Sunday, 20 June 2010

Southwark episode rumbles on

Some more items in the “mitregate” saga.

Maggi Dawn (whose earlier post Mitregate: the latest church row was linked previously on TA has written two further articles: first, Mitregate (2): “should I go or should I stay, now?”

…My own mailbox this week has had a stream of comments from women who have just been, or are about to be, ordained as priests or deacons. They are disappointed and dismayed as everyone else who sees this whole charade as a massive PR blunder. But there is a personal element too. It swings straight back at them: with one hand the Church has welcomed their giving up of their time, their careers and their economic security in order to serve, while with the other hand, in the very month that they take their orders, it has smacked them down again. You can serve, the Church seems to say, but never dare to forget you are second class citizens.

At one level this whole affair has been a lot of nonsense – as the Presiding Bishop herself said, “It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre“. But I don’t mind admitting that the onslaught of mockery from those outside the church and disappointment from inside has had me seriously considering hanging up my own cassock.

And also, Mitregate 3:

I feel sure that the Mitregate story will blow over sometime in the next 24 hours. It’s just a small incident, of course – it’s just a hat, it’s just one misunderstanding, it’s not what we are really all about, and it really deserves a good lampooning of the kind Spitting Image used to do so well. For the true picture, you could do no better than to hear or read the marvellous sermon KJS preached at Southwark last weekend. What I regret about this story, though, is that it’s one of a long series of events that make the Church appear out of touch and absorbed in petty details that don’t matter that much.

Many have asked, “What was Lambeth thinking?”. I may be wrong, but my guess is that it was the timing of her visit – so close to our imminent Synod debate on women bishops in England – that made those in Lambeth anxious not to be seen to be forcing the issue. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given that the history of England* has always inclined towards change by degree. We didn’t make the long journey from feudalism to democracy without a war or two, but once France had her revolution we followed with two centuries of political reform, one tiny step at a time. Whether the anxiety for less bloodshed left us with more frustration is hard to say, but it seems that culturally we carved a path we still follow: change comes slowly, with every miniscule step analysed and considered. The seventeenth century proverb (later adapted by Longfellow) could have been written for the Church of England: “God’s mill grinds slow, but sure.”

Kelvin Holdsworth has provided a Scottish perspective in his article Mitregate:

…The short version is that the Presiding Bishop of the US based Episcopal Church was inhibited from wearing a mitre or carrying a pastoral staff whilst visiting Southwark Cathedral last Sunday. I suspect this is because the Church of Englandshire does not recognise that women can become bishops yet and so inhibit women who have been made bishops from acting as bishop or appearing as bishops when in England. It is a kind of small-mindedness that we don’t indulge in up here. Either Bishop Katharine is a bishop or she isn’t. If she is, she gets treated with respect as a bishop or she isn’t and we don’t have to bother about her at all. (It was the same years ago for Bishop Penny from New Zealand who was able to act as a bishop in Scotland even before we had made any decision about women and the Episcopatate but she could not do so in England).

I remember that +Gene Robinson was banned from wearing Episcopal regalia when in England two years ago for similar reasons. However, I could not remember whether he had worn one a titfer liturgically when he came here. It made me look back at the video of that service and I found that he did indeed wear a mitre. Seems to me that making headgear the cause of controversy is displacement activity.

Presumably the no-mitre on +Katharine rule was instigated in order to appease a certain kind of Evangelical lobby group. (Which again, I don’t think we really have up here either, thank God). Oh how sweet the irony that they become the first bible-believing fundamentalists to insist that a woman not wear a hat in public worship…

And it appears that Kenneth Kearon made a comment about this last week in Maryland.

But this Canadian church website has a video which everyone should watch. (h/t SueM)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 5:34pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

This is why the slowing down or blocking of the process by conservatives, reactionary bishops and archbishops to consecrate women as bishops in The Church of England is so arbitrary and capricious. It is the most egregious offense against women. It is misogyny pure and simple and it has never had a theological leg to stand on. There is no theological basis to prevent women to be consecrated as bishops. There is nothing but prejudice and narrow mindedness behind the motives of the people who are trying to stop or slow down the process. It is a move to keep women down, to keep their status in the Church as second class and it is not "Of Christ" no matter how the right wingers try to argue it. It is a shameful strategy that will backfire in such an enormous way that the repercussions will be felt for several decades. I keep reading that the majority attending The Church of England Synod in July favor an expedited resolution to move forward to make women bishops, but for some uncanny and unacceptable reasons, this in fact may not happen. This is shameful. The Roman Pontiff and the right wing evangelical power holders are most likely the driving forces behind the move to have a two tier system of bishops or have no women bishops at all. Money is most likely a factor here also. The threat from the right wingers to withdraw money contributions. This is not a proven fact but I suspect it may be a factor. We should always follow the money. I pray the Holy Spirit will give the backbone and courage to those persons at the Synod to create a fast track process to elevate women to the episcopate, and that they will stand as a unit and demand it happen as a matter of JUSTICE and equality with no further delays. Isn't two thousand years of denial of this role for women enough? The pain that has been inflicted on women in this tiresome process is unacceptable and immoral. I have read that the Archbishops of York and Canterbury may be attempting to put roadblocks up that will stall this process. If true, this is totally unacceptable and most unethical. No to "flying bishops" should be the rule also, but I just bet the reactionary voters at the Synod will demand that this be a part of the deal. It's such a deceit. The same issues apply to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies, They all have blood on their hands when it comes to denying women roles as bishops in the Church.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 6:30pm BST

*sighs*

It was just a lovely service.

God was present.

Both during the service and after, in the courtyard having coffee in the sunshine, there was grace.

Let grace be enough.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 7:06pm BST

"Oh how sweet the irony that they become the first bible-believing fundamentalists to insist that a woman not wear a hat in public worship…"

Yes! I've been waitiing for someone to note the Pauline irony. What a bunch of silly old women run the C of E!

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 7:53pm BST

A commenter on the Covenant website (David Simmons) has some interesting observations about the sacramental theology involved in the kerfluffle. Among other things he notes:

"++KJS is a bishop. Anglicans generally believe that ordination is an indelible sacramental act, not a “function.” She cannot temporarily “relinquish” her episcopacy and act simply as a priest or deacon. Whatever she does, she does it as a bishop. She celebrated as the Eucharist as a bishop at Southwark, whether she was wearing a mitre or not. To claim that since she was not wearing a mitre, she was celebrating as a presbyter is theologically bankrupt - it almost sounds Pythonesque."

He reckons that the only way that AoC could have prevented a woman bishop from functioning at Southwark would have been to deny ++KJS a license altogether.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 8:40pm BST

Glad to be of help, Simon!

Posted by: Suem on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 9:03pm BST

"Let grace be enough." - Susannah Clark

The thing is, grace IS enough. That's the Gospel. God has taken care of everything. But in the Church, we keep behaving as if we are the ones in charge of salvation. We seem to think that, unless we scrupulously observe various rules and regulations, salvation will be lost.
I loved Susannah's description of the day. That's what I go to church for!

Posted by: Old Father William on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 10:31pm BST

"Either Bishop Katharine is a bishop or she isn’t. If she is, she gets treated with respect as a bishop or she isn’t and we don’t have to bother about her at all. (It was the same years ago for Bishop Penny from New Zealand who was able to act as a bishop in Scotland even before we had made any decision about women and the Episcopatate but she could not do so in England)."

- Kevin Holdsworth ESC -

Perhaps this is something of the Scottish spirit of independence that Kevin is speaking about in his summation of 'mitregate'. We in New Zealand have long been puzzled by the lacklustre welcome received by our Bishop Penny at Lambeth. And she was nominated to head our Church in the southern-most part of N.Z. by the Scottish settlers of the Dunedin Diocese. There must be something in the clarity of the air in Scotland and New Zealand that works against obfuscation and the antique ramifications of the 'Old Boy' network.

Mitregate will settle down, but the aftermath will undoubtedly make the Women of England seriously question whether their sacrifice for ministry will ever be truly appreciated - by the C.of E., not God, nor the Communion members who have already harnessed the ministry of women to good effect.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 11:19pm BST

In Maggie’s Mitregate 2 article Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, is reported as saying, ‘It all goes to show what a silly boy I was to be properly courteous to the ABC and ask permission in the first place!
A wise Priest once advised me don’t ask a Bishop anything you know the answer will be no to. In the current circumstances with the ABC under intense scrutiny from all sides both over TEC and proposed Women Bishops here, maybe the Dean was silly to ask a question that the ABC was bound to answer in only one way, by the rules however ungracious they may seem. In the current climate some misguided members of our church community could have misread the visit of the presiding Bishop as a campaign visit before general synod. If the ABC had said yes to the Dean to allow the Presiding Bishop acting in her full capacity as Bishop in Southwark it would have been a whole different set of headlines.
What is for sure, both our friends in TEC and our ‘Lord Bishop’s in General Synod need our prayers so that the Anglican Church here and in the world wide communion can seek to be representative of the whole body of Christ.

Posted by: Simon R on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 11:24pm BST

Presumably the Body and Blood of Christ was still administered at the hands of Bishop Katharine, when she presided at the Eucharist in Southwark Cathedral - whether or not she is considered the be of episcopal rank by the Church of England. This is really what matters - not her rank but the efficacy of her ministry. And Bishop Katharine has already given evidence of her capability in Church leadership in the world-wide Communion.
Ave Katharine!

We own a debt of thanks to Dean Colin Slee and the officers and congregation of Southwark Cathedral for their gracious hospitality towards our Sister-in-Christ. "In Christ, there is neither male nor female, but all are baptized by the One Spirit".

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 20 June 2010 at 11:38pm BST

I am moved to observe that the stars of the video could easily replace many of "the usual suspects" and thereby increase both the coherence and the maturity of episcopal discussions.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 5:42am BST

I loved the little video of the Canadian Church -offered above the bar-line by SueM. The first part with the children and the mitre was artful and interesting, but the following interviews with adults on the ground - seeing their faces, and hearing what they had to say, was riveting. Not a bad grasp of what is needed in the way of inclusiveness and loving attention to ALL. Canada speaks of a need for change to achieve all this.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 6:35am BST

The various videos hyperlinked on the Canadian Church website above are indeed inspiring. It would be wonderful if the C-of-E did the same and took a serious survey among the laity 'What do you want the church to be in ten years time'.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 10:21am BST

Simon R opines: "...maybe the Dean was silly to ask a question that the ABC was bound to answer in only one way, by the rules however ungracious they may seem. In the current climate some misguided members of our church community could have misread the visit of the presiding Bishop as a campaign visit before general synod. If the ABC had said yes to the Dean to allow the Presiding Bishop acting in her full capacity as Bishop in Southwark it would have been a whole different set of headlines."

So which is it? The ABC was "bound to answer in only one way, by the rules however ungracious they may seem," or was bound by (your perception of) "a campaign visit before general synod" (which assertion I've not heard prior to now even from the Right)?

If the latter, whence comes the justification for the ABC's selective enforcement of "the rules however ungracious they may seem"? For the former has already been shown not to be the case, both by (a) the documentation here and elsewhere of other female bishops from abroad having preached and/or presided in mitre in England and (b) such documentation of ++Katharine herself in mitre at Salisbury in more cheery days just a couple of years ago.

All of which also assumes in the first that "the rules" in fact include a "mitre-wearing ban" for female bishops who visit England -- but that is not the only logical way to construe how to apply the ban on such female bishops engaging in "episcopal acts." And if mitre-wearing is indeed not an "episcopal act" (what, did England never in its past have mitre-wearing, non-episcopal abbots and abbesses like the rest of Western Christendom?!), then there was no selective enforcement at all when female bishops have worn their mitres; rather, it was entirely "legal" all along.

As the saying goes, one is entitled to one's own view, but not to one's own facts.

Posted by: David da Silva Cornell on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 1:52pm BST

"A wise Priest once advised me don’t ask a Bishop anything you know the answer will be no to."

Or as a wise priest said to me, "It's wiser to apologize afterwards than to ask permission before."

Oh, for the Goon Show or Beyond the Fringe or Monty Python to send this up!


Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 21 June 2010 at 2:06pm BST

Sometimes in the divine comedy holy laughter is the only response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TYKp_Kh2qQ

Posted by: John Griffiths on Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 10:54pm BST

Gesturally, to an unchurched and/or educated public range of passing global audiences, this plays rather clearly:

A, you are a man who is terribly unable to cope with having had a mother whose reality vexes and unsettles you, so deeply you can hardly bear it;

OR

B. you don't gotta problem with women being effective in work and life, so what is all the fuss?

Guess where CoE seems to be tilting these days?

PS, something rather oddly similar is being gestured about queer folks and allies ...

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 11:10pm BST
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