to Bishop David's blog. Here you can find news, information, articles and pictures about the Church of England Diocese in Europe. We have over 300 congregations or worship centres serving Anglican and (mostly) English-speaking people in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Russia and some central Asian countries.

For official diocesan information please click the diocesan logo on the right.

Monday, 24 February 2014

All Saints, Tenerife: a place of joyful faith

The grounds of All Saints with Mt Teide in the background

All Saints Tenerife is a parish that has a splendid location under the snow-covered Mt Teide, and with a fascinating history. When founded at the end of the 19th century it was in the Diocese of Sierra Leone. It then was for a time in what was callled the "Diocese of North Africa". Now, it is a vital part of the Church of England's Diocese in Europe.

The parishioners are full time residents on the island or part-time "swallows", many of them, if not most. now retired. But it is hardly a sleepy place! The church has a vibrant ministry of hospitality and outreach to many English-speakers on the island, mostly from the UK, but also from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and even Russia, with a handful of Spanish-born members as well. The parish collaborate closely with the Red Cross on the island, in assisting with a breakfast programme for some dozens of youngsters in local schools, whose families have been hit by the economic downturn in Spain.

The hosplitality of the parish is warm and inclusive. Some come on Sundays for the fellowship around the bar which the Church operates, and even if they do not come to the service, they are aware of this caring Christian community where pastoral issues can be raised, if required, and where priest and parishioners are committed to helpting their neighbours.

On Sunday 2 members were baptised and confirmed and joined by another 3 for the rite of confirmation itself. It is moving to preside at services where the commitment of the candidates is so evident, and the support of the parishioners so joyful.

At the parish sit-down lunch for 80 people, following the service, Fr Mike Smith, the Chaplain, gave a present to the confirmands from the parish, a little book by Anglican priest Dave Tomlinson, entitled, "How to be a bad Christian and a better human being". Despite the provocative title, it is a wonderful introduction to living the Christian life with all its challenges and uncertainties, recognising we are fallible human beings, and that the work of being a Christian is not confined to life inside the walls of the Church! Perfect for those who have been given the light of Christ to bear into the world.



Update from Christ Church, Kiev

Early this morning, I received a message from one of the Churchwardens of Christ Church, Kiev, thanking the people of the diocese for their prayers and encouragement.

The Church is located opposite the President's office, so the protests have been very close to the Church itself. Fortunately, members of the congregation have been safe, and Sunday services have continued. The Church has been used as a first aid centre for injured police and members of the public.

From the Churchwarden's report, there are so many questions about the future, the status of the interim government, the international authorities' understanding of the legitimacy of the interim arrangements, and quite importantly, the reaction of Russia. The close of the Winter Olympics might have temporarily distracted Russian authorities, so there may be more engagement from there this week.

We are asked to continue our prayers for a peaceful and lasting settlement.


Friday, 21 February 2014

A message to Christ Church Kiev from the Diocese

I spoke to one of the Churchwardens in Christ Church, Kiev today. The parish is presently without a priest-in-charge, but the congregation is keeping church life going, even through the present crisis. The Archdeacon of the East is keeping in close contact with the church, as well, to offer support and encouragement.

Thankfully, later today it seems that the violence has subsided, and there may be signs of some peace being restored, and perhaps even a political solution emerging. We are asked particularly to pray for the rebuilding of trust among the people, that a lasting and just way forward can be found. We also pray for an end to the violence.

Apart from the immediate victims, those killed and injured, there are so many who have been affected by the economic crisis which has occurred as part of the political strife. There is much need among the people, and the small congregation are engaging in efforts to reach out in Christian love.

I sent this message to Christ Church, Kiev, on behalf of the Diocese today:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ

The world has looked on with horror at the eruption of violence in Kiev, and the latest news of so many deaths and injured.

We in the Diocese in Europe pray with Christians everywhere that all the parties in the country will refrain from violence and that the authorities and armed protesters will exercise restraint. What is important now is the rebuilding of trust and moving towards a political settlement which will restore confidence among the people, and honour their desire for peace and a common future. We pray for God’s wisdom from above to guide all those within the country and those outside who are seeking to a lasting and just solution to the crisis.

Please know that your brothers and sisters in the Diocese are with you in prayer, particularly for the safety of all, and for a return to peace, security and stability. We also pray for those who have been affected economically, especially those already in vulnerable and marginalised situations. I commend the parish of Christ Church for every effort you make to reach out in Christian love to those in need at this time.

Of course, we also pray for those most affected by the violence, in particular those who have lost loved ones or suffered injury.

May you know God’s comfort and his peace.

In Christ

Thursday, 20 February 2014

A guest article from Professor Jack McDonald on the Bishops' Statement on same-sex marriage

Since the publication of the House of Bishop's Pastoral Letter and Appendix on same-sex marriage on Saturday 15 February, there have been responses and reactions from across the world. In this scattered diocese conversations among us about matters that touch on the life of the Church are not easily held. Although it is not the main purpose of the Eurobishop Blog, it did occur to me that this is one medium that might permit some exchange and reflection on this issue. So this is a bit of an experiment, really!

The Revd Canon Dr Jack McDonald is one priest and theologian in our diocese who wished to share his reflections on the bishops' statement, so I asked him to write a "guest article" for Eurobishop, which is posted below.

Just for the sake of clarity, the view expressed is that of Dr McDonald, not the official position of Eurobishop or its editor on this matter.

Dr McDonald has studied in Cambridge, London, and Strasbourg. He is the Priest-in-charge of Saints Mary and Martha in Leuven and Canon Theologian in of the Pro-Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Brussels.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

House of Bishops on Same Sex Marriage

On 13 March, same-sex marriage will become legal in England and Wales. Last Thursday 13 February, the bishops of the Church of England met to discuss this to set out our thinking before the first such marriages take place. We prepared a pastoral letter which the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have sent today to the clergy and people of the Church of England. It accompanies an appendix which is a statement of pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage. 

4 main areas are addressed in the letter and appendix:

The Church's understanding of marriage is not altered. The bishops stated: “we are all in agreement that the Christian understanding and doctrine of marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman remains unchanged".

Effect on the Church

It is not legally possible for same sex couples to be married by Church of England clergy or in Church of England churches. Canon law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Despite the new legislation, Canon Law remains part of the law of England.

Implications for those who worship with us
Lay people in same sex marriages will be welcome in our congregations, have access to the sacraments, can have their children baptised and receive pastoral support, but services of blessing are not to be provided following a same sex marriage. 

Clergy and ordinands
Clergy of the Church of England should not enter into same sex marriages and anyone in a same-sex marriage will not be ordained as deacon, priest or bishop. 

But some might ask, what about the Church of England in Europe? 
We in the Diocese in Europe have lived for a number of years with the reality of same-sex marriage in many of the countries where we serve, in Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, for instance, (even though in very few countries are our clergy legally permitted to conduct marriages). So this letter and the statement of pastoral guidance is of relevance to us as well. It will also be useful for our own clergy and people who may need to set out the position of the Church of England on these matters to our ecumenical partners. 

Of course while English Canon Law is not law in Europe, our clergy do take the Declaration of Assent in which they affirm loyalty to (among other historic formularies) The Book of Common Prayer which teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman. 

I know that the letter and appendix may come as a disappointment to some in our Churches. It is important to note that while the Church's doctrine of marriage remains the same, so does our commitment to welcoming all lay people fully into the life of our Church and fellowship, regardless of sexual orientation, civil partnership, or marital status. 

The text of the letter and the statement is reproduced below the fold:

Friday, 14 February 2014

Think big, urges Bible Study leader, reflecting on parish strategy

The Revd Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, the priest-in-charge of St John the Evangelist Church, Casablanca, led Bible studies on the book of Nehemiah at the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar Synod. He shared many insights from the story of Nehemiah on planning and strategy for parish life, including one which seemed to touch the members of the Synod:  "Think big and you get big things. Think small and you get nothing!"

Our Archdeaconry is greatly enriched by the presence of Fr Medhat, who brings a rich experience in ministry to our already diverse and gifted clergy. For instance, in introducing himself  to the Synod he described himself as African, Egyptian, Arab and Christian:

African -  For this is where Egypt is, and by the colour of his skin
Egyptian - this is the passport he holds and it is his native land
Arab - he speaks the Arabic tongue
Christian - from the ancient Christian community in Egypt.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

John Bell from the Iona Community at the Gibraltar Synod

Many people in the diocese will have heard of John Bell, of if you have not heard of him, you have probably sung one of his hymns.

The Revd John Bell is a minister of the Church of Scotland, a member of the Iona Community, and a broadcaster. He was a guest speaker and guest preacher at the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar Synod last week, inspiring the clergy and lay delegates with stories and insights into congregational development, particularly in music and liturgy. Our liturgy and the place of music in it is vitally important, said John, for "What we sing becomes what we believe".

Archdeacon Geoff Johnston presides at the eucharist with John Bell preaching

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Three new Area Deans for Gibraltar Archdeaconry

The Archdeaconry of Gibraltar is one of the largest of the seven archdeaconries in this diocese. It covers Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands), Portugal (including Madeira), Morocco, Gibraltar and Andorra. There are over 70 congregations served by about 35 licensed priests. The Interim Archdeacon is Canon Geoff Johnston. On Tuesday 4 February, at the opening eucharist of the Archdeaconry Synod held in Torrevieja, Spain, I commissioned three Area Deans to assist the Archdeacon with the pastoral oversight of these congregations.

The three are shown in the photo above: the Revd Mike Smith of Tenerife North, whose area responsibilities will be the Canary Islands and Morocco; thethe Revd David Waller of Mallorca, whose area will be Northern Spain and the Balearic Islands; and the Revd Bob Bates of the Algarve, whose area will be Portugal and Madeira.

It is a dedicated and experienced team, and the work of these three Area Deans will greatly assist the Archdeacon and myself in the care of the congregations in the Archdeaconry. There is much growth and development in the region, in Catalunya, the Canaries and Morocco in particular. In Europe we are taking seriously the need to develop increased levels of support for our clergy and people, who often experience isolation from their brothers and sisters in the diocese. Increasing the numbers of Area Deans is part of the plan.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

20 enquirers explore ministry at a recent Vocations Weekend

The Diocesan Director of Ordinands, (DDO), the Revd Canon William Gulliford, has recently sent me this report of an imporant event coordinated by the Ministry Team of the Diocese.


Under the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which hangs in Westminster Abbey’s meeting room in Cheneygates, 20 enquirers from across the Diocese in Europe gathered from 24-26 January to explore issues in vocation. Those that attended came from a range of backgrounds, but it was very striking that there were only 4 British people as part of the event. The Vocations Enquiry Weekend represents a starting point in the diocesan process of discernment and the process may not begin without attending it.

As well as all attending visiting one of four London parishes, a day was spent in the precincts of Westminster Abbey. This was a very special time of prayerful reflection. We were very grateful indeed to the Dean and Chapter for their hospitality to our group. The day included participating in Matins and Choral Evensong and having devotions at the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor.

Canon Andrew Hawken, Assistant Director of Ordinands, (ADO) for France, and the Revd Dr Sam van Leer, Vocations Adviser for North West Europe, joined Sonia Taylor Vocations Adviser for France, Deacon Frances Hiller and the DDO in accompanying the sessions. Bishop David chaired the first morning’s sessions which included a lecture by him on Ecclesiology, and then three people who have been through the diocesan process in recent years spoke of their experiences. These were the Revd Tasha Critchlow, the Revd Folli Olokose and Janneke Blokland.

The Vocations Enquiry Weekend takes place once a year, and for the last two years there has been a great deal of interest shown in the event.

The Revd Dr Sam Van Leer leads discussion at the weekend


Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Porvoo Celebration in Oslo as new Chaplain, the Ven. Brian Russell, is licensed.

On Saturday 25 January, the Venerable Brian Russell was licensed as Senior Chaplain of St Edmund's Oslo, with oversight of the Anglican Church in Norway. Archdeacon Brian comes to this diocese from the Diocese of Birmingham where he has had a distinguished ministry as Archdeacon of Aston. Brian is well versed in the Porvoo Agreement and has been a major collaborator between the Nordic Churches and the Church of England in their theological education and ministry and vocations consultations. We welcome Brian and his wife Pam to this diocese.

Brian will retain the title The Venerable as he is an Archdeacon Emeritus of the Diocese of Birmingham.

Archdeacon Brian (2nd from left) with his clergy and reader colleagues from the Anglican Church in Norway
Clergy, Readers and representatives of the laity from our Anglican congregations in Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, Tromso, and Drammen came to join in the festive eucharist at which Archdeacon Brian was presented with symbols of his ministry by members of the congregation.

Clergy were also present from the Church of Norway, as well as from the German, Swedish, American Lutheran, Finnish and Methodist Churches in the city, as well as two other bishops: David Urquhart of Birmingham, and Ole Christian Kvarme of Oslo.