Monday, 3 December 2012

Women Bishops: WATCH calls for single clause measure

WATCH (Women and the Church) issued this press statement tonight.

WATCH (Women and the Church) PRESS STATEMENT
Monday 2nd December, 2012 - For immediate release

WATCH urges the House of Bishops to bring back a Single Clause Measure

Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops. Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed. The cost in human and financial terms has been enormous. Since 2000, there have been three major church reports, and the work of a legislative drafting group, revision committee and steering committee. General Synod has discussed the question at 10 of its meetings, and it has been debated at every level of the church. (Full details of the progress of the debate can be found here.)

The draft Measure represented the furthest possible compromise for those in favour. It was not enough for those opposed. After all these years of discussion, debate, and drafting it is clear that that there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed. We therefore have to ask whether it is wise to allow the entire church to be held to ransom by minority factions who resist a change that the Church of England has discerned and declared to be entirely consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith. These same voices have spoken out repeatedly against any of the compromise proposed by the Church, and supported widely, including by WATCH.

Bishop John Gladwin said “What a small minority has done is blow up the bridge to any compromise solution. There is now only one route which must be travelled to that outcome. That is the route which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and ministry of the Church

It is now time to go for the simplest possible legislation - a single clause measure. This would enable people to vote for or against legislation simply enabling women to be bishops. Provision can be made at local level as appropriate for those who find this difficult. This option will maintain the greatest degree of unity and open dialogue between those of differing views and prevent ghettos forming within the Church. This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed.

It is also time for honesty in this debate. Those opposed do not want women bishops. They do not want resolution of the issue but to extend the decision-making process as long as possible. We cannot see how further conversation will result in any proposals that have not been tested and rejected before. They will simply prolong the process.

With the disproportionate number of conservatives in the House of Laity, the nature of the internal debate within the church has been so weighted to accommodating small minorities that we have lost sight of the legislation’s main objective – to make women bishops. We are now in a changed landscape. It is clear from the debates in Parliament and the response in the country at large that those outside the church are scandalised by the acceptance of gender discrimination in the established church. As Helen Goodman MP said in the emergency Commons debate on 22nd November,

too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests… It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.

For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod.

In the meantime, it is imperative that women are present at the discussions of the House of Bishops in December and beyond. We call on the bishops to open their proceedings to the public and invite senior women to play a full part in their discussions. As Diana Johnson MP said in February 2012

It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make decisions about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by the decision.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said

We have spent enough time in exploring how to accommodate the views of those who do not want women as bishops. Generosity is laudable but without limits it becomes a kind of profligacy. We are wasting the Church’s precious resources, both its money and its people if we seek to continue the debate about provision in law. The House of Bishops must act decisively now to legislate for women bishops in the simplest possible way.

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Comments

Very courageous.

Posted by: Dan Barnes-Davies on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 10:47pm GMT

Occam's Razor: simple, clean, best. If you can't make everybody happy, why not at least choose the obvious way?

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 2:01am GMT

Is there any truth in the rumour I have heard that the Church of England is to be renamed - "The Church of the Headless Chicken"?
The reason the amended Measure didn't receive a sufficient majority in the House of Laity was that even some who are in favour of the innovation voted against because they deemed that insufficient provision was being given to those of a traditionalist outlook. So, given the make up of the present General Synod, what chance has a single clause measure of succeeding whereby NO provision is made for those who cannot accept the innovation?
As to WATCH's latest recommendation regarding those with whom they can never agree - not even when hell freezes over! What was it that the daleks used to chant when confronting Dr. Who?

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 4:13am GMT

This is is certainly consistent with what we found in TEC. Efforts were made to accommodate the minority view, but they were similarly intractable.

I am especially gratified by the remark "This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed." Yes. Thank you. Finally CoE is taking note of other provinces. It has been very odd in TEC to be punished and scolded by Rowan while his own church is backwards by about 40 years.

CoE will have no credibility on social justice, diversity, and equality issues if it institutionalizes misogyny. Pass the single clause. The bishop of each diocese can choose whether or not to be pastoral to the "conservatives." Our experience is that with integrity and liberation, you gain much more than you lose.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 4:36am GMT

The child to be born to the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge will be third in line to the throne, whether male or female. Why? Because the law will acknowledge the equality of the sexes in this constitutional matter after millennia of male-first succession.

It is high time the C of E moved on this measure; it's not as though there were no Anglican women bishops. We proclaim that we decide "on principle" but nearly everyone acts from the gut. Time was when C of E clergy who couldn't accept the claims/teaching left in conscience for an unsupported future. At least it showed their sincerity.

Posted by: Sister Mary on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 6:41am GMT

No unity at any cost!

Posted by: joseph Golightly on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 8:06am GMT

By voting for a Single Clause Measure, the Church of England would be aligning herself with those other provinces of the Anglican Communion that have approved of, and rejoice in, women as co-sharers - with men - of the Gospel message; who are also called by God into the Sacramental ministry and Leadership of the local Church.

Only in this way can the Church avoid the charge of institutional sexism - something that Jesus, Lord of the Church, would hardly have countenanced

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 8:23am GMT

Given the Measure failed in November for want of adequate provision just how does WATCH expect a single clause Measure to fair any better? But it does need to be put to the vote if only to demonstrate that simple fact.

Posted by: Original Observer on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 8:42am GMT

Posters here were outraged about how unrepresentative the synod vote was (or at least perceived to be). So how on earth is forcing through a measure that never even graces a diocesan synod any more representative?

Posted by: Tom on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 9:52am GMT

Because, Original Observer, the proposed new Measure would come back to this Synod for preliminary stages only, and in those stages would only need simple majorities to proceed. A newly elected Synod post-2015 will have a different make-up, and may well provide the necessary two-thirds majority, which is required for final approval only.

Posted by: Simon Taylor on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 10:15am GMT

Tom,

I'm not clear where in the WATCH press release we suggested that any future measures should not be discussed at diocesan level.

Posted by: Hannah on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 11:08am GMT

I almost wish we could approach this like electing bishops in the United States. Place before Synod all possible choices, from single clause to a separate province, and have people continue to vote on them until one option garners the most votes. At present, we seem to be risking a perpetual debate on women bishops, especially if the next measure goes down in defeat.

Posted by: Mark on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 11:37am GMT

Simon Taylor said, " A newly elected Synod post-2015 will have a different make-up, and may well provide the necessary two-thirds majority, which is required for final approval only."

That is one strategy; I don't know enough about the referral to the dioceses to know whether the process can be drawn out for 3 years.

Would this strategy make women bishops an issue at the next parliamentary election, scheduled for 7 May 2015?

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 12:11pm GMT

It appears to me that the C of E's decision making process is so archaic, so unwieldy, and so unresponsive that I doubt a resolution stating that roses are red and violets are blue could find enough votes to pass the requirement for two thirds majorities in each of the three houses, even after a century of debate.

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 12:36pm GMT

I don't see how the WATCH statement is going to help Bishop Justin attempt to reach a negotiated, consensual agreement among all parties in time for the July 2013 General Synod. A period of silence and prayer on this issue into the New Year would surely be more constructive.

Posted by: Nigel Aston on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 1:43pm GMT

I see little point in dwelling on what they do, or not do, in TEC. The fact that it continues to lose members at an eye-watering rate makes me think it's not a good example to follow.

Posted by: Jonno on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 2:19pm GMT

The single clause measure that WATCH are asking for is the only way of regaining some credibility in the eyes of the majority of people in the pews and in the country. A straw poll in my own church last Sunday suggested that 90% of the congregation wanted no provision whatsoever for traditionalists. Unfortunately getting such a measure through the current synod is clearly not possible, so we either have to compromise or wait, probably for another decade.

Posted by: Tim Budd on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 3:09pm GMT

"The fact that it continues to lose members at an eye-watering rate makes me think it's not a good example to follow."

And of course it's standing room only at every C of E church, and England is renowned throughout the world for its piety. A Christian nation indeed!

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 3:45pm GMT

Counterlight suggests that the CofE's "decision making process is ... archaic, unwieldy, and unresponsive".

Conversely, one might suggest that the process is designed to ensure that a major change is only made when there is sufficient consensus. This is an entirely reasonable objective, and it can be seen in for example the Constitution of the USA which requires super-majorities in Congress to override a presidential veto; or requires a super-majority of the Senate to make Treaties; and constitutional amendments require super-majorities in Congress or of the states both when proposed and when ratified.

And the US Constitution is a typical example; super-majorities and relatively complex processes are the norm when making important changes.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 3:48pm GMT

Simon Taylor - I appreciate what you say about the way in which the single clause measure would progress initially. I had thought that the intention was to bring a new Measure and legislate with the current synod, if possible.

Relying a new synod to pass a single clause measure is of course a pure gamble. Remember, the evangelicals are the growing part of the church and they have the organisation etc to get their people elected. A future blocking minority could well be larger than at present.

Posted by: Original Observer on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 3:49pm GMT

Tim Budd

"A straw poll in my own church last Sunday suggested that 90% of the congregation wanted no provision whatsoever for traditionalists"

Genuinely not being flippant - seriously? Did the vicar arrange a ballot? A show of hands? Or are you just guessing based on who you spoke to? Was it to strengthen the argument with the diocesan synod?

In my own church it was very much business as usual, with a chat about the forthcoming Christmas fete, and the carol concert, no mention of the vote whatsoever - and we've got a woman vicar.

In any case, I'm sure the equivalent politicised laity at, say, Pusey House, would have had a vote go the other way.... I wonder if the churches where this is a big deal are less representative than those for who the world still seems to be turning, or vice versa?

I come from a hardline anti background, and still don't feel able to receive communion from my own vicar (yet, I keep praying, and turning up, and talking with her, and we're working on it - I suppose it's like recovering from anything else); it comes down, like Betjeman, to being unable to deny the presence of Christ at the altar in my one church town - but one thing this vote has finally crystallised for me is that I really don't like the protagonists on either side very much.

Posted by: primroseleague on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 4:38pm GMT

Our system for deciding crucial and fundamental issues is indeed complex, but it is responsive to public opinion.

I would say that the C of E has a much bigger consensus out there in the parishes for women to be considered for the episcopacy than the US Congress and state legislatures did in 1919 when they granted women the right to vote.

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

following Simon Kershaw -

I may be absolutely wrong, but at the back of my head I have the idea that the two-thirds majority requirement is there as a guarantee to Parliament.

Was it there in the Church Assembly rules?

Posted by: John Roch on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 4:41pm GMT

Nigel Aston - it is always good to begin with where people are, so honesty can be helpful - in fact it ought to be essential for Christians. I am meeting and hearing from large numbers of people who felt pushed into an uncomfortable position to support the measure in front of General Synod even though it was not what they really wanted. WATCH documented the pushing before the vote. These people say to me "we won't be pushed down that dead end again". That is a fact on the ground, as they say, and no progress will be made unless it is recognised. You may not recall that WATCH led a vigil of silent prayer outside the General Synod meeting in February - we have been praying, and will continue to pray. The issue at hand though is that a large number of people think that the loud voices of a minority have been heard, but their own voices have not - and now they feel the need to speak.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 5:18pm GMT

One needs to say loud and clear that a single-clause measure, after the defeat of the last measure, would just be immoral. I am continually amazed by the extraordinarily low moral standards of so many clergy and bishops. I write as a supporter of women priests and women bishops.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 6:21pm GMT

WATCH'S press release is reminiscent of the kind of ideology that promotes ethnic cleansing. Talk about discrimination against minorities! How ironic.

Posted by: Benedict on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 7:15pm GMT

"I see little point in dwelling on what they do, or not do, in TEC. The fact that it continues to lose members at an eye-watering rate makes me think it's not a good example to follow."

This is not true. Over the last 2 years, 33 of our 100 dioceses have posted GROWTH. Yes, the schisms plus the general decline of mainline Protestant churches (shared by both our countries) had an impact. But the schism bottomed out and now we are actually GROWING. I am in a parish and diocese that is GROWING. We are characterized by amazing female clergy, support of LGBT people, and robust outreach ministries. Our parishioners tended to be theologically educated, we feel that our inclusion and our outreach are in response to the radical love taught by Jesus. We are warm, loving, and welcoming. That's what can happen when you stop worrying about who to exclude.

Our parish saw 80-90 each Sunday about 6 years ago, we did a successful capital campaign to expand our building and we are up to nearly 200 each Sunday and still growing with newcomers and babies. This isn't just growth. This is stunning growth.

In the UK, I have experienced the same loving and warm welcome. The Holy Spirit is at work in your church, there is so much possibility for the CoE. You will thrive once you stop working on how to exclude people. So, yeah, it might not be bad for the CoE to look to your American, Canadian, Australian, etc. cousins.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 7:17pm GMT

"The reason the amended Measure didn't receive a sufficient majority in the House of Laity was that even some who are in favour of the innovation voted against because they deemed that insufficient provision was being given to those of a traditionalist outlook."

Stipulating "facts" which are questions at issue? I would say it's AT LEAST as evident that the lay delegates ignored the majority-vote of their respective diocesan synods.

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 11:07pm GMT

From the WATCH Statement :
"For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod."

"In a newly elected Synod."
(The last 5 words in the above quote.)

It's clear they intend to stack the House in their favor in order to gain the results they want.
A rump House of the Laity to do their bidding.

They will not allow dissent. They will not tolerate anyone whose opinion differs from their own.
Do what I did, and leave now. For your own peace of mind and spirit.

Posted by: Stephen on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 12:43am GMT

I think words like "immoral" and comparisons like "ethnic cleansing" need to be justified rather than asserted without justification. Without justification, what do they add to the argument, or to any possibility of conversation? - They are simply gratuitously offensive.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:35am GMT

Precisely so - JCF - and I'm sure that you didn't get where you are today by ignoring the "facts"! Members of the General Synod's House of Laity are not there to echo the views of their respective dioceses but must vote according to their own God given free will. I'm sure that you would not wish them to vote against the dictates of conscience - now would you?

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:38am GMT

In response to Stephen's contribution, for which I have much sympathy, there are some of us, nevertheless, who will not be hounded out of the Church by the bullying tactics of organisations like WATCH. We are here and here to stay, and may well ultimately prove to be a thorn in the flesh of those who would seek to oust us. My sincere prayer, however, is that we do not come to that and the more reasonable minded synod members will continue to seek after the kind of provision that has so far eluded them.

Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:57am GMT

Stephen:

"It's clear they intend to stack the House in their favor in order to gain the results they want"

I don't think people should 'stack the House', which is why I find the activities of the opponents to women's ordination at the last elections for the House of Laity so distasteful.

In my Diocese, the only General Synod member who voted against the measure had not mentioned at election time that he was against the ordination of women and that holding up the legislation for women to be bishops was one of his main reasons for wanting to be elected.

Now that one side have brought party politics into the elections for General Synod, they can't really complain if other groupings adopt the same tactics at the next elections. If this results in those who oppose the ordination of women not being elected next time, perhaps this will encourage them to consider whether the short term gain of holding up the ordination of women as bishops for a few years is really worth the longer term consequences.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 9:14am GMT

I will now add "bullying" to the list of assertions which need to be justified.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 9:54am GMT

Benedict
WATCH members in GS have voted for a draft Measure that would have given women bishops a different status from male bishops and that would have allowed parishes to reject their service in perpetuity.

This is bullying?
This is hounding people out?

Would those who rejected the Measure like to take some responsibility in making compromise work?

And please, compromise means just that. Both sides have to give something.
Where are you willing to compromise?

Now that we have a clean piece of paper again, maybe it's time for you to offer a compromise solution instead of complaining that others aren't offering one to you?

Constructive is as constructive does.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:00am GMT

If the Church of England was in as healthy a state as the Episcopal Church there wopuld be 9 million communicants every Sunday. Of Tec's 2.3 million, 650,000 regularly attend.. compare the proportion with the Cof E and this is very good.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:08am GMT

I think it's immoral not to accept a result just because you don't like it or to seek to change the rules after a particular result. That seems clear enough.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:11am GMT

Fr David —

I would agree with you that GS members are not 'delegates' of their respective dioceses (the term used by JCF in his post at 11.07 pm yesterday). However, while I would also agree that members of the General Synod's House of Laity are not there simply "to echo the views of their respective dioceses", when the subject-matter of the vote has been expressly referred to dioceses as 'Article 8 business' there is surely an obligation for GS members to have regard to the vote in their diocesan synod. Where the diocesan synod has voted by a large majority (or, in some dioceses, overwhelmingly) to approve the draft Measure, I would suggest that GS members opposed to the Measure (or just to women priests and bishops), while understandably not voting in favour of final approval, ought to have abstained. In abstaining, they would not be voting "against the dictates of conscience" but they would be recognising the majority will of their own diocesan synod lay members, who were also elected by the deanery synod members of the diocese.

Posted by: David Lamming on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 1:11pm GMT

As the song says, “You can’t always get what you want.” In a deliberative body in particular, it is sometimes impossible to give everyone what they want. In the case of the women bishops measure, one has to ask if the “benefits” to opponents—and they are mostly opponents to women clergy generally—aren’t greatly outweighed by the damage to the church—damage to its unity, to its administrative efficiency, and to its credibility among the population at large. WATCH has outlined a reasonable way—perhaps the only reasonable way—forward.

The new General Synod will have a different composition. Advocates for women bishops will, no doubt, try to elect friendly laypeople. But time also favors equality in the church, and, in three years, pressures for approving women bishops will have grown both within the church and outside it.

The suggestion that it is somehow improper to try to elect legislation-friendly lay members of the General Synod is not only anti-democratic but is also anti-Christian. If a Christian believes that a particular outcome is right and proper, is it not sinful not to do everyone one can to bring that outcome about?

Posted by: Lionel Deimel on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 1:23pm GMT

Why all these complaints about "stacking the house"?

The fact is that at the last Synod election, the opponents of women bishops out-hustled the advocates. The opponents' conscious strategy was to elect a blocking minority. They succeeded--perhaps because, at the time, no one else cared.

Like it or not, that's how a democratic system works. If someone finds mobilizing and campaigning "distasteful," then presumably voting is distasteful as well.

Issue advocacy goes along with a system that is, or purports to be, democratic. If you have one, you get the other. And that's the way it should be.

Now it's the proponents of women bishops who are angry and mobilized. Let's see what they can do at the next election.

In the process, it's time to stop beating around the bush, and time to start asking the hard questions. No one should let any "distaste" prevent inquiry into where a candidate stands on a major issue.

Do not allow "graciousness" to permit subterfuge.

Democracy and accountability around a major issue that crucial to the future of the CofE. This is a bad thing because . . . why, exactly?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 2:15pm GMT

"I think it's immoral not to accept a result just because you don't like it or to seek to change the rules after a particular result. That seems clear enough."

This is utter nonsense. It's the conservative approach stated as a universal rule of politics--nothing should change or be reformed, because what has gone before is 100% moral.

On this view, the law should never change, votes should never be reconsidered, and we should go back to rotten boroughs, slavery, and women as property.

Just because this vote was taken does not mean that its result is now sacrosanct, or that the process by which it was reached is incapable of being reformed.

Semper reformanda indeed. Bad rules produce bad outcomes.

Why on earth would anyone ever think that this vote is the final word?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 3:38pm GMT

I think your response is utter nonsense, Jeremy.

Apply what is happening now to the result of an election in any democratic country (where the popular vote may well be different from the actual result). Change, yes: not immediate refusal to accept a particular result. All this is deeply shabby.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 3:58pm GMT

I note that I'm reading much more on the morality of the vote, then the morality of discrimination.

CoE is the established church. What moral authority would the CoE have on crucial issues of social justice if it institutionalizes discrimination? As the writer noted, no other Province has moved ahead with WB's with caveats making them 2nd class.

The language from the conservatives about being "shoved out" and "bullied" is rather over-the-top, considering the centuries of exclusion! All that language says to me is "I want to keep my boys club, my theology for it is totally lame, I just want it." Breathe. Read about Mary Magdalene. Read those passages where Jesus speaks out against the establishment for excluding and demeaning people. Note the people with whom Jesus stands. Breathe. Remember that a lot of the misogyny comes from a pre-scientific era when they believed that male sperm was the source of life and women just a vassal.

The morality of exclusion based on medieval nonsense is perhaps more relevant, yes? The ability to address the injustice in your society with integrity and credibility is a moral issues, yes?

Clearly there's something wrong with a process that yielded a result far different from the mind of the church. That is a human process, please fix it. But don't confuse it with moral issues.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 4:27pm GMT

Please let's keep the conversation polite and not indulge in rudeness to each other.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 4:28pm GMT

To suggest that something is "immoral" is to imply that it transgresses some moral rule or code - I am not sure what rule or code is said to be applicable here. No-one is saying "let's have women as bishops in spite of what General Synod has said" - rather people are accepting the reality of that decision for the moment, and seeking to change the decision in the future using the mechanisms and rules available to them. That is not against the rules, it is playing by the rules.

I should perhaps add, in case there are those who don't know, that I am one of those responsible for the WATCH statement, and I stand by it - and I do not believe it is immoral to say in this way what I believe to be true or to campaign for what I would like to happen. I hope it helps to realise that there are human beings engaged in open discussions like this one behind documents like this.

I should perhaps add that there is a careful distinction to be made between "provision" and "provision in law". Grace rather than law was a watchword in the early church - six years ago I wrote a paper suggesting that we needed space for grace in the provision we make. I would argue that overelaborate legal drafting takes space for grace away. So does the kind of language which creates a moral distance between us.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 4:58pm GMT

"All this is deeply shabby"

And perfectly predictable.
I am truly astonished by how many people are surprised by the reality of this.

The CoE has decided with an overwhelming majority that it wants Women Bishops.
Although the GS debate seemed to focus on whether women CAN be bishops, this was not actually what the vote was about. That question has already been settled several years ago.
42 out of 44 Dioceses had already voted for a proposal that was even less generous to traditionalists than the draft Measure that was eventually voted on after 2 lots of HoB amendments.
Virtually every single person voting at General Synod said they wanted women bishops, even those who voted against them.

This is not a genuinely democratic result, this is the outcome of the tail wagging the dog.

The only question is what to do about it.

Parliament might intervene - and because the CoE is established it has every right to.
It would be much better if the CoE could sort this out before politicians force it to - but that means speed, not waiting 5 years before leisurely starting the whole debate from scratch.

Especially knowing that there is no other compromise. Whatever the traditionalists are thinking, they cannot possibly get more than had been on offer.
They can vilify WATCH for it and blame anyone under the sun they care to blame with whatever vitriolic venom they like – it will not change the reality that the proposal they have just voted down was the most generous one on offer.
Waiting 5 years is not going to change that.

And if the only prospect is another 5 years and then the same debate all over again and the same compromise rejected by the same small minority that is absolutely unwilling to give an inch while demanding more and more concessions from the majority – then it makes sense to do everything possible to sort this mess out quickly, however hasty it might seem.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 5:12pm GMT

Mark Bennet, what else would you call the vociferous appeal of your organisation for a one clause measure when you know for a fact it would lead to the unchurching of a significant minority of members of the C of E. WATCH is determined to press on with a measure offering no provision, and even when the fragments of provision were on the table, your members were divided as to whether to support it. The Churchof England has always been able to embrace diversity, but WATCH, GRAS etc want only those who comply with their views. That is akin to ethnic cleansing and discrimation, which latter you claim you are arguing against.

Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 5:18pm GMT

"there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed." -- WATCH

Absolutely spot on!
Not when some are even opposed to male bishops who support female bishops, and want to exclude such insufficiently-orthodox bishops from their midst.
Not when some want to abolish the simple courtesy -- granted to male bishops, as a matter of course -- of asking a female bishop permission for having a visiting male bishop come in and provide necessary episcopal functions.

Well put, WATCH.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 6:04pm GMT

Benedict, one of those here opposing WBs says: "We are here and here to stay, and may well ultimately prove to be a thorn in the flesh of those who would seek to oust us."

I would like to ask him and other opponents of WBs: what is your positive view of how you can work alongside those you disagree with in the next 20 years? What we tend to hear from FiF, etc is how they must be given provisions that will isolate them from the rest of the church (e.g. their own dioceses, their own bishops). The impression is given that all you really want is a walled-off area from which you are free to berate the rest of us for our sins.

It would be helpful if you could say: we cannot take part in X, Y and Z with you, but we can and will share with you in A, B and C. Is there something in sacramental assurance, for example, that means you cannot participate in non-communion services led by a woman priest or attend prayer groups together with supporters of WBs?

Posted by: magistra on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 6:52pm GMT

Erika,

I think you are arguing wrongly. It is wrong, when you don't get the result you want, even when that result is just, immediately to try to change the result or to change the system that led to the result. WRONG. I'm afraid I think this is completely elementary. People who don't think this completely elementary are adopting crude 'end-justifies-the means' principles. That does not mean that there is not a profound problem here for the C of E which must be resolved. But the starting-point for that resolution MUST NOT BE disregard of the recent vote. It must rather INCORPORATE the recent vote.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:06pm GMT

Benedict

(a) You are making no provision at present for those of us who want to see women as bishops - why is that not a problem?

(b) There is no necessary unchurching of people who do not wish to be unchurched - the unchurching happens if an enclave is created which sustains the pretence that the rest of us don't exist: this would be contrary to Catholic order, and contrary to the national character of the Church of England.

Canon A4 allows a fine distinction between the Church consecrating women and the response of people to that - what it does not allow for is people to pretend that they belong to a church which does not ordain women as priests. And in due course it will not allow for denial that they are part of a church which consecrates women. Canon A4 therefore gives room to provide for dissent, but it precludes, in my view, any structural provision for denial.

I would say that the persistent claim of opponents of women being consecrated to create a separate church to which they would belong is a huge problem, because it is not something for which the General Synod, as the Synod of a single Church, could ever properly or reasonably countenance. The only structures we can contemplate are the ones which keep us as a single church. Since this is not achievable by statutory provision, the only alternative is non-statutory provision.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:12pm GMT

Thank you WATCH. What you propose is essential given the unfolding sinful scenario. I, with the majority of watchful Anglicans, look to our Archbishop and the Archbishops' Council and The Church of England General Synod. We urge urgent action from within our beloved Church of England as it should not be necessary for outside intervention if we are to be bearers of Good News.

At the moment I sense that The Church of England spends a lot of time and money in an effort to address a supposed Secularist nation. She seems partly oblivious of the fact that she is colluding with those who delusively propagate the conditions for such a nation. The Church of England is not at present in a healthy condition for growth.

The reported situation in Bristol University CU is not new. My youngest son began reading Physics at Bristol University in 1997 and was advised to attend their meetings. He attended only one meeting and mercifully found better agendas.

God has a highlighter pen in action at the moment and I pray we may together read the writing on the wall for we have indeed been found wanting in reasonable and holy ways in our thoughts, words and deeds. Now is the acceptable time for action.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:18pm GMT

["JCF - and I'm sure that you didn't get where you are today by ignoring the "facts"!" Hmmm: my hermeneutic-of-suspicion senses snark from Father David...but I'll overlook it---mused Doctor JCF]

"I'm sure that you would not wish them to vote against the dictates of conscience - now would you?"

I would want to know if these House of Laity Members *represented themselves to their synods*, clearly, that they would NOT go along w/ their synod's vote at GS. If they didn't, I don't know how they could live w/ their consciences (OCICBW).

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:10pm GMT

John,
I understand what you're saying.
But the fact is that Parliament will not let this go.
Is it really better for the CoE to have its hands forced by Parliament or would it make more sense if it could find an internal solution?

Is saying "this is the vote, however bizarrely it came about, however morally wrong it is, however few people are happy with it, so let's go with it.. oh, and in a few weeks Parliament will force our hands" really a credible alternative?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:18pm GMT

In response to some of the nonsensical comments claiming FiF members have nothing positive to contribute to the life of the Church or simply wish to create enclaves or walls, and also in order to help out Magistra here, I note my own Church's involvement in the life of the Deanery and Diocese. We are an A B C Resolution parish, and very happily so, but worship non sacramentally at times with our neighbouring parishes, which have no resolutions and have female incumbents. We pray together too, and work together for Churches Together etc. The Diocesan is also on very good terms with us and has previously led a Lent Course. It really will not do to suggest as some have done that traditionalists do not engage with the wider life of the Church. THe scenario I have just presented is probably repeated up and down the country. Mark Bennet is thus completely out of order in making the claim that we wish to deny we belong to a church that does not ordain priests. How far, I wonder, has he gone along the road of seeking to worship together with his neighbouring resolution parish? The difference is that those we work with in the locality do not represent the extremity of views as that compressed into WATCH's recent press statement.

Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 11:35pm GMT

'WATCH'S press release is reminiscent of the kind of ideology that promotes ethnic cleansing. Talk about discrimination against minorities! '

Benedict, my husband cleared away the remains of bodies at Enniskellen, He served with the United Nations during the Bosnian conflict at Gorazde. My grandfather was in one of the first medical teams to arrive at Belsen. I'd like to reassure Benedict that the ideology behind WATCH's press release is very far removed from the ideologies of ethnic cleansing.

As far as I'm aware WATCH are very clear that they wish to resist structures that assist ghettoisation for example and would prefer everyone to be as mainstream as possible, and I've been over the minutes very carefully to check that no one has suggested any plans for torture, siege, bombing campaign, mass graves, rape as a weapon of war or even indeed any grand masterplan for ousting anyone out of the C of E at all.

We'd quite like you everyone to stay, we'd just rather have a single clause measure with provision made but not in law. We'd love for women to be fully included in all areas of the church (including the House of Bishops) sometime in the near future. And WATCH think that as the Anglican Communion has said that's ok by them, we should be getting on with it, and yes we are feeling a bit grumpy that the last decade of work done on this hasn't come to fruition.

References to ethnic cleansing, bullying etc. sound a tinsy bit like a persecution complex getting out of hand...

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 11:39pm GMT

I'm with you, Erika.

That's just obscene - it's right up there with "my country, right or wrong."

Just accept immorality? That's moral? Just be happy with injustice? That's just?

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 5:44am GMT

Benedict

In my previous parish one of our church buildings was shared with a Roman Catholic church. We had a joint Good Friday service, and joined the Roman Catholics for their vigil service on the Saturday evening at their other church building to light the paschal candle the two congregations would share in the shared building. My ordained female colleagues were welcomed (robed and invited eg to read the scriptures - once the part of Jesus in the passion) on these occasions. I attended the RC Mass in the shared building on a Tuesday morning.

We were careful not to transgress boundaries, but we pushed to the edge of what was possible. We prayed for unity, worked for unity and worked together in a needy community. So I am not talking about matters I do not understand.

We did not focus on things which were impossible for us, but we asked what was possible. And we didn't even have a code of practice. It was a remarkable experience.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 7:05am GMT

No, Lindsay Southern, traditionalists are a minority in the church, and you know very well that any single clause measure would not be acceptable to them or indeed to other reasonable minded Anglicans, which is precisely why those laity in General Synod voted the way they did. They recognised that even the scraps being offered in the last measure did not allow for the valid conscientious and theological objections of those opposed to women in the episcopate. What would you call riding roughshod over people's consciences in that way? And where now is the voice of the Holy Spirit in the aftermath of the debate? Had the measure gone through, you would have no doubt been heralding it as the work of God's Holy Spirit. Because it fell and went against the grain, the Holy Spirit was undoubtedly no longer at work. Again, your frustration is because those courageous laity failed to conform.

Posted by: Benedict on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 7:27am GMT

Benedict, Thanks for your reply. If you can work happily within your present diocese now, what is it specifically that the failed legislation wished to change that made that no longer possible? (I'm sorry if I seem ignorant here, but I find it quite hard to follow the exact details of what you find acceptable and what not). And what would you take to be acceptable provision that would not remove you completely from your current diocese (an option which does seem to me to create no-go areas)?

Posted by: magistra on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 8:07am GMT

Benedict,
I absolutely agree that FiF parishes do work together with other parishes in great harmony and this includes parishes with a female incumbent.
That is why I really and truly agree with John here too who is hoping so hard that we can all stay together.
Only that John seems to think that all the compromising has to be done by the other side and that they will just have to give a little more which will, after all, cost them nothing.
This seems to be the view from FiF and from Reform too.
And it is wrong. It is wrong because Parliament won't tolerate it and it is also wrong in principle.

I think it is by now patently obvious that this will only work if everyone compromises and if everyone makes positive contributions to the process of coming to an agreement.

I ask again - what is your contribution to the discussions we now need to have? I have heard you ask for "proper provisions" but I don't know what these might be. Where can you meet the other side and compromise? What can you give to make this work?

There was a spoof report doing the rounds on Facebook yesterday about traditionalists lobbying Parliament for proper provisions against a female monarch if primogeniture is abolished. One of the lines was that "They would not be drawn on exactly what these needs might be, nor on what form acceptable legislation might take. As one member of Preform put it, ”It’s not for us to tell you what we might think is reasonable. We’ll just keep telling you it’s not".

It is a spoof but it is indicative of the atmosphere here where traditionalists are now clubbing WATCH while completely ignoring their own responsibility in this process.

I am still hoping for a positive contribution from you.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 8:11am GMT

Mark Bennet, I made no reference to Roman catholics. I was talking about Anglican brothers and sisters, so I pose the question again. Have you or your church sought to worship and pray with the nearest Anglican resolution parish, as we have worked and prayed with our nearest parishes, who have no resolutions and female incumbents?

Posted by: Benedict on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 10:48am GMT

Benedict,

That (and David Houlding's recent piece) is the sort of stuff that needs to be made as widely known as possible. Personally, I am entirely content with it - and of course there are similar 'blurrings' between 'liberals' and 'evangelicals' at both church and personal levels. This sort of thing is entirely workable and not without mutual nourishment.

Erika,

Thanks. All best wishes for Advent and Christmas,

John.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 11:28am GMT

"It is wrong, when you don't get the result you want, even when that result is just, immediately to try to change the result or to change the system that led to the result. WRONG."

Are you saying that it is wrong to try to change an unjust system?

Or are you simply saying that there are no unjust systems?

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 2:22pm GMT

WATCH started this debate desiring a one clause measure but graciously dropped that in order to try to meet those opposed.The latter have shown that the only provision acceptable to them would be simply unacceptable to women priests- as was the archbishops amendment. We have done everything we can to meet you and you have refused - so now back to the beginning!

Jean M

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 5:25pm GMT

Erika, we made several positive contributions to the debate and each one of them, as explained in the debate at synod has been whittled away. We moved from a Third Province to TEA, special dioceses, coordinate jurisdiction, Archbishop's amendments, through to the nonsense that was put before the last synod. It is not for the donor to say how generous the gift!

Posted by: Benedict on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 5:34pm GMT

Jeremy,

don't accept the dilemma. Of course I'm not saying (2). Contrarywise, I don't accept the system is necessarily unjust. Nor I note did you and all the liberals who think like you when the Archbishops' amendment was rejected by only 6 (whatever) laity votes and overwhelmingly accepted by bishops and clergy. And even if the system is unideal, the immediate clamour to change it just because of a particular result seems to me deeply shabby.

Posted by: John on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 6:08pm GMT

Benedict this is worthy of reflection:-
http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1167938/dignity%20at%20work%20booklet.pdf

Dignity at Work Pub 2008

Chapter 1
Why do we need to take action?

1.1 It is important to stress that in our experience instances of bullying and harassment are rare within the Church. (I WONDER WHY? )
However,we are called to create a loving community that models Christian values, and any cases of bullying and harassment are unacceptable.

“The Church is required by God to foster relationships of the utmost integrity, truthfulness and trustworthiness. Abuse, harassment and bullying will not be tolerated within the Church of England. All complaints of abuse, harassment and bullying are to be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.” - House of Bishops 2001

harassment under this Act.
2.2 The legal definition of harassment - as applied to gender, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, and race and ethnic and national origin is: ‘unwanted conduct that violates people's dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.’

Examples of bullying behaviour

6. This list of behaviours is not exhaustive but gives a clear indication of the sorts of actions that constitute bullying or harassment
• removing areas of responsibility without discussion or notice
• isolating someone or deliberately ignoring or excluding them from activities
• consistently attacking someone’s professional or personal standing
• setting out to make someone appear incompetent
• persistently picking on someone in front of others
• deliberate sabotage of work or actions
• deliberately withholding information or providing incorrect information.
• overloading with work/reducing deadlines without paying attention to any protest
• displays of offensive material
• use of e-mails to reprimand, insult or otherwise inform someone of their apparent failing, either to the individual or to third parties
• repeatedly shouting or swearing in public or in private
• spreading malicious rumours to third parties
• public humiliation by constant innuendo, belittling and ‘putting down’
• personal insults and name-calling
• aggressive gestures, verbal threats and intimidation
• persistent threats about security
• making false accusations
• aggressive bodily posture or physical contact
• talking/shouting directly into someone’s face
• direct physical intimidation, violence or assault

Every 'bullet' point experienced by this poster from clergy and laity.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 9:57pm GMT

When a system produces a result that is unjust, one must accept that the system is either:

a)unjust

b)broken and in need of immediate repair

The so-called traditionalists have constantly attempted to overturn what they perceive as a a) or b). This hand-wringing is nauseating, frankly.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 6:25am GMT

To what end has Rosie Bates published her list, I wonder? If it is because I used the term 'bullying' some of what she has quoted might well apply to our current situation. I hope she is not seriously claiming that WATCH's recent press statement represents a reasonable standard of behaviour, in either its tone or content?

Posted by: Benedict on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 1:52pm GMT

Benedict - I do not think you have made your case on either the tone or content of the WATCH statement. You are entitled to state your view, of course - but please do not confuse your assertion with established truth or common opinion.

My last response to you seems to have gone missing in cyberspace - probably it was too long. Briefly, in a large parish (25,000+ people) one works with neighbours and within the deanery and seeks to build positive relationships quickly. When I was on my own with two churches and fourteen schools to look after life was somewhat brisk. I nonetheless found time to work with colleagues locally, even though they were very different from me. However, the Roman Catholics I mentioned before were not suggesting that I was engaging in ethnic cleansing, immorality, revisionism, heresy etc, which made collaboration somewhat easier.

I am personally committed to working with difference, and I have done so in practice at some personal cost - it doesn't take a law, it takes a relationship. "Distancing" language inhibits relationship. "Distancing" law inhibits relationship. "Distancing" behaviour inhibits relationship. Ordained women, particularly, have experienced a great deal of 'distancing' over the years.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 6:38pm GMT

Mark Bennet, how can you possibly talk about positive relationship in the way that you do when your organisation is now baying for a single clause measure which by its very definition militates against traditionalists and allows them not one scrap of provision or even their freedom of conscience. You know very well that even the last measure failed because laity who, although they are in favour of women bishops, could see the faultline running through the legislation. Your talk about "distancing" can be applied in your direction too.

Posted by: Benedict on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 8:21pm GMT

Benedict - I am not "baying" for anything - I am campaigning. "Baying" - your word - is another distancing word - I am pointing out that I have personally be committed to reducing the distance - dishonesty is not the way to do it. Rhetoric is no substitute for relationship - and based on your assertions, you know this as well as I do. I am pointing out that I have worked with difference in the hope that you might respond. You seem somewhat bemused, but you seem to want to push me (personally) to the margin, because my story challenges your narrative. Welcome to the incarnation! (Christmas is nearly here - Advent is a hard season, maybe there is work to do - maybe for me, maybe for you.)

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Friday, 7 December 2012 at 10:37pm GMT

'To what end has Rosie Bates published her list, I wonder? If it is because I used the term 'bullying' some of what she has quoted might well apply to our current situation. I hope she is not seriously claiming that WATCH's recent press statement represents a reasonable standard of behaviour, in either its tone or content?'

Benedict,

I posted this comment to highlight the genuine cases of bullying I and other women experienced for over twenty years. Whilst I was training women, several wounded women came to our parish in order to recover and gain strength again. They were humble good ministers and certainly would not be described as feminists. They were always extremely gracious to those who found their orders problematic. They were effective ministers to every member of the congregation and this was noted by the whole congregation. I knew how to help pick up the pieces within community because I had suffered from the list I posted. I cannot publish the details of one woman's journey but I do believe you would find compassion in your heart if I did. Wholesale abuse of devastating depth. This woman is now a Dean in another country.

Most of us have tried to put sad and disgraceful events behind us and learn to forgive. What has happened recently has had the effect of slapping us in the face with our sacrifices and deference to what was a difficult journey for many men and women. We were mostly sympathetic to our opponents and respected their consciences and remain respectful in reasonable circumstances.

We have arrived at a non negotiable situation now and Yes, I do believe WATCH are adopting a reasonable standard of behaviour. I wish I did not have to say this but we are left with absolutely no choice under God. I am genuinely sorry if this offends you and ask you to re-consider your position as I have no wish to leave anyone open to taint or discrimination. Neither do I believe this would be possible in what we hope for under God and the ordering The Church of England, for which there will be unencumbered space for all of us. Why do you doubt this so much?

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Saturday, 8 December 2012 at 9:15pm GMT
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