Friday, 16 October 2009

women bishops: Church Times coverage

Updated Saturday

Pat Ashworth reports for the Church Times on the revision committee’s decision: Synod’s women-bishops committee draws back from code of practice.

SUPPORTERS of women bishops have expressed shock at a decision by the revision committee for the draft legislation not to go further down the route of a statutory code of practice. Traditionalists say that the change of direction proposed does not go far enough…

Scroll down that page for responses from David Stancliffe Bishop of Salisbury and from David Houlding Pro-Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury.

Stancliffe:

THE news that the revision committee has chosen not to explore the option of the single clause with a statutory code of practice any further, and has gone for “certain functions to be invested in bishops by statute” will strike despair into the hearts of many. What the committee is proposing takes a step back from the position Synod thought it had reached in July 2008.

My concerns are on several levels. First, these proposals appear to institutionalise mistrust in legislation: the opponents of women’s ordination do not trust the bishops to make proper provision. Is that really what we have come to?

Second, it destroys the ecclesiology of the Church of England, making it legitimate to “choose your own bishop”. Are there to be any limits as to the grounds on which you might petition to do this?

Third, it seems wildly impracticable: something very similar, Transferred Episcopal Authority, has already been found wanting, and it must remain doubtful whether such discriminatory legislation would pass parliamentary scrutiny or stand up to challenge by judicial review…

Houlding:

…The Act of Synod, despite its imperfections, has given space to many to flourish and grow. Embracing the principle of “reception”, it provides for extended episcopal care, under the Ordinary. Once a woman is ordained a bishop, there is correspondingly a much higher degree of impair­ment of communion. We have never had to face this situation before. This is why, I suggest, it is proving so hard for us to get our minds around the new solution required.

The decision last week of the revision committee to provide by means of law for the transfer of episcopal authority is, therefore, a real turning point in helping us reach the decision that will need to be made. Anything by way of code of practice or delegation can only lead to a diminution of a woman’s ministry. To provide for both positions to co-exist alongside one another by statute rules out the possibility of any further wrangling. By creating proper space and the necessary boundaries, the Church is including everyone.

Women in the episcopate remain a contested develop­ment in the wider Church, and therefore the principle behind the nature of provision must be inclusion for all. The Archbishop of Canterbury has enunciated this more than once in speeches to the Synod: “the others (who­ever they may be) are not going away.” Our task is to hold the Church together for the sake of its mission and to ensure that we live together in the highest degree of communion possible

Giles Fraser writes about it in his column, Let Synod’s ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.

I admit that I have never been a huge fan of the General Synod, even when I was a member. But to see a representative body treated with such contempt ought to make everyone who gives up their time and money to support synodical government wonder why they bother.

In July 2008, the General Synod voted clearly that it wanted women bishops with no small print that made them into half-bishops, and no further institutionalisation of the sexism that keeps them out of the episcopate.

Some did not like this clarity, and sought to protect the con­sciences of those who are against women bishops by securing legal no-go areas where women in purple would not be welcome. After a comprehensive debate, where all shades of opinion were repres­ented, the Synod said no…

The Church Times leader column is titled Revision committee deserves a hearing.

…Until the committee reveals its deliberations in a final an­nounce­ment, probably in January, it would be wrong, therefore, to condemn it. It might be wise, though, not to be over-enthusiastic, either. There are several examples where a small group runs ahead of the people who commissioned it, finding agreement where none exists outside. A case in point was the Final Report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which was ignored and then rejected by the Vatican. A General Synod that is, in the main, sceptical about any agreement over women bishops can overturn any of the committee’s recommendations. The committee knows this perfectly well, and yet believes, clearly, that its preferred solution is worth fielding. It deserves an opportunity to make its case.

Update
Two letters to the editor on this topic are now available without subscription, see St Thérèse of Lisieux and women bishops.

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Comments

"Margaret Brown of the Third Province Movement said: We are still standing out for a number of dioceses for traditionalists. We want our own dioceses and our own bishops. "It's come to the point where we shall have to say, with great reluctance and after very careful thought, that if something more is not done in our favour, we shall seriously consider cutting quota payments and consecrating our own bishops" - Church Times -

What on earth is going on here? A woman in the Church of England (obviously anti-WO) threatening the Church that her TPM group will "seriously consider cutting quota payments and consecrating our own bishops." What sort of Forward Movement in Faith is this? Are they looking to start a new Church - with power to disestablish itself from the C.of E. and proceed with unilateral and dodgy episcopal consecrations - and expecting to still be part of the Anglican Communion? Sounds a bit unlikely!

It seems as though nothing short of a new and divisive initiative: to create episcopal apartheid, would please the anti-women lobby in the Church of England. In this light, it might just be better for the General Synod to go ahead with its expressed intention of ordaining women bishops - without any prejudice whatsoever. This course, besides delivering justice to the idea of the equality of women in the Church, would ensure that the theological integrity of the episcopate of the Church of England remains.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 9:07am BST

Our task is to hold the Church together for the sake of its mission and to ensure that we live together in the highest degree of communion possible

It is?

Here I thought the purpose of the Church was to convey the Gospel in word and deed, regardless of what people (including those within the Church) might think about it.

No wonder I'm so confused.

Posted by: Song on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 9:49am BST

Margaret Brown's 3rd Province Movement is a small group of individuals. She does not speak for the vast majority of opponents of WB. Maybe the Church Times went to her because it did not get such a controversial response from Reform or FiF??

Posted by: David Malloch on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 6:44pm BST

David Houlding Pro-Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury (that title?):

"Anything by way of code of practice or delegation can only lead to a diminution of a woman’s ministry."

I admit that the CofE terminology "code of practice" confuses me, but if it is a bishop-who-is-a-woman who is doing the *delegating*, how would THAT lead to a "diminution of a woman’s ministry" (at least relative to being made a "Bishop, 2nd Class")?

"To provide for both positions to co-exist alongside one another by statute rules out the possibility of any further wrangling."

"Wrangling"? A convenient euphemism for *disobedience* to the lawful authority of the bishop (who just happens to be female)? Here's a thought-experiment: a priest who attempts to "wrangle" w/ (presumably) his bishop in this way, gets SACKED?

"By creating proper space and the necessary boundaries, the Church is including everyone."

I think I speak for the VAST majority of Episcopalians (and, I hope, "Thinking Anglicans"), when I say "include me out"!

Lord have mercy...

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 8:04pm BST

Hmmmmm ..... I think Margaret Brown's threats of schism are par for the course from this lot, it is a strategy inevitably doomed to fail within one generation.

On other threads people argue how reasonable are the FiF types demands ...... I spent hours listening to the speeches on their website - there is nothing reasonable about the words found there. Much of it is spittle-filled hate-filled nonsense ....and what shames me most is just how many of them are gay!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 8:22pm BST

Fr. Ron Smith, I think you are taking the correct approach: Consecrate woman bishops with full equality. If people can only receive from males, there are plenty of males in the CofE to receive from. No separate but equal.
The Margaret Browns and bishop Duncans of this world can never be pleased, will always want things their way. Call their bluff.
To me, there is no end to their logic. A woman bishop is not worthy. Therefore anyone she ordains is not worthy. Therefore any male she ordains is not worthy. Therefore anyone she confirms or receives into the CofE is not worthy. Her blessing of the sacraments (forgive me if that is not the proper term, turning wine and bread into the Blood and Body of Christ) is not worthy. Her sermons are not worthy. Her person is not worthy. Solely because she can't be more like a man.
Not even the revisions proposed by the revision committee will be enough for them. What if a proper-thinking male bishop talks to, has lunch with, votes the same way in Synod as, is invited to the cathedral of, an improper-thinking male bishop or, gasp! a woman bishop or, let's face it, a woman priest. Why that just stops apostolic succession and the Holy Sprit in their tracks!
Treat women priests and bishops with dignity, respect, and the equal rights and responsibilities of their offices. Give women bishops the same courtesy male bishops are given of making the right call when a request for a outside bishop is made.
Call the anti-WO bluff.

Posted by: peterpi on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 8:29pm BST

The Puritans went their own way once upon a time, right? Why not this lot as well?

Posted by: David | Dah•veed on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 9:28pm BST

What JCF said.

Thank goodness the Episcopal Church has already shown the way on this issue. Thank God for TEC!

Thank goodness, also, that the more the Church of England equivocates on women bishops, the more it dooms the proposed Covenant.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 16 October 2009 at 10:56pm BST

"But the idea that we allow a natural reluctance to upset friends and colleagues to determine the fundamental theology of the Church is sentimental nonsense. If this were a sermon, the text would have to be Matthew 5.37: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.” - Giles Fraser -

Amen to that! C.of E.'s General Synod has already deliberated on what it considers should be the action of the Church of England on this issue. Does the Church need, once again, to try to gainsay the expressed mind of the Synod? Perhaps the idea of some in the C.o E. who believe that unity with Rome is more important that integrity in our own Reformed and Catholic tradition needs to be put to rest once and for all.

This seeming equivocation on the part of the hierarchy of the Church - in the interests of placating the minority party in this debate on women's ministry - is downright damaging to the public image of the Church's stand on truth & justice. It is unsettling enough that the Church must wait another 5 or 6 years for its determined policy to bear fruit (when the rest of the Communion had this issue done and dusted years ago), without also appearing to vacillate on the relevance of its own internal policy.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 1:40am BST

Calm down - it's only Margaret Brown.

Posted by: Fr Jon on Saturday, 17 October 2009 at 8:03pm BST

Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn't the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992??

Another thought: If I am unable to accept the innovation in the church of my birth, what should I do??

Posted by: mark wharton on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 12:30am BST

In New Zealand's Roman Catholic Church, there are many people who really believe their Church should start thinking about women priests - especially now that male priests are 'thin on the ground' Below is a N.Z. Roman Catholic Mercy Sister's comment on the situation as she sees it:

"The offical Church today remains male-dominated: it has a real fear of women. Otherwise, I do not see how it could maintain the weak arguments put forward for ignoring women in the ordained ministry and keeping women out of participating in policy-making and decision-making processes"

Sister Pauline is not a lone voice in the R.C. Church in New Zealand. The shortage of clergy is a troubling reality in the R.C. Church here, and could lead to a severe curtailment of local ministry. The stop-gap solution adopted by the Bishops is to employ priest from the Phillipines, some of whom are ill-equipped to deal with local people and their needs.

Other comments from Religious in the same N.Z. magazine are criticising the R.C. Church's failure to live up to the promise of Vatican II's stated reforms in the Church - especially with it's movement towards the tightening up of discipline which disempowers local ministerial options - in favour of centralisation.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 6:27am BST

"Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn't the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992??
Another thought: If I am unable to accept the innovation in the church of my birth, what should I do?? - mark wharton on Sunday -

To answer your first question, Mark: Every Synod of the Church does what it feels the Holy Spirit is calling it do do - at the time! Subsequent Synods may, in time, be called by the Holy Spirit to do something else. The point is; that no meeting of Synod can be guaranteed to concretise any particular theological stance that it seems right to have brought into play at a particular time in history. The Church once thought that slavery and the subjugation of women was God's will for the Church. Largely because of their emancipation in society (society seems mostly to make the first move), the Church no longer believes in this - or at least, those parts of the Church that are open to new movement of the Holy Spirit in the world as well as the Church.

Regarding your dilemma - about what you should do if you are "unable to accept the innovation in the Church of (your) birth" (presumably the Church of your Baptism)... My only advice is this: Either stay, and be prepared to listen to the arguments which have altered the theological stance of your branch of the Church, asking the Holy Spirit to help you make the choice of believing what the Church says, or: Seek a Church which meets with your requirements.
Prayer can help you to decide.

What you need, Mark, to remember in all of this, is that the Church of England was born out of controversy in the Church (mostly about abuse of power and simony). The Anglican Communion, in its different provinces of the Church, does not have to accord with the polity of either Rome or Constantinople. The same Spirit of Discernment which led the C.of E. out of collegiality with Rome, seems still to be working - in ways which even Rome, in time, may be called to follow. There is simply no escaping the work of the Holy Spirit. - This was the mind of Pope John XXIII, when the H.S. called the Council of Vatican II, whose reforms have now been disowned by Rome.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 9:50am BST

"Rev Smith: A Question; Am I right in thinking that the ordination of women as priests was rejected by the general synod once before 1992? If I am right, then by your argument, (that we should abide by the decisions made by the synod, and not backtrack) Shouldn't the whole issue have been consigned to the depths and been unable to return in 1992??"

General synod (or on my side of the pond, general convention) can always return to an issue and reverse itself--perhaps it heard the Spirit incompletely the first time around. What should not happen is what's happening in the CoE now--synod takes a position, makes a decision, and now some other group is named to, essentially, make that decision virtually inoperative.

"Another thought: If I am unable to accept the innovation in the church of my birth, what should I do?? "

I think you have several choices: 1) Work to reverse the innovation, 2) listen and learn and perhaps find out that the innovation is correct after all, 3) leave. The choice you do not and should not have is to insist on "accommodation" of your minority viewpoint.

Tell me, Mark--when Parliament passes a law you do not agree with, one you think violates the very spirit of the British constitution, do you insist that they make special terms for "opting out" by people like you?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 11:27am BST

Fr Ron - you seem to think that Synod rules the Church of England; it doesn't. The Synod is not the church and is only part of the structures of governance - and the exercise of its power is limited and drawn out; one vote rarely finalises the matter. The mind of Synod is not, therefore, always the mind of the church and neither should it be - how else can it show leadership to the church as a whole?

Synod is also subject to other authorities; the Crown in Parliament and the collective authority of the Bishops - who could very straightforwardly grind the Synod's progress to a complete halt, as they did in 1997 during a vote on sexuality. If they decide to act together as a House, they can halt anything the Synod is doing.

The will and intent of Synod is tested over a period of time and by a process of revision, which is what has happened in this case. The individuals who conduct this process are not delegates and will exercise their best judgement in the full knowledge that Synod has the power and may well have the inclination to overturn any recommendation that they bring.

The polity of the Church of England is not as straightforward as it is in other churches and organising bodies; that's the reality. It may need changing but on this occasion I for one am glad that they are taking their time and taking care about it.

I want to see women bishops, but not 'at any cost', and not in a 'cut and shut' approach which pretends that you achieve a harmonious solution by ejecting those who don't agree.

And as for truth and justice, mercy, peace, grace and love; sometimes you have to choose between them and the choices you make define who you are.

Blessings.

Posted by: Fr Jon on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 1:57pm BST

Poor Houlding, I wonder if he knows just how clever and false he sounds?

Fact is, I see no indicators - zero, zip nada - among the NoGoWomen Anglicans that anything in the least involving reception is going on, is wished to occur, or even (horrors) can be allowed to occur within the properly purged, safe NoGoWomen zones. Those NoGoWo Zones are all too false prizes, too proud by far of their deliberate, willful ignorance of any recognition that God calls and works through women and men in our contemporary era. Perhaps, right now - with some holy transformational tilt towards the very blessed women who have been standing in the lines for long, long, long centuries?

So justified; pursued; and by not all that great a degree of unsubtle inference, a case standing on such uncertain grounds of genuine theological persuasion to modern hearts and minds that Anglican NoGoWomanizing must now be repeatedly backed up by nice dollops of loathing and threats to pray elsewhere.

How any of any of that can be tagged ... a process of Ongoing Reception? ... as Houlding wants us to see it? ... completely beyond me.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 7:35pm BST

Fr Ron - interesting again on Vatican II - how is it that the reforms are the work of the Holy Spirit, but the subsequent rejection and modification of them is not? How do you tell?
Do you not run the risk of measuring the extent of the Spirit's work by the extent to which you approve of the result?

Posted by: Fr Jon on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 8:12pm BST

The time may well have come to consider the spiritual benefits of abolishing the order of bishop in the C of E., or seriously reforming it.
There are various possible ways of doing this.

It would free us from the stranglehold of the past and its imagined benefits.

FiF would be freed from their current anxieties.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 9:41pm BST

In fact, the General Synod of the church of England has not "changed its mind" on whether women can be ordained priest. That motion (that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood)was passed in 1975, and has not ever been rescinded. This also means that anyone ordained into the C of E since 1975 has been ordained into a church that affirms that women can be priests.
What the arguments have always been about have been (i) whether the time is right to put this belief into practice (up to Nov 1992), and (ii) since then, how to "safeguard" those who don't want to accept this decision made in 1975.
Similarly, Synod has affirmed that it is theologically possible for women to be bishops (and most agree that this is the logical outcome of the decison in 1975 and the vote in 1992) but the debate revolves around how far the chuch should go in making it possible for those who have still not accepted this decision to be able to continue to function in perpetuity in the C of E as though ordained women do not exist.

Posted by: Rosalind on Sunday, 18 October 2009 at 10:24pm BST

"The mind of Synod is not, therefore, always the mind of the church and neither should it be - how else can it show leadership to the church as a whole? Synod is also subject to other authorities; the Crown in Parliament and the collective authority of the Bishops - who could very straightforwardly grind the Synod's progress to a complete halt, as they did in 1997 during a vote on sexuality. If they decide to act together as a House, they can halt anything the Synod is doing." - Fr. Jon -

Fr. Jon; on your first assertion - that Synod is not always the 'mind of the Church'. I'm proud to now be a part of an Anglican Church (Aotearoa.NZ) that was one of the first in the emerging Anglican Communion to use a more democratic form of Synodical Government - which form of Church Government was only later adopted by the C.of E. This gives us some insight into what our form of Synod is all about.

I realise that the C.of E. has constraints put upon it by the Crown and Civil Government - which most other Churches of the Anglican Communion do not. But this does not alter the basic premise of modern Synodical Government in the Anglican ethos (elswhere than in the UK) is all about. In other Churches, like the Roman and Orthodox Churches, you have a Pope or Patriarch with 'infallibility' who can, on his own, assert a characteristic of dogmatic determination which can override the charism of Synodical Government. That being so -certainly in the limited tradition of 'overseas' Anglican polity - General Synods are a pretty important agency of change.

The seocnd point you have made here; that in the C.of E. the House of Bishops can over-rule the decisions of General Synod; this does not generally obtain in our form of Synodical Government. Each House: of Laity, Clergy and Bishops, has to be seen to approve - by a certain majority - the measure being put forward. This ensures that the bishops do not have an absolute majority Rule over the Church. Laity and Clergy have equal voices in Church Government - which could make Churches of the Anglican Diaspora different from the Mother Church of England. This is one reason why many of our Provincial Churches may be reluctant to sign up to a Covenant relationshiop - which could curtail our way of making decisions in the local Church.

Blessings, Jon, to you, too.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 12:36am BST

My mind is torn over this issue.

On the one hand, I serve in a Canadian diocese which is now enjoying the ministry of its second female bishop. I rejoice in her ministry and in the ministry of my many clergy colleagues who are women. In my diocese, so far as I know, the issue of the gender of a priest hardly ever arises, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the way it should be.

On the other hand, I think of my own elderly parents who live in retirement in England and are lifelong members of the Church of England. They are not going to change their view on the ordination of women, and they are feeling themselves more and more squeezed out of the church they have faithfully served all their lives.

What are the demands of love on this issue? I have to honestly say, I really don't know. I see no solution that doesn't bring pain to people for whom Christ died.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 12:46am BST

thankyou for your responses; Rev Ron Smith, Pat and Rosalind.

The Church of England has affirmed the view that both views have integrity and perhaps you should ponder this...

I have already decided that I am going to seek communion with the Holy See. I never cease to be amazed at the level of hatred shown on this blog by so called "liberals"... for what all 3 of you have said is that the contribution that traditional catholic’s bring to this church is worth nothing and that the church will be better off without us. It is a sad day when liberal Anglicanism has been turned into a tool to rid the church of all those with whom you disagree. Remember that we are all wounding the body of Christ.
Where is Christ in this...

Posted by: mark wharton on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 9:34am BST

Tim, the issue of 'who takes the pain' on this particular issue is surely relative. Women, in general have suffered the pain of non-acceptance from the anti-women sodality in the C.of E. for long enough. That was recognised by the Church in its decision, fifteen years ago, to right that perceived injustice (by theological perception).

Are you saying that now, fifteen years after that, there are people who still feel that the sacerdotal ministry of women in against God's will for the Church of England? If so, it really is a great pity, because in acknowledging the ministry of women, the Church of England has been able to continue ministering to its congregations in both town and countryside for fifteen years - during which time many Anglicans have come to know, love and respect the women that God has called to minister to them, and are wondering why a distinct minority in the Church is still making a fuss about it.

Anglican Provinces, such as mine in New Zealand, have had to theologise, test and prove the efficacy of women in ministry for far longer than the Church of England. My own diocese has one of the Communion's most theologically-astute women bishops, who has managed to bring together the different strands of the Church in the diocese, and looks to be presiding over an era of real progress in ministry to young people - especially the young women of our Church who have felt a little neglected in the male-only culture that still obtains in some minds and hearts.

When the Roman Catholic Church eventually, as it must, comes to the idea of the employment of married clergy and perhaps women into ministry, there will, I am sure, be problems of adjustment -especially for the more traditionlal Catholics.
This happened with the changes of Vatican II; it is also happening with a reversion to the status quo; but the Church cannot stand still, when God calls us to use all the resources God has given us for the work of the Gospel.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 9:41am BST

L Roberts wrote:
"The time may well have come to consider the spiritual benefits of abolishing the order of bishop in the C of E., or seriously reforming it.....FiF would be freed from their current anxieties."

You seriously misunderstand FiF. FiF seeks to uphold the historic episcopate. The abolition of the episcopate would be totally unacceptable and as for serious reform - that is what WB are and why they are unacceptable.

Posted by: David Malloch on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 9:51am BST

Tim:

Are your parents being squeezed out...or are they squeezing themselves out, by being unwilling to hear and listen to the Spirit? Are they so closed to the idea of women as priests that they cannot see the good and effective ministry of these women as clear indication that their calling is Spirit-inspired?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 12:53pm BST

Tim wrote:

"I think of my own elderly parents who live in retirement in England and are lifelong members of the Church of England. They are not going to change their view on the ordination of women, and they are feeling themselves more and more squeezed out of the church they have faithfully served all their lives."

I guess the fundamental question is why we must assume that making room for more people necessarily "squeezes out" those who don't want others to have some space. My church ordains all sorts of people whom I would personally prefer to see not ordained: people whose theological training I personally consider to be suspect or inadequate; people whom I personally doubt will be even marginally competent; bigots.... Am I thereby squeezed out? Should I leave?

I assume, Tim, that your parents wouldn't accept the ministrations of a female priest, and that's sad for they may thereby deprive themselves of some very competent and compassionate pastoral care. But I suppose I must grant that this is their privilege. No doubt they will find someone with the correct plumbing to minister to their needs in their dotage. What of those who would prefer to be ministered to by a woman? Should they be deprived?

FWIW, I have a female doctor, a female dentist, a female wife. Why not a female bishop?

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 2:32pm BST

Thank you, Fr Ron - I was wondering where you were, given the time lag in your postings ...!

Yes - NZ does have a more democratic Synodical system which has many strengths and I'm not arguing that the C of E is not in quite serious need of reform. Establishment is sometimes a real drag.

But sometimes it is a sharp and necessary reminder that the church is not 'ours' to dispose as we would wish. Being established wedges the church door open in many respects and we have historically always had to account for those aspects of our work where the ministry of the church has become unavailable to all comners. This is in our polity and it helps to explain the sharp knee jerk against expulsions.

I ought have made it clear that each house of the English Synod, voting by majority in a single house can, as it sounds as yours can, stop anything the Synod is likely to do. In practice it is the house of Bishops that is most likely to organise itself in this way - the other houses are too large to do this effectively and I dare say the same is true of your church too.

The Bishops are also more likely as a House to vote against their own personal instincts if they are persuaded that a particular course of action will have disastrous consequences for some in their care.

Oddly, they are more likely to listen to the voices of dissenters as they perceive their role to be over-arching.

In relation to women and the epsicopate, I would expect the Bishops to be more persuaded to start with and more persuadable as time goes on that the dissenters have a point and will therefore be more interested in looking for compromise. I don;t say that this is of itself a good thing (though I think it is); just that this is the way I expect them, if past form is anything to go on, to see the issue.

Erika - if you are reading this, I have been giving some thought to how generosity might be done and I will post more when I have a chance. It's somewhere in the balance between an acceptance of the legal validity and authority of a bishop on the one hand and the extension of a generous courtesy on the other.


Blessings all.

Posted by: Fr Jon on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 4:08pm BST

People who are responding to my comments need to notice the first half of my post. Yes, I am in full agreement with the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Victoria Matthews was my bishop here in Edmonton, and after she left for New Zealand Jane Alexander was elected as her successor. I think that since I preached at Jane Alexander's ordination as a priest, you can assume that I am in favour!

But I also know that the likelihood of people in their late seventies changing their minds on this issue is remote (I doubt very much whether people on this blog, who, like me, are of the opposite opinion would be open to changing their minds again on this issue). And when you believe, as my parents do, that a Eucharist at which a woman presides is not a real Eucharist, it can indeed feel like you are being 'squeezed out'. My parents no longer drive, and they live in a rural area, so their options are limited as far as church attendance is concerned.

Once again, I am not arguing against the ordination of women as priests or bishops!!! I said at the beginning that I feel a real personal conflict over what ought to be done. How is love to be shown, on both sides? My father worked as a commercial artist for fifteen years and was then ordained in his thirties, and served the church faithfully as a priest for nearly forty years, well into his retirement. Many people came to know the living Christ through his ministry. Now he often feels as if his opinions no longer count in the church he served all his life. And that makes me sad - even as his opinions also make me sad.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 6:09pm BST

Tim,
I don't think I fully understand your parents' problem. There are already women priests in the Church of England, yet your parents seem to be happily worshipping in a parish with a male priest.
This will not change because somewhere in the country a female bishop is consecrated, and unless they ever find themselves in the position that a new male incumbent has been ordained by said female bishop, their worship will in no way be affected.

Is this really a big problem?

Fr Jon,
I look forward to your comments.

Mark Wharton,
I wish you all the best in the Roman Catholic church. I must admit, I find it strange that you have not felt compelled to become Roman Catholic before, so there is no real positive reason for you to convert now, other than a negative response to a discernment in your own church.
But what I really don't understand is why, if you place your own discernment above that of your church, you want to convert to a church that is even more authoritarian and will not allow any dissent.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 6:26pm BST

Mark - 'both views have integrity'

This view is precisely what is at stake this time round and the reason that so many of us broad liberals are uneasy with the debate on women in the episcopate.

The advocates of OWE want to row back on precisely that principle; as they argue that it will be impossible to be a church which ordains women to the episcopate and admit the integrity of the counter position.

If I recall correctly, Synod has already passed up one chance to reaffirm that 'those who aupport and those who oppose are both faithful anglicans', which is one reason FiF are so jumpy this time round and why they're reluctant to accept that any arrengement short of statutory protection will have any long term future.

Posted by: Fr Jon on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 6:57pm BST

"I have already decided that I am going to seek communion with the Holy See. I never cease to be amazed at the level of hatred shown on this blog by so called "liberals"... for what all 3 of you have said is that the contribution that traditional catholic’s bring to this church is worth nothing and that the church will be better off without us." - Mark Wharton -

I'm sorry, Mark, that you have found it necessary to cross the Tiber - on an issue which the Church of England has decided needs to be part of its proclamation of the Gospel to all people. You are mistaken when you think that I do not treasure the faithful ministry of Anglo-Catholic clergy. That is the tradition in which I was nurtured, served as a Francisn Brother and now a priest for many years. My new understanding - after many years of discernment by the Church and the need for my own persuasion on the matter - is that the Church is in great need of using all her limited resources to preach and carry out the work of the Gospel in the modern world. This now seems to me to require the Church to facilitate the ordination and preferment of capable and Godly women to help in this task.

Many of our clergy, and my own diocesan bishop in New Zealand are women. Over time we have observed their efficient and faithful ministry in all sorts of areas of the Church - to the point where it has now become obvious that their call is from God - and not just the whim of either the High or Low Church factions of the Church - but all who recognise that the Holy Spirit is still alive and active in calling into ministry those whom God considers capable of carrying out this apostolic and catholic vocation.

To tell you something of my own credentials; last Sunday night I actually presided at the Office of Solemn Evensong and Benediction at our very Anglo-Catholic church of Saint Michael and All Angels, in Christchurch, New Zealand. Our Bishop is the Rt. Revd. Victoria Matthews, formerly of Toronto.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 9:44pm BST

Fr. Ron Smith, I always enjoy reading your letters, and rejoice that you've managed to make some big steps in your life's journey as well. Hope that the music during the evensong was great also-

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 11:29pm BST

"I also know that the likelihood of people in their late seventies changing their minds on this issue is remote"

When my mother was dying from Lou Gehrig's Disease two years ago, she received excellent, holy pastoral care from her priest, a woman.

My father has received similar care from this priest in his bereavement. He'll be 90 years old next year: the rigidity of being unable to change one's mind has only *limited* correspondence to chronological age! ;-/

***

Vaya con Dios, Mark. Be careful what you wish for, however---you just might get it! :-0

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 19 October 2009 at 11:38pm BST

Erica, you are correct, the ordination of women as bishops would not add to may parents' difficulties in any appreciable way. The significance would for the most part be symbolic.

The town in which they live has a church which has both male and female clergy on staff, and is rather too Anglo-Catholic for them. For some years they have been attending another church in a village some miles away. However, my Dad has recently had to give up his car, and so their options are now very limited.

Fr. Ron, Bishop Victoria Matthews was a suffragen bishop in Toronto, but was then the bishop of my diocese of Edmonton for over ten years.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 at 7:04pm BST

Choirboy - re your comment about the music at Evensong. Yes! it was lovely. Anglican Chant for the Psalms, a beautiful Anthem from the Choir, and a rattling good sermon from me on the subject of 'Women in the Ministry of God's Church',

Tim, we are finding Bishop Victoria's catholic and apostolic ministry in our N.Z. Diocese of Christchurch refreshing and encouraging Laus Deo! I hope you Mum and Dad are being accommodated in their need of male-only ministry. I'm sure it will still be available to them from some source.
Agape.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 at 12:31am BST

Tim
Much as I appreciate your parents' difficulties - is it really acceptable to oppose women bishops because some people will experience significant symbolic problems?

I am not trying to make light of your parents' bewilderment and inability to accept women priests, please don't think that.

But if I understand you correctly, they have no-one to drive them to their old church and are already forced to worship in a church that does not quite suit their tastes. This is, of course, a common problem in rural ministry, but not one that has anything to do with women bishops.

So I do question whether we are truly comparing like with like here, if your parents will not experience any actual change in their Sunday worship.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 at 9:46am BST

Erika:

I do not oppose women bishops; I rejoice in their ministry. I thought I had made that clear. I simply empathise with the feelings of people whose genuinely held convictions have now made them a shrinking minority in the church they have worshipped in and served all their lives.

BTW, I do wish we could get away from the descriptor 'women bishops'. As Bishop Victoria Matthews used to say, '"women" is not an adjective!'

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 at 2:59pm BST

Tim
I thought I was responding to your post starting "I am torn over this issue", and ending "What are the demands of love on this issue?"
You seemed to be not merely empathising but looking for some kind of practical accomodation, so I was trying to work out what, precisely, is at stake.
I'm still not sure I understand it.

I agree about the term women bishops!!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 21 October 2009 at 4:18pm BST

Let Synod’s ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.

Presumably if Synod had voted in something that Canon Fraser did not agree with he would have said something along the lines of " these things take time, is only a temporary setback ... look how long it took to

Posted by: aalenian2009 on Thursday, 22 October 2009 at 9:13pm BST

"I also know that the likelihood of people in their late seventies changing their minds on this issue is remote"

My mother, 72 years old, on gay marriage:

"Ford, 'tis just like the uproar over the women. In 25 years time, we'll wonder what all the fuss was about."

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 23 October 2009 at 3:22pm BST

This disagreement has turned into what can only be described as a struggle for power. Sadly it is obscuring the gospel message of salvation which needs to be heard in our land. If the proposal to consecrate women as bishops is causing so much dissent then I question whether it is right.
And in any case General Synod only represents the views of its members. It does not and never has represented the view of the ordinary parishioner.
Perhaps it is time to invite those whose weekly offerings keep the C of E in being to give their views on women bishops. Their response might be illuminating.

Posted by: Bill Blake on Sunday, 25 October 2009 at 8:29am GMT

It is indeed a shame that the issues being USELESSLY DEBATED are not issues at all of the CHRISTIAN CHURCH relative to the Salvation of humankind and the rest of creation.

Posted by: Bishop Alex Wandag on Friday, 6 November 2009 at 5:40am GMT
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