Thursday, 14 July 2005

women bishops: Tom Wright

The Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright has a letter to the editor of The Times published today in which he explains his position:

Bishops’ views on women

From the Bishop of Durham
Sir, Anthony Howard (T2, July 12; see also report, same day) describes my action in signing, with 16 other bishops, an open letter pleading for fuller debate on women bishops as a “defection”. This is a complete misunderstanding. I have for some years argued strongly in favour of women bishops, in public and private, in person and in print. I have not changed my mind.

The motion before us at the General Synod was not whether we were in favour of women bishops, but whether we favoured a particular way of proceeding towards that goal. I want the train to get to that destination not only as soon as it can, but with as many passengers as possible still on board. I therefore agreed with the other signatories not that we should have further delay for its own sake, but that we should have what synod had specifically asked for when commissioning the Rochester report on the subject, namely proper theological discussion before taking steps which presupposed such discussion.

The Church now copies the world in treating all issues in monochrome, with goodies, baddies and “defectors”. Like an examination candidate on a bad day, synod was determined to discuss the question it wanted to discuss rather than the question on the paper. I could not vote for the actual motion, but could not vote against the perceived one, and I therefore abstained.

That was not a “defection”. It was a silent vote for that reasoned discourse which, in company with the Archbishop of Canterbury, I still believe is the best hope as we move forward into uncharted territory.

THOMAS DUNELM
Auckland Castle, Co Durham

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 10:03am BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Sophistry, as one would expect from Wright.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 10:30am BST

Bishop Wright's reference to the ordination of women to the episcopate as "uncharted territory" is quite a slur on the churches of New Zealand and North America. That it was presumably unintentional actually makes it worse.

If the actions of the North American churches are (apparently) so inconsequential and irrelevant, then why is anyone upset about them?

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 10:39am BST

Couldnt have put it better myself.
The choice is between dogmatism / fundamentalism - which concludes before researching or debating; and scholarship - which debates / researches first and concludes second.

I think Bp Wright is right to attribute the desire for quick answers to the Zeitgeist. A lot of ground clearing needs to be brought into the public consciousness first. Does the NT even speak of a Christian priestly order at all? Is the meaning of 'overseer/bishop' the same in NT and 21st century or is it different? Does God ever have no calling/vocation at all on a person's life? Etc etc..

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 10:51am BST

Ah, this makes things a little clearer. He is a "Yes, but not yet" man. My view is that he showed poor judgement(which justified his silence in the debate) in associating himself with the letter from the others. As they were mostly "No, not ever" men such assesments as Anthony Howard's were inevitable, but still we are living in times where there are interesting alliances.
As a matter of interest I asked on another blog if you can be "orthodox" and still in favour of women in the three-fold ministry of the Church, or was the only defining issue sexuality. The only reply posted said one could not.
In that case I welcome Tom Wright to the joyful world of "heterodox, heretical, schismatic, church destroying, Christ denying, biblically illiterate Reappraisers, who have abondoned the traditions as received." We can only hope that he grows in grace as he begins his life among us.
How the "orthodox" will deal with him and his work that happens to suit their other agendas will be interesting.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 12:42pm BST

I think that there has been a fair bit of theological discussion, but that this is one of those issues where you simply have a difference of view, and that it is a difference which those who oppose women bishops cannot see bridged at all.

Hence, the call for a third province or threats to leave the CofE whether it be to Rome or to the Protestand Reformed Church of Lagos and Sydney (pending)

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 2:21pm BST

Merseymike's option is the impossible one. It has 2 inadmissible presuppositions:
(1) We are all irredeemably victims of ideology, with no chance of ever thinking objectively.
(2) This situation is fine, and it doesnt matter - we shouldnt either expect or want people to think objectively or put aside their own ideological biases. From now on, we will abandon scholarship and be driven by ideology.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 6:17pm BST

A rather longer article by Tom Wright will appear in the Face to Faith slot in Saturday's Guardian.

Posted by: stephen bates on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 6:18pm BST

I've come to consider this the "Kerry quandry"; it's the desire to nuance in the face of a yes/no question. While he's right, nobody likes it and wants either the yea or nay.

Posted by: Derek on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 9:53pm BST

Prior Aelred wrote: Bishop Wright's reference to the ordination of women to the episcopate as "uncharted territory" is quite a slur on the churches of New Zealand and North America.

The thought that we might be walking in the footsteps of ECUSA is enough to make me hesitate for a VERY long time... what a mess they've caused !

Posted by: Dave on Thursday, 14 July 2005 at 10:59pm BST

Christopher, I think there has already been plenty of discussion.

What I think is not going to be found is a point of agreement. I can't see what a delay would do, because your idea of 'theology' is not a priority in my opinion, whereas justice and inclusion is important. The questions you ask do not really matter to me.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 15 July 2005 at 1:23am BST

From Dave: "The thought that we might be walking in the footsteps of ECUSA is enough to make me hesitate for a VERY long time... what a mess they've caused !"

Actually, it may not have been us North Americans or specifically ECUSA that you all are following at all. At my first position after seminary I served on a staff with a priest from Uganda. He told me that the Anglicans of Uganda had been the first in the communion to ordain women - their warrant? That in their culture women are the bearers of the holy.

I never checked out that statement, but I don't have to tell you that my heart stopped on the night of my priesting, when this Ugandan priest raced to the sacristy to be the first to have my newly-ordained hands laid on him in blessing.

Faithfully,
Lois Keen, Priest, St. Martin's, Boothwyn, PA

Posted by: Rev. Lois Keen on Friday, 15 July 2005 at 2:06am BST

A *blessed mess*, Dave: thanks be to God!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Friday, 15 July 2005 at 8:23am BST

Strange as this may seem, church decisions are not made on the basis of what matters to Merseymike.

Theology (or call it what you will) is intended to be an informed and detailed framework for understanding. No decision can be made outside a framework. It will either be an informed framework or an uninformed one. Which is better? (The uninformed frameworks - by pure coincidence, I dont think - often have a suspicious overlap with the Zeitgeist.)

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 15 July 2005 at 10:49am BST

Uninformed according to who, Christopher? I have a feeling any outcome which wasn't of your liking would be described in the same terms.

I think this is simply another delaying process. Wright wishes to re-ingratiate himself with the conservative evangelicals, and this is a way of doing it.

In any case, it isn't happening. We are - for once - actually starting to make positive moves forward, and the things that matter to you, Christopher, clearly were not viewed as of primary importance.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 15 July 2005 at 3:58pm BST

JCF wrote: "A *blessed mess*, Dave: thanks be to God!"

Toleration of heresy and promulgation of immorality are certainly *biblical*; and persecution of faithful Christians is indeed a *beattitudinal blessing* ...

...but I wouldn't like to be the one dishing out the dirt !!

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 15 July 2005 at 7:17pm BST

Mike, how can that be if NTWright has already mentioned that he wants women bishops. Wanting women bishops or not is cleary therefore not the issue.

The issue is whether we can just press for what we 'want' (as though 'wanting' something were an argument in its favour) or whether we ought rather to investigate, research and debate first to find out what the best answer is, independent of our 'wants'. Im not saying that my ultimate position is any different from Wright's. The difference lies in how we, and you , are proposing to get there.

'Wants' and ideologies superior to research, debate, independence and open-mindedness? Not in any mature organisation.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 16 July 2005 at 12:06pm BST

Many years ago, Dave, I was indeed covered in "dirt": through which, Christ took away my blindness, and I saw His word through new eyes.

I pray you, someday, let Christ do the same for you, too. Shalom!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Saturday, 16 July 2005 at 8:27pm BST

Martin Reynolds wrote: "My view is that he [Tom Wright] showed poor judgement(which justified his silence in the debate)"

Actually he was not called by the Chairman to speak in the debate. You don't get to speak if you are not called.

Posted by: Catholicus on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 1:37am BST

JCF wrote: "Many years ago, Dave, I was indeed covered in "dirt":"

Hi JCF, what do you mean when you testify that you were "covered in dirt" ?

Posted by: Dave on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 2:19am BST

Just to clarify the point about not speaking in the debate, the Chair of this debate (the Bishop of Dover) had some 110 names who had asked to speak, and clearly he therefore had to say no to a large majority of those people. He also stated specifically at the start of the debate that he was going to discriminate against bishops in his choices. One can argue about whether that was the best course of action, but it does explain why Tom Wright did not get an opportunity to speak.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 2:13pm BST
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