Unpopular things that I think and say #3

I don’t think the current process of electing a new Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway has been conducted Canonically.

I’ve said this before, and it remains my view. The Bishops of our church in proclaiming the moratorium (which amounts to a ban on some gay clergy from being nominated) have tried to change the way in which bishops are elected without the authority of General Synod backing. They have effectively amended Canon 4 by decree.

There are a number of consequences to this.

Firstly, the authority of the Episcopate in our church is in danger of being undermined.

Secondly, the process itself has been undermined. (I’d say we spent more time at the first Electoral Synod meeting discussing the effect of the moratorium on the process than discussing the needs of the Diocese. That in itself must have made it harder for the preparatory committee to match candidates to what is needed).

Thirdly, there are consequent risks to our charitable status as a church, if there is outside influence (ie from Lambeth Palace, the Church of Nigeria, or anywhere else in the Communion) on how our leaders are chosen. It is, after all, a departure from due process in how our legal trustees are appointed.


  1. we have very nicely tied ourselves in knots over the moratoria — which have never been maintained around the communion, which I don’t think ever could have (or should have) worked, and which cause further division as some people say ‘we can’t possibly apply these’ and others say ‘we hate this but we must.’

    I used to think we had no choice — that when the covenant came, we would have to sign; that when the moratoria were given, we had to comply. But now, I cannot see any good coming from trying to ‘buy time’ with these things. We need to hold to the things we believe are true and get on with it — and yes, that will mean we have to go through the pain of naming what we believe is true, and some of us will find ourselves on the ‘wrong’ side of it.

    Almost all of us have become complicit in the discrimination by our silence, as a voice cries in the wilderness.

    I’m sorry. We have left you alone in this too often.

  2. David Bayne says

    Hi Kelvin,

    This is important enough to end my self-imposed period of gracious restraint in commenting on blogs.

    You may recall that, at the Preliminary Meeting of Synod, I made the point that neither General Synod nor G&G’s Synod had been consulted or invited to participate in the moratoria – that participation had been the decision of the College of Bishops alone. I did so, partly because I wanted to strangle at birth the notion that “the SEC” had signed up, but principally to try to ensure that no-one (other than, presumably, a Bishop) should feel constrained in making a nomination.

    BUT, under Canon 4.10, the College of Bishops has an absolute veto on any nominee, and for any reason: “…any person who is not agreed as acceptable by the College of Bishops may not be included in the list of names of candidates.” The names of rejected nominees and the reasons for their rejection remain confidential to the College. The Bishops evidently felt that, having signed up to the moratoria, they were obliged to declare in advance that no partnered gay Priest would be an acceptable nominee under Canon 4.10. That is their privilege – though I can’t imagine it was a comfortable decision for them.

    I don’t believe, therefore, that the process itself has been corrupted in the way you suggest, and I do urge you (as a fellow-sufferer from outbreaks of inconvenient candour) not to pursue the idea that the election is somehow unsafe. That’s wrong in principle and may prove horribly counter-productive in practice.


  3. David | Dah•veed says

    It is sad Father Kelvin that this topic appears to be a bit to toxic and your usual participants have scattered in fear of being associated with this particular conversation.

    As well, Mr. Bain’s last paragraph appears ominously to be a warning against dire consequences for you personally.

    It is too bad that this Scottish House of Bishops is not ready to stand on its own over against Lambeth Palace as did the bishops of Scotland in 1874.

  4. Thanks to both Davids for commenting.

    I’m aware or course of Canon 4.10 and am supportive of it. The trouble is, there is a huge difference between the bishops meeting to consider a list of names and deciding that someone is unsuitable and declaring that there is a new class of priests who are somehow unsuitable for the Episcopate and who cannot be so considered.

    There is also the business of Canon 4.33 which does seem to rule out litmus tests for the Episcopate. “No promises, either written or spoken, other than the subscriptions prescribed in Canon 12 shall be required from of given by any person as a condition of proposal as candidate for the bishopric or election as Bishop.”

    I know both how horrible and how inconvenient it is for me to say this, but that does matter and has the same authority as Canon 4.10.

    I think that the effect of creating second class priests (when we had not long since made a decision that it was wrong to treat priests who are women in that way) is of greater and more lasting significance than this single election.

    What has been done is wrong.

    It feels utterly miserable to have to say these things.

  5. Elizabeth says

    I am very much in agreement with Kimberly and and Kelvin on this issues. I think the point about a class of persons being excluded is very important and, yes, I agree, a dangerous precedent. It’s deeply distressing to know that this is happening, but as a lay person who has very little involvment in the election process I am very grateful to hear more about it, distressing as it may be. These may be unpopular sayings, but they need to be said. And heard.

  6. Thanks Elizabeth.

    One of the things that I’ve realised recently is that there are a lot of people in our church and in this diocese who don’t know that this ban has been put in place.

    I’ve spoken to a number of people who are utterly horrified to discover what our bishops have done and find it difficult to believe.

  7. David Bayne says

    To Kelvin:
    Your point about Canon 4.33 sent me scurrying back to the Code for another look – and I really don’t think it bears significantly on the Bishops’ rights under 4.10. That doesn’t make the actual decision any less unjust or distasteful, but it is canonically defensible and doesn’t damage the election process. Your later observation, about the Bishops’ decision to sign up to the moratoria being generally unknown, is well-made.

    To David:
    Kelvin and I have been fellow-members of the Cathedral Chapter long-enough for him to know (I hope) both that I am generally supportive of his ministry and that I don’t operate by implicit threat. I was contemplating the potential for a protracted row at the Electoral Synod, for postponement, litigation, the possibility of a voided election, more litigation, another election, and a Diocese left divided and soured with its new Bishop (poor soul!) in a next-to-impossible position. That’s why I was urging no further challenge to the process. There’s quite enough genuine injustice about without seeing a threat where none was intended. And thank you for correcting the spelling of my name – it seems I’ve been getting it wrong for decades.

  8. David | Dah•veed says

    My apologies Mr. Bayne, I got myself in a preview situation with my post where I could not see the other comments and see my error with your surname. English, and its spelling idiocyncricies, are not my first language.

  9. David | Dah•veed says

    Woops, there is another one!

  10. David Bayne says

    Thanks, David. Any suggestion that I’m getting a little crotchety in my old age is………probably quite justified. (That’s crotchety as in “grumpy” – nothing to do with Kelvin’s knitting.)

  11. Kelvin says

    Thanks David

    Again, I can only say that I am supportive of Canon 4.10. (How could I not be, we all make promises to work under the Canons?).

    However, for 4.10 to work, people have to be nominated. I still maintain that there is the world of difference between the bishops meeting, considering actual names, presumably having to actually vote, having their decisions to be recorded in a set of minutes and the arbitrary declaration that some people simply need not apply.

    Questions were raised at the last meeting which have not found answers yet.

    Is this legal? Who can know without the ghastly prospect of making a challenge through court or tribunal. Will the Bishops publish the legal advice which Bishop David told us they had received? No, he has refused to do so. Is it right? Well, I don’t think so, and I don’t really feel any way of finding it in myself to suddenly say that it is.

    Is this a moratorium against gay clergy or only against out gay clergy? Is it against clergy in Civil Partnerships (with or without sex) or is it against all same-sex relationships? Do you become less acceptable for Episcopal office the more publicly your relationship has been blessed?

    Most of these questions were raised at the first meeting of the Electoral Synod and they still urgently need to be answered.

    I agree that the prospects of a diocese divided and a new bishop in a next to impossible position are grim. However, I think we are pretty close to that position now.

    If we don’t all agree at this stage of the process that it has been conducted fairly and in accordance with the Canons of our church, then already something is far wrong.

    Just for the record, David, what do you think Canon 4.33 is about if it is not about ensuring that clergy cannot be deemed ineligible to be nominated for any reason other than an inability to make the canonical assents?

  12. Elizabeth says

    It seems to me that the issue of Canon Law (nevermind the particulars of the current G and G election process, i.e. spending more time on discussion of moratoria than on the needs of the Diocese seems unfair to the preparatory committee, as Kelvin indicated) turns on the relationship of Canon 4.10 and 4.33. Now I know very little about Canon Law, but I’m will to hazard that one Canon can’t trump another and that therefore Canon 4.33 *requires* that Canon 4.10 be interpreted to apply to particular individuals on a submitted list, rather than determining that a whole set of priests is unsuitable a priori. The latter interpretation would mean that Canon 4.10 and Canon 4.33 were in conflict, while the former wouldn’t.

    And David B’s picture of the potential consequences is indeed dismaying, but that seems to me to be the responsibility of the College of Bishops as a consequence of signing up to the moratoria and imposing a ban, not of Kelvin for pointing it out.

    • Thanks Elizabeth

      Just in case anyone wants to read Canon 4 for themselves, I’ve put a copy online here.

      I’d welcome anyone’s views on what 4.33 means. My guess is that it is not there for equal opportunities purposes but was probably inserted to ensure that no-one could be excluded from the process because of either their churchmanship or their view on the ordination of women. However, I’d be very interested to hear from anyone involved in drafting it what they thought it meant.

      The fact is, the way it is drafted, it still seems to me to mitigate against there developing any class of priest in this church which is ineligable for nomination.

      The sections that we have been discussing above are:
      Prior to the meeting of the Preparatory Committee at which the list of names of
      candidates is agreed, the College of Bishops shall have been consulted. The name
      of any person who is not agreed as acceptable by the College of Bishops may not
      be included in the list of names of candidates. The reasons for such decisions
      shall be recorded in the minutes of the College of Bishops, which minutes shall be
      confidential. Such members of the Preparatory Committee as are bishops shall be
      charged by the College of Bishops with informing the Preparatory Committee of
      the unacceptability of any proposed candidate. The appearance of any name on
      the list of names of candidates shall be regarded as evidence that that name is
      acceptable to the College of Bishops.

      No promises, either written or spoken, other than the subscriptions prescribed in
      Canon 12 shall be required from or given by any person as a condition of proposal
      as candidate for the bishopric or election as Bishop.

      No person who has been proposed as candidate for the bishopric shall make any
      public statement, spoken or written, relating to that candidacy or to the
      proceedings of the election other than as provided in these Canons.

  13. Elizabeth says

    Sorry Kelvin, I posted my comment before seeing yours and you have (far more eloquently) anticipated my point here. However, as Kimberly points out, numerous voices may be no bad thing on this matter.

  14. Rosemary Hannah says

    I think Elizabeth’s comment that the responsibility lies with the body signing the moratoria is a good one. The moral responsibility must. But while not wanting to seem in any way to drag my heels over issues like this, I don’t have even a good working lay knowledge of law.

    Morally, and I can only speak morally, it seems disgraceful that the SEC is acting against the consciences of so many in it. Or rather, that is is denying those who are elected as our representatives the right to act in line with the judgements and values they are there to exercise. It does make a nonsense of the whole matter of election, doesn’t it?

    Forgive my ignorance – given that bishops change regularly, how long do agreements signed by other bishops of the same church bind their successors? It is like the good ship Argos – not a plank of the original remained, but it was still the same ship. I would feel quite differently I think, if I thought our hierarchy were in a horrible bind they had not created, to how I would feel were they wilfully choosing a fundamentally unjust path.

    • Thanks Rosemary.

      The moratorium dates from March last year and all the current bishops were members of the College of Bishops when it was put in place. It is a deliberately and wilfully chosen path and could be removed by tomorrow if the bishops agreed amongst themselves to remove it.

      Having said that, I do acknowledge that the Bishops might well feel as though they are in a horrible bind. They presumably feel that they must be loyal to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for the moratorium.

  15. I want to pick up on the point that David B made in his first comment — distinguishing between what the bishops had decided, and what the diocese should feel beholden to in making nominations.

    I was quite taken with the idea that one way to respond to the current situation was for people nominating candidates to totally disregard the moratoria, and nominate any person they believed fit for the job: gay or straight, partnered or single, male or female…

    It’s tempting. And I rather like the idea of a nominating committee being awash with diverse candidates, including those who challenge the moratoria.

    The problem is that to seek such a course of action asks an almost unimaginable sacrifice of a person who is gay and with a partner (or gay and hoping one day to be with a partner) because the candidate has to give their consent to the process — has to say they are willing to stand.

    This means that they not only willing become a test case, but they do so in defiance of the bishops’ instructions. That means they are perceived to be ‘in for a fight’ which is quite a different thing to allowing your name to go forward on equal footing with other candidates.

    I suspect that to consent to stand under those circumstances would not only bring pain in the short term (through the process, and through the upsetting effect on the person’s existing congregation) but would jeopardize any future call the the episcopacy when/ if the moratoria have been abandoned.

    I can’t imagine asking anyone to bear that cost, just to show that the diocese if free to nominate whom they like.

    We are all bound by the effect of the bishops accepting the moratoria, even if there are technical loop holes.

    Having said all that — I want to echo Kelvin’s last paragraph. It can’t be easy to be a bishop right now and have to find a way through the mire.

  16. Rosemary Hannah says

    I think there are times when one must be cautious of people – not encourage them to make too big a sacrifice.

    It may well be that the whole matter of the so-called Covenant may simplify or in some way resolve matters. I hope and trust that it falls totally, but if the C of E does sign it (and more conformist friends south of the border seem worryingly positive about it) I trust that at least the SEC will not sign, which may free the bishops. But they must also hear conservative voices in our own church.

    My generation were reared to see any kind of split or schism in the church as the most terrible betrayal of Christ. I am very grateful I am not a bishop. If I were, however, I would go and read prophets and the gospels, and take heart from all those troublers of Israel.

  17. David Bayne says

    I haven’t been in hiding from the discussion of the past 24 hours. Given the current freeze-up, I decided it was prudent to drive the 100 miles to Glasgow yesterday to be sure of getting to today’s Synod, and have been out of blogshot.

    A reliance on 4.33 as a kind of counter-balance to 4.10 genuinely baffles me. As helpfully detailed above, 4.33 consists of only 2 sentences: the second is a fairly standard, and, I’d have thought, sensible gag on candidates speaking in public about the election; the first tries to ensure that potential nominees are not in any way beholden to their proposers. Neither seems to me to bear in any way upon a partnered gay priest’s right to be nominated or upon the College of Bishops’ right to reject the candidacy of that person or any other, under 4.10. Am I misreading something?

    I’m not sure, either, that I buy a distinction in kind between vetoing an individual and vetoing a group whose members could only be nominated as individuals. The College’s right is unqualified. My objection would be to a conclusion that, the Bishops having chosen to exercise their veto, “the SEC has banned partnered gay clergy from standing for Bishop”. No, it has not – although (to echo Kimberly) it’s difficult to imagine why anyone in their right mind might allow themselves to be tortured in such a way.

  18. I think it is very similar to the difference between someone who happens to be black being deemed unsuitable for a particular role or post and saying no-one who is black will ever succeed in a selection process.

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