Monday 5th June 2006
THE REVEREND RICHARD JOHN COEKIN Appellant
THE BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK Respondent
The Bishop of Winchester’s report was submitted to me, together with written submissions from the legal representatives of both parties essentially concerning the draft undertakings which appear at paragraph 40. Instead of remitting these submissions to the Bishop of Winchester for his further consideration I have decided to deal with them myself.
The recommendation to require undertakings from the Appellant about specific aspects of his future conduct is understandable in view of the findings at paragraphs 32-36 of the report, which demonstrate that the Appellant’s conduct merited censure. The Respondent submits that such undertakings are the minimum required in the circumstances. By contrast counsel for the Appellant as part of his written representations of 31 May 2006 put the matter in this way:-
“As Mr Coekin made clear at the hearing, he earnestly desires to be at peace with the Bishop of Southwark. Further, his oath of canonical obedience stands. If the relationship between them is to be re-built, it will need to be re-built on prayer, discussion and trust, not on unreasonable, unjustifiable and unilateral undertakings.”
I entirely agree that the relationship between the parties needs to be rebuilt through the processes of prayer, discussion and trust. But I do not accept that the draft undertakings (although necessarily unilateral) are unreasonable or unjustifiable. Their content reflects the legal obligations which Canon Law imposes upon any licensed minister. Since the Appellant, through his counsel, has reaffirmed his obedience to the law, which itself makes provision for the matters encompassed by the draft undertakings, I have decided that a separate promise in these terms from the Appellant is not required. The onus placed upon the Appellant to conform to the discipline of the Church, which clearly underlies the reasoning in paragraphs 39 and 40 of the report, is not in any way lessened by my decision not to require specific undertakings from him.
My conclusion is that the revocation of Mr Coekin’s licence be cancelled, for the reasons given in the Bishop’s Report. The Appellant must, however, understand that the restoration of his licence as a minister in the Church of England carries its own responsibilities. It leaves him bound to submit to the Respondent’s episcopal authority and accountable for his actions to the wider Church.
It remains only for me to emphasise the commitment of the whole Church of England to its mission as the national Church. It is right that this commitment should be worked out in a variety of forms within our dioceses (as the forthcoming Dioceses Pastoral and Mission Measure will emphasise), and inevitable that tensions will arise as different emphases emerge within the rich pattern of our life together. My hope and expectation for the diocese of Southwark and for the ministry of Dundonald Church and its minister, the Reverend Richard Coekin, is that they will now all be able to draw a line under the episode examined so thoroughly in the Bishop’s Report, and commit themselves to renewed collaboration in the mission of Christ in the months and years ahead.
++ ROWAN CANTUAR
The Most Revd and Right Hon Rowan Douglas
© Lambeth Palace 2006