Thinking Anglicans

Moving forward on women bishops

WATCH has issued the following statement.

MOVING FORWARD ON WOMEN BISHOPS CALL TO ACTION!

WATCH supports the draft legislation proposed by the Revision Committee as a framework for moving forward without further delay. But this represents a significant compromise.

The ideal
WATCH has always campaigned for the simplest possible legislation for women bishops, that is, a Single Clause Measure. This is the only way of having women bishops without discrimination. A Single Clause Measure would have brought women in the Church of England under the protection of the Equality Act. It would also have put us in step with all other Anglican Provinces that have consecrated women as bishops. Most importantly it would have signaled that the Church now values women as much as men. What is being proposed falls short of this ideal.

The current proposals
The draft legislation provides for the consecration of women as bishops with special arrangements for those with conscientious difficulties by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory Code of Practice. This is the approach that Synod approved after lengthy debate in July 2008.

Under the proposals, each diocesan bishop would be required to draw up a Scheme in her or his diocese that takes account of a national Code of Practice and provides local arrangements for the performance of certain Episcopal functions in relation to parishes with conscientious difficulties.

In addition such parishes would be able to request, when there is a vacancy, that only a male incumbent or priest-in-charge be appointed.

A compromise for WATCH
It is a significant compromise for WATCH to consider supporting anything short of a Single Clause Measure. However, the Revision Committee has listened to all viewpoints and investigated the practical possibilities with great care. Their lengthy report is a testament to the enormous patience and generosity of their process.

The Revision Committee’s proposals

  • Allow for the consecration of women as bishops
  • Maintain the integrity of the church and the episcopate
  • Make provision for those who are opposed to women becoming bishops

There seems to be a consensus emerging across the moderate mainstream that this is a good basis for moving forward.

All these factors lead us to believe that WATCH should support the proposals at Synod. However, this is a compromise so that we can move ahead with women bishops NOW and be as inclusive as we can without compromising the integrity of the episcopate or of women.

Our Concerns
Although we support the legislative framework proposed, WATCH has concerns over certain details of the draft legislation. Our principle concerns are as follows:

1. The Code of Practice.
The Code of Practice has not yet been drafted and yet will be key to the content of Schemes that are drawn up at local level. Para 448 of the Revision Committee’s report accepts that ‘much … turns on what the Code of Practice says and the extent to which the bishops … are prepared to commit themselves to a broadly consistent approach across the country’.

We have an incomplete picture at present and we are concerned that there is room for many discriminatory practices to return at a later stage in the process. WATCH is prepared to support the draft Measure but we reserve our position on the details of the Code of Practice.

The Revision Committee has recommended that a draft Code of Practice be ready before Final Approval of the legislation. We would urge the preparation and publication of the draft Code at the earliest possible opportunity and endorse the Committee’s proposal that both men and women should be involved in the drafting process.

2. Diocesan Schemes
The Measure does not provide for a ‘national standard’ for Diocesan Schemes and there is no obligation to consult with a local or national advisory group in drawing up a Scheme. This leaves open the possibility that practice will polarise across dioceses with some dioceses continuing to provide a very difficult environment for women in ordained ministry. There is no simple mechanism for challenge or redress if a Scheme is unsatisfactory.

Where the Diocesan Bishop will not ordain women, the Scheme makes no provision for the care of parishes who support the ministry of women or for women discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

3. Letters of Request
Provision for those opposed is triggered by the PCC sending a Letter of Request to the Diocesan Bishop. WATCH would like to see the grounds and process for such Letters to be tightened.

We are concerned that the PCC need only pass a resolution ‘on grounds of theological conviction’ and that these grounds need not be further specified in the Letter of Request. We are also concerned that the Diocesan Bishop is given no opportunity to challenge the reasonableness of any such ‘theological’ grounds.

These theological grounds need not be of the PCC themselves – the theological convictions of others (also unspecified) is enough. Given the seriousness of the request – alternative Episcopal oversight or the appointment of a male priest – there is need for more rigorous scrutiny of the grounds of a Letter of Request.

WATCH would also like a requirement for wider consultation in the parish before the PCC considers whether to send a Letter of Request.

4. Exemptions from the Equality Act.
WATCH deeply regrets the need to seek exemptions from the Equality Act and will seek to minimise the effect of such exemptions wherever possible.

What next ?

The draft legislation returns to Synod in July for its Revision Stage. But, as the House of Bishops recently made clear, this is likely to be a very difficult Session.

Opponents, though a small minority, remain very vocal and, despite the careful listening of the Revision Committee, still claim they have not been heard. There will be attempts at Synod to bring back structural separation, declarations by bishops and other discriminatory measures.

WATCH will oppose any attempts to institutionalise division within the church that creates new barriers to mission. The Revision Committee has already explored the options thoroughly and has found that none of the approaches suggested to them by those opposed would work in practice.

There must be no further concessions to accommodate theologies that demean and diminish women.

WATCH needs you to ACT NOW!

Get involved!

This is a crucial time for the future of our Church. We need your help to ensure that the best possible legislation is passed by Synod and that there are no further delays in the process. Synod has been debating this for more than thirty years. Now is the time for action! Please help us campaign in the weeks leading up to Synod.

Get writing!

  • to your Diocesan Bishop,
  • to your General Synod representatives
  • to the Church and national press

key points to remember

  • this legislation is a compromise
  • new structural solutions will not work
  • the integrity of the church is at stake
  • we need to move forward NOW!

Get blogging!

Engage positively with online discussions

Get together!

Meet locally to co-ordinate action and share ideas. Contact WATCH to find friends in your area.

As well as preparing for this Synod we need to make sure that good people stand for the forthcoming General Synod elections. Have you considered standing yourself? We can help you through the process.

Keep praying!

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Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Oh for heaven’s sake! Just damn all DO IT! Oh gosh, that’s the brash [former] colonial speaking. If you have women deacons and women priests, your not having women bishops makes NO SENSE.

RPNewark
Guest
RPNewark

Cynthia Gilliat wrote, “Oh for heaven’s sake! Just damn all DO IT!” Cynthia, be grateful for the separation of church and state in the US of A. There are many in the C of E who would be delighted if we could “just damn all do it” but we can’t. The rules which govern how the C of E makes such changes are part of UK law and we are obliged to work within them no matter how frustrating that is. We’ll get there, oh yes we’ll get there, but it has to be done within the rule of law.… Read more »

David da Silva Cornell
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David da Silva Cornell

“Cynthia, be grateful for the separation of church and state in the US of A. There are many in the C of E who would be delighted if we could “just damn all do it” but we can’t. The rules which govern how the C of E makes such changes are part of UK law and we are obliged to work within them no matter how frustrating that is. We’ll get there, oh yes we’ll get there, but it has to be done within the rule of law. “Pray for us.” I, for one, shall — and shall also add… Read more »

David C
Guest
David C

Re Cynthia’s comments, from an American perspective, if the CofE is linked so closely to the state, then it seems all the more unsupportable to exclude members of the church who are otherwise qualified solely based on their sex.

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

, for one, shall — and shall also add a prayer for the swift and complete disestablishment of the CoE, since being tethered to the state (the ongoing Erastian condition, traceable back to the Emperor Constantine) clearly only hinders and does not help the CoE (or any other “state” church) when it comes to following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus…
Posted by: David da Silva Cornell on Monday, 14 June 2010 at 3:05

Not so sure really. The Church would behave much dafter with out the constraints of the State.

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

RPNewarK: Is it really the C of E’s relationship to the state that makes it so tardy at dealing with justice issues? I think it is merely the fact that the C of E is run as a male gerontocracy whose episcopal leaders were intellectually formed in a world of boys-only schools and men-only colleges, where women were invisible except as matrons, and youknowwhatuality was swept under the carpet. I don’t think theology or high matters of state polity have anything to do with it at all: it is a question of being stuck in a 1950s groove. Could one… Read more »

brimcmike
Guest
brimcmike

From the American Colonies,

It all seems rather odd, this issue with women in authority, even in the C of E, given the legacy of Elizabeth I, and the current reign of Elizabeth II, as Queens regnant, and Supreme Governors of the established C of E.

Are there, and has there always been, special arrangements for those with conscientious difficulties by way of delegation from the Queen, as the case may be?

If not, it just doesn’t compute to me really, sorry. Perhaps someone could explain these subtleties to the Yank.

Many thanks.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

It is very generous of WATCH to agree to a double standard to accommodate the opponents of Women as Bishops in the Church of England. However, other Provinces of the Communion which have accepted women as bearers of the image and likeness of God – together with every other human being – cannot but be puzzled by this meek acceptance of a dilution of episcopal oversight for women. Any accommodation now would surely be-devil the question of gender equality in the Church for evermore. If the Church of England really believes that women are called by God to be Bishops… Read more »

Prior Aelred
Guest

Panycelyn —
You could well be right.
More than a few people were quite surprised to discover that the Russian Orthodox Church was much nicer when it was run by the KGB …

Rose Gaudete
Guest
Rose Gaudete

WATCH has sold itself short! All the concessions in the draft measure are sexist. Only female bishops are required to delegate. Also it is clericalist: the provision in the existing legislation for laity to insist on male priests celebrating in their parish is withdrawn – the parish priest therefore decides. Of course, very few will take advantage of this provision and it may be that it will be easier to get the thing through synod if there is a perceived compromise, even if no traditionalists will make use of it because it does not meet their needs?? But, whatever the… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Pantycelyn — You could well be right. More than a few people were quite surprised to discover that the Russian Orthodox Church was much nicer when it was run by the KGB … Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 11:25am BST I hadn’t known that– just shows you ! Not surprised. I do think that without the Establishment the Church would tend to fragment at least 3 ways; and the nuttier fundie notions both Evo and Anglo would have nothing to mitigate them -or at least reign them in. I never thought I’d ever say anything… Read more »

Pantycelyn
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Pantycelyn

There is no need for any special provision for those who wish the Church had not changed by entering the 21st century and ordaining women to all ministries. No special provisions have ever been made for those desiring the ministries of women, in the many years before the introduction of WO. People just had to get on with it, as best they may. Now those against WO will have the chance to learn and grow at first hand. No-one will die because they haven’t got their own way on this — on the contrary. In fact, it’s hard to imagine… Read more »

orthodoxdj
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orthodoxdj

Let’s really think like Anglicans and NOT ordain women for any priestly office. It has never been the mind of the church to ordain women. C.S. Lewis argues very persuasively against female ordination in his now-timely essay “Priestesses in the church?”. Let’s listen to God. Women are meant to be mothers, not fathers. The distinction of the sexes is beautiful. We’re not smarter than God. Let’s respect Him by respecting His intentions and design.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Let’s really think like Anglicans and NOT ordain women for any priestly office. It has never been the mind of the church to ordain women.” – ‘orthodoxdj’ on Tuesday – The appellation attached to this post gives us a clue as to her/his thoughts about the ordination of women. However, he/she cannot presume to speak for all ‘Anglicans’. Some of us really do believe that God really is calling women to a vocation of sacerdotal and espicopal ministries within our world-wide Communion. At the time of the formation of the Church, leadership ministry for women would not have been culturally… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

This is what happens when you allow your faith to become so backwards the past looks like the future!

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Loverly spoof !

‘Let’s really think like Anglicans and NOT ordain women for any priestly office. It has never been the mind of the church to ordain women. C.S. Lewis
argues very persuasively against female ordination in his now-timely essay “Priestesses in the church?”. Let’s listen to God. Women are meant to be mothers, not fathers. The distinction of the sexes is beautiful. We’re not smarter than God. Let’s respect Him by respecting His intentions and design.

Posted by: orthodoxdj on Tuesday, 15 June 2010 at 7:02pm BST

Thanks – be reading Terry Pratchett next ! ;- )

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

This is what happens when you allow your faith to become so backwards the past looks like the future!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 16 June 2010 at 5:36am BST

Yes: ‘Backwards in Doubt’ would be a much better name for a certain organisation we all know and er love!!

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

Actually Pantycelyn, I was thinking “Backwards in Bigotry”.

So let me guess about your name, someplace north of Llandovery?

MarkBrunson
Guest

Oh, I do love them Pant y Celyn. They’re my favorite comedy act.

Following from evensongjunkie:

I don’t know about “Pant,” though I believe “Celyn” is holly, so (something) of the Holly?

orthodoxdj
Guest
orthodoxdj

Men and women are equal in worth and dignity before God. I could never imagine thinking otherwise. Intelligence, ability, and worth are not the issue here. The issue is God’s design for the sexes and Hid design for the Church. Anglicanism is not the sole subsistence of the Faith. There is a larger history to the Christian Church of which Anglicanism is a part. The Church is not a democracy, and past, present, and future are irrelevant when it comes to truth. If God had wanted women to be priests, cultural norms would not have stopped Him. Jesus cared little… Read more »

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

Fine orthodoxdj, keep preaching that the church is not a democracy and all you’ll have filling those pews will be bigots with despots to lead them and little else.

There isn’t enough lightning in Southern Ohio to melt down plastic “touchdown Jesuses” to make that point. You want to live in a museum, fine, just don’t go calling it the church. Christianity is not a dead religion.

If you want dogma, go to Rome. There are lots of dead cathedrals on the continent to make that self-evident.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Orthodoxdj
also for you the question that no anti woman believer has yet given me an answer to:
Bearing in mind that God could only be incarnated as either male or female, and that if Jesus had been a woman, we would now probably be arguing that men were never supposed to be priests, what do you think he would have had to do to convince people that both men and women are called to the priesthood. Be born as male and female twins?

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“If God had wanted women to be priests, cultural norms would not have stopped Him.” – orthodoxdj – Not so orthodox, then, eh? God is not the divine puppet master, pulling strings to make us do what God wants. Where, ‘orthodoxdj’, is your higher understanding of the principle of free-will for all God’s children? Do you not believe that human beings – even in the Church – can make mistakes. The defence of slavery was just one of them – even at the time of Jesus, but He had something to say about that. Furthermore, Jesus’ emancipation of women runs… Read more »

orthodoxdj
Guest
orthodoxdj

Erika, I think you answered the question yourself. Jesus was incarnated as a man. God refers to Himself as “He”. Priests represent God in that sacramental role. Male and female are not accidents; male and female are not incidental to our existence. evensongjunkie, Do you really believe that unless the Church chooses doctrines by voting, then all there will be are bigots? And what defines a bigot? Someone who disagress with you? If you beleve in a Church democracy, then what happens if your position is defeated by vote? Do you concede and give up? Is this really the way… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

orthodoxdj, I understand that you have what might be called an “orthodox” view – however, that, like any view of God’s Will, is merely a guess. In the end, it is neither compelling nor helpful, and presents no true benefit to those involved if applied in a general manner. Whether you wish it or no, your defense sounds merely like superstition, and has no basis that can be made firm in light of reality. It is not truly even internally coherent, as Christ Himself said to call no man father, and did not mention establishing a priesthood, other than that… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Orthodoxdj
You have not answered my question.
What you’re saying is that there is absolutely no way that God could have called men and women to the priesthood even if he wanted to because he was restricted by the laws of human biology.
That’s a truly astonishing view.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Only people who believe in the inherent dignity of women can lavish such a title on a woman”.

– orthodoxdj, on Friday –

On this statement of yours (referring to St.Mary Magdalene as ‘Apostle to the apostles’) :
– I rest my case!

On your final challenge: “Is God sexist”?
The answer is “NO, only certain human beings”

Malcolm+
Guest

Perhaps he should change his nom de keyboard to heterodoxdj since he clearly believes that the second Person of the Trinity assumed only male humanity. Athanasius assures us that that which is not assumed is not redeemed. This poster then, is arguing that women are not redeemed.

orthodoxdj
Guest
orthodoxdj

Malcolm, Are you saying that Athanasius believed in having female priests? Are you saying that Jesus was a female? Or are you saying he was androgynous? In appealling to Athanasius, are you appealing to Tradition? If you are appealing to Tradition, then I appeal to you to appeal to it further. If not, then quoting Athanaisus really gets you nowhere. Are males human? Yes. Did Christ become a male? Yes. Did Jesus therefore become Man? Yes. Are you saying Jesus needs to be both male and female to assume true humanity? You might believe that, but the Bible never says… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

I can’t respond to what you’ve written back to me, orthodoxdj, as it is in no way reflective of what I wrote on the subject. I am a member of TEC and an Anglican and you wrote to make a blanket statement of what God intends – a rather bold move that could only expect to be challenged in a public forum. My response did not show my belief in the invalidity of the priesthood, rather the inconsistency and lack of internal integrity in your own argument to reserve the priesthood to males. Since your original post, you’ve added more… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“God refers to Himself as “He”.” Actually, God refers to himself as “I”…as in “I am that I am…” That we refer to God as “he” is a consequence of the paltryness of human language, especially English, in that it has no pronoun suitable for a genderless person. Using gender in language to argue for gender in God is ridiculous. “If God had wanted women to be priests, cultural norms would not have stopped Him. Jesus cared little for people’s opinion of Him, and the Apostles were the same way.” Who says he didn’t want them to be priests? Actually,… Read more »

Malcolm+
Guest

HeterodoxDJ, there are coherent arguments against the ordination of women. The argument from “Jesus as Male” is not one of them. The argument from “Jesus is Male” presumes that Jesus only assumed male humanity in the Incarnation. That is blatant heresy. The argument from complementarity (for example) does not fall into that heresy. I may not agree with the argument from complementarity, but at least it isn’;t heretical like your argument is. I rather suspeect that Athanasius didn’t believe in the ordination of women, if for no other reason than it never would have occurred to him to believe otherwise.… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I could be swayed to your side, though, if you provided evidence that those who lavished that title on Mary also believed in having female priests and bishops”. – orthodoxdj, on Saturday – What you seem not to have understood, orthodoxdj, is that in Mary having given birth to Jesus, who is ‘fully God’, she was performing what might be considered to have been a ‘priestly’ action. If the primary activity of a priest is to ‘bring forth’ (through the Holy Spirit’s working) the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar; this is precisely the action of Blessed Mary… Read more »