Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle

Pausing just for a moment to remember Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle who died just over a week ago. He was a dedicated member of the Scottish Episcopal Church. [Indeed, he might even have been one of the 100 or so True Scottish Episcopalians that only exist at any one time].

I remember Lord Jauncey’s finest hour, in a synod in the Diocese of St Andrews, when he as Chancellor of the Diocese, asked the assembled company, with a passion which caused his voice to tremble, “But what, can anyone tell me, is a congregation, if it is not an unincorporated association?”

This was in the early days of the Episcopal Church’s recent inability to define what a congregation really is, who runs it and who is a member of it.

Less interestingly, Lord Jauncey represented the Duchess of Argyll in the headless man case and was one of the judges who was involved in the infamous Spanner judgement.

The Spanner Case deserves to be studied in ethics classes. Perhaps it is. It was ethics that I was really interested in when I was studying Divinity. If we thought more about how we decide what it is acceptable to do, then the church would be a much calmer place. (Which reminds me, I must do my All you need to know about Christian Ethics in 6 Cartoons gig again sometime).

The essence of the Spanner Case, as I understand it, is whether you can give consent to something which harms you, in a culture which is moving towards regarding the prevention of harm as its central ethic. It is a really interesting question. At first sight, the judgement always seemed illiberal to me, but it is an incredibly difficult ethical question to get your head around.

Anyway, after all he saw and participated in during his time in the legal and ecclesiastical worlds, Lord Jauncey deserves to rest in peace. And rise in glory.


  1. Wasn’t he also the judge who found in favour of the Dean of Westminster and against the organist Martin Nearey?

  2. kelvin says

    That’s the one.

  3. For a small church, there are lots of interesting people, aren’t there?

    I didn’t know the Spanner Case (it was my first full year in Britain, and I was still trying to convince myself that St Andrews was real).

    It seems to me that any possible illiberality in the verdict is needed to protect those for whom S & M is just another form of abuse. In other words, people may well consent to something through habit or fear that is nonetheless dangerous or damaging. Consenting to abuse should not make it legal and does not make it right.

    But the case does raise interesting questions for church teaching and discipline. I can remember a number of conversations a few years ago in which church people were debating whether S &M was ever acceptable. (I don’t think it is, though that is not terribly important here.) In all of those conversations, I never heard anyone point out the implications of the Spanner Case. Wouldn’t that be a messy quagmire for the church to find itself in unexpectedly.

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