Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Affirming Catholicism responds to plans for women bishops

Affirming Catholicism has today welcomed the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886. There is this brief press staement

The Board of Affirming Catholicism issues a strong welcome for the House of Bishops new legislative proposals to admit Women in the Episcopate of the Church of England (GS1886): simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality - and support for Option One.

and an accompanying paper setting out their views in detail. This is copied below.

Affirming Catholicism
Statement on the new Legislative Proposals to admit Women in the Episcopate of the Church of England (GS 1886)

Affirming Catholicism welcomes the publication of the new Legislative Proposals to admit Women in the Episcopate of the Church of England and the associated Report from the House of Bishops
(GS 1886).

We believe that the five elements of the underlying vision (laid out in § 24 of the proposals), as amended by the House of Bishops (presented at § 12 of their report), offer a very good basis for the drafting of new legislation:

  • Once legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
  • Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;
  • Since it will continue to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;
  • Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and
  • Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.

Affirming Catholicism particularly welcomes the first and second of these general principles, which make it clear that there can be no ambiguity over the ordination or consecration of women. We also endorse the continued commitment to the minority within the Church of England who cannot recognise these ordinations, expressed in the fourth and fifth, and share the concern for the ecumenical context expressed in the third.

This vision is helpfully elaborated in §§ 32-43 which set out the underlying principles which must govern any legislation: simplicity, reciprocity, and mutuality.

The principle of simplicity affirms that “the existing, already complex, structures of the Church of England will not be changed” and in particular that “the position of each diocesan bishop as Ordinary will remain unaltered.” In consequence, “all licensed ministers will continue to owe canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop in all things lawful and honest and take an oath to acknowledge this duty” (§ 33).

In our view, this principle ensures the preservation of the Church of England’s catholic ecclesiology; it is vital that should underlie any proposals for legislation. We note the similarity of the oath “of canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop in all things lawful and honest” to the oath of allegiance sworn to the Queen (arguably a consecrated woman!) at ordination.

The principle of reciprocity affirms the willingness of all members of the Church of England, regardless of their views, to cooperate in mission and ministry (§ 35). It also recognises the importance of – where necessary – making special arrangements both for those who cannot receive the priestly or episcopal ministry of women, and for those who affirm that ministry.

We welcome the assertion that “once the Church of England has admitted women to the episcopate … there should no longer be any dioceses where none of the serving bishops ordains women as priests” (§ 39) and the suggestion that “In dioceses where the diocesan bishop does not ordain women it will be particularly important that a bishop who is fully committed to the ordained ministry of women is given a role across the whole diocese for providing support for female clergy” (§ 40), noting however, that support for laity and male clergy who affirm the ordination of women may also be appropriate and necessary.

The principle of mutuality “will mean that the majority and the minority will be committed to making it possible for the other to flourish”; it articulates an ongoing commitment to the appointment of traditionalist clergy to senior posts, including as bishops (§§ 41, 43).

We applaud the recognition of the need for an on-going relationship between those who hold the majority and the minority opinions, which we believe to be vital to the mission of the Church of England.

Taken together, these principles reveal the Church of England’s strong commitment to holding all groups together under common episcopal authority whilst respecting their differences. This seems to us a very positive set of principles on which to proceed.

Affirming Catholicism also welcomes the suggestion that the legislation should “deliver new Canons C 2 and C 4 which deal with the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate without the need for separate canons which are gender specific” (§ 54) whilst offering provision for the minority which allows them to continue to flourish. The precise form of this provision will depend on the way forward agreed by General Synod.

The working party suggests four possible ways forward:

1. This, the simplest way forward, would involve: a measure and amending canon which would made it lawful for women to become bishops; the repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the 1993 Measure, together with the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod; a formal declaration by the House of Bishops and/or by the making of a new Act of Synod making provision for those who do not recognise the sacramental ministry of women; and provision of monitoring body and a dispute resolution procedure to ensure fair treatment under these provisions. (§§ 79-88; HOB Report §§ 14, 28)

2. This would look like option 1, but would include a provision in the Measure to couple it with an Act of Synod agreed by the Synod before final approval of the Measure; it might also include a requirement requiring that neither the Act of Synod nor the Measure could not amended or repealed without two-thirds majorities in each House. (§§ 89-95)

3. This would put in place a House of Bishops’ declaration or Act of Synod in relation to episcopal ministry and would also retain some elements of the 1993 Measure in relation to priestly ministry. (§§ 96-109) The working party is uncertain of the wisdom of this way forward, and in the House of Bishops it found only limited support.

4. The final option is to include more detail in the measure, as in the draft measure which was defeated in November. (§§ 110-120) Neither the working group nor the House of Bishops favours this route.

The House of Bishops has indicated its preference for the first of these options. Affirming Catholicism strongly endorses that preference. We recognise that the details of the provisions for the minority through an associated Act of Synod and/or declaration by the House of Bishops, still need to be worked out, and these must be clear before General Synod is asked to proceed. While we note that in law there is little distinction between an Act of Synod or a Declaration by the Bishops, and that neither can create “enforceable rights and duties”, we would welcome the provision of a dispute resolution procedure overseen by a monitoring body; this, we believe, would guard against failure to comply and against divisive use, whilst fostering trust. Moreover, we believe that Option 1 will best preserve the catholic nature of the Church of England, by encouraging all groups to recognise each other and to work together in a spirit of trust and generosity.

Finally, Affirming Catholicism applauds the bishops’ sense of urgency. Much damage has been done by General Synod’s rejection of the draft legislation in November 2012 and it is important to find a way forward before more people leave the Church of England. For the well-being of the church, we would not wish to cede the initiative to Parliament.

Affirming Catholicism, June 2013

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Comments

It is very clear from these proposals that the tactic employed by supporters of women's ordination emanates from the gutter. The perverse reaction to the November vote is even more uncompromising legislation. How does this build trust? I believe they think they can now have women bishops on any terms they want - get traditionalists off Synod and get it through that way, or failing that, if the legislation fails, get Parliament to pass it over Synod's head. This is not of God, it is of the Devil. We all know what happens to the house built on sand.

Posted by: Edward on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 3:54pm BST

"We all know what happens to the house built on sand." Its the arguments of opponents of the ordination of women that are built on sand. As for the state of the house, " a house divided against itself cannot stand" The attempt to deny equal rights to women in the church divides the human family in a way which no amount of medieval hocus pocus or biblical fundamentalism can redeem. Organized religion stands as one of the major forces aligned against women's equality. We are merely quibbling over where on the spectrum of sexist attitudes the C of E is located.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 9:07pm BST

This kind of comment is thoroughly offensive. "Emanates from the gutter" indeed! How insulting do contributors have to be before their comments are refused an airing?

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 9:28pm BST

JESUS is Lord (and the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). If I (along w/ my church, TEC, which ordains women to all holy orders) am of the Devil, Edward, I thought I wasn't supposed to be able to proclaim that?

Log/Splinter, my friend. Peace of Christ to you/Vaya con Dios---

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 4 June 2013 at 9:38pm BST

Arguments of opponents are built on the word of God, the extensive writings of the Patristic fathers, the example of Christ and the Apostles, and the consensus of the Church Universal. How people can not only set themselves against all that, but actively campaign to stop other Christians in their own church attempting to live out their faith on those principles I just do not know. You talk about a house divided, yet you have no concept of the worldwide Church. Do you not see that women's ordination is a novelty, a niche innovation of liberal protestantism that makes the unity Christ demanded near impossible? Or is your liberal conscience more important than that?

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 12:34am BST

Wow, Edward! Do I detect a note of panic? Leaving aside the offensive remarks 'gutter, devil' etc - it's a bit rich for a 'traditionalist' to be complaining about building trust over the issue of women bishops. Any attempt over the last twenty years to accommodate traditionalist views have been met with further demands and greater intransigence. There was nothing 'perverse' about the reaction to November's vote. It just became crystal-clear that no amount of 'proper provision' was ever going to be enough for the likes of Edward. A single-clause measure is the only just and fair solution. Whether that is 'of God' is for Him to judge!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 6:04am BST

Edward,
you appear to have scant respect for the discernment process of your own church. Through its processes it has come to believe, over many years, that God does indeed call women to all holy orders. If that careful discernment process is really nothing more than "coming from the gutter" for you you have bigger problems with your church than you seem to be aware of.

Is a fundamental respect and acceptance of the polity of ones own church not one of the absolute basics of belonging?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 8:24am BST

'A niche innovation of liberal Protestantism'?

Possibly so: but given that as Anglicans we believe that we work out our faith in light of Scripture, tradition and reason, I don't see why that would be a necessarily bad thing. The abolition of slavery is another such 'niche innovation'. Clerical celibacy was a 'niche innovation' of the Gregorian reform but I don't notice many opponents of the ordination of women suggesting that we need to hold to that until the rest of the Church catholic changes its mind. Or is it merely that we reject the niche innovations that don't suit our picture of God and the church?

Posted by: Hannah on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 8:53am BST

That 'no amount of proper provision was ever going to be enough' is a classic straw man argument and patently untrue. A continuation of the 1993 Act of Synod with the amendment that PEVs' authority comes from the legislation rather than the discretion of the diocesan bishop would be provision we could happily live with. To describe a single clause measure that rides roughshod over about a quarter of the CofE as 'just and fair' is a frightening example of the attitudes we face, so yes, forgive me if you detect a note of panic.

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 9:14am BST

Several things to point out here:

"Is a fundamental respect and acceptance of the polity of ones own church not one of the absolute basics of belonging?"

This is true to an extent, although there is only one God and therefore one Church ultimately - to act without regard to the wider church is not how Christians ought to do things. And the defeat in November was met not with acceptance of the polity but demands for changes to be made to the synodical process.

"as Anglicans we believe that we work out our faith in light of Scripture, tradition and reason"

This is a very old Anglican chestnut. Do you seriously think a Roman Catholic or Orthodox wouldn't say exactly the same thing?

Slavery was a social evil that had been condemned by Augustine 1,400 years before abolition, so hardly a niche innovation.

Clerical celibacy is a personal discipline, whereas we and the rest of the Church believe that since women cannot actually be priests or bishops, their supposed ordinations actually serve to cut off those whom they minister to from the sacramental life. Hence it is an issue of far greater order than any of the stuff you're talking about.

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 10:11am BST

Yes, the issue is great. That is why it has taken the church decades to come to a discernment.

It was always clear that the vote would not be a final "no, we won't have women bishops". It was never designed to be that - it was only ever a question of whether the provisions were sufficient. There is therefore nothing to be accepted – a new Draft Measure with different arrangements has to be proposed and voted on.
The November vote was never about whether women can be priests. It was one of the great failings of the debate that the Chair allowed a 20 year old debate to be re-enacted that had no bearing on the actual question asked.

I see that it appears that the CoE is not accepting its own polity by discussing a possible change to the system after the November vote.
Although, I am not aware of any formal proposals for a change in the system?

The move, if it did happen, arises from the awareness that 42 out of 44 Dioceses have supported the Measure and that the outcome of the final vote clearly does not reflect the wishes of the church as it has consistently shown them until then.
When a process so obviously delivers a maverick result it is legitimate to consider whether it needs to be changed.

But - correct me if I'm wrong - all that has happened so far is that a new proposal has been made which will be voted on in accordance to the unaltered process. Yes, it is possible that there will be a change in the composition of General Synod after the next elections, but that is part of the established processes of the church.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 11:00am BST

I do not think that many traditionalists (and I speak as a moderate traditionalist myself) have done themselves any favours in the way in which they have used the ResC/PEV system over the past 20 years.

Anyone who observes them will recognise a 'church within a church', a group determined to set maximum distance between itself and the rest of the CofE, some maintaining the silly pretence that they take their directions from Rome instead of their own church. Terms such as 'unsound', directed towards fellow Anglicans, are obviously pejorative.

The use of the Roman rite, an act which is intellectually and theologically risible in an Anglican context (as +London has pointed out), is also blatant canonical disobedience and insubordination.

That we doubt the case for female ordination is understood by many, but the wholesale rejection of properly ordained and consecrated male priests and bishops on the grounds that they support womens' ministry must seem cussed, unreasonable and incomprehensible.

It is small wonder that the rest of the CofE has lost patience with us.

Posted by: Original Observer on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 11:26am BST

I agree with some of the points raised above. However, the fact is that on the ground Res C PCCs come under enormous pressure from archdeacons and Area Deans during interregnums to rescind resolutions with the threat of not being given a priest. This has happened recently to two Res C churches in Durham. But the fact is there are increasing numbers of young traditionalist ordinands coming through places like St Stephen's House, Wycliffe and Oak Hill who will not accept a female bishop. In reality, while there may be no resolutions, there will be always be churches where the incumbent doesn't allow a female bishop to minister. It makes sense then that a proper framework is put in place rather than have chaos later.

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 12:36pm BST

"A continuation of the 1993 Act of Synod with the amendment that PEVs' authority comes from the legislation rather than the discretion of the diocesan bishop would be provision we could happily live with."

Given your stated concern for Catholic Tradition, you would hardly want to resolve the question of women in orders by throwing another principle of Catholic polity, the integrity of the bishop's diocesan authority, under the bus.(Of course, I thought the Chalcedonian definition was part of Catholic Tradition too, and by its lights if a Mass celebrated by a woman is no Mass then neither was Maundy Thursday!)

Posted by: Geoff on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 2:17pm BST

I would point out, that despite the issue in my diocese mentioned above, I, as vicar of a resolution C parish use common worship, attend deanery chapter and synod, went to a course with some of my people at the neighbouring non resolution parish and will be welcoming the Bishop of Jarrow to preach at Epiphany. I was to be a ministerial development peer reviewer in my last diocese, but I moved. We may in the eyes of some be incorrigibly evil, but both friends and critics should be a little more nuanced in their criticisms, even if this is the internet.

Posted by: Peter Bostock on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 2:36pm BST

@ Edward "You talk about a house divided, yet you have no concept of the worldwide Church." I think I do, and its not a pretty sight. Its largely a bastion of sexism and patriarchy that provides theological cover for the same. The world wide church is typical of religious traditions in general in their attempt to sanctify discrimination. More important than political hegemony in the "world wide church" is the integrity and unity of the human family. I choose to be a voice within the church in favor of the the human family and offer an relenting critique of the patriarchal church until it is reformed in favor of human rights and a deeper respect for human dignity. I don't accept the church "fathers" as the final word on socially constructed roles. Doing so merely prolongs the cultural lag the church is suffering from with regard to the modern world.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 2:53pm BST

'Since women cannot actually be priests or bishops, their supposed ordinations actually serve to cut off those whom they minister to from the sacramental life.'

I 'actually' find the above much more offensive than talk of gutters and devils. It also proves my point that some traditionalists will not accept women's ministry in any form but still insist on their 'right' to a separate 'church within a church.' I very much doubt whether even 'a quarter of the C of E' hold the same views as traditionalists like Edward. 42 out of 44 Dioceses??

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 3:03pm BST

42 out of 44 diocese, yes, but since that is done by simple majority it disguises the fact that the total opposition within the dioceses was 26%.

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 4:37pm BST

In the USA, even fundamentalist evangelical churches ordain women to the ministry. So far, the sky has not fallen.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 4:52pm BST

"if a Mass celebrated by a woman is no Mass then neither was Maundy Thursday!"

Could you elaborate on that for us Geoff?

Posted by: Edward on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 4:59pm BST

All the sacraments of the church are just as potent when administered by a woman priest or bishop. Women are called by God to ordained ministry and the hate and insult displayed by Edward is no match for the love of God our Creator who created us all in her/his image. And called us to love and serve one another.

Everything else is culture. Edward and his people are engrossed in male privilege and use pre-scientific, medieval, and absolutely neanderthal cultural to support maintaining their privileges. They see the church as their private club. It does not imitate the life and teaching of Jesus.

I support pastoral arrangements for awhile. But institutional insult to the dignity of women has to stop.

It's so interesting. I was too young to hear the offensive arguments of the Edward's in the US in the 1970's. I've grown up with equality in the church. So it is interesting to see this dusty museum piece, but I'm sorry that my brothers and sisters in the CoE have to live with that mentality as a part of church policy for a few more years. I hope it doesn't drive everyone out before a refreshing changed is made.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 12:57am BST

"Could you elaborate on that for us Geoff?"

I take Tobias Haller as putting it definitively, but in a nutshell, what was not assumed is not redeemed. If a purported ontological _male_ (as opposed to simply human) nature is held to be intrinsic to the priesthood, then Christ himelf doesn't pass muster.

Deriving his human nature wholly from the Theotokos, he would not have the "Holy Ghost receptors" which the magic-realist gender anthropology consider to be both uniquely male and essential to the sacrament "landing."(-Mark South Carolina's embarrassing grandpa-at-Thanksgiving remarks about trans* folk on the floor of General Convention capture this latter school).

Posted by: Geoff McLarney on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 4:39am BST

"I hope it doesn't drive everyone out before a refreshing change is made."

The 'refreshing change' in TEC is really bringing the people in isn't it?

Posted by: Edward on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 8:59am BST

This is a thread about the Church of England. Comments about TEC are off topic. Please desist.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 9:14am BST

Geoff,

I've not read Tobias Haller, but what you've said looks rather like gibberish - so I think we need a little more elaboration, please.

Is Haller claiming that humanity is ontologically split into two, male and female, and that since Christ's human nature was derived from his undoubtedly female mother, he is, in fact, ontologically female?

The "what is not assumed is not healed/redeemed" line is from Gregory of Nazianzus (read him: he's very, very good). He was in no doubt that humanity is all one ontological nature, whether male or female. In fact he was arguing against the Apollinarian heresy that Christ had no human soul. Apollinarius held the common view of traducianism, which states that the soul comes from one's father. Apollinarius argued that since Jesus has no human father, he could have no human soul. Gregory held that Jesus must be a full human person in order to save us (who are also full human persons).

I don't think (I may be wrong) that any opponent of women's ordination believes that male and female are two ontologically distinct kinds of humanity, or ever has believed this. Distinct in other ways, but not at the level of ontological nature.

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 12:49pm BST

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 2:02am BST

I'm afraid that "gibberish" is what any attempt to rationalise the male priesthood is doomed to sound like.

"Is Haller claiming that humanity is ontologically split into two, male and female"

I rather think that is the claim he is pushing back _against_. It is the pro-male priesthood view that requires human nature to be bifurcated. (After all if women simply share in the same redeemed human nature as men do, then asking whether women can be validly ordained makes no more sense than asking if it is possible to ordain anyone).

"I don't think (I may be wrong) that any opponent of women's ordination believes that male and female are two ontologically distinct kinds of humanity, or ever has believed this. Distinct in other ways, but not at the level of ontological nature."

Hunh? The "traditional Catholic" objections to WO are _precisely_ about the supposed difference in ontological nature. Those inclined to such a view have been known to comment that maleness is as necessary to the sacramental "matter" as bread or wine (hence the nasty old line that a women can no more be ordained than a goat baptised). Such a statement clearly only makes sense if men and women are two discrete kinds of "matter." Otherwise, as I've said, the answer to whether women can be priests is necessarily the same as the answer for men.

I don't know whether you or anyone else "believe" in such a bifurcation of human nature, in the sense of cognitively assenting to and articulating a proposition. But by advocating a model of priesthood which assumes that bifurcation as a premise, you wed yourself to it whether you mean to or not.

(I am not sure what the in-house policy is on links, but if you want to go straight to the horse's mouth the relevant post is called "WO is Me" at Tobias's blog In a Godward Direction).

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 2:50am BST

I used to be vehmently anti women Priests for all the reasons mentioned above. However, I now feel that its perfectly possible to remain a "traditionalist" and also understand that the Church evolves- the whole CofE is a case in point! Whilst I'm not certain that its right for women to be Bishops, I'm not certain that its wrong for them to be Priests

Posted by: emma Green on Monday, 16 December 2013 at 10:38am GMT
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