Bishops Breaking Collegiality – What Could Cause the Rift?

Bishops breaking collegiality. You know what, Fulcrum are right – when they do it causes all sorts of problems if it’s not dealt with. It increases “levels of tension and disintegration”. Not convinced? Take a look at TEC.


I mean, what topic could possibly cause an Anglican bishop in, say, Australia or England, to break collegiality with other bishops in order to promote an increasingly controversial and divisive agenda? Hold your thought and come with me.

imageFirst, to Gippsland Diocese in Victoria, Australia where the December issue [scribd] of the Gippsland Anglican has a report on page 8 of a new clerical appointment. All seemingly innocuous until you check out the caption under the picture, “Reverend David Head with his partner, Mark”.

And there you have it, open endorsement in the diocesan newspaper. What readers may not realise is that the liberal agenda is not as advanced here in Australia as in the US. So this is still a big deal. What may simmer under the surface is often allowed to simmer, as long as it doesn’t boil over. But Bishop John McIntyre has never been one for not kicking up a fuss. And it appears here that someone has approved the agenda of openly promoting a clergyman living in a homosexual partnership. If not the bishop then someone on his staff. Either way, the implication is obvious.

This was a deliberate decision. Rev. Head was previously at Holy Trinity Hampton where his relationship was (as someone recently described it to me) considered an “open scandal”. Perhaps it all got too much, we don’t know and Melbourne is a whole other question – a diocese where the fight really is on between the evangelicals and the liberals. But Bishop McIntyre over the border in Gippsland has decided to make it an issue by appointing and publicly affirming him.

The Australian House of Bishops is about to meet in conference. You can be sure there will be a number for whom this appointment is unacceptable. One commentator told me that when the doors close on the meeting room it can get a bit fierce inside. I’m sure we can expect some free and frank discussions there.


Over in England the same game is being played. The freshly-minted bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, has come out in favour of gay marriage, contrary to the current position of the Church of England. And that right on the eve of General Synod – I mean, who would have thought? Of course, Changing Attitude are loving it, and who could blame them.

Well, surprise surprise, a man who we all knew what be controversial but nevertheless got appointed has now been controversial, to the extent of breaking ranks with his fellow bishops. Who could have predicted it?

Here’s what I’d like to know, what does his suffragen Graham Kings of Fulcrum fame think of it all? He was part of this response in 2005 which included a restatement of the traditional position and also critiqued exactly the sort of thing that Holtam has done,

One member of the House has already publicly broken with collegiality and distanced himself from the pastoral letter. Unless there remains a common commitment to church teaching and discipline within the House, there is a real risk that the levels of tension and disintegration witnessed in other provinces in relation to these issues could become a reality in the Church of England.

So I emailed his office and asked exactly that. I’ll let you know if we get a response.


Bishops breaking collegiality. You know what, Fulcrum are right – when they do it causes all sorts of problems if it’s not dealt with. It increases “levels of tension and disintegration”. Not convinced? Take a look at TEC. You won’t have to look very hard. And what ends up being compromised? Gospel witness and the proclamation of Christ. Go figure. Now that is worth kicking up a stink about. If everyone just stays in their dog collars and mitres as though nothing has changed then it would be a disaster – because it would mean that something has changed – this would now be acceptable.


UPDATE Sunday 12 February 2012

Bishop Kings has been kind enough to respond to my questions. Here’s what he had to say (my question in italics, his response in blockquotes)

Does Bishop Graham agree with the statements recently made by Bishop Nicholas Holtam on the subject of “gay marriage”?

No

Does Bishop Graham think that Bishop Nicholas’ statement is similar to those which were critiqued in the 2005 Fulcrum statement “Fulcrum Response to the Bishops’ Statement on the Civil Partnership Act 17 September 2005” (http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/news/2005/20050917cpa.cfm?doc=6) which contained the following:
One member of the House has already publicly broken with collegiality and distanced himself from the pastoral letter. Unless there remains a common commitment to church teaching and discipline within the House, there is a real risk that the levels of tension and disintegration witnessed in other provinces in relation to these issues could become a reality in the Church of England.

We are new colleagues but old friends. We are committed to working together creatively even when we disagree. The position of the House of Bishops and the Church of England remains unchanged.

Well there you have it. He doesn’t agree and he has no answer to the question as to whether Holtam has broken collegiality and increased tension and disintegration.

I feel for Graham Kings. My sense is that Holtam has put him in an almost impossible position.

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