Monday, 3 June 2013

Catholic Group in General Synod responds to plans for women bishops

Updated Thursday 6 June

The Church Times is reporting: Traditionalists saddened by latest women-bishop proposals. The traditionalists referred to are the Catholic Group in General Synod.

THE House of Bishops preference for the provision of women bishops, “option one” (News, 31 May), has been severely criticised by the Catholic Group in General Synod as a “step backwards”.

In the first detailed traditionalist response, the group’s chairman, Canon Simon Killwick, says that they are “saddened” by the Bishops’ preference, accusing them of “closing down debate before it has started”.

The statement is not yet on the Group’s own website, but can be read at the end of the Church Times article.


The Group has now sent us a copy of their statement and this is copied below the fold.

Statement on behalf of the Catholic Group in General Synod


We welcome the report of the Working Party set up by the House of Bishops (annexed to GS 1886) as a significant step forward towards legislation for women bishops in the Church of England.

The Church of England needs a settlement which will provide both for women bishops, and for those who are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops, on grounds of theological conviction – convictions which are supported by Holy Scripture, and the consensus of the wider Church. We recognise in the five propositions in the report, taken together, the possible basis for a settlement - with the exception of the reference to canonical obedience.

What is needed now is the building of a sufficiently large consensus behind legislative proposals that they are capable of comfortably receiving the necessary two-thirds majorities in all three Houses of the Synod.

We are saddened by the selection of option one (the simplest possible legislation) by the House of Bishops at this early stage. This feels like a step backwards in the process, closing down debate before it has started, and rendering facilitated conversations between Synod members pointless. Option one will not help to achieve a consensus; it will not create legislation capable of achieving the required majorities. It would tear up the current settlement over women priests, and replace it with arrangements which no one would be obliged to follow. The effects would be felt most by the laity, who would not only lose their existing legal rights, but could also be open to legal challenge under the Equality Act. Option one would unbalance the five propositions, giving most weight to the first two, and less weight to the other three.

The option preferred by the bishops relies simply on trust to provide for those who cannot accept the ministry of women bishops and priests. We regulate other areas of church life in great detail by law – measures, canons and regulations – and we see no justification for abandoning that approach in relation to one of the most controversial areas of our church life. Were option one to be accepted, we would be in the strange situation that who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist would be governed by grace and trust, while who administers Holy Communion would be determined by regulations made under canon.

We believe that the way forward lies in holding together all of the five propositions, without giving any of them more prominence than the others. The retention of Resolutions A and B from the current settlement would provide the essential underpinning for any future arrangements to honour the last three propositions; the arrangements need to be secure, and not dependent on the discretionary decisions of individual bishops, clergy, PCCs, patrons and parish representatives. Further consideration still needs to be given to issues concerning the jurisdiction of diocesan bishops, and oaths of canonical obedience – consideration which had the support of majorities of the General Synod and the Revision Committee at different times in the past.

We will continue to reflect and pray, and consult with others, before deciding what amendments to propose to the Synod in July, in order to move the process forwards and build consensus.

Canon Simon Killwick
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 3 June 2013 at 3:01pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Er... good, on average? Bring on the clear decision and be done with it.

I had to laugh at two of the phrases though:
1) "is set within a broader process of discernment" - great excuse, now what does it mean?
2) "will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures" - now there's a vacuous promise if ever there was ;)

Posted by: Tim on Monday, 3 June 2013 at 4:48pm BST

Yes, well, I'm saddened that the religious "traditionalists" have not yet realized that their position has caused centuries of undue suffering. It leaves women (and often their children) perpetually in the inferior position, leaving us and our sisters extremely vulnerable to violence, oppression, economic degradation, and myriad other sufferings.

At the UN conference on women, a number of speakers, notably one from Senegal if you want to look her up, specifically noted the contribution of the church to the oppression of women in Africa.

The fruits of misogyny are awful. I support pastoral arrangements, but not policies that makes WB's inferior to MB's.

Of course, for some of the Anglo-Catholics, the "problem" is the sacraments, such as women ordaining new clergy. I am Anglo-Catholic (with a Greek Orthodox background). I can assure them that the sacraments are just as potent when administered by women. It is God our Creator who is present in the sacraments, and she is not conjured up exclusively by men... She works through those she's called, and she has called women. These guys are saying no to God, and creating a lot of suffering in the process.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 3 June 2013 at 7:26pm BST

The CofE is lining itself up to fight two unwinnable battles, with no clear idea of what the war is about. On one front, it is going to be in the vanguard in the House of Lords of attacks on same-sex marriage. On the other front, it wants to fight a last-ditch battle against a monstrous regiment of women who dare to seek parity with men.

Both battles are futile. The CofE does not enjoy majority support amongst its own members on either issues, still less amongst its clergy and leadership, still less amongst the population at large. Governments have stopped listening to the CofE, other than out of vague politeness, and will railroad any required changes through whatever the church says. In the case of women bishops it's possible that the church could escape legislative imposition, but at the cost of ending up with the same influence on society and government as your local model railway society has. In the case of same-sex marriage, the outcome is inevitable and the CofE's scorched earth policy will achieve nothing but a generation of internal and external argument.

What isn't at all clear is why the CofE is fighting these battles at all. Outside a small minority of irreconcilables, for whom no compromise will be enough, neither same-sex marriage nor women bishops are major theological, moral or ethical problems for the membership. On women bishops, most of the people likely to depart for the Catholic Church have done so already, and the loss of the remaining few would be no great loss. The Anglican Ordinariate is hardly a major force. On same sex marriage, no one is going to leave a church which won't be celebrating them to join one that also doesn't celebrate them.

All the CofE will achieve by fighting these battles is make itself look elderly bigoted and stupid. On stage last night, Billy Bragg, a man firmly of the atheist left, praised Christian involvement in charity, and remarked that far more people doing real work to alleviate poverty were doing so because of Jesus than because of Marx, and how that had caused him to seriously reconsider his attitude to religion. That's what matters.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 3 June 2013 at 7:54pm BST

The so-called 'Catholic group' underwhelms me big time. I really can't be bothered with all the double-talk with the side order of special pleading; and garnished with silliness.

And I have come from an anglo-papalist background myself :(S.Stephen, Grove St., Liverpool;S.John, Tuebrook; S.Paul, Brighton) -- A sense of humour has proved indispensable ! But how women and lgbt are treated has not been lost on me down the years.

If the 'Catholic group' have lost me, they could lose anyone !

Posted by: Laurence on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 7:09am BST

I read the 3 comments available so far with some amusement envisaging a child poking its tongue out from behind its mother's skirts. It would be good to see some constructive comments from people who have properly read the Catholic Group's statement and have taken on board the compromise offered by traditional Catholics in the Church of England, none of whom actually opposes women bishops per se.

Posted by: Jill Armstead on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 7:46am BST

'the compromise offered by traditional Catholics in the Church of England, none of whom actually opposes women bishops per se.'

So very generous of them !

And if they do no oppose women as bishops (news to me) what IS this all about ? I just can't respect 'the Catholic' group that much, when I think of most of the recent PEVs tucked up as monsignori in Rome etc.

See my previous comment.

Posted by: Laurence on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 8:26am BST

Why is that certain individuals and groups in the Church think that they can hijack words in order to exclude others?

One result is that no one can really any longer describe themselves as 'Christian' because the word now comes with connotations of homophobia, misogyny, patriarchy and general self righteous bigotry.

And secondly the 'Catholic Group' only includes those opposed to the ordination of women and the consecration of them as bishops. And yet as we know, there are large numbers of us who would call ourselves 'catholic' who fully believe that women should play their part as ordained priests and ministers alongside men and refuse to enter the ghetto of opposition.

It's probably too late to stop this now but to those who have appropriated the words 'Christian' and 'Catholic' to themselves I would say 'not in my name'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 10:55am BST

It seems to me that the 'Catholic Group' is not in a strong position here. They have set out their stall, the problem is there’s nothing on it for anyone else.

If Synod now passes a single clause measure presumably they will feel they have no choice but to seek alternative ecclesial arrangements for themselves with separate bishops. But the deal they want in order to stay would mean precisely the same - alternative ecclesial arrangements with separate bishops. Identical result, just messier, more embarrassing and more inconvenient for the rest of us.

And what would be the point? The 'gift' of the catholic wing to the Church in the past has been to model a catholic ecclesiology but the new arrangements would be so bizzarely uncatholic as to be unrecognisable anywhere else in Christendom. For those like myself who want a ‘broad church’ this would weaken not strengthen the catholic identity and self understanding of the Church of England.

Paradoxically a single clause measure is probably the best way to keep the greatest number of people on board. If we create arrangements of the kind the ‘Catholic Group’ wants presumably most of them will disappear into those arrangements and be lost to us. With a single clause measure some will leave but not nearly so many as it’s obviously a much bigger step. That gives the Church of England a period of grace to put in place appropriate pastoral arrangements for them, and for them to try them out and hopefully find them workable. We could then put this whole idiot business behind us and get on with something resembling mission.

Posted by: Jane Charman on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 12:22pm BST

Jane, can I ask what provisions you think are appropriate and possible with the single clause? With the single clause and getting rid of the Resolutions I can see the future vestry of a church that constantly chooses male priests being sued for discrimination or the next time an evangelical bishop is chosen, another public/liberal backlash demanding him out of the post. I don't see any way to make provisions that work.

Posted by: Chris H. on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 3:37pm BST
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