Law and religion round-up – 4th September

A week dominated by headlines about ‘bouncers’ in churches (which we reported) and the C of E and sexuality (which we did not, until now) …

… and which, thankfully, marks the end of the “silly season” for news stories. However, St Chrysostom’s blog has provided us (and coincidentally, Thinking Anglicans) with one last example – Unusual names of the Anglo Catholic clergy – which complements its earlier On the names of Bishops.

Security in places of worship

Last week, National Churchwatch – a multi-faith organisation dedicated to reducing crime in places of worship – produced a helpful guidance note on Counter Terrorism Advice for Churches which caused some rather sensationalist reactions in the media: the Telegraph reported it as “Vicars told churches should have ‘bouncers’ due to terror fears”. There was also an element of confusion that it was advice from the Home Office – which it was not: the author is  Nick Tolson, Director of National Churchwatch, a former police officer who advises the Home Office’s places of worship security committee. But the headlines did make us start to wonder about the possibility of the Western Church restoring a redesigned Minor Order of “Doorkeeper and Bouncer”. We noted the guidance here.

Banning the burqa in the UK?

As the French burkini ban continues to cause controversy, the results of a YouGov poll undertaken between 24 and 25 August conclude that about twice as many people in the UK would support a ban on the burqa as would oppose it. We suspect that what those in favour want to ban is actually the niqab veil: how many times have you seen a woman in a burqa? But no matter: the poll reveals an apparent hardening of attitudes on religious dress in public places.

Bishop of Berwick

As we noted in our post, Suffragan bishops: from selection to ordination & consecration, the filling of a vacant suffragan see is not the default option, and a number  have been in abeyance for a considerable time, such as Islington and Berwick. In March this year, the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, announced that the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Frank White, would retire on 30 September 2016 and his successor would be Suffragan Bishop of Berwick. Noting that the title was last borne by a bishop in the 16th Century, Bishop Christine said “in today’s diocese the titles of the Bishops of Newcastle and Berwick will symbolise the breadth of their shared ministry to rural, coastal and urban communities across Northumberland and Tyneside”.

On 1 September, a No 10 Press Release reported that the Queen has approved the nomination of the Revd Canon Mark Simon Austin Tanner to the Suffragan See of Berwick. The Diocese of Newcastle has issued further information and a video: meet the new Bishop of Berwick.

Bishop of Grantham

The nomination of the Revd Nicholas Chamberlain to the Suffragan See of Grantham in the diocese of Lincoln was announced by No 10 on 8 September 2015. Last Friday, 2 September 2016, The Guardian reported that following a threat by a Sunday newspaper to reveal his sexuality, he decided to speak publicly about his long-term relationship with his partner. He is therefore the first Church of England bishop to declare that he is in a same-sex relationship.

Details of the nomination process for suffragan bishops are described here. Significantly, all those involved in making the appointment were aware of his sexual identity: the appointment was made by the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, Bishop of Lincoln, and endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury; supportive statements by both are carried in the Guardian article. Predictably, GAFCON expressed its continued concern at the C of E’s approach to clergy in same-sex relationships, whilst the LGBTI Mission welcomed Bishop Nicholas’s openness, deplored the media threat which led to the need for this to happen, but called for a review of “the absurd and cruel double standard still applied in relation to sexual conduct of the clergy”. However, both GAFCON and the LGBTI Mission criticized the Church’s “discriminatory policy of purposeful concealment” – albeit from diametrically-opposite standpoints. Verb. sap?

“Shadow Synods” and the Ordinariate

Whilst Evangelicals in the Church of England and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham appear to have little in common, both have been in the news over the past few days. Damian Thompson’s article in The TabletBritain’s Ordinariate is in peril. Here is how to save it, suggests that the future of the Ordinariate is in danger through a combination of “hostility from the authorities and apathy from its own clergy”.

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is a canonical structure for former Anglican clergy and lay people established by Pope Benedict XVI following an announcement on by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 20 October 2009, “with flamboyant disregard for ecumenical etiquette”. However, its members readily admit that the experiment has not been a runaway success and, at the present time, “this revolutionary structure has just 1,000 lay members in this country, scattered in tiny communities. So it’s the size of a large parish, but one with around 80 ex-Anglican priests to support. Which it cannot do”.

From the other side of the Tiber, John Bingham reports in the Daily TelegraphChurch of England parishes consider first step to break away over sexuality:“A group of parishes is preparing what could be the first step towards a formal split in the Church of England over issues such as homosexuality, with the creation of a new ‘shadow synod’ vowing to uphold traditional teaching. Representatives of

“A group of parishes is preparing what could be the first step towards a formal split in the Church of England over issues such as homosexuality, with the creation of a new ‘shadow synod’ vowing to uphold traditional teaching. Representatives of almost a dozen congregations in the Home Counties are due to gather in a church hall in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, later this week for the first session of what they say could eventually develop into an alternative Anglican church in England”.

A subsequent report in the Church Times indicates that “almost a dozen” equates to “eleven”, but to these could be added other groups within the CofE: in Christian Today, Ruth Gledhill’s article Anglicans consider new synod to oppose gay marriage notes that

“… In England, there is already a number of conservative groups such as the Church Society, and Reform. Dr Sanlon has written for the Church Society. There are also the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is signed up to Gafcon’s Jerusalem Statement and Declaration, and the Anglican Mission in England, a mission society promoting gospel growth in England”.

Thinking Anglicans adds that “Anglican Mainstream is a fifth…”. However, Dr Sanlon did his group few favours in a Facebook comment in which he drew parallels between LGBT Christians discussing their sexuality and child abuse, a comment that has been rightly condemned by Stonewall and others.

We will follow the legal implications of this initiative but note that much of the early hype surrounding the establishment of the Ordinariate has not materialized into an appreciable departure in the Church of England. The row following Dr Sanlon’s comments has given his group an unpromising start, and a further headache to Justin Welby. At this year’s Greenbelt Festival the Archbishop said “we have to find a way to love and embrace everyone who loves Jesus Christ” but added that this included “people who feel – or come from societies which believe – that same-sex relationships are ‘deeply, deeply wrong’…”, described less charitably in a headline in The Independent as his “new ‘Hug a Homophobe’ stance”.

UK Parliament

Both Houses return to the Palace of Westminster on 5 September, and the week’s timetable is to be found here. Whilst everyone is waiting, ‏@churchstate tweeted a short quiz to keep its readers out of mischief: How well do you know the Lords Spiritual? [Full disclosure: both Frank and David, independently, only got seven out of ten, though all the law questions were answered correctly.]

Quick links

And finally… I

“What if everybody in the world could answer the same question with a single word?” asked the Oxford Dictionaries blog on 1 August. “It could be almost any question, so long as it could be answered with one word – revealing trends and similarities across the globe” – then went on to announce a survey question: “what is your least favourite English word?”

But not, as it turned out, for very long. After four weeks, an update was posted on the blog to the effect that “due to severe misuse” the feature had been removed from the website. The nature of the misuse was not revealed, but Huffington Post suggested that it was because of

“an apparent outpouring of anti-Islam sentiment in the submissions to the project. Some Twitter accounts posted screenshots purporting to show that Oxford Dictionaries had barred certain sensitive words, like ‘Islam’, from submission prior to the decision to take down the project.”

As of 25 August, “Islam” had received the most votes – 701 – with “British” on 474 and “Brexit” on 366. All very sad – if all fairly predictable.

And finally… II

On Wednesday we acquired our thousandth Twitter follower.

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