Monday, 10 May 2010

Women bishops - more responses

Updated Tuesday afternoon

We linked to the announcement of the publication of the report of the revision committee on the legislation to enable women to be bishops in the Church of England on Saturday.

The Church Mouse has some comments from Pete Broadbent, one of the members of the committee: Bishop Pete Broadbent on the draft measures to allow women bishops

Mouse draws our attention to two statements issued by Forward in Faith UK.
FiF reacts to Revision Committee Report
Further reaction to Revision Committee Report
The second of these is from three members of the revision committee.

We have already posted the views of WATCH and some early press reports.

Reform has said that Report on Women in the Episcopate “provides no adequate framework” and sent a letter to every bishop.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 10 May 2010 at 6:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

The problem I have with FIF comments about Women's Ordination is their lack of conscience and their lack of understanding of the truly sound theological foundations for women in the priesthood and episcopate. I have never found their "arguments" persuasive or remotely intelligent. I have, however, found many of the comments quite mean spirited and insincere. I do not say this to be uncharitable. There is always an undertone of either misogyny or homophobia. Their arguments simply do not make sense or carry any logical reasoning. All are equal in Christ. The Church has every reason under Christ to give equal access to male and female to the ordained priesthood and episcopate. Jesus love is all inclusive. His ministry always reflected this. FIF also has a pathological kind of fear of the modern. I wish them well on their journey to Rome. They will find many like minded bishops, priest and lay people. The problem Rome is currently facing in regards to women's ordination is just the tip of the ice burg. The entire imperial Roman system is being challenged and on so many fronts, the hierarchy is itself, imploding, from the Pope, to his Cardinals to the bishops all over the world. Millions of Catholics have had it. They want the kind of changes that the Episcopal Church in America has made. They are growing restless and impatient. The waters are troubled. It is best for all concerned if FIF find another home, either in the Catholic Church or some other Christian community. It's time to move on. May God be with them.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 10 May 2010 at 10:35pm BST

So, Chris., no great advantage then for F.i.F. people who anticipate crossing to the Holy See?
However, a clear conscience (as they see it) may just possibly be worth all the aggravation they may get from their new spiritual home. So sad they couldn't have taken 'the road much travelled' before all this - when they realised that the Church that is presently their habitation actually already authorised the ordination of women whom God happens to call into the Holy Order of priests - even though they pretended not to notice at the time. One wonders what will happen when Rome begins to realise that it will have to ordain some of its nuns to ensure the continuity of the Sacraments of the Church. They already dispense the Elements, though not allowed to 'Celebrate'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 5:32am BST

I have a problem with the FiF claim not to be dissenters. The CofE recognises the ordination of women priests. There is no 'maybe' about it -- no more than about anything else. The C of E has made provision for those who disagree with this decision, and the C of E has said that this position can be held with integrity. But why do they eschew the dissenter title? It is honourable after all. I presume it's because they realise that a church would not build structures that incorporate or institutionalise dissent, that create parallel structures. But is there more going on here?

Posted by: Joe on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 7:25am BST

Chris your post demonstrates SO much ignorance it is almost amusing.

FIF shun modernity? Most (though not me) worship according to very modern practice with westward altars and choruses. Have you been to the national youth pilgrimage or heard +Lindsay Urwin preach? NO- I thought not. Why not worship with us for a few months instead of projecting onto us.

Catholicism imploding? You read the NY Times too much! 1.4billion members and rising. Record numbers of youth turning up for the youth rallies. A church in London with over 1000 young people every Sunday. The secular press may not report it well but trust me it is NOT imploding.

Misogny and homoophobia. Well I still have only ever been accused of these by those who do not know me and only by liberal Christians frustrated at my arguments.

Sorry if you find our arguments challenging but to claim they are not persuasive or remotely intelligent is to make a very rude statement not only about us but the Orthodox church and Roman church. Heaven forbid that your feelings and opinions might pale into comparison beside theologians like Kallistos Ware, Ratzinger et claim they are unintelligent merely makes your comment look misinformed, shrill and - as I say- very ignorant

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 8:56am BST

Just because theologian Ratzinger says something doesn’t make it true or necessarily intelligent.
He has written and said some palpable nonsense about homosexuality in recent years, and as a married father of two, I expect you will not be persuaded by the RC theology on compulsory celibacy for priests.
There are many RC theologians who would love to see women priests and who have excellent theology on their side. It’s just that the tight structures of the Roman church don’t allow those voices to be heard as clearly as they could be, but that has more to do with power than with truth.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 12:27pm BST

I think this has all gone on long enough: the Church of England has decided to ordain women to all levels. Those who disagree with this move, for good, honest, theological reasons, must now make pilgrimage to the Holy See (from where they came) and come home with all thier passion and love and zeal for the Gospel to use it to help us transform England back into a Catholic Country. Christ is calling you home to His Holy Church, we long for your return

Posted by: Mark Wharton on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 12:30pm BST

I really don't think you understand the distress of those who are being forced out of the church. And they are. They are holding to Catholic order which the church has held since the earliest days. I'm not saying women can't be ordained. I'm saying that a vote in Synod cannot decide something that goes against the teaching of the greater church. Are all the Rc and orthodox wrong? Were all our ancestors wrong? I want to weep.

Posted by: Justin on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 12:38pm BST


It seems to me that the rejection of the term "dissenters" is essentially the typical claim of all dissident and schismatic minorities through history to be the "true church" whilst the majority, who actually are the ones moving forward in faith, can then be written off as "innovators". I suspect they are positioning themselves on what they perceive to be the moral high ground, which will allow for future leverage in General Synod debate and, should it come to that, in property disputes.

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 1:55pm BST

Celibacy is not a matter of theology Erikka but discipline. Furthermore it is not the teaching or practice of the entire RC church but only the Latin Rite. They adopted it to minimise costs, deploy clergy easily and to try and ensure priests were totally dedicated to their people.

It is precisely because it is not in the realm of doctrine that the ordinariate will welcome married priests

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 7:16pm BST

I often wonder if the "teaching of the greater church" would have been different if those deciding its teaching had included females.

Posted by: EmilyH on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 7:29pm BST

"Were all our ancestors wrong?"

Yes. Just as were the ones who owned and trafficked in slaves.

Yes. Just as were the ones who would punish disobedient children by stoning them to death.

I could go on.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 8:00pm BST

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
915 Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.

916 The state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a "more intimate" consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.456

That does not look much like being aimed at minimising costs, deploying clergy easily and trying to ensure priests are totally dedicated to their people.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 9:40pm BST

"I really don't think you understand the distress of those who are being forced out of the church. And they are. They are holding to Catholic order which the church has held since the earliest days. I'm not saying women can't be ordained. I'm saying that a vote in Synod cannot decide something that goes against the teaching of the greater church. Are all the Rc and orthodox wrong? Were all our ancestors wrong? I want to weep."

Not wrong--just not ready to accept what we have learned about the differences between the sexes. You want us to wait until the RC and Orthodox come to our understanding before acting upon it? Did we wait for them when we ended celibacy for priests hundreds of years ago? For that matter, did the Vatican wait for us when it decided upon dogma such as the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary into heaven? Are these not more important matters than the gender of a priest?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 10:35pm BST

"Were all our ancestors wrong?"

Our ancestors were people just like us trying to find their way through the world. We should neither reverently genuflect to their ideas, nor casually discard them. We should consider their ideas on their merits.

Let's not forget that all venerable ancient traditions began as innovations.

I'm dumbfounded that women's ordination is still an issue anywhere beyond those fortified bastions against modernity in Rome and Constantinople (and in Cairo for that matter). In the USA, even a lot of the evangelicals now ordain women.

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 at 11:25pm BST

"It is precisely because it is not in the realm of doctrine that the ordinariate will welcome married priests" - Ed Tomlinson, on Tuesday -

Well, you just tell that to the Pope! If celibacy is not a Roman Catholic area of 'doctrine' why are they still enforcing this discipline - which has rendered the UK enrolment of future clergy almost null and void in the R.C.Church - only 7 ordinands over the last year? If celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church in the UK is not a matter of doctrine, then why bother with it? You will notice that the Ordinariates are allowed to include married clergy, while any new aspirants - even in the Ordinariates - will need to be celibate.

You, Ed., will get into the Ordinariate, while being married and the father of children - only as a special dispensation from the Vow of Celibacy required of a Roman Catholic person desiring to train for the R.C. priesthood. The only question for you, personally, will be: Who is going to support you financially, because, as you have pointed out, celibacy is required by Rome BECAUSE they cannot afford to support married clergy.

Incidentally, I suppose that, in the case of Rome, the issue of women clergy is equally a matter of 'doctrine' as that of celibacy.

Are you still, all considered, sufficiently opposed to women bishops that you will take the plunge into the Anglican Ordinariates' tributary to the Tiber, and not across the Tiber itself?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 2:04am BST

"100 Reform clergy have signed a letter sent to every bishop in advance of the House of Bishops’ meeting next week. This follows a similar letter signed by 50 of the clergy sent in February, and sets out why “the consecration of women bishops would be a mistake and would raise for us great difficulties of conscience and practice, as well as being wrong for our Church as a whole.” - Reform -

SO. Here we have the real issue: Reform Clergy are not just wanting 'special provisions' to cover their opposition to women as bishops in the Church. What they are saying - and it is what we all know is the reality - they will not tolerate the ordination of women bishops, seemingly, at any price. This is very different from the notion that somehow their opposition could be conditional to being provided with 'special conditions' which would accommodate their need of appeasement.

This is not about appeasement. It is blatantly and obviously a statement of Reforms inability to even 'live with' the prospect of women bishops.

This absolute refusal to 'live with' the idea of female episcopal ordination should help General Synod and the House of Bishops to make their minds up to resist the provision of any sort of special arrangement - which obviously will never satisfy the demands of Reform for a women-bishops-free Church of England.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 3:09am BST

Teaching of the "greater church" vs. "innovation."

So, you would choose one group of human teachings over another and try to call them holy, simply because they accord with your prejudice and are comfortably "unchanged?" There is no choice here of God's Will over Man's will, simply two very human interpretations.

You claim the "greater" church, then plead for clemency based on the view of the "greater" church being in the minority. How can one believe you have a holy intent in such obvious self-contradiction and emotional pandering? You threaten on one hand and shed crocodile tears on the other. If you believe the authoritarianism of Rome or the superstition of Constantinople are preferable, by all means, go - God put them there to suit the weaker brethren! You experience pain in being "forced" (out of pity, I won't comment on that) out? Good. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven!

Or, perhaps, you yourselves are a bit concerned that your pain isn't all that righteous?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 5:10am BST

"are all our current people wrong?"

Yes. Just as they are when they slaughter countless thousands of unborn children.

Yes. Just as they are when they build a society of self that destroys the family and neglects the vulnerable.

I could also go on Cynthia. Seems to me that history and present life contains sins as well as virtues. Being modern is no garauntee that you are in the moral high ground on this one.

Posted by: Ed Tomlinson on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 7:34am BST

"Seems to me that history and present life contains sins as well as virtues."

Then your choices are no more a matter of Truth than you claim ours to be . . . with, of course, one difference; your approach has led to no great change to the good in humanity as proven over the centuries. If you wish to stay with a broken system, do so, but stop crying foul because others have learned the lesson and moved on and won't suffer for *you*.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 10:24am BST

"Being modern is no garauntee that you are in the moral high ground on this one."

By the same token, nor is being ancient.

Each issue has to be evaluated on its own merit when it arises. And whatever we do, we always run the risk of getting it wrong. That's what it means to be human, doesn't it?

So, really, neither "but we've always done it like this" nor "it's time to be modern" are reasonable arguments.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 11:10am BST

I guess if you're married then you can't devote ample time to your flock??? My local Episcopal Priest is always checking in with his flock. The local RC priest don't even visit the sick in the hospital. I worked at a parish where the priest didn't even know who was in the choir. He only knew who gave the most.

Posted by: BobinSWPA on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 5:05pm BST

Erika, please note that the paragraphs on "consecrated life" you quoted from the Catechism are not descriptive of the clergy, but rather refer to those Christians who choose to follow the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience either individually or corporately, apart from whether or not they are ordained.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 10:03pm BST

Reform say that they are not making any financial threats but they make sure that their financial contribution is spelt out. I wonder why?

No surprise that the semi detached Bishop of Lewes wishes to be associated with this letter.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 12 May 2010 at 10:06pm BST

so when you say "whether ordained or not", are you saying that not all ordained clergy have to lead a consecrated life? And that poverty, chastity and obedience are optional for them?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 6:10am BST

and there is this:

General Audience July 14, 1993
In the Gospels, when Jesus called his first apostles to make them "fishers of men" (cf. Mt 4:19; Mk 1:17; Lk 5:10), they "left everything and followed him" (Lk 5:11; cf. Mt 4:20, 22; Mk 1:18, 20). One day Peter remembered this aspect of the apostolic vocation and said to Jesus: "We have given up everything and followed you" (Mt 19:27; Mk 10:28; cf. Lk 18:28). Jesus then listed all the necessary detachments "for my sake," and "for the sake of the Gospel" (Mk 10:29). This did not only mean renouncing material possessions, such as "house" or "lands," but also being separated from loved ones: "brothers or sisters or mother or father or children," according to Matthew and Mark, and "wife or brothers or parents or children," according to Luke (18:29).
Here we note the difference in vocations. Jesus did not demand this radical renunciation of family life from all his disciples, although he did require the first place in their hearts when he said: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Mt 10:37). The demand for practical renunciation is proper to the apostolic life or the life of special consecration. Called by Jesus, "James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John" left not only the boat on which they were "mending their nets," but also their father who was with them (Mt 4:22; cf. Mk 1:20).
These observations help us understand the reason for the Church's legislation on priestly celibacy. In fact, the Church has considered and still considers that it belongs to the logic of priestly consecration and to the total belonging to Christ resulting from it, in order to fulfill consciously his mandate of evangelization and the spiritual life…..

….. Jesus is the concrete ideal of this form of consecrated life, an example for everyone, but especially for priests. He lived as a celibate, and for this reason he could devote all his energy to preaching the kingdom of God and to serving people, with a heart open to all humanity, as the founder of a new spiritual family. His choice was truly "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (cf. Mt 19:12).

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 8:39am BST

The Church of England is not alone in its diverse opinions about the issue of women's ministry. The following item from 'Virtue-on-line' - headed by the former Baptist, David Virtue - has this to say today, about the burgeoning divisiveness in ACNA:

"One thing is clear, the period of open reception that sees ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan who stands for the ordination of women and Bishop Jack Iker, a staunch Anglo-Catholic who does not, (and who has said he would pull out of ACNA if it ever ordained a woman bishop,) cannot go unresolved indefinitely. The ordination of women to the priesthood will continue to simmer just beneath the surface of the new North American Anglican province and unless, in time, it is not fully resolved, it will erupt, bringing about its downfall." - virtueonline -

Remember, this is ACNA - the faux respresentation of Anglicanism in North America, which has split for TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada - that is already showing grave signs of a split on the issue of women's ministry. This particular issue, when considered together with the fact that there are all sorts of churchman-ship cobbled together within this new schismatic body in North America; will undoubtedly spell trouble for its members.
Interestingly, there is even conflict with the African provinces that have spawned these new congregations which now belong to ACNA - about the acceptability of women in ministry. The C.of E. is not alone in its travail!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 10:39am BST

"Rick, so when you say "whether ordained or not", are you saying that not all ordained clergy have to lead a consecrated life? And that poverty, chastity and obedience are optional for them?"

What I intended to say was that the choice to lead a consecrated life, or, as it is sometimes expressed, to join "the religious," those who follow the evangelical counsels in a religious order or individually, is not one for clergy only. Obviously nuns are not clergy. Neither was St. Francis.

I honestly don't know exactly what the situation is for priests. There is a division of the clergy into "secular" and "religious." Some priests are in religious orders, Jesuits and Franciscans, and the like. I believe that many belong to no religious order. Those who are secular must vow celibacy, of course. What other vows they take, I don't know. Those who are religious of course take the vows of their order. Jesuits, for instance, take a special vow of obedience to the pope.

But the point, I think, as a matter of doctrine, is that priests need not have adopted the evangelical counsels to be priests. It was more a matter of discipline and development that the Latin church chose to ordain men subject to a vow of celibacy, just as the Eastern tradition requires celibacy of bishops (and forbids priests who are widowed to remarry). At least that's how I understand it.

Posted by: rick allen on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 12:16pm BST

@Erika: Now, now! While all clergy presumably lead "a" consecrated life, "the consecrated (or religious) life" as such is indeed distinct from the ordained ministry. While it is certainly possible for a monk (or nun, in the Anglican case) to be ordained, or for a priest to make religious profession, either can be pursued as a vocation in its own right unaccompanied by the other (i.e. a "secular" priest or a "lay" religious).

Posted by: Geoff on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 2:12pm BST


For once I actually agree with you about something! Yes, the ACNA is essentially on the road to repeating exactly what happened in TEC years ago. The same will happen in another 20 years when the yet to be formed split from ACNA debate the issue again, and on and on...

That's what happens when those without authority try to make up their own rules.

Posted by: Jakian Thomist on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 4:13pm BST

"Obviously nuns are not clergy."

Um Rick, in TEC they both can be, and ARE ("Obviously" and "Obviously to the Vatican" are very different things!)


And speaking of the Vatican:

"That's what happens when those without authority try to make up their own rules." While I agree w/ you re ACNA, I'm guessing that that---re "those without authority"---Rome is w/ whom you're making the contrast, JakThom?

The seemingly infinite rubber-band-like S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G of "Peter" (the concept---not the former-fisherman nee' Simon 2000 years ago) never ceases to gobsmack... [But all rubber-bands eventually CRACK!, and behold...]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 13 May 2010 at 8:07pm BST
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