Readers, pastoral guidance and canon law

Under a post entitled Another P.T.O. revoked…, Jeremy Timm, the new National Coordinator at Changing Attitude, announced that his Permission to Officiate (PTO) as a reader in the Howden Team Ministry would be withdrawn “with immediate effect” when in September he and his partner change the status of their relationship from that of civil partnership to marriage. This decision by the Archbishop of York was received with surprise by many since this appears to be the first occasion on which action has been taken against some outside the “three orders of Ministry” outlined in paragraph 27 of the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, (“the Guidance”), published on 14 February 2014. There was an added irony in the news that within the same week, the marriage of a same-sex couple had been blessed in the Dundee Cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

With regard to the other PTOs and licences that have been revoked or not granted, each has represented a different facet of the Church of England’s relationship with its stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy. As such it is therefore difficult to draw any firm conclusions in some of these “grey areas”, particularly since one of these is subject to judicial proceedings. It is nevertheless possible to outline some of the legislative provisions governing the present considerations; further insights were given in the BBC Sunday programme interviews with Jeremy Timm and with the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, Bishop of Sodor and Man and Chair of the Central Readers’ Council of the Church of England. Bishop Paterson also chaired the group which advised the House of Bishops on the review of its 2005 Pastoral Statement in relation to appointment of clergy in civil partnerships to the episcopate; the HoB issued a statement on 4 January 2013. Continue reading