Thinking Anglicans

WATCH response to Mawer report on Sheffield

WATCH National Committee response to the Independent Reviewer’s Report on the Nomination to the See of Sheffield

The national committee of WATCH has now had time to read and discuss Sir Philip Mawer’s review into the nomination of +Philip North to the See of Sheffield and his subsequent withdrawal. We note Sir Philip’s conclusion that there were no villains, however there was a serious lack of forethought. It is clear that the question of whether the new bishop would be able to unequivocally affirm the ordained ministry of women was not widely discussed. +Philip was led to believe that the diocese was prepared for his appointment and was therefore placed in a difficult position when it became clear that many had serious questions about how this would work.

His reaction to the genuine questions and fears of the women clergy of the diocese shows his lack of understanding of how undermining his inability to fully affirm women’s sacramental ministry is to those who continue to minister in a church which cannot quite accept the equality which the wider society now enshrines in law. It seems incredible that nobody in the central Church of England appointments or communications departments thought that this would be a contentious appointment requiring sensitive pastoral work within both the diocese and the wider church.

The review highlights the need for more theological thinking about the five guiding principles. It also makes suggestions about the Crown Nomination Committee and the appointment process which can be picked up by the ongoing review of that process. WATCH’s response to the Sir Philip Mawer’s review and his recommendations is published below:

WATCH National Committee response to the Independent Review Oct 2017

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Leon
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Leon

There’s an interesting phenomenon going on with Philip North, and also Martin Warner. In both cases, it is constantly claimed that women clergy in their areas have their ministry fully affirmed. In neither case have I heard any allegations to the contrary, so I have to believe this is true. However, neither man has satisfactorily explained their beliefs in a way that allows the rest of us to understand why they do this. Do they believe something which is either different to or more nuanced than the beliefs claimed by FiF? Or are they politely pretending they think women have… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“It seems incredible that nobody in the central Church of England appointments or communications departments thought that this would be a contentious appointment.”

Well, yes. It does seem incredible, doesn’t it?

Perhaps they knew full well it might be contentious, but were hoping to slip it by the diocese regardless.

All part of the Archbishops’ plan to present the Global South with the CofE’s “most orthodox” bench of bishops “since WWII.”

Global South? Or English North?

Which deserved greater consideration, in this Sheffield appointment?

Will Richards
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Will Richards

“How undermining… to those who continue to minister in a church which cannot quite accept the equality which the wider society now enshrines in law.” This could be said equally by those who have genuine theological objections to the ordination of women, especially as the 2014 Measure is enshrined in law. Physician heal thyself… and all that.

ANNE
Guest
ANNE

I have read the WATCH report with great interest and hope others will, in particular within the senior staff in any Diocese. I am also interested that Leon has never ‘heard any allegations to the contrary’, that the ministry of women is fully affirmed in Blackburn and Chichester. May I suggest he tries talking to ordained women in both episcopal areas? The stories which come out of Chichester, in particular, are heart-rending. Sir Philip Mawer has done a good job with his report, but in their comments, WATCH says, “WATCH continues to be very concerned that this report, which describes… Read more »

Adrian Judd
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Adrian Judd

Would differentiating ‘is’ and ‘ought’ be helpful?

One might believe (rightly or wrongly) that women should not be ordained priest (or bishop), yet accept that those who have been ordained priest (or bishop)have been validly ordained – even if one wishes that such ordinations would be stopped at some point.

Or alternatively one might make a distinction between validity and regularity – with the opinion that the ordinations were irregular, yet still valid.

Now that’s what could be thought, but would this go anyway to reassuring women clergy or male supporters of women’s ordination?

RevDave
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RevDave

“There’s an interesting phenomenon going on with Philip North, and also Martin Warner. In both cases, it is constantly claimed that women clergy in their areas have their ministry fully affirmed. In neither case have I heard any allegations to the contrary, so I have to believe this is true.” The same, pretty much, was said of the late Bishop of Europe. I think that FiF bishops have learned to love, respect and work with Christians they disagree with… Unlike WATCH who, like most ‘liberals’ it seems, continue to claim moral superiority and to deny non-liberals any equal right to… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Adrian, how could it help? If it helped then ordained women would be selfishly concerned only with their own, individual status rather than have a Christian belief in the equality of others.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

A good statement from WATCH. I’m so glad that they pointed out the false equivalencies inherent in the Mawer Report. Also, that he spilled a lot of ink on men and hardly any on women, thus, the concerns of women were not given nearly enough voice.

The “independent report” needed more independence, along with a female co-investigator/writer.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“Unlike WATCH who, like most ‘liberals’ it seems, continue to claim moral superiority and to deny non-liberals any equal right to be “wrong”.” WATCH doesn’t say anything of the sort, and neither do most “liberals.” We have simply pointed out the disparity in power when a non-ordainer is a diocesan (or archdeacon, apparently). Conservative parishes can have alternative oversight, but women who aren’t viewed as sacramentally legitimate by their boss is a different matter. Non-ordainers are in the minority. CoE has found ways to serve those minority parishes. No one is “entitled” to be a diocesan, and that is ultimately… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

It’s quite clear from this who now wears the trousers in the contemporary C of E.

Jo
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Jo

Oh yes, RevDave, how terribly intolerant of them not to tolerate discrimination.

Father David
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Father David

The allegedly discriminated against have now become the discriminators.

RevDave
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RevDave

Jo wrote “Oh yes, RevDave, how terribly intolerant of them not to tolerate discrimination.” Dear Jo and Cynthia, FiF and the ConEvos do look up to many Women of God, and they have many women in ministering in their churches and parachurch organisations. And in reality the FiF bishops are much better examples of “good disagreement” than the WATCH folk! They respect women, treat women as equals, even those who are ‘sinners’, and they hold up women as much as men as examples of Christian faith, godliness and service. It’s just that they don’t appoint women to officially ordained positions.… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“It’s just that they don’t appoint women to officially ordained positions.” Dear RevDave: perhaps you should let us women decide whether or not we think we are being treated as equals. Obviously, the women of Sheffield didn’t see it your way. Am I “incapable of accepting a man as head of the church?” Seeing that men have led it for a long time, that’s a pretty silly question. It isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. I am incapable of accepting a non-ordaining bishop at this time. When the church is 50-50, female-male bishops, at all levels, ask me again, I might feel… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Congratulations to Watch for a very balanced and thoughtful report. They truly have a prophetic role in a Church which is woefully slow to learn. Listening to the voices of those outside the centres of power doesn’t come easily to the dear old C of E – how unlike Jesus. Re. Martin Warner, I have heard nothing from Chichester but have my own stories of him from his time as Bishop of Whitby (suffragans in York being similar to diocesans elsewhere). Some women had no problems with him, others of us did. He very definitely undermined both me and my… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“The allegedly discriminated against have now become the discriminators.” Re: Allegedly – the numbers and history speak for themselves. Re: becoming the discriminators – WATCH, the women of Sheffield, and countless bloggers are asking the question that needs to be answered. It only has to be answered at the diocesan level, but it must be answered. How do girls and women flourish with a non-ordaining bishop? The lack of empathy for that crucial question is disturbing. Father David, I treasure the sacraments as much as you do. How does it work when a diocesan bishop doesn’t believe that my wonderful… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

It would be interesting to have some actual critique of the content of this response other than the mere fact that it was produced by WATCH. Which of the questions it raises, for example, is it not possible to raise in a spirit of “good disagreement” or “mutual flourishing”? Note also that the Mawer report barely mentions WATCH as actors in the Sheffield events. But wouldn’t you expect an organisation like WATCH to respond to the report?

Jo
Guest
Jo

Yes, I’m sure the conservatives in Blackburn & Burnley who referred to my then parish priest and her colleagues as “priestesses” did so with the utmost respect. When I encounter these perfectly spherical non-discriminatory discriminators we’ll talk. There is no “just” to the claim that half the population are not capable of receiving all the sacraments.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“It’s just that they don’t appoint women to officially ordained positions.”

“Just”?

“Officially ordained”? As opposed to all those unofficially ordained people who have such power in the Church hierarchy?

Heaven forbid that a woman should officially outrank a man.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Congratulations to Watch on a thoughtful and balanced response. The Church of England seems still unable to hear the voices of those away from the corridors of power. Imagine how different – and how much better – the ‘independent’ review could have been if it had been conducted by Mawer plus, say, Tina Baxter and Elaine Storkey?

And I’d suggest Elaine Graham be a candidate for inclusion in any theological work on the issue.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Mark Bennet asks “Which of the questions it raises, for example, is it not possible to raise in a spirit of “good disagreement” or “mutual flourishing?” which seems reasonable enough – unless you have theological objections to the ordination of women. Then, questions raised in a spirit of mutual flourishing becomes institutionalised discrimination. As I have said before, I am a supporter of equal ordination (on all fronts) and I find the stance of WATCH and others to be not only mean spirited towards a minority in our Church (especially in the light of the 5GPs), but breath-taking in its… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Michael Mulhern It is very odd to describe as ‘a narrow pressure group’ an organisation whose position is precisely that of the CofE itself – that women and men share equalling in the vocation to priestly ministry and leadership at every level of the church’s life. They also fully support the provisions made for the minority who cannot accept the Church’s position. I find nothing in their statement that says otherwise.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Stephen Parsons suggests in his most recent blog that a failure to understand the mechanisms , effects, and abuses of power is behind many of our problems. The piece is specifically about the Church’s ineptitude when it comes to handling sexual abuse, but he argues (rightly, I believe) that it also applies to issues of gender and clergy vs. laity. Here’s a link:
http://survivingchurch.org/2017/10/03/does-the-church-really-understand-sexual-abuse/

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Michael Mulhern, there’s nothing mean-spirited in WATCH’s response. The question of the sacraments and how it is that women (clergy and lay) and girls flourish with a non-ordaining diocesan bishop has yet to be answered. And it must be answered before inflicting that on the self-esteem of girls, the well-being of women in general, and the working conditions for female clergy and male clergy ordained by women. There may be perfectly healthy and theologically sound ways to achieve that, but they haven’t been found yet. The problem of including the excluders only exists at the diocesan and ABC/ABY level. It’s… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

Of course groups campaigning for justice want to see it as soon as possible, why wouldn’t they? Why should anyone be expected to endure injustice a moment longer than they have to?

Father David
Guest
Father David

Dear Cynthia, You bemoan the fact that there are only two women diocesan bishops (Gloucester and Newcastle) – that’s actually 100% more than there are “non-ordaining” diocesans (Chichester). Had Philip North gone to Sheffield then we would have had equality between the number of women and non-ordaining diocesans.

David Runcorn
Guest

This letter in the Church Times today makes very clear the grounds for concern articulated by WATCH and others about the Mawer report. “An approximate frequency count of words referring to key people in the Mawer report yields interesting findings. Bishop Philip North is mentioned 211 times. Professor Martyn Percy is mentioned 83 times. The word “women” occurs 144 times, but only 43 of these occurrences refer to actual women. The majority use of the word “women” is conceptual, as in “women’s ordination”, “women’s ministry”, or “women bishops”. In these instances, the concept is frequently referred to as an “issue”,… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

“They [WATCH] also fully support the provisions made for the minority who cannot accept the Church’s position” says David Runcorn. Really? So why did they make a special point of intervening as they have in the Sheffield process?

This is not the first time (See St Sepulchre’s threads) that David Runcorn has attempted to convince the rest of us that things are not what they seem. But more than that, where do I specifically describe WATCH as a narrow pressure group?

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Father David, I understand your point and frustration. But CoE has not figured out how women and girls are to flourish with a non-ordainer. It is not OK to insist that the girls and women in some places have to continue to have their self-esteem assaulted to make an excluding minority happy. It’s deeply unjust. I believe there are solutions, I can imagine a handful of scenarios. But I don’t see how to reach that promised land without empathy, love, and concern for the flourishing of the women and girls. I have seen you write on behalf of +Jeffrey John… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

‘Had Philip North gone to Sheffield then we would have had equality between the number of women and non-ordaining diocesans.’

Fr David, the female diocesans recognise the orders of those objecting to female priests and bishops, and the validity of the sacraments administered to those in their charge . The ‘non ordaining’ bishops would not recognise the orders of women in their diocese, nor the validity of the sacraments being administered to many of the laity. How is that equality?

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Michael Mulhern – have you read the Mawer report – where does it record that WATCH intervened in the Sheffield process? The trigger reaction to the name WATCH, and the tendency to band voices together seems to obscure the fact that it was people on the ground in Sheffield who expressed concern. It also obscures the fact that the positions taken by WATCH over the years have had themselves supported by significant Synod majorities, including large numbers of people who wouldn’t identify with WATCH. My concern now is that by parking views under the WATCH banner, the voices of many… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Janet, as in all things, the final arbiter is the conscience. Once the Bishop of Chichester retires -then all your dreams will come true. It is astonishing how much the Church of England has changed during my lifetime and the speed at which the liberal agenda has altered what was once a church which had far more in common with the two great churches of East and West than it does today.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Father David, I agree that one’s conscience, before God, must be the final arbiter. However I’m puzzled how you could know what I dream about – the retirement of the Bp of Chichester isn’t on the rather long list! Nor would I want to be dismissed as someone with a ‘liberal agenda’ – there are matters on which I’m quite conservative. I was replying to your argument about ‘equality’ with a (hopefully) reasoned argument rather than a personal attack. I could also have pointed out that while women make up over half the population, and the majority of English Anglicans… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

@Mark Bennett, I don’t think there are any points which are off limits as far as discussion about mutual flourishing is concerned. I think that’s been my point all along. The problem seems to be that some people seem determined to narrow the scope of the discussion to the disadvantage of a minority. And, yes, I have read the Mawer report – including the appendices, which contain an unsolicited submission from WATCH. This, of course, is in addition to the part that some officers of WATCH played behind the scenes in the events on which Philip Mawer reported.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

@Michael Mulhern – In what way does WATCH seek to narrow the scope of the discussion? As I see it WATCH wants a discussion. And I’m intrigued as to what part you think WATCH officers played behind the scenes. And as I see it the WATCH submission essentially says that WATCH did not seek to interfere in the Sheffield situation, and that seems to be reflected in the content of the report. If WATCH had not made a submission the presumption that WATCH got more involved than was the case could not have been rebutted.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Janet, far from being a “personal attack”, and I would seriously question your assumption in assuming that it was (personally I take the Benn approach in these matters tackle the ball [or the issue] rather than the person; which is a far more constructive and positive approach). I would never knowingly seek to be discourteous but it is clear from what you have written that your obvious preference would be to eliminate all “non-ordaining” diocesan bishops – install more women in top posts and have only male diocesans who agree with the innovation which has seriously removed the Church of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

‘Had Philip North gone to Sheffield then we would have had equality between the number of women and non-ordaining diocesans.’

But that’s a false equivalence.
We do not have “male bishops” as the majority and standard, and then two minority groups, women and non-ordainers.

According to official CoE doctrine and policy women and men are now fully equal and can both be ordained priests and bishops.
The minority view of non-ordainers is protected. But is not equivalent.

Equality would mean an even number of male and female bishops with maybe 1-2 non-ordaining bishops to protect satisfy Reform and Society churches.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thank you, David Runcorn, for shining a very clear light on what is deeply wrong with the Mawer Report.

I think the vitriol against WATCH is very telling. When women and our allies band together to finally have our voices heard, it’s “mean-spirited,” “a narrow pressure group,” and interventionist busybodies. David Runcorn points out the shocking reality that the Mawer Report barely includes the voices of women, but someone is angry with WATCH? Good Lord, deliver us!

Father David
Guest
Father David

No villains but no heroes nor heroines either.

Emma
Guest
Emma

@Michal Mulhern Sir Philip Mawer requested a submission from WATCH so to suggest it was unsolicited is incorrect.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Father David, I worded my reply sloppily and I’m sorry for that. I should have said ‘personal remarks’ rather than ‘attacks’. I think my points about equality still stand. However, I do see that change can be difficult to accept, especially if it’s change you don’t agree with. I myself feel quite alienated by the increasing emphasis on management rather than pastoral care, Bible teaching and preaching and prophetic ministry – which I hold to be gospel imperatives. On the other hand, we’ve made some progress on abolishing the blacklist which clergy could be placed on without reason or notification.… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I am generally singing from a similar song-sheet to Father David in terms of this thread. It would be a terrible loss if Catholicism was politically excluded from the Church of England. Catholicism is a huge part of what makes our Church a Church. It is part of the mystery and the grace of our Church that somehow – against the odds – Catholicism and Protestantism have managed to accommodate one another (admittedly with some eruptions of hatred, fear and spite, which is the regrettable down side of being human beings). I have a high regard for both Erika and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Otherwise we start along a slippery slope of exclusion, and the broad church edges towards a sect, which is exactly what (by Grace) distinguished the Church of England from so many protestant movements in the reformation. The genius (and gracious chrism) of our Church is that love precedes dogma. We should try to embrace diversity of consciences and traditions, and there should be a place for all, at all levels of the Church, if only their quality of love bears the presence of Christ in their interactions and lives. Women can cope with that interface, and navigate it – backed… Read more »

RosalindR
Guest
RosalindR

Susannah, I think that many catholic clergy and laity in the C of E , whether men or women , would be and are very upset by the assumption that in order to value the mystery of Catholic worship, and catholic theology, particularly the need to engage with the vulnerable and marginalised in the world, it is impossible to believe that women can truly be priests. No one on this thread and has said that women, nor anyone else, will refuse to work with and alongside those who don’t think they should be ordained. They do, they always have done,… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

But Susannah, you haven’t explained how girls and women are to flourish with a non-ordaining diocesan? It’s damaging and hurtful. There could be co-diocesans, or something like that. You are trying to be inclusive and generous, but the damage on the self-esteem of girls is analogous to that of LGBT teens damaged by homophobic rhetoric and “teachings.”

Asking girls and women to suffer so that others can feel good about including the excluders is not quite OK. Also, the theological questions about the sacraments need to be answered.

David Runcorn
Guest

Susannah I am really struggling with your argument on this one. But if you think women should be able to flourish working under a bishop who does not think they should be there but it willing to graciously work with them – do you not also think that men who do not agree with ordination of women should be willing and able to flourish working under a gracious and supportive bishop who happens to be a woman?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Susannah, I admire your grace towards those who cannot accept your trans status. However, as Rosalind says, the majority of catholics in the C of E do not have a problem with the ordination of women, and there is no danger of Anglo-catholicism being wiped out. Like all women clergy, I have worked with and for those who did not agree with women’s ordination, and have done my best to be courteous and get along. But the power imbalance between a diocesan bishop (or a suffragan who functions as a diocesan, as in York) is such that it is deeply… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Rosalind and Cynthia, Thank you both, for your replies. I find them extremely challenging. You raise issues I have not confronted, and frankly I seek help with any kind of response. I think you both probably understand that my motivation is the unity of our Church and the full inclusion of its diverse members. You probably both understand that I believe full inclusion implies inclusion at every level of the Church, even where the beliefs of a group imply reduction of inclusion for another group (women priests, trans females, gay couples etc). I hope you trust that I fully believe… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

This is very very difficult. My key dilemma is what I said to Martyn Percy in another thread. Where does it all end? You call for the exclusion of non-ordainers from being diocesan bishops. Setting aside that I don’t regard bishops in a hierarchical light – I see them as servants and facilitators, but I don’t attribute them with more authority than others, so I just ignore their views if they don’t seem right, “the priesthood of women in our Church is affirmed” whether a bishop believes it or not – where does exclusion end? If I demand that all… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

And yet, in a Church like TEC or SEC or CofE, where women priests are a status quo, and acceptance of them is a dominant view… do we have enough space and grace for inclusion of conflicting views in the episcopate? Does everything have to be neat, does everything have to be perfect, or is community the place we grow through finding love for one another in our differences? The Mass/Holy Communion thing is the biggest challenge and problem for me. If a priest or a bishop refused to let me share communion, because I was lesbian, I would just… Read more »