The Archbishop of Canterbury's 'Determination'
on the Licence of Richard Coekin
The Archbishop of Canterbury's 'Determination' has two key parts to it, both of which need weighing carefully.
'My conclusion is that the revocation of Mr Coekin's licence be cancelled, for the reasons given in the Bishop [of Winchester'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.' The Archbishop of Canterbury.
Our response is:
It is good that Richard Coekin can officially minister in the Church of England again.
It is good that he now has to take more seriously his oath of canonical obedience. Things are not back to square one. Being 'bound to submit to the [the Bishop of Southwark's] episcopal authority and accountable for his actions to the wider Church' is very strong language. Evangelicals often do not take this oath seriously - and it is an oath.
Ordination is serious and that is why clergy legally cannot take it upon themselves to organise ordinations for their own lay assistants outside of the Church of England and outside of their Bishop's authority. Both the 'Report' by the Bishop of Winchester and the Archbishop's 'Determination' show that these 'irregular ordinations' were indeed preciptate and not judicious.
It is good that such Church of England in South Africa (CESA) ordinations, in the light of this experience, will now be less likely to be arranged in the future. The calling in of CESA bishops to ordain is clearly now not an option.
A better way forward may have been a temporary suspension of his licence by the Bishop of Southwark, pending investigation of the issues.
We pray for God's mission in the Diocese of Southwark and for his wisdom concerning the future of the three deacons ordained into the Church of England in South Africa.
For further background to this issue, see the Fulcrum Newsletter for December 2005, 'Judicious or Precipitate? Evangelicals and Order in the Church of England' by Graham Kings, and 'Why I as an Evangelical Anglican in the Diocese of Southwark support Bishop Tom Butler in his action against Rev Richard Coekin' by Stephen Kuhrt.