consensus is that the outcome of that day has left the Church of England in a profoundly unsatisfactory and unsustainable position. There are several reasons for this:

  • It is apparent that opening all three orders of ministry equally to men and women has a very wide measure of support across the Church of England;
  • For those women already serving in the ordained ministry, the Church of England’s continued indecision is undermining and harmful to morale;
  • Even for those with theological difficulties over the ministry of women as priests and bishops there is little appeal in a further prolonged period of debate and uncertainty;
  • Wider society – including its representatives in Parliament – cannot comprehend why the Church of England has failed to resolve the issue and expects it now to do so as a matter of urgency” [emphasis in original].

Possibly it is the last of these reasons that is the most pressing.

Synod members and others have been invited to help the working group in the next phase of its work by:

  • indicating whether they endorse the propositions which emerged from the recent conversations;
  • offering initial comments on the spectrum of possibilities sketched out in in the document; and
  • offering any other comments that they would want the Working Group and the House of Bishops to take into account as they carry this work forward.

Responses should be sent to “if at all possible” by Thursday 28 February in advance of the next meeting of the Working Group on 4 March.

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was given a second reading in the Commons on on 5 February by 400 votes to 175 – with the vast majority of those voting “No” coming from the Conservative benches. The House of Commons Library has produced a helpful briefing paper on the Bill that can be downloaded from here and we published a short guest post on the subject by Gavin Ward.

The Bill is to be carried over into the new Session of Parliament starting in May: presumably so that if it all goes pear-shaped in the Lords it will still be possible to reintroduce it in Session 2014–15 and invoke the Parliament Acts. It is now with the Public Bill Committee, which will meet for the first time on Tuesday 12 February to take oral evidence. After the oral evidence sessions the Committee will undertake a detailed, clause-by-clause examination of the Bill; and those with relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the proposed legislation are invited to submit their views by e-mail to before Tuesday 12 March 2013.

On 5 February DCMS released its response to the Opinion prepared for the Coalition for Marriage by Aidan O’Neill QC (a summary of which is available here) and an analysis of the various scenarios propounded by him.

The role of Europe in same-sex marriage

stool of repentanceFollowing last week’s mis-reporting of Re AI and MT [2013] EWHC 100 (Fam) which was roundly condemned by us and by UKHRB, UKIP is this week’s candidate for the “legal naughty step/stool of repentance” with its allegation in EU proposal is behind same-sex marriage furore”.  This suggests that in the near future, legislation would be introduced so that

“If a couple were to marry in Belgium, Spain, Portugal or Sweden where same-sex marriage is possible, the EU will say that they have to be given the same legal rights in whichever member state they then chose to live – even if that state itself opposes the introduction of same-sex marriage.”

The fact that leading Tory blogger Archbishop Cranmer (no relation) was tipped off by UKIP about this anti-European allegation during the Commons debate on same-sex marriage should have set alarm bells ringing – and “His Grace” didn’t in fact endorse it but merely brought it to his readers’ attention as a possibility.  As EUReferendum and this blog indicated, the actual position is far more tenuous that UKIP suggests.

In a subsequent post, Richard North of EUReferendum examines an article by Christopher Booker in The Telegraph, the role of the Council of Europe in the “gay marriage” furore and attempts to establish how and why this issue suddenly erupted from nowhere to the top of the political agenda.

The European Ombudsman, the Commission and humanism 

We reported that the European Ombudsman had been critical of the Commission’s refusal of the request by the European Humanist Federation to hold a dialogue seminar on the exemption for religious organisations under the Framework Directive 2000/78/EC on equal treatment in employment and occupation. The Ombudsman clearly regards the Federation as coming within the scope of Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as a “philosophical [or] non-confessional organisation” – rightly so, in our view – and decided that the Commission had been guilty of maladministration.

More on finding dead kings in car-parks 

A press conference at the University of Leicester on 4 February confirmed that a skeleton found in a car park in the city was indeed that of Richard III, thereby ending months of speculation. This led to a new round of conjecture as to what would happen next: David blogged about it here.

Leicester University’s successful research has provided an incentive to find other English monarchs whose remains remain to be found and identified.  First up is King Alfred the Great (849–899), who was born in Wantage and whose remains may be in the church of St Bartholomew, Winchester, as reported here. The University of Winchester is seeking permission to examine the grave; but since this is in an Anglican church rather than a council car park it is subject to the Church of England’s faculty jurisdiction.

Alfred, Wantage, May 2012Steven Gallagher suggests that “whereas archaeological interest has consistently been considered a good and proper reason to grant a licence for exhumation, it was, and is, unlikely to form the grounds of a successful petition for a faculty, as in Re St Nicholas, Sevenoaks [2005] 1 WLR 1011, and Re Holy Trinity, Bosham [2004] Fam 125.

Another “missing monarch” is Henry I, whose remains are thought to be somewhere in Reading Abbey, although there appears to be less certainty in finding them since they were buried in a silver coffin which would probably have been a prime target during the dissolution of the monasteries, here

Preston Down yet again

We reported the Charity Commission’s updated statement on the Preston Down Trust of the Hales Exclusive Brethren to the effect that the Commission had agreed to a stay in the proceedings pending before the First-tier Tribunal (Charity) in the hope of finding some kind of agreed accommodation over the issue of public benefit. The Commission reiterated, however, that

“any application for registration put forward by the Exclusive Brethren must set out exclusively charitable purposes and explain how these will be advanced for the public benefit”

and that the application would have to satisfy both the Commission and the Attorney General as to how any changes to the current activities of the Trust would advance religion for the public benefit.

And finally…

The BBC website currently carries the rather gnomic strap-line Amish beard-cutter Mullet jailed. On further inspection, no former professional footballer appears to have been involved.

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