Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Bishop of Guildford on Women Bishops

Ruth Gledhill in her Times blog reports that the Bishop of Guildford has said Give trads their own diocese. This refers to an open letter from the bishop which is online here and is copied here below the fold.

13 June, 2008

AN OPEN LETTER ON WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE FROM THE BISHOP OF GUILDFORD

As we all know, the General Synod will debate the Manchester Report on Women in the Episcopate in York in just a few days’ time. The Report outlines a number of legislative possibilities to fulfil the previous Synod’s decision that the time was now right to move forward.

Please pray especially for Bishop Ian and me, and your elected clerical and lay representatives on General Synod in relation to this matter. The Diocese of Guildford has expressed itself through our own Synod in the past as firmly in favour of moving forward towards the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate. There are also, of course, minority convictions. We pray for those on either side of the debate.

At the recent meeting of the House of Bishops, the majority of that House both affirmed

That special arrangements be available within the existing structures of the Church of England for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops and priest.

and

That these should be contained in a national Code of Practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard.

This was affirmed by a substantial majority of the Bishops though a significant minority dissented.

With this Resolution from the House of Bishops, the Archbishops have also sent to General Synod a Note reflecting on the House of Bishops’ Debate and the significance of the Resolution.

The Archbishops specifically draw attention to a matter also carefully considered by the House of Bishops and identified within the Manchester Report. The Report identified these two key questions:

  • Does the Church of England wish to continue to accommodate the present diversity of theological views within its life on the issue of women’s ordination?
  • Following on from this, does the Church of England wish to continue to make available special arrangement for those who, on grounds of theological conviction, have difficulties over the ordination of women?

The majority of the House of Bishops are clear that we wish to answer both questions in the affirmative, and at the same time affirm the importance and urgency of admitting women to the Episcopate for the sake of the mission of the Church. The Bishops further recognise that Synod would wish to consider all the options of the Manchester Group, and this is endorsed by the Archbishops’ Note. There was also real recognition that any limitation of the exercise of the episcopacy of duly ordained women priests would be discriminatory and ecclesiologically anomalous. There, however, the episcopal consensus ended. The Archbishops are clear that the Motion from the House of Bishops, now before the Synod

is offered as a starting point for discussion. It does not represent a consensus within the House on what the conclusion should be but rather the view of the majority of the best place for Synod to begin examining the options. The House hopes and expects that amendments will be tabled which will promote other options identified with the Group’s Report in order to test the strength of opinion with the Synod. Some members of the House are likely to table or speak in support of amendments of this nature.

My dilemma, as your diocesan bishop – as one who has worked with this question ecumenically and within the Anglican Communion and the Church of England since 1975 – is that if the answer to the two questions posed by the Manchester Group (should we have diversity of theological view on women’s ordination and should there consequently be special arrangements for those who dissent) is ‘yes’. I do not believe that just a Code of Practice would enable this to happen. In which case, the question arises as to why we should be offering a discriminatory Code of Practice when it is known, in advance, with some certainty, that this will not provide a distinct enough space for those who cannot accept this development within the Church of England. I do not think that the circle can be squared – or certainly not in this way, and I have worked as Vice Chairman of the Rochester Commission for a number of years and then with the Guildford Group and then with the Bishop of Gloucester on precisely trying to see whether there is an acceptable way forward.

My own conviction (at least prior to the General Synod Debate) is that if we do not wish to say ‘goodbye, it really is time for you to go’ to those who are against, some sort of structural provision will need to be provided in a way which least damages the nature of the Church and least impinges on the general recognition of women’s ministry, including Episcopal ministry. In the end I think the choice is simply between a completely clean Measure with no exceptions, or a Measure which keeps discrimination out of the main part of the Church but allows a distinct part of the Church of England space to continue.

We have here a classical case of the conflict of ‘goods’: both sides are arguing for different kinds of inclusion with diversity.

In the time before the General Synod, which meets in York from 4 – 8 July, I call – as the Archbishops do in their note to the Synod – for a time of patience and prayer within passionate conviction. The time for lobbying on either side is now over. Pray for the General Synod, your representatives on the Synod, your bishops, and pray for each other, especially for those who differ from you in whatever convictions you hold on this fundamental matter.

+Christopher Guildford

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Comments

The Bishop of Guildford says "the time for lobbying on either side is now over".

Why?

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 11:22am BST

"That special arrangements be available within the existing structures of the Church of England for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops and priests."

Would the bishop say this if the issue were race?

"That special arrangements be available within the existing structures of the Church of England for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, will not be able to receive the ministry of Blacks or Asians as bishops and priests."

Why condone bigotry against women by those who hide behind the phrase, "as a matter of theological conviction?"

Posted by: Stephanie on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 1:34pm BST

Stephanie asks: "Would the bishop say this if the issue were race?"

Of course he would not. To do so would be contrary to the universal practice of the Church. Would he limit ordination to circumcised jews? No, to do so would be contrary to the Council of Jerusalem. Why make space for those opposed to women's ordination? Because those ordinations are contrary to 2,000 years of universal practice and a decision by General Synod does not carry the authority of an eccumenical council.

Posted by: David Malloch on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 3:34pm BST

"Why condone bigotry against women by those who hide behind the phrase, "as a matter of theological conviction?"

Is it not bigotry that labels obedience to the practice of 2 millenia as "bigotry" just because one doesn't like the sincere theological convictions of others?

The Bishop of Guildford has shown himself a true pastor in an area where he has considerable insight and knowledge - he might actually know the difference between theology and bigotry!

Posted by: Rose Gaudete on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 3:38pm BST

Stephanie asks: 'Why condone bigotry against women by those who hide behind the phrase, "as a matter of theological conviction?"'

Her argument might hold water, were it not for the inconvenient fact that the majority of opponents of the ordination of women are, er, women.


Posted by: Stephen Marsden on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 3:49pm BST

I think I am right to say that none of the other Anglican provinces which have women bishops or allow for them have any 'special arrangements'. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 4:57pm BST

Imagine Chichester and London diocese, they would have considerable chunks taken out of them. A Gafconian sword would be created to hang over the Church of England...and the internecine fighting between Reform and FIF to gain control of the diocese would be terrific.

No, those who believe that a Synod which passes legislation to consecrate women bishops is heretical should resign with integrity.After all, they only want the endowments and property.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 5:55pm BST

This would provide an excellent opportunity to argue for a gay friendly, separate diocese for progressive liberals.

This has to be the future - nothing good can ever be shared with conservatives. I have said this so many times and will not stop - a split is both needed and inevitable

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 6:14pm BST

Perhaps, Stephanie, +Christopher is not so convinced as you that those who opponse this innovation do so out of "bigotry". Perhaps he does not wish to see his sister and nieces, faithful Anglican laywoman who attend Forward in Faith churches, kicked out of the Church of England. Perhaps he remembers the faithful priests from whom he learned how to say Mass as curate of Tividale. Perhaps he has some respect for friendships formed, before his opinion changed, with priests and laypeople whose opinion has not changed. Perhaps he remembers, as a young priest in Lichfield, how firmly Catholic priests like Prebendary Tom Woolley, Prebendary Philip Husbands, Fr Raymond Bristow and Fr Kenneth Cresswell were trusted and respected by their diocesan bishop. Perhaps he retains, from his ecumenical activities, some understanding that when we speak of "the Church", we may not necessarily mean "at most, the Anglican Communion and, at least, the provinces of Canterbury and York, the Church of England as by law established". (Dom Anselm Hughes, cited from memory)

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 6:44pm BST

I think I am right to say that none of the other Anglican provinces which have women bishops or allow for them have any 'special arrangements'. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Scotland certainly has not made provision in the sense of a separate diocese or alternative oversight for parishes under a bishop who happens to be a woman. But we haven't actually appointed such a bishop as yet.

Kennedy

Posted by: Kennedy on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 11:03pm BST

God help the CofE if the likes of Stephanie were ever made Bishop. The prominent women clergy proponents of a single clause measure said their opponents should 'trust us' to operate a voluntary code of practise to honour those opposed to female ordination. How do you trust someone who regards you as a bigot?

The argument to 'trust us' should be applied equally to women clergy who should be asked to trust traditionalist bishops to treat them fairly. BUT bishops of this mould have not recently been appointed! Why not? Lucy Winkett and Jane Hedges et al should be burning their bras and campaigning for the appointment of male traditionalist bishops, who would be expected to treat women clergy fairly. Just as they campaugn for women bishops who would be expected to treat their opponents fairly?

Posted by: Neil on Wednesday, 25 June 2008 at 11:36pm BST

“… for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops and priests.”

I still don’t understand. I can tell there is a NO, but which? But what is the reasoning? if ever.

I see only a *fact* of habit/not used to it (“2,000 years of universal practice”/Patriarchy/ Hierarchy in some circles).

Where is the reasoning? The “Theological conviction”? The name is so GRAND. I want to see a reality.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 7:19am BST

I have just had a thought about this. If, say, three new dioceses were created then a situation may occur in which all those opposed to women's ordination were in these three dioceses; or at least a vast majority of them. They would then have, say, three clergy and three laity each on General Synod, plus their three bishops - 21 people. Their constituency would not be enough to get places in other dioceses.

This could severely limit the size and influence of the so called 'catholic' group on Synod.

Has anyone else thought about this?

Posted by: Wilf on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 9:57am BST

David Malloch states "those ordinations are contrary to 2,000 years of universal practice and a decision by General Synod does not carry the authority of an eccumenical (sic) council."

My knowledge of Church History is very incomplete: could David or someone else please remind me which Council explicitly prohibited the ordination of women and in what terms. Thank you.

My knowledge of the present is a little better, and I would like (respectfully, as a non-Anglican) to suggest that all those who refer to the 'universal practice of the Church' or similar remember that there are women already ordained to ministry in the Church today. I feel offended when I, as a minister in one of the Church of England's ecumenical partners, have my ministry overlooked so easily.

Posted by: Wes Hampton on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 12:50pm BST

Where is the reasoning? The “Theological conviction”? The name is so GRAND. I want to see a reality.
Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 7:19am BST

Exactly. What theological convictions are these?

Posted by: Stephanie on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 4:46pm BST

Theological convictions, Stephanie? How about starting with the opening words of the statement of assent made by every reader, deacon, priest and bishop of the Church of England on licensing - "The Church of England is a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church"? The priesthood is not the property of two provinces in an anomalous position (or of those provinces' "colonial" offshoots) to do with it as they see fit. You may not be familiar with this theology of the Church, but it was the theology in which young Fr Christopher Hill would have been immersed at S. Michael's, Tividale, and the imposition of a pointy hat and a move to a southern hilltop don't seem to have competely erased his remembrance of it.

I notice, Wes, that you refer to yourself as a "minister" and to women having been "ordained to ministry". May I assume that you are a minister of a protestant ecclesial body that does not have, or purport to have, ordination to the priesthood? Perhaps its dogmatic statements formally deny the existence of any priesthood save that of all believers. It is no business of mine to tell you and your coreligionists whom you should ordain to ministry as you understand it. I leave you to draw an appropriate inference from the previous sentence.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 7:01pm BST

"could David or someone else please remind me which Council explicitly prohibited the ordination of women and in what terms."

It has never been explicitly prohibited by a council. From Our Lord's commission of his Apostles onwards it has been restricted to men. A change would need to be in keeping with God's will and the only authority which can discern such would be a council. So, until a council determines otherwise, many of us would not be able to accept the inovation. Of course, IF a council so determined, we would be OBLIGED to accept it.

Posted by: David Malloch on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 9:15pm BST

Alan: Let us start not with dogmatic statements of assent, but with the life of Jesus Christ. He was carried for nine months in the body of a woman, Mary the God-bearer, given birth by her, and nourished from the milk of her body.

There were many faithful women, who followed Jesus during his ministry. Once at a Good Friday service I heard a priest preach that "only the women remained faithful to the end, while the men fled in fear." The women were the first at the tomb on Easter morning, and the first to whom the Risen Christ showed himself.

Through the ages women have been denied their rightful place as equals in the Church by men, to whose advantage it was and is to retain the power, authority and privileges of the priesthood.

Posted by: Stephanie on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 10:07pm BST

"A change would need to be in keeping with God's will and the only authority which can discern such would be a council."

I prefer to believe, as I always have, that I am capable of discerning God's will through my own conscience. I may not always be right, but neither are (or have been) the members of a church council.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 10:47pm BST

"Through the ages women have been denied their rightful place as equals in the Church by men, to whose advantage it was and is to retain the power, authority and privileges of the priesthood."

OR: Through the ages the church has followed the example of her Lord and Master and rejoiced in the ministry of women whilst retaining the apostolic ministry to men alone.

Posted by: David Malloch on Thursday, 26 June 2008 at 10:56pm BST

"Through the ages the church has followed the example of her Lord and Master and rejoiced in the ministry of women whilst retaining the apostolic ministry to men alone."

And what, exactly, IS the ministry of women? To take care of the men?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 11:20am BST

Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, accepted and rejoiced in the ministry and discipleship of women, both in serving (Martha) and in listening and learning the Good News (Mary). Jesus treated women with dignity and respect.

The naming of only men as Apostles was done by the male writers of what became the accepted canon of the New Testament one to two hundred years after the death of Jesus. The writings were chosen at councils that were, again, exclusively male.The all-male club that dominated the writings and the decisions of the Early Church mirrored the patriarchy of the Ancient World.

Posted by: Stephanie on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 11:26am BST

Stephanie asserts (correctly, I believe): "Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, accepted and rejoiced in the ministry and discipleship of women, both in serving (Martha) and in listening and learning the Good News (Mary). Jesus treated women with dignity and respect."

But how does she know this? She continues: "The naming of only men as Apostles was done by the male writers of what became the accepted canon of the New Testament one to two hundred years after the death of Jesus. The writings were chosen at councils that were, again, exclusively male.The all-male club that dominated the writings and the decisions of the Early Church mirrored the patriarchy of the Ancient World." It appears to me that this renders the accounts upon which she bases the first paragraph competely unreliable, since our only source of knowledge of the life and ministry of Jesus is accounts ratified by the "all-male club" of Ambrose, Athanasius, Augustine, Cyrils (of Jerusalem and Alexandra), Gregorys (the Great, Nazianzen, etc)...

I feel it's a little bit strange to be making my third intervention in this thread to defend someone with whom I don't agree about the ordination of women (+Christopher Guildford) against someone who does agree with him but doesn't like his excessively charitable attitude towards his opponents!

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 12:45pm BST

"I prefer to believe, as I always have, that I am capable of discerning God's will through my own conscience. "

This, of course, goes to the heart of the decisions the forthcoming general synod needs to make: is doctinal development best determined by the corporate mind of the church expressed through a council or by individuals' own consciences. Interestingly, it would appear to be those resisting the inovation who advocate the humility of submitting to an external authority and those who advocate the inovation who are prepared to do on the basis of the devices and desires of heir own hearts?

Posted by: David Malloch on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 4:07pm BST

Stephanie, by what logic do you arrive at your statements? Does the church in which you minister have a new source of revelation?

You claim:
"Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, accepted and rejoiced in the ministry and discipleship of women, both in serving (Martha) and in listening and learning the Good News (Mary). Jesus treated women with dignity and respect." I happen to agree with that statement, because it conforms to what is recorded in the bible. But why do you accept what you state? Surely not because of the biblical record? After all, those are the same scriptures of which you later say:
"The naming of only men as Apostles was done by the male writers of what became the accepted canon of the New Testament one to two hundred years after the death of Jesus. The writings were chosen at councils that were, again, exclusively male.The all-male club that dominated the writings and the decisions of the Early Church mirrored the patriarchy of the Ancient World."

So, have you an alternative record? Have you received further revelation as to which bits of the bible were edited by mysogynists and which bits dictated by the angels?


Posted by: David Malloch on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 4:16pm BST

Why is Stephanie being set upon like this ?

Is this the kind of behaviour the anti-women lobby (sic) want to enshrine in their own province or dioceses ? No wonder many of us are so loathe to give them their own woman-free misoginst zones.

They ask for something for themselves, which they consistently refused to give, when they won the votes. And they mean to use any concessions as a trojan-horse. Evidence for this ? The shameful misuse of the flying-bishop scheme for the purposes of misoginy.

If you don't agree there's no need to leave --just grit your teeth and get on with it !

(like women did for centuries and centuries)

Posted by: Treebeard on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 7:37pm BST

"Interestingly, it would appear to be those resisting the inovation who advocate the humility of submitting to an external authority and those who advocate the inovation who are prepared to do on the basis of the devices and desires of heir own hearts?"
Posted by: David Malloch on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 4:07pm BST

And those who resist the innovation, and "who advocate the humility of submitting to an external authority," do they do so even though their hearts are breaking for women who feel that they are called by God to the priesthood, but will never be able to fulfill their vocation, or do the dictates of external authority coincide nicely with "the devices and desires of their own hearts?"

Posted by: Stephanie on Friday, 27 June 2008 at 9:28pm BST

Thank you to Alan and David for their replies to my previous post. In answer to Alan's question "May I assume that you are a minister of a protestant ecclesial body that does not have, or purport to have, ordination to the priesthood?" I, as a Methodist, would quote the Anglican-Methodist Covenant:
"In ordination the intention of both our churches is to ordain to the presbyterate of the whole Church of Christ. In the Church of England, presbyters are commonly called priests, while in the Methodist Church they are usually known as ministers."
Lest their be any doubt, I would add that I believe that ordination in both churches does what the report says it intends to do, so I would not accept some of the assumptions in Alan's reply.

Posted by: Wes Hampton on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 1:26am BST

Oh, how depressing!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 28 June 2008 at 4:22am BST

"Why is Stephanie being set upon like this ?"

Because Stephanie's assertion that the "all-male" club of 1800 years ago essentially conspired to expunge Christianity of any female influence is an attempt to impose a modern sociocultural template on a completely different society. It also appears(and I can't say how accurate this appearance is) to ignore the possibility that these men were guided by the Spirit. It is an imposition of the modern feminist ideology that, regardless of the truth of it's perception of the oppression of women, attributes that oppression to some more or less overt male conspiracy. It is like in kind to the conservative persecution myth of the evil liberals oppressing the faithful, and comes out of modern society's tendency to only validate those people who can define themselves as victims and fight against that victimhood. I support women's ordination, but I do not support the idea that 2000 years of Christian belief on this are nothing more than some male attempt to keep women pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen. Any pro-OOW arguments that come from this ideological framework are doomed to failure, not only among conservatives, but among those like me who feel that modern political arguments have no place in our continuing attempts to discern the will of the Spirit.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 29 June 2008 at 6:00pm BST

Treebeard asks:
"Why is Stephanie being set upon like this ?"

In what way is she being "set upon"? It might appear to some that she has "set upon" those of us who oppose the ordination of women, attributing our position to bigotry, and even upon the poor old Bishop of Guildford, who agrees with her on the basic issue but whom she believes to be too concilatory towards us.

And could you please unpack this: "The shameful misuse of the flying-bishop scheme for the purposes of misoginy." In what way is the flying bishop scheme being "misused"? As a worshipper in an "Ebbsfleet" parish, it seems to me that +Andrew is doing for us exactly what the Act of Synod intended. And what on earth has misogyny to do with the issue?

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Sunday, 29 June 2008 at 7:48pm BST

"In what way is she being "set upon"? It might appear to some that she has "set upon" those of us who oppose the ordination of women, attributing our position to bigotry, and even upon the poor old Bishop of Guildford, who agrees with her on the basic issue but whom she believes to be too concilatory towards us." Posted by: Alan Harrison on Sunday, 29 June 2008 at 7:48pm BST

Fair enough. I apologize for attributing bigotry as the motive. The Bishop of Guildford attributes "theological conviction" as the motive for creating a 'woman-free' clergy zone within the Church of England. I have yet to hear a convincing theological argument for excluding women from the clergy, nor have I heard from its proponents any statements that recognize how incredibly painful and insulting this is to women.

Posted by: Stephanie on Sunday, 29 June 2008 at 10:28pm BST

"nor have I heard from its proponents any statements that recognize how incredibly painful and insulting this is to women."

Perhaps it woud be better to say that SOME women find this painful and insulting. The 8,000 women who have signed an open letter last week find the revisionist position painful and insulting. As has been sad before the majority of members of Forward in Faith are women!

Posted by: Rose Gaudete on Monday, 30 June 2008 at 9:22am BST

"I have yet to hear a convincing theological argument for excluding women from the clergy"

How's this:
A) Jesus never commissioned women to preach the Gospel (which is manifestly untrue)
B) Christ is the New Adam. Eve was first tempted, and thus "brought the Fall", so to speak into the World. Adam "completed" this. Mary brings into the World the cure of the Fall, and this has a parallelism with the allegory of the garden of Eden. Thus, Christ's maleness is important.
C) The priest represents Christ in the Mass. All priesthood stems from the Great High Priest. Christ was indisputably male. How can a woman represent a man?
D) The Church's 2000 year tradition of not ordaining women comes from these issues and we are guilty of hubris in thinking what our society now believes to be right is somehow more important than what God wants for us.
E) It is somehow against God's will for a woman to have authority over a man. That this is nonsense is shown by their willingness to redefine the Trinity in order to justify it.

These are the arguments, convincing or not. I do not find them convincing, and have an answer for each one, I gave an answer to the first. You might not altogether find them convincing either, but you can't deny these arguments have been made, nor that other people have a right to be convinced by them, nor that the left has been, it seems, remarkably more willing to deal with these arguments with scornful dismissal rather than theological engagement with them, and such engagement IS possible, and, I think, effective.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 30 June 2008 at 1:10pm BST

Ford: Thank you for posting these five arguments. I note that you don't find them convincing, and not surprisingly, neither do I.

Argument E seems to be the most interesting, if one were to "follow the affective edge," that is, it is the reason that has the greatest emotional strength.

However, the most comprehensive argument seems to be reason D, tradition. In the U.S. there is a protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ, which adopted a few years ago the slogan, "God is still speaking." They embrace "the living God," and the continuation of revelation. This would seem to be the antithesis of the traditionalist position, as I understand it.

Posted by: Stephanie on Tuesday, 1 July 2008 at 9:52pm BST
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