Thinking Anglicans

women bishops: more radio discussion

The BBC Sunday programme had this piece:

Women Bishops
On Monday, The Church of England took its most significant step yet towards enabling women to become Bishops. Its General Synod authorised the drafting of legislation to remove obstacles that prevent women being enthroned. But a significant minority remain adamantly opposed to such a move. They have long argued for the creation of a separate or third province of the church to be created for them, which would have only male bishops and priests. Now the Bishop who leads them has said that if their demands aren’t met, they will consider setting up a church of their own. Christopher Landau reports.

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Merseymike
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I don’t think a Third province is either viable, or likely to gain majority support in Synod.

In one sense I can understand their perspective, and it would certainly set the precedent for alternative structural arrangements

However, I think that the more logical position will be for , when the Church splits, for opponents to consider whether there are other groups they can affiliate to – whether that be RC, Orthodox, or Akinolan – before they set up yet another denomination.

Thomas Bushnell, BSG
Guest

Merseymike: this is about power. Those who want to leave, leave because they have discovered they are losing power. By setting up another church, they get to have regained power in that other church. By contrast, if they joined some other group, they would not have their power back. You might say, “no, this is not about power,” but then why not do what you rightly see as more logical? No, if you want to make sense of their actions (for they are not fools), you must take their actions as being directed at their goals, and thus their actions… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

Thomas – beautifully expressed – and (I would have thought) often correct.

Not always correct, however. Plenty of times it’s not about power – it’s about truth (or, as the case may be, perceived truth).

Anna
Guest

I think it’s about both– what they believe to be absolute truth, and the power to impose that truth across the board.

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

It IS about power – the General Synod will try to assert its power over every cleric and every parish and force them to accept this innovation.

But the only way for both sides to avoid continuing controversy is for there to be the kind of arrangements envisaged by Forward in Faith. Conscience can not be compelled: the only solution is separation.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But separation would be better, I think, in two separate denominations, not a church within a church. Which I don’t think is feasible, and I am sure FiF know its a non-starter.

k1eran
Guest
k1eran

All this talk about power and separation is fine and good – for those who think they might somehow be affirmed by such action. The more disturbing paradox is a group that claims to represent Anglicans of a Catholic tradition betraying that very identity by slipping into a glorified sort of congregationalism, based on self-defined ‘victimism’ and dissent. The problem facing pressure groups such as FiF is that they failed to carry the argument 13 years ago, and as Jane Shaw has pointed out, the basic argument over vocation has not changed in the current discussion. More to the point,… Read more »

Vincent Coles
Guest
Vincent Coles

There is rather a bizarre paradox about claiming some sort of Catholic orthodoxy for the recent actions of the General Synod. The vast bulk of Catholic Christianity (and some Evangelical strands too) rejects the claim that women can be ordained to holy orders. The problems now being faced by the Anglican Church in Australia would likely never have arisen if they had had the generosity and grace to make room for the minority which holds to the genuinely Catholic view of holy orders. It’s the desire to seize the whole estate, not just to win the debate, which prolongs confrontation.… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But how can you ‘make room’ for the minority without institutionalisng discrimination?

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

That’s your perception.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

Catholicus: hundreds (thousands?) of women have now been ordained within the Anglican Communion. Every single one of them, had to go through all the hurdles of holy orders within our tradition, to ascertain that it wasn’t just a “perception,” but rather that *God* was calling them (a discernment process *no different from that of men called to orders*). So, “misperception” was passing through all those Commissions on Ministry, all those Standing Committees, all those bishops? All those women—w/ the same presenting calls as that of men? Year after year? Parish after parish (or other ministry) where they were called (and… Read more »

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

And so the implementation of a vote, and your feel-good factor, entitles certain provinces to seek to exclude or persecute people within the Church, whose only crime is that they have not changed their beliefs?

And to call this “Catholic orthodoxy”?

I don’t think so. The word “Orwellian” springs rather to mind.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Anna

I think that power and truth are not necessarily so closely connected as you suppose.

A simple academic with insights into truth will very often not have the power to have their ideas either promulgated or even understood.

What makes it difficult is that so many people simply ‘believe’ what they want to believe. In such circumstances, we need to listen to scholars who have been trained to disregard personal bias and parti pris.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But, Catholicus, things do change and move on. I don’t think that the Third Province idea makes sense or would be workable – and after all, there are denominations, part of the Christian Church, where women are not allowed to be priests and where change is unlikely for at least your lifetime. I do perceive that anything which restricts the ministry of an individual on the grounds of their gender is discriminatory. And as I don’t find that acceptable, I do think change is needed. The Anglican Communion, when it splits, may more easily find room for you in its… Read more »

Anna
Guest

Christopher, I don’t quite understand your comment. I don’t think power and truth are necessarily connected in general– I meant only that coordinated efforts toward new provinces, networks, alternative episcopal oversight are about both what these leaders believe absolutely to be true and the right/ability/opportunity to cut themselves off from those who do not agree. They would thus have the power to impose that truth across the board in their newly-created spheres of influence, and, if you buy the more conspiracy-minded accounts, eventually across the communion.

Peter
Guest
Peter

I sense on the part of those who do not want women bishops, gay bishops, or anything that represents “change” a sense of entitlement. That is the thining seems to be: “You owe us a third province because you did these terrible things to us or to ‘our’ church.” In other words, we must give you a third province with existing church property because we have erred and this is how we balance the scale. I don’t think so. Generally the way these things go is that those who cannot abide change either accommodate themselves to it, work within existing… Read more »

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

“the right/ability/opportunity to cut themselves off from those who do not agree” Actually it’s those in positions of authority who are using their power to seize the property of congregations in N America and illegally to remove their clergy from office. Ask the Vestry of the church in Bristol, Ct, who took their buildings and imposed as their priest someone opposed to all that they stand for? People don’t want to leave the Anglican Communion but they are being marginalised/excluded/robbed of their place in this church, and being told (eg by Merseymike) how much better it would be for them… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But you are not being excluded , marginalised or robbed – a decision has been made, and you either live with it or not. After all, I don’t agree with some things the church has as its official position, but I don’t leave. The problem is that the only way forward you have come up with to date isn’t going to either wotk, or win enough support. Its simply not going to happen. Either we have women in the priesthood and episcopate, or we don’t – to have some sort of woman-free space in a denomination which welcomes and affirms… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

MM wrote: “The problem is that the only way forward you have come up with to date isn’t going to either wotk, or win enough support. Its simply not going to happen.” Mike, how do you know ? Even though I am not against women clergy, I am very sympathic to those who are; they have a reasonable interpretation of scripture, church tradition and a good amount of reasoned arguement (eg. Christ chose only men; men and women are equal but different etc). On the other had proponents of the loving “tell ’em to conform or get out” brigade seem… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But, Dave, its not actually the liberals who are leading the way on this one. Its the group who are best described as ‘open evangelical’, who are strongly in favour of change – indeed, Christina Rees herself and many in WATCH are not necessarily ‘liberals’ I do not think that the third province has any major support outside FiF – Reform will support it as part of their ‘deal’ but they’re not particularly botheread about bishops per se, simply ‘leadership’. The House of Bishops, in particular, is very hostile to the idea. I think you will find that the Clergy… Read more »

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

“But you are not being excluded , marginalised or robbed – a decision has been made, and you either live with it or not.”

How delightfully easy it is for those who are pleased with the outcome to say such things!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Mike, I do hope that the HoB changes their mind, or that the laity and clergy stop implementation of women bishops ’til a reasonable settlement for all true Christians in the church can be arrived at. The Church is for all Christians. On that theme, I am very happy to have liberal Christians in the church. And I am happy to learn from each others understandings of what God wants based on scripture, tradition and reason. What I object to is liberal people who do not really believe or trust in Christ – hypocritically masquerading as Christians – trying to… Read more »

Christain
Guest
Christain

Isn’t the Queen Head of the Church of England? Wasn’t it a woman who was instrumental in the founding the modern Anglican Church and the principals which we hold so dear. As for Catholicus statement about the American Church in CT., such a pity. The game is afoot.

Anna
Guest

I realize this is off-topic for this post, but I did want to respond to this: “I for one think that the agenda is being hi-jacked by the liberal grouping at the moment. We have people in the church who aren’t christians by any reasonable definition the church would use: don’t believe in a real God, don’t believe Christ was God as a human being, don’t believe that He sacrificed Himself as an atonement for our sins, don’t believe in a real resurrection, don’t believe in heaven hell judgement etc, don’t support the sovereignty of the bible in matters of… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Dave ; I don’t think there will ever, or could, be a solution which everyone agrees on.

The question then is the pattern of the denomination after whatever decision has been made.

A decision to do nothing is also a decision.

I also think that it is not up to you to define who you think is a ‘true Christian’. Those who fall outside that definition of yours have just as much right to express their view as you do. You may not like this, but it is the case.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Mike, the definition of “Christian” is out there, you know it as well as I do.

Why should the church include non-Christians in it’s decision making proceses ?

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

It doesn’t, Dave. Decisions are made by baptised communicant members of the Church of England, who are not required to fulfil your conservative definition of Christian, as much as you would no doubt like them to!

Martin Hambrook
Guest
Martin Hambrook

I disagree with Mike on many things, but (from my very distant observation point) I think he is correct in pointing out that it’s the ‘open evangelicals’ in England who are pushing the case, along with the liberals, as the Anglo-Catholic movement has now largely disappeared from the C of E. Unlike Anglican Catholics who look to Kirk (‘The Apostolic Ministry’ 1948) for their understanding of the episcopate (‘successors of the apostles’), evangelicals have followed Lightfoot in seeing bishops as basically senior presbyters – an historical view which I incline to think is correct. So if women can be priests/presbyters,… Read more »

Sean
Guest

Vincent Coles: the reason why the law courts should not be involved is because this is directly prohibited by Paul in 1 Corinthians. Peter – you (and those who want women bishops at all costs, of whom you may or may not be one) are indeed missing something; it’s called charity. I don’t mean that you personally are being unloving towards conservatives but it is strucurally unloving to unchurch thousands of people just because they don’t agree with the innovations on what is ultimately a secondary matter. It is not easy to stay together but every effort should be made.… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

Martin, Sean, I agree. We need to make provision for faithful Christians in the church, even when there are some theologically “secondary” disagreements.

I can’t see how it is right that some faithful Christians are being lined up for ejection, while people who don’t believe in a real God, or the Incarnation of Christ, are left alone. These faith-less people just drag the church down!

But how do we get the priorites right on the church’s “agenda”`?

Peter
Guest
Peter

Sean said: “…you (and those who want women bishops at all costs, of whom you may or may not be one) are indeed missing something; it’s called charity.” Sean, thanks for the post. I wonder: Is it charity for those who do not want change to hold the church hostage by subverting polity? When do we cease being an Anglican or Episcopal church and slip into mere congregationalism? If the roles were reversed–if GC 2003 or Synod had affirmed no gay bishops or no women bishops, would not those screaming currently screaming “foul play” be demanding adherence to the decisions… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Indeed, Peter. After all, thats what those of us who work for change in some areas are prepared to do, and get labelled as not Christian at all by elements of the conservative faction currently posting here with such enthusiasm.

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

That is precisely the problem, MM. You are working to change the Church into something else, which is why those who believe it to be a part of the revealed word of God can not go along with the secular values which you seek to impose. The conservative view is that if you want a new religion or a new version of the church, or a parallel universe all of your own, then the responsibility lies with you and those who share your views, to create it de novo. At present you are engaging in what resembles a religious version… Read more »

Peter
Guest
Peter

Catholicus…Both ECUSA and C of E, gathered in council (GC and Synod), have made decisions according to their polity. Are you saying that the majorities in these councils were misguided or possessed by Evil? Are you saying that they do not “accept the Christian faith as it is historically and generally understood?” The church gathered in council is how we govern ourselves. You may not agree with the decisions, which is fine. But that doesn’t equate with holding the wider church hostage by either subverting polity or demanding you be given a third province. The choice is yours: stay or… Read more »

Sean
Guest

Peter – you are still working on a tit-for-tat understanding of how the church should work: “the conservatives wouldn’t act like this so why should we?” The answer is, once again, charity: we’re called to act lovingly to those with whom we disagree. I disagree with those who are opposed to women bishops but I am called to love them. It is not loving to unchurch someone over a secondary issue. It is akin to the weak and the strong in 1 Corinthians, in which passage Paul places unity above the exercise of one’s freedom. We are free to have… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Sean ; I accept your point, but the problem is that in my view, your option leads to the continuing instituionalisation of discrimination within the Church.

I think that is far worse than the suggestion that those who want a woman priest/bishop-free church may need to look elsewhere – no-one is being ‘unchurched’, because there are many other branches of the Church where they will both be welcome and find what they desire.

The solution you suggest is one of ‘no change, ever’.

Peter
Guest
Peter

Sean–Thanks for the post. I’m not sure we’re having the same conversation, though. Either we govern ourselves according to our polity–council–or we spin off into mere congregationalism. Would you argue that unless we had 100% unanimous approval of decisions at GC or Synod we should not move forward. Should a minority of one, or 33%, be allowed to hold the church hostage and keep if from moving forward? The church is organic, living. We don’t stand still. We believe we’re called by the Holy Spirit to keep moving forward. Majorities of faithful Christians in Synod and GC–the historically understood and… Read more »

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

I hardly need remind Peter that majority votes in the secular world do not determine truth and sometimes bring about tyranny, as in pre-war Germany. Within the Church the ancient principle on which change in first order issues should be achieved is that of consensus: securus iudicat orbis terrarum. When the world is agreed then the decision is safely taken. Interestingly the WCC has now adopted the consensus principle. Had it not done so it would have made it impossible for the Orthodox to continue in membership. Both ECUSA and the CofE should take note. Majority votes in either a… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

But there isn’t a consensus – and to say that unless you can get total agreement, nothing must ever change, simply equals torpor.

In any case, it isn’t the way that decisions are made.

I think you’ll just have to wait and see what happens and then make your mind up as to what you want to do.

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

Still hung up on majority votes, then?

Actually that is not how consensus works.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Thats how it will be decided, Catholicus, and thats what the church has agreed.

I really think you’d be happier with the RC’s. There no one votes on anything!

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

And I think you would be more at home in Derek Hatton’s Liverpool City Council… so there!

Sean
Guest

Peter – there is a difference between taking decisions which some disagree with and taking decisions which unchurch a significant proportion of the faithful members of one’s church. Personally I disagree with the proposals of the Hind report but its adoption hardly means I cannot in all conscience remain an Anglican. Yours and Mike’s comments demonstrate that you are pretty clear that this change must come at all costs – that is the real difference here. I think that sometimes one has to sacrifice change for the sake of loving people who are in the wrong. This is not about… Read more »

Sean
Guest

PS Peter: you said

“the historically understood and accepted practice for making decisions as a church body”

I snorted tea through my nose when I read this. Can I just check that you honestly believe that this is an accurate historical assessment?

For someone who keeps telling me that we’re not supposed to be congregationalist you appear to pay scant attention to two important concepts – episcopacy and catholicity.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Please would commenters cease making personal attacks on other commenters. Any further comments that do not relate to the original article in some way will be deleted.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Sean ; no, I think its that I regard the cost of institutionalising discrimination as a greater cost than some members of the CofE feeling that they will have to join another denomination. After all, denominations are only structures, and all are part of the greater Church, so if one moves from one part of it to another, it may be a cultural and personal loss, but no-one is being ‘unchurched’ However, if we continue the currently discriminatory policies of the CofE, then that institution is itself, in my view, failing to speak truth to power. In terms of priorities,… Read more »

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

“Particularly given that there are places where they could go where institutionalised discrimination is questioned far less.” It looks as though we have come full circle once again. But along the way we have learned that MM regards the church as being broadly the same as (say) a trade union or a golf club, where who can be employed or be a member is a human rights issue. For the great majority of members of the world church to be a Christian is to hold beliefs which often run clean contrary to the culture of secular society. Since most of… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Let’s make this clear.

No-one is being thrown out of the Church. Some people are choosing to leave one denomination within the Church, no doubt for another. Thats all.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

PS And are you seriously suggesting that 70% of the current General Synod is made up of liberals – in fact, the only opponents of women as bishops or priests are Reform and Forward in Faith. They were joined by some who take the Tom Wright line of ‘yes, but not yet’, but still are in a minority.

You are entitled to your opinion, but you will have to make your choice- to stay in a denomination which does not always behave in the way you wish, or to find a more congenial home.

Catholicus
Guest
Catholicus

What I am suggesting is that 70% of Synod members got it very wrong when they voted as they did, and that if enacted their wishes will cut off the Church of England from its roots – and from any prospect of recovery of its Catholic identity. I don’t want the Church of England to become a cosy club with religious trappings. I want it to be a Church. It is the Church of England itself which is on the brink of disaster. I would remind you how steeply its membership fell in the 1990’s following women priests: estimates range… Read more »