Friday, 8 July 2005

women bishops: further responses

The letter from 17 men bishops provoked the following two items in the Church of England Newspaper
Women clergy express anger at bishops’ Synod appeal
and
A debilitating delay? by Christina Rees which says in part:

Last week’s letter from the Bishop in Europe and other bishops bears closer inspection, not only because of its contents, but also because of its timing and signatories. Of the six diocesan bishops who signed the letter, three - the Bishops of Blackburn, Chichester and Europe - are known as being opposed women’s ordination. It is difficult to understand why they have asked for a longer period of discussion, when they have made it clear that they are opposed to ordaining women as priests or as bishops, now or at any time.

The Bishop in Europe was a member of the House of Bishops Working Party on Women in the Episcopate, which produced the Rochester Report. That Working Party spent over four years in study and discussion and considered over 700 written submissions and a number of face to face submissions.

The Bishop of Blackburn is currently a member of another working party set up earlier this year by the House of Bishops to explore some of the options outlined in the Rochester Report and to report to the House of Bishops in January. It seems particularly odd that these two bishops, both involved with the open processes of the General Synod and their own House of Bishops, should choose to sign a letter asking for that very process to be deflected and delayed.

On the other hand, for Church Society the 17 bishops didn’t go anyway near far enough, OPEN LETTER TO THE ARCHBISHOPS AND BISHOPS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Fulcrum had this fence-sitting Response to the General Synod Motion on Women Bishops July 2005 but also re-published this article by Judith Rose to complement this one from Tom Wright.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 8 July 2005 at 8:12pm BST
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Simon, our Fulcrum response comes down clearly on the side of the fence for women bishops. On the principle itself, we state that we 'positively advocate the consecration of women to the episcopate for the sake of the Church and for the sake of the mission of the Church.' No sitting on the fence there. On timing, we also 'recommend that this issue is brought back as soon as possible in the life of the next General Synod'. Again, it is clear which side of the fence we are in terms of 'as soon as possible'. On building support for appropriate legislation, 'we believe that the Rochester Report should be discussed at all levels in the Church of England' thus showing that we want to build consensus for the decision and discern appropriate ways of support for those 'on the other side of the fence'.

As for the two main articles on our home page, one is by the proposer of the original motion which produced the Rochester Report, Judith Rose, showing the case for women bishops and the other by Tom Wright sets out the biblical basis for women's ordination. He has made clear several times that he believes this includes ordination to all three historic orders of the Church. This was written in September 2004, before he signed the controversial letter drafted by Geoffrey Rowell.

Posted by: Graham Kings on Friday, 8 July 2005 at 10:23pm BST

I am glad that Fulcrum is in favour of women bishops. This response however appears to support increased delay, as proposed in the letter which Tom Wright recently signed. That is why I called it fence-sitting.

As I said in an earlier comment, I find the Wright article hard to understand. Thank you for the explanation :-)

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 July 2005 at 12:14pm BST

Thanks, Simon. Fulcrum's response does not support 'increased delay', as Geoffrey Rowell's letter may imply.

Christina Rees, in her CEN article which you link into, writes: 'If General Synod passes the motion on Monday, there is built into the timetable by canon law an eighteen month window, during which time the issue of women in the episcopate will have to be debated in every Diocesan Synod, and in deanery synods and PCCs if desired.'

This period relates closely to the 'as soon as possible' phrase we used in our response. The key difference is that we advocate theological discussion at these levels, before a legal decision, rather than after it. We believe that the decision will still be positive towards consecrating women, but will have more gravitas through this suggested process: theological discussion at all levels, before legislation at the highest level.

If some General Synod members consider this sensible, it will be interesting to see if they propose such an amendment.

Posted by: Graham Kings on Saturday, 9 July 2005 at 2:47pm BST

Graham, please explain how what you propose, i.e. a referral to dioceses prior to a decision yes/no to start preparation of legislation, can occur without a increase in delay overall.
Surely you are not suggesting that a further reference to dioceses can be avoided, under the existing synodical processes?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 July 2005 at 2:55pm BST

The theological discussion has already happened, though - we know the issues, and the views on each side. The logic is that once women priests were agreed to, then thereis no theological reason remaining not to have women bishops.

I think the questions are now more organisational ones. Actually, whilst I am against a third province, I think, if accepted, it would give good reason to establish a fully-inclusive, progay prowomen, fourth province - a conservative free zone.

This would mean the breakup of the CofE but as its going to happen anyway, it may have some appeal.

Posted by: Merseymike on Saturday, 9 July 2005 at 4:05pm BST

Simon, thanks. I'm not suggesting a 2nd reference to the dioceses can be avoided, and realise this will be 18 months. But 18 months, in my estimation at least, is not much of an 'increased delay' and well worth getting the process in the right order. And to the next right 'order' is what I believe women are being called - the episcopate.

Posted by: Graham Kings on Saturday, 9 July 2005 at 7:34pm BST

The difficulty being addressed by the Fulcrum statement is precisely the fact that synod has never yet passed a motion stating it is satisfied with the theological justification for the consecration of women to the episcopate. I hope that were such a debate to take place this would pass overwhelmingly, but it has not happened yet. I understand the logic that states that once the argument has been stated concerning ordination to the priesthood it need not take place again, but I believe this to be fallacious. There are many conservatives for whom the issue of 'headship' remains where a bishop is concerned. I take issue with them over this, but if we do not have the debate there will be no chance to state the case, or to change hearts and minds. This will cause some on the right wing to suggest the we have put rights before scripture, and abandoned the latter. The result will be much more likely to cause schism, which we should wish to avoid. Synod must debate the theology in order to show that it is sound, and that those who oppose women bishops have no proper basis on which to suggest theological debate has been stifled.

Posted by: Simon Cawdell on Saturday, 9 July 2005 at 10:44pm BST

Dear Archbishops,
I am sad that The General Synod has agreed to the consecration of Women Bishops.
I hope to remain an Anglican - can you set up a Third Province for me please?

Posted by: Barry Newey on Tuesday, 12 July 2005 at 9:58am BST
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