Promises — kept, broken or never made?

The Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod (GRAS) published a report earlier this week: Promises – kept, broken or never made? by Rosalind Rutherford. In their press release GRAS says

A report released today provides an insightful analysis of the promises made to opponents of women’s ordination as priests. As the Church of England moves towards legislating for women bishops, opponents are appealing to promises made in the past they claim have been broken. GRAS, the campaigning group for an end to gender discrimination in the Church of England, published the report which seeks to set the record straight over claims made in the debate around provision for those opposed to women’s ordination as bishops.

The Revd Rosalind Rutherford, Team Vicar in the Basingstoke Team Ministry and author of the report, says,

“My research reveals what was actually proposed and promised when the legislation was debated in General Synod in 1993 and shows that these promises have been kept. I have also identified a case in which commitments made to preserve church unity have been overstepped, in an attempt to create a separate diocese for opponents to women’s ordination.”

The report comes as the Church of England discusses how to implement the 2010 General Synod vote to move towards the ordination of women as Bishops. The legislation is being discussed by representatives across the Church’s 44 dioceses, requiring the approval of a majority of diocesan synods. So far all 15 dioceses who have debated the proposed legislation have voted in favour.

Ed Thornton writes about, and summarises, the report in today’s Church Times: No promises were broken, says GRAS.

A new report published by the Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod (GRAS) says that promises made to opponents of women’s ordination “have not been broken”. Traditionalists should be confident that provisions in the draft legislation for women bishops will be upheld, it argues…


  • tommiaquinas says:

    So a group whose raison d’etre has always been to RESCIND the Act of Synod (clue’s in the name) are now saying that it’s fantastic that the new legislation fulfils the long-term intentions of that same Act of Synod.


  • Benedict says:

    GRAS has cleverly devised a myth! If ever there were a rewriting of history, their report is it. Rubbish!

  • Judith Maltby says:

    No secret my views on PEVs which has always been based not on a discrimination argument (not that things like that don’t matter) but that I just can’t see how it isn’t donatism. I’ve tried. I can’t. Anyway, I always thought that the Roman Catholic Church would never be so theologically wayward on orders as the Church of England in this regard, but a Roman Catholic theologian friend has just brought this to my attention from the Catholic Herald, and he drew my attention specifically to the parallel to PEVs:

    Fr Lombardi said: “Today the most likely solution would be a personal prelature,” which is a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. It is led by a prelate, who is appointed by the Pope; currently the Church’s only personal prelature is Opus Dei.

    Special episcopal oversight, which overrides the diocesan bishop has been provided for Opus Dei and, if this proposal goes ahead, for the Lefebvrists. Nothing to worry about there, then.

  • Richard Ashby says:

    So what was the ‘See of Ebbsfleet’ if not an attempt to establish a parallel episcopate by a sufragan bishop?

  • Mark Bennet says:

    I would suggest that the counter-reading of the original texts is worth exploring. So far the dominant narrative has been of those who have supported Act of Synod+. The actual voting in Diocesan Synods on current proposals is a problem for that narrative, which does not understand how much of a minority position it has become. Some have taken care to maintain relationships with the wider church and “get” where they are.

    I imagined a GRAS document might be polemical, and perhaps extreme, rather than measured and well argued.

    I think the current proposals are the most widely drawn “one Church” proposals achievable – anything beyond them is what I would call a “two church” “solution”.

    The Ordinariate illustrates how a divided episcopate breeds a divided church …

  • “The Ordinariate illustrates how a divided episcopate breeds a divided church …”

    – Mark Bennet –

    I’m with you there, Mark. I suppose the point at issue is: What was the intention of Synod when it approved of PEVs in the first instance? Was it to provide a stop-gap – until Synod could be united about the ordination of women – or was it a permanent provision – meant to be for ever and ever Amen?

    It seems to me – an outsider, whose Province has already experienced the ministry of a woman bishop for more than 10 years – that, if women bishops are approved at the next General Synod, then they should be given the same guarantee of jurisdiction as their male colleagues – without prejudice.

    Otherwise, we have, as Mark has suggested, a divided Church – on the basis of catholic and apostolic incongruity. Is that really what the dissidents would prefer?

  • john says:

    I have said before, and I say it again: I think ‘the dissidents’ is an extraordinary expression to use in this context. The mentality behind it seems almost Stalinist. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • Geoff says:

    “Please correct me if I am wrong.”

    I’m afraid so, John. Those dissidents have done their best to spin, by repetition, recognition of their ongoing integrity as Christians within a church with which they disagree, into an official polarity of “two integrities,” a province which officially both does and does not recognize the OoW. The fact is that the Church of England does ordain women to the diaconate and priesthood and the position of those who dispute this can only fairly be described as dissent.

  • I think, John on Tuesday, that you are quite wrong. The word ‘dissident’ means precisely what it says: it is a word which describes those who dissent from any particular action. In this case, it is the action in the Church of England towards the process of ordaining women as bishops. Quite simple really.
    Nothing more sinister, I assure you. Fr. Ron

  • Ed Tomlinson says:

    As one who has joined the Ordinariate I would encourage all who yearn for an authentic Catholic home in which to flourish to come on over! Sacramental assurance is in reach! There is freedom from slow but certain death to life…

    The real problem at the root of all of this stuff is that the Catholic claims of the C of E are now incredibly spurious at best- unlesss imaginatively/self defined. Anglo-Catholicism was a wonderful vision for those with Catholic hearts but it has failed/is failing. Not because of the desire or efforts of its members but due to the decisions and directions of wider Anglicanism.

    It is now clear that the C of E is not wanting to be Catholic but liberal protestant- pushing forth a system that encourages congregationalism. This has been true certainly since the advent of synodical government and it is not about to change.

    Just one look at the current voting figures in diocesan synods makes clear where the C of E is and is heading. Everyone should be welcome to stay but now that the Ordinariate exists this is a self imposed exile.

    The jump is tough but it is now, in my opinion, the only viable option for the truly Catholic….

  • john says:

    I ‘disagree’, Geoff and Father Ron.

    The point at issue is whether ‘dissident’ is an appropriate term in this context. It literally means ‘sitting or standing apart’ (Lat. ‘dissideo’). In contemporary political discourse, which is the discourse being used here, it is used objectively of those who ‘dissent’ from the central view, but it never lacks an evaluative component, that is, it implies a judgement about whether the ‘disagreement’ is justifiable or not. So when authoritarian, tyrannical or fascist regimes describe opponents as ‘dissidents’, they imply that such people are beyond the pale. On the other hand, when outsiders contemplating such regimes describe their opponents as ‘dissidents’, they are implying approval. Apply this to Father Ron’s description, or characterisation, of opponents of WO within the C of E as ‘dissidents’. Since he thinks the ‘centrist’ position right, he cannot be employing ‘dissident’ in a positive, or even in a neutral, sense. Therefore it is pejorative. Therefore it is offensive. The correct term, even for advocates of WO (of whom I am one), is ‘opponents’. If one doesn’t use this terminology, one is denying ‘freedom of conscience’. There are many tensions and ironies here, but a central principle, above all for ‘Reformed’ Catholics, is that ‘dissent’ from ‘centrist’ positions may be justified by ‘freedom of conscience’, even if one disagrees with the ‘dissentient’ positions and even if one thinks them wrong – provided, of course, that they are not obviously vicious. The strong desire for some degree of ‘protection’ for their position on the part of anti-WO Anglicans who earnestly desire to remain within the C of E is not obviously ‘vicious’. Therefore, the use of the evaluatively loaded term ‘dissident’ to describe their position is offensive and – I strongly believe – eloquent of a profoundly corrupt conception of power.

  • Well, Ed Tomlinson, good for you – if you feel you have made the right decision. however, one could hope that your brand of ‘catholicism’ (overtly Roman) will not affect those in the Church of England who have not departed to the limbo that your brand of ‘catholicism’ has committed you.

    What needs to be considered in all of this, is the fact that the Church of England gave you – and other people who have departed the uncertainties of the C.of E. for the ‘certainty’ of a limbo catholicity – your original charism of catholicity. Either that was valid or it wasn’t. You have to make your own mind up about that.

    What I see in your departure, is that you have moved from one ‘catholic’ position to another, which, however, is deficient of the ‘certainties’ of both Anglican and Roman Catholicism. If you were so certain of the deficiency of your original Anglican Catholic formation, you would move, more certainly, into the Roman fold – which you have not done. This speaks for itself, debarring you from advocating one brand of ‘catholicity’ against the other.

  • Rosemary Hannah says:

    Honestly Ed? The idea that ‘sacramental assurance’ is needed would be enough to put me off joining the church you have joined. The idea your new church imagines God could, possible, sit there NOT giving himself to thousands who believe in good faith that he IS giving himself – well, it beggars belief, and is nothing, but nothing like the vibrant, giving Jesus of the gospels. Reality check: Jesus of Nazareth is not much concerned with any kind of assurance – he is all about great leaps of faith.

  • Geoff says:

    I’m afraid I’m not buying an inherently pejorative sense to “dissent.” I see references written with tremendous respect and even admiration of the courage of dissidents in China, the Soviet Union, and Cuba, for instance.

  • Chris H says:

    John, your definition/understanding of the meaning of “dissident” is very similar to mine. It is only used pejoratively here. That said, I am American and since I don’t know where you are from, perhaps this is a case of America and England being separated by a common tongue. Or perhaps it is regional? Any more comments/definitions from speakers of British English?

  • Exactly what do you call the members of an organisation that dispute the rules made by that organisation? Perhaps dissentients? It is simply a word which conveys an attitude – of disagreement.

    The Scriptures have called such a situation as ‘kicking against the pricks’. would that do?

  • tommiaquinas says:

    Fr Ron,

    In which case it is GRAS who are the dissidents. It is they who dispute the rules as they stand, as can be seen by their very title. FiF etc work within the rules as they currently stand and are currently campaigning against changes which may come in the future.

  • john says:

    Father Ron,

    Your first and last sentences admit that you use the term pejoratively. You do. I submit – and will continue to submit – that such Politburo terminology – and thinking – is unworthy. Liberal as I am (etc. etc.), I revolt against liberal double standards, that is, enthusiastic endorsement of central authority when it happens to coincide with one’s own positions and inveighing against ‘the establishment’ when it doesn’t.

  • John, your very vehemence on this issue might mark you out as some sort of ‘dissident’ – against my right to disagree with you. Pax Vobiscum.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    Perhaps we could all just keep screaming at each other, rather than working separately in our own way. You know, like the old tune from the Kingston Trio, “The Merry Minuet” –

    Liberals hate conservatives,
    Conservatives hate the gays . . .

    . . and of course, liberals hate liberals, and conservatives choke down their loathing for each other just long enough to make a united front.

    . . and liberals are always anxious to show how much more liberal they are than other liberals.

    . . and nobody will simply go and do their own thing. Nope. Gotta stay in there fighting for . . . whatever imaginary prize.

    That’ll certainly bring the Kingdom about.

  • tommiaquinas says:

    @MarkBrunson – one of the best arguments for the “separate diocese” model I’ve seen on Thinking Anglicans!

  • Back to what Judith Maltby was talking about – the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei given by the Pope.

    Does that mean that the Bishop of Ebbsfleet has a similar ‘personal prelature’ from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury? If so, has the Church of England already adopted its own magisterium?

  • Erika Baker says:

    Mark, I agree!!

    The confusion is between genuinely liberal and the Christian equivalent of left-wing. Some people here are left-wing but not liberal.

    Whichever way dissident was used by whom and with what intention, the demarcation is between people who are able to see the other side and respect it and those who can’t.

    Mind – “respecting” the other side does not necessarily mean agreeing with their demands. The question for true liberals is still a serious one.

  • john says:

    Father Ron,

    ‘Pax tecum’, immo.

    All right, I was too vehement. I apologise. But (and I’m not retracting the apology) it is essential to conduct these debates ‘cleanly’.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    Separate dioceses? No. Just another way of clinging and clawing at one another. Separate churches. A clean divorce, and, perhaps, a completely disinterested arbiter to mandate a length of time in which we can neither speak of, or have contact with one another.

    Clearly, neither church-goers nor clergy have the maturity to let go in this co-dependent chaos, so I fully support allowing outside arbitration to end it. I sometimes wonder if the institutional church doesn’t use the indignant cry of schism and pleas for conciliarity to keep the fight going, because if the fighting stops, everyone will realize the churches don’t actually have any other reason to *be* anymore – it’s all they’ve been about since Constantine had his highly-convenient conversion.

    There’s more spirituality to be found in a corporate CEO’s decision to give to charity than there is in East, West, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, Unitarian or Independent churches all combined. Good God, Bill Gates gives more moral and spiritual leadership than Rowan Williams, Josef Ratzinger or any other!

  • Thank you, John. Blogging can be very good therapy – and sometimes we can learn something from other people – by challenging them, and gauging their reaction. Pax Vobiscum

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