Monday, 16 July 2007

Vicar of Dagenham issues statement on non-ordination of Chelmsford candidate

STATEMENT from Mike Reith, Vicar, Dagenham Parish Church

It is with great regret that we make it known that Richard Wood was not ordained Curate to Dagenham Parish Church on 1st July ’07 as planned.

Richard wanted to be ordained, and was willing to accept the legal authority of the Bishop of Chelmsford and swore canonical obedience to him during his ordination retreat.

However, because of the Bishop’s patronage of the campaigning group ‘Changing Attitude’ (an organisation that campaigns for the inclusion of practicing homosexuals in every area of church life), Richard was not able, on the grounds of conscience, to give assurances that he would personally receive communion with the Bishop after ordination. He was therefore told he was ‘free to go’ from the ordination retreat at 4:00 pm on the day before his ordination.

The Bishop of Chelmsford had earlier been asked by Mike Reith, on Richard’s behalf, to allow him to be ordained by another bishop. The Bishop declined that request.

The Bishop has promised to ordain Richard at the end of September if Richard changes his mind about receiving communion from him. Richard will be paid a Curate’s stipend until then.

The Diocese of Chelmsford has five other bishops, and Richard will gladly be ordained by and receive communion from any one of them. The Bishop therefore has the resources to resolve this issue, if there is a willingness to be flexible and to allow the ordination to proceed with a bishop who is not a supporter of ‘Changing Attitude’.

Given that Richard was recommended, fully trained, and allocated a church in which he was to serve his Curacy, it is hoped that he will be ordained soon. There is no reason why this ordination could not take place without Richard being required to go against his conscience.


Anonymous said...

Why not ask for a Flying Bishop to do the ordination? There are many high church clergy who have refused to be ordained by the Erastian diocesan bishop and have been instead ordained by a PEV.

Revd John P Richardson said...

The simple answer, as I understand it, is that the PEV (Flying Bishop) would be acting ultra vires if he cut across the authority of the diocesan 'Ordinary' (John Gladwin) to ordain Richard. Furthermore, whilst such an ordination would be valid it would not resolve the question of Richard's license to serve as a curate at Dagenham Parish Church.

However, since DPC is a 'Resolution C' parish, the PEV is involved, and in fact, with John Gladiwn's permission, gave Richard a 'commissioning charge' for his ministry at a service held at DPC on (I believe) Sunday 8th July.

The Area Bishop, David Hawkins, is also involved in ongoing conversations.

Anonymous said...

But the whole point of the PEVs is to provide for those who are in impaired communion with their diocesan bishop. Numerous clergy have been ordained by the PEVs, and since this is a "C" parish there is no reason why Mr Gladwin should not be asked to allow this man to be ordained by the Bishop of Richborough. If he refuses, then the parish should appeal to the Archbishop. The Pilling Report points out the discrimination which is taking place against Conservative Evangelicals and quotes the Act of Synod: which applies here.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Hi 'Anonymous'. I'm sure you will trust that every effort is being made to resolve this situation. There are, however, significant limitations on the scope of action of the PEV. Specifically, PEVs are only available to deal with issues arising from the ordination of women. They are not there to provide an 'alternative' to the diocesan in cases of dispute.

John Gladwin certainly could ask for Richard to be ordained by the PEV (Bp Keith Newton) or by the Area Bishop (David Hawkins). He could even ask retired, honorary, Bishop John Ball.

My guess is, however, he feels, that as the Diocesan bishop it is proper for him to carry out the initial ordination into the Church's ministry of those in his diocese. He would therefore be unwilling to take any of these other options.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that there are several other clergy in the diocese (myself included) whose sacramental fellowship with the Bishop has been 'in abeyance' since he signed the infamous 'Salisbury Letter' to The Times following the Primates' meeting at Dromantine. This also led to an invitation for him to visit Trinidad and Tobago being withdrawn.(Follow this link for details: h33p:// Replace h33p with http.)

Richard's decision has been made on different grounds, but falls into the same category. The problem is that the Prayer Book rubric requires that newly-ordained clergy receive communion with the ordaining bishop as part of the rite.

I'm sure, however, that it will all be sorted out in the end. Rather ironically, Richard's deadline is apparently the same as for the TEC's response to the Dar-es-Salam meeting - 30th September - which also happens to be 'Back to Church Sunday'. God clearly has a sense of humour.

Dominic Stockford said...

We could probably offer Richard a working post within the Evangelical Connexion of the Free Church of England, as well as ordination, if God chooses not to sort this nasty mess out. Feel free to come back to us!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine Gladwin placing such emphasis on any other rubric in the Edwardine Ordinal. And I don't suppose he planned to use the Ordinal on this or any other occasion!

Since the Bishop is clearly discriminating against Richard he should be the subject of a complaint under the discipline measure, especially now that Sir Joseph Pilling has put such discrimination on the record in a report which was approved at General Synod last weekend.

Revd John P Richardson said...

In fairness, Anonymous's first comments above ("I can't imagine Gladwin placing such emphasis on any other rubric in the Edwardine Ordinal. And I don't suppose he planned to use the Ordinal on this or any other occasion!") are conjecture.

I'm also not sure that the Pilling report has much bearing on this - though it has a great deal of significance with regard to issues of fairness and discrimination within the Church of England.

As to complaints under the clergy discipline measure, these are of very limited scope and specifically do not apply to matters of doctrine. I am not sure precisely what sort of complaint could be brought, except possibly 'Conduct unbecoming', which would probably be tenuous.

dave williams said...

This is very sad. Richard is a great guy and will be an assett to his church.

But there are a couple of things I don't understand

1. If Gladwin patrons the Changing Attitudes group and promotes homosexuality, should any Evangelical, or presumably ango-catholic clergyman submit to any aspect of his authority. Drawing the line at Communion seems a little far along!

Secondly, if he is a lay curate -what is the practical difference. I assume that it is around communion, marriages and funerals? How appalling that any man of God should be dependent upon another who may be ungodly or unbiblical for permission to carry out these God given ordinances.

Anonymous said...

It should not be difficult to establish when the old Ordinal was last used in Chelmsford diocese.

I would put the likelihood at just above zero percent.

If it's doctrine you want to pursue rather than misconduct, then the issue can be pursued using the 1963 legislation. All you need are some colleagues willing to take a stand and sign a complaint.

Revd John P Richardson said...

In the light of the Guardian headline, "Ordination spurned in gay row", the second paragraph of this statement has been amended to make it clear that Richard wished to be ordained (why else would he be on an ordination retreat?) and therefore did not 'spurn' ordination (nor did he 'spurn' communion, before anyone goes down that route).

Daniel Roe said...

'How appalling that any man of God should be dependent upon another who may be ungodly or unbiblical for permission to carry out these God given ordinances' [17 July 2007 13:18]
Nothing new there then - 1 Samuel 13:19-20: 'Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen envery man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock'
So if God calls and equips people, they have to get permission from someone, er, distinct from God to exercise their vocation
Exactly - God proposes but the Diocesan Director of Ordinands disposes - aye, and I wonder how many good people have been disposed of in the initial selection process
Sort of many are called but few are chosen
Got it in one - but take a gander at 1 Samuel 14:6-7 - God's solution
So all it takes is a few guys who are willing to depend on God and take it from there
Except that they need to be appalled - and I mean big time - at cases like Chelmsford, but at the whole situation - hey, how many bishops do you reckon are truly godly or biblical?
Put it this way - Matthew 7:20 - by their fruit
You mean the current state of the C of E
Even the most Reformed and Conservative of Evangelicals are quite happy to submit to liberal bishops, but to return to 1 Samuel 14:6-7, evangelicals aren't exactly 'few' - aye, and if you take into account financial clout - well put it this way, is it such a big deal for evangelicals to insist that the C of E is run according to biblical principles - I mean - c'mon, all they would be asking would be for the C of E to be run according to the its own rules
Like the 39 Articles?
Got it in one - but there's a catch - people aren't appalled - there they are in their godly and biblical parishes totally unconcerned about what's going on in the next door parish where some officially licensed dude is propagating error, ignorance and superstition - you know what - have you noticed that a lot of successful evangelical parishes draw people from outside the parish
Exactly - as you said - some officially licensed dude is propagating error, ignorance and superstition - and it's just not good enough
So if it ain't good enough for them, why should it be good enough for anyone else? Hey, let's forget the Bible and the 39 Articles for a moment - that's where evangelicals get it wrong - they imagine that the church is as it ought to be as opposed to what it really is
You mean the theory as opposed to the practice
Aye - and perhaps they ought to get out a bit more and see how it really is - I mean, by golly that'd really appall someof these guys - imagine of the C of E were defined not be the Articles but by, say, what every parish in your deanery had in common
Or your diocese
Aye - which is how it is - just go to any Archdeacons Visitation or Ordination - take a gander at the dressCode and the 'Eucharistic' prayer in the service book - take a gander at the diocesan newspaper - drop in on General Synod - tune into broadcast sermons and talks or visit websites - what are the agenda and prioirities of the Church
Right - how do they match up with the Bible
Got it in one - something to be really really appalled about

Charles Raven said...

Yes, exactly, we should be appalled. So what are we going to do?

Our actions, or lack of them, show that on the whole we are not appalled - or at least not for very long - and when we do act, it is usually to adopt short term ad hoc expedients.

In my view, things have gone so far that our response to the systemic failures of the Church of England must include the seeking of Alternative Episcopal Oversight from overseas. It is clear from their statements about Lambeth 2008 that Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda have lost confidence in the Archbishop of Canterbury and perhaps we need the humility to recognise that they might be seeing things more clearly than we who have grown so acclimatised to coexistence with a false gospel.

Peter Kirk said...

"I don't suppose he planned to use the Ordinal on this ... occasion" is not "conjecture". I was at the service at which Richard Wood was to be ordained, supporting another ordinand, and have a copy of the printed order of service, which includes Richard's name as one of the candidates. This had clearly been planned well before Richard withdrew. It states "The order of service for the Ordination of Deacons is from the new Common Worship Ordinal authorised by the General Synod in 2005. The service also uses Eucharistic Prayer B and other extracts from Common Worship Order One for the Celebration of the Eucharist." So not the Edwardine Ordinal.

Mike Reith and the Guardian both quote Article 26 of the 39. But the message of this Article is given in its title: "Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament". All ministers are unworthy, and Bishop Gladwin may be more unworthy than some, but the Article says that "we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving of the Sacraments". The Article goes on to say that evil ministers should deposed as part of the discipline of the church, the implication being that until this happens the sacraments should be received from them. So this Article cannot be used in support of the policy of refusing to take communion from Bishop Gladwin.

Revd John P Richardson said...


In response, I'm afraid you've rather misquoted me and, I think, misread the significance of the Articles.

First, on the matter of conjecture, what I wrote in a cautionary response to an earlier post was this, quoted Anonymous in full: "I can't imagine Gladwin placing such emphasis on any other rubric in the Edwardine Ordinal. And I don't suppose he planned to use the Ordinal on this or any other occasion!"

You've reduced it to this: "I don't suppose he planned to use the Ordinal on this ... occasion", which omits the conjectural points ("any other rubric ... any other occasion"). Sorry to be pedantic on this, but the point is important in terms of trying to 'police' posts which sometimes get out of hand.

Article XXVI seems to be causing some headaches, however, being seized on by many to say Richard acted wrongly.

The emphasis of the article is intended clearly to be permissive, not mandatory. One may use the ministry even of "evil ministers" because what they minister is, in itself, valid. But there is nothing to say one must. The Article is there to deal with the argument that one may not receive ministry from an unworthy minister, not to compel as if no choice were possible.

As to the rightness of Richard's choice, the question really is what else a person might do. JG has been approached on several occasions about his stance on human sexuality (see my own blog). In conscience, I cannot share communion with a church leader who says and does what he has said and done over several years. Fortunately, I don't have to. Unfortunately for Richard, he was put in a situation where it was his conscience or his career.

Peter Kirk said...

John, I did not misquote you, for I included "..." very deliberately. You claimed that "Anonymous's first comments above ... are conjecture." My point was that not all of this was conjecture, the part about this occasion was verifiably true.

As for the Article, I think you should realise that it was written in a historical situation in which church attendance was mandatory. I am sure part of the point of the Article was to deny any excuse to those who refused to participate because of the perceived ungodliness of their minister; their only recourse was to seek official church discipline for the ungodly person.

I am glad that nothing is mandatory now. But this Article gives no support to your tender conscience. If I took the same attitude as you, I would not be able to share communion with anyone, including myself, as none of us are worthy. But neither the Article nor Scripture gives any support for your attitude of refusing to take communion from those who have been lawfully put into authority over us.

Of course if you judge that the whole Church of England, or at least this whole Diocese, is apostate, you should leave it. But to remain within it and accept a stipend from it, and in Richard's case to seek ordination within it, while not recognising its proper authority sounds to me like trying to have your cake and eat it. You should accept the bishop's ministry with a whole heart or resign.

Peter Kirk, lay member of Meadgate Church, Great Baddow, Chelmsford (writing in a personal capacity)

Revd John P Richardson said...

Dear Peter, I think we should call it a draw on the issue of conjecture. My reason for drawing attention to that aspect of 'Anonymous's' post was that it implied something about John Gladwin which was not justified by the evidence. It may seem odd, but I was trying to protect his reputation!

As to the Article, the point is that people were trying to say it meant Richard ought to have taken communion, which I believe it does not. What it does say is that no one can refuse a ministry on the grounds that a person's lifestyle renders the Word of God or the Sacraments of the gospel ineffective. That was not, however, why Richard refused to share communion, and the Article therefore has little bearing on Richard's situation in this respect.

The Church of England, as far as I am concerned, is exactly 'what it says on the tin': the Church of England. There is no more reason to leave it because I believe it is mismanaged than to apply for citizenship of another country because I don't like Labour. It is my Church.

As it happens, I am a non-stipendiary minister, but again, I don't see that being in a dispute with a bishop is a reason not to receive a stipend, which, after all, comes from the Church, not the bishop. I am always amused by the enthusiasm, displayed on a number of blogs, with which traditionalist Christians are told to leave the Church whose teachings (including the 39 Articles) they generally support far more than does the average clergy person.

Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, John. I apologise for the wrong suggestion that you are benefiting financially - an important point of consistency because elsewhere I have criticised those who wrongly accused the Playfoot family of profiting from the rings, in the recent court case.

If Richard didn't refuse communion because of the bishop's lifestyle but because of his views, are you saying that he would have received communion from a bishop living an openly gay lifestyle, although not from one who merely teaches that this should be allowed? That seems almost hypocritical to me. But surely "evil" in the Article cannot be taken to apply only to lifestyle and not to wrong teaching.

I am working on a posting about this story on my own blog.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Dear Peter,

Obviously I have to be careful about attributing any view to Richard which he has not actually expressed himself, so I am cautious to respond about what Richard might have done.

Let me say for my own part, though, that an 'openly gay lifestyle' would be a problem, though emphatically not being 'openly gay'. I have known two clergymen in my lifetime who were gay, with whom I would have been happy (indeed would have felt privileged) to have been a curate.

The problem really is the teaching. But having said that, many of us in Chelmsford are prepared to grant considerable leeway even on that, for the sake of the peace of the Church. It is the patronage of Changing Attitude which has been felt to have a certain 'in your face' quality to it and has caused the greatest difficulty, as indicated on my Ugley Vicar blog.

Some may accuse us of inconsistency at this point, saying that if we don't like one thing we should treat all disagreements with the same rigour. My response is simply to ask, whether that is really what they want us to do. Do they really want us to cut no-one any slack? Perhaps we are at fault for not being more 'rigorous', but patience surely is, still, a virtue.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see my point confirmed, that the Edwardine Ordinal was not being planned for this occasion, and therefore the Bishop was and is not bound by any rubric in it. He is not bound by any rubric in the formularies, come to that: it is only a weak excuse for refusing ordination to this one candidate.

And as a matter of fact the Bishop does pay your stipend: he directs that it be paid by the Diocesan Board of Finance.

Ben Stevenson said...

Revd John P Richardson said: "The Church of England, as far as I am concerned, is exactly 'what it says on the tin': the Church of England. There is no more reason to leave it because I believe it is mismanaged than to apply for citizenship of another country because I don't like Labour. It is my Church."

Which church would you if you lived in Scotland, or the United States?

Are baptist churches in England actually churches? What about a presbyterian church "in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered" - is that a church?
And if baptists or presbyterians can be churches, then how can The Church of England be THE church?

Where is the Bible are groups of churches in a country given the name "church"?
The only way I can see the Bible using the term church is speaking of local congregations, and all Christians.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Hi Ben,

You've asked some good questions, and I will endeavour to answer them as straightforwardly as possible.

First, though, let me explain that when I say the Church of England is 'the' Church, I do not mean to exclude other churches, but (on the contrary) to deny it any 'exclusivity'. Stephen Neill puts it this way in his book Anglicanism:

"What are the special theological doctrines of the Church of England and of the Anglican Churches in fellowship with it?

The answer is that there are no special Anglican theological doctrines, there is no particular Anglican theology. The Church of England is the Catholic Church in England. It teaches all the doctrines of the Catholic Faith, as these are to be found in Holy Scripture, as they are summarized in the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, and set forth in the dogmatic decisions of the first four General Councils of the undivided Chruch. Firmly based on the Scriptures as containing all things necessary to salvation, it still throws out its challenge: 'Show us that there is anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture that we do not teach and we will teach it. Show us anything in our teaching or practice is clearly contrary to Holy Scripture, and we will abandon it.'" (Penguin Books,1965, p415)

Although this vision has never been fully achieved, that does not stop it being a noble aim and a standard by which to operate.

Importantly, it denies the notion, often floating around, that the Anglican church is defined by, for example, its particular doctrine of episcopacy or the sacraments.

Clearly, self-confessed Anglicans do differ from other denominations on these things, but in principle I believe we should accept Neill's challenge: show us that what we are teaching or doing is contrary to Scripture (not quite the same thing as 'not in Scripture') and we will abandon it.

This is a mighty challenge, but it prevents us from the sort of foolishness going around about Richard Wood's ordination which says, "If he doesn't like such-and-such he should join another denomination."

If Anglicanism is allowed to define itself as a denomination with 'special' doctrines, then what Richard has done may simply be stigmatized as un-Anglican. If, however, there are no special Anglican doctrines, and the Church of England is just 'the Church', then either Richard is wrong, in which case he should repent and change rather than take his error elsewhere, or others are wrong, in which case they, similarly, should repent and change.

Similarly, on this approach, those things which distinguish the Church of England from other branches of the Church ought to be based on one criterion only: that we are in England. This is the approach of the Prayer Book, which says, for example, in Article XXXIV, "It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly alike; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word."

According to the Prayer Book, it is being geographically English, not theologically 'Anglican', that means we sometimes do things differently.

If I lived in Scotland or the US, the ideal would to be able to say "I belong to the Church of Scotland or the Church of the United States." Certainly, according to the (true) Anglican understanding, if I lived in the US the Supreme Governor of the Church would be George Bush - something which I don't think the Episcopal Church there could quite get its head around at the moment.

I hope this explains why I am happy to see baptist and presbyterian churches as churches - or rather, as branches of 'the Church', just as I am a member of 'the Church' (of England).

As to why the Church of England puts an 'English' label on the Church, this arises from the understanding that the Church is ultimately under the temporal governance of the authorities instituted by God (Romans 13). Thus, in terms of governance, as Article XXXIV puts it, "Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying."

But as the Preface to the Prayer Book, Of Ceremonies: Why some be abolished and some retained puts it, "in these our doings we condemn no other Nations, nor prescribe any thing but to our own people only: For we think it convenient that every Country should use such Ceremonies as they shall think best to the setting forth of God’s honour and glory, and to the reducing of the people to a most perfect and godly living, without error or superstition; and that they should put away other things, which from time to time they perceive to be most abused, as in men’s ordinances it often chanceth diversely in divers countries." (Emphasis added.)

Sorry this is rather long - it is a big issue! Thank you, once again, for your questions.

Anonymous said...

Regrettably I'm also not sure Art 26 helps. My recollection of some of its historical background was that it reacted against the Lollard view that the unworthiness of a minister (as in hereticalness) did impact on the validity of the sacraments ministered by him. The point being made here is that God's sacraments depend on God's promise for their benefits, not on the purity of the earthen vessel involved in dispensing them. True receipt of gospel benefits depends on the relationship of the recipient with God, not on whether the minister is a heretic or not.

So oddly enough I have no problem with receiving communion from Gladwin. Rather I have issues with participating with him in communion since I have grave suspicions about whether we agree in what the gospel is.

Of course, this sorry mess arises because the CofE neglects the latter part of Art 26 in deposing those who teach lies.

In Christ,

John Foxe.

Anonymous said...

As a freind of john Gladwin he is not discrimative of any one and So nor should you be , So all you Ang,Cons go get a life ? Just remember whot jesus died for the forgivness fo sins all who discrimate you are sining aginst your fellow man or woman ETC ? Your Anna J Dixon ,go in peace ?

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