Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Affirming Catholicism and WATCH agree plans

Update Wednesday
Forward in Faith has issued a press release in response to this.

Groups agree fundamental plans for women bishops in the Church of England
Joint press release by Affirming Catholicism and WATCH

A campaigning group and a network of Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England have agreed the fundamental principles by which women should be appointed as bishops. For the first time, the leadership and members of the Executive Committees of Affirming Catholicism and WATCH (Women and the Church), which between them represent nearly half the members of the Church of England’s General Synod, have jointly drawn up a list of key, non-negotiable principles for moving forward on women bishops.

Affirming Catholicism and WATCH had previously submitted separate proposals to the House of Bishops working party which consulted on proposals set out in the Guildford Report published earlier this year. The joint key principles draw heavily on their separate submissions and challenge the scope of the Guildford proposals which would, if implemented, provide a ‘women bishops free zone’ for those opposed to the ordination of women.

Christina Rees, Chair of National WATCH said: “The Church is currently discussing proposals which so limit the ministry of women bishops in order to take account of those who won’t accept them, that there is a danger of creating a second class of bishops who are women. Our principles – which we regard as non-negotiable – call for the Church to affirm unequivocally its confidence in the ordination of women by not discriminating against them.”

The formal consultation process on women bishops began in 2000 with the setting up a House of Bishops’ Working Party on Women in the Episcopate, but the journey began over 30 years ago when General Synod agreed that there was ‘no fundamental objection to the ordination of women to the priesthood.’ There are now over 2,500 clergy women in the Church of England. For the past two years there have been equal numbers of women and men being trained for the ordained ministry in the Church of England.

The Rev’d Richard Jenkins, Director of Affirming Catholicism said: “The Church of England has always made room for different opinions. But the theology and law of the Church must give priority to the fact that we are a Church which has now joyfully accepted and overwhelmingly received the ordination of women. Our principles suggest ways in which those who are opposed can be given security and space, but still remain recognisably within one Church.”

The groups now aim to discuss their principles with evangelicals and other groups in the Church in order to reach the widest possible agreement about how to move forward. The House of Bishops will meet again at the beginning of June to discuss the results of their consultation. The bishops will then produce a revised plan to be debated by the General Synod in July.


Principles drawn up by a joint Affirming Catholicism/WATCH working party according to which the Church of England can and should proceed to the ordination of women as bishops:


1. The Church of England is competent to make the decision to ordain women as bishops. This principle is enshrined in the Canons of the Church of England. [See especially Canon A6.] Further, the Lambeth Conference has recognised that Provinces of the Anglican Communion are competent to move on the question of the ordination of women to all stages of the three-fold ministry when the time seems right to each Province. [Lambeth Conference 1978; Resolution 21.]

2. Legislation must express the Church’s joyful acceptance of the decision to ordain women as bishops, whilst making suitable pastoral provision for those who continue to have difficulties with the ordained ministry of women.

3. There may therefore be no discrimination in the enabling Measure. The historic and catholic identity of episcopal ministry and office must be retained, and all women and men who are appointed as bishop must have the same authority and responsibilities.

4. Pastoral provision for those who have private reservations about the ordained ministry of women can – and should – be made, but such provision should not create structures which undermine the catholic order of the church or suggest ambivalence about the Church’s decision to admit women to the threefold ministry. [Cf. Guildford Report, § 130.]

5. If pastoral provision is to have the force of law, it must be enshrined in secondary legislation or in an enforceable, statutory code of practice. Provision should be made for alleged breaches of such secondary legislation / statutory code of practice to be referred to an independent body (to be defined in law) for mediation (in which the agreement of both parties would be binding) or arbitration (in which a decision would be imposed on both parties).

[Putting the detail of the arrangements for the exercise of Episcopal authority in the Code or into secondary legislation keeps these discriminatory provisions out of primary legislation. The Measure can then be short and simple. This approach also gives Synod the necessary power to deal with this matter without reference to Parliament. It would also put these provisions on a firmer legal footing than the existing Act of Synod given that the 1993 Measures on the ordination of women to the priesthood do not mention the Act.]

6. The process of reception should be recognised as the means by which the Church enters into the fullness of its joyful acceptance of women’s ministry; it is not a continuing process of judging the rightness of the decision. The pastoral provision must be drafted on this basis.

7. There can be no amendment to Canon A4. That is, “those who are made, ordained or consecrated bishops, priests or deacons” according to the ordinal and by a bishop of the Church of England are “to be accounted, both by themselves and others, to be truly bishops, priests or deacons.” Consequently, there can be no re-ordination of a priest or deacon ordained by a bishop of the Church of England who subsequently moves to another Diocese; similarly there can be no re-confirmation.


1. The pastoral provision may not create a parallel jurisdiction of those who are not prepared to accept the ordained ministry of women, but must seek the highest possible degree of communion together with the highest possible degree of permeability.

2. The pastoral provision must not give rise to a ‘theology of taint’ whereby opponents of women clergy are able to declare themselves out of communion even with those male clergy who have shared a sacramental ministry with ordained women.

3. Arrangements requiring ordained women to exercise pastoral sensitivity towards those who are opposed must be balanced by reciprocal arrangements requiring pastoral sensitivity from those who are opposed.

4. With respect to Dioceses and Diocesan structures, the pastoral provisions must maintain the integrity of the Diocese as the fundamental unit of the Church.

5. The bishop is and must be recognised to be Ordinary in his / her Diocese.

6. Any bishop who exercises a ministry specifically with respect to those opposed to ordained women’s ministry must therefore share in the ministry of the Ordinary.

7. Any such bishop must accordingly work within and according to the policies and practices of the Diocese where he exercises that ministry.

8. In Dioceses where the Ordinary is opposed to the ordination of women and does not ordain women as priest and/or deacon, the interests of women priests and those who are supportive of the ministry of ordained women must have episcopal representation within the Diocese.

9. All bishops and all parishes of a Diocese must continue to be part of the same synodical structures (through which the ministry of oversight or episcope is also exercised).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 May 2006 at 9:30am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Gee sometimes I realize I have forgotten how conservative and backward looking the churches are in other places around the world, even in post-industrialized cultures. Yes, I would dare to call any man who would grant himself and other men privileges and powers that he could not grant to his mother or his wife or his sister or his daughter (because of sex/gender), backwards.

Is the status and competency of women still under an equal cloud of taint and suspicion in the rest of U.K. society? Are women doctors, attorneys, university professors, scientists, MP's, and non-profit or business leaders still regarded as defective and up to no good?

Oh, my goodness, there is a queen at the top. I believe there might have even have been a woman prime minister in a past era. Obviously, from a certain point of view, something drastic must be done to set right all that has gone wrong, the moment you let the little woman out of the kitchen, the bedroom, or the altar guilds. Apologies to all, then, I am simply in shock. How silly of me to think otherwise. Well, I had a caring, intelligent, strong, and competent mother, and my childhood probably warped me out of all recognition.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 16 May 2006 at 5:30pm BST

Some convergence and sympathy between proponents and opponents seems to emerging. HALLELUIA !

Posted by: Dave on Tuesday, 16 May 2006 at 5:36pm BST

"I would dare to call any man who would grant himself and other men privileges and powers that he could not grant to his mother or his wife or his sister or his daughter (because of sex/gender), backwards." - drdanfee, above.

Yes, of course.

But what has "privilege" and "power" to do with being asked to serve as a Bishop in the Church of God?

Posted by: John SImmons on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 8:26am BST

It is plans like that which leave students like me who are of more traditional disposition in utter dispair. Some of my friends have already told me they will find it difficult to remain in the C of E now.

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 9:47am BST

Ideally being a bishop would not have to do with power but as long as major decisions are made by bishops acting apart from other Christians -- to say nothing of primates getting together separately to do so -- for that long it will be about power -- not so much for the individuals involved but for those they represent.

Posted by: Columba Gilliss on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 1:50pm BST

I do not want to make light of Edward's despair. I believe it is heartfelt.

I wonder, though, about the openness of the students among whom Edward sees himself. If we are called to be students, not simply of the history of the Church, but also of the current direction of the Holy Spirit (and all of us Christians, whether in seminary or out for more than 25 years, as I am, are called to that study), how can we prejudge movements without studying them? And to study them must include the theology, including the ecclesiology and theological anthropology, of those who have found the Holy Spirit in the opposite position?

So, Edward, I would encourage you not to despair. Study the theological reflection and the experience of the fruits of the Spirit that we have seen in America, in Canada, and certainly in England, that we have seen in women in priesthood. Then you need not despair, as in losing hope. If then you still oppose women in the episcopate, take advantage of alternative oversight; or, if you must, find your ministry in another portion of the Body of Christ. But you will have a much clearer sense of what you hope for, and can make a clearer, better founded, decision.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 1:57pm BST

Hmm, I do agree with the ideal of bishop as a high ideal of mainly a vocation to service among us, and guess what, also in the world. However, as long as bishops live more like rich folks than not, one may legitimately wonder how service has tended to become privilege. As regards power, then, we might conclude that power was the power to serve. That, too, is a laudable high ideal, no? I just cannot shake a lingering suspicion, that if being bishop were like sweeping streets, washing dishes, and cooking for church bake sales, the women would have long ago been appointed to do it by special calling attached to a special theology, and the men would have moved along elswhere (except for the subset of bakers, trash collectors, and street sweepers - many of whom would be people of color?). If 30 years ago, the clear notion was that there was little or no theological impediment to women in ordained vocations/ministries in Anglican leeway, then could issues of sharing power/privilege still be part of the slow, painstaking change that has given us such fits at times? I have a hunch it is more difficult to identify and address possible issues of power and privlege, than it is to sweep such questions aside with a harrumph, and a backhanded wave that suggests Nigel Bruce exclaming to Watson: Power? Privilege? Bishops? Preposterous, old chap.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 3:41pm BST

Edward wrote: "Some of my friends have already told me they will find it difficult to remain in the C of E now."

Dear Edward, I hope that the criteria for any change is that adequate provision for legitimate dissenters must be adequate in *their* perception.

Therefore I for one will not support any arrangement that is inadequate, even though I disagree with you on women bishops. I think that many Bishops and Synod Rep.s are of the same opinion. You must ensure that they know what you perceive to be adequate - taking into account that others perceive the issue differently to you (and that it is an issue where different interpretations of Scripture can be held reasonably ).

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 5:49pm BST

Thanks for those comments. I'm grateful. I left the point of oversight out as to attempt to comment on the WATCH and Aff Caff news rather than have the usual debate about the episcopate here which has been done many times.

I would say that people like myself try to be very open to the workings of the Holy Spirit and help it to guide our own lives. Of couse I would say that it hasn't lead us in the female bishop or priest direction but this isnt really the forum for that. I don't just look to tradition or just to church history, even though I am a history undergraduate.

It's the failure to engage with the theology of those who are unsure about this step that makes people like myself feel dejection which is why I was unhappy at the press release. There seems to be no engagement, having tried myself to be obhjective about reading the several sides of the arguement, but just the same old stuff and because it is more media savvy (in my opinion) it does better and has greater appeal. Obviously here there are a wide range of views on that.

More young people than one might expect hold this view or ones similar to this.

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 7:19pm BST

It surprises me, or says something about this site, that Forward in Faith's response to "AffCath's" and WATCH's press release has not been published on Thinking Anglicans.

Posted by: Ordinand on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 7:26pm BST

Dear Edward, here is a joint statement from evangelicals on both sides of the women priests debate that I hope you will find somewhat encouraging (you can find the whole thing here: http://www.ceec.info/library/positional/Scripture,%20Faith%20and%20Order.htm ):

"...Whatever interpretation is given to passages such as 1 Cor 11:2-16, 14:34-40, and 1 Tim 2:11-15, it seems clear that St. Paul does not think that those who take a different position from his own are thereby sinful and need to repent in order to avoid jeopardizing their salvation. They are in error and he wants them to think and act differently, but he does not say that they have put themselves outside the kingdom of God.

This being the case, it would follow that the question of the ordination of women is a second order issue. It is therefore one on which Evangelicals can legitimately agree to disagree, providing that, in accordance with St. Paul’s teaching about respecting the consciences of other Christians, provision is made for those who cannot accept the ordination of women to continue to have a secure and respected place within the life of the Church, so that both integrities may continue to flourish..."

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 at 10:33pm BST

Ah... Now that IS interesting, Dave. Have the evangelicals reached the same position on a certain other (2nd order) issue causing international fistfights at present?

Posted by: k1eranc on Thursday, 18 May 2006 at 2:19am BST

Good Lord. While I hesitate to comment on Edward's distress caused by the current working statement, I am appalled that the Mother Church has such an issue with women in holy orders. I hope Edward comes to some sort of compromise with the post-Elizabethan world that enables him to move forward (in faith?).Reading this stuff doesn't encourage those of us in the apostate provinces of North America one little bit. Maybe we'd be better "walking apart"--at least we'll be walking.

Posted by: John D on Thursday, 18 May 2006 at 2:41am BST

And what, dear Edward, of the "young" or "students" who are female---and discern in themselves a call to the priesthood? Is their despair the price of assuaging yours?

And Dave, re "in *their* perception": certainly, what's good for "legitimate dissenters", is good for women discerning a call...

[Still gobsmacks me that the CofE is treating this issue as a "What if?" C'mon, this wheel's been invented already: women priests and women bishops are JUST FINE, thank you! Thanks be to God! :-D]

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Thursday, 18 May 2006 at 7:12am BST

Thankyou for the link to the CEEC document. By saying I had done some background reading I meant that I have read 'Women in the Church', 'Consecrated Women' and 'The Rochester Report' in their entirety as objectively as I could.

I'm always wary of 'secondary issues' as I feel one has to believe in an entire corpus, rather than determine what is important and what is not - what right have we to do that ?. The big two churches, the RC and the Orthodox (I accept it is an open question interestingly in some parts of the Orthodox Church)do not go with this decision and the Church of England, even in its Calvinist days of the 1580s and 90s still upheld that its bishops were in office Iure Divino. That will be gone and can a church be called such when its apostolic college has been, as I see it, broken ?

[Just to clarify I am not a member of FiF or any other 'political' group nor would I consider myself anglo-catholic although occasionally I do swing that way. The church I attend is actually fairly traditional BCP with no frills]. Its absurd to make a step which to me as a historian seems to derive out of the feminist movement and make it, within 20 years an orthodoxy for the C of E ! It makes no sense ! I love the Sexual Discrimination Act and both my mother and grandmother have been the most successful people my own family has ever had, but what has that to do with the priesthood ! Nothing.

I have to admit to J.C.Fisher that of the people I know, only 2 of my female friends support the ordination of women and only one of them thinks she has a call to the priesthood. With the other one, her support is based on having grown up with having a female vicar acting as her priest and also being a close family friend. I don't want to do down the wonderful pastoral role women do play, the lady chaplain who aided me in a hospice as my grandfather lay dying of cancer was truly phenomenal, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the sacred priesthood and shouldn't be associated with it. It strikes me more as 'fait accompli' rather than anything else to be honest. On the other hand, at least 4 people I know who had begun the discernment process with the DDO no longer feel they can continue and 3 others underwent the RCIA. I am not sufficiently Catholic to be able just 'to cross over', (as if this was somehow some easy step to make) but neither am I remotely of the evangelical tradition so can't go off to some free church. Some contuining church would be nightmarish. I have nowhere bar the C of E to go, and the vision of me dying within it seems to be disappearing unless there is some ecclesiological provision. Of course there are far more women today than I know personally, who will believe that they are called.

I am conscious that this is a forum for comment on the news provided, a wonderful website which I check every day. I had initially just aimed to post on the Aff Cath/Watch statement but a lot of what most of you have said in response has been helpful, and I feel it needed a proper response. However,I don't want to get in the way of the function of the site by going on. I think my e-mail address is available for all to see so I'm happy to continue the discussion through that should people wish. If I've said too much on the site so far, I apologise to the hosts.

NB: I had to write this in a rush so apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors

Posted by: Edward on Thursday, 18 May 2006 at 8:56am BST

Yes, despite all the deep reservations being expressed, our general church experiences with women in leadership have been quite positive, just as has happened in other domains of work and society outside the churches. We have indeed already put these alarming traditionalistic claims to some visible, longer-term testing in church life, and so far they just don't pan out as loudly predicted. Medicine didn't collapse just because women became doctors. Law and public policy didn't collapse just because women were admitted to the Bar, or elected as MP's. Believers are not going to hell in a handbasket, just because some priests or bishops are women in some churches. Still. We all know who the holdouts for ancient tradition are, and nobody argues that they are defined outside either our bonds of affection or our common prayer.

What is rather new, however, is a certain traditionalistic claim that any association - any leadership association whatsoever - no matter how distant, no matter how removed - with a woman who dares to think that maybe God has called her to leadership - will somehow utterly doom those believers in their own best minds and hearts, to some sort of evil or spiritual darkness from which there is said to be no rescue, no escape.

The strength of this newish claim begins to be discerned if we imagine other church minorities making it, in connection with other matters.

What if the queer folks demanded that they have a separate, uncontaminated church province where they would no longer have to associate with either straight believers, or even with anybody who had something positive to say about straight believers? What if women were asking for a separate, safe province, where they could finally be free from male mischief and ungodliness, and even any mention of it? What if people of color made equivalent demands, accompanied by cries of suffering (suffering defined as having to associate with Anglos at all?)? What if rich people gather themselves into separate, purely wealthy provinces, so that they can be free of the definitive ungodliness of people being poor? What if ???

If none of the other parallels make much sense, why does the exclusion of women still make so much sense to some among us? If we understand a range of good reasons for recognizing women in leadership and service, at large in our worlds, then why do those good reasons suddenly become irrelevant when we are talking about leadership and service inside our churches?

Somehow I think we have got to recognize the suffering that traditionalists are expressing - without being so caught up in its curious thinking and defining circles that we join traditionalists in seeing nothing but doom, with no exit, no common prayer, and no global communion.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 18 May 2006 at 6:19pm BST

I think woman should have a right to be bishops. Its a changing a changing world. We women do about everything else like the men these days. Heck women could play football to if we wanted to. Plus I don't think God minds. He wants us to change and grow. (I mean society as long as its for the good not bad) And isn't that what the world and escepially church is. Us human trying to build this world of us into what God wants. Just think what whould the person we are leaseing this world want. Yes I say leasing for like a owner of a home we are borrowing this world until he gets back.

Oh and don't let the name make you confused I'm a women. Just thought you might want to know which gender wrote this. :)

Posted by: Jay Morris on Friday, 19 May 2006 at 12:08am BST


"...Whatever interpretation is given to passages such as 1 Cor 11:2-16, 14:34-40, and 1 Tim 2:11-15, it seems clear that St. Paul does not think that those who take a different position from his own are thereby sinful and need to repent in order to avoid jeopardizing their salvation. They are in error and he wants them to think and act differently, but he does not say that they have put themselves outside the kingdom of God."

1 Corinthians 14v34-37 (ASV 1901): "[34] Let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law. [35] And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church. [36] What? was it from you that the word of God went forth? or came it unto you alone? [37] If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things I write unto you, *THAT THEY ARE A COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD.*"

And we are to learn from this passage that "it seems clear that St. Paul does not think that those who take a different position from his own are thereby sinful..."?????

Did they actually read the passage?


Posted by: Andy on Wednesday, 24 May 2006 at 11:54am BST

"Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." I Cor 14:39-40

Dear Andy, Paul states his objective in giving his instructions at the end of the passage. In order that "everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" he commanded the Corinthian church, on the Lord's behalf, to behave in certain ways.
The question is whether this applies to us in the same ways in our circumstances. So you have to ask "why"? Why was it a 'disgrace' if women spoke in the church ? Why was it showing lack of submission ?

You could argue that the disgrace was because the women were not in submission, or you could argue that the disgrace was a perception due to the prevailing culture - as in 1Cor 11:6b "..if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off..."

Similarly you might argue that for a woman to speak in church is by definition showing a lack of submission, or you might argue that whereas the perception in the prevailing culture might have been that it was rebellious for a woman to speak in public, that is not so in current western culture.

The question is, which interpretation ? I don't know of any examples of women being described as speaking in church in the NT. However they certainly were praying and prophesying in church (1Cor11 again). There were also prominent women Christians that Paul mentions as fellow workers (Romans 16:3,612) women who hosted churches (Col 4:15), and a woman who taught a man (Acts 18:26) etc. In the OT there are women who lead the nation of Isreal (Judges 4:4 "Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time").

How submission is shown by women (and by men) may vary in different cultures.

My take on Corinthians is that they were a bit of a rabbelous church and Paul had to command them to get back in line in several ways. There was the incest issue (1Cor5), lawsuits and sexual misbehaviour (1Cor6), inconsiderate behaviour at the Lord's Supper (1Cor11), and disgraceful dress and behaviour in meetings (1Cor11 & 14).

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 24 May 2006 at 11:52pm BST

Dear Andy, you conveniently "forgot" verse 38:

ei dé tis angoeî, agnoeîtai/agnoeítw;

If anyone does not believe so, let him not believe so/he doesn't believe so.

The first variety is found in the mid 4th century late Alexandrian Sondertradition Codex sinaïticus, the "it's up to him"-variety in the more reliable 3rd to early 4th century P46 and Codex vaticanus.

Also, manuscripts D, F, G, it & c. give present verses 34-35 a f t e r present verse 40, thereby indicating

1) that 34-35 are somewhat less than authentic,

2) that verses 22-40 apply to Prophesizing, not to gender.

Not least, it should perhaps make you wonder to find "Paul" appeal to the "law" in this manner ;=)

(LXX "nomos" does not mean our "law", but something received, as in Tradition).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 25 May 2006 at 4:56am BST
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