Friday, 27 January 2012

Women bishops and the February General Synod

Last week’s Church Times carried a detailed report which is now available to non-subscribers: Synod given chance to signal its wishes on women bishops by Margaret Duggan and Ed Thornton.

THE subject of women bishops will dominate the General Synod’s meeting in Church House, West­minster, next month.

Dr Colin Podmore, the new Clerk to the Synod, said at a press briefing a week ago that there were four separate items about it on the agenda, with ten documents to back them. It would be the first time that the membership of the current Synod, elected a year-and-a-half ago, has tackled the subject, and so it would be of great interest to see which way they might go.

The secretary-general, William Fittall, refused to speculate on any outcome. He said that it would be a very significant chapter in a debate that had already gone on for more than a decade. It would be a chance for the Synod to reflect on the draft legislation, and on the Illustrative Draft Code of Practice.

Members would be invited to make suggestions and recom­mendations, but not to make amendments; only the House of Bishops could amend the legislation when it met in May. Should any of those amendments be substantial, the legislation would have to be referred to the diocese again; otherwise, the final vote could be next July…

Scroll down the same page for a second article: Illustrative code by Glyn Paflin.

THE Code of Practice on women bishops cannot be settled until the Measure itself has been passed, but the Synod will debate an Illustrative Draft Code of Practice on the Tuesday of its next meeting.

Drafted by a House of Bishops working party, chaired by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, it supersedes the illustrative draft produced by another group in 2008, owing The House of Bishops debated the new draft code in December, and the Archbishops’ foreword to the report says that the House “does not wish to see any outcome that would entrench radical division or given any impression of a ‘two-tier’ episcopate”. But it is com­mitted to “the most adequate and sustainable provision for theo­logical dissent over the ordination of women”, and seeks “a balanced provision” that will enable all members of the Church of England to “flourish”.

The House has committed itself to three principles: (1) ensuring that bishops do not discriminate when selecting candidates for ordination on grounds of their theological convictions about the admission of women to holy orders; (2) paying heed, when new bishops are chosen to provide episcopal ministry under diocesan schemes, to the theological convictions on women’s ordination of those who issued the Letter of Request for their ministry; and (3) maintaining a supply of bishops who can minister to those unable to accept women bishops…

Earlier this week Andrew Brown wrote for the Guardian that The Church of England’s fudge on female bishops is breathtaking.

The Church of England’s House of Bishops – for which, read the archbishops of Canterbury and York – has explained how they hope to mollify the opponents of female clergy. The proposals are breathtaking.

The archbishops envisage that the Church of England, once it has female bishops, will continue ordaining men who do not accept these women, finding them jobs they will deign to accept, and promoting some of them to be bishops who will work to ensure the continued supply of male priests who refuse to accept female clergy. In fact, the church will pay three bishops (the formerly “flying” sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough, and Beverley) to work full time against their female colleagues, and to nourish the resistance.

The General Synod, last summer, rejected the archbishops’ plan to fix a reservation in law where the opponents could live as if nothing had changed. Now they have brought back the same proposals, but call them “a code of practice” instead. In theory, this gives both sides what they want. In reality neither will find it easy to accept.

Obviously this will be unacceptable to most supporters of women’s ordination. But the cream of the joke is that it will probably be unacceptable to their principled opponents as well. The unscrupulous ones will, of course, be very happy with the deal.

Despite all these concessions, there will be female bishops, as there are already female priests, and these will be treated exactly the same as male ones – except by the men who don’t want to treat them equally and who believe that God has called them to undermine women’s authority wherever it appears.

This is apparently Rowan Williams’s idea of justice…

To read in full what the archbishops wrote in their Foreword to the Report of the Working Group on an Illustrative Draft Code of Practice, see the first couple of pages of GS Misc 1007, available as a PDF here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 12:10am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

If The Archbishops do not want to promote the idea of a 'two-tiered episcopate', why would they insist on special provision for the dissenters that would prohibit a female diocesan bishop from deciding whether or not an alternative (male) bishop could operate in her diocese.

For a diocesan bishop - either male or female - to be by-passed by an alternative episcopal ministry in his/her diocese, is, clearly and logically, to allow a two-tiered espicopate.

The obvious dividing line would be between a bishop who is male - with authority as to who ministers in his own diocese; versus a bishop who is female - who does not have the authority to choose who ministers in her diocese. Surely that is a two-tiered epicopate based purely on gender difference, i.e. discriminatory.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 9:01am GMT

In paragraph 6 of the Church Times article there is the unequivocal statement that two of the 44 Dioceses had voted against the principle of women bishops.

This statement is taken to include the Diocese of Chichester.

The Diocesan Website at clearly states that the Diocese voted in favour of women bishops on 8th October 2011 but voted against the legislation currently proposed.

I point this out because the myth of the Chichester diocese as a ‘no go’ area for women priests is just that, in spite of the noisy protests of those who would have it to be true. It is important that this myth is exposed for what it is since it colours our Church’s views of this diocese and is be particularly misleading in a period when a new bishop is being chosen.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 10:13am GMT

Richard Ashby makes an excellent point. One wonders how they could have completely missed this most salient of facts and then claimed the opposite???

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 2:03pm GMT

I also see in today's Church Times that Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes, is a patron of 'The Third Province Movement', in an advertisement giving a contact address in Mayfield, East Sussex but no other details of who they are or who is organising this. This of course is the same Bishop of Lewes who has endorsed the odious Stephen Green's latest opus on the decline of this country and who has had to withdraw his endorsement after he had actually read the book!

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 3:56pm GMT

Martin. The answer must be lazy checking of facts and the confusion which surround the difference between the principle of women bishops and the legislation to enact this principle. It is quite clear that in some minds, at least, the issues have become conflated whereas it is important to keep the issues separate. What the synod next month is about is the legislation necessary, not the principle, although those who are in the minority on this are still protesting about the acceptance of the principle.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 4:06pm GMT

Give me chastity, but not yet?!

Posted by: american piskie on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 5:52pm GMT

Perhaps it's a losing fight. I'll still fight it. I think Andrew Brown's comments are wilfully prejudicial and uncharitable.

Posted by: john on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 8:08pm GMT

[With apologies to Orwell]

The House has committed itself to three principles: (1) "We've always been at war with Eastasia"

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 27 January 2012 at 8:09pm GMT

Let's imagine a parallel statement about rights and justice:

While this house has debated and agreed that African Americans are fully equal, we will maintain a structure that allows people who maintain the old bigotry a succession to maintain their views about the principles of slavery.

Abominable, pusillanimous, hypocrisy.

Posted by: DrS on Saturday, 28 January 2012 at 12:37pm GMT

You know, if we had the proposed Anglican Covenant, the suggestion that there be two tiers of bishops might have some relational consequences.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 28 January 2012 at 2:09pm GMT

Sentamu endorsed the royal cohabitation before the wedding and compared it to feeling the udder before milking the cow!

Healthy heterosexual fornication!

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Monday, 30 January 2012 at 11:04pm GMT

I don't find R.I.W.'s attempts at simulacrum at all helpful (or even funny);

I do find DrS's suggestion, here, that the Church of England's treatment of racial discrimination and clerical gender discrimination ought to be considered in parallel methodology.

If the Church were to declare racism out of bounds, and still perpetuated it in praxis - like, for instance, refusing to ordain someone Bishop because he/she was black - this would be thought abominable.

Why then is gender discrimination - when considering the status of Women in Ministry - not similarly regarded - as abominable?

Women in the Church are regarded as 'equal to men' according to classical theology - and yet may not be treated as such in the practical realm of the authority of a Woman Bishop in her own diocese, where a 'Flying Bishop' might be thought to be usurping her traditional diocesan role ?

This seems illogical and all at odds to me.

The perpetuation of gender discrimination, by allowing 2 different attidudes to Women Clergy to prevail - one For, and one Against - must surely be exposed for what it is - outright bigotry. Is that a good look for the Church: to practise institutionalised gender discrimination?

Posted by: Father ron Smith on Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 3:07am GMT
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