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In search of “Formal Structural Pastoral Provision” - a suggestion for discussion

In the spirit of those who say good fences make good neighbours this blog is an exploration of one example of what "Formal Structural Pastoral Provision" might actually be able to look like in the Church of England and how the orthodox might go about achieving it.

For discussion.

Formal Pastoral Structural Provision - an idea with a long history

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) have been consistent in their response to the bishops of the Church of England commending prayers of blessings for couples of the same sex and “stand alone” services for the same purpose, whether on a trial basis or permanently by 2025.

Back in January 2023 CEEC said,

"It is clear that the strength of feeling amongst parties with differing convictions indicates that we have to find a better way forward. In the event of the current proposals being pursued, CEEC will continue to advocate a settlement, without theological compromise, based on a permanent structural rearrangement resulting in visible differentiation."

And then, the next month, after the General Synod voted on these matters, CEEC said,

"From the outset it is worth emphasising that – even in the event of some form of differentiation or ‘settlement’ between orthodoxy and liberalism - a number of functions can continue to be shared across the C of E as a whole as part of the overarching infrastructure shared by all parishes and clergy. These might include: clergy pensions, DAC’s, Church Commissioners investment and others.

Some of the needs identified below will be short term stepping-stones to a longer-term structural settlement.

It is important to be clear that any so called ‘settlement’ is to be without theological compromise.

Any settlement (intended to meet the need for provision) will have to be of a different order to the concept of extended episcopal oversight and the five guiding principles, because the current proposals involve a primary salvation issue: they are not adiaphora."

The paper introduced in that way goes on to outline the “needs” in a “structural settlement” of “Licensed Ministers”, “Churchwardens”, “Parishes”, “Ordinands”, “Those who are single including same sex attracted Christians”, “Appointment Processes”, “Church of England School/Headteachers”, “Church Planters and BMO’s”, “Theological Colleges and Courses”, “Patrons”, “Anglican Mission Agencies”.

In October 2023, CEEC said much the same,

“More than ever, we are convinced that the only way ahead for the Church of England is to pursue a settlement for differentiation that protects and provides a safe space for those on both sides of the debate”.

Putting some flesh on these rather dry bones, Co-Chair of CEEC, Ed Shaw, spoke to an amendment moved by LGBT campaigner Jayne Ozanne, which would have brought proposals for same-sex marriage to July 2023’s Synod, told the February meeting what the aim is:

"I wish I could support this. But this motion does not include a call for the negotiated settlement that we do need, now, to protect the consciences and rights of people that believe fundamentally irreconcilable things.

Jayne, I look forward to the day when you can get married in your local Anglican Church, according to your conscience.

But according to my conscience, and afraid that will have to be in a different part of the Church of England to me.

I’m looking forward to the day when we can discuss, we can debate equal marriage in this chamber, recognising our arithmetic irreconcilable differences, and thinking through and building the structures that will allow us somehow to stay united while preserving people’s individual precious consciences. So though I would love to support this amendment, until it goes further, I cannot."

Shaw (who experiences same-sex attraction) envisages a Church of England where Ms Ozanne can marry a woman and he can have his conservative evangelical principles protected by way of a “negotiated settlement” and “building structures”.

Revd Vaughan Roberts has said something ostensibly very similar to what Ed Shaw and CEEC have said, and at least it is clear that the potential “deal” CEEC are looking for is:

A structural settlement for the orthodox in the CoE,

in return for standalone services & same sex marriage being permitted in the CoE.

Those advocating a settlement of this type see it as the only way of avoiding interminable conflict and they will continue to make the case that the ‘tectonic’ divide that exists in the Church of England around sex and marriage cannot be bridged, and that the only alternative to ongoing and painful ‘wrangling’ in the church is to seek a structural settlement.

CEEC has therefore urged the House and College of Bishops to step back from the brink, in order urgently to explore a “settlement” in England that might avoid the Church of England suffering the same internal division as the Communion has experienced in the last two decades.

During the debate at November 2023’s General Synod, a number of leading evangelicals including Canon Vaughan Roberts, Revd Dr Sean Doherty, Revd Will Pearson-Gee and Mrs Sarah Finch continued the calls. The Bishop of London referred repeatedly to “Formal Structural Pastoral Provision” and (in an admittedly defeated amendment) the Bishop of Durham urged “firm provision that provides a clear way of distinguishing differing views”.

So, stepping back for a moment, what the revisionists want is simple - the removal by Parliament of the necessary part of the “quadruple lock” and the approval by two-thirds of General Synod of the necessary amendments to the Canons and liturgy to create “equal marriage”.

However, what the “settlement” that CEEC seeks actually looks like, has never been made clear.

Formal Pastoral Structural Provision - exploring the options

In a document published in March 2023 called Securing Evangelical Witness, CEEC wrote:

"CEEC has given, substantial thought over the last few years as to what kind of provision might be needed in the situation in which we now find ourselves- including the various ‘forms’ or ‘models’ by which long term provision might be made…. (the detail of these considerations can be found in papers available on the CEEC website...)."

The website hosts two papers “Guarding the Deposit” (2016) and “Visibly Different” (2020), that set out a number of options, which can be summarised as:

  1. A Provincial Solution - involving the creation of a third province, alongside York and Canterbury, for either revisionists or the orthodox, or the non-geographical rearrangement of the existing provinces, so one remains orthodox and the other allows revision.

  2. A Diocesan Solution - involving the creation of a new diocese/s, for either revisionists or the orthodox.

  3. A Formal Society Solution - involving some form of delegated episcopal oversight (DEPO) from orthodox bishops ("akin to that currently provided for those opposed to the ordination of women")

  4. An Informal Society Solution - without delegated episcopal oversight, based on the actions of orthodox clergy and lay people

As set out here, a Third Province is a non-starter, and the total internal reorganisation of the Church of England is even more unlikely, which exhausts the “Provincial” solutions.

CEEC have themselves voiced doubts about the long-term future of a Diocesan solution, "because an orthodox diocese or dioceses would remain under the authority of an archbishop (or archbishops) and be subject to the decisions of the Church of England and either (or both) would have the authority to erode or abolish their existence if they felt motivated to do so. For example, an archbishop could seek to block the appointment of a strong orthodox bishop for such a diocese and the General Synod of the Church of England could ultimately vote to abolish it."

Notwithstanding the question of whether the arrangements provided when women were admitted to the episcopate offer "delegated epicopal oversight," or merely "extended episcopal oversight" (a question which is discussed here), neither appear to now offer sufficient differentiation. Most agree that the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples is of a different order and requires greater differentiation, as Revd Vaughan Roberts said, in an interview in April 2023,

“Any provision for different oversight needs to be clearly differentiated. If the Church of England continues in this direction, it can’t be the kind of thing they did over the ordination of women priests: it’s got to be quite clear we are not walking together.”

In “Visibly Different”, CEEC also appear to rule out DEPO because while it, “would involve differentiation from liberal bishops, it is clearly less than separation”, there were doubts about, “there continuing to be a reasonable number of orthodox bishops in the Church of England” and, “the scheme could cease without the parishes and clergy involved being able to stop this happening”.

And as for more informal approaches, CEEC are clear that even with the increased visibility and the "opportunities for the development of mutual support the formation of a society" would offer, it "would not provide a satisfactory answer to all the potential problems," of informal arrangements.

Accordingly, though they have explored the options, CEEC have not currently advanced any viable plan for what “structural differentiation” would actually look like in practice.

Instead, the approach, echoed by the likes of the Renew Conference, is to “resist” and establish “facts on the ground”, such as providing "spiritual overseers" and the "Ephesian Fund", while waiting for the Church of England to make an offer of what a structural settlement would look like.

Formal Pastoral Structural Provision - the optimum time for a deal

It is not flippant to say that if that stance is maintained, CEEC and their supporters are going to be waiting an awfully long time. There is no reason for a College of Bishops which has announced its resistance to any “structural differentiation”, to suddenly change tack and do all the heavy-lifting to put together a package for conservatives. The fact that General Synod rejected two amendments calling for such provision in November will not have helped.

And CEEC does not have long. If the plan set out by the House of Bishops runs to course, General Synod will vote on the liturgy for formal “standalone” services in two years’ time. Then in 2026, there will be a newly elected Synod, after elections in which it will be entirely clear how existing members have voted and where the dominant issue, whatever happens in 2025, will be same-sex marriage.

CEEC could take a risk, or rather three risks - they could hope that:

(a) the orthodox can block the motion in 2025, and

(b) that the “blocking minority” (33.3%) will continue to exist in 2026 and thereafter, and

(c) that those two “wins” will indeed bring the bishops to the negotiating table to “do a deal” with them to introduce standalone services and/or same-sex marriage, rather than there being a parliamentary, or other, intervention, perhaps as yet unforeseen.

Given that CEEC appear to accept that same sex marriage, albeit with a parallel structural settlement for the orthodox, will be introduced, the only question is timing.

Therefore, CEEC needs to seek a deal at the time when it is most likely to secure it on the best possible terms - and the optimum time for that is in the next two years, for at least the following reasons:

  1. It avoids the considerable risks set out above of not doing so.

  2. It is most attractive to liberals now because it both obviates the current blocking minority and minimises the risks they face that it might remain in the next quinquennium.

  3. If the motion is blocked in 2025, the orthodox can at least go into the elections on a platform of only opposing same-sex marriage if the liberals are not offering the right settlement. That places the onus on liberals to deliver for themselves what they say they want. Being willing to “do a deal” whatever the outcome of the elections might even attract liberal votes to conservatives.

  4. This is also the time when the benefit of preventing years of “wrangling” and “internal division” is at its highest.

  5. For liberals this is the time that the benefit of avoiding delay is maximised.

In short, there is very unlikely to be a more opportune moment than before 2025 to “do the deal” CEEC says it wants to do.

What this means, however, is that CEEC and perhaps others involved in the "Alliance" who opposed the "‘unlawful’ commendation of same sex blessings" in July 2023, need to agree and state clearly what "deal" they would accept in return for removing their opposition to standalone services and opening the way to “equal” marriage.

We offer the rest of this blog as an aid to that process.

Formal Pastoral Structural Provision - a possible solution

In seeking to find a structure which provides sufficient separation and security, without expecting the unviable, Anglican Futures has settled on, what is currently being called, the Non-Geographical Diocese of the Church of England (NoGeoDoCE) - best pronounced with an Italian lilt.

The expectation would be that part of the “deal” would be a commitment by the Church of England through its Synod, bishops and dioceses to facilitate and assist the initial creation and functioning of this new diocese, within clearly agreed parameters implemented as uniformly as possible across the dioceses.

In effect, NoGeoDoCE would sit alongside the two Provinces of the Church of England - serving the orthodox both north and south of the provincial border. Whether it is described as an intra-provincial, or extra-provincial, diocese would be up for discusison. In some respects it would be part of the Church of England, but in others it would be set apart.

Crown Dependencies - an analogy

A useful analogy might be the “Crown Dependencies” of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, which, despite their close association with the UK, are not considered a part of it, but neither are they classified as colonies or Overseas Territories. In fact, they are places which have never been colonies of the UK.

While having their own constitutions, directly elected legislative assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and whose citizens have no vote in UK elections and no representation in the UK Parliament, the British monarch is the (essentially titular) Head of State and therefore sovereign over one undivided realm. The governments interact through the Privy Council and the Ministry of Justice which retain some, largely formal and administrative roles. The UK government plays no role in the internal affairs of Crown Dependencies unless it is absolutely necessary for good governance, which in reality it is not.

The Crown is represented by a Lieutenant-Governor “resident” in the territory.

Without wanting to push the analogy too far, the UK government does take responsibility for the formal overseas relations of the Crown Dependencies. With NoGeoDoCE that might continue- to deal with ecumenical matters etc. That might leave an issue of what other external relations NoGeoDoCE might have- for example might it enter into some relationship with the Global Anglican Futures Conference and/or (perhaps more likely) the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (the latter, of course being a formal structure of the Anglican Communion and no longer geographical, of which it could potentially become an associate member).

In a similar way, NoGeoDoCE, would most probably be a legal entity in its own right - whether as a Church of England “diocese” or a Charitable Incorporated Association (CIO) or a company.

NoGeoDoCE would be self-governing - it would have its own Synod - and it would appoint its own bishops, presumably initially, from those presently (or recently) serving in the CoE.

NoGeoDoCE would initially adopt the Canons of the Church of England, but suspend those that were thought undesirable or impractical at the present time, and be free to refuse or adopt future changes made by the General Synod. While it is unlikely that NoGeoDoCE would be able to make 'canons' or 'measures' in the same way as General Synod, it could agree new 'Rules' by which it is internally governed.

NoGeoDoCE would forego their involvement in the Deanery and Diocesan Synods of the geographical diocese and the related rights to elect canditates to, or stand for, General Synod.

A liaison committee between the two Synods would deal with matters of mutual interest/concern. A comprehensive protocol would provide for the full sharing of safeguarding information between the two entities and similarly protocols for Clergy discipline would need to be considered - to avoid clergy either 'escaping' into NoGeoDoCE to avoid punishment, or being 'punished' for wishing to join.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would remain the notional archbishop of NoGeoDoCE with some very limited formal roles designed to help NoGeoDoCE to flourish in its independence, perhaps with a “vicar-general” “resident” in the diocese. As a quid pro quo however, NoGeoDoCE would agree that it would not appoint its own Primate but they would be given permission by the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint and consecrate future bishops within the diocese.

Accepting the Archbishop of Canterbury as Primate, even in these circumstances, will be a degree of communion unacceptable to some potential joiners of NoGeoDoCE but without becoming a separate Province or Church (and then with the inevitable accusations of “schism”) it would appear to be a price that would have to be paid to create a structure that has a possibility of being brought into existence.

Churches would join NoGeoDoCE by vote of the APCM (or EPCM) which, of course, means the vote of anyone on the electoral roll. Arrangements will be needed to ensure that those in combined benefices, Team Ministries, or Local Ecumenical Partnerships are not excluded from this process.

The clergy and congregation would then become a new 'church' - forming a legal entity such a CIO or company – and in doing so they would give up their ‘parish’ responsibilities. In effect, they would become the equivalent of a proprietary chapel, chaplaincy or BMO - for simplicity in the rest of this blog the word 'chaplaincy' has therefore been used to refer to the local 'churches' that have joined NoGeoDoCE.

Non-parochial clergy - such as bishops, archdeacons and those working in diocesan roles - may also wish to join NoGeoDoCE. They would have to resign from their current post and seek canonical residence in NoGeoDoCE, however, there can be no guarantee that the new diocese will be able to 'employ' all those who wish to join in a similar role. It is however likely that there will also be groups of lay people, whose own vicar is content to stay within the traditional provinces, looking to be led in new 'plants' within NoGeoDoCE.

Before moving on to other practical considerations, such as buildings, assets, stipends and training, it is worth pausing to examne a few questions of principle that are likely to have already risen in the minds of readers.

Q1: Why should the orthodox 'move'?

Many will probably question why it is the orthodox and not the revisionist who have to join a new structure but that is a question which is simply dealt with:

  • Unlike CEEC, the revisionists don’t want or seek a structural settlement, for themselves and however much CEEC suggests they should be dispatched to one, they aren’t going anywhere.

  • It is the orthodox who only have, at best, a blocking minority and very limited power in the College/House of Bishops.

  • For many revisionists the ultimate goal is not so much same-sex marriage but the capture of the institution. For the orthodox same-sex marriage is not actually the issue either- their ultimate goal is the salvation of souls. This, however, creates an asymmetry when it comes to the extent each will invest themselves in the “winning” of the institution. For traditionalists it is a means to an end, for some revisionists it is the only end. Logically, therefore this faction cannot both “depart” and “exist”- it is one or the other.

  • Some revisionists will see an attraction in getting rid of those they intensely dislike and regard as cruel, if not evil, and profoundly wrong, if not heretical. If the price liberals have to pay to rid themselves of such a menace, perhaps NoGeoDoCE is that price. It is hard, however, to see the same in mirror image in the current climate.

If it is not doing too much, “reading between the lines”, CEEC do not seriously think that the CofE is going to herd liberals into a new structure when they aren’t willing to countenance it, but it might just be possible that something like NoGeoDoCE could be provided for those willing to join.

Q2: Why should the orthodox give up their parish status?

Diocesan bishops are fiercely protective of their territorial jurisdiction. They are resistant to both “their” diocese being holed like “Swiss cheese” and the creation of a "postcode lottery" for residents. It was this that, in part, prevented a structural settlement in the debates about the consecration of women to the episcopate. Any solution to the present crisis has to grapple with the conundrum of how to provide a secure structure which at the same time is not going to be simply unacceptable to the House of Bishops.

While NoGeoDoCE does, of necessity, potentially interfere with the jurisdiction of diocesans, it does so in the most minimal way possible. As the chief pastor and principal minister of the diocese, the bishop shares the "cure of souls" (the responsibility for the care of the parishioners) with local parish clergy.

By surrendering their parish status, the vicar foregoes their formal share of the cure of souls. This has two benefits - for the diocesan bishop of the geographic diocese it means they retain the cure of souls of the whole diocese - no swiss cheese - but it also makes clear that the vicar joining NoGeoDoCE no longer shares pastoral responsibility with a diocesan who they believe it is necessary to separate from.

In return for not losing any geographical jurisdiction, the geographical diocesan bishop and other clergy in the area would need to accept that the new chaplaincy could continue to minister within the old parish boundaries without interference, even if the parish is formally combined with another. And it goes without saying that parishes are rearranged all the time - as churches are deconsecrated and clergy numbers and regular Sunday services reduced. Wigan and elsewhere are notable recent examples of the phenomenon.

It is also worth acknowledging that jurisdiction is not, and has not historically been, absolute. This is something CEEC helpfully addresses in “Visibly Different”,

"5.4.14. Under this option there would be parishes who were part of one diocese while being geographically situated in the middle of another. Until Victorian times this situation was relatively common and there is no objection to it in principle since what constitutes a diocese is a community of people in relationship with a bishop rather than a continuous block of territory."

The paper goes on to explain that,

"These diocesan exclaves were known as ‘episcopal peculiars’ and existed where a bishop owned an estate within the boundaries of another diocese and had jurisdiction over the clergy and laity who lived there. A famous example was the parish of Croydon which was a peculiar belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury even though it was a very long way outside the main boundaries of Canterbury diocese."

The remit of the Bishop for the Armed Forces is another example of a non-geographical jurisdiction, held on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Likewise the Diocese of Europe is an example of an over-lapping jurisdiction with another province. In the latter, of course, there are no 'parishes' and 'churches' are formally designated “chaplaincies”. In fact there is much in the Diocese of Europe's constitution that NoGeoDoCE might learn from.

Lastly, NoGeoDoCE would undertake that all its chaplaincies would keep completing their registers and would return their data for the purposes of the “Statistics for Mission”. While of no benefit to the NoGeoDoCE chaplaincy, that would, nonetheless, allow the Church of England to maintain NoGeoDoCE attendance/activity in the “weight of numbers” which lends the CofE some of its residual authority. Such an offer is surely more attractive than people just leaving the CofE and a hastening of numerical decline.

Q3: Why a vote of the APCM not the PCC?

The decision to join NoGeoDoCE is a serious one, even if it is only temporary, and as seen above it may have implications for the parishioners. It is therefore likely that the diocesan bishop of the geograpical diocese would wish the whole parish to be consulted.

This raises the very real possibility of the “parishioners” potentially being at odds with the “congregation” (and the vicar).

In some parishes this won’t be an issue simply because the wider community does not care what the church community does and in others there will not be a substantial disagreement. But for those who are at odds, there are competing risks to weigh-up.

The potential “leavers” will, naturally not want to unnecessarily offend their neighbours. Those who wish to remain in the local geographical diocese risk that successful opposition to the church joining NoGeoDocE will mean the bulk of the congregation leave anyway - not for NoGeoDoCE but for the Anglican Network in Europe (ANiE - the Gafcon sponsored proto-province) or to form an independent church.

That would potentially leave those opposing the move to NoGeoDoCE without the bulk of the worshipping community or the vicar, leaving the church at best in interregnum (and ripe for a “pastoral reorganisation”) and at worst rendering it unviable - financially and otherwise, while the PCC retains responsibility for the building. However opposed some on the Electoral Roll might be to NoGeoDoCE, it might be possible to persuade them to consent on the basis that (a) the alternative is worse and (b) the position is not necessarily permanent and may be reversed.

In short, a functioning, local CofE church, even if it is part of NoGeoDoCE, might be better than the creation of a non-functioning CofE church plus a functioning non-CofE one.

The continuing “threat” of a NoGeoDoCE church always having the option to move their church community (but not the CoE assets) to ANiE is one of the elements that might ensure that NoGeoDoCE chaplaincies are treated with reasonable fairness by the Church of England for the longer term.

Back to the practicalities of transferring to NoGeoDoCE

Each parish church joining NoGeoDoCE would become a chaplaincy, requiring a new legal identity - either a company or more likely a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) - and thus would able to enter into contracts. The chaplaincy CIO would relate to the gathered congregation and any new assets could be owned by them.

NoGeoDoCEwould need to be self-financing, but would benefit from the arrangements for assets, pensions etc outlined below.

The future of NoGeoDoCE would then be secured by legal rather than canonical or episcopal means.

Upon joining NoGeoDoCE, each chaplaincy would have the right to rent, or be granted a leasehold interest in, whatever property assets it previously had access to and wished to retain (church buildings, vicarages, halls etc). A peppercorn rent or ground-rent would be paid to the DBF. Buildings would be subject to fully repairing leases, and thus by compliance with the reasonable requirements of independent quinquennial inspections and the faculty system.

The leases for church buildings etc would be for the long term (50/99 years) but terminable by the parish only, and only when the chaplaincy CIO ceased operation whether voluntarily or otherwise. On doing so the buildings and the 'church' would automatically return to the geographical Church of England diocese.

The rights of the Church of England to terminate the arrangement would be limited to the chaplaincy CIO breaching any of the terms of the lease(s) and/or (perhaps) some other contractual provisions - for example in relation to stipends as below.

Long term leases of residential property are not possible, but the diocese could again either grant a long leasehold interest to the chaplaincy CIO (whilst retaining the freehold) or be required by contract to indemnify the chaplaincy CIO from the financial consequences of, for example, the vicarage ceasing to be available to it. Termination of the arrangement would be as with other buildings.

As there is some doubt as to who actually owns what in the Church of England (and indeed whether the latter exists at all) dioceses would agree that the arrangements satisfy any obligations that might be owed to the Diocesan Board of Finance and that the diocese would not seek to disturb the occupation of the properties or encourage anyone else to do so, again with indemnities in that regard. Were Parliament to legislate to disestablish, or otherwise clarify the legal position of the Church of England, the latter would agree to do all they could to preserve the position of NoGeoDoCE churches, but ultimately, of course, Parliament is sovereign.

There would be a displaceable presumption that all other assets (ie PCC bank balances, bibles, white goods etc) would be assumed be the property of the chaplaincy CIO without any claim by the diocese or parish. Any dispute as to whether the presumption should apply would be referred to arbitration on agreed principles.

Clergy stipends would be paid either directly by the parish but retain membership of the Church of England pension scheme or be paid through their geographical diocese, but the diocese reimbursed £ for £ by the parish. There is precedent in the Diocese of London for such arrangements.

NoGeoDoCE would select its own ordinands, and train and license its own clergy. Training could be through existing providers or new ones - the cost paid for training would need to be negotiated with the provider, as would any continuing contribution to those costs from the Church of England's Ministry Division.

NoGeoDoCE orders would be recognised by the Church of England and vice versa but that would be without prejudice to the grant of a licence to minister.

The House of Bishops would be made up of the diocesan bishop and a number of suffragan bishops, at least one of whom able to fulfill the needs of the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure 2014. The Archbishop of Canterbury would give permission for the diocese to appoint and consecrate future bishops at their own discretion.

A church joining NoGeoDoCEwould lose all access to diocesan services but could contract to “buy in” those services, just as with any other provider.

Church schools would be free to enter into whatever working relationship they wished with the geographical diocese and/or NoGeoDoCE church, though it is unlikely that many NoGeoDoCE chaplaincies would wish to take on the responsibilty for the management of a local school.

Any parish church could vote to join NoGeoDoCE, and any chaplaincy could vote to leave, at any time. Leaving would mean leaving for the geographical CofE diocese. Thus, a fully “porous” border would be established.

It would be up to the Church Commissioners as to whether they would be willing to fund ministry in NoGeoDoCE.

Nothing is perfect and the perfect cannot be the enemy of the merely good and so it might be thought, whatever the problems, a NoGeoDoCE-style body might be the “least worst option” for structural provision. If it is to be such, one crucial issue needs to be addressed - “the elephant in the room” - Money!

Funding NoGeoDoCE

If jurisdiction is what will trouble the Church of England most, it is probably issues of finance that will be the overwhelming concern of most potential NoGeoDoCE churches.

As has already been said, NoGeoDoCE will need to be self financing. It certainly cannot be assumed that the Church Commissioners will continue to provide financial support for episcopal ministry, training or allow NoGeoDoCE chaplaincies access to other types of funding.

So between them, the NoGeoDoCEchaplaincies will have to be prepared to meet the costs of running the diocese (and its bishops etc) and of ensuring the financial well-being of those NoGeoDoCE churches which might not be economically viable, as well as meeting their own ministry costs.

That really should not be an issue - many orthodox churches have very significant budgets. Just ten evangelical parishes in the Church of England spend something like £40m between them on daily expenditure every year - and that does not reflect the assets, trusts etc from which many of them also benefit. Added to this a by no means small number of churches raise and spend £1m a year.

For those churches who are net-givers to the Church of England the saving on their parish share would be immediately available to assist those NoGeoDoCE chaplaincies who are, often unavoidably, net recipients. CEEC is already promoting the “Ephesians Fund” which could be used in future to address the issue of redistribution of resources by it becoming a fund of NoGeoDoCE.

The reality is, however, that the critical mass necessary to establish NoGeoDoCE is much, much less likely to be achieved unless some very wealthy churches are willing to back it and accept a level of financial responsibility. Without the wealthy and powerful, it might still not be impossible to create NoGeoDoCe - it is what ANiE has done- although at times that has required great sacrifices and even real hardship, considerable risks and faith, as well as increased generosity and revised approaches to ministry.

Compromises will be needed to achieve an affordable budget. For example, it might be that traditional residential training becomes unaffordable, but again, that is already the reality for many both in the Church of England and in other Churches/denominations. And like any diocese without large reserves there will be questions about the number of non-'parochial' posts that can be funded.

The Big Q: Can this kite fly?

While the creation of NeGeoDoCe could at best be described as “walking together at a massive distance”, it is not walking out either. Rather, it is perhaps more like a “trial separation” or divorce without remarriage, leaving open the possibility of reconciliation. That might be reconciliation with a revisionist, or a reformed Church of England, so the creation of NoGeoDoCE does not do anything terminal to the relationship. In that sense there could be said to be a shared expectation that any change of jurisdiction or impaired communion is time-limited.

This has implications:

First, obviously, for some a structure like NoGeoDoCe will be seen as not being enough to protect gospel integrity and for others it will go too far in reducing existing gospel opportunities.

Second, there is a judgement call to be made. Some may consider that no 'settlement' is worth the orthodox appearing to actively encourage the introduction of same-sex marriage into the Church of England. Others will consider that the commendation of the Prayers of Love and Faith, which allow clergy to pray for God's blessing on couples in same-sex relationships, and experimental liturgy for standalone services, creates an inevitability about the situation which makes a settlement the priority. As the Bishop of Chichester noted at November's General Synod meeting:

"LLF services, introduced on a trial basis, could never be subsequently withdrawn - that would be pastorally catastrophic."

Third, it will be said by some that a NoGeoDocE type structure constitutes voluntary “ghettoization”, and on the other side of the debate it will be said, with some justification, to be a “church within a church”. The former might be better to see it as a laboratory for what is sometimes (perhaps, wrongly) described as the “Gamaliel Principle”, and the latter to accept it as the final stage of an already long-running, “withering on the vine strategy”. Time will tell who was right.

Fourth, to many the creation of NoGeoDoCE, or the like, along the lines already set out, will seem impossibly complicated, but it is essentially what the Anglican Network in England (ANiE) and its two dioceses have done. It is right that ANiE have done it without having to negotiate with the Church of England, or other Canterbury-aligned provinces, but equally it has been achieved without the benefit of retaining assets and arrangements “owned” or controlled by the Church of England, Scottish Episcopal Church and Church in Wales or any assistance from those Churches.

Fifth, there is no doubt that what is outlined above will not address all the relevant issues and equally there is no doubt that it can be vastly improved upon, not least, with a name that sounds less like an Italian delicacy. But as ever, “we have to start somewhere” and a “journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

What is the next step?

The ideal, ultimate destination would be a vote in General Synod on a motion to create NoGeoDoCE, a motion which would be contingent on the Synod, in the same group of sessions voting (by the necessary two thirds) to introduce the standalone services under Canon B2 and a motion to introduce same-sex marriage, which would be automatically cancelled were that not to happen. If the first motion passes, any orthodox members of Synod who could not in conscience vote in favour of the second or third motions will be able to leave the room, or abstain on the motions, confident that the they will have a secure home to go to - and it is therefore likely that the motions would pass.

When such a vote might take place is not entirely clear, but the earliest date would seem to be the Synod in 2025 that considers the approval of permanent “stand alone” services of blessing. It is quite possible, however, that a vote will not take place then and may be delayed until the next quinquennium. The same “deal” will serve in both situations.

The ideal destination may not be achievable and in the alternative, the House of Bishops have abundantly demonstrated their ability to act by episcopal fiat. There is nothing in theses proposals that actually requires full Synodical approval, however desirable that might be.

To get to the destination no later than 2025, CEEC might take the following path.

  1. December 2023. Identify representatives of all interested parties/groups (ie in the “Alliance”) and from them gather a small group for a couple of long away days to refine the proposal early in the New Year.

  2. January/February 2024. An “in-person” day, or days, of consultation for any who in conscience can subscribe to the CEEC Basis of Faith, and/or the basis of faith of any partner organisation to revise the proposal.

  3. February/March 2024. Submit the proposal to as broad consultation as possible by online discussions, to again refine the proposal.

  4. March 2024. CEEC will affirm that they -

    1. they will not under any circumstances accept an arrangement that provides any less security and differentiation,

    2. they are, of course, willing to negotiate details and implementation.

    3. are clear that the deadline for the House of Bishops to agree to the proposal is the earliest of the time of any vote under Canon B2 or any vote which seeks to begin the process of introducing same-sex marriage.

  5. March to September 2024. Hold as many regional “roadshows” with DEF’s etc and as many conversations as possible across England to explain and seek support for the proposal. At the same time produce all the materials a parish might require to consider the proposal.

  6. October 2024. Refine the proposal again into the Final Version.

  7. November 2024 to May 2025. Ask churches to put the proposed “deal” to their PCC for their agreement and their commitment to “make it happen”.

  8. June 2025-September 2025. Consult with the Church of England as to what it would take to make the settlement sufficiently acceptable to the House of Bishops for the majority of them to vote for it.

  9. October 2025. The public and formal launch of the proposal, in all its detail, by all those willing to support it.

  10. November 2025. Earliest date for a vote in General Synod?

Throughout the timetable above:

  • The Church of England will be consulting the dioceses on the “stand alone services” and at every opportunity and by all possible means the proposed structure would be promoted as the solution to ongoing disagreement.

  • The College of Bishops would be kept as fully informed as possible on the evolving proposal so that they can discuss it at any time. There would be no unavoidable secrecy, but rather a constant offer and invitation to collaborate.

  • The orthodox (and potentially changing) members of General Synod will also have to be part of an ongoing consultation and also be provided with all necessary episcopal care as they wrestle with such potential responsibilities.

  • At least one person would be designated full-time to execute and organise all the above, answer the inevitable (and potentially repetitive) questions that people will want answered and be the key liaison with the Church of England.

  • Another person would be designated to collate the results of the consultation and doing the ongoing work of refining the proposal.

It is readily apparent from the timetable above, and even assuming that the “B2” vote does not take place until November 2025 at the earliest, that there is no time to waste.

It is necessary to conclude by saying that there can be no confidence that the proposed deal can be done, however;

  • This is an opportunity to reveal the “good, pleasing and perfect will” of God in all this.

  • It might be possible for diverse groups to unite, not around a particular leader, but around a particular plan. So far, the unity of the orthodox has been in opposition to the plans of others. This is a chance to unite in favour of a positive proposition and vision.

  • A plan has to be advanced, to do otherwise will mean separate ideas from disparate groups and individual leaders, and as was the case in the debates over women in the episcopate - they will each be rejected one by one.

  • If the Church of England rejects the plan then at least the orthodox (a) have done what they can to remain and (b) know where they stand and the decisions they will have to take.

  • There is a positive message - one of seeking a peaceable compromise in which the orthodox are not simply a roadblock.

  • The orthodox, who have too long been controlled by events outside their control, to some extent seize the initiative.

What is the alternative?

If the orthodox "Alliance" cannot agree on a detailed plan for the kind of “formal structural pastoral provision” that they could and would accept - or if they are unwilling to follow the steps above, it will not be to the Crown Dependencies that the House of Bishops will look for inspiration. Instead, it seems they are already looking to islands much, much further away.

Until recently, the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Helen-Ann Hartley, who now co-chairs the LLF Implementation Steering Group, was the Bishop of Waikato in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP). It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the ideas for 'formal structural pastoral provision', which the House of Bishops told General Synod they were "exploring", suggest a solution very much like that introduced in New Zealand, back in 2018, when their General Synod agreed to blessings after same-sex civil marriages.

In New Zealand, the orthodox were given permission to create a society or 'Anglican Community', known as the Anglican Community of St Mark (ACM), designed to, "help unite under one banner the historically orthodox stream of ACANZP and to create a structure through which a united voice may be heard. ACM now stands in its own right as a recognised body of Anglicans who wish to celebrate the historic Anglican view of the gospel." They are promised a "protector bishop," who can support and advocate for members and their General Synod has agreed that only members of ACM can be appointed to affiliated ministry units (parishes).

However, as they explain below, there is no delegated episcopal oversight, nor even the kind of extended episcopal care provided in the Church of England for those who in conscience cannot accept the pastoral and sacramental care of a female bishop. Instead:

It is hard to see how such a plan would meet the needs set out by CEEC over the past eight years, nor even provide the level of differentiation that CEEC themselves have already put in place with their 'overseers' and the Ephesian Fund.

So, let the debate begin

As said before, NoGeoDoCE, is far from perfect and doubtless can be much improved. Publication of this blog is not a suggestion that Anglican Futures believes NoGeoDoCE is the proper course, or even that it will work. Neither is it a criticism of CEEC, who have been working hard to support faithful Anglicans in the Church of England.

But as an organisation, Anglican Futures is willing to do what it can to help those committed to remaining in the Church of England find the best possible provision. To that end NoGeoDoCE is offered as a starting point, with Anglican Futures accepting the inevitable criticism and allowing others to do better. The prayer is that this blog will stimulate the necessary debate to enable proactive engagement with the House of Bishops, General Synod and orthodox congregations, before it is too late.

So - what do you think?

Anglican Futures would love to hear your thoughts - in the comments below, on our Facebook page or by email.

With thanks to Cordell Kinglsey from Unsplash for the main image.


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Dec 14, 2023

"any orthodox members of Synod who could not in conscience vote in favour of the second or third motions will be able to leave the room, or abstain on the motions, confident that the they will have a secure home to go to - and it is therefore likely that the motions would pass."

that should be every orthodox member then. I don't see how any orthodox member can willingly forgo the opportunity to vote against apostacy. I don't see how any orthodox member can remain within an apostate church. The orthodox are not the schismatics here.


Dec 11, 2023

I appreciate the huge amount of work and thought that has gone into this, and the loving and generous spirit in which it is offered. Perhaps my misgivings are misplaced, but I fear there may be a rushing in where angels fear to tread. The beginning of this morning's OT lectionary reading says: "'Ah, stubborn children,' declares the LORD, 'who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who weave a web, but not of my Spirit...'" (Isaiah 30:1)

It has a contemporary ring. In a recent communication, Rev Canon John Dunnett of CEEC expressed his concern that this situation has not led to a broken-hearted outpouring of corporate prayer among us. This should be a huge flashing warning sign. As a C …

Replying to

Dear guest,

Thank you for this call to prayer - and apologies if this particular post is more practical than 'pastoral' - perhaps it should be read in the light of this post


Dec 08, 2023

I would like to thank you for all the trouble taken in writing up this suggestion. You have examined carefully a way in which the orthodox can proceed without sacrificing any of our principles or unnecessarily antagonising the liberals. I think the CEEC would be wise to take it on board, largely because it has addressed the main legal, financial and practical problems which could derail progress. You are right to tell us to get on with it! Mike K

Replying to

Thank you Mike, it will be interesting to see if others agree with you.


Thank you for this informative letter.

Thank you for all the time and effort you are putting into this on our behalf.

We will continue to pray for you all as you work prayerfully and respectfully to find a way forward.

Replying to

Thank you - your prayers are much appreciated.


Dec 01, 2023

Wow, this is a very long article so probably it will not be fully understood even by those who have time to wade through it. My question is, have the people involved put themselves in the position of outside onlookers - the "watching world"? In Matthew 28 our Lord makes His church a teaching body. A teacher has the job of making things clear. The Church of England, however, has had centuries to develop obfuscation into a fine art. The only one who excels it in this is the devil himself.

Replying to

Thank you - you are right that whatever arrangements the orthodox come to with the CofE it must be clear and transparent so the watching world can see very clearly why divsion is necessary.

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