Thursday, 14 June 2012

women bishops: some views from Fulcrum

Fulcrum has recently published several articles about the women bishops legislation. Two in particular are worth noting:

Stephen Kuhrt Women Bishops Legislation

Women bishops will, I hope, turn the Church of England completely upside down. My prayer is that its dramatic empowerment of the skills, gifts and insights of women will revitalise the church and change it forever.

As I write this, I can feel waves of anxiety increasing, not just from it opponents but many of those who claim to be its supporters. ‘No, that’s an unhelpful point’, many will say, ‘things will carry on much as they have before but with women simply able to exercise a full ministry alongside that of the men’.

But I maintain the point. My experience, in the church of which I am vicar, is that when women’s ministry is allowed to flourish to the full, the entire atmosphere of a church is transformed. Preaching, pastoral care, sacramental ministry, the occasional offices, the nature of services and, above all, the strategy and direction of the local church are all enriched beyond measure. Various practical reasons can be advanced for this. But at a theological level it is because the male and female both being allowed their full role, is bringing about a much deeper reflection of the image of God and a much greater anticipation in our worship of the new creation. It is this that has brought about the transformation within many local churches that have experienced the full ministry of women.

Where such transformation is now most badly needed is within the higher leadership and structures of the Church of England. I am extremely excited about the impact that women bishops will have upon the leadership of Areas and Dioceses where the gifts and talents of women, at last able to have a more strategic impact, will undoubtedly bring a greater humanity and relevance to the face of the church and care of the clergy.

But the change I expect to be most transforming of all is to that of the nature of the House of Bishops. Reinforced by its representation of only one gender, many within this body are hopelessly out of touch with both parishes and clergy and increasingly characterised by what has been accurately termed ‘delusions of adequacy’.

Hence my distraught response to the fact that it is the greatest symptom of the problem that women bishops will address, that has seen fit to amend the legislation in the way that it has. It is bad enough that the amendments have been made at the eleventh hour and fly in the face of the clear will of the elected General Synod. But where the real problem lies is in this group of men deciding to use their power to ensure that women do not become bishops on the same footing as them.

My strong suspicion is that there are factors at work here that go beyond the desire to safeguard the most obvious opponents of the measure. Those in possession of power are usually very intuitive to danger, and the current set of bishops know that there will be far less places for them to hide if women are allowed to join them as equals. Better to allow women in but with areas of vulnerability preserved to keep them beholden to their male colleagues. From this perspective the amendments are less to do with protecting the minority who oppose women bishops (who would be quite adequately covered by a Code of Practice), than trying to ensure that the impact of this development is kept ‘safe’ and away from changing any more than it has to about the status quo…

Elaine Storkey Women Bishops Legislation

I am on the horns of a considerable dilemma. We are now at the point where it should be possible to admit women to the office of Bishop, and thus to full participation in the ministry of the Church of England. Like so many others, I have become convinced, over the years, that this is the outworking of biblical vision for the church, something I have written, worked and prayed for, hoping that we would know the unity of the Holy Spirit as we moved on together. Each time the issue has come before the General Synod I feel we have moved closer to understanding the key issues. We have discussed them from the standpoint of theology, ecclesiology, pastoral care and mission. We have looked carefully at ways in which we can make provisions for those in the church who remain opposed to women’s full inclusion. We have sent the Measure around the dioceses for their scrutiny and approval. And we have done all this under the bemused gaze of the media, who wonder why on earth it takes us so long and why we don’t get on with it; when generations of convinced but bewildered parliamentarians, eager to ratify this change constitutionally, have been and gone. And now, after two decades of debate, six years of consultation, two years of careful scrutiny of submissions by the revision committee, twelve months of painstaking drafting, more months of discussion in deaneries and parish councils, with diocesan approval finally signed and sealed, and the day of decision fast approaching, I feel I cannot support the Measure in the amended form that it now comes before us.

So how has this sea-change come about? The process must seem odd in the extreme to anyone outside the procedures of Synod. At the end of the final drafting stage, the House of Bishops - an all-male assembly – has met behind closed doors, and brought forward new proposals in the shape of amendments, which cannot now be further amended by Synod. In my twenty-five years on Synod, I have never known this to happen – it is constitutional but unprecedented. It has been left to a group of six people, representing the convocations of clergy, bishops and the house of laity to decide, by majority, whether the amendments changed the Measure presented to the dioceses. It was hardly a representative group, since it included the two Archbishops who were party to the amendments, so the outcome was inevitable. Yet the groundswell of opinion outside that group is that Clause 5 now does change the Measure substantially, however subtly it is worded…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 7:26am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

On an earlier thread I (cynically) predicted that Fulcrumites would uncritically and grovelingly welcome the last minute revision by the bishops. After several short, but well thought out, statements this (rather sneering) prediction has proved to be 100% wrong.

I humbly apologise.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 7:56am BST

Stephen Kuhrt says that the introduction of women bishops will change the church forever. Precisely so and that surely is the reason why so many are opposed to this ministerial innovation in that the Church will no longer be the same Church that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles of old.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 8:27am BST

Nice to find something encouraging among the news of the past few days. Will the arrogance of the bishops, culminating in their unilateral revision of this measure, and in the confused and undisguisedly reactionary response to the government's gay marriage proposal that they have approved, backfire when Synod meets?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 8:46am BST

Never did I think I would be in a position to congratulate Fulcrum on the article appearing on their web-site. however, I must say that on this occasion - with articles by Elaine Storkey and Fr. Stephen Kuhrt - they have done us proud.

Both articles have carefully stated their reasons for criticism of the amendments made by the House of Bishops to the Draft Measure passed by the last General Synod of the Church of England, and by a majority of diocesan Synods thereafter.

The effect of the amendment, as Fr. Stephen says, reflects the fear of the male bishops having to give way to women as co-episcopal leaders in the Church - thus ending the rule of patriarchy in the Church of England. Stephen goes so far as to applaud the differences that would make - to the Church's advantage in the future - in terms of humane and more caring legislative polity and praxis that would result.

I tip my hat to Fulcrum on this occasion. May we all have cause to compliment them again soon.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 11:53am BST

For what its worth, my comments on this are in my latest blog.

Posted by: Mark Beach on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 2:17pm BST

But Father David, surely there are many instances in history where the church has been changed forever. Does anybody still think that the Church now anywhere in the world is identical with that of the first Apostles?

Didn't events such as S. Paul's expansion of the church to the gentiles; Constantine's conversion; the Chalcedonian settlement and resulting schism; the Great Schism; the reformation in its many guises; evangelical renewal; and pentecostal revival all change the nature of the "entrusted" church in many ways?

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 5:04pm BST

"Stephen goes so far as to applaud the differences that would make - to the Church's advantage in the future - in terms of humane and more caring legislative polity" Father Ron Smith referencing Stephen Kuhrt.

Some women bishops will be "more caring", others may not be. It will depend entirely upon the personality of the particular woman bishop and not upon any supposed gender-based traits. A positive stereotype is still a stereotype.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 5:22pm BST

Dean of Durham on the bishops' revisions -

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 5:23pm BST

'the same Church that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles of old.'

The FACT is as you know well, Jesus entrusted no church to 'the apostles'.

And if he had, it most certainly was not the Church of England.

Time to grow up and put aside fairy tales ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 10:24pm BST

"the Church will no longer be the same Church that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles of old"

The same church that Jesus apparently entrusted to...
Henry VIII
The Borgias
The many instigators/perpetrators of the Spanish Inquisition
All those pedophile priests
All the bishops and archbishops and popes (including the current one) that covered up said abuse

yeah, maybe the church won't be quite the same - in a good way

Posted by: Dave Paisley on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 2:27am BST

Jesus was a Jew, you know.

Shocking fact, but it should be noted. If there was a Church He entrusted of old, it ceased when we stopped going to temple on Friday night.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 4:28am BST

"the same Church that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles of old"
I used the word Church because Stephen originally wrote that "the gifts and insights of women will revitalise the church and change it forever".
Would Alistair and Laurence be happier if I substituted the word Faith for Church so that it would read:- "No longer the same Faith that Jesus entrusted to the Apostles of old"?
Which thought reminds me of that stirring hymn
"Faith of our fathers, taught of old by faithful shepherds of the fold".
It seems clear to me that even within my life time - that which has been entrusted to us of old is indeed in the process of being changed forever.
Bishops, whom we regard as successors to the Apostles, are, after all, primarily Guardians of the Faith. In seeking to uphold this sacred duty they are currently on the receiving end of much flak.
"Time to grow up and put aside fairy tales?"
Alas, more and more, Thinking Anglicans is becoming a Blog which is bristling with Christian hostility.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 4:50am BST

Aren't many of the examples of change cited by Alastair, through the great Christian centuries of the past, attempts to return the Church, in one way or another, to its original primitive pristine state? Over two millenia the Church has often erred and been led astray - in reaction to which - God has raised up those whose aim and purpose is to ensure that that which has been entrusted is not lost or forgotten.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 7:56am BST

Mark, correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the Temple destroyed in 70 A.D.? Since then Judaism is not what it was in the days of Jesus in that the sacrificial element was lost and what remains is merely the Rabbinical teaching element.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 8:09am BST

Father David:

Part of our faith is that the Holy Spirit speaks to us even today, as it did on the first Pentecost. Is it too much for you to believe that the Holy Spirit is telling us now that we have been wrong in our treatment of women for the past two milennia? That we have taken what were cultural biases of an ancient agrarian society and enshrined them in scripture?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 11:12am BST

"Alas, more and more, Thinking Anglicans is becoming a Blog which is bristling with Christian hostility."

- FatherDavid -

Dear Father, we would love to love you - if you would let us. Sadly your entrenched objection to any liberalisation in the Church - led by the Holy Spirit in many ways - makes you seem hostile to any form of renewal - even in the manner of Pope John XXIII, who advocated 'Semper Reformanda'

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 12:07pm BST

Father Ron, I'm all for renewal which is in keeping with Holy Writ and is consistent with that which is proclaimed in the gospels. I note that the present Holy Father is very keen on the Reform of the Reform which his predecessor John XXIII initiated.
With regard to some of the hostile remarks published on the Thinking Anglican Blog - a friend has written - "If this is how Christians treat one another is it any wonder that most of the rest of the kingdom want nothing to do with any of them".

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 6:42pm BST

Come on, Fr Ron - we've had this before.

It's unconditional, remember; you should love despite the hostility you seem to see in Fr David. He's not wrong to point out that the value of tolerance so much prized by liberals is the one they find hardest to practice when they encounter folk who aren't as liberal and tolerant as they are. As it stands, your post seems to say; 'you need to be more like us - then we can love you properly.'

You love opponents of women bishops anyway, right? And if they can't love you back, then you keep on loving them anyway.

And I'm sure there was a bit somewhere about not judging ...

Posted by: Jonathan Jennings on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 11:39pm BST

Jonathan, you are recalling all of us on this blog to the unwavering tolerance you have shown yourself to practice here. Mea Maxima Culpa! Christ have mercy on me, a Sinner!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 12:26pm BST

Noting the hilarity and bonhomie exchanged between those who contribute to Thinking Anglicans
it is hard to believe that we are days away from removing the Church of England in large part from its allegiance to the Church founded by Christ whose principle see is in Rome under the present stewardship of Pope Benedict XVI.A woman at the altar will always be a blasphemy, making nonsense of the Christian faith as the Church is the Bride of Christ,forever!

Posted by: Alba Thorning on Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 7:34pm BST

9.7.12 'Prayer for the day 'BBC Radio 4 featured Rev Peter Baker who reminded us that in 1550 Archbishop Cranmer was burned to death together with bishops Latimer and Ridley.May I remind Rev Baker of another Archbishop, William Laud, who was beheaded at Tower Hill in 1645 who was accused of opposition to radical forms of Puritanism.
Thank God Christians today can discuss our differences amicably making Christian Unity a real possibility in our time.

Posted by: Alba Thorning on Monday, 9 July 2012 at 8:47am BST

Christians today need to be reminded that the two greatest enemies we have to fight for our spiritual good is our own weak self, the other is Satan, who encourages our divisions.
In its long history the Church, in spite of the guidance of The Holy Spirit, has suffered due to the weakness of mankind...we are all sinners in need of the healing help Christ gives us through the Sacraments.That is why the Apostolic succession is of vital importance for our salvation.

Posted by: Alba Thorning on Tuesday, 10 July 2012 at 2:08pm BST
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