Press Release

Archbishop's determination

Monday 5th June 2006


IN THE MATTER OF CANON C12(5) OF THE CANONS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND


BETWEEN:

THE REVEREND RICHARD JOHN COEKIN Appellant

And

THE BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK Respondent


I have read the Report on this appeal prepared for me by the Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Winchester. I should like to thank him, my Vicar-General (Chancellor Timothy Briden) and my Provincial Registrar (Canon John Rees) for the care they have taken in advising me in relation to this most delicate matter. I have also noted the Bishops remarks about the tone of the hearing which took place before him on 2 and 3 May, and wish to thank the parties and their counsel for the gracious way in which they have all approached this appeal. The clarity of all their contributions has made my task as the final decision-maker a great deal less arduous that it might otherwise have been.

The Bishop of Winchesters 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 Appellants 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 Coekins licence be cancelled, for the reasons given in the Bishops 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 Respondents 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 Bishops 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
Lord Archbishop of Canterbury


Lambeth Palace
5 June 2006

© Lambeth Palace 2006

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