CLAUSE 13 IMPLICATIONS: Reply to a Clergyman in the Church of England

Oct 9, 2019 by

by Stephen Noll, Contending Anglican:

I received the following comment on my Contending Anglican blog from a clergyman in the Church of England with regard to my post on Jerusalem Declaration clause 13. I am posting his comment and my reply with his permission. NOTE: He suggested that I highlight the distinction between spiritual and temporal authority, which I have done below (in bold). This distinction is my interpretation of the intent of clause 13, though it is not the literal wording, and I certainly do not see it as a “free pass” out of difficult decisions such as the one highlighted (in italics) in the paragraph that follows.


He writes:

As a recently-ordained theologically-conservative minister in the Church of England who has not yet signed the Jerusalem Declaration, I struggle to understand what a commitment to Clause 13 would mean in practice.

I serve under the authority of my (orthodox) diocesan bishop. So Clause 13 does not require me to reject his authority.

But if I find myself serving under another bishop, who is deemed (by whom?) to “have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed”, then what next? According to Clause 13, I would have declared that I will “reject the authority” of that bishop.

This, it seems, means I would need to resign from my position at that point. I cannot serve under the authority of a bishop while “rejecting the authority” of the same.

I am not prepared to make such a commitment, for three reasons.

First, the bishop’s authority is temporary. No bishop is eternal. There is no “need” for immediate visible differentiation; waiting patiently for God to intervene is always an option.

Second, the bishop’s authority is not absolute. I have taken an oath of canonical obedience to my bishop. This means I pledge to obey my bishop insofar as he or she instructs me to obey the canons of the church. If the canons of the church are orthodox, then I am not obliged to obey my bishop if he or she instructs me to depart from orthodoxy.

Third, bishops in the Church of England are themselves bound by solemn declarations. If my bishop departs from orthodoxy, then he or she would be breaching the declarations made at their ordinations/consecration. I can therefore reject their moral authority if they act with such a lack of integrity, but this does not require me to reject their authority in the kind of absolute sense implied by Clause 13.

Now, perhaps this is not what “reject the authority” means in Clause 13. If so, then it could at least be clarified.

I hope that helps to clarity. Thank you again for the posts.


Here is my reply to this comment:

Read here


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