Saturday, 9 July 2011

More on the OEC

Having received emails and messages not for publication, I need to tread carefully regarding more information on the OEC split. I have, as they say, very good sources.

The Scottish reading of OEC Canon Law and its action is that the diocese can register as a charity and this is what it has done, whereas in the OEC in England and Wales there is more of an Archbishop's Council oversight approach, that is the bishops gathering and agreeing together for the whole OEC.

David Gillham in Scotland thus chose autonomy and a division became a split and this was over matters of ministry. From the Council point of view there is the issue of clergy being able to appeal above the head of the bishop to all of them. The specific dispute was regarding the retreat centre at Luing in Scotland, which the Scottish bishop will not support as it was as, on that account, it was operating outside regulative Scottish laws, over which, in terms of support, the Archbishops Council took a different view. The Scottish removed Luing as functioning from the website once under the new regime, whereas the OEC under the Archbishop's Council have it included under what is claimed is a vancant see. The further issue is David Gillham's retirement and how his successor is to be chosen.

From this dispute and separation comes other priorities on the ground differently worked out. Inevitably such organisations begin together, and then they get wider and wider apart. It leaves the OEC (in England and Wales) without any bishops north of Wales - none in the Midlands and none in the north.

And, in the end, the model has been independent clergy, people who have considerable space around them in regards to how they operate. Personally, I think there is a clash between that independence and space, and all that to do with Nicene Creeds and formalities, which comes about through the idea of having a legitimate apostolic ministry. Another issue is how much that independence is modified by the existence of congregations that may form when there are confessional elements in text and form. How do 'Hedge priests' and 'Sea of Faith' priests perfom then? A passing traffic of rites of passage laity is not the same thing as forming communities on the ground and the understanding that generates among a group. I get the sense that there is more of this in Scotland and that a different more settled model is forming.


Simon Mapp said...

I can only speak personally, of course, in respect to your question ‘how do Sea of Faith priests perform’?

As a member of the ‘Sea of Faith’ I do not have a congregation in the traditional sense and work only as a part-time chaplain to various funeral directors offering a comprise of services from the traditional to the more ‘Sea of Faith’ and ‘radical’ (radical as a term should, I believe, be seen positively - for it’s the ‘radicals’ that have often experienced that transition from inner ‘death to resurrection’)

The option of a regular ‘confessing’ congregation is not something of which I would desire – precisely because of points your correctly discuss. I would find a regular congregation suffocating in the extreme, for me the Christian journey is about an inner expression brought about only when free from the dogma of supernatural claims and metaphysics.

The O.E.C in my opinion breaks from the ‘traditional’ church model in so far as it does not see itself as a disciplinary organization with a desire to keep the separation of the ‘divine’ and human, often peddled by the traditional churches for the sake of social control.

Moreover, the freedom allowed for interpretation and/or re-contextualization of texts and creeds is a strength of the O.E.C. As Nietzche says bluntly ‘There are no facts only interpretations’ Quite.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

It may be, then, that Scotland has a different model, with settled centres of activity and a hands-on bishop. These differences are perhaps clearer.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I'm afraid that I have had to remove a comment as it made specific points that have led to the threat to entangle me in legal actions as carrier of the message. The essence of the post was a rejection of David Gillham as the Bishop in Scotland from the perspective of the other side of the dispute.

Bishop Jonathan Blake said...

If you have removed a comment of factual correction from your site, I would suggest that you remove all reference to this matter, until it has been resolved through the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and failing that through recourse to law.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

There is surely a right to report on the substantive issue, which is a disagreement and even of a 'power' or control issue regarding the matter of Luing retreat centre, which seems to me to be the centre of the dispute (though it may be about more). There is no intent here to take sides. What I don't want here is any simplistic reduction to personality clashes and character judgment.

What we have now sent to me is a record of emails sent. As a record they are just that - a record, though I wonder if they were ever for public consumption. I do not endorse, even agree with, the content. I have no idea if the content is true. What they demonstrate, however, is that there is clearly a dispute.

As a matter of personal record, I have had email dialogue with David Gillham and found him to be straightforward and interesting in what he had to say, particularly describing the basis of the OEC and thus my decision at that time not to be involved. I'd actually attempted to make contact with Bishop Shelley Harstad-Smith as the nearest bishop but ended up talking electronically with Bishop David Gillham. Equally I have found Jonathan Blake to be a warm personality. I have no dispute with either of them, nor anyone else listed. What is published now, then, is a record of their correspondence.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I have received an email from Bishop David Gillham stating that I have published libellous allegations about him on my blog "which is not the FULL correspondence".

Having read the comment again, there are matters there about him personally that I would rather are not there.

I am not going to publish exhaustive correspondence, nor do I want to enter into dispute.

All I want to do is report that there is a split, how it has occurred (in simple terms, a core issue within the institution) and do so fairly without taking sides.

I have kept a copy of what Bishop Jonathan Blake posted here, and simply put there is a dispute of legitimacy between Bishop David Gillham and the Archbishop's Council.

Of course this blog has reported the matter. That's because I have taken an interest in the OEC, and think it is a shame that it has divided. If the blog is quoted in court, then so be it, but I hardly think it is material to the dispute.

Bishop Jonathan Blake said...

It is interesting and indicative of some of the issues with which we are contending and have contended with Bishop Gillham, that he is sending threats of legal action to the Pluralist, to all the Bishops of the Open Episcopal Church and even to the web provider of the Open Episcopal Church; in short, to anyone apparently who seeks to challenge his actions.
The emails the Pluralist published are historical documents that Bishop Gillham may well desire to keep from the public eye, because they deal with disciplinary issues. However truth has its own power to overcome any attempt at concealment.

Fr. Mark Townsend said...


Just to add to what Simon said earlier ref. your comment about 'Sea of Faith Priests' and 'Hedge-Priests,' I've always actually said that the C of E , at it's very best, is inclusive and eclectic. Indeed part of my official training was spent with Hindus and Muslims in Leicester, learning from them etc.

Also my theo college encouraged the study of radical biblical criticism and ultra liberal theology. Of course it has changed its direction of late, but there are still plenty C of E clergy who are Sea of Faith members, or Inter-faith enthusiasts etc. and many off them far less 'orthodox' than us OEC clerics.

So if Anglican clergy can be 'Sea of Faith Priests' and 'Hedge-Priests' then we most certainly can, and are in the right place to be so because the OEC is exactly like how I always dreamed the C of E could have been.


Ps. I still encourage people to stick with the C of E if they can, and even support ordinands who wish to explore vocation within the Anglican tradition. I have no issues with them whatsoever. I just feel I can be a better friend to the dear old C of E on the outside rather than within.

mikeb said...

ffs i feel like a primary school teacher of the 70s wishing to bash heads togther....

the oec had a great platform to work from all this does is diminiss any forward motion they have achieved....


The Rev. said...


disagree with u.

If you truly want to know what it means to be a priest in the OEC under the guidance of ++Jonathan then ask one of us personally, please do not go around 'bashing heads' till you truly understand what the OEC means to us.
We are all different which allows us to be eclectic/radical.
We may get bashed/bullied and tripped up but our 'forward' motion never stops, we rally, we assist. we grow stronger, we move forward.

Fr. Mark Townsend said...


Hi there my friend.

You know I am so delighted to have been welcomed and embraced by the truly inclusive, eclectic and progressive OEC. I've been a priest (with a love-hate relationship to Churchianity) for fifteen years. While I do not regret one moment of that pilgrimage I am now happy to say that I belong to a Church community that I feel proud of in the right sense. Archbishop Jonathan is a man of gentle wisdom, open mind, Christ-blessed vision and warm heart. He, and his fellow bishops and clergy, have enabled me to continue to offer the priesthood (that was given to me back in 1996) with integrity. I came to the point where (though I love the C of E) I could not remain one of her priests. I feel like a whole new world has been opened up for me - as though I've come back to Christ's fold, after some four years of exile, and been able to bring everything I've learned 'out there' with me. I thank God for the OEC, for ++Jonathan, for the Bishops and all my sister and brother clergy. It is a rich, beautiful, generous and Grace-filled Church... with no barriers, no closed doors, no 'thou shalt do it my ways.'
(I haven't said a cheesy phrase like this for well over four years but...) 'Praise God for all Her gifts, especially my new Church family.'