Will Gene perform Hocus Pocus?

As I’m sure you’re all aware, over two months ago Rowan Williams wrote to Gene Robinson, refusing to grant him the right to preach or preside at the Eucharist whilst he was over here in Blighty during the Lambeth Conference. Having already completely ignored the prohibition on preaching last night at St Mary’s Putney, now it looks as though he might be getting ready to go one better.

On the 20th of July (this coming Sunday) at 14:30 he will be attending a picnic outside St Stephen’s Church, Canterbury which is billed as "Eucharist". The Rector of St Stephen’s, Justin Lewis-Anthony, is operating as chaplain to the Inclusive Church / Changing Attitude / Integrity team of volunteers for the Lambeth Conference. I was intrigued as to who was going to be presiding at this event so I batted this email off to Changing Attitude:

Who will be presiding at the Eucharist on the 20th?


Short, sharp and to the point. I was expecting an answer on the lines of "That’ll be Justin seeing as it’s his parish" (which would seem reasonable), but the response was different:

Hi Peter

Hope you will be able to join with many other loyal orthodox Anglicans from many provinces as we break bread together and pray for the Bishops as they meet in conference.


Brenda Harrison
Hon Administrator
Changing Attitude

OK, I admit that there are times when I myself am busy and don’t read emails properly, so I thought I’d give Brenda the benefit of the doubt:

I don’t believe you answered my question, so let me ask it again.

Who will be presiding at the Eucharist on the 20th?


It’s a simple question isn’t it? All Brenda has to do is to either give me a name or tell me to take a running jump (both of which are, I guess, reasonable things to do). Hmmmmm….

Hi Peter

I didn’t answer your question, which strikes me as disingenuous. What is your real question?

Our hope that you will join us in celebrating our Lord’s Supper remains. The table is God’s not ours, all are welcome.



lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.

Now I’m really not sure that I fit into any of those brackets. I’m being absolutely frank about what I want to know (who is presiding), there is no lack of candor as I’m being totally open and I really am sincere in wanting to know who will be saying the magic words. I mean, that’s the reason I asked her. I could have pretended to be a journalist or used another email address so she wouldn’t realise it was me asking (Changing Attitude love me…) but I didn’t. I just came out and asked a straightforward question.

Shall we have yet one more go? No pretence, no messing about, let’s just get a straight answer.

My real question is simply who is planned to preside at the Eucharist? I don’t believe that’s disingenuous in the slightest. The picnic is organised by Changing Attitude and within the Parish of St Stephen’s Canterbury, so whoever is presiding at an Anglican service will need to have been given permission by the Rector of the parish and, by extension, the diocesan.

If you simply don’t want to tell me then say so.


Y’see, you don’t even need to tell me Brenda. I’m asking you a simple straightforward question – just give me a simple straightforward answer. In fact, if you want to tell me to go mind my own, then just do so. I won’t mind – I’ve told you so.

What’s the big secret?

The picnic and Eucharist is organised by Changing Attitude and Integrity USA. All due permissions have of course been sought and granted – I assume that was your real question?

Er no. My real question was, "Who’s going to preside at the Eucharist"? That’s why I asked you "Who’s going to preside at the Eucharist". But that issue of permissions is interesting.

But hey, we’re dealing with people who are inclusive and loving and forgiving and just want to talk and listen, so in the spirit of unity, let’s have one more go.

OK Brenda, I’ll try gracefully one more time. Are you able to tell me who is going to preside at the Eucharist on the 20th of July? If you don’t want to tell me then simply say so, but please let’s not beat around the bush like this.

I guess I will have to take a non-answer as a refusal to tell me.

And the response?

Hi Peter

We are not publicising names of participants in the Eucharist service – we want folk to join with us in worship and prayer, not focus on personalities.

I don’t really understand why you want to know who is presiding – as an evangelical Christian I have never put great store by the identity of the President at communion. It’s enough that we recognise each other in the body of Christ broken for us.

I do hope you will be among the worshippers on Sunday as we pray for our Bishops.

It’s very simple Brenda. I want to know who’s presiding because I’m curious. Precociously indeed you might argue.

By the way, and bringing up that permissions thing you spoke about, I have it on the highest authority that the Changing Attitudes team have had it spelt out to them in no uncertain detail what the implications are if Mr Robinson as much as waves a finger towards anything vaguely resembling the elements.

So obviously Gene won’t be presiding.

And that’s obviously why it was so easy for Changing Attitude to simply say to me "Don’t worry, Gene won’t be presiding".


99 Comments on “Will Gene perform Hocus Pocus?

  1. So let’s sum up what Colin is saying:

    “Peter is horrid and wicked and evil and has maliciousness and has deception at his heart – but we’re still not going to say who we have planned to preside at a public service of Holy Communion on Sunday”.

    Your Ad hominem is brilliant Colin. Shame you haven’t even begun to answer the real issue at hand – who will be presiding at the Eucharist.

  2. The issue is very simple Jonathan. Gene Robinson does not have a licence to officiate here in England. Were he to even con-celebrate he would be ignoring the specific implicit refusal to allow him to officiate at a communion here in the Province of Canterbury.

  3. This is getting ridiculous. Can’t you guys (Colin or Brenda) answer a simple question? What do you have to hide?

  4. Peter
    That would be true if it were an authorised service in an authorised building. I suspect a picnic organised by an interest group does not count.
    If you recall, Gafcon were specifically asked, by the Bishop of Jerusalem, not to meet in Jeruslaem. Did they pay any attention to the request or not?

  5. Why is it necessary to have a licence to preside over communion in a different country to your own? Seems a little bureaucratic, don’t you think?

  6. Paul,

    It’s an Anglican service taking place within the parish boundaries. That makes it an official service under the same discipline as one inside the building.

    A Church of England incumbent is responsible to the Bishop of the Diocese for all the Church of England things that happen within his parish, because the Bishop authorises all ministry within his diocese. He (the Bishop) is ultimately responsible for all the ministry within his See, preaching, presiding and everything else.

  7. Jonathan

    1. Something that creates bureaucracy is not necessarily bad of itself. Presiding at communion requires ordination as priest under canon law. It seems very straightforward to me that we need to have confidence in a person’s orders before we allow them to celebrate in our church. Checking that a person has been validly ordained necessitates bureaucracy.

    2. Regardless of what you think, that is the canon law and priests in the Church of England have declared that they will “pay true and canonical obedience” to their Bishop. If you think they shouldn’t, please let us know.

    Under Canon C8 paragraph 5, a minister who has been ordained priest or deacon by an overseas bishop within the meaning of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 may not minister in the province of Canterbury or York without the permission of the archbishop of the province in question under the said Measure.

    Of course we don’t yet know WHO is to preside at Changing Attitude’s picnic service. If, however, that person is someone who does not have the permission of the archbishop of the province of Canterbury then it is quite obvious what the objection is.

    Canon C8 clearly says that a minister “may officiate in any place” only after he has received authority to do so from the bishop of the diocese or other the Ordinary of the place.
    I don’t see any restrictions to a building. Do you?
    If you think upholding canon is being pharsaical then do you denounce those who have made declarations of assent thereo? Please do so

    Perhaps I can ask an albeit more complex question which doesn’t require us to know the precise identity of the celebrant?

    Can Changing Attitude confirm that any person who
    (1) will preside at any Eucharist outside St Stephen’s church, Canterbury on 20th July; and
    (2) has been ordained priest by an overseas bishop within the meaning of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967;
    has the permission of the Archibishop of Canterbury to minister in the province of Canterbury?

  8. Gregory-

    “It seems very straightforward to me that we need to have confidence in a person’s orders before we allow them to celebrate in our church. Checking that a person has been validly ordained necessitates bureaucracy”

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that Gene Robinson, for instance, has been validly ordained as a bishop. That is, after all, what the whole fuss is about. To me it does seem rather against the spirit of inclusiveness to say that those that can preside over the Eucharist should be restricted simply because of their nationality- seems a little unChristian. Of course, fi the issue is that it is be cause Robinson is gay, then that’s a whole different story.

  9. Colin and Brenda,

    I would agree with you that many of the things Peter Ould has said (and many of us on both sides) in this thread and the opening post is not ideal, and I for one would like to apologise if anything I have said has caused offense or been less than constructive.
    However Peter’s original question, of who will be presiding, is a fair one. If CA had simply been straight with Peter from the start, or perhaps told Peter where and when that information would be published (provided you were planning on publishing it) then he wouldn’t have felt the need to keep asking over and over and you could have saved yourself a lot of hassle. I can see that their might be a political disadvantage in giving out the information – if it is +Gene (Rt Rev’d isn’t often used for any Bishops on the interweb) presiding then obviously that will cause quite a stir, but it’s going to come out anyway after the event, and if it isn’t +Gene then the fact that it isn’t will be amplified and it could be painful for those involved. These are important considerations, but surely we should be living in the light and doing all things in the light? Clearly this doesn’t mean honesty with everyone about everything but when it refers to something as public and important as a Eucharist then I think it does. You have said that you have been open about the Eucharist with those for whom that openness is appropriate, and surely that includes all who have been invited, Peter O being one of that number (unless you are going to copy GAFCON and have a banned list!). If it is an open Eucharist service those who have been invited are entitled to know who and what is involved. If I asked you if there were to be gluten free wafers I hope you wouldn’t just tell me that the Eucharist is more about sharing and people than the elements.
    I am confused that Brenda has said “All due permissions have of course been sought and granted” wheras Colin has said “We have not asked for permission for the person who will preside at the eucharist”. Is this simply a breakdown in communication amongst CA, or a typo? Please could you clarify.
    I notice you haven’t linked to this blogpost on your comment about it on the CA website, surely that would be helpful so that your readers can see and judge for themselves (not that you have represented it unfairly).
    I am confused by something you have put on your comment, you say that Peter O and Chris Sugden (who hasn’t commented on this post as far as I can tell) are Christians, but not in the way that supporters of CA are Christian. Are you saying they are Christians or not? Or are there two types of Christians? Also where have the accusation that these two individuals do not tell the truth and bear false witness against their neighbour come from? Being rude and misspelling the name of your organisation isn’t quite the same thing as lying.

    If I can be so bold I think that if those who represent CA want to defend their organisation and their integrity against Peter O and Anglican Mainstream the best option would be to forgive, point out error, and speak the truth, rather than retaliate in a different but equally unhelpful way.

  10. Jonathan

    No one is saying that a Bishop is not allowed to preside because of their nationality – an English Bishop still needs to ask permission before presiding in their next door Diocese (AFAIK). It is a basic principle of episcopacy, which is where the Anglican church differs from the Methodist church and others like it, in that the diocesan Bishop is not simply an administrator. They are the focus of ministry and therefore unity in their diocese – any ordained ministry in that diocese is simply a share in the Bishop’s ministry. That is why you need to be licensed every time you move jobs, it isn’t merely a legal thing, it is the Bishop saying “I give this person permission to partake of my ministry”. This has been the case since episcopacy was formally established.

    There is a slight exception which is those from overseas, because actually they have to get permission from the archbishop of the the province. When they have that, they actually have permission to officiate in every diocese in that province, but only for temporary/occasional ministry (so they still need a license to take on the cure of souls). If +Gene was given permission by ++Rowan then he actually would have had more freedom to minister in the province of Canterbury than most clergy in England!

  11. It is something that happens time and time again in the modern world:
    (1) Person 1 asks an extremely simple question A.
    (2) Person 2 fails to answer question A and/or answers question B which had never been asked.
    (3) Person 1 points out what has happened.
    (4) Person 2 says it is all person 1’s fault – while still not answering question A.
    It is clear enough that person 2 has something to hide / is not honest and/or transparent and/or truthful.

  12. Jonathan

    What has nationality got to do with this argument?
    Please explain how I have made any point about a priest’s nationality.

    Canon C3 governs the ordination of priests and deacons, and canon c2 governs the consecration of bishops in the Church of England. These do not require the candidate to have British citizenship. It is not a question of discriminating against “foreigners”.

    What is clear is that those ordained in the Church of England owe canonical obedience to their Bishop, and someone who does not owe that canonical obedience, because he has been ordained in and belongs to a different province (and owes canonical obedience to the See of his province) needs to have permission to officiate in our province.

    You can think what you want of the Archbishop’s refusal to give permission, but it is provided for by canon to which all priests in the Church of England have assented. Is it Christian to flout solemn promises one has made?

  13. Christopher Shell, it could also mean that the person is not at liberty to give the information at present, or it would be unhelpful to do so etc etc. I hope if I asked your employer if you had a criminal record they would neither confirm nor deny it, because they aren’t supposed to give me that information – it wouldn’t make them dishonest – so your points 1-4 do not help the situation at all. I only say this because if +Gene is not presiding they don’t have something to hide, because they aren’t doing anything controversial and it doesn’t make them dishonest or untruthful. Of course if +Gene is presiding then clearly there is something to hide, and I would urge CA and/or +Gene to be open and honest with that information, as it is a public event.

  14. Gregory-

    you mentioned nationality here:

    “Under Canon C8 paragraph 5, a minister who has been ordained priest or deacon by an overseas bishop within the meaning of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 may not minister in the province of Canterbury or York without the permission of the archbishop of the province in question under the said Measure”

    Nationality is a factor, even if it is not the main one. I think, however, that the issue of why he was refused permission is also important. It seems apparent that it was because of his homosexuality. You ask if it is Christian to flout a solemn promise- is it Christian to discriminate based on natural sexual preferences?

  15. Jonathan,

    That canon doesn’t mention anything about the nationality of the ordained minister – or indeed the ordaining Bishop, simply that the Bishop is not a Bishop in the provinces of York or Canterbury (in this case). The only priest I know who has had to seek permission from the Archbishop is English, but who happened to have been ordained abroad!

    And +Gene Robinson wasn’t refused permission because of his homosexuality but because of the controversy that would have sparked amongst the UK church. You can disagree with the move but that doesn’t mean you can boil +Gene down to purely his sexuality.

  16. Tiffer-

    “And +Gene Robinson wasn’t refused permission because of his homosexuality but because of the controversy that would have sparked amongst the UK church. You can disagree with the move but that doesn’t mean you can boil +Gene down to purely his sexuality.”

    Controversy caused precisely because of his sexuality. If he was straight, then who honestly believes that there would have been a problem? I’m not boiling him down to purely his sexuality, it seems to be the CoE that is guilty of that.

  17. You’re wrong on this Jonathan. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with Robinson’s sexuality. It has to do with:

    i) His sexual practice
    ii) His teaching on sexual practice

    It is unfortunate, but men like Robinson (and Jeffrey John and, to a limited extent, myself) become iconic in this debate. What we have chosen to do and not to do speaks way beyond just themselves.

  18. Jonathan

    I’m not convinced that there is a point in debating with you since you can’t distinguish between “nationality” attributed by a nation state, and ordination by an overseas bishop. I did not mention nationality. Your response that nationality is a factor shows that you haven’t understood.

    A British Citizen ordained in Washington by a Bishop of the Episcopal Church and having the cure of souls of an American parish would need to seek permission to officiate in a province of the Church of England.

    It’s as simple as that. Nationality doesn’t affect the rule. Who ordained you and to whom you owe canonical obedience is what matters for the rule.

    That the preponderance of persons ordained by an Overseas bishop under the Measure would not be British Citizens is irrelevant.

    If you think that Gene Robinson was refused permission because of his homosexuality then you are entitled to your view, but it’s actually.

    I’m sorry, but this isn’t politics. You don’t answer a question by asking another. You’re the one who called the rule of canon law I cited unchristian, so I asked you whether it is Christian for someone ordained in the Church of England to flout the declaration of assent they have made to that canon.

    You’re entitled to ask me any question, if you are prepared to answer my question.
    My question is based on what ought to be agreed facts: That every priest in the Church of England has assented to canon, and canon requires the archbishop’s permission for a priest ordained by an overseas bishop to have permission to officiate.

    Your question uses a loaded term: “Natural sexual preferences” which demands more discussion than I can give and certainly isn’t common ground between all posters on this thread and blog.

    For my own part I do not believe that Gene Robinson has been refused permission because he is gay, but because his consecration has been a huge stumbling block to true communion.

  19. Gregory-

    having reread your comments, I concede that I did misunderstand, and I apologise. I wasn’t paying attention when I was commenting, I will do so in future! In response to your question- I would say it is probably not Christian to flout a solemn promise, but obviously it depends on what it is being promised. I don’t know enough about the detail to judge.

    I don’t see “natural sexual preferences” as a loaded term, since there is considerable evidence to support it. I appreciate that not everyone agrees with that.


    “You’re wrong on this Jonathan. The issue has absolutely nothing to do with Robinson’s sexuality. It has to do with:

    i) His sexual practice
    ii) His teaching on sexual practice”

    I have a question then, in all sincerity. If the issue is his practice, not his sexuality, do you think there would have been a problem if he was celibate, but still gay. I think the fact that he was gay would by itself be unacceptable to some people. What would your opinion be in the above situation?

  20. Jonathan,

    For some people, the fact that a priest is gay, regardless of being celibate, is a problem. Those people are fundamentally wrong and such a position is unscriptural.

    There are plenty of gay christians who are celibate and don’t believe that a homosexual relationship is what God intends for them or anybody.

  21. It makes for interesting reading, the polemical contortions of those in favor of the Sin du Jour, which is today homosexuality.

    Proof texting, invocation of ad hoc appeals to privacy, the assorted philosophical principles of “mind your own business” and of course, the ever present judgmentalism encapsulated by epithets such as “homophobe” (see also “nazi”, “bigot”, “sexist” etc.)

    Out here in the real world, we must grapple with a concept, based in physical laws, called “cause and effect”. We measure “cause and effect” with mathematical tools such as “regression analysis” and “factor analysis”.

    One need not be a statistician to observe, realiably, that homosexuality is merely a symptom of a broken civilization, much the same as, oh… securities fraud, greedy bankers, disrespect for private property (and national borders), the instinct to procreate and of self-defense…

    Homosexuality enjoys a very high correlation to civilizational death, not to mention death of the practicioner.

    This is why we avoid it, ordinarily, and why we do all in our limited, human power to dissuade others from partaking of it. You see, we enjoy life — and we want to see children, grandchildren and even their children. This is impossible if buggery becomes the fashion. Just ask the English: they are dying as a race. Where are the Royal Marines when you need them most???

  22. Marvellous parody Josephus. Reminds me of the old “buggery causes earthquakes” and “Rome fell because of all the fags” arguments.

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