Christenings and Baptisms: A New Beginning?

This month the Archbishops’ Council Project on the ministry of baptism with children begins to trial a range of resources in 4 pilot Dioceses, including a brand new website www.churchofenglandchristenings.org.

The research, resources and training have been shared with 150 clergy across Leicester, Coventry, Chelmsford and Rochester Dioceses. These clergy, together with their congregations and the families they serve, now have an opportunity to use the materials over the next 12 months. The pilot phase is being monitored and responses evaluated by our partner research company. Materials will be modified as appropriate before the national roll-out phase begins in the middle of 2015.

The project on the ministry of baptism with children was instigated in 2012 following the success of the Weddings Project and, like that project, is charged with exploring how we can make the most of missional opportunities arising from contact with people at times of change in their lives.  Every week the Church of England has contact with 2,200 families and their guests [primarily in the 18 – 45 year age old group] through baptisms. The new website, and the related print resources, is for these families, godparents and guests and is always pointing them towards an on-going relationship with the local church and contact with a vicar.  The local church can then introduce people to the good news of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ.

The website, along with all the other resources and training, has grown out of extensive research with over 1000 families.  This research clearly showed that for this audience the service is called a christening. However, it is equally clear that the service is Holy Baptism – so the journey people make is from the word christening to the significance of baptism: so just as at a wedding, people are married, so at a christening, a child is baptised.

In October, a new website, www.churchsupporthub.org, will be launched specifically for clergy and other church workers, where there will be an opportunity to share good practice and discuss different approaches to baptism ministry. The website launched this month - www.churchofenglandchristenings.org. – has a different focus. Its audience is not primarily clergy but those seeking to engage or find information at an initial stage, with the content reflecting the research findings.

Alongside the baptism project pilot, this month has also brought the launch of the pilot phase of the funerals project, using a similar model. The new website www.churchofenglandfunerals.org is supported by range of resources and training, now being tested by 150 parishes in Carlisle, Blackburn, Winchester, and Portsmouth Dioceses. A national launch for this project will take place in June next year.

All these resources have been developed by a working group for each project made up of Diocesan officers and parish clergy from across the country. These working groups have been rigorous in their discussion of the issues involved with catholic and evangelical traditions and emphases reflected in the make-up of the groups.

Consequently in the area of baptism issues such as infant baptism, terminologies of christening and baptism, and other areas have all been prayerfully considered and discussed. Whilst the outcomes may not necessarily reflect the variety of theological emphases present across the Church of England, we are confident that the issues have been discussed and the present outcomes reflect triose discussions. 

Both projects are overseen by a reference group appointed by Archbishops’ Council, which includes the Chair of Mission and Public Affairs Council, the Bishop of Brixworth and the Principal of the Yorkshire Ministry Course amongst others.

The Revd Dr Sandra Millar

Head of Projects and Developments

 

Birmingham, the BHA, Religious Education and Church Schools

The publication of the OFSTED report into 21 schools in Birmingham linked to the so called “Trojan Horse” affair led to a flurry of tweets and comment from the British Humanist Association (BHA) yesterday. The thrust of their contention - that the OFSTED report showed the damage done by the presence of faith schools in the education system – is a shaky attempt to build one of the BHA’s long held aims into the news agenda. The tweeting of a comment from the debate on the report was typical: “Great from @crispinbluntmp - there should be no faith schools, every school should prepare pupils for life in wider British society”.

Unfortunately for the BHA the facts do little to support their claims. The fundamental problem with the BHA’s argument is that none of the schools being looked into in Birmingham are faith schools.

Not one.

Of the 21 Birmingham schools investigated by Ofsted, 8 are Academies and 13 are local authority run. So the BHA’s argument that “the way to stop this kind of thing is to make get rid of faith schools” is not simply misleading, it is so far off the mark as to require special measures.   

Perhaps one of the deeper ironies of the BHA’s attempt to hijack this issue for their own aims is that it is a perfect example of using a “Trojan Horse”;  using the OFSTED findings as subterfuge  for attacking the work of church schools not least in Birmingham itself.

At the same time that the BHA was going into overdrive about the OFSTED report, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, was making his maiden speech in the House of Lords. His theme was education. In his speech Bishop Stephen noted that the diocese of Chelmsford has recently accepted an invitation to be a co-sponsor of the London Design and Engineering University Technical college where in addition to receiving technical and practical training, Religious Education will be given a high priority on the curriculum.  The Bishop noted that the trustees of the college recognise that it is “impossible to understand and inhabit the modern world – especially in East London – without a critical appreciation of faith, and even more than this, a mature spiritual, moral, social and cultural worldview. Moreover, good religious education has been shown to be one of the best ways of countering religious extremism. “

In an interview after his speech Stephen Cottrell warmed to this theme saying “RE, perhaps in the past, might have been something which was just of academic interest.  Now it’s of practical relevance to actually understand who is my neighbour, how do I love and understand and appreciate my neighbour…One of the things that most obviously contributes to cohesion between people of different cultures and different faiths is proper appreciation and understanding of different faith traditions”

The Church of England educates a million children a day in its schools. Even the BHA, in its more reflective moments, would be hard pressed to describe CofE Schools as hotbeds of religious extremism or indoctrination. The contrast between some of the findings in the recent OFSTED investigation and the experience of those educated at Church of England schools stand in marked contrast. As the former Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, wrote of his own experience of Church of England primary and secondary schools: “I went to Christian schools, St Mary’s Church Primary, then Christ’s College Finchley. We Jews were different and a minority. Yet not once was I insulted for my faith.”

The work of Church of England schools in Birmingham is evidence of Stephen Cottrell’s contention that the best way of countering religious extremism is to engage with faith and not banish it.  For over a decade some Church of England primary schools in the city have had an almost 100% school roll from Muslim families, serving children from local communities in the inner city. Every Church of England School in the city educates children of all faiths and none. Meanwhile the Church of England’s only secondary school in the city provides an account of excellence and achievement in the midst of challenging circumstances.

St Alban’s Academy is the only state-funded Church of England secondary school in Birmingham and is the nearest secondary school to the city centre. The proportion of students known to be eligible for free school meals is very much higher than the national average. The percentage of students from minority ethnic backgrounds is over four times higher than the national figure and the proportion of those who speak English as an additional language is high. The percentage of students registered by as having special educational needs and/or disabilities is well above the national average.

The School’s most recent OFSTED report – from 2011 – found the school was “outstanding”. The report said “From exceptionally low attainment on entry, students leave with above average attainment and outstanding achievement.” The report further highlights the achievements of the school in providing: “outstanding spiritual, moral, social and cultural development that underpins students’ exemplary behaviour and makes an exceptional contribution to their excellent learning.”

This is the experience of millions of families who have been served by Church of England schools which remains a testament at firm odds with the doctrinaire dogmatism and opportunism of the BHA.   

Full Correspondence with Professor Linda Woodhead on Bishops’ Pastoral Guidance

The Thinking Anglicans Website has published a letter from Prof. Linda Woodhead (and others) which has been sent to members of the House of Bishops of the Church of England.

In her letter Prof Woodhead says “Our attempts to resolve this matter by writing to Mr Arora and Mr Fittall have failed.”

That correspondence is reproduced below in chronological order for those interested in such matters.

In addition there has been a limited discussion on twitter which can be viewed via the @LindaWoodhead or @RevArun accounts.

The first exchange of correspondence between Prof Woodhead, Arun Arora and Prof Diarmaid Macculloch covers the dates 17 Feb – 18 Feb

The second exchange of correspondence between Prof Woodhead and William Fittall covers 24-27 Feb.

Arun Arora

From: Woodhead, Linda
Sent: 17 February 2014 22:39
To: Arun Arora
Subject: divergences

Hi Arun

Thanks for taking the trouble to reply today.

I’m attaching a good article which explains why there was such controversy over the deceased wife’s sister Act and why the CofE opposed this divergence from its doctrine so fiercely.

Even though it seems arcane to us, to some it was just as threatening as gay marriage in our day, and similarly seen as a breaking off of state from Church.

The divergence and dispute between church and state over remarriage of divorcees is also serious and protracted, and was only resolved in 2002 when the 1957 Act of Convocation of Canterbury banning remarriage in church was rescinded.

I will dig out the details.

There’s perhaps some excuse for bishops to forget the first, but not the second – which affected people’s lives badly until very recently. I was one of them and I knew others too when I was teaching ordinands.

I hope this helps.

I am sure the bishops did not intend to mislead but perhaps a correction would be wise?

Best wishes

Linda

From: Woodhead, Linda
Sent: 17 February 2014 23:49
To: Arun Arora
Subject: Davidson

Archbishop Randall Davidson in 1907: ‘for the first time in the history of the CofE has the law of the State been brought on one specific point into direct, open, overt contrast with and contradiction of the specific and defined law laid down in the authoritative regulations of the National Church.’

(From Hansard on the passage of the deceased wife’s sister legislation in 1907)

Linda


From: Arun Arora
Sent: 18 February 2014 07:58
To: Woodhead, Linda
Subject: RE: Davidson

Morning Linda

Thanks for your emails.

The statement says that ‘there will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition or marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of the Church of England.’ The key phrase is ‘general understanding and definition.’

In other words, the statement doesn’t say there has never been any divergence but does claim, rightly, that this is of different order from all previous differences.

In terms of understanding, divorce - though it raises big theological issues - does not change the fundamentals of marriage being about the union between a man and a woman and involving promises that are intended as life long when made.

You are of course right that accepting that possibility of remarriage after divorce was a big deal theologically. And for those who believed marriage is indissoluble (as Roman Catholics do) then it is an impossibility. But very few Anglicans are (or arguably ever have been) indissolubilist and our canons certainly aren’t.

Thanks again for your emails.

Arun


From: Woodhead, Linda
Sent: 18 February 2014 08:56
To: Arun Arora
Subject: RE: Davidson

Dear Arun,

Many thanks for your courteous reply, and for taking this seriously. I appreciate it.

We both want the best for the Church (as do the bishops), of that I am in no doubt.

Your first point I don’t understand. Divergence is divergence.

However I do understand now - very clearly - that the bishops have got into the mindset that gay marriage is an unprecedented challenge to the church’s teaching on marriage.

I just can’t agree.

The other issues to which I referred seemed equally threatening to the bishops and archbishops of the time, as I have demonstrated.

Just because things like divorce aren’t big deals to us doesn’t mean they never were.
And on divorce (I quote Diarmaid McCulloch) “all members of the Church of England WERE at least in terms of canon law indissolubilist into the 20th century. So my father, country parson, much against his will, was obliged to accept that one of his most valued parishioners could not take communion because she was a divorcee. And I do seem to remember that one Princess Margaret could not marry the man of her choice because he was a divorcee.”

Diarmaid has also come back on your tweet about the Hardwick Marriage Act here
https://www.facebook.com/linda.woodhead.35

Best wishes,
Linda

From: Arun Arora
Sent: 18 February 2014 10:24
To: Woodhead, Linda
Subject: RE: Davidson

Hi Linda
Suggest you read section 4 of GS 1361 on remarriage after divorce.
Should help you with Hardwicke
Arun


From: Woodhead, Linda
Sent: 18 February 2014 10:51
To: Arun Arora
Cc: Diarmaid Macculloch
Subject: RE: Davidson

Thanks Arun, but I don’t understand how GS 1361 contradicts what we’ve said about Hardwicke, could you explain?

Best wishes,
Linda (cc’d to Diarmaid)


From: Woodhead, Linda
Sent: 18 February 2014 11:07
To: Arun Arora
Cc: Diarmaid Macculloch
Subject: RE: Davidson

Dear Arun,

It occurs to me that if you’re correct about Hardwicke, then the working party & entire document to which you refer (rescinding the opposition to remarriage) wouldn’t have been necessary!?

Nor would the Church’s opposition to Princess Margaret marrying a divorcee etc etc

I think there’s a misunderstanding about divorce in the C18th – my understanding is that it was exceptionally rare (and because it needed private Acts of Parliament only tended to involve only the nobility).

Best wishes,

Linda


From: Diarmaid Macculloch
Sent: 18 February 2014 11:15
To: Woodhead, Linda; Arun Arora
Subject: RE: Davidson

Dear Linda,

You are of course correct about the rarity of divorce in general before 1857 and in your other remarks. Mr Arora, I think that you are flogging a dead horse with your line of argument. Suggest that you try something else,

Regards,

DM.

From: Arun Arora
Sent: 18 February 2014 11:17
To: Diarmaid Macculloch; Woodhead, Linda
Subject: RE: Davidson
Dear Diarmaid
Thanks for your advice and email.
It’s not my argument or my horse.
Both belong to Linda.
Thanks for advice though.
Arun


From: Diarmaid Macculloch
Sent: 18 February 2014 11:29
To: Arun Arora; Woodhead, Linda
Subject: RE: Davidson

If you had any hand in the Bishops’ so-called pastoral guidelines, then it is very precisely your horse. At any rate, their Lordships ought to be aware of the flimsiness of their historical arguments, let alone the other disastrous aspects of their statement,

DM.

From: Arun Arora
Sent: 18 February 2014 11:56
To: ‘Diarmaid Macculloch’; Woodhead, Linda
Subject: RE: Davidson

Dear Prof MacCulloch
Thanks for your email.
I note its contents.
Best,
Arun


From: Woodhead, Linda
To: William Fittall
Sent: 24 February 2014 11:03
Subject: An error in the Bishops Pastoral Guidance

Dear Mr Fittall,

A key premise in the Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriages issued on 14th February is wrong.

The guidance claims that: “There will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.” - House of Bishops, 14th Feb 2014, Appendix, para 9.

This is an historical fabrication. Civil law and church teaching have diverged before on at least two occasions. The first was in relation to the marriage of a deceased wife’s spouse, the second in relation to the remarriage of divorcees.

There has been a robust discussion between experts on ecclesiastical history, law and sociology which Dr Scot Peterson summarises here.

We are all in agreement that the statement in the Bishops Guidance is historically erroneous and misleading. Since it forms an essential component of the theological case which is being made, we felt it was right to draw the mistake to your attention. We respectfully ask that it be corrected.

Yours truly,

Diarmaid MacCulloch
Judith Maltby
Iain McLean
Scot Peterson
Alan Wilson
Linda Woodhead


From: William Fittall
To: Woodhead, Linda
Sent: 25 February 2014 12:28

Dear Professor Woodhead

Thank you for your e mail of yesterday about the House of Bishops statement on same sex marriage. I had seen something of the social media exchanges but had not previously seen Scot Peterson’s useful summary, so thank you for providing a link to it.

It is not for me as Secretary to the House of Bishops to enter into a discussion of the merits of the guidance that the House decided to issue. All that I can seek to do is address two narrower questions namely: whether the statement to which you take objection contains a key premise which is both an essential component of a theological case; and whether it is wrong.

On the first, the statement in paragraph 9 of the guidance does not purport to be a key premise or a component of a theological case. The Church of England’s doctrine is set out in paragraphs 1-8 of the document. They are the key premises from which the rest of the statement flows.

The second question turns on what is meant by ‘general understanding and definition of marriage’. The signatories of your letter seem to have read this as claiming that there has never previously been any divergence between church teaching and civil law in relation to marriage. That would, for the reasons given in your message and in Scot Peterson’s paper, be absurd. It is certainly not what the Bishops were claiming. There have manifestly been previous differences both on who may properly enter into a marriage (the deceased wife’s sister question issue) and the circumstances in which marriages may end and remarriage become possible (though note the Church of England has never taken an indissolubilist view of marriage).

Divergences over who may marry and over the circumstances in which marriages may be ended are not, however, of the same order as differences in the understanding and definition of what marriage is. The former are essentially about the nature of particular disqualifications. The latter is about the institution of marriage itself. Up to now civil law and canon law in England have had a shared view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. That will no longer be so.

Whether the change is right or wrong is a separate question. But it is somewhat difficult to understand why those who support the change seem so keen to downplay its significance. There is now for the first time a divergence between the basic understanding of what constitutes a marriage in canon and statute law, which is why, for the first time, Parliament needed to provide (in section 1(3) of the Act) a specific saving in relation to the Submission of Clergy Act 1533.

William Fittall

From: Woodhead, Linda
To: William Fittall
Sent: 26 February 2014 14:29

Dear Mr Fittall,

Thank you very much for your reply to our letter concerning the error in the “Bishops Guidance.” We have given serious thought to the points you make.

Like you, we do not wish to enter into a discussion of the merits of the Guidance, but are concerned about the abuse of historical evidence in the single sentence to which we have drawn attention.

We are pleased that you acknowledge that there “have manifestly been previous differences” between church teaching and civil law on marriage. That leaves just one small point between us - and between an admission of the error in the letter and, we hope, a correction.

You say that “Divergences over who may marry and over the circumstances in which marriages may be ended are not…of the same order as differences in the understanding and definition of what marriage is. The former are essentially about the nature of particular disqualifications. The latter is about the institution of marriage itself.”
On the contrary, both go to the heart of the institution of marriage itself. The class of people you can marry is not part of the definition of marriage. I can’t “marry” my brother or mother any more than I can have two husbands at the same time.

You yourself say that the marriage of man to man or woman to woman fundamentally changes our understanding and definition of marriage – but this only makes sense if the definition of the class of people you can marry is a fundamental part of definition of marriage.

Scot Peterson puts it like this in his blog: “Consanguinity (relation by blood; a parent cannot marry a child) and affinity (relation by marriage) may be diriment impediments that make the marriage void under both civil and religious law. As if to underline Woodhead’s point, these prohibitions are in the same section of the English statute that prohibited marriage between parties not respectively male and female. In addition, until recently a purported marriage between two people of the same sex would have been considered a sham marriage, just as conservatives today put quotation marks around the term marriage when it refers to a same-sex marriage. It seems difficult to distinguish between these cases. The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act changed the definition of marriage just as the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 and the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 did.”

Going back to scripture, marriage to a dead wife’s sister breached the teaching of Leviticus 18:18. We fail to see how this abomination is not a fundamental redefinition of marriage whilst breaching the abomination (lying with a male as with a female) four verses later is! If people wish to speak of gay marriage as a fundamental “redefinition” of marriage it is hard to see how a “redefinition” which contradicts Leviticus 18:22 (lying with a man) is any less serious for marriage than a “redefinition” which contradicts Leviticus 18:18 (deceased sister’s wife).

If marrying a deceased wife’s sister hadn’t been understood as going to the heart of the institution of marriage, our forbears would not have wasted seventy years objecting to it. Without a doubt those who manned the barricades on this subject 1842-1907 did believe it was a fundamental matter. It’s a failure of historical imagination to think that our latest battles over marriage matter in a way theirs did not.

For these reasons, we maintain that church and civil teaching have previously diverged in this case, just as in remarriage of divorcees. For both reasons, it is inaccurate for the bishops to say it is the “first time.” You are gracious enough to now admit that it is the second time and divergence has occurred, and we urge you to see that it is at least the third.
We continue to ask that a correction be made. We note your first point – that “the statement in paragraph 9 of the guidance does not purport to be a key premise or a component of a theological case.” Given this, would it not be a simple matter to correct the error?

In the meantime we have been consulting with the experts on these points. So far seventeen (including the President of the Ecclesiastical History Association, who consulted his members) are in agreement with us, and two are not. Whether these people are all “liberals” as Mr Arun may allege, I have no idea. Many are not Christians at all as far as I know. They are simply experts in the field, as are we. It is in this capacity we write to express our concern about this issue.

With best wishes,

Linda

Professor Linda Woodhead


PS You note that “Parliament needed to provide (in section 1(3) of the Act) a specific saving in relation to the Submission of Clergy Act 1533 .” We say: only because the Church of England asked it to! As evidence, this is like a sofa shop declaring “As seen on TV!” when it has placed the TV ad itself.

PPS You say that “the Church of England has never taken an indissolubilist view of marriage.” We note in a letter to The Daily Telegraph today Princess Margaret’s famous statement was that she was “mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble.” In its practice and canons the CofE long took an indissolubilist view, though one can of course quibble over the use of that word. We also wonder what sense or weight Canon B30 can have on your view – yet it is stressed heavily in the “Pastoral Guidance.”

To: Woodhead, Linda
From: William Fittall
Sent: 27 February 2014 15:54

Dear Professor Woodhead

Thank you for your further letter.

It will not quite do to put words into my mouth, dismiss a serious point as a quibble and compare section 1(3) of the Act to an advertisement for a piece of furniture.

To take these in turn:

• I did not say that this was the second time rather than the first that there has been a divergence between Church and State in the ‘general understanding and definition of marriage’. What I said was that there have manifestly been past divergences between church teaching and civil law and the bishops were not saying anything to the contrary. But for the reasons set out, none of these past differences has, in the view of the bishops, constituted a divergence of view in what marriage is. As I noted, much turns on what is meant by ‘general understanding and definition of marriage’. But to describe the bishops’ assessment as ‘an abuse of historical evidence’ is simply polemical

• The Church of England has never taken an indissolubilist view of marriage (though there have been individual Anglicans who have preferred the Roman Catholic view of the matter). An indissolubilist regards a second purported marriage as in effect bigamous. That was not the view of the Church of England even when it took a more severe line on remarriage after divorce then it does now. And when, after much reflection, it moved to its present position on divorce it was able to do so without needing to amend Canon B30 since dealing pastorally with the consequence of failure was not judged incompatible with the Church’s teaching about the permanence of marriage. It would, by contrast, not be possible for the Church of England to change its teaching so that marriage could be between two persons of the same gender without amending Canon B.30

• There is no precedent for section 1(3) of the legislation. Had it not been there Canon B30 would in effect have been overridden by Parliament by virtue of the 1533 legislation. The fact that a new provision of this kind was needed reflects the divergence that has now opened up between the church’s teaching on the nature of marriage and civil law.

Further exchanges are not going to get to get us any further.

William Fittall

P.S. To the best of my knowledge neither the Book of Leviticus nor the views of the late Princess Margaret featured in the discussions at the House of Bishops
P.P.S His name is Mr Arora (or Arun to his friends).

#Christmasmeans something different to everyone

To some it is about presents, others it is food or family, and for some people it is about the Eastenders Christmas special. For the millions of Christians across the world, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and each year churches and schools remind themselves of the Christmas story. It’s a story that Christians know well. They’ve been performing it as children with tea towels or tinsel halos on their heads and participated in crib services, carol services, midnight masses and Christmas day services. We believe Christmas is more than food, family and presents, it’s about celebrating the birth of Christ with food, family and presents.

But there is now a high percentage of people in the UK who don’t know the nativity story.

With a little help from social media, we can change that. This is a great opportunity for us to reach these people and spread the good news around the country and beyond.

Last year, the Church of England introduced the twitter campaign #christmasstartswithchrist to sit alongside the Christmas Starts with Christ print and radio advertising campaign created by churchads. The hashtag was successfully seen by more than nine million people over 24 hours. During a 12 hour period from midnight on Christmas Eve through to lunchtime on Christmas day more than 9,000 tweets were sent using the hashtag. 

This year we are asking people to take to their computers, tablets and smartphones to tweet the true meaning of Christmas, using #christmasmeans… We’re then giving everyone the chance to fill in the blank and let their followers know what Christmas means to them and also the joy and meaning of Christmas to the UK’s 15 million Twitter users.

The Church of England will be leading the way from Christmas Eve onwards in the attempt to reach as many people as possible and will be joined by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with their own answers to #christmasmeans….

Now’s the time for you to think about what it means to you.

Here’s some examples we’ve come up with if you need a little inspiration:

#Christmasmeans Christ is born in Bethlehem

#Christmasmeans spreading the true meaning of Christmas with my friends and family

#Christmasmeans putting Christ back into Christmas

#Christmasmeans celebrating the birth of Christ by singing my favorite carols

#Christmasmeans no room at the inn

#Christmasmeans Christ the Saviour is born!

We’ve also created some graphics ready for you to use on twitter or Facebook:

 

Church Schools Fact and Fiction

The (erroneous) story in today’s Times Newspaper claiming that the Church of England ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion was a creative piece of writing. So creative in fact that the Lambeth Palace issued a statement correcting the story which reads: “In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times today on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.” The Archbishop himself douses the story in the Times with cold water by saying:

“I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.’

So in the midst of this contested space it’s worth stating some of the facts on Church of England Schools.

There are two categories of Church of England schools, voluntary controlled (VC) and voluntary aided (VA) schools. These categories apply to both primary and secondary schools.

The majority of CofE schools are VC schools. 

There are 2,464 VC schools, 53% of all C of E schools. Voluntary Controlled Schools have their admissions governed and set by their local authority as with any other local authority school.

Just to repeat the Local Authority is responsible for admissions arrangements.

With regard to Voluntary aided schools, there are 2077 VA schools, 46% of all C of E schools.

Voluntary Aided Schools are their own admissions authority. Annually they must decide on their admission arrangements. However, like all other authorities they are bound by the Schools Admission Code produced by the DofE, which is designed to produce fair and understandable admissions. The code permits Voluntary Aided schools to admit children on the grounds of the parents’ or the children’s’ practice of their faith and the details for this are decided by the governing body.

 So just to be clear from the above, both Voluntary aided and Voluntary controlled schools are bound by the Admissions Code from the DofE. In addition over half of Church of England schools are VC, where their admissions are governed and set by the local authority.

These facts are often overlooked by papers reporting on church schools, preferring the less factual and more emotive interpretation offered by groups such as the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society. But the facts, as shown above, tell a different story.

 - Arun Arora