This letter has been published by Reform:
15th October 2012
Dear Synod member,
Re : Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
I am writing in my capacity as the Chairman of the Council of Church Society to urge you to vote against the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure at the General Synod meeting on Tuesday 20th November.
Church Society represents a substantial body of clergy and has a longstanding patronage interest in 113 parishes across the country.
The Society’s members are loyal Anglicans, committed to ministry within the Church of England and faithful to historic Anglican doctrine, most importantly, the supreme and final authority of the Bible as God’s written Word. We adhere in good conscience to the Bible’s teaching on male headship in the family and in the church and accordingly cannot accept women as bishops.
The proposed legislation does not provide adequate protection for all those in the Church of England who endorse Church Society’s position and for whom legislation in favour of the consecration of women bishops, without such protection, would give rise to fundamental issues of conscience.
In particular, our Council and membership contain a substantial body of ordinands, younger clergy, lay leaders and laity all of whom subscribe fully to the Society’s position, such that their ministry within the Church of England will be threatened by the proposed Measure, if it is enacted. It would be immensely damaging to the Church of England and to our country if the ministries of such men and women were seemingly rejected by our beloved national church. It would also put us significantly at odds with most of the provinces, and the vast majority of Anglicans, in the global Anglican Communion, who do not have female bishops.
Clause 5 of the draft Measure fails to set out safeguards which protect the position of those holding the biblical convictions summarised above. All it contemplates is the drawing up of a Code of Practice, when legislation alone would firmly establish and enshrine all necessary safeguards.
In addition, Clause 5(1)c offers no adequate protection. This clause, as amended last month, would, on one reading, remove the need for onerous and difficult enquiries into whether or not, as a matter of theological conviction, the ministry of a prospective male minister is consistent with the position of the relevant parochial church on the issue of the consecration or ordination of women. However, the new wording of Clause 5(1)c is unclear in meaning. It is therefore unclear how it should, or could, be applied in practice. This is unsatisfactory.
For the reasons outlined above, I strongly encourage you to vote against the draft Measure. There is no other just or reasonable alternative and not to do so would amount to a failure, for no good reason, to respect the consciences of many loyal Anglicans.
A vote against the draft Measure would not, of course, amount to a vote against women’s ministry per se. There remain many areas of church life where women’s ministry is immensely beneficial and can be exercised in ways which are consistent with the Bible’s teaching on headship and the roles of men and women.
Chairman of Church Society Council