Thinking Anglicans

women as bishops: fourteen bishops write

Updated again Friday afternoon

The text of the letter from fourteen English bishops to the signatories of the open letter from 1,400 clergy to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York concerning the ordination of women to the episcopate is copied in full below the fold.

Original reports of the earlier letter, and a link to the original with signatures, are here.

Today’s Telegraph report by Jonathan Wynne-Jones is headlined ‘Substantial number’ of clergy will leave over plans for women bishops.

Update Friday

Church Times report Bishops offer lead to Catholics: Wait and be charitable by Pat Ashworth

Church of England Newspaper report English bishops dismiss Code of Practice proposal by Matt Cresswell

The Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham has set out his thoughts on the latest General Synod debate on the ordination of women to the episcopate.

Dear colleagues,

We share the shock and disappointment you must be feeling following the recent debate and decision of the General Synod on provision for those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England.

The Lambeth Conference has given us good opportunities to meet together to talk and support one another. We want to share with you the experience that through our time together we have discovered a new sense of unity among us as bishops, and indeed our need of one another. In conversation we have become increasingly aware of the many priests and deacons, as well as other faithful, who are looking to us for a lead at the moment. It is particularly to you, the 1,400 clergy who signed the open letter to the Archbishops, that we are writing, but we hope you will share this letter, as we shall, with others, both clergy and parish members, who share our concerns.

We write to assure you that we understand the difficulties we are all facing in the light of the instruction by General Synod to the Legislative Drafting Group (“The Manchester Group”) to prepare legislation with only a statutory code of practice for those unable for reasons of theological conviction to recognise or accept the ordination of women to the episcopate in the absence of wider Catholic consensus.

We identify with your difficult and painful feelings because they are ours too.

It is now clear that the majority in this General Synod, and probably in the Church of England at large, believes it is right to admit women to the episcopate. If that is so, it is vital for the most catholic of reasons that there must be no qualifications or restrictions to their ministry. That means however that proper ecclesial provision must be made for those who cannot accept this innovation.

A code of practice in any form cannot deliver such ecclesial provision, and we want the Manchester Group and the House of Bishops to be in no doubt about the seriousness of the situation. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that the General Synod vote was merely an instruction to the Legislative Drafting Group, and it is by no means clear that the House of Laity would support legislation whose inevitable consequence would be the exclusion of substantial numbers of faithful Anglicans from the Church of England. The patterns of voting in the General Synod, not least on the amendment proposed by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds (seeking to keep open the option of “statutory transfer of specified responsibilities”), may also give the House of Bishops pause for thought, and everyone should remember that the House of Bishops has determined that it wishes to remain “in the driving seat” in this process. We shall be encouraging the House of Bishops to recognise that proper ecclesial provision would enable the Church of England both to honour the wish of the majority for women to be admitted to the episcopate and also create a space in which the theological convictions of others are respected in fact as well as in words. In this way both groups would have the opportunity to flourish in as high a degree of fellowship as possible while the “open process of reception” continues.

This is a complex situation and we acknowledge that people and groups will react differently. Different decisions should be respected and supported, including that of those who have come to believe that fidelity to the faith we have received means that they can no longer remain within the communion of the Church of England. As bishops, however, we want to say that this is not a necessary conclusion. We are being encouraged by friends in the other historic churches to continue to struggle for the catholic identity of the Church of England. The legislative and synodical process will be long and we have time to reflect and pray before any final decisions are taken.

Many matters will become clearer during the next few months – critical moments will be the House of Bishops meetings in October and December and the General Synod in February 2009. We are not saying, “We are bishops, trust us”, but we are assuring you that we are doing what we can to ensure that the Church of England at the very least honours the solemn assurances of an honoured and permanent place given by undertakings it made in the early 1990s. We are also determined to remain faithful to the ARCIC vision of full visible unity which has been an Anglican commitment for forty years and is the context in which we have consistently understood our Anglican ecclesiology.

At the same time as we are feeling bewilderment and disappointment, others in the Church of England are rejoicing. However hard it is, it is essential that we behave with grace and charity towards everyone. We are faced with apparently irreconcilable differences in matters of faith and order, and it is important to try to conduct all conversations and debates in a spirit of generosity even when church-dividing issues are at stake.

Remember too that some speeches in the General Synod and reactions since have shown that there are many people, including bishops, who do not agree with us about women bishops but do not want to see the marginalisation or exclusion of our contribution from the ongoing life of the Church of England. We hope that ever yone will remain in close touch with their own bishops. This is both for the sake of catholic principle and so that they are aware of your determination to continue to strive for Gospel truth and unity in the Church of England.

We want you to know that we are committed to praying for each other and for you. We want to thank you for your faithfulness in difficult days and invite anyone who wants to speak or write to any of us to do so.

In one of his meditations, the great John Henry Newman reminds himself of his calling, “I have a part in a great work. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good.” Twice Newman consoles himself in the same meditation with the words, “He knows what he is about … Still, he knows what he is about.”

Therefore, comfort one another with these words.

Your friends and fellow servants in Christ,
The Rt Revs John Hind (Bishop of Chichester),
Nicholas Reade (Bishop of Blackburn),
Geoffrey Rowell (Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe),
John Broadhurst (Bishop of Fulham),
Andrew Burnham (Bishop of Ebbsfleet),
John Ford (Bishop of Plymouth),
John Goddard (Bishop of Burnley),
Martyn Jarrett (Bishop of Beverley),
Robert Ladds (Bishop of Whitby),
Keith Newton (Bishop of Richborough),
Paul Richardson (Assistant Bishop of Newcastle),
Tony Robinson (Bishop of Pontefract),
Lindsay Urwin (Bishop of Horsham),
Peter Wheatley (Bishop of Edmonton)

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Neil
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Neil

There is still so much to play for on both sides. The ultimate test will be whether both women and those who support them are appointed as bishops AND whether opponents of women’s ordination will be appointable as bishops too. If there is not enough space for the opponents still to be made bishops then clearly there would be no place for them in the new Church of England. And yet it would still be possible to remain within the CofE as an opponent – for if a mistake has been made then it might be regarded as a temporary… Read more »

J. Michael Povey
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J. Michael Povey

I believe that only three of the signatories are Diocesan Bishops.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Whine, whine, whine.

Pluralist
Guest

The movement here going on (against which these are reacting) is interesting for how it impacts on the rest of Anglican affairs – that a greater clarity in the make up of bishops and clearer identity of the Church of England (that is the increasing marginalisation of traditionalist Catholicism) means a closer relationship with TEC, Canada, Scotland, Wales, Ireland… and so more of a rejection of restriction that is under attempt internationally. The Church of England is moving towards pulling its boundaries in a bit, but not in a way this Covenant would envisage.

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

That should clear out the stables.

Gregory of Langres
Guest

It is good to have the catholic bishops speaking as one on this issue. I do not see a way forward at present that is substantially different from a separate province. We need the bishops to work closely with Forward in Faith and the other catholic organizations to secure what we have been promised and to provide the means of unity that we have committed ourselves to in the ARCIC vision.

john
Guest
john

FIF types come in a fair range. There are those who are for ever hankering after Rome and hardly accord the C of E any legitimacy (or loyalty). There are those who do love the C of E and are in anguish. Some opponents of WO are bigots. Some are not. Some oppose WO for biblical reasons (Jesus chose/missioned only male disciples), others for Catholic reasons (the C of E can’t decide this without the agreement of the RC and Orthodox churches), others for both. The signatories of this letter also exhibit a fair range. I believe Martyn Jarrett, for… Read more »

David Walker
Guest
David Walker

From the perspective of one who is wholeheartedly in favour of women as bishops (and who voted against all the substantive amendments at the recent Synod) I think this is probably as good as it gets. The “don’t panic, don’t feel you have to jump ship, but we’ll not criticise those who do”, tone reflects that there is still a long way to go. For my part I still hope we can convince opponents that a Code of Practice (broadly similar to what we have now) can and will work. I still take great issue with the notion that separate… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

By way of curiosity, I note that the final signatory is the Bishop of Edmonton (CofE), a suffragan to the Bishop of London.

Edmonton is one of a very few (three, I believe) bishopric names which are repeated in the Communion. There are similarly two bishops of Rochester (CofE and TEC) and two bishops of Newcastle (CofE and ACofA). The other Bishop of Edmonton is a diocesan in Canada.

The irony, of course, is that both the present and previous Bishop of Edmonton (ACofC) are . . . women.

God smiles an amused little smile.

Bruce Barber
Guest
Bruce Barber

While I completely support WO and their participation in the historic episcopate, I don’t see this letter as “whine, whine, whine.” I sincerely wish these very same bishops would see, in their own anguish, the very same anguish of LGBT faithful throughout the communion who simply desire security of place within the communion.

In fact, with little editorial effort, this very same letter might have been penned by the LGBT faithful and signed by the Bishop of New Hampshire.

How can these bishops not see such stark similarities with regard to place in the communion? How sad…

Gregory of Langres
Guest

God does not smile an amused smile. He only appointed one Bishop of Edmonton and it ain’t the one in Canada, Malcolm+.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Some oppose WO for biblical reasons (Jesus chose/missioned only male disciples)” But of course He called women. There is St. Photini, an adulteress so hated by the women of her town she couldn’t go to the well when they were there. Yet He chose her to bring the Good News to the Samaritans. There is Magdalene, not over pure, who brought the news of the Resurrection to the Apostles. I get your point, even if we assume there were women disciples in the early days who were airbrushed out by men later, there is still the issue of why God… Read more »

James Bradley
Guest
James Bradley

David Walker – please be in touch and I will happily go through all of the reasons why a code of practice is not sufficient.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The persistent opponents of women bishops, or women priests, or woman just about any real or symbolic power in church life? – still have not yet satisfactorily answered the nagging questions: Why? Why not? Why not now? The sound bite theology that tags, Jesus called all male apostles, neglects the ambiguities of the scriptural witness – Mary as resurrection morning apostle to the apostles if you like sound bite theologies? – and also sidesteps the specificity issue – if necessarily male, then also necessarily Jewish, then also necessarily at minimum working class or even specifically necessarily fishermen or other particular… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“It is good to have the catholic bishops speaking as one on this issue. … Forward in Faith and the other catholic organizations” – Posted by: Gregory of Langres GofL: do you understand that your equation of “catholic” with “anti-WO” is offensive? Producing the same sort of feelings of shock and pain, as you claim to feel yourselves? In the course of my lifetime as an Episcopalian, I have been formed IN my Anglo-Catholicism (or Catholic Anglicanism, as I’ve learned you prefer to call it) largely in and through the ministries of priests-who-happen-to-be-women. The first time I heard the Exsultet… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

…it will be ONLY through the faithful ministry of those, made female…

Thank you for making me laugh JCF – Salvation only through females. Why am I not suprised?!
There is a fine tradition though of priestesses in other religions as you probably know.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Yes, Michael Povey, only the first three of these fourteen are diocesan bishops. Also one diocesan bishop, Richard Chartres (London), whom one might have thought of as a potential signatory of this letter, is not listed.
The others are all suffragan bishops, or equivalent. Three of them are the current Provincial Episcopal Visitors.
Due to the way the CofE House of Bishops in General Synod is constituted, most of these suffragans have no seat or vote in General Synod.

john
Guest
john

Ford,

I wasn’t assenting to their arguments – merely paraphrasing them. Although I reject their arguments, I don’t think they are always made in bad faith.

Gregory of Langres
Guest

JCF – I am sorry if you feel that way but even you must admit that the ordination of women is a deviation from traditional catholic order. I would be willing to call your integrity ‘liberal catholic’ but it is not catholic in the understanding and eyes of the rest of the church (universal – i.e. catholic). drdanfee – We are not into soundbite theology. “Consecrated Women?” is hardly ‘soundbite’, is it? Most of those who oppose women’s ordination do so on ecumenical grounds – because it will deeply damage our relationship with major ecumenical partners. And to all (well,… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Well, I love to make people laugh, Neil (even if twisting my words is required!). Laughter is of the Holy Spirit…

…except when it’s not. When it’s the snarling, cutting laughter of the self-righteous. Whether your laughter was of the former or the latter type, is between you and God (and your confessor—perhaps there’s a priest-who-happens-to-be-female available?)

God bless!

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Salvation only through females.”

I somehow don’t think that preserving the catholicity of the Anglican communion is equivalent to salvation. (Read what JCF wrote)

Dennis
Guest

Too many of these complainers think that the importance of any action is how it might affect (God forbid) reunion with Rome. This is nonsense. Anglican churches within the larger Anglican communion should order their polity in a way that works for their mission and culture. Not in a way that makes the bishop of Rome happy. Rome (or her fans) may sell itself as the continuation of some earlier unified Christendom, but this makes as much sense as calling one partner in a divorce the continuing marriage. Rome is but one of many denominations (despite all of the claims… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Although I reject their arguments, I don’t think they are always made in bad faith.” I had a lot of trouble with OOW, and I agree, the arguments aren’t always made in bad faith. They are, however, inconsistent, and that needs to be mentioned frequently. An argument to catholicity doesn’t carry much weight when OOW is the only thing where a person is concerned about catholicity. And, to save you the trouble of looking back over what I have written recently, I have spoken in support of those who feel alienated by OOW and women bishops, though I don’t agree… Read more »

trooper
Guest
trooper

Catholic Anglicanism, I’ve learned, is just Protestantism with smells and bells. Beneath the surface is nothing. It is self-defined, as in each “Anglo-Catholic” decides for themselves how to define their catholicism, which is… a Protestant notion, if there ever was one. KJS is as far from Catholic as I am from Islam.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

I realise this is only a matter for the Church of England, and really nothing to do with us in the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. But what a great pity that some of the male Bishops are unable to recognise the episcopal charism in a woman. Perhaps most of the opponents are retired? I guess most of the opposition are in the camp of the Ango-Catholics, who might today be loyally celebrating the Motherhood of Mary in the Universal Church; what a pity, then that they cannot see their way clear to affirming the place of women in the… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

God was smiling an amused little smile. It probably expanded to a smirk at your post, Gregory.

Naturally, one could argue that a particular minority wiothin the Church – and only they – know the mind of God.

Some of us happen to believe that God can operate – even in the civil Province of Alberta. (Though Ford and I may both find the prospect troubling.)

JCF
Guest
JCF

“JCF – I am sorry if you feel that way but even you must admit that the ordination of women is a deviation from traditional catholic order. I would be willing to call your integrity ‘liberal catholic’ but it is not catholic in the understanding and eyes of the rest of the church (universal – i.e. catholic).” Tautology, Gregory. You say that the “universal church” believes one thing, and I don’t, therefore I must be outside it. Occam’s Razor (simple logic) would tend to indicate that your anti-WO caucus isn’t quite as universal as you claim? I am an *Anglican*,… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

“Thank you for making me laugh JCF – Salvation only through females. Why am I not suprised?!”

Sorry, but JCF did not say “Salvation” but “Catholicism preserved”.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

John wrote: ”Some oppose WO for biblical reasons (Jesus chose/missioned only male disciples…” Sorry, but that is not a “reason” in my book, merely “circumstantial”. No “reasons” given (in the Good book), so not “Biblical”, hence not “Biblical reasons”. John wrote: “The argument that ‘women-free’ zones is discriminatory against women doesn’t seem to me to wash: equally, it could be said that ‘women-accepting’ zones are discriminatory against those who believe in/practise male-only ministry; and even a ‘code of practice’ (which pretty well everybody accepts) would on this argument be ‘discriminatory’.” Non-sense. This has nothing to do with “discriminatory”, it’s claiming… Read more »

Robert Ian williams
Guest
Robert Ian williams

This proves my point they want to stay (and will stay) in the Church of England. Roman exodus threats are greatly exaggerated.

By the way some Evangelicals must be raising their eye brows at the report that Bishop Iker in the CT is giving his ” unequivocal spport ” to those wishing to join Rome.

After all he just signed the GAFCON declaration which affirms the articles which condemn the Church of Rome, in no uncertain terms.

However we still have no GAFCON list of signatories and Chris Sugden is on holiday.

Neil
Guest
Neil

Sorry, but JCF did not say “Salvation” but “Catholicism preserved”.

I KNOW! How ridiculous is that?!
And I assume she did not mean what she said. That is why I laughed.

Treebeard
Guest
Treebeard

Maria assumpta est !

Enjoy !

Salvation through the Feminine, I believe

On our knees –put away yer paper clips for 5 minutes …..

john
Guest
john

Ford/Goran, Can I reiterate for the ‘nth’ time, I was paraphrasing, not accepting? Can I also point out that when I say they are ‘not always’ made in bad faith I am of course implying that they are ‘sometimes’ made in bad faith? But when one is assessing positions, one is supposed to assess them at their best, is one not? As for ‘discrimination’, lots of people deploy the argument Jesus only chose male disciples/commissioned males and do so in good faith. I do not myself accept the argument. The trouble is that in order to argue against it one… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Neil,

No matter what you “thought” or din’t think was meant or not, you still gave a false statment as quote.

And you l a u g h e d, you say…

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I think I know who is being ridiculous.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“How ridiculous is that”

Yes, I know, Galatians 3:28, how foolish is that? More interesting though is that your initial error is what is called a Freudian slip. Now, what does it say about your psyche that you a) subconsciously(?) equate catholicity with salvation and b) subconsciously(?) believe that a female priest would deprive you of that salvation? Interesting points, those.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Can I reiterate for the ‘nth’ time, I was paraphrasing, not accepting?” John, sorry. I thought that in my response to you I was clear that I understood that and that I actually connected with the arguments of the “men only” side. I read it over and realized I was a bit obscure in making that point. In previous posts, I have taken the side that those who dismiss “the other side” out of hand are not being fair to them, and showing a remarkable lack of understanding of the hurt they are feeling. I know, because I once felt… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

“…even you must admit that the ordination of women is a deviation from traditional catholic order.” Let’s go back to the debates between Paul, Peter and the early Christians of Jewish ancestry and paraphrase “…even you must admit that the admission of Gentiles is a deviation from traditional synagogue order.” The debates about circumcision are usefuel e.g. Galations 2:1-10, Colossians 2:9-23, Romans 2:17-29, Acts 15. If males did not have to be circumsized to be within the grace of God and a member of Christ’s body, then women do not have to have penises. God is not restricted to either… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Ford, Thanks. Apologies on my side. You may have noticed that I can be a bit peppery too. Nothing, however, to my eruptions on Jeff Steel’s blog. He really is a guy (though I know him and like him in some ways) who has no feeling for the C of E. I can’t dissociate these debates from personal relationships or practicalities. There is a FiF guy who goes to our church, which was FiF at one time, now no longer. He and his wife, who accepts WO, are excellent people and stalwarts of the church. Come a woman celebrant and… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

Nothing Freudian Ford Elms. I knew exactly what I was writing! And it is a logical extrapolation of the ridiculous comment of JCF. Her comment was both silly and offensive and I am surprised the likes of you and Goran are trying to defend it. Perhaps you would like to elaborate the point that Catholicism will only be preserved through ‘the faithful ministry of those, made female.’ A silly slip I think – and the sooner you forget about it perhaps the better. Or perhaps you would like to enlighten our readers? You might also like to think about the… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Perhaps you would like to elaborate the point ….'” First of all, it isn’t my point. I was reacting to your misrepresentation of what she had said, as she did not refer to salvation, you made that leap. Second, I’m not even sure I agree with it. Third, I believe the passage I cited has bearing on this. If in Christ there is, among other things, no male nor female, just people, then it is relevant to the discussion. If our human gender makes no difference in God’s eyes, then why does it make a difference for priesthood? Is it… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

John, Your friend sounds a lot like me. I didn’t go anywhere for 18 years because it seemed the ACofC just didn’t get it. Clergy couldn’t make a theological argument about anything, certainly not about OOW. It was all rights and empowerment as though these things had anything to do with priesthood. I feel for him, but maybe he needs to think about the possibility that the Spirit is leading the Church and he just can’t see it. I don’t know him from a hole in the ground, but is this about putting his ideas first? It was with me,… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

John:

“I think we should cut a deal. I also think that if we do that, ‘they’ (who are not one ‘they’ and who are also ‘we’) will be more likely to cut deals with us.”

Should Wilberforce have “cut a deal”? Should Lincoln or ML King have “cut a deal?” It always amazes how those with very little at stake in such issues are always willing to compromise on the lives of those with a great deal at stake.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“[++]KJS is as far from Catholic as I am from Islam.” – Posted by trooper

Heh: perhaps a more revealing statement than you intended, trooper (The difference between a burka and a mantilla—not to mention the increasingly-revived veil w/ whipple—being more of degree, than of kind? ;-/)

***

Vaya con Dios, Neil (but please don’t refer to me w/ female pronouns: I’m silly and offensive that way)

[Disambiguation request: I could SWEAR we have more than one “Neil” posting at TA—could we get a second name or initial?]

Neil
Guest
Neil

I apologise JCF – I had assumed you were a woman, and had no intention to upset you regarding what you now say is your masculine gender. However, it remains that to say catholicity will ONLY be preserved by those made female is ridiculous. And a funny thing to say for an intelligent man.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Neil and JCF. Is it not wonderful that Saint Paul assures us that “In Christ, there is neither male nor female…”? (only humankind?) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, like Saint Julian and a few others in the Early Church, we could allow outselves to think (or even speak) of Mother/Father God? It has been said that Francis of Assisi, when sending out 3 brothers on mission, asked one of them to be ‘Mother’ to the other two! I wonder whether we men are too afraid of being thought to exhibit what might be called anything of the feminine in our… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“[++]KJS is as far from Catholic as I am from Islam.”

Given that the conservative attitude to Scripture is closer to the Islamic atitude towards the Qur’an than it is to anything Christians have traditionally believed, I’d say you aren’t too frt off the mark!

Grandmère Mimi
Guest

“We share the shock and disappointment you must be feeling following the recent debate and decision of the General Synod on provision for those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England.
….

“We identify with your difficult and painful feelings because they are ours too.
….

“At the same time as we are feeling bewilderment and disappointment, others in the Church of England are rejoicing.”

Be quick! Get the smelling salts!

(Disclaimer: I have not read all of the comments. My response is to the letter.)

JCF
Guest
JCF

“it remains that to say catholicity will ONLY be preserved by those made female is ridiculous” Neil, if you’re to keep citing me (to be held up to scorn), is it too much to ask that you QUOTE me? What I said: “If Catholicism is preserved in the Anglican Communion—and I hope and pray it will be—it will be only through the faithful ministry of those, made female, that GOD HAS CALLED to be deacons, priests and bishops.” NOT “preserved by those made female” but ***PRESERVED THROUGH THE FAITHFUL MINISTRY*** of those made female. Not that I regard the faithful… Read more »