Thursday, 28 February 2013

Women Bishops Consultation - response by Jonathan Clatworthy

Another excellent response to the consultation (which has a deadline of today “if possible”) comes from Jonathan Clatworthy.

See How we argue about women bishops.

This is a personal statement but the main points aim to express the theological tradition of Modern Church, which has supported the ordination of women since the 1920s. I support a simple measure which removes the obstacles to the consecration of women on exactly the same terms as men.

The focus is on how to handle the theological disagreements.

No legislation will last long unless it is both self-consistent and theologically coherent. Legislation containing contradictions will fail the test of time, however strong the short-term pressure for fudge.

Currently there is no genuine theological debate between the two sides. This is partly because of the polarisation of views, but also largely because there is no agreement on how to do our theological disagreeing. It is an epistemological issue rather than a theological one…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 11:41am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Jonathan Clatworthy said, "Perhaps we should follow the lead of TEC and stop appointing [bishops] for a while."

What "lead" is this?

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 12:09pm GMT

What a brilliant essay!
My only concern would be that hardline evangelicals already complain that there is no bishop who supports their theology. For Jonathan's proposal to work there would at all times have to be at least one Anglo-Catholic and one Evangelical opponent of women's ordination in at least one of the Dioceses.

Otherwise we're saying "if you can't find a suitable bishop, tough luck", which I don't think would be acceptable and would not be voted through.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 12:40pm GMT

The essay is indeed awesome (awesome being the American version of brilliant). He lays out the theological differences clearly and honestly.

I would say that there is still hope for the seemingly entrenched "dogma" types. In Bible study, there is much to find that supports human rights, dignity for women, justice, compassion, and revelation.

I don't recall TEC suspending the appointment of bishops, so I can't shed any light. Maybe I wasn't paying attention, or it was before my time.

I wonder if some situations wouldn't be alleviated if bishops and rectors (vicars) were elected. I suspect that in the case of bishops, they would be a bit more liberal and better spoken than some of the current lot. But at the parish level, parishioners would get a person most likely to fill their needs. If a conservative hardliner was imposed on any parish I've attended, it would clear the pews in an instant.

For what it's worth, I note that there are Anglo-Catholic parishes in TEC that are quite liberal. That may be an oxymoron in the UK, but in our case the liturgy and sacraments are absolutely everything, and we believe them to be more than valid when administered by amazing women priests, men ordained by women, etc. Our God is a generous God.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 5:26pm GMT

The Episcopal Church did suspend the election of bishops for a while after the Windsor Report was published.

The account here ( says, "The Anglican Communion recommended that the Episcopal Church refuse to approve the ordination of bishops in same-sex relationships in the future.

"Instead, the U.S. House of Bishops voted in March 2005 to suspend the ordination of any new bishops, gay or straight, for one year, until the 2006 General Convention."

Posted by: jnwall on Thursday, 28 February 2013 at 7:16pm GMT

It seems to me that the trouble with this characterization of the divide is that it sets up false images of the two epistemologies.

It does not seem to me that the "dogmatic" view will refuse all discussion: giving a high place to revelation does not preclude trying to work out what it means. This is what the debates of the Early Church were all about, and what kept the scholastics busy (so it's not a product of extreme Protestantism).

Nor does "classic Anglicanism" say that everything is up for grabs based on dialogue, as if it is not based on anything. Surely the classic Anglican approach is an effort to combine Scripture, Tradition (two forms of Revelation) and Reason. The "classic Anglican" would not hold that "every theological conviction is open to debate" (12th para.) for surely Anglicans have always held to the faith expressed in the historic Creeds (without even getting started on the 39 Articles).

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 2:56pm GMT

In 10-20 years there will be women bishops who will be of sufficient seniority to be considered for either arch bishopric. So far as I can see, no one is discussing the implications of this for current legislation. Unless the CofE decides to operate a glass ceiling for women ( which on current form would be no surprise), I don't see that any guarantees for male supremacy can be made to conservative evangelicals. The only answer for that and sacramental assurance appears to be a third province, which would not be acceptable to the vast majority of WB supporters. Impasse...

Posted by: Helen on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 5:59pm GMT

Epistemological? Interesting.

I have just read this thread after posting on the Threlfall thread:

"The Liberal Christians will allow a modern secular utilitarian ethics to trump classical understandings; the more conservative Christians will not, resting as in former times on Scripture, (Tradition and Reason) where Reason is grounded in "Natural Law" as developed in Scholasticism.

The Conservative Christian ethics tend to be deontological, the liberal consequential.

This a makes resolution of differences difficult because each is playing by different rules."

Another way of saying the same thing, I think.

Posted by: Labarum on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 7:35pm GMT

Reading more of this thread, I agree with Bernard: the classic Anglican view rests with conservative pole *tending* to the deontological, and rooted in Scripture, Tradition and Reason. The pole that feeds off modern secular values is consequential, and that means resting on a modern subjective appreciation of what constitutes *good*. What do you call that? Liberal-Modern, certainly not Classic Anglican.

Posted by: Labarum on Friday, 1 March 2013 at 8:07pm GMT


Charles Gore and the Second Oxford Movement would like a word...

Seriously, I'm a Lux Mundi- inspired Anglo-catholic liturgical traditionalist creedal Christian who believes in gender equality, including in ministry, and same sex marriage because of the Gospel, not because of consequentialist logic.

Please don't assume that Anglicanism or the Faith is inherently conservative; it puts God into a very small box.

Posted by: John Wirenius on Saturday, 2 March 2013 at 12:16am GMT

John Wirenius. Bravo for your proclamation that not all Anglo-Catholics are anti-Women or anti-Gay. The Gospel seems to be more served by inclusivity than stand-offishness because of ritual purity demands.
Surely that better represents 'catholic' integrity.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 2 March 2013 at 1:43am GMT

Most of the theological references here remind me that human beings are better at creating God in our image than we are at seeing the image of God in all people.

It doesn't matter how fancy one dresses the discrimination. At the end of the day it means that one group is lifting itself as superior to another, claiming to be more equal and more loved by God. I.e. in this case men over women.

Somehow, I can't reconcile discrimination with the life and teachings of Jesus.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 12:38am GMT

Many thanks, Father Ron, and Cynthia, I couldn't agree more

Posted by: John Wirenius on Sunday, 3 March 2013 at 2:24pm GMT

The call for justice derives from a deontological ethic, and natural law is largely teleological.

We need to be addressing the substance of the theological divide and not its form. And to coopt one school of ethics as distinctively Anglican is to miss the very wide array of ethical thought within our heritage. Hooker, for instance, offers a distinctly teleological argument for why women are valid ministers of baptism (contra the Puritans) -- and his argument could be extended to ordained ministry with very little effort.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 4 March 2013 at 2:55pm GMT
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