Monday, 12 October 2009

women bishops: a look back

To put the recent press release from the revision committee into context, it may help to review what actually happened on 7 July 2008.

The order paper is here, listing the full text of all the amendments. The pertinent amendment is number 72 in the name of the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.

Peter Owen’s report of the voting is here.

Here is the rollcall of the bishops votes.

And the rollcall of the clergy votes.

And subsequently, I wrote an analysis, Bishops give a clear lead. I wrote about amendment 72:

Finally, ten of them [i.e. conservative bishops listed earlier] voted for the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds’s amendment to keep open the possibility of “statutory transfer of specified responsibilities”. Altogether 21 bishops supported this, but amazingly both Chichester and Birmingham opposed it, leading to a 21-21 tie in that House. (The chair of the drafting group, the Bishop of Manchester, abstained on many though not all votes.)

The amendment did obtain a 53% majority in the House of Laity, but failed in the House of Clergy where it obtained only 47% support. Had the vote not been by houses, the amendment would have passed by the slim margin of 203-200, with 3 abstentions.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:24am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

I've asked this earlier, but on thread from several days ago, so will ask again here. I have been trying to sort out what the latest proposal about women bishops means in practical terms.

Does it mean that women bishops would always have to have a male bishop perform episcopal acts such as confirmation, ordination, consecration? Surely not.

Or does it mean something like the flying bishops, in which a church not accepting women bishops would have another, male, bishop come to do confirmations, for example?

I have a woman priest friend who served her diaconate in Kenya, and was ordained priest there by her American bishop. She continued to serve there for another year. Several Kenyan priests were upset because how would they know, when she celebrated, if she were having her period or not?

This is starting to sound like that kind of cultural misogyny.

Someone please clarify for this confused Yank.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 1:58pm BST

Ok let me try to start untangling this.
First, it does not mean the first thing you suggest.

It does mean something like our current PEVs (commonly known as flying bishops) but with a firmer legal foundation than the current Episcopal Act of Synod which is not legislation.

But it is not merely women bishops that are to be avoided by this means. It is also, as I understand it, any male bishop who has ordained women as either priest or bishop. (That would of course already exclude both our archbishops and all but a handful of our diocesan bishops.)

If I have overstated the objective, I am sure those involved will correct me.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 2:21pm BST

Cynthia asked "Or does it mean something like the flying bishops, in which a church not accepting women bishops would have another, male, bishop come to do confirmations, for example?"

Yes, it does. My hunch is that 'statutory transfer' means that an individual parish would be enabled by passing a resolution to avail themselves of the services of such a male bishop and the female diocesan or suffragan bishop of their diocese would not be able to prevent the 'flying' bishop from fulfilling whatever functions the statute allows in such a parish.

Posted by: Wilf on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 2:23pm BST

Many of us in the American Church consider this a challenge to the Holy Spirit, who might call any person the Spirit pleases to any ministry the Spirit pleases; and calls on us to at least *consider* individually what the Spirit might be doing in each person. That doesn't mean any woman recommended should be bishop. It does mean when a woman is nominated (for we do vote for our bishops) we should at least consider whether she has demonstrated those spiritual gifts that would indicate a true vocation. (And for many of us, you can simply say "any person.")

And, since we see this as a challenge to the Holy Spirit, I think the Episcopal Church might consider signing onto the Ridley Cambridge draft of an Anglican Covenant so that we might challenge such an anti-Spirit decision of the Church of England. For if we continue to state that we ordain bishops for "the whole Church," then surely that also includes those of us who believe God might call any person God chooses to any ministry in the Church.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 2:43pm BST

"I think the Episcopal Church might consider signing onto the Ridley Cambridge draft of an Anglican Covenant so that we might challenge such an anti-Spirit decision of the Church of England"

So, TEC sees this as a call from God and is determined to act on Her own to follow that perceived call from God, regardless of what anyone else in the world says, because TEC's confidence in Her discermnemnt of God's will is so absolute that anyone anywhere else who opposes it or is upset by it is in some way wrong. What's more, given TEC's confidence that She has discerned God's will, She gets to oppose anyone in the Church who disagrees with Her, because they are being being "anti-Spirit". The rest of the world is wrong and only TEC has actually discerned the will of God? I admit, it wouldn't be the fist time that God has called a tiny minority to challenge the fossilized notions of the vast majority. But you can't really get all bewlidered and hurt when the rest of the world calls this attitude arrogant.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 3:32pm BST

I can just about follow the logic that women, in some magical way, *cannot* not be priests or bishops, and that you might therefore have to ensure that there are ways of identifying those male priests who have been consecrated by a female bishop.

I cannot see the theological justification for shunning a male bishop who has or will ordain women priests and consecrate women bishops.
Is "I don't like his theology" now a valid theological reason for refusing to accept a bishop?
Presumably, the male priests he ordained would be no less valid because he also ordained some "invalid" women priests. Or is there some kind of invisible sideways contamination?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 3:34pm BST

There was an article, several years ago now, which argued in some detail that having a Queen Regnant in England overthrows two of the arguments against women bishops, viz. (1) the argument that women should not have authority over men (which people sometimes try to dodge by claiming that Paul only means authority in the church: the author demonstrates that, even if that were true, Queens Regnant do in fact exercise authority in the church), and (2) that a woman cannot be an icon of Jesus Christ, since Jesus Christ is a man (the author shows that the coronation ritual for Queens Regnant use masculine-gender language to depict the queen as an icon of Jesus Christ as King).

The reference is: Houghton, John W. 'No bishop, no queen : queens regnant and the ordination of women'. Anglican and Episcopal History, 67:1 (1998), 2-25. ISSN 08968039.

4 May+

Posted by: 4 May 1535+ on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 6:03pm BST

Simon and others - for this clarification, much thanks. Institutional rhetoric - on either side of the pond - often tends towards the opaque.


"I cannot see the theological justification for shunning a male bishop who has or will ordain women priests and consecrate women bishops.
Is "I don't like his theology" now a valid theological reason for refusing to accept a bishop?
Presumably, the male priests he ordained would be no less valid because he also ordained some "invalid" women priests. Or is there some kind of invisible sideways contamination?"

"Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine" ... nor will lips that have touched not touched liquor but have touched lips that have touched liquor touch mine...

Or maybe when the bishop laid hands on the woman, she contaminated the bishop's hands ...

But male bishops lay hands on women when they confirm ...

This sounds silly, but it is evil in its irrational misogyny.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 6:07pm BST

My, my, how high a dudgeon some people get into when it is suggested that the Covenant might be a two-edged sword, and that it would enable the C of E itself to be called into question.

Ford, I think you have missed some irony in Marshall's post. What you are calling "arrogant" is the attitude that much of the world has been displaying to the Episcopal Church for the past several decades. How does it feel when the tables are hypothetically turned? Are you worried for the C of E's autonomy? Perhaps this is a good argument against the Ridley draft?

Please also remember that the Church of England has no authority in the United States. The Episcopal Church broke with the Church of England more than 200 years ago. TEC is politically and organizationally independent. Which is why it has been ordaining women bishops for the past 20 years.

As have, by the way, other Anglican churches -- Canada, New Zealand, and Australia among them. So when you look at who ordains women to the episcopate, it is hardly TEC against "the rest of the world."

You have denounced the TEC's "arrogance" in ordaining women. I would salute TEC's leadership.

One shudders to think, however, of what would have happened, had some sort of covenant been in place when the ordination of women was first proposed.

No Anglican covenant!

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:28pm BST

"So, TEC sees this..." Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 12 October 2009 at 3:32pm BST

Ford, the above really seems like a pre-written post that merely awaited a U.S. Episcopalian (ANY U.S. Episcopalian will do!) speaking in a way upon which you could hang your response.

[Did it never occur to you that Marshall was speaking more than a little tongue-in-cheek? If TEC *were* to hoist the CofE on its own Covenantal petard, it wouldn't be because TEC brought said petard to the AC in the first place! ;-/]

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:59pm BST

Re Ford's comments
I think that TEC has already followed its own best lights... as has CofE. Despite what "any one else the world thinks" (i.e., Rome) the CofE went its own way four hundred and fifty years ago. Since then, Rome has held that NO Anglican orders are valid. Therefore, in their eyes we have been without deacons, priests and bishops ever since. At some point, you make your best judgment and act with as much integrity as you can muster despite the disagreement of a few or many. That's really nothing new.

I don't agree that TEC should sign the Ridley Cambridge draft because as things stand now we, as a body, don't agree in full with the statement.

Arrogant? Perhaps just honest.

Lou Poulain
Sunnyvale CA USA

Posted by: Lou Poulain on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 11:02pm BST

Blessed Ford, Kind Ford, Gentle Ford:

For goodness sakes! Jeremy and Lou did at least understand that my point was more about inter-Anglican relations and what "interdependence" as defined functionally in the Ridley Cambridge draft might mean on issues other than glbt Christians.

You write, "So, TEC sees this as a call from God and is determined to act on Her own to follow that perceived call from God, regardless of what anyone else in the world says, because TEC's confidence in Her discermnemnt of God's will is so absolute that anyone anywhere else who opposes it or is upset by it is in some way wrong." I want to answer, "Well, of course!"; but that doesn't really get to the point. Of course we determined that God might call women to any order after a lot of theological reflection, largely on what it meant to be human as opposed to male or female. How could we have taken that step without that conviction? And having that conviction, how could we not take that step? And having that conviction that God is in this, how else would we hear someone who said, "God is not in this!"? Is it arrogance? Perhaps; but it was arrived at with good theological work, and not simply convenience (statements by detractors notwithstanding).

In any case, my point was as much about an Anglican Covenant as the differences between the American Church and the English Church in the process of reception of ordination of women to all orders (a process that the Windsor Report blithely, not to say scurrilously, glossed).

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 1:04am BST

"But you can't really get all bewlidered and hurt when the rest of the world calls this attitude arrogant." - Ford Elms -

Ford, I think it has long been the opinion of many of those who do not agree with the words and deeds of Christians - that we are arrogant. In fact, I think this was probably in the minds of the scribes and Pharisees, when they came to hear of Jesus as being 'Son of God'. So the appearance of arrogance, of itself, does not deny the validity of the actions of Christians who believe that they are obeying the call of the Holy Spirit to do whatever their consicence calls them to do. The same, of course, may be said of those who 'resist the Holy Spirit', and arrogate to themselves any sort of inspiration of that same Spirit to resist innovation.

Humility was the watchword of Jesus. And when the Church is humble enough to believe that God may just be 'doing a new thing' in affirming women and gays as authentic ministers in God's Church; then we may all be able to sit down together around the Table of the Lord and enjoy the bounty God has set before us, as Children of the Kingdom.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 2:04am BST

Something I've never really understood about the no-women-can-be-priests (much-less-bishops) people who nonetheless remain in the C-of-E, especially those who are themselves ordained: if the church is so wrong (heretical?) as to ordain woman, does that in itself not call into question the validity of ALL its ordinations? My ordination rests on the integrity of my church (C-of-E), and isn't that so for all my fellow priests men as well as women? Is the C-of-E part of the holy, catholic, and apostolic church or is it not? And if I am not a priest, because I am a woman, why does my bishop (who won't ordain women to the priesthood) license me? Is that not fobbing off heretics to the faithful? I've never received an answer to this question.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 8:11am BST

"And if I am not a priest, because I am a woman, why does my bishop (who won't ordain women to the priesthood) license me?" - Sara McVane -

Well, Sara. perhaps it's because of your bishop's understanding of the biblical idea of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

Seriously, it is because of this classic double-mindedness on the part of the anti-W.O. faction in the Church that makes even non-churchgoers wonder what we are really all about. Integrity cannot ever be divided into two realities. And it is this '2 integrities' fallacy that has got the Church into its present impossible situation.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 10:33am BST

You base your case on the voting figures on an amendment. Amendments often get through or are voted down in a vote by houses with a slim majority one way or the other. Then at the final stage votes swing.

The crucial thing is that at the final vote GS voted overwhelmingly for a statutory code of practice and this vote should be respected.

Statutory transfer of responsibilities is demeaning to women and contrary to the Catholic order of the Church. The consecration of these said 'special men' will cause further huge problems.

Posted by: Jean Mary Mayland on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 11:04am BST

"the above really seems like a pre-written post"

Nope. Straight off the top of my head over my morning coffee.

"Is "I don't like his theology" now a valid theological reason for refusing to accept a bishop?"

It always was, wasn't it?

"Ford, I think you have missed some irony in Marshall's post."

I see that now. My sarcasm meter was not working.

"You have denounced the TEC's "arrogance" in ordaining women."

"Denounced"? I don't think it's a denunciation to point out that, regardless how nicely you say it, regardless how much it's about TEC's (and I'm Canadian, and left the Church for a long time over this, so I know it isn't only TEC) confidence that it is perceiving God's will for TEC, if when the rest of the Church worldwide is expressing deep convictions that your actions are wrong, the rest of the world is going to feel that you have told them, in all Christian love, mind, to get stuffed and will see that as arrogance.

"TEC is politically and organizationally independent"

The Church is universal, "one great fellowship of love" and all that.

"when the Church is humble enough to believe that God may just be 'doing a new thing'"

And Nigeria would claim they are humble enough to accept that God is doing an old thing. Why are God's "new things" valid, when the "old things" aren't? Not saying God doesn't do "new things", or even that He would call one national Church to one thing and others to something else. But, when a Church believes that it has discerned a call to something new, when no-one else in the world at the time is perceiving that call and all express their concern, I would think that humility would prevent you from acting on it, no matter how confident you are of your own discernment process. And, TEC moved first, and illegally at the time unless I am mistaken, in ordaining women. Regardless of how nicely it's expressed, that's still going to be seen as telling everybody else to get stuffed, and the reaction to that should come as no surprise.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 2:03pm BST

Sara, after the decison to ordain women in 1992 the CofE entered into a period of reception where the "rightness or otherwise" of such action could be discerned. In the lifetime of the church 17 years is not along time to discern, and the ordination of women to the Episcopate certainly brings to an end that period of reception

Posted by: Ian on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 3:12pm BST

"does that in itself not call into question the validity of ALL its ordinations?"

The point is very much like this, actually. For those who oppose OOW, the only sacrament a woman can celebrate is baptism, since any layperson can do that. So, for them, any Eucharist celebrated by a woman is no Eucharist at all. Neither can she celebrate a marriage, at least not sacramentally. If a woman were to become a bishop, it would be even worse, since then none of the priests she ordained would actually be ordained, therefor, none of their sacraments are sacraments either. What's more, for her or anyone she ordains, any churchess they consecrated would actually not be consecrated, any confirmations would not be confirmations, any sick person seeking unction would not acutally receive it, anyone who confesses to them would not receive absolution. Now, what about the sacraments of a bishop who ordains a woman? As far as I am aware, dodgy theology does not negate a sacrament, so no, such a bishop's sacraments wouls still be valid.

You do know I don't believe this stuff, right? I can make the arguments, but I don't agree with them. Just saying.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 4:53pm BST

Then let me explain it Sara, the church is my family and I cannot leave it or not as I do not believe in consumerist approaches to faith. My family is my family when behaving well or not.

As it happens I place little store in synod to vote on matters of sacred doctrine, preferring the authority of scripture, reason and tradition. And, whilst I do think my church is in error, my ordination vows are not to strop off but to call her back to a position of faithfulness.

Or put more crudely- I am faithful to my church to a certain point BUT when asked to choose between non-biblical synodical innovation or the teaching of scripture I shall choose the latter. After all I know the authors of both!

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 6:06pm BST

"TEC is politically and organizationally independent"

The Church is universal, "one great fellowship of love" and all that."

Only that to most people, there is the universal body of Christ to which every Christian belongs, and then there are different independent churches and denominations and each of us has joined ours for our own personal reasons - you too, I expect. There must be a reason you're not a Baptist or a Pentecostalist.

Pretending that it isn't so and that churches can't make their own decisions when they patently do, isn't really helping.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 7:01pm BST

""Is "I don't like his theology" now a valid theological reason for refusing to accept a bishop?"

It always was, wasn't it?"

You should read Dr Judith Maltby's essay Simon linked to on another post.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 7:05pm BST

I believe this completely reinterprets the Catholic understanding of what is a bishop.

The CofE cannot introduce this novelty without consulting the other churches in the communion and our ecumenical partners.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 7:54pm BST

Ford:

"But, when a Church believes that it has discerned a call to something new, when no-one else in the world at the time is perceiving that call and all express their concern, I would think that humility would prevent you from acting on it, no matter how confident you are of your own discernment process. And, TEC moved first, and illegally at the time unless I am mistaken, in ordaining women. Regardless of how nicely it's expressed, that's still going to be seen as telling everybody else to get stuffed, and the reaction to that should come as no surprise."

Isn't the situation you describe as fitting to Martin Luther and the founders of the CoE as to TEC today? Is everyone who discerns a new call from the Spirit to wait for the rest of the world to catch up? How long? A decade? Two? Ten?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 8:58pm BST

Ed:

"As it happens I place little store in synod to vote on matters of sacred doctrine, preferring the authority of scripture, reason and tradition."

Ah, but whose "reason"? Only your own? Can others not reason and come up with different answers? And if, acting in concert in synod (or in my church, convention), the church reasons together and decides that the Spirit is, indeed, calling them to a "new thing," is your own reason superior to theirs?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 9:02pm BST

You rasie the right point and highlight why I doubt the validity of WO, reason alone is fallibnle. It needs the backing of scripture and tradition. THat is the point. Reason alone is little more than feeling and opinion

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 11:21pm BST

"the CofE went its own way four hundred and fifty years ago. Since then, Rome has held that NO Anglican orders are valid. Therefore, in their eyes we have been without deacons, priests and bishops ever since." - Loy Poulain, on Monday -

I agree with you, Lou. Those who disagree with the concept of women's sacerdotal ministry are basing their understanding mainly on the catholic and apostolic exclusivity claims of the sodality you have mentioned here - the Roman Catholic Church. What the priests and bishops among them seem to have forgotten is precisely this: that after the Church of England was re-aligned at the Reformation, Rome no longer regarded our clergy as having been validly ordained. Thus, ipso facto, these Anglican Clergy cannot even claim to be, in the often-stated view of their R.C. friends, validly ordained into either the diaconate, the priesthood, or the episcopate - as the R.C. Church understands the process.

So why do they insist on still clinging to the idea that somehow (by osmosis perhaps?) they can claim that Rome would take seriously, their position in claiming a complementarity of Orders? Whether they like it or not, they are, presently, part of a Reformed Catholic and Apostolic Church that has approved the ordination of women to the priesthood, and is contemplating approving their ministry as bishops - of the Church of England, and not the Church of Rome.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 11:41pm BST

Martin Reynolds, you have a point. So, perhaps the Church of England should consult with Anglicans in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Perhaps the Church of England should consult with the Church of Sweden and other Lutheran bodies in communion with Anglican bodies. Speak to the Methodists in England, and especially to London District Chair Jenny Impey (yes, she's on a collaborative team of three District Chairs, but she's a woman in a position of oversight - episkope.)

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 2:24am BST

"You raise the right point and highlight why I doubt the validity of WO, reason alone is fallible. It needs the backing of scripture and tradition. That is the point. Reason alone is little more than feeling and opinion"

Then you believe that the Spirit stopped talking to us all 2000 years ago? That once the scriptures were written and tradition established, nothing could change? Then why aren't we still part of the Roman tradition?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 2:59am BST

"The CofE cannot introduce this novelty without consulting the other churches in the communion and our ecumenical partners."

Not to mention doing the theology.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 3:29am BST

Ed

I think in the light of the huge amount of theology that was done over the decades of the discernment process, you will have to show a little more precisely which papers and which people's contributions don't meet your criteria for taking into account scripture and tradition.

Simply slandering those you don't agree with by saying their views are based on reason that is little more than feeling and opinion is not really engaging with this at the appropriate level.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 8:26am BST

"As it happens I place little store in synod to vote on matters of sacred doctrine, preferring the authority of scripture, reason and tradition."
- Ed Tomlinson, on Tuesday -

So, Ed, where would you place the authority to pronounce on the Doctrine of the Church of England? Would it be yourself, or the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Patriarch, perhaps?
Your ideas about synodical government are at odds with what the Anglican Churches around the world might consider to be the norm - for Anglicans.

Now, if you were a Roman Catholic, or an Eastern Orthodox, you would have to wait for a 'papal' pronouncement of either the Holy Father or the Patriarch. We don't have these in our Reformed tradition. If this is what you are looking for, then why are you an Anglican?

If you were really tied to the pronouncements of the Scriptures, we would still be stoning women caught in the act of adultery. Is this what you would prefer - to the application of reason?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 11:25am BST

Perhaps I was too elliptical.

I believe the gender of those made bishop is of no account. I have no doubt that in time all the Churches will concur and be embarrassed by their delay.

But bishops are bishops and what this revision committee is suggesting makes women less than a bishop - it creates a new creature.

While I have no doubt the CofE is competent to admit women to all three Orders - it is NOT competent to create a new Order of semi-bishop for women and the men who ordain them.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 7:12pm BST

"While I have no doubt the CofE is competent to admit women to all three Orders - it is NOT competent to create a new Order of semi-bishop for women and the men who ordain them."
- Martin Reynolds -

Not to mention that other strange order of Bishops - of the 'Flying' variety, male only, whose sole use, apparently, would be to minister to those in the Church of England who have said they will not tolerate their Church's proposal to ordain women as bishops. What does this say about the universality of the episcopacy? One hopes these Flying Bishops are all celibate - in order to comply with that degree of 'catholicity' that pertains to the Mother Church of Rome, with whom the purists long to be reconciled.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 10:49pm BST
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