Bishops sans frontières

On Sunday 14 May, the document Consecration of New Style Bishops – Q&A was handed out at Jesmond Parish Church. It explained the rationale behind the episcopal consecration of its curate, the Revd Jonathan Pryke and the perceived need for “New Style Bishops” operating within a non-diocesan remit. Although legal issues were not addressed in the document, it provides a framework within which these issues may be discussed and it also raises questions concerning the development of this initiative within GAFCON, GAFCON-UK and AMiE.

Background

As we noted in our round-up on 14 May, the Q&A document states inter alia [emphasis added]:

“such [New Style] bishops need to be faithful to 1) the biblical miracles of the virginal conception of Jesus and his Resurrection and empty tomb; 2) the biblical ethic that sex should be reserved for lifelong heterosexual monogamous marriage; and 3) the biblical principle that means bishops should be male – all issues in the North East in recent years”.

[…]

the aim is not to create a new denomination. No! This is one small but necessary step on behalf of faithful Church of England ministers and congregations nationwide in our mission to the nation. This is not a step of ‘leaving the Church of England’. It is the theologically liberal bishops and clergy that have ‘left the Church of England’ doctrinally. This is a step to preserve the Church of England’s heritage and mission which we have received”.

It appears, therefore, that the intention is for “New Style bishops” to work within the Church of England structure through the ordination of male, undivorced, heterosexual clergy. What follows is an attempt to address both the legality of the consecration and the subsequent activities of the “New Style bishops” – as well as the issue of canonical obedience which is common to both of those.

Legal issues

Consecration

The REACH-SA Statement on the Jesmond Consecration (12 May 2017) comments:

“The consecration by the REACH-SA bishops took place in response to a personal request from the Jesmond Parish Church leadership, after prayerful consultation with Anglican communion leaders, and according to the REACH-SA bishops’ conscience and theological judgment. Those who participated in the consecration are duly and legally consecrated bishops within the Anglican tradition”.

A subsequent press statement from Jesmond Parish Church states that:

“The service took place neither in a Church of England ‘place of worship’ nor an unconsecrated place of worship designated under s.43 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011. It did not take place in Jesmond Parish Church. The ceremony was according to the REACH-SA consecration Holy Communion service with only REACH-SA bishops taking part. The declaration, however, was to the Church of England’s Canon A5 which says:

‘The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the 39 Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.’

The oath was of ‘all due reverence and obedience’ not to the Presiding Bishop of REACH SA but to ‘bishops and other chief ministers’ under whom Jonathan is set.”

So the consecration took place on property outside the jurisdiction of the Church of England and the consecrators were bishops of a Church with which the C of E is not in communion – although it does recognise its orders. Church of England clergy who participated in, or facilitated the consecration are subject to its ecclesiastical law, but the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 is inapplicable to the REACH-SA bishops involved since the necessary permissions were neither sought nor granted. Section 4 states:

“(1) An overseas bishop or a bishop consecrated in a Church not in Communion with the Church of England whose Orders are recognised and accepted by the Church of England may, on the request and by the commission in writing of the bishop of a diocese in the province of Canterbury or York, and with the consent and licence in writing of the Archbishop of the province, ordain persons and perform other episcopal functions in that diocese”.

[…]

(3) If any overseas bishop performs any episcopal functions in a diocese in the province of Canterbury or York, otherwise than in accordance with this section, he shall be guilty of an offence against the laws ecclesiastical for which proceedings may be taken under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963.”

With regard to subsection 3, under S6(1):

“‘overseas bishop’ means a bishop of the Church of England or a Church in communion with the Church of England having a diocese or office elsewhere than in the province of Canterbury, the province of York, Ireland, Wales or Scotland, and ‘overseas diocese’ means the diocese of an overseas bishop;” [emphasis added].

Nevertheless, the validity of the consecration within REACH-SA is subject to its own legislation. Under its Restatement of the 39 Articles of Religion, the REACH SA Prayer Book has:

23. Ministering in the congregation

No man is permitted to take upon himself the office of public preaching or ministration of the sacraments before he has been called and appointed to fulfil this office. Those persons should be accepted as lawfully called and appointed who have been selected and called to this work by men entrusted with public authority in the Church to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.

36. The Consecration of Bishops and Ministers

The form of consecration of Archbishops and bishops and the ordering of presbyters and deacons, set forth in the time of Edward VI, contain all things necessary for such consecration and ordering and nothing that of itself is superstitious and ungodly. Therefore anyone who is consecrated or ordained according to these rites we declare to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordained.”

and the Handbook of Procedures contains a service for the ordination of a bishop, pages 171-174.

In “Order! Order!”: Reflections on The Jesmond Consecration, Andrew Goddard notes “it is currently unclear whether any of [the] constitutional requirements for a CESA bishop have been met” and suggests that “[I]f even one of them was not complied with then it would seem that the participating bishops of REACH SA acted without due regard for their own constitution in selecting and consecrating Jonathan Pryke”.

Supported by the REACH-SA Statement on the Jesmond Consecration, supra, he further suggests:

“It is therefore not impossible that what we are dealing with is two or three bishops of a church responding to a request (from one parish and some like-minded clergy in the CofE) for someone who can ordain presbyters and priests within England and doing so without reference to the wider church in which they serve and its constitution. Then, using an adapted form of their denomination’s liturgy, in a non-publicised service, they consecrated a bishop whose episcopal ministry has no legal standing in any wider ecclesial structure and is unlikely to be able to be legally exercised in England while the person continues to serve within the CofE”.

However, without further information from REACH-SA, which is unlikely to be forthcoming in the present climate, it is not possible to confirm or deny this assertion.

Role of “New Style Bishops”

The press statement from Jesmond Parish Church envisages the role of “New Style Bishops” – and of the Revd Mr Pryke in particular – as follows:

“Jonathan already is a member of the AMiE executive and so committed to planting 25 new churches by 2025 (essential, under God, for evangelism and growth) and 250 new churches by 2050. The main thing that is significantly different now as far as Jonathan is concerned is that Jonathan can ordain men for the ministry, whereas other presbyter/priests of us involved in evangelism cannot. Some leaders obviously need this “power” (as the 16th century Richard Hooker would say) as more men are trained for ministry and to be faithful to Canon A5. Also they need it to help planted churches corporately keep faithful to Canon A5. At the Jesmond Conference a group of senior leaders including one REACH SA bishop and one English GAFCON Bishop, agreed that three bishops were needed, one being consecrated with REACH SA orders; one being consecrated as a result of an initiative by the GAFCON Primates; and one other.”

Who are the “New Style bishops”?

In addition to the Revd Mr Pryke, the Jesmond Q&A document explains:

“…bishops Martin Morrison and John Ellison have helped churches like Jesmond Parish Church, St Oswald’s Walkergate, Christ Church Durham, Holy Trinity Gateshead, St Joseph’s Benwell, and other churches when needed. But they cannot go on for ever!

How will the Church of England grow?

By new English bishops working to a new style of being bishops, that is working primarily to establish new churches. Martin Morrison provides such a model: he continues in his local church, while exercising a wider role to establish new churches and provide external accountability” .

Strangely, the document does not refer to the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone, who was appointed to fill the See in order to provide a bishop who takes the conservative evangelical view on male headship. Unlike other Provincial Episcopal Visitors, (a.k.a. “flying bishops”), his activities are not restricted to one Province and he may act by invitation as an Assistant Bishop in both. [The Legal & Canonical Status of Provincial Episcopal Visitors has been discussed in relation to the report of Sir Philip Mawer, the Independent Reviewer]. Rod Thomas is also on the Council of Reform.

Bishop Martin Morrison’s blog states:

“Martin Morrison is currently rector of Christ Church Midrand, a bustling church in Gauteng, South Africa…but that’s only a percentage of his job. He is also an area Bishop in the Church of England [i.e. the Church of England in South Africa], chairman of Johannesburg Bible College and Chairman of Lovetrust, an organisation planted by Christ Church Midrand to plant schools throughout Africa.”

He was brought in by Richard Coekin, minister of Dundonald Church in Wimbledon, due to a dispute with the then Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, over matters related to homosexuality. Bishop Butler revoked Coekin’s licence as a priest, but he was reinstated following an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the basis of the procedural measures associated with the revocation. [See the Bishop of Winchester’s report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, In the Matter of Canon C12(5) of the Canons of The Church of England between The Reverend Richard John Coekin v The Bishop of Southwark, 5 June 2006].

The Rt Revd John Ellison was Bishop of Paraguay from 1988 to 2007 and is on the Executive Committee of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) as Chair of the Panel of Bishops. In 2015, we noted that Bishop Ellison, an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Winchester, took part in a service of commissioning for Christ Church, a new congregation within the Diocese of Salisbury which is affiliated to AMiE. The Church Times reported that “[n]o one involved in planting the church has contacted the Bishop [of Salisbury], nor is the Diocese aware of any consultation with Churches Together in Salisbury about the need for a church plant”.

Canonical obedience

The Jesmond Parish Church press statement refers to the consecration of the Rt Revd Sandy Millar in the following terms:

“For one of the Panel of UK GAFCON bishops before retirement was a priest in charge of a parish in the Church of England while at the same time a bishop of the Church of Rwanda, where he spent a month or two each year.”

We do not know to whom this passage refers, but it is certainly the case that Sandy Millar, former Rector of Holy Trinity, Brompton, was consecrated bishop by the Church of Uganda while continuing to minister, primarily, in England. However – as the Church Times noted in 2006 – Bishop Millar was consecrated with the full knowledge and agreement of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London and was an honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of London as well as exercising an episcopal role in Uganda.

Ordination to a title

Under Canon C5.1, ordinands in the Church of England, whether intended for stipendiary or non-stipendiary ministry, are ordained to a specific appointment in a specific place – traditionally known as a “title”:

“4.07 A person to be admitted to holy orders must first exhibit to the bishop of the diocese a certificate that he is provided of some ecclesiastical office within the diocese wherein he may attend the cure of souls and execute his ministry.”

In short, it has not been the practice to ordain candidates simply to the office of “deacon-at-large”. So would it be possible for those ordained by Mr Pryke to seek titles in the Church of England? If it is possible, how could they do so without the knowledge of the diocesan bishop? And if they could not do so, what status would their ordination confer on them from a Church of England perspective? Diaconal orders, yes: but could those orders be exercised (or be exercisable) within the C of E?

Comment

Reaction of the Church of England

To date there have been no formal communications from the Church of England other than statements reported in Christian Today on 9 May from a CofE spokesperson:

  • confirming that no authorization for the consecration ceremony had been given and said any minister claiming to be an Anglican bishop would need permission under law;
  • stating that the Bishop of Newcastle is aware that a minister holding her licence to a parish within the Diocese has taken part in a service of consecration as a bishop under the auspices of an overseas church;
  • noting that “it is the clearly established law of the land that no one can exercise ministry in the Church of England without either holding office or having the permission of the diocesan bishop”; and “it is also the case that no overseas bishop may exercise episcopal functions within the Church of England without the express permission of the Archbishop of the province and a commission from the Bishop of the diocese in which they wish to minister. In this case neither has been sought”;
  • The Archbishop of York is being kept informed but is yet to make a formal response.

A later report on 15 May added:

  • the Archbishop of York has been informed by the Bishop of Newcastle that a minister who holds her licence in that diocese has been made bishop in a ceremony held under the auspices of an overseas Church.
  • “clergy of the Church of England are bound by Canon Law, which forms part of the law of the land”.
  • “whilst the facts of the matter are being investigated it is not possible to say how what has happened relates to Canon Law so it would not be appropriate at this point to offer further comment”.

As noted above, the immediate actions that can be taken by the Church of England are limited to clergy who participated in, or facilitated the consecration are subject to its ecclesiastical law; a corollary to this is potential future action against those involved in subsequent ordinations which are contrary to ecclesiastical law. It is pertinent, therefore, to revisit the judgement in the case of the Revd Richard Coekin, supra. Although successful in his appeal against the summary revocation of his Licence, this was on the basis of the procedures involved in its revocation, not the underlying causes for which the former Bishop of Winchester, acting for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, made some pertinent observations:

[6] …in the conduct of proceedings under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963, it was well established that a doctrinal motive could not be invoked to justify a breach of the law, Bland v Archdeacon of Cheltenham [1972] Fam 157 at 165 …;

[31] C.E.S.A. is not a Church in Communion with the Church of England. The Orders of C.E.S.A. are, however, recognised and accepted by the Church of England with the result that Bishop Morrison, providing he had the necessary authority of the Archbishop and Diocesan Bishop in the form prescribed by Subsection (1), might have carried out an ordination within Section 4. It is common ground between the parties that Bishop Morrison had no such authority; hence the ordination of November 2nd 2005 was not covered by Section 4. 

It was, on this basis that the Respondent in his Address to the Diocesan Synod characterised the ordination as “illegal”. Mr Hofmeyr QC has argued that all this is beside the point because the ordination was (as I have found on the evidence before me) purely a C.E.S.A. ordination the effect of which was only to confer the orders of C.E.S.A. upon Mr Perkins, Mr Fenton and Mr Lambrechts. Section 4, he said, applied only to Church of England ordinations and had no relevance to the rites whereby candidates were ordained into the ministry of other churches. I have concluded that the analysis of Section 4 given by Mr Hofmeyr QC is correct, and that accordingly there was no breach of Section 4 in this instance;

[32]…The C.E.S.A. ordination (as the Respondent rightly indicated) did not confer ministerial authority upon the ordinands for the purposes of the Church of England. Nonetheless, the ordination created the impression that the established procedures for the selection of ordinands were deliberately being circumvented. For this the Respondent was entitled to take the Appellant to task.

[33] The ordination service, as described in the statements of the witnesses, did not accord with Canon B43(9), which is to this effect:

“The incumbent of a parish may, with the approval of the parochial church council and the bishop of the diocese, invite members of another Church to which this Canon applies to take part in joint worship with the Church of England or to use a church in the parish for worship in accordance with the forms of service and practice of that other Church on such occasions as may be specified in the approval given by the bishop”

A church to which the Canon applies is defined in paragraph 12 as “every Church to which the Church of England (Ecumenical Relations) Measure 1988 applies”. C.E.S.A. is not such a church. Accordingly, the use of Christ Church, Surbiton Hill for the C.E.S.A. ordination service was incapable of being authorised under Canon B43(9), even if episcopal approval for such use had been forthcoming.

Reaction of Evangelicals within Church of England

As we noted in our round-up of 14th May, many identifying themselves as Evangelicals have been critical of the initiative and of the organizations concerned:

To these should be added two more recent posts:

[Anglican Mainstream has produced a taxonomy of the responses in its post New forms of Anglicanism? which classifies these under the headings: Early reports and statements; Commentary, neutral or supportive of Jesmond’s action; and Commentary, generally critical of Jesmond – This present post has been included in the latter group].

Whilst little criticism of the Jesmond initiative appears to have been expressed by GAFCON, GAFCON-UK or AMiE, the uncoordinated nature of this action is unlikely to have assisted the overall strategy of these organizations, and any future action they intend to take. On the basis of the ordinations at Christ Church, Surbiton Hill, and Jesmond, and the commission of the new congregation of Christ Church within the Diocese of Salisbury, we wonder whether these too will be presented to the dioceses and bishops concerned as faits accomplis. 

David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer

Cite this article as: David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer, “Bishops sans frontières” in Law & Religion UK, 18 May 2017, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2017/05/18/bishops-sans-frontieres/.

18 thoughts on “Bishops sans frontières

  1. This appears to be the initial stages of the break-up of the Anglican Church. One point to note is that many of the so-called sans frontières groups end up being infiltrated by western intelligence agencies, and opposing operators in the field know this. You should be very careful about applying such an appellation to this new grouping.

      • Think MSF – now an arm of the French state around the world. Heavily involved in terrorist operations in Syria and elsewhere.

        • I can’t see a bunch of elderly South African clerics getting involved in international terrorism. But in any case, we were being flippant: I doubt that what we put in a headline is going to influence world events.

          • As Frank notes, whilst we sometimes allow ourselves a degree of flippancy in the title, (and “sting in the tail” comment such as the one on the faits accomplis comment), the body of the text is intended to be serious. However, whilst older readers might think there was a link in the title and “Jeux sans frontiers” in the not-so-innocent days of the 1960’s et seq [the idea apparently being suggested by French President Charles de Gaulle!], what I had in mind was the sans frontières aspect of the “New Style bishops”, and the already CofE-wide remit of the Rt Rev Rod Thomas.

            The piece was originally prefaced by a quote regarding bishops from the Grand Inquisitor’s song in The Gondoliers , but I removed this and refrained from misquoting Monty Python and commenting “No-one expected a Jesmond-ordained bishop”.

  2. Thanks for another fascinating and helpful post, Frank and David.

    David, you say ‘And if they could not do so, what status would their ordination confer on them from a Church of England perspective? Diaconal orders, yes: but could those orders be exercised (or be exercisable) within the C of E?’. I am not sure even that they would get diaconal orders at all (in the eyes of the C of E): Mr Pryke would not be ordaining them into the C of E as a C of E bishop. But he also does not seem to be a bishop of REACH-SA, and would not seem to be ordaining them into REACH-SA. Jesmond seems to regard him as ‘a bishop in the Church of God’. This is indeed ‘new style’, but will the C of E recognize such orders? The crucial point seems to be that the C of E, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, recognizes orders only of Churches, not of individuals, and it doesn’t seem that there is any particular Church of which Mr Pryke is now a bishop.

    One important difference between this case and the Coekin case is that the unauthorized use of a church building belonging to the C of E in the Coekin case was a definite breach of canon law. Jesmond, however, has not used a church building belonging to the C of E. Another difference is that Coekin had already raised the possibility with his diocesan of the irregular ordination of the three deacons, and the diocesan had (at least implicitly) forbidden it. Jesmond, by contrast, did not disobey any order from its diocesan, since the diocesan was not informed.

  3. Canon B43 applies to events such as this, and it appears that those participating, including the Revd Pryke, may find themselves subject to ecclesiastical discipline under the Clergy Discipline Measure for having participated in an ordination service which does not have the consent of the Bishop of Newcastle. The honourable and lawful course of action would have been to withdraw from the Church of England, as others have done, before taking steps which are in breach of communion.

  4. This discussion brought to mind the background to the ordination of Archbishop Matthew Parker in 1559, which was irregular according to the ecclesiastical law of the time. The Jesmond consecration will possibly raise similar issues. At an ecumenical level the consecration of Archbishop Parker was regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as a break in the apostolic succession of Church of England clergy meaning that their orders were void. Since the Church of England’s response was to maintain that the succession of laying on of hands was unbroken and that the correct rite was used, Jonathan Pryke would, at least, appear to be a bishop according to the doctrine of the Church of England (a “bishop of God”). Ironically, like the CESA, the Roman Catholic Church is also a church whose orders are recognised by the Church of England but with which it is not in communion.

    As to motivation, I’m not sure the point was to consecrate a bishop for service “within” the Church of England but to make a canonically obedient bishop available so that Anglicans in England can form independent churches and maintain their commitment to episcopal oversight. The Bishop of Maidstone is only available to provide episcopal oversight to parishes which have passed the requisite PCC resolution. Where Anglicans who object to the oversight of a heterodox bishop are in a minority in their parish their only other option is to join a local free church which, usually, will reject any doctrine of episcopal oversight. It seems to me that this initiative is about making episcopal provision for these “Anglicans in exile”. I have no particular insight into this, it just seems to be the obvious reason for it.

  5. The Bishop of Newcastle has written to clergy and lay chairs (undated, received this week). The key paragraph reads:

    “I have now written to the minister in question to remind him that, while he remains a Clerk in Holy Orders in the Church of England, he has no authority to act as bishop, whether within the diocese of Newcastle or anywhere else. Having received legal advice, I have also issued him with a direction not to carry out ordinations or confirmations or to exercise any other episcopal function and I have sought assurances from him that he will not do so.”

    Presumably the advice to the bishop suggested that no substantive action could be taken on the act of his consecration alone.

    Perhaps Mr Pryke is a ‘sleeper’ bishop: in which case REACH-SA’s timing (and their apparent failure to inform GAFCON, AMiE and colleagues) was to establish themselves as the denominational fact-on-the-ground in anticipation of the carve-up of conservative evangelicals when schism does come.

    Perhaps Jesmond Parish Church also has canny ecclesiastical lawyers on call.

    • It seems to me that The Right Reverend Christine Hardman has the cannier lawyers; rather than becoming tied up in the legalities of past events, she has looked forwards and: i] made a strong statement about his lack of vires as a bishop, and ii] issued a direction not to carry out ordinations or confirmations or to exercise any other episcopal function; and iii] sought assurances that he will not do so. The onus has now been clearly placed upon Revd Mr Pryke to conform to the bishop’s requirements. Not to do so will run the risk of committing an “ecclesiastical offence”.

      • What ecclesiastical offence, though, David, will Pryke have committed if he acts as a bishop from REACH-SA or, more plausibly, as an episcopus vagans? He isn’t purporting to be a bishop in the C of E.

          • Thanks. My thought was that Mr Pryke had two identities, so to speak, his identity as presbyter in the C of E, in which context he swears obedience in ‘all things lawful and honest’ to his diocesan, and another identity as bishop in REACH-SA, or, more plausibly, as episcopus vagans, in which his diocesan oath would be inoperative. After all, a self-supporting minister with a secular job does not owe obedience to the diocesan bishop with respect to the secular job.

            My guess is that it might be thought conduct unbecoming a clerk in holy orders to moonlight as a bishop in a different context.

          • That’s my guess as well. I assume that a breach of one’s oath constitutes ‘conduct unbecoming’ – or what purpose does the oath serve?

        • I was intentionally non-committal about a specific ecclesiastical offence as it depends upon the subsequent action taken by the Revd Mr Pryke. On his “ordination” as bishop, it was the stated intention that “New Style bishops” would work within the Church of England. The Right Reverend Christine Hardman makes it clear that this is impossible for him or for any other “New Style bishops” as their ability to perform episcopal functions is not recognized. I would agree with Frank’s comments on canonical obedience, for whilst this is often difficult to pursue in clergy disciplinary proceedings, in this case the Bishop Christine has given specific directions to Mr Pryke.

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