Law and religion round-up – 23rd May

Church of England: Holy Communion update

The Diocese of Oxford reported that the Holy Communion Working Group has published an update reflecting on the “significant but temporary changes in the practice of Holy Communion in the Church of England”. The Group considered the issue raised by the current requirement for the reception of Holy Communion in one kind, as in the Roman Catholic Church, including the expedient of simultaneous administration of the wine and bread together, for use in churches at the discretion of the minister, a.k.a “intinction lite” and the possibility of introducing the use of individual cups, which we recently reviewed here.

On this last issue, the House of Bishops determined in early 2021 that it would be premature to set these processes in motion before appropriate doctrinal and liturgical work is undertaken. A small group of specialists and practitioners has been invited to investigate these issues and to undertake the relevant theological work. This Holy Communion Working Group anticipates producing a final report by the end of 2022. It will report its progress from time to time to the House of Bishops.

Readers will recall that when raised by Mrs Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) at the virtual meeting of the General Synod in July 2020, [Q68], the House of Bishops was asked: “[to] reconsider the prohibition of use of small individual cups as a valid ‘common sense’ pro tem way of sharing the Communion wine while current constraints remain?“. This short-term objective has clearly been kicked into the long grass, and it is likely to be early 2023 at least before Synod is in a position to take any action on the longer-term acceptability of individual cups. Even then, faculty authorization will be necessary for their introduction in each church wishing to introduce them, as is required for the introduction of other “ornaments” to a church.

In Quires and Places where they sing – maybe

One of the stranger COVID-induced wrangles of the week was the controversy over choral singing by non-professionals when it became apparent that the guidance for Step 3 in England was more onerous than the earlier guidance for Step 2: we posted about it here. The petition Let Choirs Start Singing Again quickly achieved 26,279 signatures, and is now directing supporters to the UK Government and Parliament petition Allow non-professional singing in groups of more than six indoors. On Thursday, Sir Bob Neill, MP for Bromley & Chislehurst and Chair of the Commons Justice Committee, wrote in fairly trenchant terms to the Culture Secretary asking for clarification of the evidence underlying the latest guidance. In addition, the Association of British Choral Directors is working with Making Music, RSCM, ISM and its partner organisations in Singing Network UK (SNUK) to shape a response and to help everyone involved in singing to play their part in this campaign. And see Harriet Sherwood’s piece in The Observer today.

“Take me to your leader”…

…or in the case of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps)(England) Regulations 2021, SI 2021/364, (“the Steps Regulations”), to the “gathering organiser or manager” of your choir rehearsal or performance. This may not be as straightforward as it first seems and may not always be the same person(s) for services and “stand-alone” rehearsals; we are currently giving the issue further thought.

Contested heritage” again

Not “religion”, but increasingly germane to it. The BBC reports that the  Governing Body of  Oriel College, Oxford, has decided that although an independent commission has supported the College’s original wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the Rhodes Building, it has decided not to begin the “legal process” to move it, citing “regulatory and financial challenges”. It said that the majority of the submissions to the commission “backed the retention of the statue”.

General Assembly 2021

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland began its annual session yesterday: as in 2020, it is taking place online.

Philip & Ors: expenses

And as a footnote to the judgment in Revd Dr William J U Philip & Ors for Judicial Review of the closure of places of worship in Scotland [2021] CSOH 32, which we noted here, the parties were back in court last week on the issue of expenses (Anglice, costs). In Petition Reverend Dr William JU Philip and Others Against The Scottish Ministers and Others [2021] ScotCS CSOH 52, the Petitioners sought a 100 per cent increase in the charges to be allowed on taxation of their expenses: Lord Braid ordered an increase of 50 per cent.

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