Friday, 26 October 2012

the meaning of "respect"

One of the General Synod papers issued today is GS 1708-09ZZZ which describes how the House of Bishops reconsidered clause 5(1)(c) in the women bishops legislation. It also includes the following legal advice on the meaning of the amendment to clause 5(1)(c) (which was the fourth one they considered) actually adopted by the House.

Legal advice given to the House of Bishops on the fourth of the proposed amendments to clause 5(1)(c)

1. The amendment would substitute the following for the present clause 5(1)(c):

(c) the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3,”.

2. The effect of the amendment would not merely be to require that guidance be given on the issue of the selection of male bishops and male priests: like some of the other possible amendments, it would impose a requirement as to the end to which that guidance is directed – in this case, that the selection of male bishops and male priests be such as to respect the grounds on which PCCs issue Letters of Request under the Measure.

3. The effect of the use of the word ‘respect’ in that context is to require the Code of Practice to give guidance to the effect that, in selecting a male bishop or male priest, the person(s) making the selection would need to seek to address, or accommodate, the grounds on which a PCC has issued its Letter of Request. They could not simply fail to give effect to those grounds at all, even if they considered that there were cogent grounds for doing so.

4. The effect of the use of the word ‘respect’ in that regard can be helpfully contrasted with the effect of other expressions which have been canvassed in discussion of possible amendments:

  • Guidance under which those making the selection were to ‘respect’ the relevant grounds of theological conviction would have a less prescriptive effect than guidance under which they were to select a male bishop or priest in a manner ‘consistent with’ such grounds: in the latter case, they would need to select a bishop the selection of whom would be compatible with those grounds.
  • Guidance under which those making the selection were to ‘respect’ the relevant grounds of theological conviction would have a more prescriptive effect than guidance under which those making the selection were to ‘take account of’ or ‘have regard to’ such grounds: in either of the latter cases, whilst those making the selection would have to take the grounds of conviction into account, they could nonetheless lawfully select a male bishop or priest the selection of whom would be incompatible with those grounds provided they had ‘cogent reasons’ for making that selection.

5. The analysis set out above is reflected in the illustrative draft wording that has been produced to show what the Code of Practice might say about the selection of male bishops were this amendment to be made to the Measure: it states that “In making the selection of the bishop who is to exercise episcopal ministry by delegation the diocesan bishop should seek to accommodate [my emphasis] 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 grounds of theological conviction as to the consecration and ordination of women on which the PCC issued its Letter of Request.

6. It would be open to the House, if it wished to do so, to include more detailed guidance in the Code as to what would be involved in order to ‘respect’ the grounds on which a PCC had issued its Letter of Request.

7. As to the use in the amendment of the word ‘grounds’, the grounds in question are those on which PCCs issue Letters of Request under clause 3 of the Measure – ie ‘grounds of theological conviction’. By necessary implication those grounds are limited to grounds as to the consecration or ordination of women. (It is implicit in clause 3 that, by allowing a parish to ask for a male bishop or priest, a PCC is allowed - and only allowed - to issue a Letter of Request on grounds of theological conviction as to the consecration or ordination of women.)

8. Thus the guidance required to be given by the amendment would have to be limited accordingly – that is, it would have to make it clear that the grounds which the selection of male bishops are to ‘respect’ were limited to grounds of theological conviction as to the consecration or ordination of women. The illustrative draft wording that has been produced to show what the Code of Practice might say about the selection of male bishops were this amendment to be made to the Measure reflects that position.

Stephen Slack
11th September 2012

Chief Legal Adviser
The Legal Office
Church House
Westminster

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 26 October 2012 at 8:04pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

If it *disrespectfully* reduces the canonical authority of women-who-are-bishops, then this proposal should be rejected (said Ignorant Yank, in my limited capacity to understand&advise)

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 26 October 2012 at 9:50pm BST

Just to be clear, there is no opportunity to vote on anything other than the whole Measure, which now includes this revised wording.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 26 October 2012 at 10:11pm BST

Well, then.

This measure, as amended by the bishops, is an unmitigated misogynistic disaster.

If adopted, it will lead to second-class bishops.

If adopted, it will enable anti-women parishes to dig themselves in.

Preserve the C of E's ability to sit on the fence? Or bring it into the 21st century?

The choice is clear. Synod should vote down the measure.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 26 October 2012 at 11:41pm BST

The House of Bishops and the General Synod in their collective "wisdom" have now brought us to the very brink of a classic "Catch 22" - no win situation. Whatever the outcome of next month's debate on Women and the Episcopate - some people on one side or the other are going to be mightily upset.
I wonder if Paddy Power, in addition to his open betting book on who is going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, would consider opening another book on which Church of England diocese will be to first to declare itself to be bankrupt?

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 4:18am BST

And which, diocese, Father David, would you put your twopence on?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 11:06am BST

Mercifully, Father Ron, I'm not a betting man. In fact I'm still a Lottery Virgin.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 3:34pm BST

Morally? Spiritually? Financially? ... I only ask.

Posted by: american piskie on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 5:55pm BST

We're in danger of wandering off-topic here, in the matter of bankruptcy. Let's stick, please, to the original topic.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 7:10pm BST

Maybe I'm way off beam here, but I think this is a very workable definition. It should reassure all but the most implacable traditionalists and it does not ask women and their supporters to compromise beyond what they have already been asked to compromise on.

While it may lead to second class bishops it will do no more so than any previous wording did, yet it offers traditionalists the reassurance that the Code will go beyond providing terminal care.

If this can't get through, then no compromise will ever make it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 7:58pm BST

Once the Church had said that those opposed to the ordination of women are still true Anglicans we are in a place where women clergy and bishops are bound to be regarded by some as 'second class' and who are to be limited to some degree over against the men. I think the proposal we have is the best we are going to get and it does given a woman bishop permission to listen and then delegate to an appropriate male bishop. In this way some male bishops will be discriminated against as well. Those opposed form such a small group that I am prepared to press on for the good of the majority who genuinely appreciate women priests and genuinely want women bishops. They are the people who really matter. For their sake I hope the Measure is passed.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 8:02pm BST

This at least gives us some idea what was legally intended by the use of the word 'respect'. How it will pan out in the code of practice remains to be seen and whether it will be enough to convince the middle ground of voters. I too am concerned that we are in danger of subjecting ourselves to a future of expensive legal wrangling over whether a diocesan bishop's decision will be considered to have met the criteria of 'respect' and the fact that however cogent the reasons for not supplying an acceptable bishop might be, there is no room for flexibility. After spending today reading yet another clergy woman's experience of receiving a torrent of unsolicited verbal abuse about why she couldn't possibly be a priest. I wonder where the provision is that will ensure 'respect' becomes a two way street, rather than an invitation for further harassment of ordained women to continue, legitimised under the guise of a theological conviction afforded legal protection. I acknowledge that we need WB rather urgently now and that the consequences of this legislation falling are rather dire for both the CofE, the nation and indeed the Anglican Communion. But I hope it will be acknowledged that as it stands this legislation should carry a spiritual,mental and emotional health warning for women, particularly those who are ordained or, bless them, consecrated. It will be costly for them whether this legislation fails or passes.

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Saturday, 27 October 2012 at 8:33pm BST

If people unhappy with female clergy are merely promised a male bishop, then in time perhaps we would have some female bishops and some male, who all believed that in fact men and women were equal, the male bishops serving congregations who had not yet accepted that women were human. However if it is enshrined that congregations have a right not merely to a male bishop, but to one who agrees with their arguments on either 'headship' or else on 'priesthood' then it will always be necessary to select men to the priesthood and then to the episcopate who hold these views, ensuring that such views MUST be represented at the highest level.

To vote for women bishops with such arrangements in place to to vote to ensure that the highest levels of the church are occupied by people holding such views for ever.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Sunday, 28 October 2012 at 12:02am BST

Rosemary,
would that not depend on the Code of Practice? You could also say that the implication of "respect" ceases when no further suitable candidates are available. After all, you would still have to discern a genuine calling to the priesthood, you could not just ordain someone because they happen to be traditionalist.

It will all get fiendishly complicated anyway because you will have to have a register for all those male priests who were ordained by "validly" ordained male bishops to make sure that, over time, no woman has accidentally destroyed your purity, and the pool for future traditionalist ordinands will shrink year on year.

I would be genuinely surprised if this system hadn't eroded itself to nothing in the next 50 years.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 28 October 2012 at 7:59am GMT

I am tired of hearing comments like those of Lindsay Southern painting traditionalists as extremists, forever persecuting and haranguing women priests. In my own diocese traditionalists and women priests enjoy hugely cordial relationships and respect one another's views, and I have yet to hear of one example of the kind of distasteful antics Ms Southern alludes to. If it is indeed the case that this is happening, the clergy discipline measure is in place, so why not make use of it?

Posted by: Benedict on Sunday, 28 October 2012 at 2:05pm GMT

I guess, in the end, that it must be the women of the Church who are given the privilege of deciding whether this cobbled-together legislation will provide the best possible environment for their future as co-leaders in the Church of England, with the male of the species.

Already, in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion such as, for instance, my own Provinces of ACANZP in the South Pacific (the venue of the current ACC15 Meeting), Women have been recognised as worthy of the trust required of clergy and bishops in our Church.

We can only pray that this may soon be the case in every Anglican Province - in order to demonstrate the truth of Saint Paul's statement that in Christ "there is neither male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28)

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 10:42pm GMT

I think, Benedict, you need to get out more. I have witnessed that sort of thing in verbal and in written form (there's a church not that far from here which once had a large poster permanently displayed outside saying something on the lines of 'We have no part in the apostasy of priestesses'). It's an uncomfortable truth that it happens, even though the vast majority of 'antis' whom I know would be appalled by it.

Posted by: david rowett on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 11:52am GMT

Benedict, I am not painting all those who disagree with women's ordination as extremists, and yes there are some excellent examples of mutually respectful relationships so I do not dispute your experience at all and delighted that is the case. Nevertheless abusive language and behaviour does go on. The clergy discipline measure applies only to clergy and therefore is not always appropriate.

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Friday, 2 November 2012 at 7:53pm GMT
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