Monday, 3 December 2012

Bishop of Ebbsfleet writes about the General Synod vote

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Baker, has written at length on his website about The General Synod vote on Women Bishops. The full text is reproduced below the fold.

Bishop Baker is to move to become the Bishop of Fulham early in 2013. Scroll down the link above for his announcement about the timing of that.

The General Synod vote on Women Bishops

After the General Synod failed to give Final Approval to the draft legislation on the ordination of women to the episcopate, I had hoped for a period of calm, prayer and reflection all round; and perhaps some sense of regret, on the part of the proponents of the Measure, that they had not got the legislation right. Of course, as we now know, this was very far from the case: instead, a media furore, and a sense from some quarters that those who had voted against the Measure need to be punished in the future for daring to step out of line.

We need to say very clearly, that we understand, and deeply regret, the pain, hurt and anger felt on the part of many women clergy and their supporters; that we value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of the Church of England; and that we recognise the gifts which God has given in and through their ministries.

However, we also need to challenge some errors and misunderstandings which have been widespread since the vote was taken.

First, it has been suggested that the draft Measure represented the fruits of work done over many years by representatives of all traditions in the Church of England, and that it was a compromise and the best possible way forward. This is simply not the case, as anyone – myself included – involved in the various processes of preparing the legislation for Final Approval (the legislative drafting group, the revision committee stage, and so on) would have to admit. At every step of the way, provision for the traditionalist minority was withdrawn altogether or significantly watered down. Looking back, we can see a number of decisive forks in the road: when delegation (rather than a transfer of jurisdiction) was adopted as the basis for the legislation; when the Archbishops’ amendment for co-ordinate jurisdiction was defeated – by just 5 votes in the House of Clergy – in 2010; when the amendment to Clause 5.1.(c) of the Measure, proposed by the House of Bishops, was withdrawn in the face of pressure from members of WATCH in July of this year. In the light of all this, it seems to me that there is only one analysis of the vote on 20th November which rings true: that the draft Measure was driven ‘over the cliff’ by those unwilling to agree proper provision for those of us who have conscientious difficulties concerning the ordination of women.

The second misunderstanding is that the Synod’s processes were somehow abused or manipulated to produce this result. Again, we need to say clearly that this is not the case. Every member of General Synod understands very well what the processes are which are followed in order to pass legislation: processes which, in matters of doctrine, are designed precisely to ensure a high level of consensus, such as is surely appropriate for a Christian community. The meetings of General Synod are always framed with prayer – prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide the hearts and minds of those speaking and voting. It is difficult not to be amazed at the confidence with which many people have rushed to conclude that the Holy Spirit could not have spoken through Synod on 20th November. Having said all that, I would be the first to agree that the Synodical system has not served the church well in discerning the way forward on this matter. Perhaps one thing that the Holy Spirit might be saying to us, is that there might be a better way.

The third thing which I have found puzzling in the last week or so is the growing sense in some quarters that there was an ‘unholy alliance’ between traditional cathiolics and conservative evangelicals to defeat the Measure. To say this is again, surely, to misunderstand how General Synod works. Individuals vote on the legislation laid before them, and, while it is true (and hardly startling) to say that of course anglo-catholics and evangelicals will have different – often, markedly different – theological instincts and insights, what mattered in this case was only the fact that Synod members from both traditions found the draft Measure wanting. We also know now that a significant number of Synod members who are wholly supportive of women in the episcopate nevertheless voted against this draft legislation; they did so out of concern for their brothers and sisters in the Church of England with whom they disagree, but whose flourishing they desire: surely a model for us all.

Where do we go from here? I very much hope that all parties to this debate will resist the calls from some MPs and peers that Parliament should legislate ‘over the head’ of the Church of England in order to impose a solution. That way cannot be right.
The Bishop of Durham, our next Archbishop of Canterbury, has called for fresh discussions early in the New Year, with a view to preparing the way for fresh legislation on women bishops. I am sure that is right, although I do hope that the desire for haste in some quarters will not squeeze out what I am sure the whole Church truly needs: real listening, engagement, and, above all, mutual charity. We must get away from the whole sense which has dogged us for so long, that this is a zero-sum power game, with winners and losers, and, at the end of the process, first and second class bishops, serving – as Fr Simon Killwick put it so well – first and second class Anglicans.

So what, in our local context, can we – priests and people of the See of Ebbsfleet – actually do? The first thing, obviously, is to pray – and the fact that this is such an obvious thing to say makes it no less true. My late confessor and spiritual director always urged upon me the virtue of praying, consciously and by name, for those with whom I disagreed, had fallen out, or had (in reality or just in my imagination) done me wrong. That was good advice then, and I commend it to all of you now.
The second thing to do is actively to work to maintain the bonds of charity with all those who are your partners in the mission of the Church in your area – clergy and laity of other traditions, male and female, all those involved in the life of your diocese and deanery. Let it never be said that the traditional catholic voice is absent from the life of the local church.

Third, we must all seek renewal in those great gifts which our tradition brings to the life of the whole of the Church of England: our zeal for souls; our liturgical worship; the sacramental life; our incarnational faith, rooted in the community and especially in service to the poor; our deep commitment to the full visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ. You can all, I am sure, add other things to that list of equal or greater importance, but there are five to be getting on with!

We have just celebrated the great feast of Christ the King; now we come to prepare for the celebration of the birth into this world of time and space of that same Word of God who is King of the Universe and King of our lives. May each of us be deeply renewed in our discipleship this Advent and Christmastide, and may the Lord stir up in us those supernatural gifts given us at our baptism: faith; hope; love.

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Comments

It would help if The Bishop Ebbsfleet was more accurate in his comments. Amendment 5.1.c was not withdrawn because of pressure from WATCH of which we were only a small part. It was withdrawn because of widespread pressure from organisations and large numbers of individuals, lay and ordained, men and women, beyond WATCH who often went to the trouble of sending us their comments because they were so angered by the implications embedded in it.

Posted by: sally Barnes on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:56am GMT

"we value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of the Church of England; and that we recognise the gifts which God has given in and through their ministries."

Although this sounds like a peaceable and affirming comment by Bishop Baker (and echoed by many others in his constituency) it really is disingenuous. The simple truth is that they do not believe ordained women are ordained at all. How can you value their contribution when you don't believe it is valid?

Posted by: Nick Nawrockyi on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:35am GMT

"The third thing which I have found puzzling in the last week or so is the growing sense in some quarters that there was an ‘unholy alliance’ between traditional cathiolics and conservative evangelicals to defeat the Measure."

- Bishop Jonathan Baker -

Well, dear Bishop, you may not see it as an 'unholy alliance', but it was surely an unusual one - except that the goal was a common one - to secure 'alternative oversight' - a non-catholic understanding of 'Ordinary' jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop - for those whose theology does not allow of submission to a female bishop.

We in other provinces of the Anglican Communion, who prefer the more catholic understanding of the authority of a bishop of the Church, were amazed when the 'Mother' Church of England - without any recourse to the opinion of any other province in the A.C., decided to raise up the 'rara avis', now known as 'Flying Bishops', to allow separate episcopal ministry to those who do not believe the Church of England has the right to ordain women.

Now that the period of discernment has proved that God may not have been displeased with women's ordination (it has not faded away); one would have thought that the natural progression of Women being give the dignity of episcopal rank in the Church they serve with distinction; might have dissipated the need for further 'Alternative Episcopal Oversight'

Thank God, it seems only to be a problem for the Church of England. We in the provinces have been blessed by Women as both priests and bishops for many years now. We can recommend the risk taken.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:45am GMT

The House of Bishops original amendment 5.1(c) was opposed by WATCH after consulting with members. But the Bishop of Ebbsfleet is completely wrong if he imagines that this was all the weight against the amendment, or that the position WATCH took was marginal or extreme. Actually the amendment was withdrawn by the Bishops because they could see that a large proportion of members of General Synod could not support it (larger than a bare blocking minority). The measure which was supported widely in the Dioceses did not contain this amendment, and many were shocked that a measure which had gained widespread support could be amended in an untested and controversial way at such a late stage.
I do not want to see second class "traditional catholic" bishops ministering to a marginal constituency - I want all our bishops - women as well as "traditional catholics" - to be bishops of the whole church.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:51am GMT

"what I am sure the whole Church truly needs: real listening, engagement, and, above all, mutual charity"

Yes, but in the rest of the document, all I'm hearing is spin-spin-spin.

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:55am GMT

The legislation which failed at Final Approval was almost exactly the legislation originally proposed by the Manchester group and approved by Synod back in 2008. It’s re-writing history to claim that “At every step of the way, provision for the traditionalist minority was withdrawn altogether or significantly watered down.” What is true is that Synod refused to add further provision which would have made the legislation even more discriminatory than it already was.

Posted by: William Raines on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:58am GMT

Could I invite Sally Barnes to address the substance of the bishop's input?

Her correction on a single matter of fact is noted.

Posted by: Labarum on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 10:12am GMT

Presumably Bp Baker holds some responsibility for not arguing successfully during the Revision Committee for the safeguards that he wanted? And, on another point, by appealing to the 'priests and people of the See of Ebbsfleet' is he not extending his authority too far? Resolution C parishes remain within their own geographical dioceses and under the oversight of thier Diocesan bishop: Ebbsfleet is not a separate geographical See.

Posted by: Hilary Cotton on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 11:13am GMT

I am sorry to see that +Ebbsfleet, who generally speaks in much more measured and emollient tones than his predecessors at Ebbsfleet or Fulham (which is greatly to be welcomed) has chosen to perpetuate the myth started by his predecessor that there is a see of Ebbsfleet. As I understand it, there is a Bishop of Ebbsfleet, who is available to provide extended episcopal care to petitioning parishes from sundry other dioceses with the agreement of their respective Ordinaries, but those parishes remain firmly part of their original geographical dioceses, and there is no see of Ebbsfleet (except possibly in the narrowest legal sense irrevocably associated with there being a bishop of that name). Even Bp Baker's predecessor as +Fulham, who could usually be relied upon to take a mile whenever he was given an inch, did not go so far as to label his website 'the see of Fulham' (as far as I am aware).
What I deduce from +Ebbsfleet's article however is that, whilst it would not be acceptable to have first and second-class bishops if the second class bishops were the traditionalist catholic ones, it would be perfectly acceptable if the second-class bishops were the female ones, as that would be the inevitable result of the transfer of jurisdiction from them which he continues to advocate.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 11:33am GMT

'further provision which would have made the legislation even more discriminatory than it already was' - William Raines

Differences concerning matters of conscience, regarding theology and ecclesiology, are allowed for (made provision for) under the law of the Church, the Measure enacted by Parliament in 1993.

To use the word 'discriminatory' is disingenuous.

Posted by: Jonathan Edwards II on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 11:39am GMT

Surely it *is* correct to say that there is a See, but *not* a diocese? Any suffragan bishopric is a See, is it not? But there is no diocese of e.g. Hertford, Bedford, Pontefract or Warrington. Even where there is a formal area scheme in existence, there is no diocese, e.g. no diocese of Willesden or Kensington.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 12:04pm GMT

I can see that he is describing things his way a bit, but overall this is surely a very good piece from a very intelligent and a very good bishop. While I think FiF people (and similar) are wrong about WO, they (= the intelligent people who now remain) really are falling over backwards to affirm women's minstry as far as they can. I think they're fighting a good fight and I respect them.

Posted by: John on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 12:18pm GMT

I thought the 'flying bishops' were appointed on the level of suffragans? Yet the Ebbsfleet website's homepage declare it to be the See of Ebbsfleet.

Perhaps the hope is that if 'the See of Ebbsfleet' is around for long enough as an idea it will become 'tradition' and can then be made into a legal entity on that basis?

Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 12:21pm GMT

Downing Street certainly thinks it is correct. Or, rather, Downing Street *knows* it is correct.

http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/suffragan-see-of-ebbsfleet/

". . . to the Suffragan See of Ebbsfleet, in the Diocese of Canterbury, in succession to the Right Reverend Andrew Burnham . . . "

Posted by: John Roch on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 12:58pm GMT

To set the record straight all suffragan bishops are appointed to suffragan sees - thus the See of Dorchester or the See of Reading. The See of Ebbsfleet is a suffragan see.

Posted by: Philip on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 1:06pm GMT

The Bishop says "It's not our fault, it's all their fault."

This is an exceptionally unpromising start for the next Bishop of Fulham. It is bad politics and bad Christianity.

Posted by: badman on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 1:24pm GMT

From this week's 'Church Times' published by the Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments - Vacancy Announcement: following the announcement of the translation of the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker to the See of Fulham, there will be a vacancy in the See of Ebbsfleet.

Posted by: Robin Ward on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 1:25pm GMT

Of all organisations, WATCH has always been the most vociferous in its opposition to provision for traditionalists. Let us be in no doubt about that, for they and GRAS have spearheaded every single campaign to cleanse the Church of the traditionalist wing. And still their members continue. If that is what all those assurances of trust were about, no wonder those courageous laity did what they did with their NO vote. The latter are not delegates, they are representatives, so they did nothing wrong.

Posted by: Benedict on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:17pm GMT

It would seem that a Suffragan Bishop does own a "See", if not a Diocese, or so the Archbishop of York thinks.

See

http://www.archbishopofyork.org/articles.php/2603/the-suffragan-see-of-beverley

And forgive the shorthand "own".

Posted by: Labarum on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:25pm GMT

Simon is correct. There is a suffragan See of Ebbsfleet. It is created under the terms of the Suffragan Bishops Act 1534. It is a suffragan see within the Diocese of Canterbury with no geographical boundaries other than those of the diocese.

I am not sure that it is possible to belong to the See of Ebbsfleet in a way that a parish belongs to a diocese. When the Bishop of Ebbsfleet ministers in parishes he does so as a commissary (i.e. on behalf of) the diocesan bishop or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by: Will Adam on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:27pm GMT

I'm not sure why the Bishop of Ebbsfleet is 'puzzled' why many have gained the impression of an alliance between traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals to defeat the Measure. Presumably, he's failed to notice all the carefully co-ordinated joint statements issued by Rod Thomas of 'Reform and Simon Killwick of the Catholic Group on Synod.

Posted by: Andrew Coe on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:45pm GMT

I keep writing to this site to say "Oh dear!". I share Bishop Jonathan's perspective on what has so sadly happened in General Synod, and I long for and pray for our generous inclusivity as ONE Body in Christ. We are called in Christ to trust one another, and to forgive the foolish amongst us! "Bear with one another in Christ!". My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: please stop this negative grinding criticism of those of us who are, with as much integrity and humility as we can manage, trying to work out how we can forgive each other and continue to live together. The glory of the Church of England has been that it has managed to provide a safe place for MANY different perspectives on our Christian calling. We need each other. Better together. I am using Advent to pray for Unity and for charititable loving toleration of each other! Please do the same.

Posted by: Frank Nichols on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 3:12pm GMT

There is a See of Ebbsfleet; without it there would be no Bishop of Ebbsfleet. It is a suffragan see in the Diocese of Canterbury along with the See of Dover, See of Richborough, etc. All diocesan and suffragan bishops are appointed to a See.

http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/suffragan-see-of-ebbsfleet/

Posted by: James Humphreys on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 3:21pm GMT

Pam Smith wonders if the See of Ebbsfleet is going to be "around long enough". The search is now on for the fifth Bishop of Ebbsfleet in modern times and if the new bishop is as young as the next Bishop of Whitby then this Suffragan See will be around for many years to come.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 3:30pm GMT

Well you live and learn (re See).

The origin of suffragans having sees appears to be that bishops should operate within a geographically defined area.

This makes the See of Ebbsfleet even more mysterious really. I know Ebbsfleet is a real place but what geographical area does the see of Ebbsfleet cover? Is it drawn to include all parishes who have passed res A/B/C and exclude everyone else? To what extent can this be seen as a geographical area rather than an ideological one?

Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 3:41pm GMT

'This makes the See of Ebbsfleet even more mysterious really. I know Ebbsfleet is a real place but what geographical area does the see of Ebbsfleet cover? Is it drawn to include all parishes who have passed res A/B/C and exclude everyone else? To what extent can this be seen as a geographical area rather than an ideological one?'
Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 3:41pm GMT

The 'suffragan see of Ebbsfleet, is most approriately named for a sandbank.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:22pm GMT

Fr David - erm, no, I did not 'wonder if the See of Ebbsfleet is going to be around long enough'.

As of now I can't work out in what way it's 'around' at all actually, but that's a different point.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:43pm GMT

‘I very much hope that all parties to this debate will resist the calls from some MPs and peers that Parliament should legislate ‘over the head’ of the Church of England in order to impose a solution. That way cannot be right.’ Bishop Baker.

Many issues that could be taken with Bishop Baker’s analysis, but I will focus on one, and that is his call to resist involving Parliament in the affairs the Established Church. Interesting that this is his position now, but it was a position ignored completely in 1993 when conservative Anglo-catholics and others used the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament (this is the body of MPs and Peers which decides whether a church measure is ‘expedient’ to be sent to Parliament for approval) to lobby for greater provision for those opposed to women priests than was contained in the 1992 Measure which Synod had passed.

The irony is that the See of Ebbsfleet and the other Flying Bishops owe their existence to the influence of the parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee in 1993 which brought considerable pressure to bear on the church to create the 1993 Act of Synod. It is highly likely that we would not have Flying Bishops if Parliamentary influence had not been brought to bear in 1993. That is certainly the view of a number of MPs at the time who pointed out to the Commons their role in obtaining greater provision for opponents when the measure was debated in the House in Oct 1993.

1993 was hardly a ‘Keble/National Apostasy’ moment for Anglo-catholicism but a year in which church establishment was used for advantage. Bishop Baker’s predecessor as Bishop of Fulham, appeared before the Ecclesiastical Committee precisely for the purpose of lobbying parliamentarians to use their influence in church matters.

If anyone wants chapter and verse for this from Hansard and other sources of public record, see my chapter in *The Established Church: Past, Present and Future*, eds Chapman, Maltby, Whyte (T&T Clark, 2011). I’m happy to supply a copy to anyone who emails me directly, judith.maltby@ccc.ox.ac.uk, please put subject line: Ecclesiastical Committee.

Posted by: Judith Maltby on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:53pm GMT

OK, I give in! There is a Suffragan See of Ebbsfleet, but only, I submit, in the narrow legal sense that I mentioned in my earlier post. I can't see any normal suffragan referring to his see, still less the priests and people of his see, without incurring at least the severe displeasure of his diocesan, and I don't see why it should be any different in the case of a PEV .
No, if PEVs are referring to the priests and people of their sees, then what they are modelling is alternative episcopal oversight, and that, as has been pointed out in these pages by Charles Read, Perry Butler and other learned teachers of the church, is a very different ecclesiology from extended episcopal care. Only the latter is permitted by the Act of Synod.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 7:05pm GMT

An episcopal see is a seat not an area.

See

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Episcopal_see

So although a suffragan bishop does not have a cathedral church and an impressive throne they are normally given a title that links them with a large or significant church.

A 'see' is a singular location and not a area of responsibility.

Posted by: Labarum on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 7:54pm GMT

"WATCH has always been the most vociferous in its opposition to provision for traditionalists. Let us be in no doubt about that, for they and GRAS have spearheaded every single campaign to cleanse the Church of the traditionalist wing."
- Benedict, on Monday -

Now, Benedict, there's 'tradition' and 'Tradition'.
It all depends on how you see the great Tradition, which stems only from what has emerged, gradually, over many decades of Christian history. Rome, of course, would claim it has the only handle on Tradition. But this is also claimed by Eastern Orthodox Churches. Now the Church of England has a different model - based on its development since the reformation. Tradition, because of the Holy Spirit's rejuvenating power over it, in context, has a habit of being renewed every day.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:27pm GMT

Pam,

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet provides extended episcopal care to those parishes in the western half of the Province of Canterbury whose dioceses do not provide a more local option (the Bishop of Plymouth acting as diocesan episcopal visitor for Exeter and, I think, Truro). He is also available to individual priests and people who are not in "C" to provide pastoral care and is to act as an ombudsman of sorts for the ABC, whose suffragan he is.

Posted by: Richard on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:45pm GMT

Richard says

"(the Bishop of Plymouth acting as diocesan episcopal visitor for Exeter and, I think, Truro)"

So there is in fact considerably more provision for people who want to avoid the ordained ministry of women than would be suggested by the official set up - especially when you consider that FiF states that their directory of parishes

"includes parishes known to us which have (in England) have passed Resolutions A, B or C together with many other parishes where the priest himself has declared that women priests will not minister within his care of souls."

Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:39pm GMT

And the sees of suffragan bishops are titular sees, importing no jurisdiction at all. These titular sees were invented after the Reformation when sees located in Moslem lands (and appointed to by the Pope) were no longer available as titular sees to assist diocesan bishops in England. Since Henry VIII did not claim any right to appoint to bishoprics outside his realm these titular suffragan sees were invented and legislated for. They fell into disuse fairly quickly before being revived and expanded in the 19th century.

They follow the rule that territorial titles in this country are only borne with the consent of the Crown (Lord of X, Bishop of Y, even Mayor of Z, etc). The titles accorded by the Pope to other bishops of his intruded hierarchy are not strictly legal but are used as a courtesy (though not without very considerable disquiet when they were first introduced).

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:58pm GMT

For more detail, see
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/aep/Hen8/26/14

or for an easier read
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragan_Bishops_Act_1534

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 10:02pm GMT

See or not (it is actually a See), I thought Ebbsfleet was better known for being an international rail station from where you can catch the Eurostar to .. well .. all sorts of places!

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 10:03pm GMT

There are two places in Kent called Ebbsfleet. The one now famous for its railway station is in the diocese of Rochester.

But the see is named after the other Ebbsfleet, which is in the diocese of Canterbury as is only proper for the see of a suffragan to the Archbishop. It is a hamlet near Ramsgate and is where Hengist and Augustine landed.

The see of the other southern PEV is named after nearby Richborough.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 10:50pm GMT

Pam,

"So there is in fact considerably more provision for people who want to avoid the ordained ministry of women than would be suggested by the official set up"

Not at all. This IS the official setup. The Act of Synod makes it clear that, in the first instance, the Diocesan Bishop should make arrangements within his own Diocese (a la Exeter). If he is unable to do that, he should request assistance from a neighbouring Diocese (a la Southwark and Rochester, who request assistance from London -+Fulham-). It is only when a Diocesan Bishop is unable to do either of the above that the PEV is invited to provide EEO.

Posted by: tommiaquinas on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 10:08am GMT

Now that we've settled a nice little terminological debate, can we come back to the substance?

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet says there are three "errors" in the recent public discussion about Synod's vote--
1. adequate provision was made
2. procedures were twisted
3. there was an "unholy alliance"

1 and 3 are not errors; they are true. The anti-WO minority was offered what looked to the majority like half a loaf. And the minority--suspicious of the offer, and wishing to establish its blocking power--rejected it. So much for "mutual charity."

2 is an error as far as it goes. Here Ebbsfleet is simply asserting that the minority won by the rules of the game as it understood them, and that fair is fair. True enough.

But the minority did not adequately appreciate the fact that they would then have to defend their position under different rules, and on a much larger playing board.

There is a difference between winning one Synod vote and a successful long-term strategy. This point needs to be made strongly to the anti-WO factions.

Having thought that the vote would improve their leverage, they are disappointed to find that winning the vote has harmed their position. And their frustration is showing.

"I had hoped for a period of calm, prayer and reflection all round; and perhaps some sense of regret, on the part of the proponents of the Measure, that they had not got the legislation right.... [I]nstead, a media furore."

Such superciliousness. The Bishop of Ebbsfleet needs to be more honest with his flock.

The political reaction was entirely predictable, and if the next measure fails, it's going to get worse.

This being the case, Ebbsfleet and his ilk need a quick tutorial in politics, public relations, crisis management, and the value of a properly conducted strategic retreat.

Ebbsfleet's message now ought to be "a quarter loaf is better than none." Because his flock need to start thinking about what a quarter loaf might look like.

Why the anti-WO factions thought that defeating this measure was a winning long-term strategy remains a puzzle. It reflects, among other things, a failure of their leadership.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 11:30am GMT

Two questions, Jeremy

1. Was the defeat of the measure the result of a directed strategy, or of the actions of a few independent individuals voting according to conscience?

2. Is the search for a solution just as likely to tip in one direction as in the other?

And the questions are for all takers.

Posted by: Labarum on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 11:59am GMT

Can someone be honest and tell me what the numbers attending Church of England was in 1991 and what it is in 2011 (or as up to date as you can get). I would like a true demonstration of the effect of what has happened in the last 20 years rather than emotional statements. And perhaps this could be done for the US Episcopal church. Just to be fair and just!

Posted by: joseph Golightly on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 12:08pm GMT

Labarum -- Nice attempt at a rearguard action. But it won't wash.

1. The defeat of this measure was the result of around 70 people voting according to their prejudices, at the urging of pressure groups, and without regard to their long-term interest. So there was an absolute failure of leadership.

2. Is that a genuine question? If you really need an answer, then David "Get with the programme" Cameron can provide.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 12:39pm GMT

It seems to me (here in the wild-west of the Diocese in Europe) that whatever and however many compromises are offered those who (though they delight in the ministry of women raised to important positions in the C-of-E) cannot abide and are not cognizant of the ordained sacramental ministry of women would ever vote in favour of the same. Therefore the single measure position seems the most wholesome and indeed the most honest to this Yank.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 12:58pm GMT

Can we be clear, please? What we are talking about is a group of priests and three or four bishops, whose orders are not recognised by the tradition to which they aspire, ie, the Western Roman Catholic Tradition, which they seek to please, refusing to recognise the priestly orders of women colleagues in their own church. They refer to these women as fellow ministers, or priestesses, but never as priests. They wish to stay within a church which has women priests and wishes to have women bishops, but to pretend that they do not exist. They encourage even the dying in hospital to refuse the ministry of these "priestesses". And they do a very good job of brainwashing the laity.
As to the ecclesiology of Flying Bishops: that doesn't hold much water in Rome; even after conversion and re-ordination, thay are only make-believe prelates! They may form a defensive club, but not the Church of God.

Posted by: gerry reilly on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 5:08pm GMT

One question, Judith: was Jonathan Baker a member of Synod in 1993 and did he there support the actions of John Broadhurst in appearing before the Eccliastical Committee? I ask in innocence and out of a desire for historical accuracy.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 8:53pm GMT

"The glory of the Church of England has been that it has managed to provide a safe place for MANY different perspectives on our Christian calling. We need each other. Better together. I am using Advent to pray for Unity and for charititable loving toleration of each other! Please do the same.

Posted by: Frank Nichols on Monday, 3 December

I'm all for this loving tolerance and acceptance of one another, BUT, how can that possibly be achieved in a Church that allows a minority of its members to refuse to recognise the priestly calling of the women in its ranks?

It strikes me that the tolerance must all be 'One Way Only' for the dissidents.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 10:48pm GMT

It is really important for Anglican, aspiring-Roman-type, Catholics, to really undestand what Gerry Reilly is saying here (on Tuesday).

From a Roman Catholic point of view - not even the aspiring male clergy's Anglican Orders are valid. So why should the majority of Anglicans, who actually want Women's Ministry, have to continue to host an alien understanding of ministry that militates against the (non-Roman) Reformed-Catholic ethos of the Church of England?

Church Unity is brought no further forward by a few protesters against Women Clergy in the C.of E.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 1:13am GMT

Well, it is obvious to all that the good Bishop of London thinks highly of the current Bishop of Ebbsfleet - otherwise he wouldn't have grabbed him so soon after his consecration to be the next Bishop of Fulham.
By the way do we know how the Bishop of London keeping - as he seems to have been remarkably quiet of late. I do hope that he has now fully recovered from the reported illness which prevented him from attending the General Synod's last (would that it were!) meeting when the vote on the Women Bishops Measure was taken?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 5:13am GMT

When I was training for ordination we studied ecumenical theology with students from the nearby Catholic seminary.

The church history tutor was originally a Church of England priest who had been admitted to Catholic orders after women were ordained to the priesthood in the C of E.

When we asked him in the bar one night about whether he minded teaching women who were going on to be ordained in the C of E, he laughed and said

'All your orders are equally invalid to me'.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 9:20am GMT

Of course there is an unholy alliance! For goodness sake, Evangelicals and "Catholics" have a totally different understanding of priesthood and of the primary work and identity of a priest. It is just that both sides, which are fundamentally patriarchal, simply cannot tolerate the prospect of a woman in authority over them. It is, and always has been about power, as it glaringly is in the RC Church.

Posted by: gerry reilly on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 3:01pm GMT

John: it is for Bishop Baker, not for me, to say whether he approves of the role played by John Broadhurst or, more importantly, by MPs and Peers in 1993 in expanding the provision for those opposed to the ordination of women beyond what was contained in the 1992 Synod Measure, viz Resolution C and the creation of Provincial Episcopal Visitors. However, it is highly unlikely, had not Parliamentarians on the Ecclesiastical Committee pressurized the Church of England to provide greater ‘safeguards’, we would have PEVs. So, one can see how this is an awkward issue for those who now condemn Parliament’s involvement over women bishops in the established Church, yet welcome the outcome of parliamentary influence nearly 20 years ago.

Posted by: Judith Maltby on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 6:44pm GMT

If the good +Ebbsfleet is baffled as to why people think there is an alliance (unholy or otherwise) between certain anglo catholic and conservative evangelical groupings then may I gently draw his attention to the joint press statement on the REFORM website?

http://reform.org.uk/news
Joint Press Statement From The Chairmen Of The Catholic Group And Reform:
Posted on 28 November 2012

I was in turn a bit puzzled by the REFORM press statement issued on 20th which stated that...

'We thank God that the Church of England has avoided making a big mistake which would have led to real division and a less inclusive Church.'

Surely that contains a typo or two and should have read ' the Church of England has made a big mistake which will lead to real division and a less inclusive church.'

Sure feels less inclusive from where I'm standing and I'm not sure how much more real the division could get really.


Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:31pm GMT

Benedict - do you really believe that WATCH and GRAS are 'trying to cleanse the Church of the traditionalist wing'? I'm not a member of either, but I'd be surprised if they wanted any more of you than your consent to a church in which men and women can be priests, and bishops, on equal terms. Speaking for myself, I don't in the slightest want Anglo-Catholicism to go away. It isn't my own flavour of churchmanship, but I recognise it as one of Anglicanism's deep reservoirs of liturgical seriousness, and a source over the last century and more for much of the Church's commitment to social justice. It is a precious tradition within Anglicanism. It replenishes what in us as a church might have been lost if we understood ourselves only as being heirs of the reformation.

So, no, I don't want you 'cleansed', I don't want you gone. It's bad enough that some of you have retreated into little ghettos, only principally talking to each other and imagining that your relationship with the imaginary See of Ebbsfleet takes precedence over the one with your direct, literal neighbours. Such behaviour hides behind walls the gift your tradition has made. But if you go altogether - to the Ordinariate or elsewhere - then the gift is withdrawn altogether, and with it departs a piece of the strength of the church.

But if I don't want you gone, I also don't want you to stay on terms that damage the rest of us. If you require, as the price for your presence - and should gifts have prices? - an apparatus which permanently limits and downgrades the ministry of women, then you are asking something extraordinary; and you shouldn't disguise from yourself the scale of what you are demanding by imagining that it is simply the continuation of the status quo ante. It isn't. That world is gone. Now that women have been Anglican priests for nearly twenty years, and the whole fabric of parish ministry depends on them, your demand has quite a different significance. It is a diminishing, degrading claim on real priestly colleagues. And if we as a church discover in the end that we are not willing to pay it, you will have to ask yourselves whether you want to stay or to go. It will be your decision - not a 'cleansing'.

Posted by: Francis on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 9:36am GMT

Very well said, Francis - I couldn't agree more. I particularly liked your description of the tendency of traditionalists to retreat into 'ghettoes', since I have only recently left just such a parish as I felt it was getting ever more isolated from the rest of our church.
I note that you refer to the 'imaginary See of Ebbsfleet', which I had done at a much earlier stage in this thread. This generated such a volume of responses correcting me that I think it has now been clarified to most people's satisfaction that there is a See of Ebbsfleet, but it is a title only and carries with it no territory, parishes or people. It is therefore quite wrong for +Ebbsfleet to refer to the priests and people of his See.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 11:07pm GMT

The former Bishop of Ebbsfleet used to refer to the parishes over which he had extended episcopal care as an Apostolic District. I've also seen this language used in connection with Fulham. It's not an Anglican term (it is more reminiscent of Roman Catholic structure before they were able to establish dioceses in England) but it shows that no matter what the legal definitions (of PEVs) are in the Act of Synod, the FinF constituency interprets them in their own way...

Posted by: Nick Nawrockyi on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 11:29pm GMT
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