Friday, 23 November 2012

Women bishops: Church Times report and comment

The Church Times has extensive coverage:

  • News articles:

Women-bishops Measure falls by six votes in House of Laity

Dr Williams warns: no short cut, no simple solution

Campaigners talk of betrayal and disaster after vote

Politicians express their dissatisfaction with Synod vote

  • Comment articles:

Leader: After the vote, what next?

Frances Ward What difference does women’s ministry make?

David Houlding I work happily with women clergy

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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
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'I work happily with women clergy'

Is there any other walk of life where such an article could be written let alone published in a 'professional journal'. The very fact that such an article is considered appropriate, particularly after the vote on Tuesday, shows just how detached are some in the church from real life.

I work happily with women doctors
I work happily with women managers
I work happily with women engineers
I work happily with black people

Got it?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 12:50pm GMT

The leader is quite correct to say that this vote was lost in 2010.

It is quite incorrect to suggest that some new compromise can be found that will make everyone happy. That is theologically impossible.

We have now moved beyond church politics into national politics. Parliament wants to force the issue. The question is, how?

That will be the subject of discussion with Archbishop-designate Welby.

There are several possibilities.

1. On reading the Church of England Convocations Act 1966, and the Synodical Government Measure 1969, it seems that the Queen-in-Parliament can dissolve Synod. If this happens, then new Synod elections will take place soon, with a more liberal result.

2. The Commons could pass a short bill requesting that Synod reconsider its vote. Such a bill would pass by an overwhelming margin.

3. The Commons (or Government) does something more drastic--pass a short bill questioning the presence of the bishops in the Lords (or announcing a moratorium on the appointment of bishops).

Reading between the lines, it looked as though option 1 was Tony Baldry's preferred outcome.

He didn't seem to think that this Synod is representing people in the pews.

He also didn't seem to think that pressure on the House of Bishops would accomplish much. The Bishops are on board with the programme, and threatening their role in the Lords won't increase their leverage with the laity. It will just make them look like political hacks.

Sir Tony knows that the problem lies with the laity. The question is how to deal with it.

He did not want to announce any answer to that question before discussing it with the Archbishop designate.

More interesting is whether the new Archbishop will take any public position on 1 or 2. Either would be distasteful to the CofE. His question is, which would be less distasteful?

Justin Cantuar could vote against 1 in the Lords while at the same time recognizing that it is the least bad option.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 1:11pm GMT

"I am a freemason, as the House knows. My purpose in initiating this debate is not, however, to defend freemasons or freemasonry; with my knowledge of freemasonry, I hope rather that I can assist the House and persuade the Home Secretary—and, indeed, the Government as a whole—to reconsider their proposals on freemasons.

I fully accept that some people find freemasonry slightly ridiculous. That is a matter for them, but if I and thousands of other men choose to be ridiculous in private, that is surely a matter for us. On other matters, I regularly get down on my knees and pray to a trinitarian God. I proclaim a creed that asserts baptism for the remission of sins and life after death. Some people believe in transubstantiation—that the bread and wine actually turn into the body and blood of our Lord.

Again, I suspect some people find some or all of those ideas ridiculous. Whether I believe them is a matter for me.

The state has no business seeking to build windows into men's souls".

Tony Baldry (Hansard 06/05/98)

The State, similarly, has no business trying to force Synod, one of the first example of devolved government to bow its knee to secular pressures.

Posted by: Richard on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 2:26pm GMT

The article from Church Times refers to "SORROW, dismay, distress, and grief:" following the no vote.Missing from the list is the recognition of the "anger" that must surely be present, though, perhaps as an earlier article suggested, "repressed". For surely, anger, often a very human response to ongoing injustice and oppression, must be present.

How could there not be anger given the long standing misogynist rhetoric that supporters of patriarchy continue levy at women? The fact that it is delivered with sanctimonious piety makes it all the more galling.

Churches, of course, have great difficulty finding appropriate ways to deal with legitimate anger, harnessing it for meaningful social change. Just as in the wider society anger has been acknowledged in order to find effective ways to fight bullying, so in the church anger must be faced in order to effectively end gender discrimination. In this regard, pleas by well meaning pastors for mutual care are premature and really, not all that healthy.

The theological battle has been won.Unfortunately, the supporters of a male only presbyters and bishops have political clout. The are embedded in the church. Religious institutions are sitting ducks for sexism. They are a kind of stored unpleasant energy and this scares reasonable and accommodating people.

Perhaps the light is dawning. Attempting to appease radical conservatives is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Its a lesson we're still learning here in North America.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 2:31pm GMT

Sorry, but the Church of England should not co-operate with any attempt by a secular Parliament (most of whose members, by the way, were elected by much less than a 2/3rds majority) to force the issue. Once that's done once, it might be your favourite theological principle that they find distasteful next time.

No, this is the church's problem and it's up to the church to fix it. And the teaching of Jesus would seem to imply that demonising on either side is not the answer.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 2:58pm GMT

"The State, similarly, has no business trying to force Synod, one of the first example of devolved government to bow its knee to secular pressures."

The analogy is extraordinarily bad. What official role does freemasonry have in government?

The church cannot claim to be part of "government," and yet to be immune from secular pressures.

And Tony Baldry knows this. It was he who said that if the Church of England wants to remain a national church, it must reflect national values.

Besides, even if your position were logical, politics knows little of logic.

We now see a Tory government running as fast as it possibly can away from Synod's decision. The Second Church Estates Commissioner is demanding first-class women bishops before 2015. Government obviously wants this issue out of the way before the next election.

Meanwhile the Opposition smells blood, and is going further. Labour will use Synod's decision in a larger political game of Lords reform, disestablishment, or both.

So the conservative evangelicals and the anti-WB Anglo-Catholics will soon be thrown under the political bus.

They will receive little sympathy, given the anger they have generated and the damage they have done.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:24pm GMT

"Sorry, but the Church of England should not co-operate with any attempt by a secular Parliament..."

Parliament would be secular if the bishops were not in the Lords.

As for the teachings of Jesus, our Lord had enemies and he let them know exactly what he thought of them. In this he was much more honest than most members of Synod.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:30pm GMT

So we should reform synod because we didn't get our own way? Excuse me, grow up! The vote was lost by 6 votes. In 1992 the vote for women priests was won by just 2 votes.

The House of Bishops need to get their act together and come up with a measure that will get through synod, one allowing us all to co-exist as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Posted by: Jonathan Edwards II on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 5:13pm GMT

Jeremy wrote (above):

"1. On reading the Church of England Convocations Act 1966, and the Synodical Government Measure 1969, it seems that the Queen-in-Parliament can dissolve Synod. If this happens, then new Synod elections will take place soon, with a more liberal result."

and Karl Marx wrote (in "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte" [1852]):

"Hegel says somewhere that all great historical facts and personages recur twice. He forgot to add, 'First as tragedy, and again as farce'."

This quotation came to my mind upon reading the first excerpt above, for it is a proposed action which would repeat exactly what happened in Sweden in 1957 and 1958: its Church Assembly rejected a proposed measure to allow the purported ordination of women; a great uproar ensued, together with much press criticism along the lines of how "if the Church of Sweden wants to remain a national church, it must reflect national values;" the government dissolved the Church Assembly and called for the election of a new one (the ensuing elections were highly politicized, and candidates stood for election under party political labels); and the new Assembly promptly accepted WO (together with a "conscience clause" to protect the position of opponents -- which was revoked in 1983).

Where I disagree with Marx is with the "first as tragedy ... again as farce" theme, as both decisions strike me, as a Catholic, as ludicrously farcical.

Posted by: William Tighe on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 5:16pm GMT

Jeremy, your list of options is interesting, but it doesn't reflect the fact that now the politicians are involved, you have to be careful what you wish for - people who think Parliament is going to come riding to their rescue have to remember that body has its own agenda.

Did you see Newsnight last night? I said in another thread, but you had Frank Field, who a couple of days ago was as angry as the next person, blaming the liberals for not going far enough in appeasing the minority to be sure of getting the vote through. Politicians are masters of horse trading and arm twisting - remember, in 1992, when it was so important to guarantee that women priests would happen that they forced through the act of synod to appease traditionalists?

You can therefore add to your list:
1) the return of the "society"
2) a third province

either of which they would be able to present to the population as "the best they could get in the face of intransigence" - and no matter who gets "thrown under a bus" (awful phrse btw) it won't be them.

Posted by: primroseleague on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 5:32pm GMT

Richard, I suspect you could see the line also used with women pilots and military officers ( depending in their actual duties). The Church isn't quite alone in its hanging on to the good ol' boy system.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 5:40pm GMT

Oh, and I genuinely don't know what the answer is here - my guess is as good as anyone else's.

However, Your option 1 strikes me as being fraught with danger - what if changing the house of laity doesn't achieve the result you're looking for? Shades of A Matter of Life and Death with the jury of American citizens. I'm not a con-evo, but they are very organised. If you galvanise the whole electorate, then you galvanise the minority just as much as the majority.

Also, what if we impose the 70% threshold on the deanery synod results on this issue? Suddenly it all looks a wee bit tighter, and the GS looks less out of step - 32 out of 44, not 42 out of 44 - ie 75:25. Hardly overwhelming. Or, we reduce consitutional matters in GS to simple majority voting a la deanery synod, with all the problems that might store up. Either way, the deanery vs GS argument is a total non-sequitur unless one or the other is equalised - otherwise it's apples and oranges. Whichever way you look at it, the entire system is a mess.

Maybe one good thing to come out of it will be the political structures getting sorted? Again, though, be careful what you wish for.

Posted by: primroseleague on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 5:44pm GMT

'I work happily with women clergy' says it all really.

Do women clergy work happily with him? Does he care?

Posted by: Pam Smith on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 5:53pm GMT

@ Jeremy: Quite like the idea of dissolution, but it's quite drastic (although less so than Parliament intervening directly) and could not bring a guarantee that the composition of the next synod would do the trick (although I think it probably would - with a single clause). In terms of process and timetable it will bring matters forward approximately two years but there is the question of how fast tracked a single clause measure could be. It would probably need to go to the dioceses. A short act of parliament essentially mandating synod to vote on the measure again would be a waste of parliamentary time: they may as well actually do the job for us on that basis. Removing the equalities exemption is probably the subtle approach, but it still doesn't provide the enabling legislation. On balance, I think the 'slow' route is the right one. The recalcitrants might agree to some changes (provided they didn't move the discrimination goal posts) but most observers reckon that all options have been explored. Good stuff for constitutional and ecclesiastical lawyers!!

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 6:55pm GMT

Jeremy:'We now see a Tory government running as fast as it possibly can away from Synod's decision.'

... which should come as no surprise to anyone, since there has always been a tendency at the rightward end of the Tory party that has been unhappy with the existence, powers and prestige of General Synod, and has been itching to reassert more direct Parliamentary control over ecclesiastical legislation [*]. On Tuesday, Synod handed that tendency the moral high ground in a way that has not happened for over eighty years.

[*] You'd be amazed, for example, how many of the MPs who voted against the Worship and Doctrine Measure in 1974 are still in Parliament now, having been elevated to the Lords.

Posted by: Feria on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 7:06pm GMT

The fight goes on. Since, as ever, I fight for decency and co-existence, I just want to register my judgement that Houlding's article was extremely good - and demonstrates in practical terms how people who disagree about so-called fundamentals can nevertheless actively co-exist in ways which promote the greater, shared, good.

Posted by: John on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 7:18pm GMT

"Parliament would be secular if the bishops were not in the Lords". This is a profoundly silly claim. A maximum of 26 seats are reserved for the bishops, out of some 1500 parliamentarians.

Parliament long ago acknowledged that the Church is entitled to govern itself, with an Act of Parliament in 1919 conferring powers on the Church Assembly to legislate on all church business. The Church Assembly became the General Synod in 1970. And that is where church legislation belongs. If people don't agree with a decision by Synod, they are free to campaign for a new Measure. Not to defy 1 Cor. 6 and seek redress from secular authorities.

Threats of disestablishment are also silly. A church which no longer looks over its shoulder at Parliament and the opinion polls will certainly become more conservative, relying instead on the Scriptures. Conservatives may well welcome such a development.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 10:06pm GMT

Tim Chesterton - will you then renounce the Act of Synod, which came about largely through parliamentary pressure on the Church?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 10:13pm GMT

Wasn't it because of Parliament that the revision of the Prayer Book in 1928 was rejected? It seems to me that, if you don't want to put up with this sort of thing, you should give up the privileges of being the Established Church, and remove your bishops from the House of Lords.

Posted by: Old Father William on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 10:18pm GMT

Those observing the interventions of parliamentarians should see them for what they are - huffing and puffing.

Nothing could happen without the support of the government, something which the PM has quite rightly ruled out. He is wise enough not to involve himself in something which is so obviously a quagmire.

In any event long gone are the days when the secular parliament sought to mange the established church, and those days are not about to return. I for one am struck by the lack of any real grasp of the underlying issues demonstrated by politicians who have passed comment.

A contest has been fairly held with rules known in advance and correctly followed. The losing side has demonstrated extraordinary bitterness at the result.

Posted by: Original Observer on Friday, 23 November 2012 at 10:33pm GMT

William Tighe's comment suggests that option 1 has precedent. I don't regard democracy and accountability as farcical, but someone who likes Roman ecclesiology might.

Primroseleague, it's all well and good to suggest that liberals should move further, but they won’t. A lot of them were holding their noses at this measure. They now feel angry and reinforced.

JE2said, "So we should reform synod because we didn't get our own way? Excuse me, grow up!"

JE2, when grown-ups play with fire, they expect to get burned.

Neither the Tuesday vote nor the ensuing firestorm surprises me. This Synod leaned anti-WB, so I didn't think the measure would pass. I predicted that after it failed, Parliament would react.

Let Parliament’s reaction teach CofE conservatives that an established church is not their private sandbox.

If the anti-WB factions can't handle the spotlight, if they can't play on the national stage, which is where they have now placed themselves, then they will be booed off of it, and they have only themselves to blame.

Alan Marsh, what is "profoundly silly" is the notion that you can reserve 26 seats for Christian bishops, and then call the Lords secular. The Commons, of course, has Church Estates Commissioners. So the CofE and Parliament are, for now, tightly intertwined. A secular government would look very different.

Parliament established the CofE, so it makes sense for people to seek redress from Parliament. MPs will not hesitate to violate anyone's understanding of 1 Cor. 6. (Constantine didn't either.)

Like it or not, we've moved a bit beyond scriptural dictates here, and arguably somewhat beyond right and wrong too. What counts in politics are power and votes.

Original Observer, the PM has already involved himself in this matter, and he commissioned Tony Baldry to involve Government further next week. Why? Because this is worse, from Government’s perspective, than a theological quagmire or a Synod stalemate.

The Tories see Tuesday’s vote as a political blow, one that they must respond to swiftly. The Opposition, of course, sees it as an opportunity, because the CofE conservatives have played right into Labour's hands.

Powerful people who weren't involving themselves in this debate are now taking notice and choosing sides. How they will act remains to be seen. But the anti-WB minority should have realized that they would.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:09am GMT

There are two established churches in Great Britain, the legal situations of which are very different. Concerning England, see this:

http://www.infotextmanuscripts.org/vexatiouslitigant/vex_lit_queens_bench_williamson.html

in which the Law Lords declare the "doctrine of the Church of England" effectively to be whatever Parliament determines it to be -- with the following declaration of the Church of Scotland in 1926 (excerpted):

Articles Declaratory of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland in Matters Spiritual, 1926.

IV. This Church, as part of the Universal Church wherein the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed a government in the hands of Church office-bearers, receives from Him, its Divine King and Head, and from Him alone, the right and power subject to no civil authority to legislate, and to adjudicate finally, in all matters of doctrine, worship, government, and discipline in the Church, including the right to determine all questions concerning membership and office in the Church, the constitution and membership of its Courts, and the mode of election of its office-bearers, and to define the boundaries of the spheres of labour of its ministers and other office-bearers. Recognition by civil authority of the separate and independent government and jurisdiction of this Church in matters spiritual, in whatever manner such recognition be expressed, does not in any way affect the character of this government and jurisdiction as derived from the Divine Head of the Church alone, or give to the civil authority any right of interference with the proceedings or judgments of the Church within the sphere of its spiritual government and jurisdiction.

V. This Church has the inherent right, free from interference by civil authority, but under the safeguards for deliberate action and legislation provided by the Church itself, to frame or adopt its subordinate standards, to declare the sense in which it understands its Confession of Faith, to modify the forms of expression therein, or to formulate other doctrinal statements, and to define the relation thereto of its office-bearers and members, but always in agreement with the Word of God and the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith contained in the said Confession, of which agreement the Church shall be sole judge, and with due regard to liberty of opinion in points which do not enter into the substance of the Faith.

Posted by: William Tighe on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 3:14am GMT

Jeremy,

I absolutely take your point, but I think you're missing mine. As someone who has done more political door knocking and leafleting in my past than I ought to have done, let me tell you how this will play out in Parliament if it gets involved ( which the pm has already said it won't).

They will punch the Liberals in the face. They will punch the conservatives in the face. They will impose a settlement that neither side wants while they've only got two eyes between them, because they might agree with one side, but they don't actually understand why they do.

Remember your Tacitus - solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant (apologies for spelling) - they created a wilderness and called it peace....

Posted by: Primroseleague on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 7:36am GMT

In spite of the Prime Minister's reference to the Church of England needing "a sharp prod" with regard to women in the episcopate I think our parliamentarians will be more than reluctant to get involved in this particular "basin full of scorpions"

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 8:26am GMT

The See of Durham's about to fall vacant, and we have some very well qualified candidates of both sexes up here.

Just saying...

Posted by: Simon Morden on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 12:22pm GMT

"Parliament established the CofE" - actually, St Augustine established it some 600 years before there was anything like a recognisable Parliament. Assorted monarchs, notably Henry II and Henry VIII, asserted control over various aspects of Church life, but the Head of the Church always has been and always will be Jesus Christ, and it is his Ministry which is under discussion.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 1:38pm GMT


"I can Work Happily with Women Clergy" David Houlding.
Oh Pam your comment was exactly what I was about to make. You can be charming, friendly and amenable as you like but if you actually deny the very essence of what a person is and refuse to receive communion from them on the grounds of their sex it is so much condescension.

Posted by: sally Barnes on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:50pm GMT

Primroseleague, I don't know which Frank Field you were listening to, but here are a few paragraphs from a press release he issued on Thursday. (The below is all from the release.)

In response to the vote Frank Field MP, a former member of the Synod, today tabled a Presentation Bill in Parliament which seeks to remove from the statute book the exemptions from the Equality legislation that the Church of England enjoys. If passed, the Bill would make it illegal for the Church of England to discriminate against women when appointing bishops, as they currently do.

Frank Field said: “This is a terribly disappointing result, which goes against the firm wishes of the vast majority of Church of England members. Parliament has a role in agreeing to or rejecting the Synod’s decisions, and I believe that MPs should now use this role, in a helpful way, to ensure those firm wishes are complied with.”

The Bill is supported by Diana Johnson, Natascha Engel, Elfyn Llwyd, Andrew George, Nicholas Soames, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Eleanor Laing and Helen Goodman.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:55pm GMT

Jeremy - politicians react to the day's headlines because that is what politicians do. The CofE is no longer today's headlines. I find it hard to believe that any politician really thinks that Church affairs are a major issue, or indeed any kind of political issue at all.

Neither would a new Synod guarantee success for WBs. Remember, the evangelicals are the growing part of the church: they have the numbers, the money, the organisation and the determination to get their way. A new Synod could well deliver an even larger blocking minority.

One outcome is civil war. Another is paralysis. Another is the acceptance that some degree of balkanisation is inevitable in the CofE. Offer the minority male bishops with full jurisdiction, probably within an extra-diocesan structure, and the rest of the CofE will most likely get WBs without further restrictions during the current Synod.

Posted by: Original Observer on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 3:28pm GMT

Original Observer said, "I find it hard to believe that any politician really thinks that Church affairs are a major issue, or indeed any kind of political issue at all."

One can only laugh at such a denial of reality.

Consider this week's events.

The PM saying that Parliament won't meddle but at the same time giving the CofE a "sharp prod."

A "very stormy meeting" between parliamentarians, who spoke with "one voice," and bishops.

An urgent question, answered unusually by an official not on the front bench. Thirty minutes of debate, attended by around 60 MPs.

Politicians of all stripes heaping scorn on the CofE and calling its Establishment into question. (Does it help, Alan Marsh, if the term is upper-cased?)

Just because some here fail to see that there are votes to be had in this issue doesn't mean that politicians do not see a very different picture.

MPs are far better qualified to judge. They were lining up to ask questions. And they will be making political hay of this issue again this coming week.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 5:16pm GMT

On BBC Newsnight Frank Field MP criticised "the reformers", those who brought forward the Women Bishops Measure, being "ungracious and ungenerous" in failing to meet the objections of those who disagreed.

He claimed that "The state has an interest in ensuring that the Church does not go off and behave in an absurd manner. Most people will
think that its actions over the last few days show a real lack of politics in the church. Why did the reformers fail? They have some
serious questions to answer here in satisfying those who were upset and disquieted by the proposal for reform."

He added that the crucial question about women priests was decided decades ago. He urged "The real issue is that the reformers were ungracious and ungenerous in meeting the objections that many in your position actually hold. My advice to them, which was ignored such as it was, is that the crucial thing to establish is the principle of women bishops. Whether they are curtailed in certain ways, that does not really matter. One should actually stuff the mouths of the opposition with gold to get the major reform through. They failed to do that. The Church must now very quickly reconvene on this issue,
listen very carefully to those that it failed to persuade, meet them in those objections and get the general principle agreed."

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 8:21pm GMT

Fr David - are you self-identifying as a scorpion?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 8:55pm GMT

Jeremy - like I said - politicians react to headlines. The things you mention in your post are just that. The headlines will fade and it will be for the church to sort out the mess.

I had thought that Frank Field's initial comments sounded rather intemperate, but what is reported in Alan Marsh's post seems to me to be eminently sensible.

Few if any would argue against the principle of women bishops now we have women priests. Just provide properly for those who do not accept the ordination of women and you will have your women bishops sooner than you think.

Posted by: Original Observer on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 12:30am GMT

Jeremy asked: (Does it help, Alan Marsh, if the term is upper-cased?) No, it makes no difference, as it was Henry VIII who nationalised the Church of England, not Parliament, in the 1530s. A lot of water has flowed beneath the constitutional bridge since then, not least the development of church self-government since 1919.

Jeremy said: "And they will be making political hay of this issue again this coming week." Actually they will be more preoccupied by the return of Nadine Dorries.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 12:40am GMT

For those who object to "I work happily with women clergy,":

1. That headline might have been chosen by the Church Times, not the author.

2. The article wasn't written for you. It was written to show opponents of the ordination of women how they can remain in a church with female bishops without violating their consciences.

Posted by: Paul Powers on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 2:10am GMT

"Just provide properly for those who do not accept the ordination of women and you will have your women bishops sooner than you think."

Original Observer, the opponents of women bishops lost their chance this week to achieve the greatest provision that a skeptical church was going to give them.

And for this, the opponents of women bishops have only themselves to blame. They were told that Tuesday's measure was the best they were going to get, and they still voted it down.

Like it or not, society and government are now involved. And they are outraged. They are far less willing to tolerate discrimination than the church was.

As a result, there will be much less provision, if any at all, in the measure that eventually passes Parliament.

If opponents think they can now trade speed for provision they are woefully mistaken, and they will be seriously disappointed.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 12:56pm GMT

Many seem to be ascribing the character of principle only to the proponents of women bishops and strategic playing only to the opponents.

You may (as I do) disagree with their theology and their principles, but failing to recognise that they are in conscience contending for what they believe is plain discourtesy and characteristic of Emotive, rather than Thinking, Anglicans.

We still don't know who, exactly, was responsible for voting this down, and how they would rationalise their choice.

Posted by: Jonathan Jennings on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 3:39pm GMT

Alan: 'Parliament long ago acknowledged that the Church is entitled to govern itself, with an Act of Parliament in 1919 conferring powers on the Church Assembly to legislate on all church business.'

Three slight corrections to this.

Firstly, the delegation of legislative power in the 1919 Act was always non-exclusive, i.e. Parliament always retained the right to act on ecclesiastical matters (or anything else) on its own initiative, without having to wait for the say-so of its subsidiary body, the Church Assembly (latterly, General Synod).

Secondly, Measures enacted using the powers in the 1919 Act always need final approval from Parliament, so the 1919 Act has never allowed the Church Assembly (nor General Synod) to govern the Church unilaterally.

Thirdly, the 1919 Act makes no distinction between "church business" and any other area of public policy: General Synod can initiate a Measure containing legislation on any subject.

Posted by: Feria on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 5:05pm GMT

Original Observer: 'In any event long gone are the days when the secular parliament sought to manage the established church, and those days are not about to return.'

At this moment of history in particular, you can't count on Parliament to be passive. The coalition agreement is a short document, with the result that this Parliament is running out of things to do. Mr. Lansley is left with two and a half years of Parliamentary time to fill, and to avoid unseemly coalition rows, he needs to fill it with proposals on which he can find common ground between the Liberal Democrats and the rightward end of the Conservative Party. There is every possibility that he may see here an opportunity to unite, on the one hand, the Liberal Democrats, who are staunchly in favour of sex equality in recruitment to the episcopacy as elsewhere; with, on the other hand, the anti-Synod tendency on the right of the Conservative Party that I mentioned above.

Posted by: Feria on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 5:18pm GMT

Alan: 'it was Henry VIII who nationalised the Church of England, not Parliament, in the 1530s'

Go on, then. Name me one aspect of the Henrician reformation that was not embodied in an Act of Parliament.

Posted by: Feria on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 6:41pm GMT

Mark Bennett (have I met your brother Gordon?) I don't think I was quite identifying myself as a scorpion (although I do love that painting by Stanley Spencer in the Christ in the Wilderness series where the Lord is depicted nursing a scorpion in the palm of His hand) but following Mattins this morning I did happen to catch some of Nicky Campbell's discussion programme on the women bishops debate and there was certainly lots of stinging going on.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 9:57pm GMT

"Firstly, the delegation of legislative power in the 1919 Act was always non-exclusive, i.e. Parliament always retained the right to act on ecclesiastical matters (or anything else) on its own initiative, without having to wait for the say-so of its subsidiary body, the Church Assembly (latterly, General Synod)."

The legislation expressly avoided any suggestion that the Church's own organs of self-government were the creation of Parliament, which they are not. The whole purpose of the legislation was to permit the Church to determine its own doctrine and discipline.

"Secondly, Measures enacted using the powers in the 1919 Act always need final approval from Parliament, so the 1919 Act has never allowed the Church Assembly (nor General Synod) to govern the Church unilaterally."

Parliament retains a veto over Measures which are deemed not to be "expedient", but it no longer initiates church legislation, and has no power to amend it.


"Thirdly, the 1919 Act makes no distinction between "church business" and any other area of public policy: General Synod can initiate a Measure containing legislation on any subject."

If that is what you think, perhaps we can start a Measure exempting church members from taxation...


Posted by: Alan Marsh on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 at 7:27pm GMT

Alan: 'The whole purpose of the legislation was to permit the Church to determine its own doctrine and discipline.'

Indeed so, but not _exclusively_. To quote Archbishop Davidson, speaking in the House of Lords on 3rd June 1919:

'We are not taking away from Parliament any power which it at present possesses. By all means let Parliament use that power if it will and if it can.'

Alan: 'Parliament... no longer initiates church legislation'

The Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986, initiated by Parliament, must count as "church legislation", because it amended text in the Book of Common Prayer. That's only twenty-six years ago - hardly "time out of mind of the memory of man".

Alan: 'If that is what you think, perhaps we can start a Measure exempting church members from taxation.'

Yes, we could, although I suspect such a Measure would be defeated by an enormous majority at the final Parliamentary approval stage (and rightly so). More generally, there's nothing to stop Synod initiating a Measure reforming any area of state economic or social policy, and I can imagine several possibilities that might get close to a majority in Parliament.

Posted by: Feria on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 11:13am GMT

When people throw around words like "anger" and "misogynist" because they think they have some kind of monopoly on what is good and what is right, and that a properly enacted vote should now somehow be subverted because they didn't get the result they want, I have to question whether you're even an adult, let alone a Christian.

The episcopacy was never supposed to be a "right". It's an incredible privilege that very few people, who may well "deserve" will never attain. It's supposed to be a sacrifice to serve the Christian community. To try and force through women bishops, so that you can anger more than half of the church, is hardly an act of service. It's purely an act of pride and hubris.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 29 November 2012 at 9:01am GMT

John: 'that a properly enacted vote should now somehow be subverted because they didn't get the result they want'

Some of us were talking about the need for Parliament to supervise ecclesiastical affairs more closely long before the result of the consecration-of-women vote was known, and will continue to talk about it long after female bishops have become commonplace in the CofE. It's a point of principle in itself, not a reaction to one unfavourable vote.

Posted by: Feria on Friday, 30 November 2012 at 7:21pm GMT
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