Friday, 8 March 2013

Women Bishops - ten minute rule bill

Diana Johnson MP will introduce a bill into the House of Commons on 13 March under the ten-minute rule to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

Wikipedia has this explanation of the Ten Minute Rule.

The debate is scheduled to start at about 12.30 pm, immediately following Prime Minster’s Questions. It can be watched live on BBC Parliament and on Parliament TV.

WATCH has issued this press release.

Parliament to debate women in the episcopate: Diana Johnson MP introduces bill next Wednesday.

On Wednesday 13th March Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull, will introduce a bill under the ten-minute rule that would enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. In this way she will remind the Church of England that it lies within Parliament’s power to legislate for this, if the Church cannot do so quickly and in a way that is acceptable to Parliament.

After the disastrous vote last November when General Synod failed to support women bishops legislation, bishops were called to Westminster to explain to MPs how they planned to bring a speedy resolution to the problems this vote had caused. A House of Bishops Working Group has now consulted widely, and from the responses to the consultation that have been made public it appears that there is even less common ground than before between those in favour and those against women bishops. Nevertheless WATCH remains committed to the Church of England’s process of reconciliation and continuing conversations.

WATCH believes that Diana Johnson’s bill is timely in reminding the Working Group, and the House of Bishops, that legislation for women to be bishops must be passed by the Synod sooner rather than later, and in a form that allows no discrimination against women.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 12:07pm GMT | TrackBack
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As I understand it, ten minute bills that are granted a second reading are usually opposed by the government at that stage, but David Cameron and other prominent members of all parties were among those most dismayed by the November vote. It will be interesting to see their response if it gets that far.
Of course, when the new, liberal-leaning fifty-something Pope is elected in the next few weeks and immediately announces that women are to be ordained, gay people are to be welcomed into his church and priests no longer have to be celibate; at least half of the Anglican opponents of WB will be left in limbo. (I can dream, can't I?)

Posted by: Stephen on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 1:48pm GMT

Nice one, stephen ! Why should not right be done and the truth of the heart prevail - harming none - helping all.

I am very glad to see our great Parliament actively engaging in the needs of our national Church and her parishoners.

I hope they will intervene for marriage in church equality when the time is ripe.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 3:29pm GMT

Isn't it desperately sad to be grateful for this plan 'B'? Realistically, it is looking likely that it will be needed and at the very least the pressure of it upon our leaders.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 10:08pm GMT

Establishment: them that pay the piper call the tune?

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 8 March 2013 at 10:24pm GMT

Today is the International Day of the Woman.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 2:08am GMT

Wouldn't it be really amazing if the UK Government were to pre-empt the dilatory inaction of the Church of England bishops by imposing a 'settlement' of its own? But then, I suppose, there could always be the possibility of intervention by the Monarch - who is, herself, female, and a significant Leader among the nations of the world, as well as of the C.of E.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 10:47am GMT

Fr Ron,

Whilst I believe God uses various channels in order to enable justice - I do not believe it would be wonderful for this issue to be settled by Parliamentary intervention as such a result would cause great sorrow and lack of faith in the Church of England and her attitude to so many fundamental issues. Our spiritual and moral authority would be very undermined - albeit that many of those parliamentarians in favour of the episcopacy of women are arguing from a Christian perspective. It seems imperative to me that ALL concerned with General Synod look at our collective DNA -immediately and with a greater sense of urgency. Parliament may indeed point us to the urgent need to settle this matter. However, I pray they will not have the final decisive voice as this would cause us to inherit further problems - too scary to even contemplate for this weary pilgrim.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 2:58pm GMT

As an American, this intervention by Parliament makes me wince. As much as I believe that the Gospel of Jesus calls for love and total inclusion, it would be better if it came through the church.

I guess this reveals that being the "established church," with strong representation in the House of Lords, etc., that there is an imperative to minister to ALL the people. All the people of the UK, even the non church goers.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 3:38pm GMT

As I understand it, Rosie, Parliament always has the final say - or rather the Queen in Parliament does. The CoE is "By law established". Synod decisions have to go through parliament to become law. I'm not sure what the conventions are about Parliament rather than Synod initiating legislation but ever since the CoE began, it's been subject to the state. It might even be that more direct control by Parliament would remind us all that the CoE exists for the people of England, not those on the electoral roll, those in the Anglican Communion or those who share certain beliefs.

Posted by: Will Douglas Barton on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 6:24pm GMT

Rosie, I think the pressing point is that 'we' don't have a lot of 'spiritual and moral authority' left (I'm not sure I'd want it anyway!) especially after the November farce. And Cynthia is correct, if we fancy ourselves in the C of E as the 'established church' then we have to take note of the wishes of the people and of Parliament; and cannot go on behaving like members of some private club.

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 6:59pm GMT

Rosie: 'Isn't it desperately sad to be grateful for this plan 'B'?'

I don't think it is. If we get women bishops _and_ our elected Parliament once more starts living up to its responsibility to oversee our Church, I for one will consider that a double cause for celebration, and rather an improvement over the "plan A" we had in November.

Posted by: Feria on Saturday, 9 March 2013 at 10:57pm GMT

Fr Ron
Bring back 'Cuius regio eius religio' that's what I say!

Posted by: ian on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 3:54am GMT

If Parliament were to lead on this, and to enact a single-clause measure, then there would be heavy pressure on the Crown Nominations Commission to nominate a woman bishop reasonably soon--say, within a year of enactment.

I doubt the CNC would wait until the CofE sorts out any provision arrangement.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 11:11am GMT

Might this not be a case of "be careful what you wish for." Since the Church Assembly was established, the House of Commons has generally restrained itself from anticipating the Church of England.

The obvious exception, the rejection of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer for its ritualist leanings, prompted Bishop Hensley Henson to abandon his previous commitment to the establishment. Henson did so not because he approved of the revised BCP - it was hardly his cup of tea - but because the parliamentary vote struck at the heart of the principle of self-governance. It's all the more ironic because he was never very impressed by the Church Assembly, seing it as one of William Temple's fads.

If the Commons can act on this matter, it can act on anything. Just imagine if Margaret Thatcher had adopted less of a hands-off approach to the Church of England, than she did (apart perhaps from George Carey's appointment). It's not a road of any of us - liberal or conservative - should want to go down.

Posted by: Jeremy Bonner on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 5:08pm GMT

On roads down which we might or might not wish to go: either we are established, the church is part of the state and the will of the people is enacted through parliament, or we are disestablished and become essentially a membership organisation and elect our bishops and the synod on one-member-one-vote or we carry on as we have done over the last century in a kind of ineffable vagueness. Either of the first two options lead to women bishops and gay marriage because the house of commons is closer to the people and the people are closer to the Holy Spirit than Synod is to either. Staying as we are leads to the continued frustration of the clear will of the people and the Holy Spirit by small organised reactionary groupings and the further narginalisation of the CoE in the life of the nation. Vox populi vox Dei.

Posted by: Will Douglas Barton on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 7:46pm GMT

Parliament had significant influence in the shape of what happened in 1992/3 (Act of Synod). Parliament has changed since then. This has implications for the Church - but having bought into the pact in 1992/3, those who now cry against parliament have to prove their case.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Sunday, 10 March 2013 at 9:19pm GMT

Mr Barton verges on heresy in his suggestion that the Holy Spirit can be 'owned' by one group or another. The Holy Spirit blows where he wills and it is not for us to determine that decisions are 'wrong' simply because they have not gone our way. This is what has been so sickening about the aftermath of November's vote. Had it been six votes the other way, the mantra would have been that the Holy Spirit has acted decisively etc. In fact, all we have heard is about society and how it must now regard the church, that we are viewed as out of touch, blah blah blah. What about the will of the Holy Spirit? Could it not have been exercised, even in those six votes? God's ways, apparently, are not ours.

Posted by: Benedict on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 8:25am GMT

I have no problems with people evoking the Holy Spirit for their views - after all, it's what we all do, including you.
If you took your own argument seriously you would all have accepted women priests in 1994.

We all genuinely believe that God guides us to a certain position on contentious topics. That's precisely why we try so hard to keep everyone in the church together - because we recognise that those who think differently are also sincerely trying to follow their discernment of God's will.

If I thought you were motivated only by your own personal preference, I would not be one little bit inclined to support any provisions.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 9:22am GMT

Sorry, Benedict, but if a vote indicates the will of the 'Holy Spirit;' how come such a stubborn minority felt able to ignore a two-thirds majority in all three houses in 1991? You cannot have it both ways!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 10:50am GMT

Consider: "The Holy Spirit blows where SHE wills."

The idea that the Holy Spirit is male and that all references to God in all forms is male is a fundamental problem. There is much feminine imagery of God in the Bible. The Wisdom literature comes especially to mind.

One doesn't have to think of inclusive language as a modern invention. It is in the some of our ancient texts. What's new is how to acknowledge it in gendered language. We've learned that grammar is not gender neutral.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 11:39am GMT

I think this has become inevitable and necessary given the same old statements but those opposed, it is all very sad, but a problem of our own making. I speak as a member of the House of laity at General Synod.

Posted by: Stephen on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 12:29pm GMT

Mr Morgan, the Act of Synod was/is NOT about ignoring the will of the majority. General Synod itself implemented it after discussion, so it is a rereading of history to suggest it was down to a stubborn minority.

Posted by: Benedict on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 7:42pm GMT

I don't think I said anyone owned the Holy Spirit, merely that the common people are closer to Her than the synod is.

Didn't the Man In Sandals get accused of heresy?

Posted by: Will Douglas Barton on Monday, 11 March 2013 at 10:57pm GMT

I'm reading an excellent book offering 'psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives' on 'engaging with climate change'. Ed. Sally Weintrobe; Routledge, 2013. It's got some really good stuff on 'what history can teach us about denial', 'the problem of anxiety', 'perverse culture', 'the myth of apathy', 'unconscious obstacles', 'restoring split internal lanscapes' and 'uncertainty and risk'. Who's up for writing the parallel text on the CofE and Women as Bishops? I'd buy it.

Posted by: RichardHopper on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 7:09am GMT

"Verges on heresy", Mr Barton, is not accusing you of it but simply suggesting that what you say may be bordering on it. There is a difference. Nevertheless, how would you justify the claim that the majority are closer to the will of the Holy Spirit unless you are preempting what His will may be?

Posted by: Benedict on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 7:47am GMT

don't we in all honesty have to accept that none of us will ever know if our decisions are close to the will of the Holy Spirit?
There is nothing wrong with believing them to do so, but there is actually no objective way of knowing.
If there was, we wouldn't have to have all those difficult discernment processes in the first place.

To accuse someone's thoughts to be verging on heresy achieves absolutely nothing other than confirm that you disagree with them strongly.
It would be really helpful if none of us used the poor Spirit as a weapon against the others.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 9:26am GMT

Erika, I agree with you only to the extent that, as a traditionalist, I am fed up with being told that the advent of women bishops is the will and work of the Holy Spirit without being able to call that view into question. The outpouring of invective after November's vote was symptomatic of such excesses, as were Mr Barton's comments.

Posted by: Benedict on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 10:49am GMT

Benedict, MLK said that the "moral arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends towards justice." God created us all in HER image and so the end result of this arc is dignity. justice, compassion, and mercy for each member of her creation. She has called women to the ministry, she has called women to leadership.

I don't know how the Holy Spirit wants us to get from Point A, the current position that is fundamentally disrespectful to some of Gods own, to Point B, the place of respect and love for ALL. Apparently, she leaves that for us to work out. Perhaps she inspired that MP because the nudge from Parliament seems necessary.

If one unpacks what an anti WO position actually means, it is quite unkind. Each woman in ordained ministry was following a delusion? Every member of her discernment group, male and female, were what, idiots or something? It is so fundamentally disrespectful that it is hard to believe that it is the will of our loving Creator.

More honest would be that the anti WO people just can't deal with the change, regardless of whether it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. I find that honest and human. I deeply believe that there needs to be a place for these people and that the church should minister to them as best as possible. That would not mean including institutional discrimination in the general polity.

God has called women, as well as men, to be her hands and feet in an ailing world. Jesus told us we can tell true prophets from false ones by the fruits of their labour. What are the fruits of inclusion of women? The lifting up of half the population, most especially girls from humiliation and degradation. What real harm comes to the "traditionalists?" I guess that the dismantling of the boys club is distressing to some of the boys, but the goal is the New Jerusalem, and that's far better.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 4:25pm GMT

Too much fanciful and self-indulgent talk about 'the guidance of the Holy Spirit'.

We can only say our prayers, do our best and take responsibility for actions. No need to make high-flown claims with purple prose.

We can see the churches are in a great mess as are the lives of many individual Christians (and others). So what does (or may) faithfulness mean / be in these situations?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 5:26pm GMT

Amen to Laurence! Let's please stop using the 'Holy Spirit' as yet another smokescreen for bigotry and prejudice. I was present at General Synod when the necessary two-thirds majority in all three houses was passed in favour of the ordination of women. The opponents of that vote LOST. In any other organisation, that would have been that. Only in the C of E have the minority been able and allowed to behave as if they have not lost the vote, and to carry on as if women were not ordained ministers. And to continue to insist on special provisions with regard to themselves. The Act of Synod that resulted was and remains a disgrace and an insult to all women in ministry. I have spent much of the last twenty years trying to explain to friends not in the church how such a situation could have come about. The same friends have recently been asking how another measure backed by 42 out of 44 dioceses can be defeated in General Synod?

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Tuesday, 12 March 2013 at 6:35pm GMT

If it's of any interest,the New Testament only ever uses masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Philip on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 10:16am GMT

"If it's of any interest,the New Testament only ever uses masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit."

In which language/s?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 11:39am GMT

Diana Johnson has just presented her bill, which was passed for second reading on Friday May 3rd. There was only one opposer, Edward Leigh (Con.) who is not a member of the Church of England, but was worried that Parliament should not be making their decisions for them, and that they should be left to make up their own minds!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 1:10pm GMT

"If it's of any interest,the New Testament only ever uses masculine pronouns to refer to the Holy Spirit."

"In which language/s?"

In the original Greek.

Posted by: Philip on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 1:58pm GMT

Phillip, according to my learning, Greek, like English, uses the masculine for the generic. My understanding is that English and Greek don't have the French "on" (we have "one" but we don't use it extensively).

Anything unknown or generic would end up as "he" without necessarily actually being masculine. Thus it is grammar and not a theological statement. That's what I was taught. I am not expert in Koine, it was an overview.

Having just gotten back from visiting family and sitting through a Divine Liturgy (Greek Orthodox) and a stewardship presentation, I have maxed out my personal quota of patience for this gendered stuff. All altar boys, all 4 stewardship speakers male, and one who pointed out the up and coming youth leaders named Nick, Costas, and Nate - i.e. no girls. Grammar or no, we are talking about a highly patriarchal culture.

And there is that Divine Wisdom tradition of Sophia, with tons of female imagery. I thought that Holy Sophia was often taken as our Holy Spirit. Thus a significant tradition of female imagery.

It's not my profession, so I don't have it all at my fingertips anymore. It just struck me at the time as remarkable that there was so much female imagery. One wouldn't know it by what one hears in church, would one?

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 3:41pm GMT

thank you.
So is this no longer the same Ruach of the Old Testament where the grammatical gender of the Hebrew word is feminine?

I am deeply concerned by the implication that because words have different grammatical genders in different languages, the concepts they represent ought to be interpreted as having that same biological gender.

This is maybe not such a problem for people whose language also includes a neutral gender for concepts that are, in reality, clearly male or female - like the grammatical neuter for Mädchen, girl, in German.
But it becomes an issue when people grow up with the idea that the persons of the Trinity are human-like biological males and when they then infer a superior status for human males from that.

I used to think it was unnecessary to refer to God and the Spirit as “she” because it was so obvious that any gender assigned to them was only the grammatical masculine or feminine, not the biological male or female.
It appears that English speaking people really struggle with that concept and that the idea of a male God and a male Spirit is far too deeply engrained.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 3:53pm GMT

Might I ask Cynthia where in the Bible there is any reference to God using either the subject 'she' or pronoun 'her'? And why do we read those words from Jesus, 'Abba, Father'? What form of revisionism will you use to justify a rewriting of scripture in this way I wonder?

Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 11:54pm GMT

Images of the feminine are pretty explicit, Benedict, in the New Testament scriptures, and Jesus seems to have bent over backwards to try to re-educate the patriarchal Church about women.

One only needs refer to the saying of Jesus which describes his wishing he were like mother Hen, so that He could gather God's chickens under HisHer wings - That's pretty feminine for a start!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 9:02am GMT

Off the top of my head:

2nd Genesis - God created male and female in his image. The "his" is grammar and not literal.

Proverbs 1-9. Wisdom of Soloman (Apocrypha).

And because I'm too lazy to go down to the basement and get out my books on the topic, I resorted to Google:

And there's the whole Holy Wisdom tradition (which Proverbs and the Wisdom of Soloman is part of).

There's a ton of feminine references, Benedict. The question isn't where is it? The question is why has it been excluded from church?

A lot of scholars have worked on this, I recommend doing some reading. Getting it from me is a second hand source, but that's never as good as the sources themselves. Many of the writers are from our Ivy League schools. I love my OxBridge friends, but we have a lot of great Biblical scholarship going on over here.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 3:21pm GMT

Benedict, this really is a fundamental issue, isn't it? If you believe that grammar is literal truth, it is a problem to visualize anything outside that box.

If one is functionally multi-lingual, the concept of gender as grammar vs. literal truth really changes the equations.

If one believes the Bible to be literal truth, regardless of the foibles of grammar and its own inconsistencies, that would be another stumbling block to seeing outside of a very narrow box. Especially if you edit out the feminine references, as the church has done.

If one takes the big picture of the stories of our relationship with our Creator, the overwhelming call for justice and compassion, combined with the beautiful use of metaphor and imagery, the box gets considerably larger.

The box has been defined and dictated by culture and power interests over a long period of time. Fortunately, we can look at the box with fresh eyes. We can understand the boundaries of cultures and power over time. We can understand that we are better at creating God in our image than seeing each person as created in the image of God.

God is much, much larger than we can imagine. And certainly larger than the old box. Thanks be to God!

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 14 March 2013 at 5:03pm GMT

In _Theory of Probability_, Harold Jeffreys analysed the correlation between the gender assigned to objects in Freudian psychoanalysis and their grammatical gender in each of several languages. I don't have a copy of the book to hand to check the details, but IIRC, he found a statistically significant positive correlation in French and Latin, but not in German. He didn't analyse Hebrew or Greek, but it should be possible in principle to apply his method to those languages. Of course, it's not entirely clear that the result would have any bearing on either the theological or the practical issues with which we're really concerned here.

Posted by: Feria on Saturday, 16 March 2013 at 11:17pm GMT
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