Thursday, 22 May 2008

Richard Wood: Not gone and not forgotten

It is now almost a year since Richard Wood, having been accepted for ordination by the Church of England’s advisory panel and completed his training, was refused ordination at the last minute by the Bishop of Chelmsford.

Richard had felt for a long while that he did not wish, in good conscience, to be ordained by a bishop who was patron of an organization, Changing Attitude, opposed to biblical teaching on homosexuality and campaigning to overthrow the Church’s teaching both here and abroad. The nature and extent of Changing Attitude’s commitment may be judged from their website and from their intention to have a major presence at the Lambeth Conference.

The Bishop had been advised of this difficulty well in advance by Richard’s training-incumbent-to-be and various solutions had been sought. All of these were refused, and in the end Richard decided, after a protracted personal struggle, that although he would take the oath of canonical obedience to the Bishop and accept ordination at his hands, he could not receive holy communion with him — a position held on much the same issue by a number of clergy in the same diocese. Having informed the Bishop’s chaplain of this decision at the ordination retreat, Richard was then told to go home.

Richard has, however, been employed to work in a pastoral capacity at Dagenham Parish Church, thanks to generous giving by a number of people. Indeed, it has been quite a good year for him. He has become engaged and is due to be married in November. Nevertheless, his actual ordination remains ‘on hold’, despite continuing efforts to overcome the impasse which have drawn attention from the highest levels in the Church.

Earlier this year, however, the Bishop of Chelmsford delegated the ordination of a deacon at another parish in the diocese, where similar difficulties had been raised, to the Bishop of Barking. That ordination took place on May 1st. This obviously indicates that a solution can be found, and there are signs that Richard’s long wait may be coming to an end.

Meanwhile, though, the Bishop’s personal commitments remain unaltered. At a recent Synod for all the clergy held in the Cathedral, the reader of the first lesson in the opening worship was the diocesan coordinator of Changing Attitude. In the language of Church politics, the lesson of the subtext was also clear to those with ears to hear.

Revd John P Richardson
22 May 2008

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