THINKING ANGLICANS

women bishops: Church Times coverage

Updated Saturday

Pat Ashworth reports for the Church Times on the revision committee’s decision: Synod’s women-bishops committee draws back from code of practice.

SUPPORTERS of women bishops have expressed shock at a decision by the revision committee for the draft legislation not to go further down the route of a statutory code of practice. Traditionalists say that the change of direction proposed does not go far enough…

Scroll down that page for responses from David Stancliffe Bishop of Salisbury and from David Houlding Pro-Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury.

Stancliffe:

THE news that the revision committee has chosen not to explore the option of the single clause with a statutory code of practice any further, and has gone for “certain functions to be invested in bishops by statute” will strike despair into the hearts of many. What the committee is proposing takes a step back from the position Synod thought it had reached in July 2008.

My concerns are on several levels. First, these proposals appear to institutionalise mistrust in legislation: the opponents of women’s ordination do not trust the bishops to make proper provision. Is that really what we have come to?

Second, it destroys the ecclesiology of the Church of England, making it legitimate to “choose your own bishop”. Are there to be any limits as to the grounds on which you might petition to do this?

Third, it seems wildly impracticable: something very similar, Transferred Episcopal Authority, has already been found wanting, and it must remain doubtful whether such discriminatory legislation would pass parliamentary scrutiny or stand up to challenge by judicial review…

Houlding:

…The Act of Synod, despite its imperfections, has given space to many to flourish and grow. Embracing the principle of “reception”, it provides for extended episcopal care, under the Ordinary. Once a woman is ordained a bishop, there is correspondingly a much higher degree of impair­ment of communion. We have never had to face this situation before. This is why, I suggest, it is proving so hard for us to get our minds around the new solution required.

The decision last week of the revision committee to provide by means of law for the transfer of episcopal authority is, therefore, a real turning point in helping us reach the decision that will need to be made. Anything by way of code of practice or delegation can only lead to a diminution of a woman’s ministry. To provide for both positions to co-exist alongside one another by statute rules out the possibility of any further wrangling. By creating proper space and the necessary boundaries, the Church is including everyone.

Women in the episcopate remain a contested develop­ment in the wider Church, and therefore the principle behind the nature of provision must be inclusion for all. The Archbishop of Canterbury has enunciated this more than once in speeches to the Synod: “the others (who­ever they may be) are not going away.” Our task is to hold the Church together for the sake of its mission and to ensure that we live together in the highest degree of communion possible

Giles Fraser writes about it in his column, Let Synod’s ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.

I admit that I have never been a huge fan of the General Synod, even when I was a member. But to see a representative body treated with such contempt ought to make everyone who gives up their time and money to support synodical government wonder why they bother.

In July 2008, the General Synod voted clearly that it wanted women bishops with no small print that made them into half-bishops, and no further institutionalisation of the sexism that keeps them out of the episcopate.

Some did not like this clarity, and sought to protect the con­sciences of those who are against women bishops by securing legal no-go areas where women in purple would not be welcome. After a comprehensive debate, where all shades of opinion were repres­ented, the Synod said no…

The Church Times leader column is titled Revision committee deserves a hearing.

…Until the committee reveals its deliberations in a final an­nounce­ment, probably in January, it would be wrong, therefore, to condemn it. It might be wise, though, not to be over-enthusiastic, either. There are several examples where a small group runs ahead of the people who commissioned it, finding agreement where none exists outside. A case in point was the Final Report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which was ignored and then rejected by the Vatican. A General Synod that is, in the main, sceptical about any agreement over women bishops can overturn any of the committee’s recommendations. The committee knows this perfectly well, and yet believes, clearly, that its preferred solution is worth fielding. It deserves an opportunity to make its case.

Update
Two letters to the editor on this topic are now available without subscription, see St Thérèse of Lisieux and women bishops.

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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Margaret Brown of the Third Province Movement said: We are still standing out for a number of dioceses for traditionalists. We want our own dioceses and our own bishops. “It’s come to the point where we shall have to say, with great reluctance and after very careful thought, that if something more is not done in our favour, we shall seriously consider cutting quota payments and consecrating our own bishops” – Church Times – What on earth is going on here? A woman in the Church of England (obviously anti-WO) threatening the Church that her TPM group will “seriously consider… Read more »

Song
Guest

Our task is to hold the Church together for the sake of its mission and to ensure that we live together in the highest degree of communion possible

It is?

Here I thought the purpose of the Church was to convey the Gospel in word and deed, regardless of what people (including those within the Church) might think about it.

No wonder I’m so confused.

David Malloch
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David Malloch

Margaret Brown’s 3rd Province Movement is a small group of individuals. She does not speak for the vast majority of opponents of WB. Maybe the Church Times went to her because it did not get such a controversial response from Reform or FiF??

JCF
Guest
JCF

David Houlding Pro-Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury (that title?): “Anything by way of code of practice or delegation can only lead to a diminution of a woman’s ministry.” I admit that the CofE terminology “code of practice” confuses me, but if it is a bishop-who-is-a-woman who is doing the *delegating*, how would THAT lead to a “diminution of a woman’s ministry” (at least relative to being made a “Bishop, 2nd Class”)? “To provide for both positions to co-exist alongside one another by statute rules out the possibility of any further wrangling.” “Wrangling”? A convenient euphemism for *disobedience* to the… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Hmmmmm ….. I think Margaret Brown’s threats of schism are par for the course from this lot, it is a strategy inevitably doomed to fail within one generation.

On other threads people argue how reasonable are the FiF types demands …… I spent hours listening to the speeches on their website – there is nothing reasonable about the words found there. Much of it is spittle-filled hate-filled nonsense ….and what shames me most is just how many of them are gay!

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Fr. Ron Smith, I think you are taking the correct approach: Consecrate woman bishops with full equality. If people can only receive from males, there are plenty of males in the CofE to receive from. No separate but equal. The Margaret Browns and bishop Duncans of this world can never be pleased, will always want things their way. Call their bluff. To me, there is no end to their logic. A woman bishop is not worthy. Therefore anyone she ordains is not worthy. Therefore any male she ordains is not worthy. Therefore anyone she confirms or receives into the CofE… Read more »

David | Dah•veed
Guest
David | Dah•veed

The Puritans went their own way once upon a time, right? Why not this lot as well?

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

What JCF said.

Thank goodness the Episcopal Church has already shown the way on this issue. Thank God for TEC!

Thank goodness, also, that the more the Church of England equivocates on women bishops, the more it dooms the proposed Covenant.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“But the idea that we allow a natural reluctance to upset friends and colleagues to determine the fundamental theology of the Church is sentimental nonsense. If this were a sermon, the text would have to be Matthew 5.37: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.” – Giles Fraser – Amen to that! C.of E.’s General Synod has already deliberated on what it considers should be the action of the Church of England on this issue. Does the Church need, once again, to try to gainsay the expressed mind of the Synod? Perhaps the idea of some… Read more »

Fr Jon
Guest
Fr Jon

Calm down – it’s only Margaret Brown.

mark wharton
Guest
mark wharton

Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn’t the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992??

Another thought: If I am unable to accept the innovation in the church of my birth, what should I do??

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

In New Zealand’s Roman Catholic Church, there are many people who really believe their Church should start thinking about women priests – especially now that male priests are ‘thin on the ground’ Below is a N.Z. Roman Catholic Mercy Sister’s comment on the situation as she sees it: “The offical Church today remains male-dominated: it has a real fear of women. Otherwise, I do not see how it could maintain the weak arguments put forward for ignoring women in the ordained ministry and keeping women out of participating in policy-making and decision-making processes” Sister Pauline is not a lone voice… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn’t the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992?? Another thought: If I am unable to accept the innovation in the church of my birth, what should I do?? – mark wharton on Sunday – To answer your first question, Mark: Every Synod of the… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn’t the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992??” General synod (or on my side of the pond, general convention) can always return to an issue and reverse itself–perhaps it heard the Spirit incompletely the first time around. What should not happen is what’s happening… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn’t the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992??” General synod (or on my side of the pond, general convention) can always return to an issue and reverse itself–perhaps it heard the Spirit incompletely the first time around. What should not happen is what’s happening… Read more »

Fr Jon
Guest
Fr Jon

Fr Ron – you seem to think that Synod rules the Church of England; it doesn’t. The Synod is not the church and is only part of the structures of governance – and the exercise of its power is limited and drawn out; one vote rarely finalises the matter. The mind of Synod is not, therefore, always the mind of the church and neither should it be – how else can it show leadership to the church as a whole? Synod is also subject to other authorities; the Crown in Parliament and the collective authority of the Bishops – who… Read more »

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Poor Houlding, I wonder if he knows just how clever and false he sounds? Fact is, I see no indicators – zero, zip nada – among the NoGoWomen Anglicans that anything in the least involving reception is going on, is wished to occur, or even (horrors) can be allowed to occur within the properly purged, safe NoGoWomen zones. Those NoGoWo Zones are all too false prizes, too proud by far of their deliberate, willful ignorance of any recognition that God calls and works through women and men in our contemporary era. Perhaps, right now – with some holy transformational tilt… Read more »

Fr Jon
Guest
Fr Jon

Fr Ron – interesting again on Vatican II – how is it that the reforms are the work of the Holy Spirit, but the subsequent rejection and modification of them is not? How do you tell?
Do you not run the risk of measuring the extent of the Spirit’s work by the extent to which you approve of the result?

Rev L Roberts
Guest
Rev L Roberts

The time may well have come to consider the spiritual benefits of abolishing the order of bishop in the C of E., or seriously reforming it.
There are various possible ways of doing this.

It would free us from the stranglehold of the past and its imagined benefits.

FiF would be freed from their current anxieties.

Rosalind
Guest
Rosalind

In fact, the General Synod of the church of England has not “changed its mind” on whether women can be ordained priest. That motion (that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood)was passed in 1975, and has not ever been rescinded. This also means that anyone ordained into the C of E since 1975 has been ordained into a church that affirms that women can be priests. What the arguments have always been about have been (i) whether the time is right to put this belief into practice (up to Nov 1992), and (ii)… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“The mind of Synod is not, therefore, always the mind of the church and neither should it be – how else can it show leadership to the church as a whole? Synod is also subject to other authorities; the Crown in Parliament and the collective authority of the Bishops – who could very straightforwardly grind the Synod’s progress to a complete halt, as they did in 1997 during a vote on sexuality. If they decide to act together as a House, they can halt anything the Synod is doing.” – Fr. Jon – Fr. Jon; on your first assertion –… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

My mind is torn over this issue. On the one hand, I serve in a Canadian diocese which is now enjoying the ministry of its second female bishop. I rejoice in her ministry and in the ministry of my many clergy colleagues who are women. In my diocese, so far as I know, the issue of the gender of a priest hardly ever arises, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it should be. On the other hand, I think of my own elderly parents who live in retirement in England and are lifelong members of the Church… Read more »

mark wharton
Guest
mark wharton

thankyou for your responses; Rev Ron Smith, Pat and Rosalind. The Church of England has affirmed the view that both views have integrity and perhaps you should ponder this… I have already decided that I am going to seek communion with the Holy See. I never cease to be amazed at the level of hatred shown on this blog by so called “liberals”… for what all 3 of you have said is that the contribution that traditional catholic’s bring to this church is worth nothing and that the church will be better off without us. It is a sad day… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Tim, the issue of ‘who takes the pain’ on this particular issue is surely relative. Women, in general have suffered the pain of non-acceptance from the anti-women sodality in the C.of E. for long enough. That was recognised by the Church in its decision, fifteen years ago, to right that perceived injustice (by theological perception). Are you saying that now, fifteen years after that, there are people who still feel that the sacerdotal ministry of women in against God’s will for the Church of England? If so, it really is a great pity, because in acknowledging the ministry of women,… Read more »

David Malloch
Guest
David Malloch

L Roberts wrote:
“The time may well have come to consider the spiritual benefits of abolishing the order of bishop in the C of E., or seriously reforming it…..FiF would be freed from their current anxieties.”

You seriously misunderstand FiF. FiF seeks to uphold the historic episcopate. The abolition of the episcopate would be totally unacceptable and as for serious reform – that is what WB are and why they are unacceptable.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Tim:

Are your parents being squeezed out…or are they squeezing themselves out, by being unwilling to hear and listen to the Spirit? Are they so closed to the idea of women as priests that they cannot see the good and effective ministry of these women as clear indication that their calling is Spirit-inspired?

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Tim:

Are your parents being squeezed out…or are they squeezing themselves out, by being unwilling to hear and listen to the Spirit? Are they so closed to the idea of women as priests that they cannot see the good and effective ministry of these women as clear indication that their calling is Spirit-inspired?

Nom de Plume
Guest
Nom de Plume

Tim wrote: “I think of my own elderly parents who live in retirement in England and are lifelong members of the Church of England. They are not going to change their view on the ordination of women, and they are feeling themselves more and more squeezed out of the church they have faithfully served all their lives.” I guess the fundamental question is why we must assume that making room for more people necessarily “squeezes out” those who don’t want others to have some space. My church ordains all sorts of people whom I would personally prefer to see not… Read more »

Fr Jon
Guest
Fr Jon

Thank you, Fr Ron – I was wondering where you were, given the time lag in your postings …! Yes – NZ does have a more democratic Synodical system which has many strengths and I’m not arguing that the C of E is not in quite serious need of reform. Establishment is sometimes a real drag. But sometimes it is a sharp and necessary reminder that the church is not ‘ours’ to dispose as we would wish. Being established wedges the church door open in many respects and we have historically always had to account for those aspects of our… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

People who are responding to my comments need to notice the first half of my post. Yes, I am in full agreement with the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Victoria Matthews was my bishop here in Edmonton, and after she left for New Zealand Jane Alexander was elected as her successor. I think that since I preached at Jane Alexander’s ordination as a priest, you can assume that I am in favour! But I also know that the likelihood of people in their late seventies changing their minds on this issue is remote (I doubt very much whether… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim, I don’t think I fully understand your parents’ problem. There are already women priests in the Church of England, yet your parents seem to be happily worshipping in a parish with a male priest. This will not change because somewhere in the country a female bishop is consecrated, and unless they ever find themselves in the position that a new male incumbent has been ordained by said female bishop, their worship will in no way be affected. Is this really a big problem? Fr Jon, I look forward to your comments. Mark Wharton, I wish you all the best… Read more »

Fr Jon
Guest
Fr Jon

Mark – ‘both views have integrity’ This view is precisely what is at stake this time round and the reason that so many of us broad liberals are uneasy with the debate on women in the episcopate. The advocates of OWE want to row back on precisely that principle; as they argue that it will be impossible to be a church which ordains women to the episcopate and admit the integrity of the counter position. If I recall correctly, Synod has already passed up one chance to reaffirm that ‘those who aupport and those who oppose are both faithful anglicans’,… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I have already decided that I am going to seek communion with the Holy See. I never cease to be amazed at the level of hatred shown on this blog by so called “liberals”… for what all 3 of you have said is that the contribution that traditional catholic’s bring to this church is worth nothing and that the church will be better off without us.” – Mark Wharton – I’m sorry, Mark, that you have found it necessary to cross the Tiber – on an issue which the Church of England has decided needs to be part of its… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

Fr. Ron Smith, I always enjoy reading your letters, and rejoice that you’ve managed to make some big steps in your life’s journey as well. Hope that the music during the evensong was great also-

JCF
Guest
JCF

“I also know that the likelihood of people in their late seventies changing their minds on this issue is remote”

When my mother was dying from Lou Gehrig’s Disease two years ago, she received excellent, holy pastoral care from her priest, a woman.

My father has received similar care from this priest in his bereavement. He’ll be 90 years old next year: the rigidity of being unable to change one’s mind has only *limited* correspondence to chronological age! ;-/

***

Vaya con Dios, Mark. Be careful what you wish for, however—you just might get it! :-0

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Erica, you are correct, the ordination of women as bishops would not add to may parents’ difficulties in any appreciable way. The significance would for the most part be symbolic. The town in which they live has a church which has both male and female clergy on staff, and is rather too Anglo-Catholic for them. For some years they have been attending another church in a village some miles away. However, my Dad has recently had to give up his car, and so their options are now very limited. Fr. Ron, Bishop Victoria Matthews was a suffragen bishop in Toronto,… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Choirboy – re your comment about the music at Evensong. Yes! it was lovely. Anglican Chant for the Psalms, a beautiful Anthem from the Choir, and a rattling good sermon from me on the subject of ‘Women in the Ministry of God’s Church’,

Tim, we are finding Bishop Victoria’s catholic and apostolic ministry in our N.Z. Diocese of Christchurch refreshing and encouraging Laus Deo! I hope you Mum and Dad are being accommodated in their need of male-only ministry. I’m sure it will still be available to them from some source.
Agape.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim Much as I appreciate your parents’ difficulties – is it really acceptable to oppose women bishops because some people will experience significant symbolic problems? I am not trying to make light of your parents’ bewilderment and inability to accept women priests, please don’t think that. But if I understand you correctly, they have no-one to drive them to their old church and are already forced to worship in a church that does not quite suit their tastes. This is, of course, a common problem in rural ministry, but not one that has anything to do with women bishops. So… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Erika:

I do not oppose women bishops; I rejoice in their ministry. I thought I had made that clear. I simply empathise with the feelings of people whose genuinely held convictions have now made them a shrinking minority in the church they have worshipped in and served all their lives.

BTW, I do wish we could get away from the descriptor ‘women bishops’. As Bishop Victoria Matthews used to say, ‘”women” is not an adjective!’

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Tim
I thought I was responding to your post starting “I am torn over this issue”, and ending “What are the demands of love on this issue?”
You seemed to be not merely empathising but looking for some kind of practical accomodation, so I was trying to work out what, precisely, is at stake.
I’m still not sure I understand it.

I agree about the term women bishops!!

aalenian2009
Guest
aalenian2009

Let Synod’s ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.

Presumably if Synod had voted in something that Canon Fraser did not agree with he would have said something along the lines of ” these things take time, is only a temporary setback … look how long it took to

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“I also know that the likelihood of people in their late seventies changing their minds on this issue is remote”

My mother, 72 years old, on gay marriage:

“Ford, ’tis just like the uproar over the women. In 25 years time, we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.”

Bill Blake
Guest
Bill Blake

This disagreement has turned into what can only be described as a struggle for power. Sadly it is obscuring the gospel message of salvation which needs to be heard in our land. If the proposal to consecrate women as bishops is causing so much dissent then I question whether it is right. And in any case General Synod only represents the views of its members. It does not and never has represented the view of the ordinary parishioner. Perhaps it is time to invite those whose weekly offerings keep the C of E in being to give their views on… Read more »

Bishop Alex Wandag
Guest
Bishop Alex Wandag

It is indeed a shame that the issues being USELESSLY DEBATED are not issues at all of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH relative to the Salvation of humankind and the rest of creation.