At the end of January 2023, the Daily Telegraph carried the headline Pride flag on altar of ‘church of woke’ triggers almighty court battle. In September 2022, it had been announced that the Pride flags which were hung from the altar at weekend services at St Nicholas, Leicester, would be replaced with “something a little more permanent” – “a huge Progress Pride flag made of fabric”. This is reported to have raised objections from in “hundreds of churchgoers within and beyond the diocese of Leicester” “as well as clergy” all of whom were attempting to block its use. Although the article suggests that a judgment from the consistory court was expected “imminently”, the issue has proved to be somewhat more nuanced.
The judgment Re St. Nicholas Leicester  ECC Lei 1, republished on 31 January 2023, noted that following the advertisement of the Petition, the Registry had received nine objections and sixteen letters or emails of support . The Deputy Chancellor gave a “very broad summary” of the objections in .
The Diocese Advisory Committee (DAC) advised that the petition should be approved, subject to two conditions: the larger of the two proposed cross designs should be applied to the frontal; and the frontal should only be used on the altar on an occasional basis. If the PCC wished to have it on display when not in use, a suitable location was to be agreed .
None of the objectors was an “interested person” within the meaning of Rule 10.1.(a)-(g) of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015 , and it was therefore necessary, as a preliminary matter, for the Deputy Chancellor to decide whether any of them had a “sufficient interest” in the subject matter of the petition to formally object under rule 10.2.
Although “sufficient interest” is not defined in the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules 2015, a similar test is applied in the Administrative Court in relation to applications for judicial review. Drawing upon the Scottish case Walton v Scottish Ministers  UKSC 44 and AXA General Insurance Ltd & Ors v Lord Advocate & Ors  UKSC 46, the Deputy Chancellor considered the nine objections that had been received by the Registry on the basis of the details they provided .
He concluded that three of the objectors could be deemed to have “sufficient interest”: one who had indicated a direct interest in the use of the proposed altar frontal at services and more generally (but see below) ; and two whose objections “raise[d] points of liturgy and doctrine… and both refer[red] to the effect that decision to allow the petition would have on other members of the Church [13,14].
Furthermore, in accordance with rule 10.3 each of the Formal Objectors was given 21 days either to become a party opponent by sending to the Registrar particulars of objection in Form 5 or leave the court to take their letter of objection into account without becoming a party opponent . In conclusion the Deputy Chancellor said:
“. …I wish to make clear that in making these directions I am not, at this stage, expressing any view whatsoever on the merits of the petition or on any of the objections that have been raised”
On 2 February 2023, he issued a further direction, Re St. Nicholas Leicester  ECC Lei 2, in relation to the three of the nine objectors who had been deemed to have a “sufficient interest”. As a consequence of subsequent correspondence from one of the objectors and from the Transition Priest of Holy Spirit Parish Leicester (which includes St Nicholas), he was required to reconsider whether one of the three did in fact have a “sufficient interest”. He determined that the person concerned should to provide him (via the Registry) with any further information that he wished to be taken into account in reaching that decision. That information was to be provided to the Registry by 4pm on Friday 10 February 2023 and he would reconsider his decision as soon as possible thereafter .
The issues raised in this case are contentious at many levels; we await the findings of the court with interest and will not attempt to second guess the outcome.
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