Thursday, 8 October 2009

Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate

The Church of England issued the press release below this evening. The essential part is this extract from the fourth paragraph.

The Committee has … voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice.

Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate
8 October 2009

The Revision Committee established by the General Synod to consider the draft legislation on enabling women to become bishops in the Church of England today completed the first phase of its work. The Committee has further meetings planned between now and December and is aiming to complete its task by Christmas so that its report can be debated in full Synod in February and the draft legislation begin its Revision Stage in full Synod.

The Committee received nearly 300 submissions, including more than 100 from members of General Synod. Many of these offered alternatives to the proposal in the draft legislation to make provision by way of statutory code of practice for those unable on grounds of theological conviction to receive the episcopal and/or priestly ministry of women.

In the seven meetings that it has held so far, the Committee has considered each of these alternatives: additional dioceses; the vesting by statute of certain functions in bishops with a special responsibility for those with conscientious difficulties; the creation of a recognised society for those with conscientious difficulties; and the adoption of the simplest possible legislation without a statutory code of practice.

Of these, the Committee has, after receiving oral evidence and having lengthy discussions, voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice. The Committee will now be working through the consequential details flowing from this decision.

The work of the Revision Committee, whose task is to scrutinise the draft legislation line by line and consider submissions for amendment, is one stage in a process that still has a number of years to run. It will be open to the full Synod to revisit matters considered by the Revision Committee and to amend the draft legislation as it sees fit.

Thereafter it will have to be considered by all diocesan synods and a majority of them will need to vote for the legislation before it can come to the Synod for final approval. At that stage a two-thirds majority would be required in each of the three houses of Synod (bishops, clergy and laity) before the legislation could go to Parliament and eventually for Royal Assent. On any basis it is unlikely that the first female bishop will be consecrated before 2014.

The membership of the Revision Committee was announced in March 2009.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 7:25pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

OK - could someone explain what that extract from the 4th paragraph means? With examples? Right now this Yank is feeling pretty clueless. Thanks.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 8:12pm BST

The important thing will be the detail that follows and how much authority will be given to the bishops by statute. We'll have to wait and see.

Posted by: Wilf on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 8:41pm BST

Cynthia

The object of the legislation is to allow women to become bishops, whilst simultaneously allowing those who do not believe that women can become bishops to receive the ministry of bishops acceptable to them. The original legislation did this by delegation from the diocesan bishop. But there would be no statutory obligation on him/her to delegate in this way, although he/she would have to have regard to a code of practice.

The problem with this is that if the diocesan bishop was unacceptable to the anti-women-bishops group (for example because she was a women or he/she ordained women priests) then the delegated functions would be equally unacceptable.

So the revision committee has changed the legislation so that the "acceptable" bishops receive their authority by statute. This bypasses all women (and some men) diocesan bishops. This goes against the principle that all bishops should be bishops to the whole church.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 9:10pm BST

It means that the Revision Committee has decided to appease the Evangelicals concerned about headship, but have rejected the pleas of Catholic-minded Anglicans concerned about preserving the apostolic ministry.

Posted by: Neill on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 9:11pm BST

"The Committee has, after receiving oral evidence and having lengthy discussions, voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute, rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statuary code of practice."

I guess the point at issue here - considering the fact that the proposal to ordain women bishops is at the heart of the proposed draft Measure - is about what are the 'certain functions' to be vested in bishops by statute, rather than by delegation. And does this mean female as well as male bishops? Or will these 'certain functions' be performed by only male bishops?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 10:55pm BST

No, Neill, not necessarily. It really depends on what functions are transferred by statute, to whom and then to whom the 'safe' bishops may minister. The devil will, as they say, be in the detail. Wait and see.

Posted by: Wilf on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 11:10pm BST

"The problem with this is that if the diocesan bishop was unacceptable to the anti-women-bishops group (for example because she was a women or HE/SHE ORDAINED WOMEN PRIESTS) then the delegated functions would be equally unacceptable."

Will someone *please* explain the highlighted part to me? Is it "female cooties"? I understand, a little, the objection to a female priest or bishop (though I don't agree with it); I don't understand the objection to a male bishop who has, in the past, participated in the ordination of a woman.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 11:36pm BST

Peter Owen, to this Yank, it sounds like the female-bishop denying parishioner can now get his/her communion/blessing/confirmation, etc., from a bishop who is certified by Her Majesty's Government to be male and is also certified by HMG to have no interest whatsoever in female bishops. I realize I'm just an ignorant Yank, outside the CofE, don't fully understand why the Holy Spirit would find one "X" chromosome to be acceptable but two "X" chromosomes to be unplalatable, but it sounds like the State is going to be a willing participant in parallel systems of episcopate, with one of them perceived to be inferior by the really honestly true believers.
One of the main arguments against women bishops comes awfully close to Jesus of Nazareth ordained bearded circumcised Jewish men as apostles, therefore the only candidates for priesthood or the episcopate should be bearded circumcised Jewish men!

Posted by: peterpi on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 12:17am BST

One really does wonder if the Anglican Communion hasnĀ“t been contaminated by terminal fear and hate (and a couple of tons of greed and a trainload of bigotry and selfrighteous grandstanding).

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 4:02am BST

Pat
"I don't understand the objection to a male bishop who has, in the past, participated in the ordination of a woman."

Nor to one who will ordain women in the future.

But it just goes to show that this really has very little to do with theology and much more with old fashioned prejudice.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 9:03am BST

This is very unwelcome news - I hope that it will be resoundingly rejected by right-thinking members of General Synod. It is precisely not what they voted for.

There is no way that any women should be prepared to serve as "almost" bishops - two tier solutions are the absolute curse of the church of England and anglicanism at the moment. Down with the Covenant and Down with TEA by statute.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 11:45am BST

It's all bonkers, but what I don't see in any of this is hate, or bigotry either.

Is it not possible to understand that some christians might actually think that the Bible (which we still understand to be God's word) indicates that church leaders should be men.

It might just be that people are taking their lead from the Bible, and trying to live godly lives with it as their authority.

Sounds like a rather Anglican idea to me.

Posted by: PeterB on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 1:23pm BST

"One really does wonder if the Anglican Communion hasn't been contaminated by terminal fear and hate (and a couple of tons of greed and a trainload of bigotry and self-righteous grandstanding)."

Certainly a fear of "cooties". It all seems so childish and selfish. Nobody hates change more than I do, but I do realize that it is certain that some change is necessary.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 3:15pm BST

Peter B
"Is it not possible to understand that some christians might actually think that the Bible (which we still understand to be God's word) indicates that church leaders should be men."

It is easy to understan dthat a lot of Christians might actually believe a lot of things for very good reasons.
But the church - all churches - has the right to come to new insights and decisions. Or are you saying that nothing new is every allowed to be implemented because some people might not believe in it?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 5:16pm BST

"I realize I'm just an ignorant Yank, outside the CofE, don't fully understand why the Holy Spirit would find one "X" chromosome to be acceptable but two "X" chromosomes to be unplalatable"

Peterpi, you usually make very insightful comments, and coming as they do from the viewpoint of someone who is not a Christian and part of an ethnic group that has good reason to mistrust Christianity yet who takes an active part in a Christian community, those comments are very valuable. They sting a bit at times, but that's valuable too. But if you don't understand why people are opposed to female bishops, you really haven't read much, not even here. I don't agree with them, but I do understand their arguments, and I think they, and I, have been pretty clear here on this site as to what the issues are. Honestly, they have been making the same arguments for the past 30 years, at least. If people don't understand their arguments by now, what more can they do to express them?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 5:41pm BST

Delegated authority from a (female) bishop is not acceptable, but statutory authority is? When all statutory authority comes from the crown (a Queen, last time I checked)?!?!

Posted by: Sam Norton on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 5:51pm BST

Oh dear, the Church is flailing around hopelessly trying to avoid anything that disturbs its equilibrium yet again. Is it the committee's idea that nothing challenging should ever be allowed to happen until everyone's long dead and buried?

Meanwhile, the male-only episcopate continues with its routine exhortations to the rest of society to become more moral and just. It simply doesn't ring true for me, I'm afraid. We have to do better than this. Either we care about justice and fighting discrimination because it is morally right to do so, in which case we've got to get our house in order, or we don't really care about justice, but would rather have a quiet inoffensive petering-out. If the latter, then we have no business as an organisation to be thinking we've got any thought-out ethic to offer anybody else.

And PeterB, do you really think Biblical interpretation's got much to do with it? That wouldn't usually swing the argument for Anglo-Catholics in other areas. How could we test whether it is in fact "pure doctrine" rather than mere prejudice against women that motivates the antis?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 5:58pm BST

'Is it the committee's idea that nothing challenging should ever be allowed to happen until everyone's long dead and buried?'

Oh dear Fr Mark! I think it is generally accepted that 'women bishops' are going to happen - and that is not the point. I know of no FiF types who think that the CofE will not soon have such 'bishops' whether they like it or not. General Synod after all voted for them!

What seems to be 'challenging' and 'not allowed to happen' is for proper provision that has been promised in the past (and a promise is normally a permanent thing to be kept ...not simply done away with) to be made WHEN women are made 'bishops'.

Posted by: Neil on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 11:12pm BST

Neil it is 15 years since women were admitted to the order of priesthood. There is no logic at all in allowing women to be deacons and priests but not bishops, and every day that passes makes the Church look more absurd in its injustice.

When women were admitted to Holy Orders, nobody thought that their opponents would have an right to protected enclaves in the C of E for ever. Retrospectively, one can see that it was a great mistake to have set up this whole parallel sub-church-cum-boys'-club at that time.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 9:11am BST

Erika, I don't want to sound facetious, but what is it that gives the church the right to come to new insights and descisions, and what limits do you put on the new insights and desicions that the church are permitted to make?

Fr Mark, I think that what the bible says ought to have everything to do with it.

The problem with Women Bishops is just a small part of the greater problem with Bishops in general, which is a small part of the problem of having a 'priesthood'.
It all looks far more like the Old Testament religious structure than the New Testament vision of a priesthood of all believers, where no intermediary between us and God is required except Jesus, our great high priest.

Posted by: PeterB on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 12:02am BST

"injustice"

To whom? Priesthood is not a right, but a great privelege to which God calls some and not others. Am I being treated unjustly that He didn't call me? Is it an injustice to tell me that I must not do something, even though I feel God is calling me to do it? Seriously? I can consider it many negative things, but injustice? Unless you're trying to make the argument that it tramples on God's right to call who He like to the Priesthood. But who wants to put forward the idea that humans can oppress God? Seriously, I'm not opposed to OOW, but to see it as injustice that some feel unsure that after 2000 years God is doing something that calls us to revamp our understanding of some of the basic aspects of the faith, and aren't convinced of it because their issues have been scornfully dismissed for the past three decades? That seems a bit much. It may be negative in many ways to prevent someone from exercising a greath honour and privelege, but injustice? I'm not opposing OOW here, just saying that just because something is negative doesn't make it an injustice, and for the life of me, I can't see injustice in the denial of privelege.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 5:25pm BST

Ford Elms: "I can't see injustice in the denial of privilege."

But, with the greatest respect, and I do respect you, and generally agree wholeheartedly with what you post here, selective denial of privilege is injustice, in fact. Oxbridge colleges, for example, are frequently reminded of this as it may apply to their selection policies.

PeterB: I don't share your view of the Bible, I imagine - mine being very much a Catholic one that sees it as a work in progress rather than le dernier mot - and so I cannot agree with your conclusion.

Neil's use of inverted commas around women "bishops" shows me what is wrong with his view here. If women are consecrated in the same way as men are, they are as much real bishops as the men are. If one doesn't think that, one should really move elsewhere (Rome?). Otherwise what integrity could there be in staying?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 7:15pm BST

Peter B
"Erika, I don't want to sound facetious, but what is it that gives the church the right to come to new insights and descisions, and what limits do you put on the new insights and desicions that the church are permitted to make?"

That's a strange question.
The church has always come to new insights and decisions. All of what we call theology was originally determined by various bodies and Councils.
Latterly, the church's stance on usury has changed, that on slavery, that on divorce. It is currently engaged in a debate on whether lgbt Christians are as equal as straight people.

As far as I can see, there are no limits or insights a church cannot, in theory, discuss and change its mind on.
Certainly, second order issues, of which women priests is one, easily fall within the remit of what Christian churches can change their thinking on without it compromising the major articles of Christian faith.

What makes you think the church has to remain static?
What do you think the role of the Holy Spirit is?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 7:54pm BST

"Fr Mark, I think that what the bible says ought to have everything to do with it." - PeterB -

So, when the Bible speaks of the need for women to be kept separate from the community in times of menstruation, you would consider that 'what the Bible says ought to have everything to do with' - what, for heaven's sake?

Bilbical literalism has no place in modern Church theological reckoning. If that is your limitation on what can be considered to be relevant in the working out of God's will for today's world, then you have already confined your speculation on God's activity in the world to the era of the biblical writings. Have you any sort of theology of the Holy Spirit? And the ongoing revelation of the H.S. in the ever-changing world of today?

Do you seriously believe that the story of Adam and Eve is a literal description of two human beings who, together, caused the drama of the Fall? And that the separate stories of Creation in Genesis are literal accounts of how the universe came into being? If so, you have a very serious problem reconciling some of the details. For instance; who did Cain marry after he had killed his brother Abel and was expelled from the Garden of Eden? Was it his sister? - Because if Adam and Eve were the first human beings on the earth, it would have had to be so. And which of the Creation stories is the correct one? Was woman created from Adam's rib? Or were they created simultaneously? Does it really matter?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus taught in the form of parable? It was probably so that his followers would not get hung up on the detail.
Let's get real here! Yes! The Bible is important for the lessons that can be learned from it. But it is not a moment by moment Book of Instruction, with all the 'i's dotted and the 't's crossed.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 1:03am BST

"selective denial of privilege is injustice"

Can you expand on that? I don't understand your Oxford reference at all. Is it that men are granted the "right" to their privelege, while women aren't?

And, Erika,

"the church's stance on usury has changed, that on slavery, that on divorce. It is currently engaged in a debate on whether lgbt Christians are as equal as straight people."

I believe the Church made a mistake changing its mind on usury, war, possibly divorce as well. Why would I be confident She is not doing the same thing now? All these decisions represent agreement with the surrounding culture's attitudes. I believe two of these decisions are wrong, and one is suspect. Given that the current decision is being guided by exactly the same forces as guided these others, why would I be confident that whatever answer we eventally come up with will be an accurate discernment of God's will?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 4:26pm BST

Ford

I don't expect you to feel confident about the church not making mistakes. Our faith isn't about making us confident and cosy, but about challenging us to discover again and again what God means for us.

Any change includes the risk of making mistakes. And Christianity with its emphasis on forgiveness is THE faith that should encourage us to step out and risk going wrong, knowing we can make amends afterwards.

Peter B's question was a genuine one, although faintly funny coming from an Anglican, and it is the same question I have just asked you on another thread: is there any way in which change can ever be attempted, or are we doomed to stick with what was done 2000 years ago?

Only Peter's question implies that there is never any possibility of development, whereas mine assumes that there has to be.

Is opposing all change any safer than risking change?
If not, what are the mechanisms for change?
Can we live with not knowing whether we get it right or not?
And is there any guarantee that sticking with the ancient is any more "right" than trying something new?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 5:31pm BST

Ford Elms: sorry for my obscure insular reference, but it came to mind quickly. Not everyone has the right to go to Oxbridge. The number of students with the straight A grades demanded is greatly in excess of the number of places available.

A vastly disproportionate number of places awarded go to pupils in independent schools (a little over half of the Oxbridge places, when the private sector educates less than 8% of students). So, the press and, in recent years, the Government, have asked Oxford and Cambridge whether they are in fact selectively denying the privilege of an Oxbridge education to pupils from certain backgrounds, and, by implication, whether such a selective denial of privilege would constitute an injustice. Whether they are or not consciously denying privilege selectively is a complex matter, and I'm not the judge of it, but isn't the principle at stake similar?

It seems that one has to be transparent nowadays in how one chooses to bestow privilege or withhold it, and the era of stitching things up between old chums over a decent bottle of claret, or even the proverbial plate of sandwiches, is over. The bright and vulgar lights increasingly being shone upon the mysteries of the honours system might be another case in point. Unfortunately, in many respects, the Church still oozes a rather ancien regime belief in its own systems, and one cannot avoid the conclusion that it may therefore be heading for the same fate as befell the ancien regime.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:50pm BST

"challenging us to discover again and again what God means for us."

Without, apparently, any way at all of knowing that what we have discovered actually has anything to do with God at all and isn't just an elaborate justification of our own ideas. Sorry, Erika, but I can't accept that religious faith is about giving Divine support to my idiosyncracies. I know you don't "make it up as you go along", but you must see how this idea can very much look like that.

"knowing we can make amends afterwards"

But we can't always make amends, Erika. An extreme example: there were Christians who supported the Nazis. Presumably they now know they were wrong. Presumably some of them were sincere Christians. But how can they make amends? All they can do is ask God's forgiveness. Those to whom they ought to make amends are not around. We supported usury 500 years ago. Now it has become so much a part of society that every human being, if that person is going to have any kind of success in life, is expected to take on a debt load upon reaching adulthood and carry that load for the rest of his/her life. It is a modern form of serfdom, it is why whenever there is an economic crisis ordinary people suffer so much. In order to maintain their debt, they simply cannot afford to not work. It's why the threat of a pandemic is so great. Our economy can't function if a large number of people is off work for a week, because then debt payments don't get made. There's a large number of people who are only one paycheque away from homelessness, and it's a direct result of our long ago declaration that, after 1500 years, usury was suddenly no longer a sin. That's why I say I believe our capitulation on usury was such a mistake. To whom do we make amends for that? Can any of our leaders even see it as a mistake?

"are we doomed to stick with what was done 2000 years ago?"

No, but I find your use of the word "doomed" interesting. We used to say that the biggest sin of the Anglican Church was opposing any change because "We've always done it that way." Now, our biggest sin seems to be promoting change for exactly the same reason.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 4:45pm BST

And again, Ford
Having taken everything I said in the worst possible way, built up your usual straw-topics and then discredited them, can you now please turn to what you actually believe in?

If you know that I don't make it up as I go along, just ignore for a moment how it might look to some people and claim that that alone is worth commenting on.
Please engage with what you actually know I'm saying.

Is there a potential for change? How is it discerned?
Some actual theological arguments would be nice rather than mere social commentary.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 8:47pm BST
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