Friday, 9 October 2009

women bishops: more coverage and some reactions

Updated Friday evening and Saturday morning

Bill Bowder has a report on the Church Times website, Women bishops: hope for traditionalists.

THE COMMITTEE responsible for the progress of the women-bishops legislation through Synod is seeking to reverse the decision made in July 2008 to proceed by code of conduct only. Those who cannot accept the authority of women bishops have argued that their position should be protected by statute.

A statement issued on Thursday by the revision committee, chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, suggests that it agrees…

Reuters has a report, Anglicans, in row, may cut women bishops’ powers. A later copy has the headline changed to Church of England moves to heal row over women bishops.

Andrew Brown has written an explanation of what it means at Cif belief The church loses its nerve, again. He writes (emphasis added by TA):

Women can’t be part of that chain. So a woman not only can’t be a priest herself: she can’t, if promoted, make other priests, as a bishop must. So for Anglo-Catholics to go on believing that they are priests, they must be able to exclude women from their lineage. They must also shun male bishops who ordain women priests, because such men don’t share their understanding of the priesthood. So what happens when such a priest finds that his bishop – to whom he swore obedience in all things lawful when he took his post – does ordain women?

Favourable reactions have come from Reform (see earlier news reports) and from Forward in Faith. See Statement by FiF in response to news from the Revision Committee.

There is now also a response from WATCH [Please note that this is the final version (added by us on Saturday); we accidentally published a draft on Friday.]:

WATCH EXPRESSES DISAPPOINTMENT AT REVISION COMMITTEE’S VOTE & CONTINUES TO PRESS FOR WOMEN BISHOPS ON EQUAL TERMS

WATCH (Women and the Church) issues the following response to the press release of 8th October by the Committee established by General Synod to consider the draft legislation enabling women to become bishops.

In that press release we were informed that the Revision Committee has voted to amend the draft legislation so as ‘to provide for certain functions to be vested in male bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice’.

WATCH is very disappointed that the Revision Committee has come to this decision. In the Church of England, as in society as a whole, people want to see women able to serve as bishops on the same basis as men. WATCH has long been campaigning for the adoption of the simplest possible legislation to this effect.

What is being proposed by the Revision Committee needs further clarification but we do not believe that statutory transfer can avoid creating a two tier episcopate. This would be demeaning to women and would fundamentally damage the office of bishop in our church.

Moreover, were such proposals to pass through our church synods, the Church of England would be in the extraordinary position of asking Parliament to ratify legislation that institutionally discriminates against women.

There will be opportunity for detailed scrutiny of the Revision Committee’s proposals, including the tabling of amendments, when the draft legislation returns to Synod in February. WATCH is confident that Synod will, on further consideration, adopt legislation which reflects the mainstream theology of our church: that men and women are equally made in the image of God and equally graced to hold the offices of priest and bishop.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 6:28pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

There is something rotten in the state of Canterbury...

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 7:01pm BST

What does it say in Animal Farm: 'All animals are equal, but ......

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 7:04pm BST

"They must also shun male bishops who ordain women priests, because such men don’t share their understanding of the priesthood."

Well, that seems downright odd. The bishops that the Tractarians found themselves under didn't share their understanding of the priesthood, I would wager, but that didn't mean that the Tractarians hitched up the skirts of their cassocks and went in search of those who did.

Posted by: BillyDinPVD on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 7:25pm BST

If those unlikely bedfellows Reform and FiF are in favour then the Committee and its revised proposals are definitely wrong.

One question. Why do bishops who will not ordain women themselves ordain men who agree with the ordination of women and who may well go on to be women-ordaining bishops?

But there is no logic in the whole issue anyway. As another correspondent has said, its all prejudice anyway, usually but not always dressed up as principle.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 9:16pm BST

Harvard Business School USA, among others, used to really dig into learning from case studies. This situation might make an excellent teaching/learning case study of just exactly how to paint church life and all the rest into a no exit corner; revolving around a hot button Anglican life issue.

The number of Anglican women who wish to work hard as the dickens with nothing but demerits based on their genitals, taking nothing but orders, orders, orders from every man with proper genitals who happens to strut about in their local parishes - is this staying about the same? Increasing? Diminishing?

Once upon a time, there used to be quite a few diocesan secretaries (usually women) who knew how things actually got done in church life, better than their presiding diocesan bishop (reg male). Wise Harries and Sallies welcomed her onto their teams, all for the better.

Alas. Lord have mercy. Makes one happy for a change, to live and pray in North America.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 9:33pm BST

"THE COMMITTEE responsible for the progress of the women-bishops legislation through Synod is seeking to reverse the decision made in July 2008 to proceed by code of conduct only. Those who cannot accept the authority of women bishops have argued that their position should be protected by statute." - Bill Bowder, Church Times article -

And what does this say about the decision of Synod, which has already pronounced on this issue?
Does the Review Committee just ride rough-shod over what has been decided in the General Synod?
What safe-guards are in place to respect the integrity of Synod Decisions? Or are there none?

Is there some special arrangement that allows a particular sodality within Synod to influence the overturning of a legitimate decision of Synod - without further debate in Synod? This seems a funny way of doing buiness, to others of us used to Synodical Government in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion. General Synod in most other Provinces of the Communion cannot be controlled by outside elements - other than those answerable to their own rules of polity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 1:08am BST

So, according to my understanding of standard Christian doctrine, God became human through the agency of a woman. For 9 months, God the Son dwelt inside a woman's body seemingly without harm to God. God the Son, in the form of a human baby, nursed from a woman for a similar period of time.
God the Son's announcement of his Resurrection was made to a woman.
But, ... a woman can't be a bishop (or even a priest) because, somehow, the Holy Spirit can't continue Apostolic Succession? God the Holy Spirit can't go where God the Son can?
Someone please pass the acetaminophen, I'm getting a headache.

Posted by: peterpi on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 6:13am BST

It is important to note that these proposals do no more than bring back to synod something which the majority of its members have already voted in favour of. In July 2008 the majority of synod voted in favour of transfer by law. The ammendment fell in the House of Clergy. Once all ammendments fell the synod could either vote for what remained (code of practice) or reject the entire WB legislation. Many voted for what remained on the table so that WB would not be lost and that the legislation could be altered in revision. The Archbishops themselves were in that number!

Contrary to what some have said, the synod did not, in 2008, decide anything. The synod's legal advisers were very clear that a decision is only made in a final vote - which is several years away.

Posted by: David Malloch on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 11:00am BST

"But, ... a woman can't be a bishop (or even a priest) because, somehow, the Holy Spirit can't continue Apostolic Succession?"

I know. And I don't agree with the argument, but it has nothing to do with the kinds of things you cite. I imagine a lot of anti-OOW people would agree with you, actually. BUT, there are few records of women being ordained at any point in Church history before this century. St. Brigid is the only one I know of. So, we have practically no tradition, written or oral, of ordained women. To change something that has been that constant is a big deal, I think. Second, the priest is considered to act in persona Christi at the Mass. The priesthood of the priest is just sharing of the priesthood of Christ, Christ was male, you do the math. Is that WHY the tradition has been so stable? Also, there is a perception of gender roles in the Fall, Eve falls first, then is a kind of "secondary tempter" to whom Adam succumbs, though we consider it the "sin of Adam". Mary then, is seen as in some sense doing away with the sin of Eve Christ with the sin of Adam. This is a kind if "See, there ARE gender roles in all of this" argument as AFAIAC, and I think it's pretty lame. None of this is countered by

"God became human through the agency of a woman. For 9 months, God the Son dwelt inside a woman's body seemingly without harm to God. God the Son, in the form of a human baby, nursed from a woman for a similar period of time. God the Son's announcement of his Resurrection was made to a woman."

These statements might be good "pro" arguments in their own right, but they have little to do with the arguments of the other side, so you're just talking past them, and they're talking past you. If you want to convince them, address their arguments. Give a sensible justification for changing a 2000 year tradition(and "women can vote now" isn't a sensible justification), address gender and the issue of the priest acting 'in persona Christi', and deal with the whole 'gender and the Fall' issue. THEN, you can make your 'pro' arguemnts without having trodden all over their toes behaving as though their arguments aren't worthy of your consideration. You can't expect them to listen to you if you don't, that's why they haven't listened to the pro-OOW people for the past thirty odd years, which of course suits both sides perfectly.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 3:05pm BST

Not good news! It will be interesting to see what happens at Synod in February. I do not think any right minded person would welcome a two tier church in this respect. So much potential for division and difficulty.

Posted by: Suem on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 4:07pm BST

It sounds as though there is some work to be done at the next meeting of Synod. You have my prayers.

Posted by: Charlotte on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 5:37pm BST

"But, ... a woman can't be a bishop (or even a priest) because, somehow, the Holy Spirit can't continue Apostolic Succession? God the Holy Spirit can't go where God the Son can?"

I have to admit that I don't understand the argument that women *can't* be priests and bishops (as opposed to the argument that they shouldn't, which I don't agree with either but which I at least can make sense of). As I understand it, for a Sacrament to be valid it requires proper form and proper matter. For example, the proper matter for the Eucharist is bread and wine, and the proper form is the Prayer of Consecration (or the Words of Institution, depending on your view). You can't confect the Eucharist by waving your hands over an Oreo and a bottle of RC, saying, "Shazzam - this is the Eucharist."

It seems obvious (to me) that the proper form of Ordination is the Laying-on of Hands; Catholics (unlike Lutherans) don't re-ordain after a period of ministerial inactivity - we speak of Ordination leaving an "indelible mark on the soul." Now, it seems obvious (to me) that the matter of the sacrament of Ordination, as in Baptism, is a human being, that it's a human soul that's necessary; you can't ordain a cat. But anti-WO partisans seem to be arguing that there's a difference not just between men and women's bodies, but between their souls, and that you somehow need a male soul to be validly ordained. It seems very strange to me.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 6:00pm BST

Ford
"Give a sensible justification for changing a 2000 year tradition (and "women can vote now" isn't a sensible justification), address gender and the issue of the priest acting 'in persona Christi'"

Actually, these arguments have all been made. They're available to everyone who is interested. Re-stating them will not convince those who will not be convinced.

The CoE has decided that women priests are theologically acceptable, and it has decided that women bishops are too.
The debate now is whether there will be separate provisions for those who don't agree.

And if the church should eventually decide that no further provisions will be made, then the only remaining question is whether the opponents of women's priests submit to church discipline or not.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 10:07pm BST

"you can't ordain a cat. But anti-WO partisans seem to be arguing that there's a difference not just between men and women's bodies, but between their souls, and that you somehow need a male soul to be validly ordained. It seems very strange to me." - BillyD, on Saturday -

In certain ancient civilisations (e.g. Egyptian) cats were thought to possess great spiritual mana. But, I do get your argument, BillyD, that the anti-W.O. lobby, having been frustrated on the issue of women priests, are now terrified that their logical progression to the episcopate might further endanger the souls who submit to their episcopal ministry. There certainly is a touch of the 'unclean' philosophy about all of this, and little understanding of the mutuality of our common humanity in Christ.

I think that what most of the anti-women faction is missing out on, is the radical inclusiveness of Jesus towards women in the gospels. One only has to read the story of 'the woman at the well' to experience the disciples' astonishment at the action of Jesus even speaking to a woman on her own - never mind the fact that she was a Gentile and not Jewish. Jesus' treatment of the woman *caught in the act of adultery* must have been quite an object lesson to the Jewish male leaders whose own integrity was being questioned by Jesus.

There can be little doubt that one of the very important reasons for Jesus being side-lined, and eventually delivered up to Pilate by the Jewish Sanhedrin, was his emancipation of the women he drew attention to during his earthly ministry. His choice of Mary Magdalene as the Apostle of his Resurrection to the male disciples was surely an intentional message to the future Church about the apostolic ministry of women.

Yes, Jesus was a male, and yes, he is recorded as having chosen only men to be his disciples. But then, in his culture and his life-time, he could hardly have expected a woman's word to be taken seriously by the men-folk - M.M.'s news of the Resurrection was not taken seriously by the men in her case! They would not believe until they had checked it our for themselves. Thomas was not the only male person to doubt Jesus' Resurrection.

There are arguments that the call to priesthood must be gender-specific, but I would like to see any New Testament evidence that this is what Jesus taught, or even exemplified in his choice of the first witness to the resurrection.

The pity is, that we seem to have learned nothing from the example of Jesus' life and ministry. If Jesus were alive today, would he adhere to the Jewish tradition of men only in leadership? Or would he, as evidenced by his radical attitudes towards the women of his own day - given that women today are actually given positions of power and authority equal to men - take advantage of this new phenomenon in society and welcome women to represent him at the altar?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 10 October 2009 at 11:41pm BST

"Give a sensible justification for changing a 2000 year tradition(and "women can vote now" isn't a sensible justification), address gender and the issue of the priest acting 'in persona Christi', and deal with the whole 'gender and the Fall' issue."

The 2000-year tradition is one based entirely on a cultural attitude toward women that has nothing to do with the theological place of women. Does that answer the first objection? "In Christ there is no male or female...." Doesn't that adequately answer the second? The story of the Fall as told in Genesis is a parable, a way of explaining man's state in relation to God, not a history. I think that adequately answers the third.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 12:52am BST

I've been readiing commments and documents and trying to giure out what is being proposed - someone who is better acquainted with the CofE and its machinations tell me if I am reading all this correctly.

Does this latest mean that YES, we will have woman bishops, but NO, they will not consecrate nor be consecrators? That male bishops will lay hands on deaconc priests and other bishops in their place? Please tell me I've got this wrong.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 11 October 2009 at 1:00pm BST

One fundamental mistake which the C of E continues to replicate is to give ordinands any choice in which bishop ordains them. If the HoB stopped this immediately we should begin to see some matters move towards resolution, at least.

Letting a man choose to be ordained by a bishop of like mind and to decline being ordained by an un-likeminded bishop is schism by any other name.

Come on, bishops: give us a lead!

Posted by: M. Mouse on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 1:25pm BST

Pat, no it doesn't. And remember, I'm being devil's advocate here, I support OOW. But, the tradition is NOT merely a cultural attitude. If it were, there wouldn't be any theological objections to OOW. That is the dismissive attitude I was talking about. OOW opponents have been making arguments for the past thirty years that show pretty clearly that this isn't just a "cultural attitude". And, why is there a negative connotation to "cultural attitude"?

If "in Christ there is neither male nor female" were important, then why is it that male Christians cannot bear children? Clearly, for some functions, there IS male and female in Christ. That isn't flippant. There is at least one human function that is limited to one gender and it makes little sense to claim the other gender is somehow oppressed because it cannot do what it was not built to do. The question here is whether or not priesthood is of the same nature.

And the Fall is indeed a metaphor. And part of our traditional understanding of that metaphor is that there are specific gender roles for the characters in the metaphorical story. I don't fully agree with that understanding, but it doesn't require the story to be literal. You can't claim the arguments aren't valid just because the story isn't historical. Why would the metaphorical nature of the story negate the gender argument? For me, it actually supports it, since, it being a metaphor, we are pretty much required to engage it and seek meaning.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 4:09pm BST

The tradition is NOT merely a cultural attitude. If it were, there wouldn't be any theological objections to OOW. That is the dismissive attitude I was talking about. OOW opponents have been making arguments for the past thirty years that show pretty clearly that this isn't just a "cultural attitude". And, why is there a negative connotation to "cultural attitude"?

Ford--but those theological arguments are, to my mind, made to justify a cultural artifact. And the negative connotation to "cultural attitude" is that Christianity should be both superior to and in opposition to secular culture...especially when that culture is non-inclusive.

If "in Christ there is neither male nor female" were important, then why is it that male Christians cannot bear children? Clearly, for some functions, there IS male and female in Christ. That isn't flippant. There is at least one human function that is limited to one gender and it makes little sense to claim the other gender is somehow oppressed because it cannot do what it was not built to do. The question here is whether or not priesthood is of the same nature.

To me, the important words in the phrase are "IN CHRIST...". If the priest is acting in lieu of Christ, our "great high priest" in the words of one of the eucharistic prayers in the TEC BCP, then how can we distinguish between male and female in performing that role?

And the Fall is indeed a metaphor. And part of our traditional understanding of that metaphor is that there are specific gender roles for the characters in the metaphorical story. I don't fully agree with that understanding, but it doesn't require the story to be literal. You can't claim the arguments aren't valid just because the story isn't historical. Why would the metaphorical nature of the story negate the gender argument? For me, it actually supports it, since, it being a metaphor, we are pretty much required to engage it and seek meaning.

Tell me, Ford, do you believe God created female humans as an afterthought? Because that's what at least one version of the Genesis story tells us he did...whether you take it literally or not. I have engaged the story of the Fall and the meaning I find is that sin comes from separating oneself from God...not from succumbing to temptation from the opposite sex.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:22pm BST

"If "in Christ there is neither male nor female" were important, then why is it that male Christians cannot bear children" - Ford Elms -

Ford, I normally go along with most of your postings - especially as I appreciate your lovely openness about your own situation. However, I think what you have said here is one of the silliest arguments you could ever have made about the relevance of Paul's statement: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female".

The very qualification 'en Christo' is a specific indication of that which touches on the 'esse' of Christ's ministry. I are not here speaking of the material nature of his humanity, but rather of the divine nature with which that humanity has been invested at the Incarnation. This could be considered a purely theological matter pertaining to what Christ has imparted of his priestly nature to the priestly nature of those called to be priests - whether the sacramental priesthood or the priesthood of all believers.

Now no-one would ever convince me that the priest-hood of all believers was available to only the male of the species. Similarly now (by the sheer reality of Women's Ordination as it has been received into the Church), I cannot be convinced that the sacerdotal priesthood has been reserved by Christ for the male of the species. It is not simply a matter of trying to equate the physical accoutrements of different genders. This is a vital element of our commonality in Christ 'en Christo', through our common baptism and Holy Common-Union 'into' Christ himself.

In the sacramental life of Christ in the Church, we are all called to be partakers of Baptism and Holy Communion, maybe Confirmation and - for those who are called into the same - maybe, Holy Orders. That is my personal view, but I believe it can be justified theologically.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 3:05am BST

Regarding the Fall, serpent persuades woman to eat fruit of the forbidden tree, woman persuades man to eat said fruit. Man and woman are caught by God. And what's the first thing that the man does? He blames the woman! Not "Gee, God, I messed up big time. I accept my responsibility." But "She made me do it!"
And from this we deduce, accrding to standard traditional thinking, that the woman is to blame?

Posted by: peterpi on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 5:49am BST

Romans 8.29 makes no distinction in gender between those who are conformed to the likeness of Christ.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 6:09pm BST
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