Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Bishop Tom Wright gives interview

The Church of Ireland Gazette has an exclusive story. See Church of England should drop plans for women Bishops if major split would result, Bishop Tom Wright tells Gazette.

Speaking to [Ian Ellis] the Gazette editor in an interview while visiting Ireland, Bishop Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now a Research Professor at the University of St Andrews, has said that the Church of England should not proceed to the consecration of women as Bishops if the move were to create a large division.

He said: “my own position is quite clear on this, that I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church.”

Bishop Wright warned that if the Church of England were not able to resolve the matter “a ‘quick fix’ resolution” would be “a recipe for long-term disaster”…

And asked about the Anglican Covenant, he said this:

Asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said: “I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative.” He said the Communion could not afford to have “the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had”.

Bishop Wright said that the Covenant “doesn’t foreclose on particular issues”. Rather, he explained, it “provides a framework within which you can have the discussion in a way which tries to keep all parties at the table. Obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business, but without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Asked to comment on what would happen if the Church of England rejected the Covenant proposal, Bishop Wright said: “That is always a possibility, and if that happens, then I suppose the thing would be dead in the water. But that’s a notional possibility which I don’t actually see as realistic.” Bishop Wright was visiting Ireland to give a series of talks to the 18th-21st October Down and Dromore clergy conference, held in Donegal Town.

The entire interview was recorded, and you can listen to the audio file here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 3 November 2010 at 11:17pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England | Church of Ireland
Comments

It would be one of the truly great tragedies of Anglicanism if the Church of England does not proceed on a vigorous path for the full inclusion of women in the Episcopate. It is very sad and most disappointing that a Bishop from Ireland should make such a statement to halt women's ordination because it may threaten UNITY. This argument is bankrupt. It is shameful.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Wednesday, 3 November 2010 at 11:42pm GMT

"My own position is quite clear on this, that i have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I've spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don't think it's something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church"

- Bishop Tom Wright, to the C.of Ireland Gazette -

It all depends in what you mean by 'clear'! Obviously, since announcing his 'retirement' from Durham, the good bishop has been having other thoughts, which seem to have confused his clarity.
To suppose the the Ordination of Women bishops, which is already in train following on their ordination as priests, could hardly produce the 'major division' in the Church of England that he now fears. In any case, unless the motion goes through allowing women to take their rightful place within the leadership of the Church, there could be a far greater division - of those women already in the ministry of the Church who may just withdraw their ministry.
Justice should never be neglected at the price of inherited prejudice.

And on the subject of Bishop Wright's statement about the Covenant (in the same article) he must realise that the Holy Spirit is still in charge of new enterprise in the Church that helps the cause of justice - for both women and gays. The imposition of a Covenant which militates against such progress will do little to enhance the ethos of the Gospel.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 2:20am GMT

"I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church."

Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had felt that way about slavery . . . oh wait, he did. And that's why the United States never had a civil war, and slavery persists there to this day.

[Or, y'know, you could actually LEARN from Honest Abe's experience. Instead of selling out half of the Imago Dei, for an illusory "peace" that can't exist in a Divided House anyway!]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 3:09am GMT

Talk about irresponsible journalism!

You don't need Wright to grant an interview; the miracle is getting him to shut up. Now, we've got people giving him a platform when he *finally* had retired into well-deserved anonymity?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 3:47am GMT

"...without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight."

This is a bit rich coming from Tom Wright, isn't it? He's spent the last umpteen years mouthing off in public wherever possible on a topic (youknowwhatuality) about which he has nothing sensible to say...

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 6:59am GMT

I just don't think this is how the church holds together — having a beefy beer 'n sandwiches process to keep people at the table. I ask you! When in my parish people fell out seriously (sometimes over crimes one had committed against another) the resource to reconcile wasn't procedural (like Amanda in Brief Lives saying "Let's agree that we'll never have a serious argument because whenever it's developing we'll just do this...")

People fell out, for real, big time sometimes, and my role as priest was to open their eyes to the broader realities they may otherwise have missed — Jesus breaking down dividing walls and reconciling heaven and earth on the cross, and the reconciliation of all things at the end of time when Christ would be all in all. The Redemptive and Eschatalogical realities got you there, by way of repentance and faith. Anything less was inadequate.

Had such a procedure existed in Corinth there would have been no need to write the letters, and we'd all be the poorer.

The reason there have to be fallings out among you, says the Scripture, is that it allows the hard reality of your faith to be proved. Even if a big bureaucratic ACAS in the sky worked, all it could possibly do is prevent this happening directly by substituting a mannerist alternative.

Posted by: Bishop Alan Wilson on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 8:24am GMT

What Bp Wright says about the Bible and authority is OK, but somehow stale. Going on about "authoritativeness" is somehow prissy and schoolmasterish. Is this really the issue at the heart of the Anglican Communion? "All of these things seem to be miles away from the people in the pew" objects the interviewer. We are then told that it's "the plumbing of the Church" and "if the plumbing isn't working... there'll be a bad smell", "things blow up in your face" – The two openly gay US bishops are seen as the ones who broke the rules on which all agreed, like a bad student in a hostel who breaks the rules by playing music loud at night and must be expelled. And here in fact is the real issue, not “authoritativeness”. The analogy he draws with the Arian controversy does not uphold his case; that issue was resolved on its merits, not by theological plumbing on church structures. We much “cut each other some slack,” “give each other space and room,” he says, and talks of “a lack of honesty” but goes on to speak of the impossibility of showing mercy to those who don’t admit they’ve done anything wrong (and who are they? -- again, the US bishops). I can’t say to my “splendid women clergy” “you’ll never be a bishops but who cares?” but he has no scruple about saying it to splendid gay clergy.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 10:07am GMT

"to open their eyes to the broader realities they may otherwise have missed — Jesus breaking down dividing walls and reconciling heaven and earth on the cross, and the reconciliation of all things at the end of time when Christ would be all in all" Bishop Alan Wilson

If those are "realities" can someone give me an example of something surreal?

Posted by: Laurence on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 11:26am GMT

@ Chris:

Bishop Wright is NOT a bishop "from Ireland"! Speaking in an Irish newspaper, yes. The Church of Ireland permits women bishops, although hasn't elected one yet.

Posted by: David Oxley on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 12:29pm GMT

“...the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had.”

But +Tom, that's what it means to be Anglican! We've always done it that way before! We're quite good at it!

Posted by: Bill Moorhead on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 1:29pm GMT

There is always someone willing to step bravely forward and sacrifice other people's inclusion. Happily, Jesus was not one of these.

Bishops should lead and teach, not give in to pressure. Happily, Jesus did not.

But then, Jesus never made Bishop, did He?

Posted by: Nat on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 3:43pm GMT

What does it mean to 'substitute a mannerist alternative' ?

(And I thought I was able to read English to quite a good level.)

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 4:01pm GMT

Maybe what you need to do is let the diocese elect their own bishops. That would let everyone off the hook. If you want a woman or GLBT candidate as bishop it should be your choice not a group of stodgy govt officials and clerics. Heaven help us if we trust people to make choices for themselves.

Posted by: bobinswpa on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 4:58pm GMT

Laurence, My apologies for being obscure. If people fall out over something serious they can talk with one another directly. That is how the NT implies we should address such problems, as directly as possible and with a minimum of triangulation. Alternatively, they can set up some intermediary institution to judge the issue. Doing the latter is Mannerist, by analogy, because like Mannerist art it exaggerates for effect, amplifying the importance of the disagreement, providing a grandstand for those who want such a thing, and turning people into issues that can be talked about rather than to. The more direct alternative is messier, but then people are messy, aren't they?

Posted by: Bishop Alan Wilson on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 5:21pm GMT

Laurence, I think I also need to say that for Christians the atoning death of Jesus Christ is a very important reality, as is the hope of his coming in glory. These are the foundational realities of our creed, and we cannot fix "plumbing" without reference to them.

Posted by: Bishop Alan Wilson on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 5:26pm GMT

The Bishop said: "Obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business..."

What happens if parties didn't choose to 'walk away from the table' but happened to hold a different point of view?

The concern I have about the covenant, is that it seems to put in place a sort of mechanism, which could, even with good intentions, be used in future to give provinces the choice of "walking away from the table" - eg supposedly self-imposed expulsion - or no other choice but to conform.

And I think that is potentially... not necessarily at this point... authoritarian, in a way that is wholly alien to Anglicanism.

You run the risk that a dominant alliance (say one driven by African and evangelical provinces opposed to homosexuality) could attempt to determine how other Anglican provinces express their faith, in their cultures, with the background threat that they can always choose "to walk away from the table".

Which would be a polite 'front' for eviction, or exclusion, or marginalisation.

So what the covenant runs the risk of creating is an implicit 'hierarchical model' where all national churches / separate provinces are amswerable to a centre that may happen to be numerically conservative.

Same with women bishops really. Is it really good and wise teaching to say that something clearly just and right, already recognised on some provinces, should be suspended or blocked, out of fear for this 'block identity' of a centralising church?

Instead of which, is it asking too much for churches to grow and be led by the Spirit, locally, communally where they are, and for decency and justice not to be always constrained (a terrible witness to the secular world anyway) by the fears and threats of people who - in their own legitimate space - still embrace sexism and homophobia, sometimes verging on a violent marginalisation?

There is absolutely no reason why the Anglican Church in the US should be conformed to the model or cultural assumptions of the Church of Uganda or Nigeria, nor should all Anglicans there or here in the UK be required to be told 'top down' they must conform to one way of interpreting scripture (usually termed 'biblical inerrancy').

Yet that is the danger of a 'covenant' mentality, when really, we already have a covenant, in Jesus Christ, and that should be enough, for the many and diverse ways Christ calls us to love and to serve.

We don't want "top down" Anglicanism which sounds and feels like ecclesial imperialism. It should be sufficient that we find our unity in Christ, and are each, in our own integrity, seeking to serve Jesus Christ in our own communities, not in someone else's.

To be honest, in a UK or US context, the attitudes of some of the Nigerian or Ugandan Churches on homosexuality are an embarrassment. A 'one size fits all' approach is so much at odds with the celebration of diversity which our society's have dared to believe in.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 5:44pm GMT

Alan Wilson, thank you for your replies and your politeness.

By way of background, I should point out that I'm not a Christian (so I will step aside from any theological discussions!) - but have an interest in the goings-on within the Church of England/Anglican Communion because (a) my partner is ordained in the CofE - and regularly discriminated against by it - and (b) the CofE is the established church with unelected representation in the legislature. Until a couple of years ago, I knew almost nothing about the Church of England - what I have discovered since has horrified me.

Posted by: Laurence on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 6:36pm GMT

Where's the Bishop of Lewes? Or are his reported remarks so off the wall that even TA won't report them? I think we should be told. One would laugh if the whole thing wasn't so tragic.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 6:37pm GMT

Thank you Bishop Alan for your nuanced and careful comments above.

I went on a funeral visit earlier this week - wife had died, had been married to widower for 68 years. Children said 'we don't know how you did it, our relationships have all fallen apart'. And it was all about how to handle disagreement - "we disagreed, but we didn't bet the relationship on our disagreements, it was about so much more than that." - when we talk about covenanted relationships it is the relational context which is fundamental.

Is it more important to be right, or to continue in relationship?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 7:13pm GMT

Thanks, Alan.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 7:36pm GMT

I wasn't quite happy with my wording towards the end of my previous post. A few phrases seemed harsh and too extreme on re-reading, so I'll have another 'go' here at rounding off my comments:

Instead of which, is it asking too much for churches to grow and be led by the Spirit, locally, communally where they are, and for decency and justice not to be always constrained (a terrible witness to the secular world anyway) by the fears and threats of churches in different places who - in their own legitimate space - hold to views that almost offer mandate (or perceived mandate) to societal sexism and homophobia, sometimes verging on a violent marginalisation?

There is absolutely no reason why the Anglican Church in the US should be conformed to the model or cultural assumptions of the Church of Uganda or Nigeria, nor should all Anglicans in the US or here in the UK be required to be told 'top down' they must conform to one way of interpreting scripture (usually termed 'biblical inerrancy').

Yet that is the danger of a 'covenant' mentality, when really, we already have a covenant, in Jesus Christ, and that should be enough, for the many and diverse ways Christ calls us to love and to serve.

We don't need a "top down" Anglicanism which sounds and feels like ecclesial imperialism. It should be sufficient that we find our unity in Christ, and are each, in our own integrity, seeking to serve Jesus Christ in our own communities, not in someone else's.

To be honest, in a UK or US context, the attitudes of some of the Nigerian or Ugandan Churches on homosexuality are an embarrassment. The same could be said in reverse. A 'one size fits all' approach is so much at odds with the celebration of diversity which our societies have dared to believe in.

The Elizabethan Settlement created a platform for diversity of expressions, which allowed space for spiritual renewal in different ways in different communities. It allowed 'space for grace'. A 'top-down' covenant attempting to dictate and control beliefs could become a vehicle for exclusion, for rigidity, and may protect the views of some dominant majorities, but say to minorities of good faith, "Well, you can leave the table if you don't like it."

The table belongs to God. The Eucharist is the gift of God. And, however diverse our expressions, we are One in Christ. With humble and contrite hearts, we should celebrate His Covenant. It is sufficient.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 7:50pm GMT

The "top down" model of hierarchy is a failed model in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. It is just not working on so many levels that many lay people are trying to conceive just what model might work. It would be a tragedy if Anglicanism adopted a magesterium similar to Roman Catholicism. Imperial models do not work. Bishops who set themselves "above" the rest of the Church are heading down a dangerous path. Diversity is essential if the institutional Churches expect to survive this century. The top down one size fits all model is a dysfunctional model. The various Roman Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies are suppose to be "shepherds" who serve their sheep not the other way around. Let's hope Anglicanism does not follow this imperial model.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 9:15pm GMT

"We don't want "top down" Anglicanism which sounds and feels like ecclesial imperialism. It should be sufficient that we find our unity in Christ, and are each, in our own integrity, seeking to serve Jesus Christ in our own communities, not in someone else's." - Susannah Clark, on Thursday -

This, from Susannah, is reason enough to resist the idea of the proposed Covenant. After all, this is the reality into which we all, as members of the Body of Christ in the received traditions of Anglicanism, have struggled to live out the implications of the Gospel 'in situ' so far. The needs of each Province of the Church are not the same for everyone. If Uganda feels that the gay phenomenon is offensive in its own culture and ethos, then it has to do its own theology and ethics within its own context in order to support that point of view.

This is precisely what has happened in western Churches which have 'done their theology' in context, and found that the LGBT community are a legitimate part of the diversity that God has created and that is compatible with their under-standing of the Scriptures, and of the Gospel of O.L.J.C.

What may be needed in the Churches of the 'Global South' is a new hermeneutic, and an openness to the Holy Spirit's leading - in the light of new scientific discoveries about the human condition.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 4 November 2010 at 11:16pm GMT

I don't see any evidence that the "hierarchical, top-down" method is working any worse than the national/local polity that TEC has. They both have their problems, but the winner has yet to be determined. In particular, I don't know that the TEC shepherds have been protecting and serving their sheep any better than their Roman/Orthodox brothers. Take the log out of your own eye, and all that.

Posted by: trooper on Friday, 5 November 2010 at 2:50am GMT

I totally agree with Bp. Wright. If an action might divide the church, we shouldn't to it. Paul's decision to evangelize the Gentiles should be revisited, as should the inclusion of "filioque" in the Nicene Creed. We just can't do anything that might divide the church. Oh, and the Church of England clearly doesn't work using Bp. Wright's criteria. We'd better not do that, either.

Posted by: Mike on Friday, 5 November 2010 at 4:02am GMT

Chris Smith: "Imperial models do not work. Bishops who set themselves "above" the rest of the Church are heading down a dangerous path. Diversity is essential if the institutional Churches expect to survive this century. The top down one size fits all model is a dysfunctional model."

Hear, hear. Spot on, Chris.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 5 November 2010 at 6:57am GMT

Tom Wright's noisy intervention seems to me incredibly mischievous (and not in a good sense).

Posted by: john on Friday, 5 November 2010 at 12:07pm GMT

Trooper: "I don't see any evidence that the "hierarchical, top-down" method is working any worse than the national/local polity that TEC has."

I've posted up evidence aplenty on my blog. The latest survey from Ireland reports 74% of Catholic women saying their Church does not treat them with respect:
http://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/ireland-women-the-church/

The mishandling of the clerical child abuse crisis by the RC hierarchy is another very good example: as a result very many people are reported to be leaving the RC Church in its European heartlands. The evidence indicates that the top down churches will not survive another generation in Europe unless they change radically.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 5 November 2010 at 3:27pm GMT

"In particular, I don't know that the TEC shepherds have been protecting and serving their sheep any better than their Roman/Orthodox brothers."

O_o

In TEC, trooper, the "sheep" have a say in ELECTING their shepherds (who, as I'm sure you know, may be shepherdesses!)

It's not---nor SHOULD it be---a relationship of "protection". The laity are NOT actually "sheep", you know? It is from our democratic polity, that TEC bishops can become what Roman Popes can only claim to be: "servants of the servants of God."

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 7 November 2010 at 4:56am GMT
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