Bishops' amendments to women bishops legislation

GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod) has issued a press release.

GRAS is deeply disturbed by the outcome of the recent House of Bishops meeting, particularly the amendment to Clause 5. This is being presented as a minor tweak, when in fact it pushes the Draft Measure beyond an acceptable level of generosity and compromise. The Measure that a huge majority of Dioceses voted in favour of was an extensive dilution from the Single Clause Measure that would have been the true and simple way to ensure full legal equality for men and women bishops. These final amendments from the House of Bishops send a further signal of disparagement to women of the Church of England. Women are once again expected to sacrifice the hope and expectation of being considered equal with their brothers in the eyes of the church. It also sends a dispiriting message that future women bishops are not trusted to minister to their parishes and clergy with generosity, grace and pastoral sensitivity… If this now nebulous Measure is passed, the 1993 Act of Synod will be replaced by law potentially even more damaging to women and to the unity of the Church of England…

Rachel Hartland has blogged Let us make the best of things – let us progress (towards women in the episcopate).

… If the measure is not supported by WATCH and therefore not passed at General Synod (and yes I believe the link is that strong), it will be a retrograde step, and damage both the future ministry of women and possibly the future chances of seeing women in the episcopate in the Church of England.

If this measure is passed at General Synod (with the support of WATCH) then that will be progress. It will mean that the Church of England will become a slightly better representation of what Christ came into the world to achieve, through the grace, love and forgiveness that we will continue to receive from the cross and proclaim to the world.

Stephen Conway, the Bishop of Ely, has included the following paragraphs in a letter to his clergy, that is also published in the diocesan newsletter.

I was party to the decision of the House of Bishops to make two amendments to the draft legislation to enable women to be ordained as bishops in the Church of God. I wholly supported the clarification about the derivation of episcopal authority from ordination. I am sure that the intention of the other amendment was to provide more secure clarification of the terms on which a male bishop would be chosen by a diocesan bishop to serve parishes asking for such extended care. This may now make it possible for some more conservative members of the General Synod to vote for the legislation if it advances that far.

I fully appreciate, however, that there is a difference between intention and effect. The draft legislation was already a compromise and enshrined further discrimination against women. The amendment has created great hurt among many [although it has given hope to others]. We must pray for all of our representatives among the bishops, clergy and laity to act according to their conscience, faithfully seeking God’s will and praying for each other in such a way that we can express our genuine anger, sadness and hope without anathematising one another. I pray that we shall find a way to pass the legislation in the coming months. It would be a dreadful witness to the world if we cannot. Many people are hurting and afraid. But we must not lose sight at any time of what we keep asking of God’s disciples in our Church who are women, not only those called to the sacred ministry, but most other women too.

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Charles Read
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Charles Read

This is now the second bishop in a week who I have heard accept that the clause 5 amendment is causing problems and pain.

It would perhaps be a help if the bishops themselves offered to take back the Measure (via a SO debate)and reconsider it.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

The draft legislation was already a compromise and enshrined further discrimination against women. The amendment has created great hurt among many” – The Bishop of Ely – For the good bishop to know the real situation, and yet to agree to the amendment of the original Draft Measure, does seem rather remiss – especially given his stated understanding of the need for Women to be ordained to the episcopate. Compromise – on issues of enshrined discrimination against the ordination of women – can only muddy the waters, making it more difficult for women themselves to agree to second-class status in… Read more »

Tom McLean
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Tom McLean

Fr Ron – Do we know that +Ely actually supported the amendment? He could be a dissenting opinion, though obviously within the principles of corporate responsibility, he can’t come out and say so!

Fr Paul
Guest
Fr Paul

It really saddens me to see the ‘all or nothing’ views being expressed by the usual suspects at either end of this debate in varioius media while the large majority (one imagines) just wishes we could get this through and get on with ministry and mission.

Lindsay Southern
Guest
Lindsay Southern

Agree with Tom, one of the things I do admire about HofB is their willingness to accept corporate responsibility for the decision which they made together. Whether the legislation passes or fails now and whatever the consequences as a result, the Church of England as a whole, laity, clergy and Bishops will all need to examine what has happened and our part in that. Negligence, Ignorance or our own deliberate fault… This tragedy writ large in the genuine sense of the term.

abbey mouse
Guest
abbey mouse

Rachel Hartland: … ‘If the measure is not .. passed at General Synod …it will be a retrograde step, and damage both the future ministry of women and possibly the future chances of seeing women in the episcopate in the Church of England.’ And the evidence for this is what, precisely? There is considerable evidence that precisely the opposite is true. The compromise of Flying Bishops is the result of pushing ahead too soon with WO. Jean Mayland and other wise, senior campaigners see that the ‘retrograde step’ would be to push for WBO at any cost. What is emerging… Read more »

David Keen
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David Keen

The bishops suggestion is that the amendments were intended to help get the legislation through, and to win a few votes. The trouble is, there wasn’t a clear commentary on the amendments when they were published, just a massive splurge of words and lots of people wondering what on earth they signified.

I hate to say it, but perhaps slightly better media relations would have helped. If people could see what the bishops intentions were, perhaps they’d have been prepared to give them a bit more credit.

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

The point is not what the intentions of the bishops were, David (we’re all familiar with the paving of the “road to Hell”), it’s the question of the likely long-term consequences of their “fine-tuning”, not to mention their disregard for the mind of the church, through diocesan conventions and General Synod. Seems they have learned nothing from the Covenant fiasco about the reality chasm that clearly separates them from their clergy.

Chris Smith
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Chris Smith

No amount of media relations would help! Wrong is wrong. You can’t discriminate against women in any position held by men in the Church. All are equal. There actually is no middle ground.

Confused Sussex
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Confused Sussex

Despite what a number of people have said here and elsewhere,it seems to me that these amendments do little for those who oppose Women Bishops whilst being deeply hurtful to those who want the best people to be bishops no matter what their sex. They should therefore be withdrawn.

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

The crucial question that WATCH and GRAS are ignoring is that Clause 3 (before any amendments) included this: “3 (1) A PCC of a parish may pass a resolution in the form of a Letter of Request stating that, on grounds of theological conviction.. the council requests that episcopal ministry and pastoral care should be provided by a male bishop.” So, the concept of theological conviction was already in the measure, and was inserted via an amendment moved by a woman supporter of women bishops. Now, one has to ask, what might the content of that theological conviction be? Presumably… Read more »

Feria
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Feria

Dear Tom and Lindsay,

Is everyone absolutely clear what is within the legal powers of the House of Bishops, and what is within the legal powers of the several Bishops, i.e. of each Bishop acting within his own diocese?

Because it strikes me that if anyone’s in even the tiniest doubt about where that dividing line is drawn, then any form of “corporate responsibility” whereby the House of Bishops pretends to be unanimous, when in reality it is acting by a split vote, presents a grave danger of the legal powers of individual Bishops being usurped.

John
Guest
John

At last! Some ‘liberals’ (Rachel Hartland and Stephen Conway) with a grasp of ‘the greater good’ and the courage to say so publicly! Come on, you FiF chaps, show the same courage on your side. I know you want to. This is your chance. There are plenty of ‘liberals’ who want to support you. (I know some of them, some quite surprising …)

Simon Kershaw
Guest

Bp Pete outlines the argument why any old male bishop will not do. I’m sorry but I don’t buy this. To the evangelicals who have problems with women bishops, any male bishop will do, since he can exercise headship. To the catholics opposed what matters is that the male bishop was ordained/consecrated by a male bishop, and so on. These are the *theological* convictions. Anything else is not theological but something else. And we should not, I suggest, be legislating for that ‘something else’. Why does the male bishop need to share these convictions? I agree that it might be… Read more »

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

The plus for women is, that the pure stream will probably have doubts about the male orders in the tainted stream..including presumably the bishops.

karen macqueen+_
Guest

@Simon Kershaw “Why does the male bishop need to share these convictions? I agree that it might be pastorally sensitive if he does. But is that something that should be legislated for? How is that different from any other situation where a parish or a parish priest does not agree with a particular view of the diocesan bishop? Or am I missing something?” No, Simon, I don’t think you are missing anything. Are we thinking about the future not only for female bishops but for the Church of England, itself? The FCA bishops and clergy are waiting with bated breath… Read more »

Tom Downs
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Tom Downs

In the 1970’s our bishops in the USA made a deal with those who would not accept women in holy orders. For their attempt to hold the church together, what did we get? 30 years of conflict and repeated attempts to undermine the ministry of the whole church. Ultimately the malcontents spent the last 10 of those years trying to find ways to steal the parish silver. You are about to repeat our mistake. The old broad church model only works when both extremes recognize (at least in a minimal sense) the validity of all the others. Unfortunately, this is… Read more »

Rosalind
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Rosalind

What concerns me most about +Pete’s contribution is that he, a bishop , is defining this as being about “sides”. If this is how the bishops see it, then how are they ever going to episcopally lead us towards reconciliation and grace? Yes, I know the synodical process encourages the growth of pressure groups and there will be those we agree with naturally and those we disagree with on most things(but not everything) but I would have hoped that we all try to see how others are feeling and why even if we still disagree fundamentally. And I would have… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
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Pete Broadbent

It would just help if people read the draft legislation. Parishes don’t get to choose anybody. They get to ask the female diocesan bishop to provide, by way of delegation from themselves, a male bishop (who, with the HoB amendment, has to share the theological views [on women] of the parish). It’s the diocesan who gets to decide who is written into the diocesan scheme as the person to provide that oversight. The parish has a choice – the female diocesan, or the delegated male bishop. And I wouldn’t want to minister as bishop to a parish that didn’t want… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

And, sorry, forgot to add that it really is patronising to opponents to allow for their theological convictions and then to tell them that they aren’t really theological convictions at all, but just “taint”. And to provide them with a sexist answer “any male bishop will do” to their theological question. The opponents, if you talk to them, foreswear an imposed sexist solution based on genitalia, and have never used the word taint. Until you stop patronising their opinions, you’ll never get what it is that they are asking for. (Blimey, why do I have to do this when I… Read more »

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

If both sides were completely honest, the amended Measure forebodes the opt outs that will be sought by parishes opposing the appointment of bishops in civil partnerships. The contested amendment echoes what already exists in the exemptions from equality legislation. Churches are allowed to discriminate against gay people if: “(a) the employment is for purposes of an organised religion; (b) the employer applies a requirement related to sexual orientation – (i) so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or (ii) because of the nature of the employment and the context in which it is carried out, so… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Guest

Bp Pete defends the HoB amendments. I still see no reason why the bishop needs to be in agreement with the parish’s (or the priest’s) position. That is not a theological position at all. After all, a bishop’s position on say the inerrancy of scripture, or the wearing of chasubles, or the Marian dogmas etc etc — these things do not prevent a bishop from ministering to a congregation. I imagine that you, Bishop Pete, do minister to congregations where your own views on a whole range of topics would be out of sympathy. And by the way, I’m not… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

Bp Pete,

Thank goodness you are doing this. Its such a valuable witness.

Thank you.

Benedict
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Benedict

Whilst I admire hugely his tenacity, Bishop Broadbent is simply wasting his breath trying to convince many of those on this site of the integrity of Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals over the issue of women in the episcopate. The more I read the contributions and invective of some so-called liberals in the Church of England, the more I despair for the future not just of Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals but also of the Church of England as a whole. There is simply no reasoning with these people, and whatever arguments are put forward, these will only ever be acceptable when toeing the… Read more »

Joe
Guest
Joe

I realise that Christ’s priestly prayer for unity carries huge, huge weight and that we should bend over backwards trying to stay in communion with one another — whether we like it or not. For there is only one body, one Spirit, in Christ. If we are not united, it is our fault. But let’s be honest: we are not in communion with one another if we do not accept one another’s orders, one another’s eucharists, one another’s bishops: we’re legislating as if we were one, but we are, in effect, confirming that we are not one. There is no… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

I still challenge the wisdom of providing for F.i.F. whose theology of ‘taint’ – regarding their notion of the impossibility of a woman being a bishop – is a deeply flawed understanding of shared episcopacy within the ecclesial polity of the Church of England; with a very shaky model of co-existence, that must surely challenge their own understanding of the episcopate! A long sentence, I know, but a considered statement about the un-wisdom of a two-tiered episcopacy (Rome – their model – would not approve of such an accommodation, on catholic grounds) And as for the con/evo protesters; their stand… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Pete Broadbent – My view is that Theological Conviction may be there already, but the combination of Theological Conviction of the PCC with the practice of ministry by the bishop is not – it is not what the bishop believes or says, but what the bishop does. Now Article 26 says roughly that the evil acts of a minister do not invalidate the rest of their ministry both in ‘hearing the word of God’ and in the Sacraments. And Article A4 says that (though the lawyers say different – which is why we have to be so concerned to get… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

The Bishop of Willesden has kindly provided a new mantra to add to the oft quoted old FiF mantra – “A Code of Practice will not do” – when he writes – “Any old bishop simply will not do”. Judging by the fierce reaction to the two amendments from “both sides” it would seem that a third mantra could be added – “Any old amendments will not do!” We know that those two old amendments were passed by a majority of the “Gang of Six” – it would be interesting to know (although we probably never shall) how many in… Read more »

John
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John

I too admire Pete Broadbent’s tenacity and courage.

Judith Maltby
Guest
Judith Maltby

Pete Broadbent: ‘And I wouldn’t want to minister as bishop to a parish that didn’t want me as their bishop beacsue of my views on women. It wouldn’t be fair on them or me.’ Pete, would you be so kind as to supply us with a full list, in addition to your ‘views on women’, of your other views that you feel would make it unfair for you to minister to a particular parish, or them to you? And is ‘unfairness’ entirely determined by you or by the parish? These are, in fact, very serious questions and go right to… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“And, sorry, forgot to add that it really is patronising to opponents to allow for their theological convictions and then to tell them that they aren’t really theological convictions at all, but just “taint”. And to provide them with a sexist answer “any male bishop will do” to their theological question.” I think that is rather to do with the fact that the pronents of this have not explained WHY right thinking is important to them. Evengelicals tell us that it is important to them that no woman teaches them. So any male bishop seems to solve that problem. Anglo-Catholics… Read more »

Mark Clavier
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Mark Clavier

Erika, I’ve stayed largely out of this debate, but your post has prompted me to put my toe in if only for a brief answer to your good question. It seems to me that we need to distinguish between theological principle and pastoral response here. Theologically, there is no justification (at least according to a catholic ecclesiology) for demanding a theological acid test for episcopal visitations (though, perhaps, some precedent for it during the Arian controversy). As you rightly note, theologically this is Donatism. At the same time, I think it’s incumbent upon the majority in power to be extraordinarily… Read more »

Frank Nichols
Guest
Frank Nichols

How sad that this feedback should be engaged during the week of Pentecost. Am I alone in thinking that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on our Bishops at their consecration? So I, for one, am happy to allow the House of Bishops to exercise their pastoral ministry in seeking to find ways to keep God’s people together. Of course we do not always agree, but we are called to love one another even in disagreement. We have a General Synod, but we are still, we claim, part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. So… Read more »

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

@Judith Sounds as if you and I will be engaging on this on Sunday. My understanding is that impairment of communion as understood by some catholics makes it impossible for them to receive the sacraments from me. I don’t happen to hold their sacramental theology, but it’s inherent in all the discussion. Since we have consistently reaffirmed and reiterated the place of Trad Caths and Con Evos in the CofE, and (in the Measure) that their theological position is a legitimate position for grounds for a Letter of Request, we have to follow that through. The alternative is to impose… Read more »

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

The Group of Six (four of whom are directly elected by and from clergy and lay members in the General Synod) did not “pass” the amendments in the sense of approving them. The question on which they had to decide (presumably with legal advice) was simply whether or not the amendments substantially altered the Measure and therefore whether or not the amended Measure needed to be referred back to the dioceses for a further vote.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Father Smith, correct me if I’m wrong please, but I can’t recall from historical evidence that either Hilda of Whitby (whom I know rather a lot about, given that I come from the area) or Julian of Norwich were ever Bishops. Yet another example from you of twisting historical accuracy to suit the prevailing argument.

Lionel Deimel
Guest

Does anyone truly believe that salvation depends on believing the exactly correct theology? Over the centuries, theological opinions within the Church have hardly been consistent. Do we believe that most Christians then and now are not going to be saved because they didn’t get everything right? Is God some power-mad Kafkaesque bureaucrat? I certainly hope not, since I know that I don’t have all the right answers. The CofE needs to say that women can be bishops and be done with it. This is what The Episcopal Church did, though bishops tried to undermine the decision of the General Convention.… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

That must be the ultimate in “cafe Christianity” – not only do you get to choose the restaurant and who owns it but the waiter who serves you, HIS politics – as well as what topping you get!

Father David
Guest
Father David

Re-reading the Comments on this Blog – I think – is it any wonder that Rowan is throwing in the towel many years before he is legally required so to do. I see that one of the last items on the York Synod Agenda is – Farewell to the Archbishop of Canterbury. I can imagine his sheer delight at this being his final Indaba among the warring and wearisome Anglican tribes. We are losing a half-crown of an Archbishop with only the prospect of a sixpenny item to replace him.

Judith Maltby
Guest
Judith Maltby

Pete: well, that is one of the most creative examples of sexism I’ve ever heard in my entire life. More on Sunday, no doubt.

Columba Gilliss
Guest
Columba Gilliss

If all you want from a bishop is someone to confirm, dedicate a baptismal font, etc., and leave without having preached or taught or even talked with the vestry or those at coffee hour, obviously the persons intentions, beliefs, etc., would not matter — there ought to be an APP for that. But, I have been involved in parishes where the bishop who showed up just to confirm used his time to undermine the parish and even the diocesan he was supposedly “helping out.” Also, if you were considering applying for ordination or already ordained and seeking a position, wouldn’t… Read more »

Gene O'Grady
Guest
Gene O'Grady

I live amidst cowboys and Indians. The comment above about the wild west reflects both bigotry and ignorance.

On the other hand, we have welcomed women bishops and priests (one of the reason I am no longer a Roman Catholic). And some of the women ride horses and rope cattle.

Adam Armstrong
Guest
Adam Armstrong

I’m not sure what the problems of the Anglican Church of Canada are in the post above. It seems that the appointment of clergy to parishes (a patchwork quilt) is the issue. has it really ever been otherwise? Anglo-Catholic clergy were never appointed to “Low Church” parishes and vice versa. The issue of clergy appointments is probably different in the USA, but in Canada the appointment process does not undermine or subvert the goals of the Diocesan Bishop (although there may have been exceptions). In my diocese, a parish does not interview anyone that has not been pre-approved by the… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

….is it any wonder that Rowan is throwing in the towel many years before he is legally required ….

What nonsense. He’s going when he said he would etc etc.

RevDave
Guest
RevDave

I do still struggle with the way people here argue from some parts of scripture in a away that doesn’t fit with other parts of the same scripture. If the fact that we are all one in Christ, because of our baptism, means that it is wrong to only appoint men as our Priests and Bishops (and I think everyone agrees that there have always been women in other leadership positions) then why did Jesus and His Apostles only appoint men? And if it isn’t wrong – because that was what He and they did – then why are we… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

When will our detractors ever learn that this is not an issue of discrimation or sexism, and could someone explain to me why over 2200 WOMEN wrote to the House of Bishops in defence of the traditionalist position? Furthermore, why many more of them are members of the Society of Saint Wilfrid and Saint Hilda?

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

A comment on what Bishop Pete said about how he would feel uncomfortable ministering to those who didn’t agree with his position: but in Europe, Chichester, and probably other dioceses women priests are licensed by a bishop who doesn’t believe they are indeed priests, so evidently some bishops do not have … what shall I say …. such a refined sense of the absurd as you do (that’s a compliment by the way).

Peter Ould
Guest

I wish some of you liberals would make up your mind. On the issue of homosexuality time and time again we are told that we want a broad church where we all live together with different opinions, but on women bishops only the revisionist line will do. Which is it? It looks for all intents and purposes that just because you are in the ascendancy on the women bishops issue you feel you can ignore any opposition, but because you are in the minority on the sexuality issue the rules suddenly change and on that issue accommodation of different views… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

Reading this thread, I’m OH SO THANKFUL to be on the left side of the Pond. (Approaching 25 years of the gifts of bishops-who-happen-to-be-women, and 6 of a Primate-made-female. And lo, the sky has not fallen.)

God’s blessings ya, CofE: ya need ’em! 🙂

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“My understanding is that impairment of communion as understood by some catholics makes it impossible for them to receive the sacraments from me.” I still struggle with this (and thank you Mark for your comments). A year or so ago I spent some time on the blog of a prominent member of FiF and I asked him the same question, and he was absolutely scandalised at the thought that Anglo-Catholics should not accept a bishop who is pro-women bishops and who ordains them, because that had nothing to do with the ontological argument FiF were making and would, indeed, be… Read more »