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The Clergy Discipline Measure has been in force since 1 January 2006. The Measure provides a structure for dealing with formal complaints of misconduct against members of the clergy except in relation to matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, which continue to be governed by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963. This article looks at how the Measure has worked in practice, and considers amendments to the Measure that have recently been made.
In the increasingly complex conjunction of law and religion, one of the most crucial questions concerns the privileged place of religion among other convictional positions which are protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This article argues the need for a trans-disciplinary approach to the question of definitions, importing insights from philosophy, sociology of law and neo-pragmatism. The aim is to elucidate the view that defining is both an art (in the discursive construction of its object) and a form of politics (as a regulative technology, through which the actual flux and complexity of human reality is brought under control). The question of what religion is (the ontological question) should be acknowledged as a jurisprudential red herring.
Lawyers and priests are both vested in their office by a licensing authority and take oaths to obey the law, whether civil or ecclesiastical, that governs. Within these similar settings, the appropriate authority may need to judge disobedience by the lawyer or priest. If obedience is not enforced, respect for the law will decline and lawlessness ensues. In the Episcopal Church, it is black-letter law that only the baptised may receive communion. Notwithstanding the law, priests in ever-increasing numbers are inviting all to the table. Against what standard is such conduct to be judged? The Constitution and Canons are silent. Is the standard therefore to be merely the fact that the priest thinks he or she is following the dictates of the Holy Spirit? Or is there a real standard for judgment? Perhaps the gloss around civil disobedience and the rules of professional responsibility of lawyers may provide a more objective guide. This article discusses the debate over open table and the current black-letter law, and considers ecclesiastical disobedience under the guidance of the standards for legitimate civil disobedience. In addition, it considers the apparent desire of the bishops for the best of all possible worlds – having a law that the greater Church will appreciate, but then not enforcing it. The result may be more table fellowship but also anarchy.
The faculty jurisdiction of the Church of England pre-dates planning law by several centuries. It is the means by which the diocesan bishop, through his chancellor and in his consistory court, ensures that the sacred buildings of the diocese and their contents are compliant with the canon law, doctrine and ecclesiology of the Church of England. During the latter part of the last century, the effective operation of the faculty jurisdiction contributed to the continuing exclusion of churches of the Church of England from the need for listed building control. The rationale is that the faculty jurisdiction provides a level of protection for the church's built heritage equivalent to local authority protection, but uniquely tailored for the sacred purpose of the buildings and the evolving needs of individual worshipping communities. A balance constantly needs to be struck which respects the rigour required of both ecclesiastical and secular authorities (with their competing but complementary demands), but is not so cumbersome that it deters and frustrates parishes and other interested persons and bodies from engaging with it.
Community lies at the heart of both church and school life in the Church of England. In some areas, church communities are sustained by families who choose to attend a particular church based on the quality of the church school in its parish. Many Voluntary Aided Church of England schools (church schools) give priority admission to parents on the basis of faith in the oversubscription criteria of their admission arrangements. While the Church stresses inclusiveness in its recommendations regarding admissions policies to church schools, where a church school is very popular and oversubscribed arguably priority must be given to parents of the faith in the school's catchment area. Otherwise parishioner children whose families regularly attend church could fail to be admitted to their local church school because of competition for places.
In July the Charity Commission issued new guidance on decision-making for charity trustees. The avowed purpose of the guidance is ‘to help increase trustees’ confidence when making decisions, and inform their processes', and the Commission points out that, if the need arises and something goes wrong, trustees have to be able to demonstrate how they have followed the principles set out in the guidance.
The report on the Synod's proceedings published in the January 2013 issue of this Journal reported the defeat – by a narrow majority – at the November 2012 group of sessions of the motion for the final approval of the draft measure intended to allow the consecration of women to the episcopate. As is well known, the Synod's decision was received with shock and dismay by many – both inside and outside the Church of England. But a response came quickly. In December the House of Bishops committed itself to bringing the elements of a new legislative package to the Synod in July 2013 and to that end established a working group, drawn from all three Houses.
As always, the General Assembly deliberated on a wide range of issues. Prior to 12 May 1999 the Assembly were regarded by many Scots as the nearest thing to a Parliament that they possessed; and though devolution has perhaps lessened the Assembly's impact it has not diminished their enthusiasm for tackling difficult social and political questions, ranging from the economics of world poverty and the ‘Enough food for everyone … if?’ campaign to a major report on Israel–Palestine which had attracted considerable criticism from Scotland's Jewish community in advance of the debate. Probably of most interest to readers of this Journal, however, are the following.
In his April Presidential Address the Archbishop focused on two issues: the Report of the Review Group chaired by Lord Harries and same-sex marriage. His concern with the Review is that ‘it is possible to get so bogged down or hung up on some of the details of the Provincial Review that there is a danger in dismissing all of it because one disagrees with some of the points it makes’. He regretted that churches with ordained clergy ‘have been tempted to assume that all ministry is vested in an omnicompetent professional minister’ and reminded his listeners that the basic sacrament of the Church was not ordination but baptism. His concern with the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was that clergy who would not conduct same-sex marriages needed protection, yet the Church itself needed to be allowed to conduct such marriages if it decided to do so in future. He felt that the Church ‘needed to have a discussion as to whether we want to continue having this special status in law as far as marriage is concerned’.
This year's programme looked, at first sight, to be a little daunting: 10 Bills and 26 motions to be dealt with in less than three days. However, on closer inspection the situation was not as bad as it seemed. Most of the Bills were of a technical or administrative nature: provision for the Cathedrals and Dignities of the Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, some tidying up of the Constitution and internal administration, and the abolition of the existing practice whereby members of General Synod are automatically proposed for re-election – an attempt, no doubt, to encourage greater turnover and variety among Synod members. It will be interesting to see how successful this will be.
In opening the Synod the Primus said that it was easy to be institutionally burdened with reports and papers but that the Church was called to have a Spirit-enlivened spring in its step – a dynamic which shaped relationships, ministry and leadership. What mattered was that differences were re-cast by the Spirit into a dynamic and comprehensive unity, and that there was a need to be both strategy-led and Spirit-led.
In 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada's National Convention, meeting concurrently in Waterloo, Ontario, agreed to a relationship of Full Communion. Readers will be familiar with the Porvoo Communion and the associated Declaration. The Waterloo Declaration is similar in effect and borrows some wording from the Porvoo Declaration, the key difference being that, in the Canadian context, Anglican and Lutheran churches share the same territory, which provides greater opportunity for day-to-day collaboration.