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.