Friday, 27 July 2012

Women Bishops: A closer look at option 5

This article is concerned with what GS Misc 1033 calls “Option 5”. To encourage a constructive discussion of this option, I have brought together below the specific sections of the document which deal with this. This option is titled Focus on suitability/appropriateness and it builds in a specific reference to the ‘suitability’ or ‘appropriateness’ of the person selected for the particular context in which he was to exercise ministry.

Paragraph 59 contains the suggested possible rewording of sub-clause (c)

(c) the selection, following consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests, the exercise of ministry by whom appears to the persons making the selection to be [suitable][appropriate] for the parishes concerned.

The full text of the relevant section of the paper, paras 58 to 67 is copied below the fold.

The paper also comments on what wording in the Code of Practice would be appropriate in conjunction with option 5. Reference is made to the most recent draft code, contained in GS Misc 1007 and a few extracts from that are included as an annex at the end of GS Misc 1033.

Here is what it says:

88. In the case of option five, an alternative version would be preferable. There would also need to be a revised version of paragraph 97 (which could incorporate some of the elements from paragraph 91 below), with consequential amendments to paragraphs 126 and 127. The text to go in after paragraph 40 might be along the lines of the following:

A diocesan scheme should provide that the arrangements for selecting bishops who will exercise their ministry by delegation will enable parishes to receive ministry that is [suitable] [appropriate] to their circumstances given the basis on which the Letter of Request was issued.

This does not mean that the arrangements should allow a parish to choose its own bishop or insist that the person selected should be of its own churchmanship. But they should provide for the diocesan bishop, through consultation with the PCC, to seek to establish the nature of the conviction that underlies the Letter of Request, and, in the light of that, to select someone whose ministry can be effective in that context.”

Paragraph 91 which is mentioned above, as being partially relevant to option 5, reads as follows:

91. Paragraph 97 [of the draft code] would then be replaced (and there would be corresponding amendments to paragraphs 126 and 127 in relation to priestly ministry) by the following:

Before sending the PCC the written notice setting out the arrangements to give effect to the Letter of Request, the diocesan bishop should inform him - or herself, by consulting the PCC of the parish (either personally or through a representative), of its position in relation to the celebration of the sacraments and other divine service and the provision of pastoral care.

The Measure does not allow parishes to ask that their bishop should hold a particular set of beliefs, or subscribe to any statement of faith beyond what all bishops have to affirm when making the Declaration of Assent. Nor does it allow parishes to choose their own bishop or insist that the male bishop selected for them reflects their own churchmanship.

In determining what arrangements to set out in the written notice the diocesan bishop should seek to accommodate the parish’s concerns relating to holy orders and the exercise of ordained ministry of women so far as those matters are relevant to the parish’s position in relation to the celebration of the sacraments and other divine service and the provision of pastoral care. But the diocesan should not take into account other, unrelated matters. In practice, the needs of conservative evangelical parishes, and traditional catholic parishes, in this respect are unlikely to be identical.

Option five - Focus on suitability/appropriateness

58. A further approach, which would incorporate elements of option four but attempt to avoid some of its downsides, would be to build specifically into the provision a reference to the ‘suitability’ or ‘appropriateness’ of the person selected for the particular context in which he was to exercise ministry.

59. A possible formulation along these lines might be as follows:

(c) the selection, following consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests, the exercise of ministry by whom appears to the persons making the selection to be [suitable][appropriate] for the parishes concerned.”

60. Again, as with option four, this approach identifies the broad subject on which guidance must be given. And, as in its second variant, it builds in a reference to process - there has to be consultation with the relevant PCC to discover more than is apparent from the Letter of Request before a male bishop or priest is selected to exercise ministry there.

61. But it goes a step further in identifying an objective, namely that the person selected by the diocesan bishop (or in the case of a parochial appointment, by those with the relevant responsibilities) should be ‘suitable/appropriate’.

62. The advantage of this approach is that it would signal on the face of the Measure that for some parishes more was at stake than simply being offered the ministry of any male bishop or priest. Thus, for the first time, there would be an acknowledgement of the much discussed ‘necessary but not sufficient’ issue.

63. The potential downside is that words such as ‘suitable’ or ‘appropriate’ are very broad unless related to particular criteria. The nature of the guidance given in the Code of Practice would, therefore, be of particular importance.

64. As between ‘suitable’ and ‘appropriate’ either would be possible. In legislative drafting ‘appropriate’ is generally used as a convenient shorthand to avoid spelling out what is clear but complex to spell out in full (so that, for example, Acts of Parliament may refer to ‘the appropriate minister’ or ‘appropriate authority’ where from the context it is clear which one is being referred to).

65. ‘Suitable’ tends to be used when the emphasis is on provision which reflects particular contexts or needs (for example ‘suitable alternative accommodation’).

66. The guidance given in the Code of Practice would need to be framed in terms which avoided carrying any implication that the parish could regard as ‘unsuitable/inappropriate’ anyone who did not match their expectations in all respects.

67. Equally it would need to provide confidence to parishes that they would receive episcopal or priestly ministry that would be effective in their circumstances, given the nature of their convictions concerning the ordained ministry of women.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 27 July 2012 at 7:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

How can these two sentences be reconciled?

"Nor does it allow parishes to choose their own bishop or insist that the male bishop selected for them reflects their own churchmanship."

and

"In practice, the needs of conservative evangelical parishes, and traditional catholic parishes, in this respect are unlikely to be identical.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 27 July 2012 at 8:59am BST

The proposed new paragraph 97 of the draft code of practice says 'the diocesan bishop should seek to accommodate the parish’s concerns relating to holy orders'.

That's 'the parish's concerns', not 'the PCC's concerns'. So what happens if a diocesan bishop, having received a letter of request from a PCC, investigates and finds that the majority of believing Anglicans in the parish don't share the PCC's concerns, and would in fact be quite happy with a female bishop/priest?

Posted by: Feria on Friday, 27 July 2012 at 4:33pm BST

Feria
That's an interesting and very valid point. PCCs, any more than Deanery or Diocesan synods, don't represent the views of the person in the pew. In my PCC experience there is seldom an election for vacancies, there is no system of manifesto or hustings and there is thus no opportunity to explore candidates' views on a host of issues which concern not only the right ordering of the parish affairs, but also the wider concerns which affect worshipers. Thus a few activists can skew the entire policy of a parish. Are these the people who should be consulted?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 27 July 2012 at 10:06pm BST

Apologies for trespassing on the CofE's business once again from the antipodes, but two points:

a) ensuring the legislation keeps the power to select the priest or bishop with the diocesan, requiring consultation with the parish (or PCC) but not its approval, seems a positive evolution to me

b) is it necessary to include the word 'male' before 'bishop' and 'priest' in option 5 of the clause?

Posted by: Peter Sherlock on Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 8:34am BST

Richard:

Your PCCs aren't elected by the people of the parish? (Not even the church-attending ones?) How are they chosen?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 11:28am BST

Richard Ashby, and what of a parish in which the majority of members on a PCC are convinced proponents of women's ordination, whereas there is genetral opposition from the people in the pews? What happens then I wonder?

Posted by: Benedict on Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 12:22pm BST

I suggest, in response to Benedict, that PCC's over the years often mould to the mind-set of the incumbent, whereas the general congregation may well be more diverse: thus it ('it' being the attitude towards ordained women) probably works both ways, though how you'd demonstrate it is not easy to see - who is, for example,'the congregation'?

It's an interesting thought, though - how many congregations ARE being oppressed by their inclusive, affirming PCC?;-)

We're off to the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage on Monday, complete with youth group and impeccably catholic female priest-colleague.... We'll try harn not to oppress anyone while we're there....

Posted by: david rowett on Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 2:26pm BST

I have to say, 'liberal' responses to this exercise are mean and ungenerous.

Any 'liberal' who thinks as I do should hare over to http://www.change.org/petitions/the-house-of-bishops-of-the-church-of-england-keep-clause-5-1-c-in-the-consecration-and-ordination-of-women-measure.

Posted by: John on Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 7:51pm BST

My idea for alternative provision is set out here, as a simple document:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/alternative-provision.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 9:15pm BST

Dear Pat,

There are two significant difficulties there. The first is that PCC elections are usually uncontested, so no actual ballot takes place. The second is that, even if one can manage to achieve a contested election and a lively hustings, only about 10% of members of the Church of England are on church electoral rolls.

Both situations are gradually improving: on the first matter, if I understand correctly, quite a few parishes are reducing the number of seats on their PCCs to be a better match to the number of volunteers to serve, increasing the chances of contested elections; on the second matter, that 10% is up from a truly shocking 0.1% back in 1974.

Posted by: Feria on Sunday, 29 July 2012 at 12:31am BST

It should surely not be assumed that 'In practice, the needs of conservative evangelical parishes, and traditional catholic parishes, in this respect are unlikely to be identical'. In most (maybe all) dioceses, evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes share bishops.

I wonder however whether there is a wider concern about clergy and maybe congregations sometimes feeling uncertain that they will be treated sensitively and fairly by a bishop whose theological views are very different from their own. This is linked with good employment practice and dispute resolution procedures overall. Perhaps addressing this concern would be helpful to opponents of women's ordination serving under bishops who are in favour and vice versa.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Sunday, 29 July 2012 at 8:07pm BST

No there's definately no place for TWO sets of flying bishops (Evo and Anglo)- get real for pities sakes !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 29 July 2012 at 10:59pm BST
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