Friday, 29 June 2012

Church Times and women bishops

The Church Times has today published this longer than usual leading article: Women bishops: what should happen next.

THE General Synod is in trouble. In ten days’ time, it is to consider giving final approval to the consecration of women bishops. In the normal run of things, this would be the stage for a general debate in which the participants return to first principles, examine whether the legislation does or does not fulfil their wishes, and vote accordingly. This debate looks increasingly unlikely to happen…

The effect of the amendments has been the opposite of what was intended, however. The failure of opponents to endorse them, understandable though this may be, and the fierce rejection of them by many of the proponents, to the extent that some have been calling for the Measure to be voted down, mean that the Meas­ure might fall in both the Houses of Laity and Clergy. This would be a farcical end to the long, tortuous synodical process, and hard to square with the overwhelming vote in the diocesan synods…

The Synod is in danger of attracting widespread puzzlement if it fails to agree women bishops after such a long process. Put simply, it must not fail. Anxiety has been expressed about the precedent set by allowing parishes to choose their own type of priest (as if this did not happen at present). A far more worrying precedent will be set if Synod members cannot find a way to live in the same Church as those with whom they disagree.

There is also this news item: Women bishops: ‘little silver balls won’t stay in their holes’.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 29 June 2012 at 1:34pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

"The Synod is in danger of attracting widespread puzzlement if it fails to agree women bishops after such a long process."

"In danger?"

The Church of England has already attracted widespread puzzlement for failing to ordain women bishops years ago.

If the Church of England now chooses to ordain women bishops, but only because they will be second-class bishops, the puzzlement will turn to widespread outrage and embarrassment.

Do you realize the damage that the Church of England is doing to the Anglican brand throughout the world?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 29 June 2012 at 5:54pm BST

But not only the episcope of women will be compromised but also that of those male bishops who participate in their ordinations and agree with them. The amendments are a problem but not simply because women would be second class bishops.

Posted by: Priscilla White on Friday, 29 June 2012 at 10:37pm BST

Let's suppose that the forthcoming General Synod will vote to adjourn the Final Approval debate to allow the HoB to reconsider its amendment to clause 5. Further, let's suppose that the HoB is prepared to change its amendment -- not remove it entirely, but change it.

What text is likely to garner support?

The rule of this particular sub-topic is that it has to be something that the HoB might plausibly agree to. And it has to plausibly increase the chances of the Measure gaining Final Approval at a subsequent vote, and not be one-sided.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 29 June 2012 at 11:29pm BST

"It is not enough, however, to fling the matter back at the Bishops like a piece of badly done homework with an instruction to do better next time and return the Measure to the Synod unamended. This is a misreading of the mood of the Bishops and the motivation that led them to amend the Measure in the first place."

Uh-oh, Big Daddies be in a Baaaad Mood! Look out, chilluns!

{roll eyes}

But seriously, I want to return to what I believe is a key point:

"There must be no doubt about the sacraments, and, to those whose convictions accord with mainstream Cath­ol­i­cism, the ordination of women by one branch of the Church introduces an element of doubt."

How, then, is this "doubt" not like the putatively-involuntary negative reaction to homosexuality known as "Ick"? A passive response, about which the recipient has No Responsibilty for their resulting actions? [Fading (though sadly not gone) in the Global North, still rampant in the Global South]

And if this existential "doubt" is to be tied to "my eternal salvation", what then CAN'T be rationalized by it? [Doesn't that lead inevitably to, at least, the tale of the "priest who reconsecrated an altar after a woman had celebrated at it"?]

No. I say "No." Whatever the *feeling* of doubt (like the "Ick!" to homosexuality), the *actions* of the person experiencing the feeling are still THEIR RESPONSIBILITY. One cannot make the entire Church subject to some subset's subjective feelings!

Some have doubts re (the sacramental assurance of) bishops/priests who happen to have a second X chromosome? Fine. Face your fears, or don't. But *take responsibility* for them.

[Church, carving out a perpetual ghetto for those fears is ENABLING. Don't do it!]

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 7:47am BST

Simon Kershaw's point about the Measure being one-sided would certainly be true if it were to go back to the HoB and its originally unamended state. We all know that, even if it is destined to fall now, it was also destined to fall unamended. The Synod should just get on with the Final Approval Debate, being faithful to the process. It would be a ridiculous scenario, were the Measure to be returned to the HoB, and a complete waste of time, energy and money. Please, members of Synod, for the sake of sanity and common sense, make Monday week, the day of the Final Approval date.

Posted by: Benedict on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 8:00am BST

I'm not sure where all this "one-sided" stuff comes from. The measure in its unamended state was very far from the "single-clause" measure, which could perhaps legitimately be described as one-sided. Many of us who supported the unamended measure know how far it was from our "side".

What I am looking for is a "one church" solution, and many of the "two-sided" suggestions in fact leave us with two churches pretending to be one. I don't think we should go for such self-deception.

I think the Bishops have damaged their credibility so much that it is hard to see that any tinkering will be received by anyone with confidence. The Dioceses give legitimacy to the original text of clause 5, and I think this should be tested in Synod. I don't see how any text which had such widespread support could properly be called extreme - it does not command the support of those opposed to the consecration of women, but that is a matter of principle, not practice.

The General Synod vote at final approval is not the same as the previous votes, which were about which proposal was best, or whether the text could be improved, or whether the balance was right. The final vote is not about alternative proposals, but about one proposal. The vote is of a different character, and the Synod arithmetic is not so easy to predict as some people suggest.

Far from being ridiculous for the Bishops to revert to the previous text which was tested in the Dioceses, it is really difficult to see how they can credibly do anything else.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 9:47am BST

It always amazes me when people try and dismiss, or make excuses for, the argument against the use of the concept of TAINT as in the editorial by saying "The argument about “taint”, not a word that is generally used by traditionalists". Of course it isn't. They are highly unlikely to do so are they? The author of this is writing from a point of view that is either not aware of, or does not consider, how women see the implications about them/us that has gone unchallenged in any deep way throughout this long debate about the acceptability of women's orders - always a problem, never a blessing. And this view encompasses all women not just those who are ordained. That in someway it is acceptable to hold a view that any male who has ordained a woman or been ordained by one(or even in some cases has received from a women) is not acceptable because of association with women is Taint by any other name. What is this saying to the Church and Society as a whole about how women are perceived. I always call to mind one of the conclusions of the MacPherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence Case, and how the word "Taint" could easily be substituted for "Racist". "The definition of a "racist incident" (Taint) will now encompass any incident which is perceived to be racist(one of Taint) by the victim or any other person". That is how most women I know regard it to its detriment.

Posted by: sally Barnes on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 9:50am BST

"The vote is of a different character, and the Synod arithmetic is not so easy to predict as some people suggest"

General Synod members would have gone into the vote - had the voting been on the proposal as it was presented to Diocesan Synods - with a very clear understanding of the range of views that had been expressed at those discussions.

Changing the proposal at this stage makes it a matter of guesswork and if I were a General Synod member I think I would feel unable to vote for it simply on those grounds. It should not be a matter of guesswork once it's been to the Dioceses.

Of course, the 'Group of Six' have ruled that there is no substantive change - which does rather beg the question, why bother changing it at all?

The amendment seems to offer the worst of both worlds. It is not considered a substantive change by those who are opposed to women being bishops, who will vote against it in this form as well. But many of those who would have voted for it unamended may feel unable to do so now.

It's really hard to see what the amendment was meant to deliver other than a situation where different people were equally unwilling to vote for the measure for different reasons.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 11:06am BST

The whole synod should just vote on the unamended version as it was going to (with support of 95% of dioceses) before the bishops' intervention.

And if the Synod is not allowed to vote - democratically - on a proposal with such a mandate from the dioceses, then there should be a walk-out, leaving the bishops to their imperialism, until the right of a Synod to vote democratically on issues it chooses to vote democratically on, has been restored.

Clearly, if the Synod is not allowed to vote on an issue where 95% of dioceses have mandated it, the the Synod becomes a 'shop window' for democratic process but is actually subverted by some kind of ruling politburo.

I actually think there *should* be checks and balances. I actually *do* believe there should be provisions for men and women who in faith and conscience believe in a male-only priesthood. But if the Synod is more than a veneer of representative expression, it should be allowed to vote on its own motions, proposed from the floor, and in this case a motion should be proposed from the floor to endorse the unamended version mandated by almost every diocese.

Or am I being too radical?

At the very least, these church representatives should be allowed to vote on BOTH the amended and the unamended proposals.

If the bishops then say, well we overrule Synod, at least we know where we stand. And we stand in a Catholic-style 'imperium'.

Posted by: Susannah on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 11:33am BST

Mark Bennet - "I'm not sure where this one-sided stuff comes from." First of all, the "one-sided" concept was introduced by Simon Kershaw in an earlier posting. The Revd Bennet is fooling himself, if he really believes that the unamended Measure was any kind of compromise towards traditionalists. He clearly does not understand or even attempt to understand where we are coming from. Maybe he ought to take a look at the Church Times leader, which is more than a little helpful in making necessary clarifications about the traditionalist position. Furthermore, the same Leader is astute in its observation that the new proposals do not alter the substance of the Measure. Synod procedure has been rigorously followed, the Bishops have attempted to care for ALL in their charge, and the majoritarian tyranny of which Archbishop Williams has spoken is clearly exemplified in the way WATCH, GRAS and others are approaching this issue. I fear for the kind of Church we shall have in the future, if those organisations' wings are not clipped in some way. Dreadful!

Posted by: Benedict on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 1:25pm BST

I can understand why those who believe that women should not, or cannot, be priests might want to have the sacraments administered to them solely by men ordained by men. However I would find it helpful if the bishops would clarify precisely why, in their view, if the concept of 'taint' is rejected, it might be so important for those opposed to women's ordination - but not those in favour - to be ministered to solely by bishops who agree with their theological perspective on this particular matter.

For instance, unless I am mistaken, when I lived in west London, the bishop who confirmed me was Graham Leonard, who became a prominent opponent of women's ordination. My confirmation was not invalidated by his views on this matter. Anglo-Catholic bishops oversee Evangelical parishes, and vice versa, all the time.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 2:01pm BST

Sorry Benedict - I am not fooling myself. The "traditionalist" voice has been heard loud and clear. But the voice of those of us who have set aside principle, convinced that the Holy Spirit will lead the church in the end into all truth, has constantly been discounted by comments like yours. You may not imagine that there has been compromise or movement - but you are wrong, there has, and it has been huge, and a lot of my colleagues are thinking "why did we bother" when you dismiss it as virtually nothing. You cannot imagine how much work I and others did to build support for the measure which went to the dioceses from those who were doubtful for the kinds of reasons which the Bishops have brought to reality.

In the end the issue is that the Church of England will have women who are bishops. Are you prepared to acknowledge that you are part of such a church? Another way of putting the two church issue (and we want to remain one church - right?) is that Canon A4 and Article 26 make dissent possible, but denial impossible. We cannot consistently legislate for denial, but we can accommodate dissent.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 9:17pm BST

"WATCH, GRAS and others ...I fear for the kind of Church we shall have in the future, if those organisations' wings are not clipped in some way. Dreadful!"

Dreadful, all right. "Dreadful" is the way you slipped into the language of *violence* against those who resist your patriarchal assumptions. The "Church we shall have in the future" needs reforming, to have all sinful misogyny scrubbed clean out. Maranatha!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 30 June 2012 at 10:32pm BST

The dictates of WATCH and GRAS and voting patterns at synods will never overcome personal conscience, so as painful as it is, there will be traditionalists who remain in the Church of England who continue to doubt the validity of women bishops and who will therefore, in conscience, refuse their sacramental ministry. That is the reality of the sort of compromise Mark Bennet and others believe they make in arguing for the unamended measure.

Posted by: Benedict on Sunday, 1 July 2012 at 8:13am BST

One question which seems to have been unasked by anyone in this present stand off is this:

Whether or not the no-Women contingent in the Church of England are able to avoid the ministry of Women; If their objection to Holy Orders for Women within the Church is legitimate for them; how can they possibly remain within a Church that actually ordains women?

If they are insistent that Women's Ordination is a travesty of theological Order, then how could they possibly compromise their belief on this issue by remaining in the Church? The Ordinariate is their only quasi-Anglican guarantee of 'non-taint'

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 1 July 2012 at 11:26am BST

Benedict, the people-will-be-upset argument does not, in and of itself, persuade.

Does their upset have any principled validity to it? Or is just that some people resist change because they are stuck in old ways of thinking?

There were people who were upset when the Mass was first said in English.

Fortunately that didn't stop the church from moving forward, and saying its services in a language "understood of the people."

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 1 July 2012 at 1:35pm BST

Well done the House of Bishops in achieving the near impossible by uniting the Church of England in a near universal rejection of the two amendments. The Church Times Leader suggests that if the bishops are requested by Synod to reflect again upon the amendments then the "most the Synod can reasonably hope for is a tinkering with the wording to make the amended Measure more generally acceptable". I am left wondering if "tinkering" will prove to be any more acceptable than "fine-tuning"? Will the Group of Six be once more called upon to decide whether the "tinkering" has been substantial or not before this battle worn Measure makes its weary way back to Synod?

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 1 July 2012 at 8:14pm BST

This is not just a male ..female issue..as many men will be discriminated against, because their orders derive from women. It is in reality the issue of creating an institutionalised schism, and the bishops have miscalculated as badly as they did with the covenant.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Monday, 2 July 2012 at 11:53am BST

'their orders derive from women'

And there was I thinking ordination 'derived from' God ! I thought the holy spirit is present doing her stuff. Silly me !

The self named 'conservative' and 'orthodox' approach here, seems very 'man-centred'with God as a bit of an after-thought.

Bishops are not necessary for Ordination. That was just an arrangement that once seemed convenient, but has become more trouble than it's worth- je pense.


Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 2 July 2012 at 2:36pm BST

"Bishops are not necessary for Ordination"? Now didn't the Wesley boys get into a spot of bother by thinking the self same thing?

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 2 July 2012 at 6:20pm BST

Benedict..do you think that if the unamended measure failed in this Synod a measure more favourable to the "traditionalist" view point would be brought forward in a few years time? That seems to me pretty unlikely given the changing composition of the Church as more and more women are ordained and male clergy opposed to women's ordination retire.It has been clear from the beginning that a Third Province was a non-starter.I am unclear what exactly traditionalist catholics would accept short of that..and presumably not all traditionalists would have the same sticking point.Conservative Evangelicals have their own ( and different) theological perspective.it would be interesting to know how you feel this all could be resolved given the desire for women bishops within the C of E is now so widespread.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 9:47am BST

Father David, I believe the Wesley boys got into trouble for thinking that the sacraments were too important to be denied to people, just because a war sent Bishops scurrying for safety...

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 1:30am BST

In response to Perry Butler's point, the Bishops' amendments provide a relatively good starting point, since they recognise one of the fundamental problems Anglo-Catholics have, ie. that it must be a bishop within the unbroken continuum of traditionalist Bishops who ministers to those parishes which, at the very least, doubt the validity of orders of both women bishops and consequently those they themselves ordain or consecrate. The amendments are really quite helpful in that sense, though they do not address the old chestnut of jurisdiction. The difference between derivation and delegation, I think, may have been a partial response to that difficulty. This is however all a little bit academic in that some proponents are unyielding in their unwillingness to concede even to these changes that are, as has been legally settled, not substantial. One can understand why there is no faith whatsoever in a code of practice, however that is framed. The fact is that those occupying the extremes have demonstrated little empathy for one another, and because that is the case, such codes are completely unworkable because those who enforce them can at any time alter them, to their own benefit.

Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 12:51pm BST

"One can understand why there is no faith in a code of practice". How right Benedict is and is it any wonder that this should be the case as so little respect is being currently shewn toward the Act of Synod and moves are afoot to abolish it? How long before a Code of Practice follows the Act of Synod on the road to oblivion?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 3:57pm BST

RIW's very true observation that "men will be discriminated against, because their orders derive from women" - a point I had failed to appreciate until I read his comment - makes it crystal clear just how great a potential for schism within the Church is embodied in the bishop's "fine tuning". Check Benedict's post above and his remark that AC parishes must have "a bishop within the unbroken continuum of traditionalist Bishops who ministers to those parishes which, at the very least, doubt the validity of orders of both women bishops and consequently those they themselves ordain or consecrate", to see how "traditionalists" will interpret validity of ordinations within the Church. Presumably every future cleric must, on demand, be ready to whip out his pedigree, backdated to the consecration of the first female bishop, to make sure that nothing nasty jumped over the wall one rainy night. For which reason, on no account should the Women Bishops measure go through with the Bishops' 5(1)(c) clause bootstrapped onto it.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 5:37pm BST

Lapin has high-lighted the disastrous nature of what will occur if the Amended Draft Measure is passed by General Synod of the Church of England:

The lineage of every Bishop will be under intense scrutiny by every 'purist' on the issue of 'Sacramental Assurance' - this, despite the fact that the Pope believes there is no such thing within the Anglican structure.

Since the Reformation, the Church of England has determined its own 'Sacramental Assurance' - on account of its declared membership of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. One cannot undo the break in relationship from Rome, so why should any of us demand the sort of 'sacramental assurance' that is consonant with allegiance to a Church we do not belong to?

Pretend Roman Catholics have now been provided with their own 'Safe Place': in the Ordinariate.
Please don't muck about with our Reformed and Catholic Tradition within the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 12:24am BST

"Better Together - Anglo-Catholics keeping faith with God, Church & Nation" has launched a sugared-pill charm offensive in support of their "Charter" (charters and covenants; covenants and charters!). Reminds one of the Oxford diocese's less-than-successful campaign in support of the Covenant. http://www.bettertogethercampaign.co.uk/

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 9:06am BST

One item in the Better Together Charter does strike me as needing a bit of unpacking before I personally could sign up to it:

"We believe that the overwhelming majority of the Church of England would welcome inclusive legislation to enable women to be bishops in a Church that has space for us to work together, side by side, for the good of our mission to the wider society we serve"

I believe a majority in the Church of England would like those opposed to women's ordination on theological grounds playing their continuing part in the mission and ministry of the Church of England, if it was possible for this to happen without compromising the equal status of ordained women. But I assume that 'inclusive legislation' means more than that, and that the Better Together Charter is stating a belief that the majority of Church of England members want a code of practice enshrined in law?

After the vote at February General Synod, and subsequent votes in Diocesan Synods, what underpins the belief that the majority of people in the Church of England want this outcome?

Posted by: Pam Smith on Friday, 6 July 2012 at 1:57am BST

The HoB's amendment introduces a 'congregationalist ' principle that each congregation has the right to demand a bishop who mirrors their pre-existing convictions and prejudices - initially on the issue of women 's ministry but once the precedent is granted, what is to prevent it spreading to other contested issues ?
A formula for 'designer bishops' that undermines the traditional notion of episcopacy.

Posted by: John Fletcher on Monday, 16 July 2012 at 4:28pm BST
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