The Fourth President - Churches Together in England

Right this is a news item which is causing a stir elsewhere. Churches Together in England have six presidents. If you will read down the list you will see that there is one 'to be appointed'. This is not completely accurate as Church Times explains. The Quaker's whose candidate is who the controversy centre's around have issued a statement that I would say pours oil on troubled waters. The trouble seems to be in getting an endorsement across the whole membership of CTE rather than from the constituency proposing.

Here are some questions that you might like to debate.

Given that CTE accepts groups that both ordain and do not ordain women, who have a different understanding of the role of the sacraments and who differ on a wide number of issues, how much do you accept in the name of keeping the conversation going?

The stance at present means that group 4 is now refusing to propose an alternative candidate so the post will stay open for the four years. This means that technically this constituency is not represented within the presidency. Is this acceptable? Should other constituencies have a say?

In other words, this is not a debate about the acceptability of same-sex marriages but how far other non-acceptance of any practice should be allowed to determine how a constituency within a group are represented.

It should be noted the other presidents are all ordained senior males.

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Comments

  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    A very good topic for discussion, thanks. So far as I can see, the only standard of qualification to be a President is a willingness to agree to the Personal Covenant which has nothing to say about gender. The articles suggest this is not a problem for group 4 or the candidate. On that basis I can see no formal justification for subjecting the appointment to further discussions.
  • As far as I'm concerned, if that constituency has chosen that person to be their candidate for the Presidency, the rest should not veto it. It makes a mockery of ecumenical commitment and opens the door for all kinds of other vetoes in the future.

    (I happen to think that the Quakers, not being Trinitarian nor even Christocentric, should not be part of CTE. It's a carry-over from the old Council of Churches days. After all, the Unitarians - who may arguably be more "Christian" - can't be members. But this has nothing to do with the case under discussion).
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited November 2019
    It might do. The Personal Confession is explicitly Trinitarian. But group 4 is not just Quakers. It also includes the Church of Scotland and the Lutherans. All other group 4 churches are explicitly Trinitarian.

    For all I know, the Personal Confession is voluntary, but all previous Presidents (including the Quaker Rowena Loverance) have been happy to affirm it. Since the group 4 churches select in turn, it's theoretically possible that the Quakers may have chosen someone who isn't Trinitarian. But I doubt it, given the published statements. Plenty of Quakers are Trinitarian, but it just isn't compulsory.

    Doublethink may know more.
  • I don’t know anything about the current situation - but belief about the trinity amongst Quakers would vary. However, there is a traditional testimony to integrity - that makes it unlikely someone nominated would sign off on believing that if they didn’t, for the sake of convenience.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I suppose the one question that might nag in the back of one's mind is whether they chose the person they did because they sincerely believed they were the best person for the job, or whether they chose them so as to make a statement or to get up the nose of the other participants?
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    The reports in the OP make it clear that a majority of current Presidents voted against immediate acceptance of the fourth group choice "on discovering that she was in a same sex marriage". I suppose the issue of Trinitariaism might be secondary but it is not mentioned. It may be that there is a more detailed set of guidelines which we don't know. Alternatively, the existing Presidents may have set a precedent.

    Whatever. It seems to me to be against the spirit of ecumenism to deny the fourth group the representative they have put forward. I really don't like this.
  • BlahblahBlahblah Suspended
    edited November 2019
    I have no knowledge other than what I've read above, but are we to understand that the Quaker lady in question has already been accepted and nominated by a range of non-Quaker churches?

    If her status is somehow not a problem for those groups, why is it suddenly a problem for the rest? Why did they agree to nominate her?

    This all seems barmy to me, but then I've always thought interfaith groups were potentially much more valuable than intra-Christian ones.
  • Also I don't understand why they can't just nominate someone else.

    I can see how it angers the Quakers that their choice is not respected, but as far as I can understand the process, the person concerned isn't supposed to be just representing Quakers.

    Personally I wouldn't be part of a group that behaved like that. But I can't really see what anyone gains from an empty chair.
  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    It seems to me to be against the spirit of ecumenism to deny the fourth group the representative they have put forward. I really don't like this.
    Exactly.

  • Blahblah wrote: »
    Also I don't understand why they can't just nominate someone else.
    They shouldn't have to. ITSM that they made their choice properly and agreeably, so the rest of CTE should accept it - unless it can be proved that they deliberately made a provocative choice in order to see how it would be received. (Personally I'm not into conspiracy theories like that).

  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited November 2019
    Blahblah wrote: »
    Also I don't understand why they can't just nominate someone else.
    They shouldn't have to. ITSM that they made their choice properly and agreeably, so the rest of CTE should accept it - unless it can be proved that they deliberately made a provocative choice in order to see how it would be received. (Personally I'm not into conspiracy theories like that).
    Enoch wrote: »
    I suppose the one question that might nag in the back of one's mind is whether they chose the person they did because they sincerely believed they were the best person for the job, or whether they chose them so as to make a statement or to get up the nose of the other participants?

    If she was selected by the Quakers, it will have been done by a meeting for worship for business. So theoretically at least, guided by the leading of the Holy Spirit (or metaphor of your choice). Telling the Holy Spirit their choice isn’t good enough is problematic, to put it mildly.

    (This is the process for all appointments.)
  • But the other churches must also have agreed, no?

    Or am I wrong about that?
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited November 2019
    As I understood the op links, there’s a segment called 4th comprising several churches - those churches take it in turns to pick the president for the segment on a four yearly cycle. This year was the Quakers’ turn.

    It appears to be the other segments that objected, rather than the other churches in the 4th segment. CTE haven’t said she can’t be 4th president, but have asked her not to do anything or turn up to any meetings.

    (There are 6 segments in total.)
  • Oh I see. Sorry I didn't get that part from the link.
  • Seems like a fairly idiotic way to elect "presidents" and probably means this was always going to inevitably happen eventually.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    I don’t know anything about the current situation - but belief about the trinity amongst Quakers would vary. However, there is a traditional testimony to integrity - that makes it unlikely someone nominated would sign off on believing that if they didn’t, for the sake of convenience.

    I'd assume integrity from a Quaker until clearly proven otherwise. And I'd also assume that for a body such as this the nominee would be a Christian affirming the basic elements of belief including the Trinity. Does she do so?
  • Are you saying you think rotating through the different churches for the presidency is idiotic - or that the Quaker business method is idiotic ?
  • Are you saying you think rotating through the different churches for the presidency is idiotic - or that the Quaker business method is idiotic ?

    I don't have any opinions on Quaker practices. I was making a comment about CTE, which appears to be about trying to keep all denomination members sweet by having a rotating presidency but without having an actual, you know, president.

    As I said, this seems a recipe for one member group doing something and everyone else throwing toys out of prams.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    I don’t know anything about the current situation - but belief about the trinity amongst Quakers would vary. However, there is a traditional testimony to integrity - that makes it unlikely someone nominated would sign off on believing that if they didn’t, for the sake of convenience.

    I'd assume integrity from a Quaker until clearly proven otherwise. And I'd also assume that for a body such as this the nominee would be a Christian affirming the basic elements of belief including the Trinity. Does she do so?

    I was also wondering about this. I understand that there are a significant constituency of non-theist Quakers. So how would that work if a non-theist put themselves forward to be a Quaker representative at a group like this?

  • (I happen to think that the Quakers, not being Trinitarian nor even Christocentric, should not be part of CTE. It's a carry-over from the old Council of Churches days. After all, the Unitarians - who may arguably be more "Christian" - can't be members. But this has nothing to do with the case under discussion).

    The Religious Society of Friends only had observer status at the BCC. The CTE has an overtly Trinitarian statement of faith but this is followed by the following opt out clause:

    All CTE Member Churches accept this Basis though an exception is made for 'any Church or Association of Churches which on principle has no credal statements in its tradition and therefore cannot formally subscribe to the statement of faith in the Basis provided it satisfies 75% in number of those full members which subscribe to the Basis that it manifests faith in Christ as witnessed to in the Scriptures and it is committed to the aims and purposes of Churches Together in England and that it will work in the spirit of the Basis'. The Religious Society of Friends is a member of CTE under this clause.)

    The clause was specifically designed, to let us in and keep the Unitarians out.

  • (I happen to think that the Quakers, not being Trinitarian nor even Christocentric, should not be part of CTE. It's a carry-over from the old Council of Churches days. After all, the Unitarians - who may arguably be more "Christian" - can't be members. But this has nothing to do with the case under discussion).

    The Religious Society of Friends only had observer status at the BCC. The CTE has an overtly Trinitarian statement of faith but this is followed by the following opt out clause:

    All CTE Member Churches accept this Basis though an exception is made for 'any Church or Association of Churches which on principle has no credal statements in its tradition and therefore cannot formally subscribe to the statement of faith in the Basis provided it satisfies 75% in number of those full members which subscribe to the Basis that it manifests faith in Christ as witnessed to in the Scriptures and it is committed to the aims and purposes of Churches Together in England and that it will work in the spirit of the Basis'. The Religious Society of Friends is a member of CTE under this clause.)

    The clause was specifically designed, to let us in and keep the Unitarians out.

    Why? What's so bad about the Unitarians? What's so good about the Quakers?
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I suppose the one question that might nag in the back of one's mind is whether they chose the person they did because they sincerely believed they were the best person for the job, or whether they chose them so as to make a statement or to get up the nose of the other participants?

    Hannah Brock Womack would have been appointed because of her suitability to perform the role, not because she has a wife. The gender of her spouse would have been seen as irrelevant. It is not an issue that would have been considered either by a Quaker Nominations Committee nor by the Business Meeting that confirmed the appointment
  • BlahblahBlahblah Suspended
    edited November 2019
    Would they have considered if she was or wasn't a theist?
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited November 2019
    I don’t know, but I would have thought that to be able to carry out the role you’d need to be able to honestly sign the statement mentioned above.

    This is the president’s covenant. Like the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds it doesn’t ask who your are married to, or sleeping with.
  • I don’t know, but I would have thought that to be able to carry out the role you’d need to be able to honestly sign the statement mentioned above.
    Indeed. By the way, I have met at least one Trinitarian Unitarian!!

  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited November 2019
    I think the church itself has to be able to credibly claim 75% adherence - or vague version thereof for the none credal. I don’t actually know what unitarians believe, I didn’t know they were excluded from CTE.

    (Just looked at wiki - you don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus ?)
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited November 2019
    I would trust the integrity of the Quakers in their choice of candidate, both re belief and also re respect for the other denominations in the fourth group. In the latter case, despite it being 'Quaker turn' to choose. Quakers are distinctive and inclusive in both beliefs and practices.

    This challenge to ecumenism must come from the Presidents of the other groups. I really don't like it. My guess is that ++Justin was faced with 'over my dead body' i.e resignation and withdrawal threats.
  • Blahblah wrote: »
    Would they have considered if she was or wasn't a theist?

    I can't imagine that we would have done. We don't define ourselves in credal terms
  • Why him? There are also Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal and Free Church presidents, any of whom could (and might) have objected.
  • Barnabas62 wrote: »
    I would trust the integrity of the Quakers in their choice of candidate, both re belief and also re respect for the other denominations in the fourth group. In the latter case, despite it being 'Quaker turn' to choose. Quakers are distinctive and inclusive in both beliefs and practices.

    This challenge to ecumenism must come from the Presidents of the other groups. I really don't like it. My guess is that ++Justin was faced with 'over my dear body' i.e resignation and withdrawal threats.

    I don't follow. I'd think it more/as likely to be an objection from other "fourth president" churches.
  • Blahblah wrote: »
    Would they have considered if she was or wasn't a theist?

    I can't imagine that we would have done. We don't define ourselves in credal terms

    I’d basically assumed a nominations committee would have approached some folk, seen if they were interested and explained the role would need them to be able to sign the covenant and ask if they are still happy for their name to be considered; then take those names to a business meeting.
  • Yeah, I’ve read that - it was linked in the op.
  • edited November 2019
    I think the church itself has to be able to credibly claim 75% adherence - or vague version thereof for the none credal. I don’t actually know what unitarians believe, I didn’t know they were excluded from CTE.

    (Just looked at wiki - you don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus ?)

    Unitarians are overtly not Trinitarians; Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends) are overtly not credal. As a Society we do not collectively claim to be Unitarian; to be Trinitarian ; to believe or not believe in the divinity of Christ; or to hold any similar theological position.

    Personally, reflecting on your opening sentence, I don't think it is either credible or logical to expect an overtly non-credal faith group to credibly claim, however vaguely 75% adherence to a credal statement, or even a vague version thereof.
  • Blahblah wrote: »

    Why? What's so bad about the Unitarians? What's so good about the Quakers?[/quote]

    It's a mystery, as is the fact that the Church of Scotland is also a member of "Churches together in England"
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    The English Presbytery of the Church of Scotland i.e. those C of S churches which are in England.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    Blahblah wrote: »
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    I would trust the integrity of the Quakers in their choice of candidate, both re belief and also re respect for the other denominations in the fourth group. In the latter case, despite it being 'Quaker turn' to choose. Quakers are distinctive and inclusive in both beliefs and practices.

    This challenge to ecumenism must come from the Presidents of the other groups. I really don't like it. My guess is that ++Justin was faced with 'over my dear body' i.e resignation and withdrawal threats.

    I don't follow. I'd think it more/as likely to be an objection from other "fourth president" churches.

    Don't see that. If there is a prior agreement to rotate the presidential selection amongst the denominations of the fourth group, and this has been honoured, what's to complain about? Or if any of the fourth group churches had a problem with the Quaker solution, surely they would raise that within the fourth group?

    I don't know the protocols in any detail but on general grounds I would have thought the acceptability of any choice would be a matter for the other Presidents. That would seem to be the orderly way to do things.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited November 2019
    I am going to issue a correction to myself. On further reading, it seems to be the CTE Enabling Group. The way the votes are determined it is likely to give higher representation to the socially conservative Churches than are represented on a membership basis. This move may well be to stop some of the smaller members withdrawing.

    I do not like what I see. It comes more worrying because CTE requires that we work together despite differences. That has to mean all people can come to the table where disagreement is not with the central statement. If it does not where do we draw the line. Agreeing with them being president does not imply you agree with all their stances, you just agree they are part of the team.
  • Agree totally. It would be interesting to know which constituencies can't live with her marriage.
  • BlahblahBlahblah Suspended
    edited November 2019
    I was reading about the six presidents and discovered it is even stranger than I thought.

    The Anglicans and Roman Catholics get a President each. Which I suppose makes some sense based on size.

    Free churches (not clear who is included - possibly Methodists and Baptists?) get one between them.

    A random bunch of other churches share another rotating President. Some of whom sound pretty small.

    Pentecostals get one. Why?

    And the Copts get one. Apparently on behalf of the Orthodox churches. Which seems weird given, I think, Copts are not exactly on best terms with the Greek Orthodox.

    It looks like a dog's breakfast created by a committee trying to keep tiny churches on board by giving them way too much power.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited November 2019
    Thanks JJ. That makes things clearer and also look worse!

    Very sad.
  • Well I suspect when CTE was set up there were four. The Anglican, the Roman Catholic, the Free Churches which four main denominations were Methodist, Baptist, URC and Congregationalist but may well have had a whole host of smaller denominations such as Calvinist Methodist and a final group which for better or worse was 'Other' and included everyone else but mainly minority churches. This is 1980s England.

    Then over the last almost forty years, the three big groups have declined drastically. The Pentecostal has become a clear and distinct grouping and is growing and some of them are huge. Equally the Orthodox have been seen as distinctive. However, their size means that in the case of the Orthodox a grouping smaller than the URC has its own president and more votes on the Enabling Group than the CofE. The Pentecostals are now around the size of the Baptists and equally, have their own President and more votes on the Enabling group than the Baptists.

  • I don't understand whether Pentecostals means more than just the Elim denomination or includes various other Pentecostal and/or charismatic denominations.

    Of course it isn't any of my business really, it just seems like a bizarre way to divide up Christianity.
  • The Pentecostal group includes quite a few BAME churches. Full list: https://tinyurl.com/soqyoxf
  • There are a few Pentecostal churches in membership. Where does it say which churches are represented by which president?
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited November 2019
    This list of Pentecostal Denominations
    • Apostolic Church
    • Assemblies of God
    • Association of Vineyard Churches
    • Church of God (Cleveland)
    • Church of God in Christ
    • Church of God of Prophecy
    • Elim Pentecostal
    • Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship
    • Hillsong Church
    • International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
    • International Pentecostal Holiness Church
    • Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
    • United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI)
    Taken from a BBC Article on Pentecostalism gives you some idea of the denominational names. Please scroll down to the end to get the actual list I have reproduced. The names do not need to include the word 'Pentecostal'. The churches above may or may not be part of CTE.

    I hope this is useful
  • I was curious because Vineyard does not appear to be a member of Churches Together England plus I happen to know some Pentecostal denoms are not on speaking terms with some of the others. The idea that they would let the leader of the biggest Pentecostal denomination speak on their behalf seems.. unlikely.
  • Firstly, Belonging to CTE is not compulsory and have to meet requirements. They may belong by participating a grouping similar to 'Council of African and Caribbean Churches UK'. So not all churches are there.

    Secondly, I would think it was up to constituency to decide how the president was appointed for that constituency. For instance, I suspect the Free Church Group originally had the president of the Free Church Federal Council (FCFC) in that position. The FCFC has long since been replaced by the Free Church Group. The rotation model is solely that for group 4 which to my mind looks like the 'Odds and Sods' group as their membership does not fit neatly into any of the other five categories.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    I don't know, but would not be at all surprised to discover that there were ecclesial communities that flatly refuse to belong to CTE and regard it as a gathering of latitudinarians, temporisers or worse.
  • @Enoch, I suspect you are right.
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