Law and religion round-up – 22nd October

Church of England National Safeguarding Standards

On 17 October, the Church of England published its five National Safeguarding Standards and accompanying Quality Assurance Framework:

  1. Culture, Leadership and Capacity: Church bodies have safe and healthy cultures, effective leadership, resourcing and scrutiny arrangements necessary to deliver high-quality safeguarding practices and outcomes.
  2. Prevention: Church bodies have in place a planned range of measures which together are effective in preventing abuse in their context.
  3. Recognising, Assessing and Managing Risk: Risk assessments, safety plans and associated processes are of a high quality and result in positive outcomes. The assessment and management of risk is underpinned by effective partnership working.
  4. Victims and Survivors: Victims and survivors experience the timeliness and quality of Church bodies’ responses to disclosures, and their subsequent support, as positively meeting their needs, including their search for justice and helping their healing process.
  5. Learning, Supervision and Support: All those engaged in safeguarding-related activity in Church bodies receive the type and level of learning, professional development, support and supervision necessary to respond to safeguarding situations, victims and survivors, and respondents, effectively.

The announcement says that It “is not expected that every Church body will be able to meet every indicator overnight. The Standards set out the direction of travel and will enable Church bodies to identify both their strengths and areas for development, which will in turn inform their strategic planning in respect of safeguarding.”

“Net zero”

The Diocese of Oxford eNews has given the reassurance that “the present Government’s plans to delay net zero targets will not lead to any delay in our own. We are committed to taking action for the sake of God’s world, and some of the measures will reduce energy bills for our clergy. Please bear with us; it will take several years to work through all of the portfolio”.

On 12 October 2023, the Church of England announced that thousands of churches, cathedrals, schools and clergy houses in England will benefit from the first phase of grants and projects worth £30 million, as part of the Church of England’s ambitious plan to achieve net zero by 2030. The aim is to support the Church in reducing carbon emissions from the energy used in churches, schools, cathedrals, houses and other buildings, saving money by improving the energy efficiency of buildings and switching to cheaper, more reliable, renewable energy sources.

Whilst we welcome the Church’s continuing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, it should be borne in mind that a significant proportion of the Church of England’s carbon emissions arise from its educational establishments (48%)[*] with churches accounting for 27% and cathedrals 2%. As a whole, Church’s GHG emissions are small and constitute less than 0.05% of those of the United Kingdom, which themselves are one hundred times smaller in global terms.

Furthermore, the net zero carbon target does not include staff commuting nor parishioner and school family travel. An early estimate of the carbon footprint of the Church (using data in Church and Earth 2009 – 2016) indicated that emissions from these sources were significantly greater than those from buildings, although the validity of these calculations has been queried (in David’s LLM dissertation).

[*] On 26 October 2023, the Church launched “an ambitious initiative to help its network of schools reach net zero, as part of the first phase of its multi-million-pound Net Zero Carbon Programme”.

Christ Church, Oxford

According to a report in the Church Times, the Governing Body of Christ Church has accepted in principle a proposal by Dominic Grieve KC that the Dean cease to be Head of House. According to the report, the Governing Body took an “indicative decision” on Wednesday to approve “a proposal to divide the responsibilities currently assigned to the Dean into two roles”. The decision is still subject to a formal vote.

A report in Cherwell notes:

“Currently, the Dean has charge of a single Foundation comprising both a Cathedral and a College of the University of Oxford. In future, the Dean will only lead the Cathedral, working beside a separate head of the Foundation. In an e-mail sent to students, the College said: ‘The proposal would enable future Deans of the Cathedral to dedicate themselves exclusively to leading the mission, ministry and management of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Oxford, overseeing its prayer and worship.’ Both institutions will, however, remain within the single Foundation of Christ Church Oxford, despite separate leadership of the College and Cathedral”.

When effected, the change in the status of the Dean will permit an alignment of the ecclesiastical law of Christ Church with that of other Church of England Cathedrals.

Porvoo Communion canon law network

new network for canon law scholars met for the first time this October to discuss the laws of the Porvoo Communion. The Porvoo Communion is a fellowship of Anglican and Lutheran Churches in Great Britain, Ireland, the Nordic region, Iberia and the Baltic countries and the new network, the Porvoo Church Law Symposium has been set up by the Cardiff Centre for Law and Religion.

The network follows other initiatives in the field of juridical ecumenism, a burgeoning subject of study pioneered by the scholarship of Norman Doe, Professor of Law and founder of the Cardiff Centre for Law and Religion. Juridical ecumenism explores cooperation among different religious or Christian denominations through legal or institutional means. The idea is essentially about finding ways for different bodies to work together within a legal framework to foster greater unity or understanding.

The Porvoo Church Law Symposium is co-convened by two Cardiff Canon Law LLM graduates: Andreas Henriksen Aarflot, who is now Deputy Head of the Legal Department of the National Council of the Church of Norway, and current doctoral student Russell Dewhurst. The first meeting of the group, which took place on Zoom on 3 October 2023, consisted of 9 lawyers and academics and it is hoped to expand participation to include contributors studying the law of the remaining member churches. Monthly symposia are planned for around 10 months, focusing on the topic ‘Church and State’, after which the findings of the group will be published.

Prayers of Love and Faith

Following a meeting of the House of Bishops in London on 8 October 2023, the Church of England issued a Press Release in which it stated that the House of Bishops had agreed in principle that prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples – known as Prayers of Love and Faith – should be commended for use. However, on 12 October, Thinking Anglicans reported that 12 bishops dissent from Monday’s statement by the House of Bishops.

On whether these dissenting bishops are representative of the House of Bishops, in the Comments to this piece Peter Owen states:

“There are actually 53 members of the House of Bishops: 42 diocesans, 9 elected suffragans, the Bishop of Dover and the Bishop to the Forces. In addition, 9 other bishops are in attendance; they can speak but not vote. Details are here. Two of the signatories (Ebbsfleet and Oswestry) are in this last category. PS There are several vacancies at present”.

Not all signatories of the statement are members of the House of Bishops.

Coming to a consistory court near you?

It is not often that one comes across an example of the faculty jurisdiction in progress. However, during his recent holiday in Cornwall, David found evidence of a congregation in the process of choosing which design of chair to purchase as a replacement for its pews.

In view of the different designs for each of the six pillars and capitals, consistency does not seem to be a criterion which was deemed necessary in the past.


Quick links

And finally…

A rail signalling error diverted the EU Parliament’s “travelling circus” to Disneyland when a French train carrying hundreds of MEPs and their teams from Brussels ended up at Marne-la-Vallée, the stop for Disneyland Paris. [For non-policy wonks, Members of the European Parliament, their staff and files regularly move between Brussels, which hosts committee meetings and Strasbourg, where plenary sessions are held monthly. Meanwhile, Luxembourg houses the Parliament’s administrative offices. As there is no direct train from Brussels to Strasbourg, travellers must change either in Paris or at a station near the Disneyland complex.]

Alluding to criticisms levelled at the so-called “travelling circus”, a German MEP joked (joked?): “We are NOT a Mickey Mouse parliament.”

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