Canterbury Fails: Cathedral U-Turn over Livestreaming


Canterbury Fails

Cathedral U-Turn over Livestreaming

There was much confusion in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral last week as the arrangements for the consecration of two ‘flying bishops’ were announced.

The consecrations of the Suffragan Bishop of Oswestry, the Revd Paul Thomas, to serve Anglo-Catholic parishes across southern England, and of the Suffragan Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Revd Dr Rob Munro, who will minister to conservative Evangelical parishes, took place on Thursday 2nd February in the morning and afternoon respectively. The Dean of Canterbury wrote at the beginning of the week to explain that these services would not be livestreamed, because one consecration was deemed more problematic than the other.

In his letter, Dean David Monteith stated that while there was precedent for a traditional Catholic consecration at Canterbury, no such precedent existed for complementarian evangelicalism. “Colleagues at Lambeth and beyond have concluded that the afternoon service would potentially raise even more questionable than the morning… and so livestreaming is on balance not advisable for that.”

“In one sense as hosts we are neutral about this particular issue. However, we recognise that if livestreaming were to take place that it could be unhelpful overall to fostering an atmosphere of mutual flourishing and thus the need for gracious restraint over a range of issues. So my/our position is that both may be livestreamed but only one may not be livestreamed. Since the afternoon is not livestreamed, the morning cannot be livestreamed either.”

The reservations related to the treatment of the women bishops present for the other consecrations the same afternoon: of the Suffragan Bishop of Hertford, Dr Jane Mainwaring, and of the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, Canon Martin Gainsborough.  The female bishops in attendance would be invited to participate in these consecrations, but not that of Dr Munro.

Following the publication of the Dean’s convoluted letter about livestreaming, the Cathedral reconsidered its decision, announcing via Twitter, “After further consideration over the last day, we’re pleased to say that both consecration services taking place at the Cathedral on Thursday will be live-streamed on our YouTube channel. We’re sorry for any confusion caused by earlier correspondence.”

As an historical aside, it is worth noting that the traditional views on the ordination of woman that have been deemed ‘problematic’ were the views, and in fact doctrine, held by the overwhelming majority of bishops consecrated at Canterbury until the late twentieth century.