Dealing with Dudley – An alternative understanding

I’ve been made aware that in the post below I may have been referencing the wrong measure as regards to how Dudley was dealth with. It appears on closer inspection that that 1963 Ecclesiastical Jurisdicton Measure (EJM) is the one under which Dudley was handled. The relevant clauses are sections 38 and 39.

Part VI Conduct of Proceedings against Deacons, Priests or Bishops for Offences under the Measure involving Matter of Doctrine, Ritual or Ceremonial

Scope of Part VI

38 Scope of Part VI

The provisions of this Part of this Measure shall have effect for the purpose of regulating proceedings against a deacon, priest, bishop or archbishop against whom a complaint has been laid in accordance with the provisions of Part III of this Measure alleging the commission of an offence against the laws ecclesiastical involving matter of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial.

Procedure under Part VI after Laying of Complaint

39 Duty of diocesan upon the making of a complaint against a deacon or priest

(1)Upon a complaint under this Part of this Measure against a priest or deacon being duly laid and verified the bishop of the diocese before whose registrar it is laid shall take it into consideration and as soon as may be after a copy thereof has been served on the accused, shall afford to the accused and the complainant an opportunity of being interviewed in private by him either separately or together as the bishop thinks fit with respect to the matter of the complaint, and thereafter shall either:—

(a)decide that no further step be taken under this Part of this Measure in the matter of the complaint; or

(b)refer the complaint for inquiry under the following provisions of this Part of this Measure.

(2)Where, in pursuance of the foregoing subsection, the bishop decides that no further step be taken in the matter of the complaint he shall forthwith give notice of his decision to the complainant and to the accused and thereafter no further action shall be taken by any person in regard thereto.

What this means then is that Dudley’s letter to the Bishop of the 21st of July constitutes not the written response to the Bishop under the Clergy Discipline Measure, but rather part of the conversation outlined in 39(1) of the EJM 1963. This means:

  • That there is no recourse available to the complainant
  • That we cannot immediately properly surmise from the process whether there was an infringement of doctrine as no action was taken

Of course, if we follow the flow of the EJM 1963 we see that when Chartres said to Dudley:

"I shall also have to say that this may not be the end of the matter."

the next course of action would have been to refer Dudley to an inquiry. This is detailed under section 42 of the Measure:

42 Inquiry into complaint by committee of convocation

(1)Where, by virtue of the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Measure, a complaint is referred, or stands referred, for inquiry, the following provisions shall have effect.

(2)The reference shall be to a committee whose duty it shall be to inquire into the complaint for the purpose of deciding whether there is a case to answer in respect of which the accused should be put on trial upon articles by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved, for any offence under this Measure involving matter of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial.

(3)The committee shall—

(a)where the accused is a priest or deacon, consist of—

(i)one member of the Upper House of the Convocation of the relevant province, appointed by the archbishop;

(ii)two members of the Lower House of that Convocation, appointed by the prolocutor of that House; and

(iii)two chancellors of dioceses in that province, appointed by the Dean of the Arches and Auditor:

(b)where the accused is an archbishop or a bishop, consist of—

(i)such even number of persons, to be appointed by the Upper House of the Convocation of the relevant province, as that House shall determine; and

(ii)the Dean of the Arches and Auditor or a deputy who is nominated by him and who shall make a declaration that he is a communicant being a person holding or having held high judicial office, or a [F1person who has a 10 year High Court qualification, within the meaning of section 71 of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990,];

and the determination of any matter before the committee shall be according to the opinion of the majority of the members thereof.

(4)Either the accused or the complainant may, if he so desires, be assisted or represented by a friend or adviser at any meeting of such a committee at which he is invited to be present.

(5)The complainant and the accused may lay before the committee such evidence as they shall think fit and such evidence shall be given by affidavit but the committee shall on the application of either party and may on its own motion request the person making such affidavit to attend the inquiry for the purpose of answering such questions on oath as may be put to him by the committee or by or on behalf of any party, and unless such person shall attend the inquiry for that purpose his affidavit shall be disregarded:

Provided that the evidence of any person who is incapable of giving evidence on oath shall be given orally at the inquiry.

(6)If the committee, after making due inquiry into the complaint, decide that there is a case for the accused to answer in respect of which he should be put on trial upon articles by the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved for any such offence as aforesaid, they shall declare their decision, specifying the offence.

(7)Where the committee decide as mentioned in the last foregoing subsection, but are of opinion on consideration of the evidence, of any statement made to them by the accused and of any representations made to them by the bishop of the diocese where the accused is a deacon or a priest—

(a)that the offence charged by the complaint is too trivial to warrant further proceedings thereon; or

(b)that the offence was committed upon extenuating circumstances; or

(c)that further proceedings on the complaint would not be in the interests of the Church of England;

they may dismiss the complaint and report to the Convocation of the relevant province that they have dismissed it and the ground on which they have taken that course.

(8)If the committee, after making due inquiry into the complaint, decide that there is no case for the accused to answer, they shall declare their decision.

(9)The committee shall reduce their decision, or decisions, to writing and shall send a copy thereof to the accused and to the Upper House of the Convocation of the relevant province and in the case of an accused archbishop, to the archbishop of the other province.

(10)Where the committee dismiss a complaint and report their dismissal of it under subsection (7) of this section or declare that there is no case for the accused to answer under subsection (8) of this section, no further step shall be taken in the matter of the complaint.

We can see then that Dudley was put under great pressure to permit his letter to be published. Any refusal to do so would have meant that he would next be subjected to an inquiry to decide whether to take him to trial, essentially for heresy.

This was no mean threat. London Diocese has a serious problem at the moment with a large number of actively gay clergy and plenty of instances of gay blessings going on. Chartres has run (and we all have differing opinions on this) a "don’t shout about it and I won’t ask" policy in this regard for a number of years, and Dudley’s actions in performing the BCP Wedding broke that policy. In effect, what Chartres did was threaten to bring the whole matter into the open, and actually publicly take a side on the issue. This was have ended the atmosphere of compromise in London on this issue and produced instead an environment not unakin to a witch hunt.

Essentially, once one gay cat was out of the bag, hordes would follow.

Under this understanding of the affair, what we have just witnessed is Chartres and the London Anglican gay community (this is just supposition, but I don’t think for a moment that Dudley responded to Chartres without consulting others) playing chicken with each other, and in this round of the game the revisionists blinked first. There was the threat of definite legal action around the issue of homosexuality, and there was a likelihood that the conservative side would have won. This would have been not only a disaster for the revisionists, but also for the Church of England as a whole, bringing out into the open the splits that are currently simmering under the surface. Such legal action would have clearly defined the stance of the Church of England on the matter and made the prosecution of others for similar offences easier and more likely once the case law was established.

Of course, given this letter from the Church Society, that case law may yet be established.

19 Comments on “Dealing with Dudley – An alternative understanding

  1. Peter – you seem to forget something.

    The ‘revisionists’, as you call us, are too busy getting on serving the Church to have time to do any of the things that your fictional narrative suggests.  As someone who knows most of the key players in the diocese of London, who is involved in some of the key ‘revisionist organisations’, there was no game-playing etc. going on.  Also,  remember Dudley is a maverick, he consults only with himself and his lawyers, and you will not find him working with others in this regard.  He is not a popular man, and many a liberal stays away from him.

    I wonder then if what you describe Peter says more about the world that you inhabit, or desire to inhabit, than the reality of the ‘revisionist’ camp.

    On another matter Peter, have you thought about who the Bishop of London surrounds himself with?  Have you considered that the majority of them are liberal Catholics?  Have you considered that the majority of them are gay or gay affirming?  Think about his bishops, his archdeacons, his area deans, the people that work in the Old Deanery, his recent appointments in the two-cities.  It would do for a great study, and would show why Bishop Richard is not too easily moved to upset the status quo.


  2. I can answer your question very directly Peter – no!  The reason being that I am no fan of the prayer book, especially with regards to its theological understanding of marriage as exemplified in the wedding service.  As a result, I would not have wanted to encourage a gay couple to understand their relationship in such terms. 

    What were you avoiding though Peter in asking me that question?  There seem to be some important points in my last post that you do not want to address.


  3. I think both of us know that the Anglican Church in central London is a very interesting setup. There are a large number of conservatives who are deeply dissatisfied by the blind eye that is turned to all manner of practices and lifestyle choices amongst clergy.

    I think my analysis is correct. Are you seriously suggesting to me that if Dudley had refused to allow the letter to be published and Chartres had pushed ahead with an inquiry and a possible trial, that you and others would not have ended up on the doorstep of Great St Barts, the Anglican equivalent of the eponimous Tory “men in grey suits”. You know as I do that any trial around the doctrinal validity of carrying out any form of same-sex blessings would, if leading to a succesful prosecution, begin to lay down a case law that would be used in a witch hunt against you and others.

  4. ‘witch hunt’?  – Is that what you think your conservative friends would seek to do Peter if they had the head of Dudley.  They got him, and now they would come for us, for me.

    Well, so be it.  It would show the rest of the Church of England what this really is about, and I have every confidence that they would not belong to such a Church.  Maybe, we could then en masse realign ourselves with the Episcopalians.  That would be a sight, a significant majority of liberal Catholic parishes throughout the land pulling out of the good old CofE.  The two cities would be dessimated, and just think of all those lovely buildings – maybe, we could even take the Abbey and the Cathedral!


  5. “You know as I do that any trial around the doctrinal validity of carrying out any form of same-sex blessings would, if leading to a succesful prosecution, begin to lay down a case law that would be used in a witch hunt against you and others.” – witch hunts or any kind of scapegoating isn’t exactly in line with the Gospel… whether it’s ‘revisionists’ or ‘conservatives’ doing it…

    Also, I may be wrong / confused, but don’t the HoB’s guidelines on civil partnerships make such a trial even less likely?

    in friendship, Blair

  6. You can be quite assured that I am not in favour of any witch hunts.

    I’m not sure that the current pastoral guidelines would make a trial less likely, as the licence for “appropriate pastoral response” must be read in connection with the affirmation of traditional teaching.

  7. Fear not – I am assured :)

    Am wondering whether (yet again) some reflections of James Alison’s would be helpful here? In 2007 he and Prof John Haldane debated in The Tablet about the Catholic Diocese of Westminster’s decision to allow gay-friendly Masses in Soho. JA wrote that, “The distinction between orders of teaching such that ‘third order’ teachings are not Communion breakers is not purely an intellectual tool, but an ecclesial one as well”. Now I realise there’s disagreement over whether ‘the gay issue’ (and therefore the service Martin Dudley conducted) is actually a first- or second-/third-order issue, but can’t help wondering if such a distinction would be helpful? It might help the C of E with “the possibility of living through the working out of whether being gay is to be characterised as either a form of viciousness or a pathology as has traditionally been taught, or as a normal and non-pathological variant in nature”. (See )

    in friendship, Blair

  8. Hi Blair,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on head. The Diocese of London seems to (un)officially treat the issue as second order, whilst a large amount of traditionalists treat it as first order (and that therefore some discipline should take place). Reconciling those two views might be a tad difficult….

  9. Ooh ta. So in that case – granted that reconciling those views will be tricky – how to keep the conversation going, and what will help the two sides to live together…? As a half-aside, had a virtual conversation with John Richardson on the Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream blog about the first-order / second-order question at the start of 2007. We didn’t agree but did have a constructive discussion (I felt).

    in friendship, Blair

  10. Peter, can I ask whether you (and perhaps other evangelicals in your deanery) feel this matter was dealt with in a more or less satisfactory way, or do you think it should have been handled significantly differently? Apologies if this is something you’d rather not be drawn out too far on.

  11. Blair,

    I think we can be courteous and commit to respecting each other as individuals, but it’s naive to think that if one side believes this to be a first-order issue, that we can agree to differ for ever. Ultimately if this is a salvation issue, then soe may decide that we have to eventually excise from the church those elements that are taking people away from Jesus, rather than towards him.


    I presume you’re talking about here in my diocese (as opposed to London)? I personally felt there should have been some form of public reprimand, but I’m more bothered that we didn’t get a clear and definitive statement that this was wrong theology.

  12. Sorry, Peter, I have had to refresh my memory as to Ware you are … I had somehow managed to get it into my head you were in the City deanery, probably through reading your posts too quickly.  Term is obviously taking its toll on me. Thanks for the answer anyway.

    As for the first-order question: is there any general agreement about how to distinguish the different orders?  It seems to me the whole approach is not going to be very helpful if no one can agree about which things are more important.

  13. Hi again Peter,

    I guess I’d echo Robert’s question (if that’s what you’re asking Robert!) – how do we discern whether this is a first-order issue or not? Am still not that clear on a method / rationale… tho’ have a few thoughts but no time to put them down here now.

    in friendship, Blair

  14. Yes and no – my question was really about how we decide anything is a first-order question or not, and whether there are any agreed criteria for judging – I rather suspect there are not!

  15. Blair, If we solve that question we solve the whole thing!!! Seriously though, it might come down to the fact that if one significant faction believes it to be first order, then it de facto is.

  16. Well, indeed! But can’t agree that “if one significant faction believes it to be first order, then it de facto is” – surely the question of whether a given teaching is first-order or not, cannot simply come down to one (or other) faction’s beliefs. Truth (or a piece of it) isn’t just what my group says it is… although that’s too easily said perhaps.

    in friendship, Blair

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