Thinking Anglicans

women bishops: Church Society writes to General Synod members

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.

Yours sincerely,
James Crabtree,
Chairman of Church Society Council

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Randal Oulton
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Randal Oulton

>> most importantly, the supreme and final authority of the Bible as God’s written Word.

W-wait. What happened to the other two bits about “informed by reason and tradition?”

>> 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.

Ah. Okay, my answer was in the next sentence. They’re literalists, more than Anglicans, and reason plays second fiddle.

Jean Mayland
Guest
Jean Mayland

Sad but expected.I just hope and pray that members of General Synod will reject this advice and vote for the Measure as amended by the Bishops and Janet Appleby.

Joe
Guest

It’d be nice to be a member of a church where male headship is simply rejected. Our marriage rite allows for it, so it would be hard to argue that the C of E disavows it: hence we have room for the Church Society. I know I must sound like a broken record, but being a member of a church that enables its own members not to recognise the authority and orders of other members remains utterly bonkers — generous, perhaps, but bonkers enough to make one search one’s soul. It is only the realisation that the Church is bonkers… Read more »

Janis Adams
Guest
Janis Adams

Where does the bible specifically bar women from holding positions of authority in the church. Remember Lydia? Are men scared of being overwhelmed by women. Neither is superior to the other – just different – thank God. Women are responsible for the continuation of humanity let us have a voice in our faith, please!

Chuchu Nwagu
Guest
Chuchu Nwagu

I as a member of Forward in Faith take the same stance as Reform and urge members of the General Synod who are off our theological conviction to vote against the draft measure – A code of practice will not do.

“Respecting the grounds” is not strong enough provision

Confused Sussex
Guest
Confused Sussex

The letter is chillingly offensive. The current proposal is not perfect but it appears to offer a way forward

JCF
Guest
JCF

“We adhere in good conscience to the Bible’s teaching on male headship in the family and in the church”

Without the addendum “the Bible’s teaching—in our opinion—on male headship”, I simply cannot recognize this assertion as being “in good conscience”.

Human conscience arises from the same SUBJECTIVE minds as does human opinion. It’s dishonest to demand recognition of the former w/o admitting the latter.

David Shepherd
Guest

‘Where does the bible specifically bar women from holding positions of authority in the church.’ The Bible doesn’t bar women from any role of authority. It does *appear* to bar women from the possibility of exercising disciplinary authority to over-rule their husbands. ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission (hypotagē). I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority (authentein) over a man; she must be silent.’ (1 Tim. 2:12) ‘women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission (hypotassesthōsan), as the Law says.’ (1 Cor.… Read more »

Lindsay Southern
Guest
Lindsay Southern

‘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.’ On the other hand, It will do immense damage for the Church of England to continue to reject (not seemingly reject but actually reject) the episcopal ministry of women, and belittle their priestly ministry. The Anglican Communion has, as a… Read more »

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

In my view, Paul most likely did not write Timothy. And he most likely did not write the 33 to 36 verses in 1 Cor 14. Those verses were most likely a textual alteration; a margin note that got inserted into the text itself by later scribes. They’re moved all around in various early transcripts, as if people are trying to figure out where best to insert them in the flow of things. (Note that it contradicts what Paul says just 3 chapters earlier in 1 Cor 11.) Lots of other later textual changes (Junias instead of Junia in Romans… Read more »

Tim
Guest

I pity those poor slave-owners who were the first to be “at odds..with the majority”.

Randal Oulton: yup, and Borg would agree with you – I’ve just read his book on 4 the “Paul”s, going from initial genuine authorship (which tends to be liberating) to later imposters using his name to spread “conservative values” (for want of a better shorthand).

David Shepherd
Guest

Randall: ‘Note that it contradicts what Paul says just 3 chapters earlier in 1 Cor 11’. I assume that you mean that the 1 Cor. 14 prohibition against women speaking in church contradicts ‘And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head’ (1 Cor 11:5). Is it a contradiction that the early church restricted the teaching and disciplinary authority to male elders, while prayer and prophecy under discernment were encouraged in all? Even if you exclude the teaching relating to women in church assembly, you’d then have to attribute such alterations as you describe to… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Oh, dear. I have just read David Shepherd’s post!

Does that mean that women who seek to be bishops, or indeed any form of ecclesial authority must have no husbands?

Or can a woman be a bishop as long as her husband is the Metropolitan?

I am confused ….. help me?

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

This whole “male headship” notion is harmful, in my opinion, to religions and to the broader society, as it cuts off whatever gifts God has bestowed on half the human population. When confined to a religious denomination’s own internal structure, however much I may find such an attitude distasteful and repugnant, religious denominations do have the right in a free society to set up their own rules. But! The problem is, it never confines itself. Here in the USA, during the summer of 2011, a female candidate for the position of Republican Party nominee for president of the United States… Read more »

Randal Oulton
Guest
Randal Oulton

Further to what Lindsay said (re ‘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.’) Agreeing and adding: The Church of England, in *not* having women bishops currently, is already at odds with the senior members of the Anglican Communion. Canada. America. Australia. New Zealand. (If one wants to be blunt and hard-nosed about it, and of course I wouldn’t, but one could go further and say the ones that matter most to it in terms of interaction.) Making… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

I have no problem with this letter except for the following: “Church Society represents a substantial body of clergy” – but they won’t say how many. “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.” – so am I and so do I. Like most evangelicals in the CofE I disagree with their next bit about male headship and strongly support women in ordained ministry. “The proposed legislation does not provide adequate protection” – from… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Not unexpected, surely, that Reform and Church Society should synchronise their plea to General Synod to reject the Draft Measure that would allow women to become bishops in the Church of England? One wonders how long this out-dated theology of Male headship will continue to find advocates in the Church. The irony is that the two extremes of churchmanship – F.i.F. and Reform – have found a subject on which to actually agree, despite their basic dis-respect for other doctrinal aspects of one another’s very different outlooks. The sad thing is that, whatever happens at the General Synod meeting in… Read more »

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

This is what you end up with when you think of God as more male than female. But in fact, God made men and women, both in His/Her image. What we have here is an encounter with patriarchy, and male assumption of hierarchical ascendancy. Psychologically speaking, the alarm and reaction caused by the idea of women exercising power and authority, is rooted in sexual insecurity… so the feeling of sexual power has to be shored up and anything that subverts that will cause the patient distress and even panic. While it is true that an appeal can be made to… Read more »

Chuchu Nwagu
Guest
Chuchu Nwagu

In God’s eyes and in human eyes we are all equal as “Human” but limited in other things. I have many friends who are female and discerning a vocation to the priesthood regardless of my views I am still loving towards them and we speak about it. When we get past the whole issue of sexism and Misogyny, we then can look into why people are opposed to the Ordination of Women. There are many reasons but I will just mention one points – We believe as professed in the Creed to be part of one holy catholic and apostolic… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

Sorry Chuchu but you are wrong about the Code – it is to be statutory and cannot be ignored or disposed of.

As to being part of the universal church and not changing without the others – too late! We did that already at the Reformation -we are Anglicans precisely because we believe we can and should act as conscience under God leads us.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“We believe as professed in the Creed to be part of one holy catholic and apostolic church, how can we then go and do stuff which the Universal church has not done and most likely never do…”

I guess that depends on how you define the universal church. Here in the US, every major Christian denomination, except Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics, has female clergy and leadership–Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, United Church of Christ, American Baptists.

Are we to hang back and not do that which we have discerned as God’s will until EVERYBODY agrees with us?

commentator
Guest
commentator

The ‘Universal church’ doesn’t do many things that the Anglican Communion does. It doesn’t have married bishops. So why not set about righting a wrong which already exists, Mr Nwagu?

Alastair Newman
Guest

“how can we then go and do stuff which the Universal church has not done and most likely never do.”

Baptists? Methodists? Pentecostals? Other churches in the Anglican communion? Do the churches who do ordain and consecrate women not count for some reason?

David Shepherd
Guest

Susannah:
‘Psychologically speaking, the alarm and reaction caused by the idea of women exercising power and authority, is rooted in sexual insecurity’

An interesting emphasis. Is that your own perception or how you think the sexually insecure interpret a bishop’s role. Here was I thinking that it was all about faithful servanthood: a role of oversight that identifies, fulfils and protects the spiritual needs of a faith community.

Of course, we could extend this to the equality of all Christians, why not vote for your next bishop? Or dispose of all hierarchical ascendancy? Or is that a step too far for you?

Susannah
Guest
Susannah

Susannah: ‘Psychologically speaking, the alarm and reaction caused by the idea of women exercising power and authority, is rooted in sexual insecurity’ *Subject: Not letting women be bishops* >> David: >> “Here was I thinking that it was all about faithful servanthood: a role of oversight that identifies, fulfils and protects the spiritual needs of a faith community.” Misogynistic men don’t mind women being servants, what they object to is women exercising power and authority over them. At that point the psychology of sexual conflict kicks in, like an alarm and a distress. There seems to feel and be something… Read more »

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

Susannah on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 1:00am BST, fantastic post! “But in fact, God made men and women, both in His/Her image.” — which is why I think of God as both and neither male and female. Neither, because God has no need to reproduce, hence no need for biological sex differentiation. Both, because God cannot create that which God does not know. “The Bible deserves better than that. So do half the human population who happen to be women,” – Amen and amen! The books of the bible were written by numerous people, mainly men, over many centuries,… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Martin: Acts 13:15 shows the pattern of worship followed by the synagogue and probably adopted by the early church. It involved reading from the Law and the Prophets, a learned exposition of the scripture delivered by a male elder (as Christ did at Nazareth Luke 4:16) and communal participation in prayer, prophetic exhortation and reasoned discussion. For instance, Paul and Silas’s word of exhortation at Psidisn Antioch would have been delivered during the last phase. My inference is that the learned exposition was confined to male elders, while both sexes participated in orderly prayer and prophetic exhortation. Paul’s injunctions were… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

“Why not dispose of all hierarchical ascendancy?” ‘That was in no way my point. I am simply pointing out that it is patriarchal and sexually insecure (and immature) to say women should not exercise that kind of authority just as well as men.’ It is un-Christian to accord that kind of authority to either sex: ‘Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who… Read more »

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Susannah, part of the rejection of female priests/bishops may be due to patriarchy, etc. but not all of it. Take a look at the comments in the previous post (regarding GRAS). Finding a female priest whose theology is acceptable to conservative/traditional parishes can be nigh impossible.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“We believe as professed in the Creed to be part of one holy catholic and apostolic church, how can we then go and do stuff which the Universal church has not done and most likely never do.” Chuchu Nwagu – Chuchu, although we Anglicans may profess to be part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church (and, in my belief, we are); the Roman Catholic Church does not officially agree with us. We Anglicans are ‘reformed catholics’ who have resiled from Vatican Rule; so why would we suddenly pretend that we necessarily have to agree with Rome on matters… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

“Lay participation in exhortation and reasoned discussion is not a standard feature of Anglican liturgy” er… Readers anyone? In the Cof E they can and often do play a significant part in teaching and preaching – but in the TEC they don’t really exist so it depends where in the Anglican world you are. Re. that survey of beliefs etc referenced above – I have always found its findings odd. I’ve taught a lot of female ordinands of a variety of traditions. I haven’t met any huge number (maybe none…) who are as ‘liberal’ as the survey makes out so… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Charles:

Reasoned discourse and reasoned discussion are not the same thing, unless your liturgy permits readers engage in a Sunday congregation discussion forum.

Lindsay Southern
Guest
Lindsay Southern

David, yes indeed our Common worship liturgy does permit readers engage in a Sunday congregation discussion forum. It is called A service of the Word, and reflection upon the Biblical readings can take many varied forms, in addition to the traditional sermon. A service of the Word can be led by a licensed Reader, as well as someone who is ordained.

David Shepherd
Guest

Lindsay, This has strayed off-topic of the rationale adopted by the Church Society in opposition to women bishops. My point is that the gender issue, while important, is dwarfed by the divergence of anglican hierarchies, trusts and committees from servanthood. The resources needed to fund estates and layers of national and regional administration and stipendiary ministers have reduced the resources available to fund improvements to the lives of ordinary people at the parish level. For instance, while most people in my parish have seen a decrease in their income in real terms or job losses, the long-term strategy of my… Read more »

Feria
Guest
Feria

David S: ‘Lay participation in exhortation and reasoned discussion is not a standard feature of Anglican liturgy.’

Well, for most of Anglican history, we had lay primacy in reasoned discussion in the _formulation_ of our liturgy (the Parliamentary debates on the proposals for a new BCP in 1927 and 1928 being particularly lively examples), so I guess lay participation in reasoned discussion in the _use_ of our liturgy would have been redundant.

Feria
Guest
Feria

Dear David, Stipends of parish priests are not exactly in “fat cat” territory, even if one includes equivalent revenue values of provided homes estimated using the current formula [*]. I’m inclined towards the view that most parish priests are among the “ordinary people at the parish level” whose lives we ought to be seeking to improve. Yes, I know there are people who are a lot worse off – but it’s not in those people’s interest to pursue a general policy of pay restraint that both pushes down real wages across the board, and destroys jobs by reducing aggregate demand.… Read more »

John Bailey
Guest

If you support women bishops, please consider adding a badge to your Facebook and/or Twitter profile picture, via http://twibbon.com/Support/enough-waiting-2