Friday, 25 May 2012

Women bishops: Statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint explanatory statement about the amendments made to the Women Bishops legislation at a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this week. It is online here and here, and copied below.

Women bishops: Statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about the amendments to Clause 5 and Clause 8 of the Draft Measure

Friday 25th May 2012
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint explanatory statement about the amendments made to the Women Bishops legislation at a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this week.

The Archbishops’ statement follows.

There has already been a lot of discussion about the amendments agreed this week by the House of Bishops to the draft Measure concerning the ordination of women as bishops. Although the senior officers of the Synod (the ‘Group of Six’) have determined by a majority that these amendments do not alter the substance of the proposals embodied in the Measure, much anxiety has been expressed as to their implications, and it may be helpful to set out what the House attempted and intended.

The House fully and wholeheartedly accepts that the draft legislation voted on by the dioceses represents the will of an undoubted and significant majority in the Church of England. They did not intend to make any change in any principle of that legislation or to create any new powers or privileges for anyone. They believed that, if certain clarifications and expansions of the wording were made, the Measure might be carried with more confidence, and, out of that conviction, agreed the new wording, which affects two questions.

To take the simpler one first: we decided to make no change to the provision in the Draft Measure by virtue of which the arrangements made by diocesan bishops under diocesan schemes for the exercise of ministry by a male bishop take effect, as a matter of law, by way of ‘delegation. But we believed that it would help to spell out what is and isn’t meant by the ‘delegation’ of the power to perform acts of episcopal ministry. Bishops are bishops because they are ordained in the name of the whole Church; but they are enabled to act as bishops in this or that particular area in virtue of various legal provisions. For those who are not diocesan bishops, this means that a diocesan gives them the legal authority to act as bishops - as pastors and teachers and people responsible for other ordained ministers.

‘Delegation’ describes the giving of that authority. It does not take anything away from the diocesan bishop who delegates; it just allows another bishop to minister legally in the diocesan’s area of oversight. The amendment simply declares what the law and practice of the Church already is, and what we mean by delegation in other contexts.

The second amendment requires rather more explanation.

The earlier draft of the Measure already allowed parishes to request the diocesan to provide a male bishop to minister to them if their theological convictions were such as to make it impossible in conscience to receive a woman’s ministry in this role. For this to operate effectively, a diocesan would obviously have to do what could be done to find a bishop who could work constructively with such a parish.

The amendment requires the Code of Practice which the bishops will draw up to offer guidance as to how this might be achieved. This was already something the bishops and the Synod would have been able to include in the Code. The change is that they will now have to include such guidance. It does not give parishes the right to ‘choose their own bishop’ or insist that their bishop has a particular set of beliefs. It allows them to ask for episcopal ministry, as spelled out in Clause 2 of the Measure, only on the grounds of theological conviction about women’s ordained ministry. The precise wording in the Code remains something for the Bishops and Synod to determine but it attempts to take seriously the fact that, as has been clear all along, simply providing any male bishop would not do justice to the theological convictions lying behind requests from some parishes.

The bishops have listened to a great many diverse voices in the process of finalising these amendments, and they are aware that their decision to reject some amendments and accept others may be difficult for a good many people on all sides of the argument, for very different reasons. They were painfully aware that whatever decision they came to would surprise or disappoint some, but they believed that some helpful modifications could be made without sacrificing any aspect of the Measure’s main purpose or changing any of its fundamentals, and so allowing the legislation to command a wider degree of support and welcome.

So they hope that the new wording now presented will be considered carefully and dispassionately by the Church at large. We have tried to keep in view what might be for the good of the whole Church’s mission, and we commend these amendments to the Church’s reflection and prayer over the coming weeks as the moment of decision approaches.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 25 May 2012 at 4:46pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Shame Rowan has never shown a fraction of the concern for gays, in or out of the ministry, that he continues to show for ingrained, institutionalized misogyny.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Friday, 25 May 2012 at 5:15pm BST

It is never for the good of the entire Church if women are devalued. This is another example of the playing with human being's lives. This shows us just how far the hierarchy will push to accommodate views that discriminate against women. It is quite interesting that the press release by the Archbishops was released today. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot! Women must be elevated to the highest positions of leadership in the Church and no amount of misogyny and narrow-mindedness are going to cover the scars that have been inflicted on women over the two thousand year history of the Church. Both archbishops come out smelling pretty bad in the way they have tried to force their positions on the entire Church. This is going to bite them again and again. Shame on them!

Posted by: Chris Smith on Friday, 25 May 2012 at 5:52pm BST

It is obvious that the bishops collectively didn't intend any major change in the import of the legislation. However, it is not their intentions which will be law, but the text of the Measure. There is a road which is said to be paved with good intentions, and it goes in the opposite direction from where our bishops are supposed to lead us.

It is therefore important to read the text and see what it says, and to think through what effect it will have. And I cannot see how the amendment to Clause 5 can possibly be as benign as our well-meaning bishops imagine.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 25 May 2012 at 5:58pm BST

So instead of a particular set of beliefs, it is just one belief that the provided bishop must hold?

What happens if and when no such bishop is available? How long can one have a church in which bishops sit on a bench or in a house with other bishops whom they do not recognize as bishops? Will these "special" one-issue bishops continue to be among those who lay hands on new bishops -- and will they do so joining with bishops who do not share their views on the "one" theological conviction? Or will that render them insufficiently theologically "convicted"?

The implications of this sort of narrow confessionalism -- a one article creed -- seem to run against both good order or the idea of "focus of unity" or "bishop for the whole church."

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 25 May 2012 at 6:57pm BST

A rational explanation of the status quo. None of the PEVs has been in favour of women priests or bishops prior to appointment. All have been nominated as priests, and then ordained as bishops. Some existing suffragans have been given responsibility to serve parishes requesting AEO within their dioceses; and many parishes have accepted the delegated authority of a suffragan from within their own diocese, instead of a PEV. Some suffragans have been nominated as priests, and ordained as bishops in order to fulfil this role (as well as a wider diocesan mandate) in order to keep Resolution C parishes within the diocesan Unity. If such an arrangement is the will of the diocesan Bishop, it is surely a better place to be than a parish which is separated from its diocese but has a PEV.

The wording of the second 'tweak' referring to 'priests' does not mean that parishes will have an innovative legal right to accept only parish priests who are conscientious subscribers to Resolutions A & B.

It would be a push too far just to provide AEO in the form of a male bishop who is in favour of women's ordination, but who has agreed not to ordain them. Those opposed - I think reasonably - want a bishop who shares their opinion, thus maintaining the continuation of some form of PEV or of in-diocese provision. It does not affect the appointment of priests to parishes, where there have been many appointments of clergy in favour, but who have rightly respected Resolutions A & B - often with the result that these have subsequently been dropped once the previous incumbent has gone.

I think this is a gracious and honourable bridge, and barely a compromise. I don't believe that 'anti' suffragans or PEVs believe that their diocesan or other bishops are 'invalid', any more than 'pro' bishops think that PEVs and their own suffragans are. This may just enable us to understand those who accept and respect the ministry of women whilst not personally wishing to be open to their sacramental ministrations nor to ordaining them. It might also enable the Measure to be passed.

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Friday, 25 May 2012 at 11:42pm BST


Thank you for the explanation, but there is something I really, genuinely don't understand. *Why* is it reasonable to want a bishop who shares one's theological convictions about a particular issue? I'd put pretty good money on that my bishop and I hold rather different theologies of Scripture, the atonement, and the eucharist, but that doesn't mean I can or should demand someone whose views are in line with mine.

Why does this one particular matter of theological conviction get exalted to that place whither no matter of doctrine is gone before? Unless, of course, in the final analysis it is really about gender.

Posted by: Hannah on Saturday, 26 May 2012 at 8:54am BST

I understand your point entirely; and of course gender lies at the heart of this issue. From my point of view it is linked to what the catholics call 'sacramental assurance', which I originally included in my post but had to edit out because of excess words. At least Evangelicals have some scripture on their side (though that's a different can of worms now that we know the world isn't flat). It is a unique point of view on which to decide the provision of episcopal care; but whilst not agreeing with it in my heart, my head tells me that it should be reasonable for the majority, both in favour and opposed.

To propitiate the catholics, there has to be some process by which continuity appears to be possible; though many TEC posts in other places assure us that this is a path towards a future more unpleasant in the long run than a kick in the teeth now. Whilst a generous but sexist tweak may earn a very few votes from those opposed, it will probably earn more votes from those essentially in favour, but who are not happy with what they see as making life untenable for opponents.

Of all the comments I have unfortunately read in the last few days, the one which I think sums up where we are at this moment is from +Alan Wilson of Buckingham who said that 'this will not be the first time in human affairs that tulips were grown on dung.'

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Saturday, 26 May 2012 at 10:21am BST

perhaps the idea of the 'Third Province' would be the best way out of a tricky situation - which has not been made any clearer by the H.o.B. Then the 3rd P. could be a woman-free area for male Christians only. But please don't call it the 'Church of England'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 26 May 2012 at 12:15pm BST

I agree with Peter Edwards mostly. As to 'I don't believe that 'anti' suffragans or PEVs believe that their diocesan or other bishops are 'invalid', any more than 'pro' bishops think that PEVs and their own suffragans are', I think the answer is 'yes and no' - but that's good enough and should not be probed.

As for Hannah's question, why THIS one thing, the answer is that for FiF people it is existentially constitutive.

Posted by: John on Saturday, 26 May 2012 at 2:47pm BST

I thought for FiF people it was existentially constitutive that they had a male bishop who was a ordained deacon, priest and bishop by other male bishops, because it's all about the Apostolic succession.

This does not mean that they could not theologically accept a bishop who fulfilled all those criteria but who also ordained women, for example, or who believed in the valididy of female ordained ministry.

Because what matters is the ontological change conferred upon ordination - and that is not dependent on people's individual theology.

Once we get to the idea that it's all about right thinking, we're well and truly in the realm of prejudice - something FiF vehemently deny.

The false teaching question is much more an evangelical problem, but even there I would have thought that it should be sufficient if evanglical parishes can have male priests and bishops so they themselves do not have to suffer the indignity of being preached to by a woman. That their bishop might actively permit other women to preach in other churches can be of no valid concern.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 26 May 2012 at 4:14pm BST

Can the amendments be voted down by the General Synod and the Measure returned to its original form, the one that the Dioceses and Deaneries voted upon?

Posted by: commentator on Sunday, 27 May 2012 at 7:04pm BST

'Whilst a generous but sexist tweak may earn a very few votes from those opposed, it will probably earn more votes from those essentially in favour, but who are not happy with what they see as making life untenable for opponents.' But what gains it makes there it will lose from those who are concerned it makes life untenable for supporters, esp. the future female Bishops. I'm not adverse to growing tulips on dung. I'm slightly less keen on growing them on radio active waste, for example. I suspect this legislation will grow also sorts of mutations that were never envisaged. I'm an avid supporter of WB but increasingly I hope the amended legislation gets thrown out - the further the better.

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Sunday, 27 May 2012 at 9:57pm BST

'Can the amendments be voted down by the General Synod'. I think the answer to that is 'no'. The HoB has the right and duty to present the final form of the draft for the Final Approval stage.

But presumably it might be considered to be in order for the Synod to pass a motion adjourning the debate for Final Approval coupled with a request to the HoB to remove either or both of its amendments.

It would then be up to the HoB to decide again whether it wanted to change the form of the draft presented for Final Approval at a resumed debate.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 28 May 2012 at 10:46am BST

Simon Kershaw is correct, and there is explicit provision for this in General Synod's standing orders. Here is the relevant extract; both paragraphs apply in this case.

94. Final Approval Stage – Reconsideration by the House of Bishops

(a) After a motion for Final Approval has been moved any member of the House of Bishops or a member of the Steering Committee in charge of the Measure or Canon or other Article 7 or Article 8 business, by permission of the Chairman, may move ‘That the debate be now adjourned to enable (Short Title or other description) to be reconsidered by the House of Bishops.’ If such a motion is negatived it shall not be moved again in respect of the same business, and if it is carried no motion under paragraph (b) may be moved.

(b) Subject to paragraph (a) above after a motion for Final Approval has been moved any member, by permission of the Chairman, may move ‘That the debate be now adjourned to enable … to be reconsidered by the House of Bishops.’ Such a motion must refer to an amendment made to the relevant business by the House of Bishops under SOs 60, 84 or 85 and, if negatived, shall not be moved again in respect of that business.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 28 May 2012 at 11:33am BST

"Oh what a tangled web they weave, when at first they do deceive" - and to think: it all started with the false idea of 'Two Integrities - bolstered by those outlandish creatures 'Flying Bishops'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 28 May 2012 at 12:11pm BST

Can someone clarify the situation:

Am I right that the original legislation meant that every parish could be cared for by a male bishop (either because he was the diocesan or because of delegation by a female diocesan)?

Am I right in thinking that the ammendment means that, where that male bishop is acting by way of delegation from a female bishop, he will be in sympathy with the doctrinal position of the parish requesting his ministry?

Am I right in thinking that where the diocesan bishop is male, parishes will not have the right to a bishop who is sympathetic to their views?

If so, this is ludicrous! Logically, either this ammendment needs to go - OR it needs to be extended to make similar provision where the diocesan is a male. It is just rediculous to have legislation that says a trad parish will have the ministry of its diocesan (because he is male) but that the same male bishop will not be used as provision in the next door diocese (because he would be the delegate of a woman). Either he is appropriate in both dioceses or neither!!

Posted by: Rose on Monday, 28 May 2012 at 8:20pm BST
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