Monday, 15 October 2012

women bishops: press release from GRAS

Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod
PRESS RELEASE
Press briefing for immediate release 8th October 2012

The final draft Bishops and Priests [Consecration and Ordination of Women] Measure

If this legislation is passed we hope and pray that this will be a step on the way towards the full realisation that women and men are equally made in the image of God.

Vigilant scrutiny and care will be needed to ensure that the word “Respect” will be interpreted in such a way that the Code of Practice will ensure the excesses that resulted from the Act of Synod will be prevented through provision of a clearly defined code of conduct.

GRAS objectives:

  • The l993 Act of Synod should be rescinded as a precondition of new legislation.
  • A single enabling Measure to give clarity and affirmation to women’s full and equal status in all three orders of ministry. The legislation must be unconditional, with no discriminatory provisions.
  • A Code of Practice designed to recognise that there are essential elements of trust which need to be restored. The integrity and authority of the episcopate must be restored through the assignment of trust in each diocesan bishop, who should be responsible for provisions judged to be right for any in his or her care.
  • A commitment that, since the Church has accepted the principle of the orders of women as priests and bishops, in future all those being ordained should openly accept those orders as valid in accordance with the existing ecclesiastical rule (Canon A4).
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 October 2012 at 4:35pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

This group deserves to be taken very seriously. They originated with a motion to Modern Church's (then Modern Churchpeoples' Union) Annual Meeting, when the then President (Bishop John Saxbee) was asked to do all he could to hasten the repeal of the Act of Synod. GRAS subsequently became an independent organisation and has worked tirelessly since for women's ministry on a basis of equality in the Church.

It is a severe indictment on the Church of England that it has allowed blatant discrimination against women to be enshrined in law for so long. It wouldn't be allowed in any other sphere of national life and remains not only a shame on the Church but a continuing source of friction.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Monday, 15 October 2012 at 6:50pm BST

...and we wonder why traditionalists are wary when they hear the words "just trust us".

Posted by: tommiaquinas on Monday, 15 October 2012 at 8:48pm BST

Well - "Respect" hasn't even made it as far as limping towards the November meeting of the General Synod.
HUMPTY DUMPTY RULES - O.K.
"When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less"
"There's glory for you!"

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 7:08am BST

GRAS demonstrate an almost Stalinist approach in their press briefing. How can anyone possibly trust that they would display any sense of fairness in the treatment of traditionalists, when all they seem intent upon is the eradication of any views different from their own. If they believe themselves in any way representative of Christian virtue, then they need to have a serious rethink. Appalling!

Posted by: Benedict on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 11:09am BST

'"I'm disgusted" Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.'

Not much of an argument it is... Very difficult to see how GRAS are being more "humpty dumpty" or "stalinist" than FiF or Reform have ever been.

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 12:20pm BST

Well, there's probably some Godwin's corollary about invoking Stalin but in case the thread is still alive, I have to say that the idea that it's "extreme" to hold that the Church cannot simultaneously hold two positions on the priestly ministry of women is a bit baffling. And the casual use in England of "traditionalist" as a synonym for "non-Chalcedonian on women's orders" continues to rankle.

Posted by: Geoff on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 12:41pm BST

Geoff, I thought the whole point of modern Anglicanism was that one could believe in a hundred conflicting ideas about Christianity, Christ etc. and it's all good--Anglican "fudge" at it's finest. Is there any point that every single member of the church agrees with? Or should agree with? And is the church ready to discipline those members who don't?

Posted by: Chris H. on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 1:59pm BST

The church does not hold two views about women as priest. It clearly holds that they can be priests and are priests.

Talking of two integrities does not mean that 2 different things are true at the same time, but that the view of those who do not agree with the official view of the church has integrity, that it will be respected and given some kind of practical accommodation.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 2:23pm BST

"Is there any point that every single member of the church agrees with? Or should agree with? And is the church ready to discipline those members who don't?"

Opposing slavery? Not discriminating based on the colour of someone's skin?

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 2:30pm BST

Chris, I think there's a not trivial difference between Anglican comprehensiveness in doctrine, esp. lay subscription, and clergy getting to pick and choose which of their colleagues they will recognize. Clergy in this province at least pledge to observe "the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them." How does that hold together if ordinands are unable to make this pledge, and instead understand themselves as being ordained to a club within the church which prides itself on its congregationalist attitude to its bishops ordinary and eschews diocesan Chrism Masses in favour of parallel imitations?

Besides, our relative tightness around polity/ecclesiology is almost a corollary of doctrinal "fudge" _because_ we are defined not by a common confession but by an "episcopal" identity. An old saw has it that Lutherans will endure any amount schism to avoid heresy, while Anglicans will do the opposite. Episcopi vagantes, chosen on a retail basis with mythical sees, seem to straddle the line between both.

Posted by: Geoff on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 2:36pm BST

I don't doubt that the Church of England is ready to compromise on almost any subject under the sun, up to and including far more significant matters than female priests and bishops, and to shy away from any kind of discipline and rule-making. Compromise and accomodation is in the DNA.

If in the present moment there is an unnacustomed intransigence and evapouration of the spirit of compromise, it is surely borne out of the collective experience since 1994 that there simply is no easy method of accomodation in this case; that all the compromise positions are unprincipled, even by Anglican standards.

It is primarily the nature of the issue, not its degree of theological importance, or a changed culture in the church, that draws the debate back to absolute, binary positions.

If in the Church of England the answer is always 'compromise', regardless of the question, what happens when a question comes along to which compromise is not a permissable response? Paralysis, system failure, crash.

Posted by: Samuel Denyer on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 4:51pm BST

I thought the Eames Commission, while noting that we are in a period of reception re women's orders, also insisted that the validity of these orders is not open to question. This is a tricky argument, and it hinges (I think) on trusting that God will not hesitate to grace our best efforts at doing the right thing, such that if we were to look back and think this was wrong, it would not thereby invalidate what we are currently doing (if anyone is still following me). I read the fourth point re Canon A4 as restating Eames, which is the same report that affirmed that Anglicans could be loyal and have different views.

Posted by: Joe on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 at 5:57pm BST

My question is, would it not be better to get the currently (twice) amended Draft Measure through the General Synod first? At least, it is not 'setting in concrete' the legal discrimination against Women Bishops that might have prevailed with the first (HoB) Amendment?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 12:16am BST

I don't know about you, Geoff, but I can name several clergy who made that promise regarding doctrine,discipline etc. and didn't mean it. They go silent during the Creeds or cross their fingers, sneer at the Catechism, ignore the rules, create their own liturgies and use the Koran or who knows what in the readings. Most of those priests aren't the ones who are about to be unwelcome in the church. Also, at least from what I've seen in this diocese, women priests are much more liberal in their theology than the men. I expect discrimination charges to pop up simply because a parish/church/diocese can't find a woman priest/bishop who has a sufficiently
conservative/traditional theology. If you gave an anonymous faith survey to the clergy here, just by separating liberal vs. conservative answers, you'd probably have no women clergy to lead a conservative parish/diocese anyway.

Do you see real "respect" for the opposition in this press release or ,really, on either side anymore? I'm afraid I don't.

Posted by: Chris H. on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 5:10am BST

'Do you see real "respect" for the opposition in this press release'

As in: "you want to discriminate against me and I truly respect that?"
Come on!
The kind of respect you can get is "I don't like it one bit but I'll go along with it".

And that FiF have never respected the idea of women priests is pretty obvious. Nor have they actually given anything but they present the agreement to let women be priests in other parts of the church as long as they, themselves, are never ever affected by it as a compromise.

It is a fact that genuine respect is very difficult here. And that a genuine compromise is impossible when one side can only live in isolation.

The only ones who can hold that stance are those who accept women priests but don't have a problem with isolated no-women parishes either. But then, they're not compromising, they're simply living their middle-of-the-road view without being affected by the outcome of the debate.
It's easy to talk of respect and compromise if you're not asked to compromise.

We need to get over the idea that we can come to the kind of compromise where both sides give something and then walk along together happily ever after.

That just is not possible in this case, the binary nature of the question "can women be priests, yes or no" makes a true compromise intrinsically impossible.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 10:02am BST

Dear Chris H,

This exact thing was done in the survey "the Mind of Anglicans" in 2002. A full set of reports are available here: http://trushare.com/SURVEY/New%20Survey%20Page%20241003.htm

The conclusions do seem to follow your observations, though this survey is of course a decade old.

When belief in the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection appear optional for ordination in the CofE, it is indeed strange that this should be the tipping point.

Posted by: tommiaquinas on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 12:44pm BST

If neither side has respect for the Respect amendment (as is evident in the Comments on this contentious topic) surely in all conscience it must be voted against by both sides.
Similarly - "Better Together" seems to be open to a wide interpretation. As the Bishop of Ebbsfleet stated at the recent FinF Assembly - he has had an interesting postbag on this subject. He went on to explain what he understood "Better Together" to mean - that the Church is better with us and that the Church of England is not itself without us.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 1:31pm BST

Erika Baker - you suggest that the question "Can women be priests?" has a binary yes/no answer. I disagree - the answer is surely that it is uncertain. It is therefore for those who would introduce uncertainty and alter the status quo to compromise.

Posted by: Original Observer on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 2:02pm BST

Original Observer,
the CoE through its own discernment processes has decided that women can be priests. That's why we now have several thousands of them and that's why we will shortly have women bishops.

Whether declared formally or not, the period of reception is over and women priests are here to stay. Or do you seriously forsee a time when the Church decides that, actually, it made a mistake and can those thousands of women please leave parish ministry?

You might personally be of a different opinion, but this is now the official position of your church. It respects the integrity of your view and will do what it can to acommodate it. But that does not mean that the church itself holds 2 contradictory views about this.

And the word compromise implies a give and take that means neither of 2 sides gets exactly what they want but both together find a middle way.
Precisely what is not possible here.

We will find an awkward way of sustaining the current muddle a little longer, I don't doubt. But the final answer is only postponed. As soon as we discuss a female ABC there can no longer be a fudge... unless you have a male and a female one and the madness of alternative archepiscopal oversight continues.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 5:15pm BST

Original Observer
this statment from Rowan Williams does not suggest a church that is "uncertain" about whether women can be priests:

""Since women were first made priests in the Church of England in 1994, their ministry has hugely enriched both church and society. It has become increasingly clear to most of us that barring women from becoming bishops is an anomaly that should be removed, for the good of the Church's mission and service."

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 6:32pm BST

"When belief in the virgin birth or the bodily resurrection appear optional for ordination in the CofE, it is indeed strange that this should be the tipping point."

- Posted by: tommiaquinas on Wednesday -

Is this a fact? Or is it Tommy's assumption, born of mistrust of the process by which people are accepted for ordination into the Church of England?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 10:43pm BST

"Original Observer" - whether anyone, thinks women cannot be priests and bishops ontologically; or whether they are not sure, if the effect is that that person will not accept the eucharist from a woman, will not accept the episcopal ministry of a man who has ordained women, will not share a chrism mass with women priests and the many men who accept their ministry; or any combination of these...then the result in practice is a binary distinction. The ministry of ordained women is being rejected. (Or alternatively accepted with the same provisionality of all orders)

Posted by: RosalindR on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 11:09pm BST

Father Ron, please take a look at the survey results Tommy linked to in his first answer to me. It certainly doesn't seem to be just his opinion, or mine. The survey was done in England, though the results would certainly be similar in my American diocese. The number of clergy who don't believe in the basics of the faith, especially women priests, makes me wonder why they want to be priests at all. Considering the liberal drift of society in general, the percentages are probably even worse today than they were a decade ago.

How much control do the members of a parish in the CoE have over who gets a clerical post? Can a liberal bishop force liberal clergy on conservative parishes(or vice versa) or can a parish vestry refuse someone deemed incompatible?

Posted by: Chris H. on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 7:12am BST

Fr David
"If neither side has respect for the Respect amendment (as is evident in the Comments on this contentious topic) surely in all conscience it must be voted against by both sides."

This is the bit that I would still dearly love to get an answer to.

When the amendment was first published I was told that the more conservative ones on the panel had been concerned that simply promising "Respect" would not be enough to protect traditionalists.
A lawyer who was asked to advise the group explained that Respect in this context has a legal meaning and this meaning turned out to be sufficiently robust to convince the traditionalists that the amendment would work.

I would still like to know what the legal meaning of Respect in this context is, and if it was so important in putting the amendment together, why aren't those who want it to be voted through explaining explaining that meaning and reassuring those who worry about it?

Why do neither WATCH nor Reform nor FiF seem to know about this legal meaning?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 8:16am BST

Am I being stupid or can you not actually access the results of the survey via that link? There are a lot of press clippings about the survey, an option to buy it as a booklet, but nowhere that simply shares the data. Or did I miss it?!

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 9:33am BST

Alistair Newman, I think this is probably the most comprehensive summary:

http://trushare.com/86JUL02/JY02SURV.htm

Not very happy reading for the Pro Camp...

Posted by: primroseleague on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 12:06pm BST

I'm on the side of 'Original Observer' in this philosophical debate (though I am on the opposite side as regards the actual issue). The C of E has decided that women priests are right; that does not entail that those who in good conscience (etc.) cannot accept them (or, are not convinced of their validity) are 'wrong' in any strong sense. It could be that both views are legitimate - even equally legitimate. I personally think that the anti-WO (shorthand terminology) is wrong, but that is easy for me, because I attach little value to keeping in step with the (official) wider church and do not accept the opinion of the (official) wider church as any strong criterion of 'Catholic truth'. (I insert '(official)' because I believe that 'most people' in that wider church are largely happy with Anglican 'innovations'.) Those who do accept those things naturally have great difficulty with WO (though many of them, like Geoffrey Rowell and Jonathan Baker, honour their C of E obligation to support women priests/women clergy). On a more pragmatic note, if it should turn out that the Measure fails to achieve a sufficient majority at Synod, because the Con Evos and FiF/'Catholic Anglican' people vote against it, this, in my opinion, would be a very bad thing and would protract all this misery and acrimony, and liberal ultras would bear some responsibility for that unhappy outcome.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 6:56pm BST

It still doesn't help not to see the original data rather than the highly biased reporting of it! Also interesting to know what the numbers would look like now, ten years on.

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 18 October 2012 at 10:50pm BST

"On a more pragmatic note, if it should turn out that the Measure fails to achieve a sufficient majority at Synod, because the Con Evos and FiF/'Catholic Anglican' people vote against it..."

These groups will never vote for the Measure regardless of how it is worded.
The task is to ensure that enough of the moderates vote for it to get it through.

And it would help everyone on the conservative side to remember that this compromise has been long in the making and that WATCH had not asked for the Respect amendment but had wanted to go back to the Measure that had been agreed in by all in years of discussions.

And if this Measure fails there is not a more conservative one waiting in the wings.
There will be a few more years of wrangling and then most likely a single clause Measure.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 7:54am BST

'These groups will never vote for the Measure regardless of how it is worded.'

That's completely wrong, Erika. You haven't read FiF material on this.

I'm entirely in favour of getting the measure through. I just think it will be a great pity if it is done in such a way as to trample over these groups.

Further delay would be further debilitating for everybody.

Posted by: John on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 10:28am BST

Erika Baker - you say that if the Measure should fail there would follow a few years of wrangling followed by a single clause Measure. That sounds like a threat to me.

If the Measure should fail - and precisely how ill thought out it is becomes the more obvious as the decision day approaches - I would have thought that there ought instead to follow a period of protracted silence accompanied by some deep soul-searching by all concerned.

Posted by: Original Observer on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 10:54am BST

You’re right, John, I have only read the FiF statements and no other of their material. Their last statement of 16 September does not recommend that the Measure should be supported nor that it should be rejected. Instead, it talks of the many open questions and says there is a good deal more work to be done (http://www.forwardinfaith.com/artman/publish/article_567.shtml)
This is not a ringing endorsement.
Reform have already recommended that people vote against the Measure. As far as I’m aware, FiF has yet to make a formal recommendation.

The hand wringing on this thread about the GRAS statement is naïve. Do people really think that a group that was founded specifically to rescind the Act of Synod can possibly whole-heartedly recommend that female priests should accept an inferior status to male priests?

WATCH, on the other hand, have not made a recommendation, also for perfectly acceptable reasons. And WATCH have always accepted that provisions need to be made for those who oppose them. They only argue about the extent and the legal shape of the provisions.

If we cut the verbiage, the situation is clear. There is one wording of the Measure on the table and that will have to be voted on. There is no more conservative Measure waiting around the corner. So the whining and pointing fingers at the others could stop now.

Extremists (and I dislike the word because it sounds negative, yet there is nothing wrong with being a strong supporter of your view) on both sides will not vote for it, each for their own perfectly valid reason.

The only question is whether enough moderates will vote for it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 11:08am BST

Original Observer
"you say that if the Measure should fail there would follow a few years of wrangling followed by a single clause Measure. That sounds like a threat to me."

I am in no position to threaten anyone even if I wanted to.
I am just saying what everyone from both sides of this depate appears to have been saying.

Of course I could be wrong.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 19 October 2012 at 3:52pm BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.