Friday, 12 November 2004

Bush v Rochester

I think that women should be eligible to be bishops in the Church of England, that this is a natural corollary of women’s priesthood, and that it should happen sooner rather than later. As one of the promoters of the ‘Priests for Women Bishops’ petition, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

So why do I find myself so unmoved by the Rochester report? I should be caught up in a exchanges about the theology, the principles, the options. I did try to give the report serious consideration when it came out last week, but it was a very busy week, with lots of not-quite-prepared teaching to be done, and I found my emotions far more caught up in the outcome of the US presidential election than in the reading of several hundred pages of CofE prose.

That the report has been produced means that the issue is being taken seriously, and I welcome that, of course. The timetable for the debate is being respected, and there is no attempt, so far, to lose ‘women bishops’ in the mire of endless committees. That it is so long speaks of the thoroughness of the working party. It also provides a vivid illustration of the diversity of the English Anglican inheritance: at the extremes we have very different understandings of episcopacy, and we have lived with that difference, as with so many others, for centuries.

Once we move from the extended treatment of episcopacy in scripture and tradition, it becomes a ‘what if…?’ piece of thinking. Scenarios are laid out before us (or rather, are to be laid out before General Synod), actions and consequences suggested. At some level, most people who have any interest in the matter will have already have understood how different decisions might play, and I doubt whether the report will do much to change hearts and minds. It was not intended to.

It is a tool for the synod to use in achieving a decision. Clarion calls for inclusion, for justice, for the wholeness of the church will come from other sources: as will those for the preservation of a particular tradition and pastoral care of tender consciences. And so I return to my emotional focus of last week. I can identify some steps I can take to further inclusion, justice, and wholeness within the Church of England; but that’s a small corner of a world which seems dangerously hostile to such a vision.

Posted by Jane Freeman on Friday, 12 November 2004 at 7:26pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: just thinking

Perhaps I'm just a stupid American, but I just don't see why the status quo, with its A, B and (unofficially) C options won't be satisfactory with women bishops. I understand that FIF says it won't be satisfactory, but I can't for the life of me understand their argument.

Posted by: Ruidh on Friday, 12 November 2004 at 9:02pm GMT

What I find so frustrating is the fact that the options listed don't really make a lot of sense.

People who want to see women bishops are not prepared to accept any artificial glass ceilings

Those who oppose them can only accept a Third province.

So, they are the two choices. We move ahead - which has to happen as there is no conceivable reason why women can be priests but not bishops

And we then decide if we are to set up a church within a church which further institutionalises discrimination.

I sincerely hope that the answer will be no.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 14 November 2004 at 2:20pm GMT

Merseymike wrote:
"And we then decide if we are to set up a church within a church which further institutionalises discrimination."

But the answer may very well be "yes." It certainly happened here in the U.S. where we have a de facto "church within a church" (The Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes) who has institutionalized discrimination against gays and lesbians, and has a non-geographical "province" which also discriminates against women.

Posted by: David Huff on Monday, 15 November 2004 at 6:25pm GMT

Ruidh wrote:

"Perhaps I’m just a stupid American, but I just don’t see why the status quo, with its A, B and (unofficially) C options won’t be satisfactory with women bishops. I understand that FIF says it won’t be satisfactory, but I can’t for the life of me understand their argument."

There are two pretty obvious reasons, I think.

The provision currently made is that the diocesan bishop remains the ordinary, and that extended episcopal oversight is provided on his behalf by the "flying bishop". This can work only on the basis that the diocesan bishop IS a bishop. So, if we imagine that the Bishop of Barchester "ordains" women, Fr Lacey-Cotter, the parish priest of Saint Sexburga's, Barchester, may believe that +Theophilus Barcestr: is a heretic and insist that his curate is ordained and his layfolk confirmed by the flying bishop, but he acknowledges that +Theophilus is the ordinary and that he IS a bishop whose sacramental actions, apart from the purported "ordination" of women, remain valid. If +Sharon Barcestr: is the "bishop", this is no longer the case.

Secondly, the provisions currently in place apply only to the ministry of women as priests. At present, if an American turns up in England identifying himself as Fr Elmer, whether or not he can function as a priest depends on whether his letters of orders originate from +Dave Dakota (valid) or +Nellie Nebraska (invalid). No provision is made for the refusal to allow male "priests" purportedly ordained by a hypothetical +Sharon Barcestr: to celebrate the Eucharist. So, Fr Lacey-Cotter could find himself no longer knowing whether he could accept as validly ordained priests other men apparently ordained in the C of E.

Alan Harrison

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Friday, 19 November 2004 at 5:14pm GMT