Religion and law round-up – 14th June

A week in which assisted dying was in the news again, the C of E appointed a new Secretary General, the Scottish Episcopal Church may have moved towards recognising same-sex marriage – and there was another episode in the Naked Rambler saga…

Assisted dying

When we suggested that Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill was unlikely to make much progress in the current session of Parliament we evidently spoke too soon. Rob Marris, Labour Member for Wolverhampton South West, came top of the Commons ballot for private Members’ bills and has decided to introduce an Assisted Dying Bill (presumably similar to or identical with Lord Falconer’s). It is set down for second reading on 11 September.

New Secretary General for the C of E Archbishops’ Council

The other big news of the week was that William Nye, currently Principal Private Secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, is to succeed William Fittall as Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod, taking over full responsibility on 1 December.

Mbuyi v Newpark Childcare

In an earlier post we mentioned in passing that a London nursery worker, Ms Sarah Mbuyi, was suing Newark Childcare for unfair dismissal after she told a lesbian colleague about her beliefs on same-sex marriage. Christian Concern, which supported her claim before Watford Employment Tribunal, reports that she was successful. We hope to provide a proper analysis when we have had chance to digest the determination.

General Synod – Scottish Episcopal Church

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church took place on 11-13 June, and a Press Release reported that it had voted to begin a process for change in relation to its Canon on Marriage:

“[i]t has therefore instructed the Church’s Faith and Order Board to begin the two year process which may lead towards canonical change. That change would potentially allow the marriage of same gendered couples in Church in late 2017.”

However, a vote to instruct the Church’s Faith and Order Board to prepare canonical material to enable the registration of civil partnerships to be undertaken in the Scottish Episcopal Church failed to pass. Further details and comment are reported by Thinking Anglicans and the Synod agenda papers are available here.

Protection of minors – RC Bishops’ accountability

In another development at the Vatican, on 8 June Pope Francis approved proposals for a new system which will hold to account bishops who fail to act on clerical abuse. This would give power to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops “with regard to crimes of the abuse of office when connected to the abuse of minors”. In addition, the proposals included the establishment of a new office at the Congregation to take on work as a tribunal in the judgment of bishops who fail to act on abuse. Whilst the Pope still has the ultimate say in requesting a bishop’s resignation, a Vatican spokesman indicated that the tribunal’s findings would normally be accepted and acted upon by the Pope.

Ethical investments

The Church of England and other institutional shareholders are reported to have called for the removal of the chairman of a British oil company accused of bribing and violently intimidating opponents of its exploration in Africa’s oldest national park. They voted against Rui de Sousa’s re-election as SOCO’s chairman at the company’s annual general meeting this week, although he survived the vote. The article in the Daily Telegraph notes the Church of England remains deeply concerned about SOCO’s response to the allegations and was reviewing its £3 million investment in the company. The Church’s statement on the SOCO AGM is here.

Episcopal matters

Our post, CofE: a quasi-consultation on quasi-law, considered the CofE’s recent publication, the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests Consultation Paper on the Operation of the Resolution of Disputes Procedure; we concluded that whilst not adhering to the normal format of consultations or addressing a specific aspect of “hard law” it did, nevertheless, comprise an important component of the various measures associated with the appointment of women to the episcopate.

On 10 June, the Bishop of Horsham announced that following a period of strenuous theological reflection he now wishes to accept the sacramental ministry of all women and men ordained as deacon, priest and bishop in the Church of England. As a consequence, he has resigned from the Council of Bishops of The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, a body that was set up to provide sacramental assurance and ministry for Anglo-Catholic opponents of women’s ordination. An important part of the announcement of the Chichester diocese was its clarification of episcopal oversight, viz.

“Future arrangements for the oversight of ordination in this diocese had already been agreed, prior to Bishop Mark’s decision.  All ordinations to the diaconate and to the priesthood will take place in the Cathedral; all three bishops will participate in the ordinations, in ways that respect the theological conscience of those present.  This will follow the precedent set by the Archbishop of York in the arrangements for the episcopal ordination of Libby Lane as Bishop of Stockport and Philip North as Bishop of Burnley”.

On the previous day, the Prime Minister’s Office had announced that the Queen had approved the nomination of Reverend Canon Sarah Elisabeth Mullally to the Suffragan See of Crediton in the Diocese of Exeter.

Publication date for Laudato Sii

On 4 June, Il Bollettinno reported that “To avoid confusion due to the spread of unconfirmed information, please note that the date for the publication of the awaited encyclical of the Pope will be Thursday 18 June. The mode of public presentation will be published in the Bulletin of the Press during the next week” [Google Translation].  According to The Tablet, while not officially confirmed, Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on the environment is likely to be called “Laudato Sii” (Be praised), a line taken from St Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun.

Today’s Bollettino announced that

“… on Thursday, 18 June 2015, at 11 am in the New Synod Hall in Vatican City, a Press Conference will be held for the presentation of His Holiness Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Sii, on the care of our common home.

The speakers will be: Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; His Eminence Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church; Prof. John Schellnhuber, Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Following the presentations by the speakers, a limited time will be available for questions from journalists.

The Encyclical is to be considered under full embargo until noon on Thursday, 18 June 2015. The text of the Encyclical – in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish (in digital and/or paper format) will be available to accredited journalists from 9 am on Thursday 18 June.”

Naked (and other) ramblers

In contrast to the 3-day imprisonment plus 5,000 Malaysian ringgit (£860/€1,185) fine imposed this week on the four tourists who posed naked on Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, on Tuesday, Stephen Gough, a.k.a. “The Naked Rambler” had his appeal against conviction thrown out by Lady Justice Rafferty and two other judges; an attempt by Gough to challenge his “manifestly” excessive jail sentence of 30 months was also rejected. Different jurisdictions and different offences: but the Malaysian story prompted the BBC to explore the issue “How prevalent is the naked tourist photo?” – the answer to which seems to be, “more than you might imagine”. However, this is not a trend that is encouraged by Ramblers Holidays and does not feature in David’s latest blog post for RH, Wild boar, pasta and deep-fried sage“, which focuses on the culinary aspects of “The Trails and Tastes of Tuscany”.

Quick Links

  • Church of England:  Week in Westminster 8th-12th June 2015. This week bishops in the House of Lords led a debate on the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter for the 2015 General Election, spoke on the Government’s Cities & Local Government Devolution Bill and in a debate on empowering women in the developing world.  Bishops also asked questions on right to buy and religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. In the House of Commons the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered written questions on female and LGBT clergy numbers, and asked a question about bats in churches. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached the sermon at the service to mark the opening of the new Parliament.

Future Events

  • Edmund Plowden Trust: Lecture by former High Court judge Sir Mark Hedley: “Can a Christian still be a High Court Judge today?” at the Temple Church, on Tuesday 3 November 2015. There is no charge for this event but donations towards the cost will be gladly accepted on the night. It would assist with catering if those attending could notify the trust in advance on:
  • Ecclesiastical Law Society: Magna Carta – Choral Evensong with an address from the Master, Monday 23 November 2015: a reception with drinks and canapés will follow the service in the Temple Church. The cost of the event is £50 for ELS Members, £90 non-members. [Note: Full Membership of the ELS, which includes the subscription to the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, is £40.00 p.a.].

And finally …

Friday’s Daily Media Digest from the CofE reported that a “lighthearted diary item [from The Times (£)] says a police officer at the House of Lords was heard asking a man in a dog-collar yesterday if he was here for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The reply came, “I am the Archbishop of Canterbury.” The Digest suggests that he should wear his mitre more often!

Mind how you go…

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