Thinking Anglicans

WATCH responds to Bishops' proposals on women in the episcopate

WATCH have today issued their response to the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886.

First there is this press release.

Press Release
Tuesday 11 June 2013 12noon

WATCH (Women and the Church) Response to the House of Bishops’ report GS1886

Press Release Summary of WATCH’s response:

WATCH is very encouraged by this report by the Archbishops with its very welcome commitment to opening all orders of ministry to women without equivocation. The proposals that they are asking General Synod to support in July are, in essence, ones that WATCH can fully endorse. We are particularly heartened by paragraph 21 which says: “The conviction of the House [of Bishops] is that the Church of England should now commit itself fully and unequivocally to all orders of ministry being open to all, without reference to gender. It would, in the view of the House sit very uncomfortably with that if the [General] Synod were to enshrine in legislation a series of rights, duties and definitions that would inevitably be seen as qualifying that commitment.” We agree wholeheartedly with their conclusion that Option One offers the best way forward. WATCH’s full response can be found on the attached document. The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said: “It is very heartening to see the House of Bishops give such a strong lead to enable the Church to open all orders of ministry to women without equivocation. The gifts of ordained women should be welcomed and celebrated by the Church and all the signs are that the Bishops are now committed to making that happen.”

And then there is this detailed response.

WATCH response to GS 1886 ‘Women in the Episcopate – New Legislative Proposals’

WATCH is very encouraged by this report by the Archbishops with its very welcome commitment to opening all orders of ministry to women, without equivocation.

The proposals that they are asking General Synod to support in July are, in essence, ones that WATCH can fully endorse.

(1) Following the meeting of the House of Bishops on 20-21 May, the report of the Working Party on Women in the Episcopate, together with a report by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on behalf of the House, was issued on 25th May. The WATCH committee has taken time to consider the implications of the report, before issuing this response.

(2) We wish to register our thanks to the House of Bishops and the Working Party for seeking an early resolution within the Church’s own processes to a situation which is undesirable and untenable for the Church of England, and which hinders our mission and credibility in society at large.

(3) Members of General Synod will devote a significant proportion of the July group of sessions to discussion of the matter, and we urge General Synod to support the motion as proposed in the report, following the House of Bishops’ guidance in seeking to frame legislation within the parameters of the Working Group’s ‘option one’.

(4) The Archbishops’ report displays a significant change in tone towards the prospect of having women in the episcopate, and we are greatly encouraged by the positive commitment to this now being demonstrated by the House of Bishops. This, we hope, may go some way to repairing the damage done by the outcome of the Synod vote in November, which is noted in paragraphs 1 and 2 of the report.

We are particularly heartened by paragraph 21 which says: “The conviction of the House [of Bishops] is that the Church of England should now commit itself fully and unequivocally to all orders of ministry being open to all, without reference to gender. It would, in the view of the House sit very uncomfortably with that if the [General] Synod were to enshrine in legislation a series of rights, duties and definitions that would inevitably be seen as qualifying that commitment.”

(5) The principles underlying the Working Party’s thinking (namely, simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality [Annex para. 32f]) seem to us broadly good ones, and we recognise the challenge inherent in moving from principle to legislation.

(6) We welcome particularly the Working Party’s recognition that support for women’s ministry is grounded in theological conviction (Annex paras 37 and 53), something which seems often to have been regarded as the preserve of opponents of the ordained ministry of women.

(7) In this vein, we welcome the commitment to avoiding ‘unacceptable theological or ecclesiological confusion for the whole Church of England’ (Annex para. 31) as we regard such confusion as detrimental to the health and mission of the whole Church of England.

For this reason, we are pleased to see noted as elements of the vision in Annex para. 24 (copied in the Archbishops’ report para. 12) that: • Once legislation has passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being equally open to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to the office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience; Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter. It seems to us very important that, as Annex para. 39 notes, ‘There should no longer be any dioceses where none of the serving bishops ordains women as priests.’

(8) Should General Synod follow the House of Bishops’ leadership in commending Option One, the question will arise as to what should be the nature of the provision for those unable to accept the ordained ministry of women, a House of Bishops’ Declaration or an Act of Synod. It seems to us that there would be merits and drawbacks to each, and that (as for all parties) the detail of the content would be paramount.

(9) We were encouraged to see that there was little support in the House of Bishops for Options 3 and 4, and we would find ourselves unable to support Option 2. The strong support among laity and clergy alike at every synodical level for the previous draft legislation, together with the 2/3 majority achieved in Synod last July in favour of the adjournment of the debate to allow reconsideration of the first iteration of Clause 5(1)(c), convince us that there is no appetite in the Church at large for enshrining discrimination in statute. Even if such discriminatory provision could command the requisite majorities in any General Synod, it is clear that the Ecclesiastical Committee would be unable to recommend such a Measure in Parliament.

We are therefore convinced that the wisest course would be for Synod to follow the House of Bishops’ lead in eschewing any discrimination in law, and thus to allow the Church of England to resolve the matter via her own processes.

(10) Encouraged as we are by the positive tone of the Archbishops’ report, we nevertheless retain some concerns about assumptions. In particular, we again wish to highlight the use of ‘majority/minority’ as shorthand for ‘support/opposition’ to the ordination of women. It is clearly true that, in numerical terms, these are equivalent; however, as we have previously pointed out, ordained women constitute a cultural minority within the Church of England, particularly as regards senior and stipendiary posts. Moreover, we are concerned that such shorthand pays little regard to those – most especially lay people – in favour of women’s ministry in areas where the diocesan hierarchy is predominantly opposed. It seems to us that any pastoral care for ‘minorities’ must, on the basis of reciprocity, take this into serious account. In this connection, we note with concern the overwhelmingly clerical emphasis of the Working Party’s report.

(11) We are interested by the recurrent language of ‘mutual flourishing’. ‘Flourishing’ is, we note, a word with uncertain biblical and liturgical resonances, normally indicating (as in the Prayer Book and Common Worship burial and funeral orders!) impermanence and transience.

We wonder whether it might be more helpful and hopeful for all parties to consider the health of the whole Church, growing together: such growth together in Christ demands coherence of orders, necessitates proper regard for weaker and more vulnerable members (determined on bases other than simply numerical ones) and would enable us to be more credible and more effective for the society we all seek to serve.

WATCH National Committee 10th June 2013

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Benedict
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Benedict

No surprises in WATCH’S response. Typically unbending and unyielding.

Keith Addenbrooke
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Keith Addenbrooke

A response worth waiting for. To me, this reads as a carefully considered, measured and thoughtful response to the Working Group / House of Bishops’ proposals (just have a second look at points 10 and 11 in the WATCH response if you’re not as convinced yet). Thank you!

JCF
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JCF

“Typically unbending and unyielding.”

How unladylike of them: tsk, tsk!

Cynthia
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Cynthia

I was similarly impressed with 10 and 11. Excellent points indeed. I am so rooting for the unbending and unyielding version to be adopted. There can be pastoral arrangements for those who don’t recognize women as equal in the eyes of God and called by God to serve. Those of us who have been ministered to by women priests and bishops know what a gift that is. This gift must not be withheld or diminished. Today is the anniversary of the desegregation at the University of Alabama, where then Governor George Wallace declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” That… Read more »

Chris H.
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Chris H.

Keith, I’m not seeing what’s so thoughtful in 11). Sounds to me like the “minority” must be aided where it can be translated as women, gays, lay progressives in conservative areas. But if the “minority” is conservatives…..forget it. Then the “whole” church is what’s important. There will never be any accommodation to conservatives that WATCH will accept that will be acceptable to conservatives.

clairejxx
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clairejxx

Openness of ordained ministry regardless of gender identity or sexuality would be nice.

Original Observer
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Original Observer

What does “pastoral care for the unbending and unyielding traditionalists” mean in practice?

joseph Golightly
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joseph Golightly

Original Observer. I think it’s a funeral rite. Normal funerals have dead people but what seems to be envisaged is burying living ones. Bit like euthanasia

Bernard Randall
Guest

So WATCH will only settle for option one because they want nothing written into the measure (no surprise), and FiF/Reform want safeguards written into the Measure (no surprise). Back to square one. No surprise. I like the working party’s report; it has good things in it, but it really isn’t convincing anyone to give a little ground or think of another way of doing things. So it looks as if we shall repeat the whole process of the previous draft Measure; things will go through on simple majorities all the way up to final approval, and then it will fail… Read more »

Original Observer
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Original Observer

It is certainly a high risk strategy. Unless there is a change of heart on the part of the swing votes in the current Synod it seems likely that were legislation put to the vote then it would still fail once again.

To put off final approval until a new Synod is in place would risk the fiasco that it’s first action would be to reject women bishops.

Personally I think that the idea that parliament would intervene and impose a change in the Canon Law is complete fantasy.

Helen
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Helen

There is no magic formula which will satisfy all. Furthermore Fif and Reform don’t seem representative of Catholics and Evangelicals respectively: a recent survey (sorry I don’t have the details to hand) found that most Evangelicals thought that women should have leadership positions. Neither group has said how they would react if (and when) a woman becomes Archbishop of Canterbury or York. What happens to their notions of headship and sacramental assurance then? The new proposals do contain an appeals/ mediation procedure, which is important, but it’s hard to see what could be provided byond that. And is it not… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Bernard, this is not WATCH in one corner and FiF/Reform in the other. This is WATCH responding to the new formal proposals by the House of Bishops and saying: We are particularly heartened by paragraph 21 which says: “The conviction of the House [of Bishops] is that the Church of England should now commit itself fully and unequivocally to all orders of ministry being open to all, without reference to gender. It would, in the view of the House sit very uncomfortably with that if the [General] Synod were to enshrine in legislation a series of rights, duties and definitions… Read more »

Clive
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Clive

O. Observer… look across the Atlantic for examples of women bishops offering “pastoral care” to traditionalists: Jane Dixon’s forced visitations to conservative parishes, and her long and ultimately successful legal battle to fire Fr. Edwards from Christ Church Accokeek for being an opponent of WO. Bishop ********’s telling African bishops at Lambeth that they probably beat their wives, because that’s their culture. And KJS comparing traditionalist bishop Mark Lawrence to Adam Lanza, the Newtown school shooter. That’s “pastoral care” – but only *after* they’ve won the vote. Until then, it’s all smiles and assurances. ED: the comment about African bishops… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“What does “pastoral care for the unbending and unyielding traditionalists” mean in practice?” Well, in TEC, we call our own rectors. They have to be approved by the bishop, but we go through an organized process aimed to get the rector with the right fit. So a flaming liberal priest is not likely to be called to a conservative parish, for example. Has this been perfect? It’s worked perfectly fine for plenty, but no, not everyone. It came to a head when after ordaining women for 20 years, there was a tiny handful of bishops who wouldn’t ordain women in… Read more »

Chris H.
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Chris H.

Actually, it doesn’t work so great in some places in TEC. Our bishop refuses to hire conservative priests in a diocese in a rural/conservative state where there are only half as many priests as churches. And he’s supposed to be a “moderate” bishop. He’s determined to drag our conservative state into the “modern era” but meanwhile no priests means shrinking ASA and closing parishes.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Great, hysterical untruths passing as evidence. In the TEC most conservatives simply call a male priest and that’s it. Plenty of dioceses with female bishops had perfectly fine experiences. We have over 100 dioceses. We are geographically enormous. Even if Clive’s “evidence” was true, it pales in comparison to the harm done to women and children. Helen affirms my suspicions. Most evangelicals don’t subscribe to male headship and many Anglo-Catholics accept WO and WB. So we are talking about a rather extreme fringe, yes? Jesus called us to love our neighbor without excuse. He broke taboos to teach, heal, and… Read more »

Original Observer
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Original Observer

The accounts of the “forced visitations” certainly sound grim. I can’t quite imagine that in England somehow. CofE people do not go in for outright confrontation, especially when other methods can be more effective. Many Anglo-catholic parishes have already been pushed down the candle over the years, but by more subtle means. This might happen via the appointment of a superficially suitable incumbent, but one who then gradually introduces reforms and ideas which alter the traditionalist stance of the parish. Even ResC parishes must deal with the Archdeacon during an interregnum. However, a PCC which is determined to stand firm,… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

@ED: methinks Clive probably believes *all* TEC bishops make (ALLEGED) prejudicial statements, because that’s their culture.

“Jane Dixon’s forced visitations”: yes, I’m sure +Jane (OBM) knocked on the red doors w/ tremendous force.

I’ll half give Clive the MLawrence/ALanza one. It wasn’t a direct comparison, but it was clumsy and ill thought-out. Even Presiding Bishops have off days/sermons.

The CofE’s “traditionalists” would be BLESSED to receive the *lengthy* period of reception that the anti-WO contingent of TEC did.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I should like to issue a gentle warning on this thread also. Please note that the subject matter of this thread is the WATCH response to the proposed legislation for women bishops in the CofE. Comments should be related to this subject.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

I hear you Simon. But CoE is acting as if the WB thing has NEVER been done before. I’d love to hear how things might have worked out with the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, etc.? Do or did they have a pastoral model for “traditionalists?” If so, what is it and how is it working out?

It might be helpful info.

Chris H.
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Chris H.

Something related to forced visitations has apparently happened in England. Over a year ago I was reading letters to the editor in the Church Times and one of them was about a couple of elderly shut-ins who didn’t want a female priest but did want to be visited and given the Eucharist. The parish priest was a woman who refused to let a male priest into her parish to minister to them, so at least one of them didn’t receive it again until they were in hospital. Not forced visitation, just blackmail and denial. I don’t doubt that forced visitation… Read more »

John
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John

I find it all very depressing. The inability of C of E people to resolve this (and the gay issue) is just disgraceful. I am glad Bernard Randall is still fighting for decency. Personally, right now I’m out of ammo.

badman
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badman

Archbishop Williams criticised “unrealism” in the November 2012 debate. “The idea that there is a readily available formula just around the corner is, in my view, an illusion.” It’s no good complaining that you can’t square the circle. A herculean effort was made to do that in November 2012 and it failed because opponents of women bishops (and of women’s ordination) rejected the best on offer. Hence, a choice is needed, and it cannot satisfy everyone. The opponents have been satisfied for 20 years in the hope that there would be convergence. The convergence did not happen and those beyond… Read more »

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

“Personally I think that the idea that parliament would intervene and impose a change in the Canon Law is complete fantasy.” I am not sure what your authority is for this statement, Original Observer. Those who have engaged closely with Westminster (particularly with members of the Ecclesiastical Committee) are not hearing that. The advantage of Option 1 is that it makes it much easier for Parliament to legislate with a single clause Bill in the event that the revised Measure (assuming it to be Option 1 or a variant thereof) is defeated by this Synod or the next. Actually the… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Parliament will be asked to step in and, if asked, it will.” I suspect it won’t, actually. There’s very little political upside for a government to get involved in a row with a church, especially one which is so divisive. The Tories will regard same-sex marriage, which actually is the state’s business, as enough provoking of its elderly members, and not want to get involving in a similarly nasty squabble which the state has less interest in. Labour will be perfectly happy to let the CofE rip itself to pieces, and will see no need to help resolve the CofE’s… Read more »

Stephen B
Guest
Stephen B

I am afraid that the only solution is for General Synod to be dissolved then the responsibility is on the lay electorate to send folk to GS who represent the will of the Church of England otherwise Parliament will do it for us.

The traditionalists and conservative evangelicals will then be surpised by how “Christianly” they are treated by those responsible for the nurture of their ministries.

Veuster
Guest
Veuster

> those beyond the blocking minority in the House of Laity want a separate church within a church

Would that be so awful? Wouldn’t it rather, in the words of the Eames Commission, “maintain the highest degree of communion possible”?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Interested Observer, Parliament is indeed not interested in what the church does in its own realm. But as the established church it has a place in the House of Lords. Already, there are charities that cannot work with the CoE any longer because their own Codes of Practice forbid them from entering into working relationships with bodies that have no equality policies. If the church should yet again vote against women bishops its position in the House of Lords will become untenable for the same reason. MPs will not intervene in the political affairs of the CoE, but they may… Read more »

Original Observer
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Original Observer

Anthony Archer – Interested Observer is right, I think. Activists on the Ecclesiastical Committee might well be up for parliamentary intervention, but it wouldn’t be worth the bother for any secular government to try to make Canon Law on its own. It would be wrong in principle as well.

After all, if the legislation were lost again then that would be because, following the rules, Synod had not produced the requisite majorities. Only sore losers blame the rules.

Synod could of course come up with different rules and then submit those for approval.

primroseleague
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primroseleague

“The traditionalists and conservative evangelicals will then be surpised by how “Christianly” they are treated by those responsible for the nurture of their ministries.” Well there’s the other elephant in the room – nowhere does any of this say the CofE will cease ordaining anti WO priests, which bodes well for many of the current and indeed putative future inmates of that place and others. As a 32 year old FiF member currently weighing up attendance at one of the Additional Curate Society’s events and going back into the discernment process, that’s reassuring to me – might mean the problem… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Primroseleague,
agreed, but one would hope that any future ordinands are under no illusion that they are entering a church that ordains women to all levels of ministry and that, eventually, they might be faced with the possibility of a female Archbishop of Canterbury.
Provisions, whatever they may turn out to be, will not mean two churches, one with and one without ordained women,and new ordinands ought to have a greater sense of realism about this than some people who comment here and who still argue about the theological basis for women’s ordination appear to have.

Steven
Guest
Steven

This isn’t meant to be provocative in any way, just a genuine request for information: people frequently refer to majorities and minorities regards this issue, but how has this been calculated? Was there a survey or similar? No one has ever asked me for my view, nor the view of the congregation where I worship.

JCF
Guest
JCF

“a separate church within a church” Would that be so awful? Wouldn’t it rather, in the words of the Eames Commission, “maintain the highest degree of communion possible”? Posted by Veuster

Yes, that would be awful. JMO, but I’d rather have *ecumenical* relations at that point. If communion is broken (as it would be, if ordained ministries and sacraments cannot be recognized), better to acknowledge it, and work from there. As a wise priest once told me, “Resurrection follows death. It doesn’t follow denial.”

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“MPs will not intervene in the political affairs of the CoE, but they may well consider disestablishment very very seriously.” Honestly, they won’t. I mean, they might talk about it seriously, as opposed to while wearing silly hats and clown trousers, but it won’t come to anything. Disestablishment is all downside. You’re the people who ended hundreds of years of tradition. You’re the people that kicked the Queen in the teeth in her old age. You’re the people that made a mess of the coronation (after all, realistically there’s going to be one within a couple of parliaments, and then… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“Labour will be perfectly happy to let the CofE rip itself to pieces, and will see no need to help resolve the CofE’s internal problems.” You do not appreciate the political possibilities inherent in the situation. If Labour would be happy to let the CofE rip itself to pieces, then Labour would not hesitate to seek political advantage from the women-bishops debate. The Opposition would be happy to hang discrimination around the Tories’ necks–and on this point, the Liberal Democrats would move quickly to distance themselves from their Coalition partners. Any goodwill that Cantuar might have enjoyed as the new… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“Mummy and daddy are busy doing important things, and aren’t going to sort out who gets to play with the trainset, even if the toddlers ask them to.”

Yes, but it was the other way round. After November Mummy and Daddy told the toddler to sort himself out and if he wasn’t able to, they would intervene.
Go back to what was actually said in Parliament after November.

Of course, it is possible that, when it comes to it, Parliament may not do anything. But it is not wise for the CoE to gamble on that.

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

” 26 people who rarely all show up” I’ve mentioned before – the bishops do themselves no favours by not responding to comments like this, which get repeated and repeated. The bishops are probably the only members of the House of Lords who actually have full-time jobs outside politics. On a retirement, the next bishop in line has no choice about whether he joins the House. From what I think I can remember from two decades ago, when I knew a little about this: The bishops have a rota so that 3 (?) are on House of Lords duty: meaning… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I have to say that I think that ‘traditionalists’ are right not to trust ‘liberals’. Every WATCH comment and many of the comments here show that ‘liberals’, most of them, do not really embrace the logic of tolerance/’pastoral provision’ (whatever).

Helen
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Helen

But what does “embrace the logic of tolerance/pastoral provision” mean in practice John? It seems to me that most “liberals” on this site have no objection at all to parishes specifying the churchmanship and gender of their priest. But while a small minority of Evangelical clergy are free to preach male headship and run their parishes on those lines, most people in the Church don’t want male headship enshrined as a mainstream doctrine in the CoE. What is unreasonable about that? As for FiF it is hard to see how their demands as detailed on their website can be met… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Why should I “embrace” something that does not exist?

There is no logic to tolerating discrimination.

Stephen Morgan
Guest
Stephen Morgan

John – there are liberals and liberals. I’ve been a hard-line liberal all my life, and I do not think you are liberal at all. Your ivory tower is so lofty you cannot see the ground anymore. There is no ‘logic of tolerance’ in this debate. Liberals in the CofE have bent themselves backwards and beyond to accommodate the traditionalists and it has never been and will never be enough. A simple majority has never been enough. A two-thirds majority has never been enough. You speak of ‘trust.’ When will traditionalists begin to show any inclination to trust the will… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

“There is no logic to tolerating discrimination”

Ever read Romans 14?