17 bishops of the Church of England have written a letter, which is published this week in the Church Times
Delay vote on women, say bishops
the Church of England Newspaper
Church urged to refrain from allowing women bishops
and also The Tablet (where the letter lacks one signature).
The letter (full text below the fold) is also reported in The Times as Senior clergy move to block ordination of women bishops
The bishops include 6 diocesans, one suffragan (Beverley, PEV for the Northern Province) who is an elected member of the House of Bishops, and 10 other suffragans (the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle is a suffragan in all but name).
Most of these bishops are well known to be opposed to the ordination of women as priests, never mind bishops. The exceptions are Tom Wright (Durham), Peter Forster (Chester) and Michael Langrish (Exeter).
Text of letter
Sir, At the July meeting of the General Synod a motion is to be debated asking that the legal impediments for the ordination of women as bishops be removed. As a number of diocesan synods have requested this, we accept the decision of the House of Bishops to test the mind of Synod in this way. We hope, however, that members of the Church of England as a whole will be given the opportunity to consider the implications of the Rochester Report (Women Bishops in the Church of England?) before any such decision is taken.
This matter touches profoundly both the order and identity of the Church of England and its place in the Church as a whole. The Report shows that this is still a matter of major theological disagreement within the Church of England, and is also a matter of deep concern to those ecumenical partners who share our historic commitment to apostolic order.
Bishops are called to be instruments of unity. They are ministers of the communion of churches and are specially charged with guarding and handing on the faith and order of the Church. That faith and order the Church of England has consistently claimed to be the apostolic faith and order of the universal Church. In our proposed new ordinal, those being ordained as bishops are required “to strive for the visible unity of Christ’s Church”.
There is ample evidence from church history, not least, and most recently, in the Anglican Communion, that actions by individual provinces touching the scriptural and traditional faith and order of the Church, actions that inevitably unchurch those who cannot accept such changes, do not serve the unity which Christ asks of his Church. “Reception is a long and spiritual process” (Grindrod Report (1988) cited in Resolution III.2 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference)
At the very least the full and extensive theological debate requested by the General Synod in setting up the Bishop of Rochester’s Working Party must be held throughout the Church of England, and in consultation with all our ecumenical partners, before it would be appropriate to act as if that debate had already taken place and had been concluded in a particular way. To begin the process of removing the legal impediments to the ordination of women as bishops before such debate would widely and correctly be interpreted as assuming the answer.
On this feast of the apostles, St Peter and St Paul, who, despite their often sharply expressed differences, witnessed to the unity of the Church both in their teaching and their faithfulness to death, we pray that new divisions be not forced upon the Church of England, and that the episcopal ministry may continue to be the (albeit imperfect) ministry of unity our Church has hitherto maintained.
The Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe, Beverley, Blackburn, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Exeter (members of the House of Bishops);
Together with the Bishops of Burnley, Ebbsfleet, Edmonton, Fulham, Horsham, Lewes, Pontefract, Richborough, Whitby, and the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle.