The more I look at this, the more confused I am about the new Bishop of Peterborough. In the Diocesan press release it is stated that,
Contrary to some inaccurate decade-old news reports still in circulation,[Donald Allister] ... never refused communion to unconfirmed children if the parish church has followed the proper guidelines for their preparation [...]. He remains concerned, however, that the rite of confirmation should not be under-valued or down-played.
Now I presume he has not “refused communion to unconfirmed children if the parish church has followed the proper guidelines for their preparation”, because under the regulations of the Church of England, he cannot:
A child who presents evidence in the form stipulated in paragraph 9 that he or she has been admitted to Holy Communion under these Regulations shall be so admitted at any service of Holy Communion conducted according to the rites of the Church of England in any place, regardless of whether or not any permission under paragraph 4 is in force in that place or was in force in that place until revoked. (Admission of Baptised Children to Holy Communion Regulations 2006, para 10, emphasis added)
However, some time ago —I am not sure when, but presumably quite recently —Donald wrote a leaflet for Reform, opposing not only the admission of children to Holy Communion but even the supposition that bishops have authority to grant this:
This present case of admitting children to communion before confirmation marks at least one and probably two further abuses of episcopal authority.
It is doubtful whether bishops really have the authority to admit unconfirmed children to communion. Canon Law (B15A) allows those who are “ready and desirous to be so confirmed” (not just “desirous” as it is often misquoted), and allows baptised but other unconfirmed people to be admitted “under regulations of the General Synod” but does not allow bishops to admit those too young to be confirmed.
But if it is doubtful whether bishops have the authority to admit unconfirmed children to communion it is absolutely certain that they do not have the authority to force clergy or churches to admit to communion those prohibited by Canon Law or by the doctrine of the Church as found in the Prayer Book or by the Bible. In fact the Bible, the Prayer Book and Canon Law make it clear that any such instruction should be resisted.
Incidentally, the only connection with Reform mentioned in the Peterborough press release is that, “Twelve years ago he stepped down from the Council of ... Reform because of its support for parishes which invited overseas bishops to ordain or confirm.” There is no mention of his leaflet-writing activities for that body.
Now I am encouraged that Donald is aware of such abuses of episcopal authority as suspending livings without proper authority or “insisting on ordinands wearing stoles at the ordination service when the rules clearly state that they should have the choice of the traditional reformed preaching scarf instead.” The people (and ordinands) of Peterborough will sleep a little easier, perhaps.
As it happens, I disagree with Donald's Reform leaflet, but there does seem to be some tension between the wording of that leaflet and the press release. In the former, he says that confirmation should be “a requirement for receiving communion”. In the latter we read only that “the rite of confirmation should not be under-valued or down-played.”
Revd John RichardsonAnonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select the 'Anonymous' profile, then type in a couple of letters, select 'preview', then close the preview box and delete these letters.
6 November 2009
6 November 2009
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