Monday, 12 October 2009

women bishops: Inclusive Church press release

Inclusive Church Press Release
12 October 2009
The Decision of the Revision Committee

Inclusive Church is deeply disturbed by the recent announcement of the Church of England’s Revision Committee. It has moved away from the expressed will of General Synod in July 2008 - that there should be legislation to consecrate women as bishops on the same terms as men with an additional code of practice containing arrangements for those who do not accept the authority of bishops who are women.

Their decision reflects a further undermining of the Anglican understanding of the role of the Bishop as the pastor of, and focus of unity in the Diocese. If implemented it will inevitably create a two-tier institution with little prospect of long-term unity.

The impact of this on those within and outside the church will be immense. The bias shown against women in this proposal will mean that the church continues to be seen as institutionally discriminatory towards them. The impression given is of an organisation which perpetuates injustice, undermining its ability to witness to Christ in the world. It ignores the considerable gifts ordained women have to offer within the Episcopate. Men and women should be present on the same terms.

We urge the Revision Committee to reconsider its decision and prepare legislation, as it was requested, to open the Episcopate to women with a national code of practice to be drafted separately.

www.inclusivechurch2.net
Revd Canon Giles Goddard
The parish of St John with St Andrew Waterloo
Chair, Inclusive Church
Secker St
London SE1 8UF
07762 373 674

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Comments

I'm confused and hope I will be forgiven for asking a naive question on the decision-making process in the CofE : if Synod has voted on and decided upon a recommendation and tasked a committee with carrying out that recommendation, how can that committee then not do what it was tasked to do? Are committees some sort of 'Synod 2' that can overturn Synodical decisions they don't like?

Giles Goddard is right. I am someone 'outside the church' and, yes, I am given the impression of an organisation that perpetuates injustice.

Posted by: Laurence on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 7:16pm BST

"If implemented it will inevitably create a two-tier institution with little prospect of long-term unity." Absolutely correct. Has the Church learned nothing from the Flying Bishop experience?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 8:21pm BST

If this attempt to subvert Synod comes as proposed legislation in February, it deserves to be voted down flatly by women and their supporters.

By going in this direction the Revision Committee has raised the stakes: those who want women as bishops must now go for a one-clause measure or nothing.

Posted by: M. Mouse on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 8:59pm BST

This is the best response I have seen so far. But will anyone listen?

Posted by: Andy on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:04pm BST

"The impression given is of an organisation which perpetuates injustice, undermining its ability to witness to Christ in the world."

Exactly. Well put, Giles, thank you for saying this - someone needs to tell the Emperor he's wearing no clothes!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 12 October 2009 at 9:31pm BST

The Revision Committee's proposal certainly does *ignore the considerable gifts ordained women have to offer within the episcopate* - per Giles Goddard's response to the proposed legislation - and provokes the understandable wonder of those of us who question the integrity of special treatment for Anglicans who may not agree with the Church of England General Synod's expressed intention to ordain women into the episcopate.

Those of us who enjoy the ministry of women within the provinces of the Anglican Communion, are still perplexed by the continuing arguments against the possibility of God's call upon women to share in the total ministry of the Church of England and other Churches of the Communion.

Having, ourselves, survived the process of the calling and election of women to the episcopate, with no division in our provincial churches as a result, we are wondering what extreme theological objection may still be maintained by those whose catholic and apostolic claims do not fall within the Roman or Eastern Orthodox camp - thereby requiring them to submit to those male-only concepts of priestly ministry.

Surely, if their membership of the Anglican Church has survived the ordination of women as priests, their theological objections to women's ministry, per se, have already been compromised.
If they still claim membership of the Anglican ethos, then the provision of special status within that Communion cannot distance them from the fact that the Church in which they are communicant members does allow women to minister as clergy.

The only way for those who object, to totally avoid the ministry of women, is to remove themselves from the Anglican Church, and to become either Roman Catholics or Orthodox. The extension of ministerial ordination to the episcopate cannot be considerered different, theologically, from ordination to the episcopate -whether the ordinand be female or male. Ordination is ordination in both cases.

To continue the farcical nature of a two-tier membership of the Church - whether in the House of Laity, the House of Clergy, or the House of Bishops is a direct contradiction of that Unity for which Christ prayed, and which the Church - in each of its constituent entities - prays for.

We of the Provincial Churches of the Anglican Communion are looking to our Mother Province to lead us in ways of Faith, Hope and Charity, and to show to the world the inclusive way of the Gospel. Ministerial apart-heid simply cannot work.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 12:33am BST

I'd like to suggest the formation of "The Second Tier Anglican Communion." Anyone else like to join me in it?

"The first shall be last, and the last first." --Jesus (on several occasions)

Posted by: Bill Moorhead on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 12:55am BST

I fear that this will turn out to be like the Irish referendum on membership of the EEC. Rowan williams didn't like the answer synod gave, so he set up a revision committee and then they'll vote on it again. And I guess that if he doesn't like the answer next time either, he'll keep asking them the question until he gets the answer he wants. Synod has said it wants a single system. Scrap this mendacious report and act on the decision of synod already clearly expressed.

Posted by: toby forward on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 11:13am BST

Why stop at using the Bishop's gender or theology as an excuse to switch Bishops? Why not include any category of dislike? (e.g. my bishop is an ass, or my bishop roots for the wrong sports team, my bishop smells funny, etc.)

Maybe the Quakers are on to something? (no clergy at all)

Posted by: Deacon Charlie Perrin on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 1:32pm BST

Whilst basically agreeing with the sentiments expressed by Father Ron above, I feel I have to remind him that his two references to "Anglican Church" are quite erroneous. There is no such thing. An Anglican *Communion* - fine but it is composed of *independent* national churches ... and long may it remain so! We need women bishops. We don't need an Anglican Covenant.

Posted by: RPNewark on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 1:53pm BST

I am totally in favour of women bishops and think that those who are against WO generally are wrong. However, since not all of them are misogynist or bigoted but rather base their objections on two main things (there are others but these will do) - Church tradition from Jesus on and the need (alleged) to coordinate innovation with the RC and Orthodox churches, and since - there being so many variables, to each of which different people attach different weight - it is impossible to construct an argument which will convince everybody, I am in favour (yes, reluctantly) of giving these people what they think they need to remain with integrity within the C of E.

For these reasons, I think the present statement is lazy and low-grade.

It is true that the Revision Committee has moved away from the expressed will of General Synod in July 2008 - that there should be legislation to consecrate women as bishops on the same terms as men with an additional code of practice containing arrangements for those who do not accept the authority of bishops who are women. BUT: everybody knew, especially with some of the members (Baker, Jarrett, et al.) and especially with heavy winks from Williams, Sentamu and Wright, that the Committee in practice had a wider brief.

It seems to me distinctly odd - and, often, downright hypocritical and distasteful - for 'liberals' to invoke 'proper procedure'/ 'decisions duly taken' as absolutes, when liberals so often ignore or 'disobey' the same when carried by conservatives.

The same applies to the undermining of the role of Bishops - often enough, it is a positively good thing to undermine it. We have to observe reciprocity here.

As for 'two-tier institution with little prospect of long-term unity', that is what we have now and you can't just steam-roller people into unanimity.

I could go on. But this statement is shoddy.

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 2:35pm BST

This is the worst response I have seen so far, will anybody listen?

Truth is that, in the aftermath of Synod, at which Rowan's will was ignored, many people felt very unhappy at the complete lack of charity shown to those of a traditional theology.

WHilst using the language of inclusion, inclusive church are simply seeking to exclude those who will not sign up to their singular vision.

For me the Sunday programme revealed all. A very uncompromising WATCH rep, showed no compassion in response to a thoughtful Fr. Houlding.

When will our liberals learn to be liberal?

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 2:56pm BST

One more time, EdT: "inclusive" means affirming all God-given *immutable factors*, like race, gender, sexual orientation, and physical ability.

It does NOT mean affirming all OPINIONS! (Would you have the Church affirm those who do not believe that Christ is divine, for example?)

I can't help but suspecting that anti-WO forces want their precious isolation, so they can avoid dealing w/ the *cognitive dissonance* of their position: "Don't confuse me w/ the facts, my mind is made up already!"

Lord have mercy...

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 8:20pm BST

Sorry, Toby. Clearly you think everything is a personal failing on the part of ++Rowan. But, disagree with him though we might, this revision committee is standard Synod procedure and nothing directly to do with Rowan at all. Why all this Rowan bashing? And is it any more Christian than what you want to overturn?

Posted by: M. Mouse on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 9:07pm BST

"It seems to me distinctly odd - and, often, downright hypocritical and distasteful - for 'liberals' to invoke 'proper procedure'/ 'decisions duly taken' as absolutes, when liberals so often ignore or 'disobey' the same when carried by conservatives.
- John, on Tuesday -

John, I think you may be just a little ingenuous here. Surely the 'Absolutists' are those who will not listen to the advocates of change? Arguments for women in the Church have been presented, time and time again by the apologists (not all of them theological 'liberals', by the way) but there is a stubborn unwillingness on the part of the anti-WO traditionalists to see sweet reason on this most important issue.

If women had not been allowed to become priests in the Church of England (long after other Provinces of the Communion had justified their inclusion in sacerdotal ministry) ten years ago, the C.of E. would likely not be able to prosper -especially in places where there are no stipends available, and women are manning the barriers without being paid. Perhaps it would take a wholesale refusal of these loyal women clergy to continue their thankless, for the C.of E. to wake up to the logistics of ministry.

Jesus met the very same obstinacy and downright unwillingness to change inherited theology about many things in the 'Church' of his day. I'm sure, if he were to visit in our era, he would have upset the status quo in the Church of England long before this - demanding that the Church wake up to its responsibility to bring every resource into the propagation of the Gospel. The Church is no longer an Old Boys Club. Neither is it a sinecure for out-dated social and institutional anomolies. The Gospel ('Good News to All') is so sorely needed in today's world - perhaps as never before. Is the Church going to renege on its newly-presented commitment to answer God's call to inclusive ministry? The judgement is now!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 10:55pm BST

Hi M Mouse (by the way, my name is toby forward, what is your name?). It's not Rowan bashing, it's identifying a problem and naming it. The Archbishop of Canterbury made a strong plea for a particular approach. This was ignored by Synod, which voted the other way. As Chair of Synod he now has a duty to implement the decision of Synod, not to enocurage a Revision Committee to bring forward a proposals which overturn the mind of Synod. Revision is revision, not a volte-face.
Clearly, not everything is a personal failing of Rowan Williams, but too many things are for us to ignore the fact.
Is it Christian of me to accuse him of inconsistency with his past statements and with poor leadership, and with bullying and intimidation? I don't think so. I'm happy to agree with Peter Selby. It would be a happy release for RW and for the Church if he were to leave office.

Posted by: toby forward on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 8:26am BST

Ron....your argument borders on the insane when you say this:

'John, I think you may be just a little ingenuous here. Surely the 'Absolutists' are those who will not listen to the advocates of change?'

I would bid you to think globally of Christ's church on earth. THe Absolutists number well over 95% of the family. You can place Roman Catholics AND Eastern Orthodox into that number. Hence at July's synod our ecumenical partner from the EO church underlined the fact that they see NO THEOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATION for the ordination of women.

Now you might well believe that your tiny rump of post modern liberals who have influenced matters here and in America are prophetic. Fine and I salute you, but to suggest those who will not listen are unreasonable and awkward is bordering on hubris the likes of which I have seldom seen.

Fact is I am backed in my view by the Council of Nicea (who explicitly ruled against WO), Augustine, Athanasius, Mother Teresa, John Paul II, Pope Benedict, C S Lewis, Bartholomew the Ecumencial Patriarch and virtually ALL the saints down the ages

You stand with Gene Robinson, Christina Rees and...well you get my drift. Sorry but to paint those theologically opposed to WO as a) mysogynist b) outdated and stubborn is a deliberate refusal to listen to what WE are saying. It does you no credit whatsoever Sir!

You might have a majority of support within this very decadent, self obsessed culture with a twisted understanding of what equality means....but you most certainly do not have a monopoly on sound theological argument or support within the church of the ages.

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 8:31am BST

Ed: "I would bid you think globally..."

Remember that 79% of French Mass-goers are in favour of women's ordination, and half of all the Spanish clergy - usually regarded as the most conservative in Europe - as I've posted up here http://viaintegra.wordpress.com/women-priests-in-europe/

Is there any doubt that one would find similar figures for the Roman Catholics in the other European countries? Who knows what the beliefs of global Roman Catholics really are, when no-one at the top troubles to ask the faithful anything at all, in case the reply is too disturbing?

There is no point in using the "globally, churches are against WO" argument (the RC Church thinks that our male ordination was totally null and utterly void, of course). The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have very disjointed relationships between their hierarchies and the sensus fidelium, a system that will surely prove untenable unless it is reformed before long. Would you like to live with the moral doublethink consequent upon the Roman Catholic system of locking down debate on issues of gender and sexual ethics such as contraception, for example? I don't think it is a model that Anglicans, even rabid Anglo-Catholics like us, generally view positively.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 10:49am BST

"Hence at July's synod our ecumenical partner from the EO church underlined the fact that they see NO THEOLOGICAL JUSTIFICATION for the ordination of women. - Fr. Ed Tomlinson -

Fr. Ed., I can understand your distress at being told that you, yourself, may be an absolutist - but that is what, demonstrably on this site, you have turned out to be. However, you are not an Eastern Orthodox priest, neither are you (I tend to think) a Roman Catholic. So why the need to side with them on issues which the Church of England has already determined - by its own free polity - to challenge. If you want to totally identify with the E.O. or the R.C.C., then why, for goodness' sake, are you not ministering from within their constituency - thus leaving the Church of England to decide for itself (which it has done - by a majority vote) to pursue its own understanding of what inclusive ministry, in this day and age, of Christ's Church is all about?

Your reluctance to accept what your parent Church has decided to do already - to ordain women to sacerdotal ministry, and to allow the ordination of women to the episcopate - would indicate that you are unwilling to accept your own Church of England's right to pursue its prophetic stance on women's ordination. From your point of view, you must surely realise it is hardly going to reverse what has already become part and parcel of its ordination polity, so why imagine you are ever going to be satisfied with what seems good to the Holy Spirit and the Church of England on this very important and basic shift away from the *absolutism* of the E.O. and R.C. Churches?

There are different views between the E.O. and R.C. Churches on other matters - like married clergy, for instance. Do you subscribe to the prohibition of married clergy yourself? If not, you can hardly claim to see eye to eye with all theological issues either Church espouses. You cannot have your cake and eat it. Choices have to be made by all of us. I'm an Anglican, and glad that our Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand acts in a pragmatic and prophetic way that meets the needs of God's people in our country. If I were to think differently about what our Church stands for, I would feel bound to move to another branch of the Church which suited my theology.

Are you saying, in your quote above, that the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church suits you better than that of your present jurisdiction? Then integrity may be demanding your change of allegiance - to suit your theology. If you can no longer live with the very thought of women as priests and bishops, you may be in the wrong denominational expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The alternative?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 10:54am BST

Ed T:

In Jesus' time, well over 95% of his co-religionists would have called him a blasphemer, a heretic, or possibly even possessed by demons.

Since when have numbers got anything to do with being right?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 11:08am BST

To hold now, as Giles does, that the Revision Committee decision '...reflects a further undermining of the Anglican understanding of the role of the Bishop as the pastor of, and focus of unity in the Diocese." is problematic in that this is exactly the argument that the opponents of OWE use.

If unity is to be the key characteristic of the episcopate (and I don't accept that this is a strong case) then Giles' argument entails the expulsion or the subjection of those who continue to believe what the church until recently taught.

Doesn't sound very inclusive to me.

To argue that the Revision Committee is frustrating the will of Synod misses the point: the Revision Committee is intended to revise; to suggest change where change seems necessary and present back to Synod the fruits of its deliberations. To suggest that somehow it should simply enact blindly what the Synod has willed would turn it into an implementation committee. The Synod has processes precisely so that the will and intention of Synod can be tested. Who's afraid of that?

I am still wrestling with the issue of the ordination of women to the episcopate. I would describe myself as a supporter of it but not a campaigner for it. I think it could be done in time and with great care, but I am not convinced by the arguments so far advanced by those who campaign for it instantly. I see little evidence that the proposers of it want to take any pains about it all and am deeply depressed by the want of charity now being expressed towards those who do find it difficult.

Posted by: Fr Jon on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 11:29am BST

"I think it could be done in time and with great care, but I am not convinced by the arguments so far advanced by those who campaign for it instantly"

Well, if the theology to support women bishops has been accepted, there can be no further reasons to delay, other than playing politics.
Is that what the church is charged with - playing politics when its own theology points in the other direction?
I would find that quite shameful.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 3:31pm BST

"Since when have numbers got anything to do with being right?"

Good point! It's why I cannot accept synod's attempts to change doctrine by a majority vote.

Posted by: David Malloch on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 4:35pm BST

A few weeks ago I sang at my once-a-year Temple gig (Yom Kippur), and it being the largest temple in northeast Ohio, has had in it's employ a female cantor for over twenty years. It isn't an issue in the oldest western religion, so what gives?

Oh, and I sing at the "break-away" Anglo-Catholic (Anglican Catholic, known tongue-in-cheek as "Our Lady of Raging Queens" here locally) where the paid choir outnumbers the rest of the congregation (including the male-only club doing whatever it is that they do at the altar) for the St. Michael mass. They have money, but intereaction with the local neighborhood is nonexistent. Fairmont Temple however is the single largest supporter of United Way and the Cleveland Jewish Federation.

I know that numbers shouldn't be used in this argument, but the self-evidence of such points to a ludicrous result of walling oneself off with absolutes. It's not just a theological argument, it's an attitude thing.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 5:02pm BST

In another context Bruggeman uses the words 'provisional and penultimate' doesn't that describe all of us who are ordained until that day when we see no longer in a glass darkly but face to face; when we know even also as we are known?

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 7:50pm BST

""Since when have numbers got anything to do with being right?"

Good point! It's why I cannot accept synod's attempts to change doctrine by a majority vote."

Then is doctrine never to be changed at all?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 9:50pm BST

Erika - thank you.

When synod voted for women priests in 1992 the decision was received (with one notorious and appalling exception) in silence; what joy there was was muted in respect for the pain of those who had lost the vote. A supporter of the ordination of women to the priesthood, I was immensely proud of my church that day.

Delaying now is not about playing politics. There are few politics left in this issue; those on the catholic wing accept that it will lose this vote but intend to try and stay in the church which has been theirs in may cases since birth, and from which they feel they are now being ejected.

The reason for a delay might well be that you understand this; that you know that in making this change you are about to do will cause pain and you might want to think about being pastoral whilst doing that and that may take some time to sort out.

It's not about causes and campaigns and rights but about how you live with division and difference.

I am thankful that the one or two clearly gifted women that I know who might well be eligible for consideration for the episcopate appear to have far more awareness of this dimension than many of their supporters.



Posted by: Fr Jon on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 10:42pm BST

Fairmount Temple...I remember it well as a beacon of justice and tolerance in Cleveland ...Choirboy, are you old enough to remember Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld? There was a man committed to liberation through non-violence -- beaten with a tire iron during the Freedom Summer of 1964 in Mississippi. His story can't be told too often.

Posted by: Charlotte on Wednesday, 14 October 2009 at 11:02pm BST

Sorry Charlotte, I don't, although the service there is very moving. And a nice one at that, you sing behind a screen, so you can 'come as you are!' And the gig pays GREAT [Hello Anglican Communion!], because the Jews don't do anything half-simple.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 2:37am BST

(Stinking cold, can't sleep, hence ridiculous hour.)

Fr Jon,

You articulate cleanly what some of us grope for.

'I was immensely proud of my church that day.'

Pride in the C of E - and in Anglicanism - is in dreadfully short supply, both generally and over the handling of this particular issue. I wish our leaders would express it more. Some don't appear to feel it much, if at all. Personally, I can't imagine belonging to another church nor can I conceive of a better one.

'Those on the catholic wing accept that it will lose this vote but intend to try and stay in the church which has been theirs in may cases since birth, and from which they feel they are now being ejected.'

Yes. One effect of the most recent turn of events has been to flush out the genuine loyalty of these people to the C of E and to tease out their theological thinking with some clarity. Look (for example) at the statements of Fr Ed (much beloved of TA) or Fr T E Jones of Wapping. They're not remotely misogynist (or homophobe). They run beautiful churches and run them well. One doesn't have to empathise with everything they do - this is the C of E, famed for its breadth, tolerance, and mutual love (???).

'Being pastoral'.

That's the key.

'It's not about causes and campaigns and rights but about how you live with division and difference.'

Slight qualification: women priests, about to produce women bishops, do have 'rights', but, funnily enough, these are (at least now) acknowledged by the opponents of WO.

My own view is that FiF people will get what they need, that women bishops will follow in reasonable time, and that 'both sides' will then pull together as never before, thereby showing the world that it is indeed possible to 'live with difference' in a loving way.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 4:16am BST

"... well over 95% of the family. You can place Roman Catholics AND Eastern Orthodox into that number."

The Hierarchy, the others you don't know a thing about - but many seem not to agree ;=)

As for the "Tradition" argument, it doesn't hold water that I know of.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 7:29am BST

John - thank you.

'I wish our leaders would express it more. Some don't appear to feel it much, if at all.'

Indeed. And in another context many of us were bewildered that the Church of England chose to promote its 'Back to Church' initiative by carrying prominently the remarks of a Bishop who was intent on describing it as 'too much Marks and Spencer and not enough Asda' or somesuch. It got headlines. Of course it did, but I've never belonged to the 'there's no such thing as bad publicity' school or accepted the argument that 'well it's worth it if it gets people talking about our campaign'.

I am sure the bishop honestly holds these views but what on earth were the Church of England thinking about in using his words in the way they did?

It was simply hand wringing for effect and totally disheartening to those of us living outside the pr world.

Posted by: Fr Jon on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 9:17am BST

Fr Jon
Thank you.
"The reason for a delay might well be that you understand this; that you know that in making this change you are about to do will cause pain and you might want to think about being pastoral whilst doing that and that may take some time to sort out."

That would be helpful if there was any real sorting out of pain. But what is happening in practice is that FiF are getting more strident in their opposition to women priests, women priests are getting more upset that they are the ones bearing the consequences of the delay, when the theology in their favour has been done and decided upon.

And the clamour for pastoral support for the opponents is not matched by pastoral support for the women in question.

The whole idea of waiting until everyone's pain has dissapeared by some kind of magic doesn't work.
The Anglican tent works best when both sides genuinely accept each other despite their differences.

Otherwise, it results in the same endless muddle we so often have in Britain when decisions are not implemented because not everyone likes them - and so decades later we still have a strange mix of imperial and decimal weights, measures and distances and everyone feels quite passionate about their approach, and we have Save The Pint campaigns and we get up in arms if we have to buy our tomatoes in kilos, and no-one is never really reconciled to anything but continues to nurse their grieveances and the sense of their own specialness... from generation to generation.

If you support this approach, then please tell me how, in practice, you envisage that it might lead to a genuine kind of healing and wholeness without creating mini churches within the church.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 9:18am BST

"If unity is to be the key characteristic of the episcopate (and I don't accept that this is a strong case) then Giles' argument entails the expulsion or the subjection of those who continue to believe what the church until recently taught." - Fr. Jon -

This presupposes that the theology of the Church was set in concrete with the publication of the Scriptures - where subsequent Councils of the Church were meant to have little or no effect upon the belief or actions of the Church from thencforth? One does wonder, with this sort of srgument, what Good Pope John XXIII might have been thinking of when he called the Vatican Council for the distinct purpose of the renewal of the Church in the early 1960s. Was it really the Holy Spirit who called together the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church at that time to re-order the Church's understanding of ministry and mission? Or was it some gigantic hoax, prompted only by reactionary forces in the Church that were lusting for change? From this posting, Fr. Jon, you seem to be suggesting it might have been the latter.

Perhaps this is why the present Pontiff and the College of Cardinals have decided to rein in the measures approved by Vatican II, in order to appease the protestations of the Traditionalists for whom the paradigm shifts in theology and praxis have proved too painful to bear. This movement away from the renewal promised by Pope John has been 'diverted' because certain people in the Vatican have suffered the classic 'loss of nerve', which has defeated similar efforts at reforming the Church. It is interesting that the Church of England, herself, made a paradigm shift when her polity moved away from submission to the pope of Rome - How radical was that? Your own ministry in the C.of E. is heir to all of that.

Change is always painful for some, but sometimes necessary for the good of the whole. Women and Gays have suffered pain at their non-recognition as fellow Christians and ministers of the Gospel for long enough. Do you not think that the Holy Spirit might be wanting to stem the departing tide of the young people of our Church who have accepted that women and gays are part of the natural make-up of society, who should no longer be set aside from the tasks of propagating the Gospel? They scent the whiff of hypocrisy.

Semper Reformanda - which was one of the slogans of Vatican II - is a painful but necessary corrective to theological stagnation, which serves neither God nor humanity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 9:32am BST

I would NO to both John and Jon - your idea of living together is that women should accept a lesser psoition than men, just because they are women. My bishop does not think women should be priests, although he licenses us. Does that mean I would like a different bishop?, well maybe if it's only a matter of personal preference, but I don't think that it is or that I need that to stay in the church. Why not ask the no-women-please fellows to make the sacrifice and make-do with us? Why is the 'lesser part' always automatically on the female side? Come on, guys, grow up.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 9:43am BST

Sara, a few points.

1) we are not 'no-women-please' as we support and nurture women's vocation in many ways, if not a sacramental one. To tar me with the mysoginist brush is downright rude, uncharitable and unfair. I am actually a great supporter of equality, I just do not manifestly believe that the fight for equality = the fight to make all the same.

2) Why would a woman bishop have a lesser position than me, the FIF priest and modern day samaritan. I am already universally loathed by some, forced to live out my ministry without hope of preferment and full recognition and now in danger of being thrown from the church in which I was raised and nurtured. Trust me... Lucy Winkett (for example) has a lot more opportunity than I do- so go easy on the victim card here.

3) Regardless of your bishops views (palatable or not) his orders are not in question. For me I would not be considering avoiding a woman bishop due to my distaste of her- rather due to my doubts concerning her sacramental validity.

4) how is the lesser part always with you? Seriously, how? I face a very uncertain future- having no desire to be either Roman or orthodox- and must accept a very real threat to my future and that of my young family. Far tougher than merely accepting that a handfull of parishes may not recognise your orders when (and it IS when) women are consecrated.

Victims cards are not helping so let us all drop them and try to act in generosity and love. Truth is - what you have long wanted is going to happen. Why do you so resent the Catholics also being given what they desire?

Posted by: Father Ed Tomlinson on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 11:04am BST

"we are not 'no-women-please' as we support and nurture women's vocation in many ways, if not a sacramental one."

Tell that to the Vatican:


http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/10/two_vatican_investigations_foc.html

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 1:46pm BST

Father Ron - Thanks for your response.

I’m not sure what your main point about Vatican II was – that it had the authority to make change and therefore shouldn’t have been challenged, or that it also entailed painful and necessary changes?

If the former, then don’t the current moves to roll back the Vatican II change also have the same characteristics? Change isn’t always progressive, and progressive change isn't always right.

If the latter, then I would certainly accept the ‘painful but necessary’ school of thought if it weren’t for the fact that it is a justification nearly always spoken by the victor and seldom with much compassion and it’s too close to ‘the end justifies the means’ for comfort.

The dark undercurrent of the rest of your argument seems to be that somehow, the pain on one of the sides is entirely deserved; that it’s the consequence of holding out against an inevitable change. To badge one pain as heroic and the other as somehow deserved seems rather un Anglican to me. Pain is pain, whoever bears it, and the fact of it places us under obligations.

As it happens, I see no evidence of the Forward in Faith side becoming more strident; quite the reverse. They’re asking for what they currently have and were promised in 1993. They’re not using the strident language they used to use – those who are left are not, at any rate. You may indeed be right that it is not possible to let them have it; but that should not justify impatience, intolerance or a lack of compassion now; quite the reverse.


Posted by: Fr Jon on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 1:47pm BST

Erika - thank you.

My argument was not against proceeding, nor in favour of continuing the current arrangements, but was simply inveighing against those who want a fast ‘cut and shut’ solution, suggesting that their arguments lacked compassion. It was most specifically questioning Giles Goddard, who wanted to argue both that it is absolutely necessary for bishops to be a focus for unity and that women wouldn’t be able to do that if opponents wouldn’t accept them, since he was arguing the opponents’ case for them.

“That would be helpful if there were any sorting of pain”

I want to take you to be conceding absolutely the principle that we should proceed carefully and a caution that we are not effectively doing that at present.

And your example of the mix of imperial and metric rather undermines your position if you think it is analogous to the church. The reason that we have such a mixed measurement system is that although the change was argued for and won, it could not be implemented because what was believed amongst those responsible was not what was believed amongst those they intended to use the system. The reason they have not gone the ‘painful but necessary’ route is because there is every likelihood that the change would be rejected and defied entirely.

‘The Anglican tent works best when both sides genuinely accept each other’; true – see earlier point about the cut and shut approach.

All I’m asking is that we move slowly, pastorally and carefully. As for your last question; I don’t know, and neither do you. Shall we just ignore the possiblity altogether?

Posted by: Fr Jon on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 2:10pm BST

In answer to Ed Tomlinson and others: I think the real question is (and indeed was at the time of the creation of flying bishops) how can the church remain catholic and have a two tier system, how can it remain catholic and have some bishops who can act throughout as bishops and others who need the OK of their parishes. I live and work in Rome. The only people here who make a distinction between me and my (male) incumbent are Anglicans - very very few I am happy to say. Catholics of the papal persuasion either consider all ordained Anglicans, including the ABC of course, lay persons or in their coherence and their catholic theology consider us all priests. I don't see how the two positions can be reconciled, in fact, it is my 'catholic' belief that if my church ordains you, you are as much a priest as I am. But I don't see how those who are sure women can't be priests reconcile themselves to their own priesthood, since they were ordained by a church which they are sure is wrong. That' all - it's not playing victim. I just don't think there can be two orders of bishops, as it seems to me very un-catholic - rather like a two tiered covenant.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 5:02pm BST

"I am already universally loathed by some, forced to live out my ministry without hope of preferment and full recognition and now in danger of being thrown from the church in which I was raised and nurtured." - Father Ed tomlinson -

I don't know about your relationship to other people, Ed, but you are certainly not 'loathed' by me. Please do understand that fact. I cannot, however, forbear from challenging you on a simple precept of the Gospel - that "IN Christ, there is neither male nor female" - this is a Pauline statement that requires no fudging, romanticising nor excision from a purely theological construct.
It denies differences (certainly in discipleship & ministry) 'en Christo'. So why should we not explore and rejoice in the fact that God may be calling women into today's society to perform ther duties of priest and bishop in the Church?

There have always been nay-sayers at every new stage in the discovery of what God may be calling God's Church to do - to meet the real needs of God's world toda. It doesn't automatically make their protest more valid than the thesis being put forward and put intyo practice. I cannot see what harm will come to God or the Church by acting according to what even Saint Paul saw as a necessary corrective to an out-dated tradition of 'Men Only'

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 7:35pm BST

"how is the lesser part always with you? Seriously, how?"

Because you can CHANGE YOUR MIND, Fr Ed---or at least adopt enough humility to admit you don't have all the answers---while Sara can't change her XX chromosomes?

[Please give us a harder question next time! ;-/]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 8:20pm BST

Fr Jon
"All I’m asking is that we move slowly, pastorally and carefully."

If slowly and pastorally and carefully means that we will eventually implement that which the church has discerned to be theologically appropriate, and if we can also recognise the very real pain of the supporters of WO and women bishops and be pastorally sensitive to them too, I could possibly accept a slow move.

If it simply means we all breathe a sigh of relief and move on to other things until the next time the issue raises its head and everyone plays the same games again, then I don't see what is to be gained.

I do, for example, understand that existing CoE priests should not be forced to accept women priests, but I am absolutely astonished that anti-women priests are still being ordained, thereby guaranteed to perpetuate the problem into eternity.

Could you possibly expand a little on what you mean in practice by "being pastorally sensitive" and what criteria there might be for deciding that the right time to move on has come?

I don't want to misunderstand or misrepresent you, but too often, it means "being sensitive to the opponents of women priests in any way they need to have their feelings calmed down", and "the time is right when the whole body of Christ has agreed with you".
That, I'm afraid, would not be acceptable.

And I'd like everyone to recognise that the structure proposed by the revision committee is so revolutionary and changes the understanding of the episcopate in such a dramatic way that it far exceeds any change brought about by women priests. It simply cannot be done by a church that takes theology from first principles seriously.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 10:28pm BST

If only it were possible for everybody to change their minds and agree on everything I think the world would indeed be a wonderful place JCF! But (getting real) opponents of OW accept that others be allowed to exist and prosper...the problem is that many supporters do not behave so generously. Which is why there are ALREADY 2 classes of bishop and those men who will not ordain women will not be made Diocesans. To be fair to both sides, the logical thing would be to have 'flying bishops' for both proponents and opponents of WO. Thus both sides would be on an equal footing.

Posted by: Neil on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 10:50pm BST

In Christ there is no male or female...is a statement relating to our baptism. That once Christian we are totally equal in God's eyes.

However that in no way means that all offices are open to all people. Quite the reverse. We see the careful consideration of who should follow Judas. We read that a bishop should be the HUSBAND of ONE WIFE (note that please) We have plenty of biblical evidence to support that- from all disciples who are equal- neither slave etc- God calls only some to priestly minisry. Hence the 12 apostles- ALL of which were men Ron

Your citing of this verse is NOT the be all and end all you might like to pretend it is

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Thursday, 15 October 2009 at 11:35pm BST

To Neil - no, wrong - the Bishop in Europe will not ordain women to the priesthood (or allow his suffragan to do so) and he is a diocesan bishop.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 8:15am BST

Ed
"We read that a bishop should be the HUSBAND of ONE WIFE"

Taken as literally as you would like to interpret it, this invalidates all Roman Catholic orders.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 9:18am BST

I'm with Neil and Ed and Fr Jon on this.

Of course, one still encounters dreadful formulations from time to time, but by and large FiF has moved very considerably in the direction of acceptance of the 'integrity' of WO, and it's perfectly obvious that many/most of them are fighting rather heroically to stay in the Church of England, for which they are now exhibiting gut feelings of love and loyalty which have sometimes been obscured. I like them for it.

I do not understand how liberals can come all over strong in favour of a 'hard', 100% 'Catholicity model' which in all other respects and contexts they reject (rightly so, in my view).

Of course, women priests have been subject to the most vile abuse from some, but that's largely over, and one is talking here minority provision (which, however, must not be granted with any patronising 'and by the way, you'll die out naturally within a generation'; this must be viable indefinitely). Further, in practice, there will be a good deal of traffic both ways (FiF priests do summer posts in the C of Ireland, which has long had women priests; supporters of WO sometimes attend FiF churches, there should be more shared services, including Communions, if necessary with a revived Blackburn Dispensation ...).

Posted by: john on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 1:48pm BST

And do you honestly believe there will ever be the appointment of a Diocesan Bishop who will not ordain women in the future? G Rowell was appointed some time ago.

Posted by: Neil on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 2:27pm BST

My siblings in England, consider all this carefully. That said, neither should you be optimistic (or pessimistic as the case may be) that in time reception of women in orders, much less in the Episcopate, will work its way out. In 1976 when the General Convention of the Episcopal Church interpreted broadly the Canons on Orders, the House of Bishops also passed a "conscience statement." The intent was to allow current bishops to avoid confrontation while allowing reception to work in the Church, largely through education and acculturation of younger clergy.

However, those who couldn't believe that God might call a woman to ordained ministry were remarkably resilient. With few exceptions, they simply avoided engaging the theology that supported women in orders, and maintained that *this* aspect of tradition, *these* verses from Scripture, were beyond question. They managed to ordain in their own image and to concentrate like-minded clergy in a few diocese - not to mention like-minded laity, as those who wanted to engage the theology and follow the Canons were gradually but effectively squeezed out.

They became centers of division in the Episcopal Church. Ultimately, they became dioceses that tried to separate their dioceses from the Episcopal Church; for while the presenting issue was glbt folks in the orders, they were still fighting a rear-guard action against women in orders. After twenty years the Church began pressing those bishops to work out means whereby processes for discerning vocation were open to women in those dioceses. That didn't require that those bishops actually ordained; only that the diocesan process be open and equitable. While some marginal adaptation had happened here and there, in these specific dioceses they were so marginal as to be meaningless. Even review by General Convention of their processes was considered unwarranted intrusion.

There might be some point to "pastoral patience," if the processes can be made equitable - and if "pastoral patience" does not become grounds for resisting the synods and canons of the Church. Think carefully.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 7:53pm BST

"... but by and large FiF has moved very considerably in the direction of acceptance of the 'integrity' of WO, and it's perfectly obvious that many/most of them are fighting rather heroically to stay in the Church of England."
- John, on Friday -

Why then, if F.i.F. membership has been observed moving 'very considerably' towards acceptance of the 'integrity' of WO, are they making this last desperate stand against the ordination of women bishops? The logic of this escapes me! If women can be priests, why can they not become bishops? Is it because of the issue of authority - that shibboleth of conservative males - that sees the authority of a woman over men to be un-biblical?
Such a stance cannot any longer be held with any integrity, exclusively by the Church.

If F.iF. members really are moving considerably towards the 'integrity' of women's ordination, then to further delay their natural progression toqwards the episcopal ministry, which may become the authentic calling of a priest of the Church of England, must be seen as nothing less than pure obstruction. Does the Church have to wait for a minority to fall into line before allowing this application of discernment to be put into practice? This would seem a waste of time and opportunity for the Church to fulfil its call to minister the Gospel.

The Roman Catholic Church is already feeling the pain of limiting the ranks of it's ministerial priesthood to celibate males of the species. Unless there is a great surge of celibate males flocking to their seminaries within the next few years, it is likely that they will find it impossible to maintain priestly ministry at all - unless they are prepared to ordain women and married men - a prcoess even their faithful laity are seeing as necessary in the future.

Already the English Church is being 'manned' by overseas clergy from the Third World, whose theological education may not have fitted them for pastoral work in the context of English congregations. This will no doubt bring its own problems in time, with a lack of clergy in the Third World being one of them.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 12:58am BST

Look, Father Ron, I am completely in favour of women priests, women bishops, gay priests and gay bishops. I am happy to admit that in my youth I had gay relationships which I do not think were in any way immoral. You know all that. You also know, presumably, that recognition of a certain 'integrity' does not necessarily imply full agreement with the position. I think FiF (most of them) have come a long way towards 'live and let live'. About time. I agree. I also think most of them, when push comes to shove, as it is now, don't want to leave the C of E. Again, about time. But I also think that most of them have principled objections (which of course I disagree with) to WO. That being so, it is ignorant and crude to keep lambasting them as misogynist. (The same applies to the gay issue - Ed Tomlinson isn't remotely homophobic.) What then? I agree to some extent with the argument that all this looks bad to the outside world, but on the other hand I do not think that the outside world is so stupid that the issues could not be made comprehensible -and not reprehensible - to it. Further, many FiF churches are doing rather well numerically.

As for 'ye are all one in Jesus Christ', I agree with you that this ultimately yields - ought to yield - WO, including bishops; on the other hand, the argument would certainly not have persuaded Paul!

Finally, I do not think the 'injustice' to women priests and bishops inherent in a separate establishment for FiF is very great. In any argument, one surely has to weight up the pros and cons. Personally, I want to keep these people because many of them are doing very good jobs - frequently - for historical reasons - in far poorer parts of cities than most C of E churches - and the C of E as a whole isn't doing very well. Tha latter fact seems to me largely due to laziness and incompetence on the part of priests and hierarchies, not the issues we are talking about.

Posted by: john on Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 2:16pm BST

"....latter fact seems to me largely due to laziness and incompetence on the part of priests and hierarchies,..."

Now that's something all of us could agree on. I have seen 'cardinal' parishes fall by the wayside due to incompetent leadership, mostly clerical. When you get a priest who is tone-deaf and it takes them three years to figure out that it was the musical tradition of a large city church that kept people coming (and involved the young of the choir, who in turn became the parents of choristers, as well as vestrypeople) you wonder what is being taught in the seminaries today.

It's fine music, preaching and liturgy (doesn't matter if it's 'high' or 'low', as long as it's done WELL) that will be the ultimate turn-around of the church, not bickering over the sex of the leadership. We all know that this is what turns off the populace, like it or not. And yes, I know of a (ridiculously high church) priest in a northwestern Indiana steel mill ghetto town that is doing well because of two things...GOOD WORSHIP and LOVING HIS FLOCK. And although we disagree about this very issue, we respect each other in that we make things work, and WE DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!!!!!

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 10:47pm BST

John, thank you for your last post. I want you to know that my own understanding of our common humanity will not allow me to loathe/hate anyone with whom I might disagree - especially on matters of Church polity. There are some issues, however, which do provoke me into sometimes dodgy rhetoric - I guess that stems from some training in political debate. BUT, I think, like you, that our faith is too important to all of us to ignore the Gospel command to work for justice, and to be reconciled one with another, showing courtesy and respect and a willingness to hear the other side of arguments. Keeping checking me when I stray!

This doesn't mean I'm going to stop arguing. It does mean that I shall really try not to be annoyingly confrontational - especially with those who have an almost diametrically opposed view to my own. What I want to do is argue, not with hostility, but with the hope of being heard -compassionately. I have tried to follow this rule myself - but not always with great success. Do forgive me. Agape.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 11:05am BST

Choirboy: LOVING HIS FLOCK. The importance of that cannot be overstated.

Father Ron,

No forgiveness required from me whatsoever. All best.

Posted by: john on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 7:21pm BST
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