The New Programme:
The John Keble Workshops

The first fifteen John Keble Conferences were designed to be in preparation for the great Millennial Event, Christ Our Future held on 10th June, 2000 in the London Arena. They covered a wide range of subjects and took the form of Lectures delivered at a number of different venues including London, Oxford, Bristol and York.

Now that the event has taken place, Cost of Conscience has conferred with the PEVs and Forward in Faith to decide what form the Conferences should take in the immediate future, particularly the ones to be held in October 2000 (London on the 2nd, York on the 9th and Bristol on the 16th).

After discussion with the PEVs and a number of advisers at our recent meeting in Northamptonshire during May it was agreed that the next series of Conferences should be designed to prepare for the forthcoming Sacred Synod, planned for early 2002, and that they should take the form of Workshops, rather than Lectures, which will address and report at the Synod on issues which are likely to be in the forefront of people’s minds at that time.

The first subject to be addressed, and this may occupy more than one set of Workshops, will be the Scott-Joynt Report proposals on the Remarriage of Divorcees in Church.

The proposals in Bishop Scott-Joynt’s booklet (which will be supplied free of charge to all those attending) are highly controversial, containing as they do the suggestion that the decision of whether to conduct such re-marriages at all, and, more significantly, whether to conduct a particular re-marriage in his church should be the sole responsibility of the incumbent of the benefice in question.

Strongly held views have been expressed that these proposals will merely serve to make a bad situation worse. Not only do these proposals cut away the ground from the belief that Christian Marriage is for the lifetime of the partners, but it would also place a quite intolerable and opprobrious burden on any parish priest who tried to discriminate between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” cases – a distinction which is implicit in the Scott-Joynt proposals.

The terms deserving/undeserving also pose the question (well-expressed in the “Option G” debate several years back) as to why there should not therefore be a pastoral ministry, specifically exercised by priests who are able to distinguish accurately between the deserving and the undeserving, in order to help anyone, divorced or married, discover whether they might be such a “deserving case” and therefore eligible to make a fresh start with a new partner.

These questions and many others (not least the concept of Nullity, which was last discussed in the 1950s) must be addressed before we can produce a reasoned response to Scott-Joynt. It is this task which the Keble Workshops will be addressing at the Workshops.

The Workshops, which will, of course, be open to clergy and laity alike, are being overseen by Fr Jonathan Redvers Harris, who himself is well-versed in Ecclesiastical Law. During this summer he is undertaking a careful study of the whole question in order to be well-informed about the precise legal and ecclesial implications of these proposals

At the Workshops Fr Redvers Harris will have a number of assistants who have agreed to act as Tutors who will clarify and answer some of the questions which people may want to ask.

The three October Workshops will also be attended by a professional Secretary whose task it will be to collate any material generated at the Workshops that may be of use in formulating the resulting Report to the Sacred Synod.

This enterprise is being sponsored by the PEVs and financed by Cost of Conscience. Between us we would urge anyone who holds strong views on these Proposals to try and come to one of the Workshops to make such views known. It is almost certain that the matter, when it comes before the General Synod of the Church of England will generate a great deal of passion and interest. It is vital, therefore, that the views of such bodies as Forward in Faith and the PEVs should have been carefully thought out and clearly presented before the matter comes up for debate.

An application-form for the next series of John Keble Workshops appears on the Bishops’ Diary page (page two) of this issue.