Thinking Anglicans

An open letter from a curate to the Archbishops

An open letter to the Archbishops regarding their proposed amendments

Dear Archbishop Williams and Archbishop Sentamu,

It is with great dismay and disappointment that I read your proposed amendments to the Women Bishops draft legislation issued on Monday 21st June. I doubt there are many who will feel this offers good news. Far from being attentive to the full diversity of voices within the Church of England, these amendments suggest that you, our Archbishops, are primarily concerned with a particularly vocal minority. Neither do you seem to trust that the Legislative Drafting Committee have, in fact, been extremely attentive to the diversity of voices for the past year and have worked hard to come up with the current proposals. There is nothing to suggest, for example, that you are listening to the voices of those who signed petitions in 2008 requesting a single clause measure. Or those, like WATCH, who have made it clear that the proposed legislation already demands many concessions and compromises from the simple single clause measure they requested and which has been favoured by all other Anglican provinces who have chosen to open the episcopate to women.

There will be many who will be unable to support the proposed transfer arrangements and continual public undermining of women’s spiritual authority implicit in these amendments (paragraph 6), even if it means proceeding sooner rather than later.

The smoke and mirror strategy of giving jurisdiction by virtue of the Measure, rather than transfer or delegation in effect implies that the Church of England as a whole is ambiguous about the identity and authority of both Bishops who are female and male priests who accept their ministry. This is a dangerous precedent to set and leaves women in ministry vulnerable as they, along with every Christian, continue the battle against the principalities and powers of darkness but without the full support of the Church that recognised and authorised their divine calling to ordained ministry. It is a poor consolation prize to offer consecrated women fuller legal rights with one hand (para 15.1) while continuing to set up structures that call into question their spiritual authority (paragraph 13). The interpretation of the Lambeth Conference resolution (1998) which undergirds this proposal (para 2) fails to recognise that both those who assent to and those who dissent to the ordination of women to the priesthood are loyal Anglicans because what we hold in common; our love for Christ, our common identity as brothers and sisters in Christ, takes precedence over our disagreement over differing understandings of the Episcopal authority. Status as loyal Anglicans is not a carte blanche to demand special provisions.

I refute completely that the Church of England has managed to operate a practical polity (para 13). The practical polity is in fact extremely dysfunctional, cripples the ministry of women, in some diocese more than others, and has done nothing to bring about greater communion, but instead fosters division and discrimination and continues to damage the Church.

Many people on both sides of the debate have struggled with the Act of Synod because they are committed to making it work and will continue to wrestle with whatever General Synod manages to agree upon, because of their love for the communities this Church serves, often despite the toxic legacy of the Act. This is illustrated by the fact that Prayer Vigils will take place around the country, in Ripon, Guildford, Newcastle and Lichfield Cathedrals, during the General Synod debates, genuinely drawing together the diversity of voices to which you refer, but to whom you clearly have not listened.

Wherever the solution may lie to the question of how to bring about Women Bishops, I think it is unlikely to manifest itself in the creation of Church of England ghettos that will further isolate those who are opposed and fatally undermine the ministry of those who assent and have the unenviable task of making such convoluted proposals work.
Where are the proposals that will in fact ensure that we simply have Bishops? Consecrated because we have discerned God’s calling and gifting within them, regardless of those things that are declared unimportant in relation to our identity in Christ; race, gender, social status? Where are the proposals that will enable them to fulfil that role with joy, confidence and the minimum of hindrance?

When will the Church of England accept that to set up structures that implicitly infer that some people are less a child of God than others is just poor theology and a stumbling block to our proclamation of the gospel?

I realise that the sound of our church in great pain as it labours to bring something into new birth is difficult for you both, as our Archbishops, and for many others to hear. But it would be good for you to recognise that the expression of pain is not necessarily an indication that something is fundamentally wrong. The Church of England, through Synod, declared many decades ago that there were, in fact, no theological objections to women’s ordained ministry. I would like to see it support its statements with clear and unambiguous actions.

Your sister in Christ,
Lindsay Southern
22nd June 2010

This letter is written by a national committee member of WATCH.

Ruth Gledhill has written about it at her blog (registration now required) under the heading Archbishops of Canterbury and York in hoc to ‘principalities and powers of darkness’ as they fail to understand ‘pain’ of giving birth Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the ‘principalities and powers of darkness’: the vehement disagreement of a woman curate..

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Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“There will be many who will be unable to support the proposed transfer arrangements and continual undermining of women’s spiritual authority implicit in these amendments (paragraph 6), even if it means proceeding sooner rather than later” – Lindsay Southern, WATCH – This is a pretty clear indication of the feeling of those of us around the world of the Anglican Communion, who have already accepted the clear authority of women bishops in our Provinces, and who sincerely believe that the Church of England needs to get its act together – with regard to the unequivocal acceptance of women as capable… Read more »

Tristan
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Tristan

Did she really just infer that traditionalists are of the devil? Where on earth did she go to theological college and leave with this sort of nonsense?! (Isn’t it the ecclesiastical version of Godwin’s Law?)

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Wonderful, courageous letter.

John B. Chilton
Guest

How many Lindsays+ are there? Let’s not be silent ladies and gentlemen of the clergy. One for all and all for one.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Ms Southern’s comments are despicable. She infers that traditionalists – both men and women – are some incarnation of the “principalities and powers and darkness”. All the more tragic is that, with such views, she is allowed to minister pastorally to others. I wonder how she copes in her parish with those who disagree with any of her views. It is absolutely shameful and unchristian. And those who support such comments should be ashamed of themselves too!

MarkBrunson
Guest

I think Ruth Gledhill sensationalized and “traditionalists” – already prone to be hypersensitive – ran with it. The Reverend Southern does not refer to opponents to WO, but rather speaks of the struggle of every Christian against the “principalities and powers of darkness” – and says that women have, traditionally, been left without the support of the whole church in fully doing so, that they are members of the family of Christ only in a very limited and second-class sense, in the traditional approach. She’s quite right. The headline from Ms. Gledhill’s piece shows the ugly side of her journalism,… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

This is what she wrote (emphasis in all-caps mine): “This is a dangerous precedent to set and leaves women in ministry vulnerable as they, ALONG WITH EVERY CHRISTIAN, continue the battle against the principalities and powers of darkness but without the full support of the Church that recognised and authorised their divine calling to ordained ministry.” She further writes this (again all-caps emphasis mine): “. . BOTH THOSE WHO ASSENT TO AND THOSE WHO DISSENT TO the ordination of women to the priesthood are loyal Anglicans because what WE HOLD IN COMMON; OUR LOVE FOR CHRIST . . .” Now,… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Mark
“If she is responsible for the headline, then badly done, Ms. Gledhill.”

She isn’t, journalists never write their own headlines as these are defined by the length available and font stipulated by the editors.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Erika,

Given that it’s a blog, I thought she might’ve been. I’m unwilling to register simply to read her writings, so I don’t know the content of her piece.

The headline reported here on TA, though:

“Archbishops of Canterbury and York in hoc to ‘principalities and powers of darkness’ as they fail to understand ‘pain’ of giving birth.”

That’s sheer sensationalism, and, largely, a misrepresentation of what was said in the letter.

Ruth Gledhill
Guest

I have altered the headline to reflect these comments and thank you everyone who took the time and trouble to correct me. Ruth

Grandmère Mimi
Guest

And Lindsay Southern is a curate! How brave of her to speak out so eloquently.

“How many Lindsays+ are there? Let’s not be silent ladies and gentlemen of the clergy. One for all and all for one.”

I’m with John Chilton. Let’s hear more voices from the like-minded within the Church of England.

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

Should be “dissent from” and “in hock to”. (pedantry alert – comes of having served on the Revision Committee!) Haven’t read Ruth’s original, because it’s behind the paywall, where I won’t go, on principle. But it strikes me that there are several sub-texts within the responses of different groups to the proposed legislation. Elsewhere, I highlighted the significance of “headship” and “sacramental assurance” (neither of which doctrines I hold) which seem not to be understood by proponents of the consecration of women. It’s equally the case that opponents have (partly because of their own self-marginalisation within the Church of England)… Read more »

Rosalind
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Rosalind

I’ve been thinking about the remarks in the gospels “Until you become like little children you will not enter the KIngdom of God” and other variants depending on which gospel we are reading. All sorts of interpretations of these sayings – but there is something in the essential simplicity of the gospel and the comments that Jesus taught in a way that ordinary people could understand. So if the arguments and positions are too complicated to understand for all those intelligent people who are now in their 20s and 30s – is it possible that they are not quite as… Read more »

Peter Snowdon
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Peter Snowdon

I happen to be a parishioner in Lindsay’s parish and can vouch for the fact that she is a most caring and open person to people of all points of view and has a true pastor’s heart. She is saying in more complex terms what the vast majority of people in and out of the church feel ie Church just what is your problem? We can’t have second class women bishops- let those who disagree go elsewhere and let’s honour them for their principled stand and not penalise them but there will, as with women priests be far fewer of… Read more »

Neil
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Neil

Pete Broadbent’s analysis I find very helpful. But part of the reason FiF theological objections have not been encountered is as a result of generosity of spirit and a very English reserve and politeness (though clearly with one or two rare exceptions). Stridency from whichever ‘window’ (as Pete rightly discerns) tends to come from more recent ordinands. Many of the women priests who were around in 1992 understand fully the huge compromises made by their opponents, even if the majority of commentators on this blog do not. The ordination of women is a lovely idea, but it remains a novelty… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Haven’t read Ruth’s original, because it’s behind the paywall, where I won’t go, on principle.”
– Pete Broadbent, on Thursday –

Me neither!. However, I think it’s sad that Ruth’s comments have to be withheld by the newspapers – simply because they want all bloggers to pay. I do believe that Ruth still has something valuable to say to us on T.A. – especially since her turning towards her eirenic views on gays and women and The Church. Maybe she should just give the odd personal comment to ‘Thinking anglicans.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Thank you, Ms. Gledhill (not being icily polite – it’s a Southern thing; I don’t know you well enough to call you Ruth).

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

Many thanks to Lindsey. I’m a priest in the C-of-E and very happy to add my voice to hers.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thank you, Pete Broadbent, for a genuinely balanced and helpful comment!

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Bp Pete – I think I do have some appreciation of the positions you describe. The question I have is whether they can be held in an absolute form (there are versions, gradations and differences in headship and sacramental assurance) in a church which ordains and consecrates women. If they cannot, then there are effectively two churches, or three, or four … pretending to be one, and all the structural kinds of solution will do is provide a fig-leaf to cover that pretence. My ecclesiology would have people who hold these views, which differ from mine, as part of the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Neil I would be much happier to accept that objection to women priests should continue to be possible if someone answered my repeated question about the consequences and the theology of codifying difference. Bishop Broadbent describes eloquently what happens when groups retreat into ghettos, and the constant inability of liberals on this forum to understand that this question has nothing to do with women’s rights and justice, as well as the failure of FiF to engage with any serious liberal theology and just condemn it sneeringly for not being traditional is shocking but also indicative of what happens when people… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

(2) So we could end up with a church that looks like something designed in set theory classes and the combinations of what each group may or may not require special provisions for could be quite numerous. It would be more than realistic to project that in a few decade’s time there will have to be special provisions for those anti-women parishes who insist that their male bishop isn’t gay, and we start drawing another few mathematical shapes into our special provisions picture, each group feeling “right” and vindicated and triumphant about their pure theology. A story about a Pharisee… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

The only illumination I could give, Erika, is that I see no possibility for an actual “living together” of the two camps. While the liberal end of the spectrum is flexible, and allows a variety of practices and beliefs in individual members, while maintaining an overall discipline for the community – the Elizabethan arrangement – the rigidity of the “orthodox” view is simply not going to allow that. It’s not a matter of “oh, they’re so unreasonable” but the simple fact of their basic ecclesial worldview. We’ve seen it play out here in TEC, and the end has not been… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I think you are right to be concerned, Erika…because as I read the situation in the CoE, the main opposition to women bishops (and to women as priests at all) is coming not from the pews but from a minority of pulpits. John may be correct that things are more fluid in the parishes, as far as the laity are concerned, but it’s apparent (to me, anyway) that there are hidebound clergy who will oppose this forever…and who are training and teaching incoming clergy to feel the same way.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

I concur with Mark Brunson – the more TEC ‘gave,’ the more that Dunkin’ and Minns ‘took.’

‘Playing nicely’with bullies never works in the long run; they’ll take your lunch money every time, and slap you upside the head.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

There have never been “two integrities”–there are two positions of integrity.The Church of England ordains women priests and it allows conscientious dissent from that.The problem of the Act of Synod surely is that it encouraged the view that the Church of England was a sort of pantomime horse on the issue. I remember trying to explain this to Catholicos Aram in Lebanon some years ago – he was bewildered and said it all seemed more a breach of catholic order than ordaining women, which the Armenians regarded as a theologumenon. What was intended as extended episcopal care soon became alternate… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

What is ‘ a theologumenon’ in this context please ? I’d like to understand. Thanks.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Amazing. Theological liberals (and let’s face it, clergy-who-are-female virtually ALWAYS get accused of being such) are frequently berated by the (self-styled) “traditional” “orthodox” of being insufficiently concerned with/actively DENYING the “Existence of Evil.”

Then the Rev. Southern actually CITES “the battle against the principalities and powers of darkness” that she “along with every Christian” faces . . . and the “traditional” “orthodox” (i.e., anti-WO!), in their jaundiced paranoia, quickly ASSUME she’s referring to THEM!

By the anti-WO crowd, we are (so to speak!) damned if we do/damned if we don’t!

MarkBrunson
Guest

“What is ‘ a theologumenon’ in this context please?”

I think it’s one of them new Korean cars.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Theologumenon …Orthodox speak….now in retirement without my “library”, but I took it to mean “still an open question”. A pleasant anecdote: subsequently the Catholicos visited the School of Oriental and African Studies” ( which was in my parish) and asked that I should be included in the official welcoming party. On greeting me he said “Father, I am in your parish, I am under your authority” Of the ancient churches the Armenians seem to me to be extremely theologically hospitable!

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

JCF, I don’t know about Ms Southern, but my own brand of Christianity is certainly not one constantly waged in “a battle against the principalities of power and darkness”. Conversely, it is surely about rejoicing in the truth of Christ, alive and risen, and therefore the powers of hell and death defeated. Whatever you might argue about her comments in that respect, there is more than a touch of the paranoid in her too, judging from the tone and content of her open letter. Our Archbishops are to be highly commended for seeking to work against the divisive ranting of… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

theologumenon …Orthodox speak….now in retirement without my “library”, but I took it to mean “still an open question”. A pleasant anecdote: subsequently the Catholicos visited the School of Oriental and African Studies” ( which was in my parish) and asked that I should be included in the official welcoming party. On greeting me he said “Father, I am in your parish, I am under your authority” Of the ancient churches the Armenians seem to me to be extremely theologically hospitable!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 3:33pm BST

Many thanks indeed. Yes, an enjoyable anecdote.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

” Our Archbishops are to be highly commended for seeking to work against the divisive ranting of those such as Ms Southern. They have a difficult enough task as it is without her and other like-minded demagogues seeking to undermine their authority and position. – Benedict on Saturday – And you, Benedict, are to be highly commended for affirming your Provincial Archbishops. However, not to be so highly commended for your defence of their questionable wisdom in trying to throw a spanner into the works on the issue of women bishops in the C.of E. No doubt, your erstwhile namesake… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Well, I think this open letter from a curate is a great idea ! She speaks up and speaks out for so many of us women and men in the churches and beyond.

She speaks from mind and heart

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

“She speaks up and speaks out for so many of us men and women in the churches and beyond” – Pantycelyn She certainly does NOT speak up and out for me, nor for other men and women who embrace an entirely different theology and ecclesiology to that espoused by Ms Southern and other members of WATCH and GRAS. When will you liberals – and I use that term loosely – learn that all the posturing in the world will not change the hearts and minds of those with whom you disagree. It is a matter of Christian conscience and conviction… Read more »

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

‘..may well refuse to give you what you so clearly want ie. our departure from the Church of England, you might just need to reckon with the spectre of future years of disenchantment and disagreement.’

oh grow up for pity’s sake

MarkBrunson
Guest

Benedict has just given you your answer about the plausibility of “special arrangements.”

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Benedict – shields and spears to the side for now – do I deduce that, in order to stay where you are in the Church of England, which ordains women priests and will probably ordain women bishops, you have now decided that you will ‘go along with it with the ‘right sort’ of accommodation’? What ‘code of practice’ might be delivered up by the Archbishops and the General Synod, you would still (if you decide to stay) be in communion with a Church that ordains women to the Sacred Ministry. This does seem a little odd! Would you not rather… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Father Smith, the Archbishops are proposing the notion of “coordinate jurisdiction” whereby the authority and jurisdiction of the bishops ministering to traditionalists would derive from the whole Church and not from an individual woman bishop. Because the whole Church, as represented by the Synod, had assented to the idea of “coordinate jurisdiction”, it would mean for us that the statement about our being loyal Anglicans was fully endorsed. The force of the amendment would be in the fact that it is by measure, and that we would see ourselves as still under the jurisdiction of bishops within a particular continuum,… Read more »