No more broad bishops in London

The Church of England has always prided itself on being a broad church. The Diocese of London has always been at the heart of that church (and my old home of Chelmsford was within it before 1846), and in recent years has become one of its success stories: from 2001 to 2008 church attendance there grew by 9.1%, compared with an average fall of 5.8% for the whole C of E. Part of the reason for that growth, I am sure, was that the diocese catered for the varied needs and preferences of churchgoers by providing a broad range of churches and services.

That breadth in the diocese was, perhaps accidentally, symbolised in the names of two of the suffragan bishops in the diocese: John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, and Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden. These two bishops with “broad” names also illustrated the breadth of the church: on the right, Broadhurst, who is also chairman of Forward in Faith, as a traditional Anglo-Catholic; and on the left, Broadbent as an evangelical who also calls himself a Christian Socialist.

But now the Diocese of London has lost both of its “broad” bishops in one month, and in doing so has abandoned its broad bent. (Has anyone else managed to get those two words into a sentence together? 😉 )

It was in October that Bishop Broadhurst became one of five Anglican bishops to announce that they would join the Roman Catholic Church and its new Ordinariate. This implied his resignation as Bishop of Fulham, but that was announced officially only in early November (effective from the end of December). A major reason for Broadhurst’s move seems to be his dissatisfaction over exactly how the Church of England plans to introduce women bishops.

Then this Tuesday the Bishop of London asked Bishop Broadbent “to withdraw from public ministry until further notice”, because of his comments on the forthcoming royal wedding, which I mentioned in a previous post.

Now personally I think that Broadhurst did the right thing, because the position he and his fellow “flying bishops” held in the Church of England was always untenable, and this was becoming all the more obvious as the church moved towards accepting women as bishops. On the other hand, I consider that Broadbent has been very badly treated – and I have joined a Facebook page to support him. I also read that former Archbishop Carey has supported Broadbent – this has not been noted as widely as it could because sadly the Murdoch group has chosen to hide content in The Times behind a subscription wall.

But my point in this post is not to debate the issues. Rather it is to note how symbolically the Diocese of London has lost both of its “broad” wings and as a result has become much narrower. Is this the way the Church of England is going? Now that the Anglo-Catholic troublemakers have been edged out, is the same to happen to evangelicals who rock the boat? While Broadbent has not opposed women bishops, he was “one of three serving bishops in the Church of England to refuse to attend the 2008 Lambeth Conference”. While that is not of course the immediate reason for his suspension, it would have been all the easier if he was already in disfavour in high places.

In April this year I reflected:

I think it was Wallace Benn who suggested that a wrong decision on [women as bishops] might lead to the Church of England losing both its evangelical and Anglo-Catholic wings. I couldn’t help thinking of the Church as an airliner in the air … The airliner has lost power … and is gradually losing height. If it wants to continue to fly it needs to restart its engines – and it can do that only by turning to God. But the worst decision it could make is to cut off both its wings. Without them it cannot even glide to a relatively soft crash landing; its only hope is to plunge straight to disaster. So please, Church, let’s avoid that, stop bickering about side issues, and look to God to regain the power to fly.

Well, the Church of England has already lost much of its “broad” right wing, with the departure of the “flying bishops” (who can no longer fly apart from the airliner!) and their supporters. Perhaps it could continue to fly on “a wing and a prayer”. But the worst thing it could do is to cut off its “broad” left wing for the sake of balance.

However, I write this as someone who has effectively jumped off the threatened left wing – that is, the Broadbent rather than the Broadhurst one. In September, when my wife and I moved to Warrington in the north of England, we started to attend Oasis church in the town, which is outside the Church of England and flying its own independent course. Perhaps as the Church of England pursues its relentless course towards a crash we should all be looking for other ways to keep aloft and moving closer to God.

A royal wedding and a glut of holidays

Breaking news:

Prince William and Kate Middleton will marry on Friday 29 April at Westminster Abbey …

Prime Minister David Cameron said it would be “a happy and momentous occasion” and would be marked by a public holiday.

Congratulations to William and Kate! They will have a lot to organise in just five months, as my bride and I discovered last year.

Now I don’t want to be at all negative about this happy occasion, or to get into the kind of trouble that Bishop Pete Broadbent got into for his critical comments about it (and which brought this blog a surge of hits because I have written about Broadbent on quite unrelated matters). I am sure that these young people know what they are letting themselves into. They have not rushed into anything, and I am confident that their marriage will last far longer than the ten seven years that the Bishop predicted – at least if the media are responsible and don’t dedicate themselves to tearing the couple apart.

But I do wonder if a public holiday is appropriate. If, as I assume, this is to be an addition to the already announced holidays for England and Wales, we will be enjoying four extra days off in less than two weeks, two successive four day weekends with only a three day week in between. That is even more time off than we get at Christmas and the New Year. Can our economy cope with more time off? Has proper account been taken of how this will disrupt all kinds of activities from education to refuse collection?

I expect that many people will take the chance to cross the Channel, not so much for Broadbent’s suggested “party in Calais for all good republicans who can’t stand the nauseating tosh that surrounds this event” as to find spring sunshine and stock up on cheap booze.

The Church of England upholds the uniqueness of Christ

After last week’s outbreak of unity, more good news from the Anglican churches. Some of you will think “Of course, this is what any church would do”. Others of you, the more cynical, might be amazed. But, as The Times, in an article by Ruth Gledhill (see also her blog post about the debate), and Thinking Anglicans report, the General Synod of the Church of England has today approved (by 283 votes to 8 with 10 abstentions) a private member’s motion on the uniqueness of Christ in multi-faith Britain.

In fact technically the motion, as printed in full by Thinking Anglicans, does not quite affirm the uniqueness of Christ, but it does “warmly welcome” a long paper by Martin Davie (I haven’t read it!) which concludes, very sensibly,

The Church of England, and Anglicans more generally, have also taken the traditional doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation as their basis for interfaith dialogue, holding that Jesus is the source of salvation for all people everywhere (whether they are yet aware of the fact or not), but also holding that Christians are called to be God’s instruments in bringing people to explicit faith in Christ and to membership of his Church.

So Ruth is justified in how she starts her article in The Times:

Anglicans were effectively mandated today by the Church of England to go out and convert Muslims and other non-Christian believers.

For decades, their fellow Christians have joked about Anglicans that it is unfair to say they believe in nothing. They believe in anything.

But in a move that led one bishop to condemn in anger the “evangelistic rants”, the Church of England yesterday put decades of liberal political correctness behind it.

(I note the confusion between “today” in the first paragraph and “yesterday” in the third, for the same event. Presumably this article is intended for Thursday’s paper, but the online version is dated Wednesday. The BBC is more careful in these matters in avoiding words like “today” and “yesterday” in its online news.)

Meanwhile Ruth, on her blog, notes that Facebook has penetrated further than ever before. She caught a bishop, Pete Broadbent who is well known to my readers here and has in fact been one himself, communicating with the Press apparently from the floor of the Synod during a debate. Now I wouldn’t dream of publishing comments on a Facebook friend’s status without permission from the commenter. Then I suppose if I was really concerned about the privacy of my comments I wouldn’t have any journalists as my friends. But as Dave Walker is my Facebook friend as well as Pete’s and Ruth’s I can confirm that Ruth has accurately quoted the episcopal comment:

Tee hee – surrender – resistance is futile…

Ruth asks:

Is it a scandal that a bishop is using Facebook while ostensibly listening to a serious synod debate on the place of Christ in the world today? Does anyone care?

I don’t! Perhaps the scandal is that I think this important enough even to mention in the same post as the uniqueness of Christ.

By the way, today the Synod also voted, by a clear margin well over the required 2/3 (despite Ruth’s miscalculations), to take the next step in the process towards allowing women bishops.

To conclude: I rejoice that the Church of England has taken such a clear stand on this important issue, reaffirming that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ.

Pete Broadbent lets off gay wedding vicar

Bishop Pete Broadbent, fresh from his fence-sitting over the Lambeth Conference and GAFCON, seems to have put this experience to good use. According to a blog post by Ruth Gledhill (see also her article in tomorrow’s The Times, thanks to John Richardson for the link), he has been left in charge of the Diocese of London while his boss, Bishop Richard Chartres, is on holiday. Among the responsibilities delegated to Broadbent was the poisoned chalice of dealing with Rev Martin Dudley who, in May, performed a high profile “gay wedding” of two Anglican priests, of which Ruth has now acquired some pictures (to see them clearly, click on the small versions in her post). And Broadbent seems to have used his skill to find a middle way through this situation, to avoid a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” choice.

This seems to be what happened: Dudley was persuaded to write in July a letter to Bishop Chartres, initially confidential, about the gay wedding ceremony. In this he wrote at length in support of his own position, but also the following:

I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media. I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service, …

and then referring to the directive from the Bishop which he had disobeyed:

I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships.

Now an uncharitable bishop might have considered this letter very far from an adequate response to the situation. Indeed, as Ruth notes,

Dudley is careful not to apologise for anything, in particular the service itself.

Chartres demanded Dudley’s permission to publish the letter, threatening further action if permission was not given. Broadbent, however, has shown extreme charity in calling it “the Rector’s full and frank apology”. He also writes:

Bishop Richard has considered the matter and has decided to accept the Rector’s apology in full. The matter is therefore now closed.

So, in Ruth’s words, Dudley

is to escape any form of discipline or reprimand.

And Broadbent has shown some episcopal wisdom, some Anglican compromise, and some Nelsonian turning of the blind eye to the actual contents of the letter, in allowing this senior priest to flout episcopal authority as well as God’s standards, refuse to apologise properly, and go unpunished. Perhaps by doing this he has avoided a damaging split in the diocese, which unlike the rest of the Church of England is experiencing consistent church growth. But is this God’s wisdom in such a situation?

Which bishops want women to join them?

Ruth Gledhill digresses from her Lambeth Diary to give the low-down on which bishops at last week’s General Synod voted for and against the motion on women bishops. This includes some minor surprises. I won’t repeat all the details, but I will give the votes of those bishops in the Church of England who I have been mentioning on this blog.

On “the Bishop of Winchester’s motion, including the reaffirmation of the Lambeth 1998 resolution that both sides in the argument on women priests and bishops are ‘loyal Anglicans’”, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, otherwise so far apart, were together among the 14 bishops who voted in favour. Among the 31 against this motion were Archbishop John Sentamu of York and bishops John Gladwin of Chelmsford, NT Wright of Durham and Pete Broadbent of Willesden. Ruth writes mischievously that

those who hold traditional views on ministry, men and women who believe implicitly in the Catholic faith contained in creeds and scripture, are now apparently not regarded as loyal Anglicans by two-thirds of the diocesan bishops of the Church of England present and voting at the Synod

– including Sentamu, Gladwin and Wright, also Broadbent who is not in fact “diocesan” but was included in this reckoning. So will Pete Broadbent, despite staying away from the Lambeth Conference, now be rejected by the conservatives? It will be interesting to see.

On the final motion, which I reported here, it seems that Archbishop Sentamu and bishops Gladwin and Broadbent were among 28 voting in favour, whereas 12 bishops including Nazir-Ali and Wright voted against, and Archbishop Williams abstained, alone – although at least four bishops seem to have absented themselves as 45 voted on several of the amendments. Well, at least I can agree with my own diocesan bishop on something. But there is surely something symbolically significant in the one who is supposed to be leading the Church of England choosing to abstain.

Bishop Broadbent to stay away from Lambeth

A few months ago I was writing a lot about the Lambeth Conference, and about the “alternative” GAFCON conference. Well, GAFCON is already here (but I have not yet kept up to date with reports from it), and Lambeth is coming up very soon.

One of the things which I did write was about Bishop Pete Broadbent of Willesden (still the only genuine Church of England bishop to comment on this blog):

I would be surprised if Broadbent stays away from Lambeth, although he might also attend GAFCON.

But now the Telegraph reports (thanks to the Church TImes blog for the link, also for linking to this blog on another matter) that Broadbent will be absent from Lambeth, along with Bishops Nazir-Ali and Benn whose absence has long been announced. This is confirmed in this Fulcrum forum thread, in a post written “Sunday 22 June 2008 – 03:41pm”, in which Graham Kings writes that Broadbent

is not going to make a public statement about his reasons for not going to Lambeth, which are complex.

This is of course clear confirmation that Broadbent is not going. On the same thread this morning, “Monday 23 June 2008 – 09:23am”, Broadbent himself gives a public statement, not “about his reasons for not going to Lambeth” but about his reasons for not making a public statement about his reasons. I don’t think that is being inconsistent, but I’m not sure. He writes:

1. Because there isn’t a party line. There is a conference. There are invitations. You can accept an invitation or decline it. It’s not a matter for third parties.

2. Because you may feel that explaining your reasons publicly would not be helpful to the conference host, whom you may not wish to undermine.

3. Becasue non-attendance is of course saving money, rather than expending it, and allows the Anglican Communion to spend more on cheese.

No wonder “Liddon” calls Broadbent “a politician”! But I have my own interesting points to make here:

  1. Broadbent apparently does not want to undermine Archbishop Rowan Williams, who he considers “a good man”.
  2. He is avoiding both conferences, saving money for both sets of organisers!
  3. Nevertheless he has his reasons for not attending, and explaining them publicly would not be helpful to Williams – which implies that the reasons are not purely personal.

One might wonder if Broadbent is trying to keep a foot in both camps, not upsetting his evangelical friends by attending Lambeth, but also not upsetting Williams and his associates by attending GAFCON or going public with any criticism. I don’t want to suggest that Broadbent’s position is anything less than honourable, but I do see it as a political decision, a compromise. Sadly the Anglican Communion has got into its current bad state because of a series of compromises. I don’t think it is helpful to anyone to continue to compromise.

Sitting on fences is uncomfortable, and remaining on this one will surely become even more so. Some time quite soon Bishop Broadbent will have to jump down on one side or the other.

Broadbent quiet on Lambeth and GAFCON

I just got back from a talk by Bishop Pete Broadbent of Willesden, as advertised here. This was an interesting talk on the subject “United We Stand”, a very positive one in fact but I wonder how realistic this positive attitude is.

In a previous post I pointed out that Broadbent was not among the 21 evangelical bishops in the Church of England who wrote to the Church of England Newspaper urging their fellow Anglican bishops around the world to attend the Lambeth Conference.

At this morning’s talk Broadbent declined to answer a question about whether he would attend the Lambeth conference, the Global Anglican Future conference (GAFCON), or both. He did mention that there were 35 evangelical bishops in the Church of England. Of these, 21 signed the letter to the Church of England Newspaper, and two, Nazir-Ali and Benn, are known to have rejected Lambeth in favour of GAFCON. This leaves 12, including Broadbent, who as far as I know have not made their position public. They are probably wise to do so. Nevertheless, given his general attitude I would be surprised if Broadbent stays away from Lambeth, although he might also attend GAFCON.

Where will the evangelical bishops' long route via Lambeth lead to?

21 evangelical bishops in the Church of England have written an open letter to the Church of England Newspaper urging their fellow Anglican bishops around the world to attend the Lambeth Conference. The signatories include NT Wright, Bishop of Durham, but not bishops Nazir-Ali of Rochester or Benn of Lewes – nor for that matter Broadbent of Willesden, as far as I know the only bishop so far to comment on this blog (but I have no idea of Broadbent’s position on this issue).

I have not actually seen the open letter, which is not in the CEN’s free online daily edition. But I have read the CEN report as republished by Anglican Mainstream and others, with extracts from the letter. In one of these the bishops write:

We urge you therefore to take the long route, waiting for God to work through the processes that are already in train and praying for him to work his purposes in us and through us together.

That is, they are asking their fellow conservatives in the worldwide Anglican communion to abandon their boycott, which they at least implicitly consider a short cut, and take a long route via the Lambeth Conference.

But the problem with taking long routes is that they don’t always lead to the intended destination. This one is at least starting off in what a direction which seems completely opposite to the one which the evangelical bishops want to go to. Continue reading

More from Broadbent on UCCF – Spring Harvest split

Bishop Pete Broadbent, Chairman of Spring Harvest, who commented on this blog a few days ago, has had more to say about the split between Spring Harvest and UCCF in this discussion forum, where he goes by the name “pete173” – two posts on the first page, one on the third, several short ones on the fourth.

Continue reading

Steve Chalke, Spring Harvest, UCCF and the Atonement

Adrian Warnock seems to have scooped the interesting news that Spring Harvest is breaking its partnership with UCCF (the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) and the Keswick Convention because they cannot agree about Steve Chalke and what he wrote about the atonement. Dave Warnock, no relation, seems to consider this totally bad news. But in my first comment on Adrian’s post, I actually welcomed this split. So, what is happening here?

Continue reading