Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Women bishops: WATCH asks bishops not to amend draft legislation

WATCH Press Release 12.15pm Monday 13 February 2012

Women and the Church (WATCH)

To the Bishops: ‘Keep faith with the Dioceses’ - do not amend the draft legislation for women bishops.

We urge the House of Bishops not to make any change to the draft legislation that would further discriminate against women bishops and those male bishops who ordain women: if they do this then the Measure will be at serious risk of being voted down in July.

Over and over again last week speakers urged General Synod, and the House of Bishops in their deliberations in May, to acknowledge the huge majorities across the dioceses and not amend the draft legislation which already contains substantial provision for those opposed to the ordained ministry of women.

We trust that the House of Bishops has heard this message and in its discussions will leave the draft Measure unamended and in the form that the dioceses have debated and approved.

Reasons for standing by the present compromise
In WATCH’s view, anything in either the Code of Practice or the Measure that tries to spell out what kind of ‘male’ bishop should be offered to parishes that do not accept female bishops would be unacceptable. This is because it would set in law two strands of bishops in the Church of England: those who have had sacramental contact with women, and those who have not. On no other issue about which Bishops disagree (sometimes profoundly) has such a structure been written into law, indeed it is the essence of Anglicanism not to do so.

This debate is about the place of women
The opposition to women bishops is based on their being women - whether that is about an interpretation of the Bible which maintains that women are forbidden to have authority over a man, or about following the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches in not recognising that women can represent Christ at the altar.

Synod agrees that the Archbishops’ Amendment is not the right way forward
We are very pleased that the Archbishops’ Amendment has been fully debated by Synod for a second time, and that Synod has decisively voted not to follow that route.

Women lead the debate
It was particularly significant to see two women leading the debate: surely a foretaste of the way that women will lead as bishops - with wisdom, grace and understanding for those who have difficulty in accepting their ministry.

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Comments

Let's pray that WATCH, and the voice of Women are heard by the House of Bishops on this vitally important matter affecting the future of women's ministry in the Church of England.

If all things were equal, we should not even have to talk about 'Women' or 'Male' Bishops, there should just be Shepherds of the Flock - with equal status - as they probably are already accredited in the divine economy. There is only ONE Integrity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 9:23am GMT

What's the point of having bishops if they can't, in Rowan's words, offer some "fine tuning" to the proposed legislation?

Posted by: Father DAvid on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 9:30am GMT

I'm afraid that what you suggest, indeed the legislation as it stands, is thoroughly un-Anglican as it is basically seeking to remove provision for a sizeable minority within the church.
What is worse is that you do not wish to show Christian love and understanding, i.e. sacrificial, to a group that you disagree with, yet you expect them to either do so to you or leave the Church of England.
Don't get me wrong, I am in favour of women in leadership at all levels, but not at the expense of anyone else. As it says in the Bible, if something (that isn't essential to Christianity) causes a fellow believer a problem then don't do it.

Posted by: Phil on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 9:45am GMT

Any society is judged on how it treats its minorities - especially a Christian society.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 10:58am GMT

There are always questions about how to include those who have conscientious objections to any development in a community of any kind, including the church. No one, least of all WATCH, is suggesting that those who find the ministry of women, priestly, episcopal or other should be ignored. History and good practice shows that the best way to to do this is by leaving "spaces" in the rules where relationships can grow - the Holy Spirit has a way of seeking out gaps and using them to bring about healing and reconciliation. That is why the legislation is drafted as it is.
As for the size of the "sizeable minority" - at the moment those who wish for alternative episcopal oversight are just under 4% of parishes (see Church of England statistics for Resolution C parishes), and anecdotal evidence suggests that in several of these parishes many of the congregation would not have a problem. A few more evangelical parishes might also want to "opt out" of the oversight of a woman bishop but adding Resolution B parishes brings us to no more than 7%. Small numbers don't mean that individuals and parishes should be ignored but it is more likely to lead to reconciliation if this is done by building a relationship and not an ecclesiastical wall.

Posted by: Rosalind on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 10:58am GMT

At least they are clear about the ecumenical implications of the break with the churches of antiquity that the Church of England has already made.

Posted by: Nigel on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 11:27am GMT

Phil
"Don't get me wrong, I am in favour of women in leadership at all levels, but not at the expense of anyone else. As it says in the Bible, if something (that isn't essential to Christianity) causes a fellow believer a problem then don't do it."

Do you mean not at the expense of even a single person? Because there are, arguably, fewer men inconvenienced by women priests in the CoE than there are people completely put off the church because it still doesn't treat people according to its own theology!

What is a greater problem - some people going to another safe church, or a lot of people leaving faith behind for good?

"My suffering is greater than yours, therefore stop making me suffer" is never a good game to play, in particular in situation where there are losers regardless of what you do.

Something is either right on its own terms or it isn't.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 11:41am GMT

"surely a foretaste of the way that women will lead as bishops - with wisdom, grace and understanding" WATCH

Surely, it could only be a foretaste of how those two particular women would lead, if they became bishops? I find these sweeping generalisations of women's abilities somewhat sexist and patronising. I'm quite sure that at some point in the future there will be women bishops that lack wisdom, grace and understanding just as some male bishops do now.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 12:22pm GMT

Really Phil, come on! Ending slavery wasn't essential to Christianity, opposing apartheid wasn't essential to Christianity. There were plenty of fellow believers for whom ending these injustices was a problem, probably a sizeable minority. If showing Christian love and understanding means failing to stand up to those who support injustice based on race or gender or sexual orintation then I am afraid I would have to choose justice over love. And quite often it is those who cry victim in one case who are quite content to be the perpetrator against another group.

Posted by: Fr Paul on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 1:54pm GMT

"...the way that women will lead as bishops - with wisdom, grace and understanding for those who have difficulty in accepting their ministry."

It's St. Valentine's Day, isn't it? Not April 1st.

Posted by: Clive on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 2:35pm GMT

Phil,your comment has caused me to question my faith (in the Church of England and what it stands for), therefore according to Paul's advice you must stop making comments on this blog. Now that settles everything. Right?
Paul wasn't interested in preserving minority views, but in welding together the Church out of the many different people holding many different views. Nor was there ever was any expectation that we would all eventually agree about everything; sameness is not a condition for being part of the Body of Christ. Willingness to follow Christ and come to His table are the only condidtions he set.

Posted by: Tom Downs on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 2:40pm GMT

Phil--

With respect, but as a church that believes in responding to the call of God, would you say that God's call were as not essential to Christianity? Or perhaps that Bishops were not essential?

The instance that come up to my mind are far more like "meat sacrificed to idols." In cases such as these, don't do things to lead others astray. It's more guarding the faith of others by setting an example, than not offending them. I don't see the analogy here.

Indeed, in the case of women bishops, those opposed must maintain that God nevers calls women to the episcopate. But if the call is made and confirmed, it seems prima facie evidence that God did not so ordain things that women bishops are impossible. And not to follow the call would be serious indeed!

Posted by: Christopher (P.) on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 4:13pm GMT

The problem with Phil's comment is that the legislation, as it stand, does make provision for this minority within the church, through a statutory code of practice. Those who want a male priest, ordained by a male bishop (etc), will be able to have one. The dilemma facing the bishops is that the required fine tuning is a request to provide separate bishops for that minority, a move which many of us feel will create two Churches of England and is legislation for schism. The proposed code of practice represents a huge compromise and makes a generous provision that should make it unnecessary for anyone to leave the Church of England.

Posted by: Nigel LLoyd on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 5:12pm GMT

Well said, Phil! Let's not not have women bishops.

Posted by: american piskie on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 5:53pm GMT

Phil -
I am in favour of women in leadership at all levels in the church. Full stop.

What does this "at the expense of anyone else" mean? No one is going to be told they can't come in if women lead. All are welcome. Again, full stop. If there are people who don't want to come in because girlie cooties are in the sanctuary, then that is there choice. But in a world where we now understand and accept that women and men are to treated equally, any qualification of that is simply discrimination by another name.

Posted by: JeremyP on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 6:06pm GMT

I posted earlier. My comments were made in good faith, they abused no one. They have been excised. Why??

ED NOTE: No idea what you mean, John. None of your comments went into the Junk as far as I can tell. All of your comments have been published...

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 7:37pm GMT

"What is worse is that you do not wish to show Christian love and understanding, i.e. sacrificial, to a group that you disagree with" - Phill

How often have opponents of women bishops shown sacrificial Christian love and understanding towards people who approve of women bishops, and especially,m towards women who feel they are called to be bishops?
How often have opponents of any level of participation by openly gay men and women in the life of the church shown sacrificial Christian love and understanding towards gay men and lesbians who feel called to positions of authority in the church?
"I can treat you differently than how you treat me" is not a compelling argument.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 7:54pm GMT

"Any society is judged on how it treats its minorities - especially a Christian society."

...and there's no smaller minority in the CofE than bishops-who-are-women. By your logic, Fr David, you should be standing with---lifting up---them. So they can go from Zero to 1 to...however many God calls (which previous experience of Godly discernment suggests will be many!)

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 8:49pm GMT

Even I feel that the women are right and logical, in the context of an Historically Protestant Church.

As I have stated before the Anglo Catholics and the Evangelicals are not going to leave.

Shame on Williams if he allows this.

The Church in Wales got rid of what was Rowan's innovation of the office of assistant flying bishop and not one cleric has since left.

Even the Ordinariate is dead in the water in Wales.


Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 8:55pm GMT

Will women bishops kill ecumenism....down in New Zealand a Catholic and an Anglican bishop celebrate together...

http://www.chch.catholic.org.nz/?sid=3068

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 9:39pm GMT

"Willingness to follow Christ and come to His table are the only condidtions he set."

Posted by: Tom Downs on Tuesday, 14 February

Precisely, Tom! And here we have some who are still reluctant to 'come to His Table' when the presider does not fit his/her personal understanding of whom God calls to minister in Christ's Church.

What does that say about 'sacrifice & obedience'?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 at 11:51pm GMT

Sacrificial love for conservatives, but no one else, huh, Phil? Community is *mutual* sacrifice, and the conservatives - who refuse community with anyone not them - are petulant, spoiled brats who want everything, giving nothing.

If you behave like a spoiled, unruly child, you cannot then be surprised when the adults ignore you!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 4:31am GMT

JCF "and there's no smaller minority in the CofE than bishops-who-are women". With regard to logic JCF I don't really think that "Zero" can be regarded as a minority.
Ecumenically, when looking outside the very small box of the CofE to the Church Universal then those in favour of the ministerial development are a very small minority.
On the even larger stage - looking beyond the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant - a very small minority indeed.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:26am GMT

Simon,

Thanks. Work computer malfunctioning seemingly.

Others,

I predictably am with Phil and Father David.

Robert Ian,

Your posts don't always give me pleasure, but this one certainly does. I know you don't agree, but for me intercommunion is the way forward and is visibly happening more and more (I posted a couple of months ago on intercommunion arrangements in an area of the old city in Geneva), though unfortunately not so much in the UK.

Posted by: john on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 6:52am GMT

"Ecumenically, when looking outside the very small box of the CofE to the Church Universal then those in favour of the ministerial development are a very small minority."

Well, then, what's the big problem with letting that small minority do what they believe to be God's call to them? There seem to be plenty of very safe places for those who disagree, whereas there are, according to your statement, virtually no other places those who believe God calls women to the priesthood can go.

If tolerance was the issue, and not being a stumbling block, maybe its the large majority that should tolerate the CoE going its own way?
There already seem to be more than enough provisions for those who cannot bear the thought that God might actually want the church to change.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 8:47am GMT

re Father David's remark - about the 'majority' of Christians outside of the Anglican Communion who wouldn't approve of Women Bishops - you are obviously speaking of the clerical division, Father. I know many lay Catholics who are looking forward to the day when the growing lack of male candidates for the priesthood will open up their Church to Women - as both priests and bishops.

Also, regarding the Church militant, I'm not at all sure there will be gender discrimination in heaven - Ask Our Lady, Queen of Heaven!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 9:38am GMT

I am disheartened by the many severe reactions to a plea for understanding.

Posted by: Davis d'Ambly on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 2:57pm GMT

Father David, I'm sincerely having difficulty understanding what you're saying.

First, you said "Any society is judged on how it treats its minorities"

which suggested to me that (in your POV) minorities are to be honored and protected.

Then, it *seems* me that in characterizing a certain position ("those in favour of the ministerial development": here's where I don't follow you at all. Disclaimer: I'm a Yank) as " a very small minority indeed", you're saying that minorities do NOT need to be honored and protected (rather, dismissed).

Can you clarify?

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 10:54pm GMT

"I am disheartened by the many severe reactions to a plea for understanding."

Davis, in your cryptic comment, I'm rather reminded of the Delphic oracle to King Croesus: "A great empire will fall today" (Croesus assumed it meant his opponent: ooops!)

Severe reactions to WATCH's plea?

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 11:07pm GMT

Erica, you prove my point beautifully about how a society is judged by the way in which it treats its minorities - ANS - "There seem to be plenty of very safe places for those who disagree" i.e. Exile - which, I suppose is quite Biblical!
In actual fact quite a number of denominations have warmly embraced the ministerial innovation that you long for - such as many of the Free Churches - which, unlike the CofE, have never sought to uphold the traditional understanding of the threefold ministry of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 7:24am GMT

Father Ron is, of course, correct in saying that there are lay people within the Roman Catholic Church who look forward to the priesthood and the episcopate being opened up to women. However, democracy has yet to reach that particular branch of the Church Universal and the previous pope - John Paul II has pronounced this innovation to be an impossibility.
Next time I say my prayers I shall make enquiry of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven about the state of the Church Triumphant - although I seem to recall that not even Mary - "Mother of God" was included by Jesus to be among the Twelve.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 7:31am GMT

Fr David

You were the one who started the numbers game. And if you follow that through, then the small CoE must follow its call.

But it's not about numbers it's about discerned theology and about accommodation of those who do not see it that way.

This church has discerned that God wants it to have women as priests and bishops. Once you know that, you really cannot ignore it or you would be ignoring what you truly believe to be God's will.

The church is unique among those who have trodden that path before it in that it actually bends over backwards to include those who cannot follow that discernment.
Every other church has just said "this is what we now believe God wants from us so this is what we do".
The CoE, on the other hand, has had over 20 years of making special provisions for those who see things differently and it has even put structures in place that make it possible for those people to remain untouched by the reality of their church. And it has continued to ordain men who do not accept the theology of their own church.

Even now the church is willing to make provisions to include those who cannot accept women as priests and bishops.

You are not complaining about being pushed out, you are complaining about these unique provisions not being enough and can the church please find a way of making women bishops properly inferior to male ones so that you will never ever ever have to come into conflict with one.

This is not asking for a minority to be treated compassionately, this is the tail wagging the dog.

But if you can square the circle, please do:
accepting that the church has discerned that God wants it to have women as priests and bishops, find a way of enabling them to be priests and bishops on an absolutely equal footing with men, as well as ensuring that those who cannot accept the theology of their church will never have to be affected.

You see, all the suggestions made so far result in women as second class bishops.
That is not acceptable.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 8:30am GMT

JCF - If I could discern the meaning behind your question I might be able to attempt to furnish an answer. It all seems perfectly clear to me this side of the pond but as GBS pointed out we are "two nations divided by a common language". Similarly within the CofE we seem to be two integrities divided by an uncommon understanding of the true nature of the One, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 9:13am GMT

Dear Father David. Saying that there can be 'Two Integrities' in any sort of catholic perception of ministry in the Church is surely casuistry - but not logical.

This, to my mind, was the problem when the Church of England tried to rationalise its empowerment of PEVs (Flying Bishops).

The original idea of Episcopi Vagantes was surely different from the current idea of providing alternative episcopal oversight in a situation where the Diocesan Bishop happens to be either a Woman, or a Bishop who has been in favour of the ordination of Women.

To try to balance the presumed 'integrity' of the episcopal order with the concept ('integrity') of a bishop (female) not really being a Bishop, is both sad and dangerous. In fact, it might even be blasphemous. Pretence is no substitute for truth.

For the Church of England to pursue Integrity, it would need to order its ministry cohesively - and not utilise any fictional understanding of what the charism of priests and bishops really is. In other words; each Bishop is a Bishop - or there ought to be no bishops. The same applies for priests. There should be no confusion.

We have already seen the oddity occurring in the U.S. 'mitred' Bishop Steenson of the Ordinariate version of Anglican/Roman Catholicism. In that situation, the question might be asked: "When is a Bishop not a Bishop?" The current answer: When the 'Bishop' is a member of an Ordinariate.

Let's hope this can never be said of Bishops in the Church of England.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 16 February 2012 at 11:43pm GMT

So it would seem that Erica with her fear of flying bishops looks forward to the day when we have a House of Bishops where individual members of that House are not in Communion with one another if the episcopal innovation becomes a reality?
What was it that someone once said about a kingdom divided against itself?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 7:44am GMT

Fr David,
it seems the Kingdom will be divided against itself whatever solution one comes to.
That verse provides as little support for my views as it does for yours.
Throwing bible verses against each other rarely does, they usually apply to both sides. We have to go a bit deeper with our theology here.

It's quite simple, I believe.
1. We don't have female priests and bishops. That would make for CoE not divided against Rome and it would be 100% accommodation of those who don’t agree with women as priests and bishops. But it would completely ignore the fact that the CoE has discerned that it is God’s will for it to have women as priests and bishops.
2. We accept that some innovation is necessary. Women as priests and bishops are an innovation, but so is the idea of an episcopate where one kind of bishop is different from another kind of bishop and people have to be protected from one kind of bishop and there are bishops and people within the CoE who are not in Communion with each other. In terms of ecclesiology and the polity of the CoE, what you are asking for is at least as much of an innovation as simply adding women to the list of people who can be priests and bishops. We then discuss how best to innovate.
3. We accept that discernment of the CoE that God calls it to have women as priests and bishops and as we don’t want to go against God’s will, we implement that discernment 100% without any concessions to those who cannot follow. That would be the version that puts opponents out to grass. But it is also a version that is not on the table.

As neither 1. nor 3. are options, we need to engage with option 2. And so I’d like to get back to my question to you:

Accepting that the church has discerned that God wants it to have women as priests and bishops, find a way of enabling them to be priests and bishops on an absolutely equal footing with men, as well as ensuring that those who cannot accept the theology of their church will never have to be affected.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 10:22am GMT

Dear Father Ron, As was clearly pointed out at the recent torturous meeting of the General Synod - "the language of two integrities seems to have disappeared" from the Draft Code of Practice. This, along with binding promisises that The Act of Synod would continue for as long as was required. Also, what has happened to the "Period of Reception" concerning women and the priesthood which also seems to have mysteriously fallen from the table?
Yes indeed, any talk of Two Integrities in a Catholic understanding and perception of ministry is oxymoronic! The Bishop of Ebs & Ips expressed the opinion that there are "two views that could both be held with integrity". What was that you said about casuistry?
One definition of Integrity is:- "the condition of having no particular element wanting, an unbroken state; material wholeness, completeness, an unimpaired or uncorrupted state: the original perfect condition" (OED)
That to me seems to be a good description of a Traditionalist view of the Apostolic Succession - from which the ordination of women to the episcopate would be a serious departure.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 10:24am GMT

Surely there never were "two integrities" in the sense of two water tight positions about women's ordination. There are rather two positions of integrity. The Church of England ordains women..that is enshrined in the canons etc, and that is the official position of the Church of England. There is also the right of conscientious dissent from that. This is a position of integrity but not a potential or quasi "church within a church".

Posted by: Perry Butler on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:37am GMT

Well Erika, that is precisely the task the present House of Bishops has been charged with finding a solution to and, in so doing, their Graces and their Lordships will have to trip very carefully over eggshells.
It will all hang on an understanding of the Draft Measure being "substantially unamended". Will Rowan's little by little "fine tuning" approach win the day or, if the Draft is seen to be substantially amended, will it all have to be referred to the dioceses once more?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 11:47am GMT

Why not let 'happiness' be the criterion? (Not the only criterion - but many other criteria are already satisfied.) Women priests and their supporters would be unhappy if there were any diminution of the powers of women bishops (beyond the code of practice). Opponents of women bishops would be even more unhappy if they were placed in a position where they would have to acknowledge the authority of women bishops. Their unhappiness, obviously, would be much greater. Therefore, their position deserves the greater protection.

QED.

Posted by: John on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 12:51pm GMT

John,
you're priceless!
By what criteria did you measure this potential happiness or unhappiness quotient?
He who shouts loudest?

Because when a church as discerned God's will and the majority of the congregation, the majority of priests and the majority of bishops also support it, and when there are many women who have been hoping, praying and yearning for the day they can follow God's call to them.... it's a pretty strong claim to make that it's "obvious" that the opponents will be unhappier if they don't get the cast iron opt-outs they want.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 5:21pm GMT

Erika,

I do think it 'obvious' that the suffering of the antis would be greater. The majority (of whom I am one) would have secured their principle and its implementation (aside from such minority side-steppings as proved necessary), the stakes for the latter would be far higher. This is not a matter of who shouts louder: the volume seems to me pretty equal. The latter would have to decide whether to swallow their consciences or trail wretchedly into exile from the church of their birth which they have served faithfully and well. There's a dreadful disproportion and lack of charity and compassion on the part of the majority here. I dislike it. This game of 100% compliance really isn't worth the candle, and it will impoverish the church as a whole.

Posted by: John on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 5:58pm GMT

Who's playing "the numbers game" now, Erika?
Your argument, such as it is, seems to be saying that - my gang is bigger and has more supporters than your gang -
"the majority of congregation(s), the majority of priests and the majority of bishops" -
therefore your gang can go hang!

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 6:15pm GMT


I just find the vocation of women priests utterly convincing. I have received Christ through their ministry.All six of them are generously endowed with gifts of His Spirit.I need no other proof.

If God is calling women to the priesthood-and the natural progression to the Episcopate- who am I to challenge His authority?

Helen.

Posted by: Helen on Friday, 17 February 2012 at 9:21pm GMT

Now Helen seems to have joined in "the numbers game" - although, at the last count I think there were slightly more than six women priests within the Church of England. In fact, I believe that the prediction is that by 2025 the ratio of male to female priesta is set to reach parity in number.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 6:26am GMT

If only Father David, 'if only' I hear you cry!
Nevertheless I take your point.
I am so sorry that you appear to have overlooked mine however and really would be interested in your opinion of it?

Helen Rawdon

Posted by: Helen on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 10:38am GMT

Fr David,

I explained it to David S on another thread, I'll repeat it here.

Numbers do not determine whether something is right.

But the polity of the CoE is one in which majority decisions by PCCs, Deanery, Diocesan and General Synod as well as majority decisions in the HoB are the channels of discernment.
The decisions arrived at through these processes are then binding for the whole church.

Other churches don't follow that system, Rome in particular has a much different system of arriving at discernment and at laws for the church.

But while we're members of the CoE we're bound by the polity of this church. And there, majority votes count.

That does not make the decisions right - in the area of lgbt equality I am of the firm opinion that the current majority decisions are desperately wrong.
But while they exist, they're binding.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 12:45pm GMT

John,
no, I'm sorry, I can't play this game of deciding who hurts most. I used to share your view that no actual woman will be harmed in the process, but I have since met many who are indeed deeply hurt and who feel cast out by their church. Many have left.

They leave into nothing, because there is no safe Ordinariate or large Roman Catholic church that reflects precisely what they already believe. There are other denominations that accept women priests but they are quite different from the CoE. Where Anglo-Catholics already often have pictures of the Pope stuck up in their vestries, these women have no other church that is an immediate possible home.

Then there is the wider question of integrity. Of having decided that something is right but then not to do to it or only do it half-heartedly.

And in the meantime, every time someone senior speaks out for equality in the public arena, as recently seen during the Occupy crisis at St Paul's, the public just ignores them because they're clearly lecturing about a principle they're not following through in their own organisation. What price credibility?
And they can't even cite theological difficulties, like the Roman Catholics can do with credibility.

No, I really don't think that assessing hurt and damage is quite as simple as all that.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 12:53pm GMT

Helen,I have always understood that the will of God, as expressed through Christ's Gethsemane prayer, is for the unity of his Church and people. Recent ministerial developments can in no stretch of the imagination be seen to promote the unity of Christ's Church - the opposite is more to the point - i.e. disunity. Therefore I cannot see that such a dramatic departure from that which has been received from ancient times can possibly be accordance with God's will.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 12:59pm GMT

Erika,

I think it's pretty simple. Most of the opponents are priests. They have to decide whether to stay or to leave. It's a life-changing choice. That's important. Far less important for pro-WO people is minority provision being made for a minority.

Posted by: john on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 2:05pm GMT

Fr David,
leaving aside the difference between unity and uniformity, what you're really saying is that God can't speak to any church until the Roman Catholics agree, and should they ever, then we can still hold out until the Orthodox agree also.

It's just that the other churches don't happen to see it that way.
And they never have. And all the members of the CoE know that it doesn't accept the authority of the Pope and that it has its own polity.

If this kind of unity was really of such overriding importance, why did the people who believe in it manage to stay in a heretical church when it allowed contraception, when it permitted remarriage after divorce?

Why is it, that 20 years of women priests were somehow tolerable but women bishops are something that has to be approved by the Pope first - and we all know that he'll never approve it?

Where's the consistency here?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 19 February 2012 at 2:33pm GMT

John
we also have thousands of female priests for whom this has consequences.
And unlike their male counterparts they cannot just decamp to an Ordinariate or the RC church and remain priests.
We really cannot play this "my hurt is bigger than yours" game.

I really like you for your compassion and I really appreciate that you are desperately trying to hold the CoE together.

But I do think that you're losing sight of the overall picture.
The CoE you are trying to hold together will no longer exist if the measures needed to hold it together are implemented.
Instead of the tolerant living side by side you so love, we'll have permanent rigid structures where one group of Christians is protected from another group of Christians and is not in communion with them. And while male and female priests were relatively equal up to now, we will have an uneven episcopate where some anmials are more equal than others.

The objectors will not be thrown out into the cold. Provisions have already been agreed in principle, we're only talking about how far they go. At some point, there has to be some give and take, some tolerance on both sides, some willingness to live side by side.
If the only acceptable thing is a rigid ring fence and never never never the Twain shall meet - then we have already lost what you are fighting for.

Provisions, by all means. But not at the expense of a dual episcopate that enshrines male preference for eternity. That's a well meaning British fudge where the undesireable consequences are in no appropriate relation to the good that is to be accomplished.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 8:34am GMT

Erika,

I will admit that the arguments of Father David and some others also exasperate me. It seems obvious (sorry to repeat this irritating term) that one has no chance of persuading people to grant 'special provision' if one constantly appeals to alleged orthodox tradition as the standard - because, obviously, 'modernists'/'liberals' (whatever) do not accept its immutability. Far better to argue on the ground of pluralism and legitimate difference. Then, of course, one is automatically in grey areas. Whence one's orthodoxy? But the same applies to liberals who argue for liberal pluralism. Them's the breaks. That's the cost of staying together. It seems obvious (again!) that at all church levels, including individual churches, people make these compromises - because they have to, because that is the only way of stayong together - in some sense.

Posted by: John on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 9:57am GMT

If Jesus had to consider the amount of suffering he had to undertake - before his decision to accept the burden of the Cross - unjustifiably - then one might have hoped that the comparitively minor suffering involved in allowing women to take their rightful place in the ministry of the Church of England, might be considered (by the anti-women crowd) to be a worth-while sacrifice for the sake of unity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 February 2012 at 10:32am GMT

Erica - "Where's the consistency here?"
As far as I can recall - Holy Writ has nothing to say on contraception as such but quite a lot on marriage after divorce and on this the Church of England after years of debate has seriously departed from the scriptural teaching. Similarly there has been a serious departure from that which has been received concerning those who are "consecrated or ordered",
If my consistency with that which is consonant with Scripture and Tradition exasperates - then I can only apologise.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 6:54am GMT

Fr David,

The Roman Catholic church seems to find it easy to try and enforce a total ban on all contraception based on its interpretation of Scripture, just as it holds out against women as priests because of its interpretation of Scripture (and interpretation it is - nowhere did Jesus actually say "and women cannot be priests").

But my question was precisely how those who coped with the serious departure from Roman teaching on contraception and divorce suddenly state that the CoE had no right to depart from Rome's interpretation of whom God calls to the priesthood.

Is it only because contraception and divorce did not affect the ones who now call for "no change until the universal church agrees"? But there are divorced FiF supporters, so it seems that some rules can be changed without waiting for Rome while others can't without tortuous debates about provisions and without people begging the Pope for an Ordinariate.

That's the inconsistency I would like to understand better.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 7:44am GMT

Father David,

The goal (= my goal, which I presume you share) is to get everybody to stay together. That involves compromises. Certain sorts of arguments are likelier to persuade than others: if one constantly trots out 'bed-rock' arguments which one knows cannot persuade, it seems to me not useful. I also think that of liberals. It is my church experience - and I can't believe it isn't also yours - that people of many different views make practical compromises in order to stay together - in whatever context they do stay together. Otherwise, one would get endless fragmentation into ever smaller groups. Of course, that does happen, but it's madness: bad for Christianity internally, bad for the impression it makes on the outside world.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 at 11:07am GMT

Erica, Jesus, the Great High Priest, never actually said that anyone - male or female - could be a priest but twenty centuries of Christianity attest to the fact that Tradition has faithfully handed down to us an all male priesthood in succession to the Twelve male apostles summoned to serve by Our Blessed Lord in the gospels.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 8:51am GMT

Fr David,

I think we can agree that we disagree on women priests.
I know your arguments , I don’t accept them.
You know mine, you don’t accept those.

What I was really hoping for is a better understanding of your view. And so I would really appreciate if you could answer my question why people have found it possible to stay in the CoE when it departed from Rome in major issues like contraception and divorce (the one of our hot button subjects Jesus actually said anything about!), yet when it comes to accepting women as priests only the universal church can make that decision.
Why can some important rules be changed without waiting for Rome but others can’t?
Where is the logic here and the consistency?

I’m not saying this to trip you up. I believe that you are a deeply moral man with sound theological principles. And that it is those principles that make it impossible for you to accept women as priests. And so I would dearly like to understand why those same principles weren’t a breaking issue during previous deviations from orthodox theology. Why they could be accepted without the slightest provision or change to the Canons. Why Anglo-Catholics who place great emphasis on orthodoxy sometimes even divorced themselves, yet cannot even come up with the smallest compromise on women priests but insist on watertight protection.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 4:26pm GMT

'If one constantly trots out 'bed-rock' arguments which one knows cannot persuade, it seems to me not useful.'

Everybody knows what these arguments are, on both sides. They cannot persuade. They cannot secure space. If I had any hair worth mentioning, I would be tearing it out.

Posted by: john on Wednesday, 22 February 2012 at 8:10pm GMT

Erica, As I have stated previously I hold great store by Our Lord's Gethsemane prayer - "that they may be one". The CofE "departed from Rome" long before I was born - something to do with a messy divorce - or so I believe. The "universal church" is certainly greater than the Roman Catholic branch of it, although that is certainly the largest section (though we won't start up the numbers game again!) and in your argument you make no reference to the teaching of the great churches of the East. As William Temple pointed out in the last century - "the ecumenical movement is the great new fact of our era" - any obstacles to further ecumenical advance must surely be contrary to Christ's will.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 5:22am GMT

Fr David,
so if orthodox believers have been able to accept the messy divorce in the beginning of the history of their church as well as the more recent acceptance of divorce and remarriage among their flock and indeed among themselves, it becomes nonsensical to talk of orthodoxy that is inextricably linked to Rome and the universal church. By the mere fact that you are not a member of Rome you have already declared your tacit acceptance of some major departure from Rome in the CoE. You have already shown a perfect willingness to live with the unorthodox. And as we said, there are many among the "orthodox" who are divorced.

There appears to be no rhyme or reason, far less theology, to explain why one deviation is ok, barely worth mentioning, while another is a cause for demanding that the church changes its own internal structure and its canons.

It's just random - orthodox and important is what I declare to be orthodox and important because it matters to me.

You will excuse me if I don't find that convincing. And in particular if I don't find that worthy of an advanced level of accommodation.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 9:32am GMT

Some questions for the nay-sayers about women clergy:

Do you really think that, in the culture of Judaism at the time of Jesus, he could have called women to leadership in the emerging Church? And, if he had, would they have been accepted?

What place do you think the culture of his day affected the inability of Jesus to put women in charge of the mission?

One of my clerical brothers-in-law in England some time ago, while studying at a Dublin Roman Catholic Institute found evidence of the fact that "Patrick put women in charge of some of the little wooden churches". Do you think he made them sole janitors? Or was it in some ministerial capacity?

Do you not think that the current situation of women being trusted with roles in the world that formerly only men occupied should have no effect on the administration of the Church? Attitudes towards women have actually changed - even though some people seem not to have noticed.

My final question: Are women less holy than men?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 9:43am GMT

Dear Father David,

There have been more than a few revolutions in the history of the Christian Church.
They have characteristically caused pain and turmoil from which new life/resurrection/renewal has evolved.

The way I see it, God is once again saying...

'Behold I do a new thing'

His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. Perhaps He has chosen the women to give fresh voice for His message to this generation.

How we respond to this change is every individual's perogative. He has given us free will.
I believe that in the long-term the Church will be strengthened not weakened through this process.

We can, from the heart, freely seek His will through prayer and silence - or not. The choice is ours.

Peace be with you. Helen.


Posted by: Helen Rawdon on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 3:18pm GMT

Helen, If God is really saying to the Church "Behold I do a new thing" - how come the great churches of East and West aren't listening?Usually, in Holy Scripture when God speaks it comes over loud and clear and there's no mistaking His message. So, how come only a fairly insignificant branch of the Church Universal is responding to this "new thing"?

Also - how long is "the long-term" in which the Church will be "strengthened not weakened"? For, I'm sure you will agree that in recent decades the Established Church has sadly experienced massive decline.

"And with thy spirit" Fr. David

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 23 February 2012 at 11:28pm GMT

Dear Father David,

I'm sure Moses and all the prophets are tuned in to this one - holding their breath as they wait for our solutions.

I guess they'll be disappointed though.Its back to the good old human nature thing again wouldn't you think?

'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ....'

Yours in faith, Helen.


Posted by: Helen Rawdon on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 1:13am GMT

Helen, My reading of Exodus tells me that, although reluctant at first to obey, Moses' ears were indeed well tuned into the Call of the Lord from the burning bush on Mount Sinai which resulted in the Exodus from Egypt and eventual entry into the Promised Land.

As for the prophets their "Thus saith the Lord" seems to me to be pretty loud and clear. They needed no tortuous General Synod debate to discern the the Word and the Will of God.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 9:12am GMT

Absolutely, Father David, my point precisely. I think we are agreeing on something here!

I'm just suggesting that the prophets might be sharing a little of our frustration when people listen but do not hear and look but do not see...
hence the quote from Matthew ch.23 v.37 -38 when Jesus too experienced rejection.....

'O Jerusalem,Jerusalem,killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you. How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you WOULD not.'

Hence back to human nature and the FREE WILL issue again.Our discussion took this direction in the first place because I responded to your reference to God's will.

My point was then as it is now that perhaps the turmoil would abate if we sought HIS WILL instead of our own through prayer and silence together.

'Breath through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm.'

( from - Dear Lord and Father hymn
J. Whittier )

Helen.

Posted by: Helen Rawdon on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 3:41pm GMT

Isn't that hymn part of John Whittier's longer poem "The Brewing of Soma" which describes how Vedic priests high on the drug soma go into the forest to seek the spirit world through religious experience?

"Forgive our foolish ways" indeed!

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 6:25pm GMT

Indeed it is. English Hymnal 383, and many other Anglican hymnals. Whittier was as it happens a Quaker. Your point, Father David is?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 6:50pm GMT

A mere observation, Simon, in response to Helen's quotation from that very popular hymn - "Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways!"(NEH 353)- make of it what you will.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 24 February 2012 at 9:42pm GMT
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