Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Reform responds to plans for women bishops

Reform have today issued their response to the bishops’ proposals in GS 1886 under the heading “Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry”. Here it is in full.

Reform says Women Bishop Proposals may bar many evangelicals from parish ministry

New proposals for introducing women bishops run counter to the Church’s desire to see those on both sides of the debate flourish in the Church of England, according to Reform, the evangelical Anglican campaigning network.

Speaking after a meeting of the Reform trustees, chairman Prebendary Rod Thomas said today (5th June) that the paper which will be considered by next month’s General Synod, contained some very encouraging sentiments, but these were not reflected in the substance of the proposals.

Preb. Rod Thomas welcomed the vision articulated in the paper for mutual flourishing; the re-iteration of the Lambeth1998 statement that both those in favour of women bishops and those who had theological objections to their introduction were loyal Anglicans; and the recognition that it would be wrong to make such meagre provision for opponents that they would see themselves as being treated on sufferance. He said that Reform members would also be likely to welcome the proposal that provision for opponents should be consistent across all dioceses and that there should be a clear process for dispute resolution.

However, by presenting a motion to next month’s General Synod that committed the future legislative process to the least generous of the options outlined in the paper, the legitimate concerns of many evangelicals were likely to be overlooked. In particular, the proposal for unqualified changes in both legislation and canon would leave many evangelicals in an impossible situation. Clergy who believe the Bible teaches male headship would be unable to take vows of canonical obedience to female bishops and this would effectively prevent them from undertaking much parish ministry.

Other concerns identified by Reform were:

  • The requirement for General Synod to vote on a way forward without having sight of the proposed provisions for those who were opposed on theological grounds to the Episcopal oversight of women;
  • The insecurity of the proposed methods for making provision (ie either an Act of Synod or a declaration by the House of Bishops) which can be changed at any stage in the future by a simple majority vote of the General Synod or House of Bishops; and
  • The proposed removal of the current legislative provisions by which parishes can request the appointment of male priests. This could leave them vulnerable to legal challenge under Equality legislation in the future.

Prebendary Rod Thomas, who took part in the facilitated discussions with the House of Bishops Working Group earlier this year, said that the Church’s synodical process left little room for substantive changes to the proposals. The majority, who favour the introduction of women bishops, are likely to vote the proposals through by simple majority until the time comes for a vote on final approval. Only then, when the majority required in each House of Synod is 2/3, will the views of the minority really count. ‘I have to hope that Synod agrees to amend the motion before it in July’, Preb Thomas said. ‘Failure to do so will make our efforts to find an agreed way forward very much more difficult to achieve.’

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Comments

Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Serves them right. No sympathy.

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

Jeremy, I remember you as a conservative evangelical..where is your compassion and understanding?

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 10:58pm BST

All used up, Robert. I don't care how people dress it up, and the fancy theological justifications they give it, sexism (and homophobia too for that matter) are just plain wrong. Until the church repents and behaves differently in these matters she has no moral authority.
And I was never a conevo.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 11:52pm BST

Somehow I would think that a belief in something as primitive as male headship would disqualify a person from leadership, period. Seriously. The fruits of "male headship" in action can be seen in the highly patriarchal cultures in Africa. Anyone think that's a success?

Clearly, that is one concept that has driven loads of people out of the church. How many educated women, and their families, would put up with it, subjecting their kids to it. Really!

I would think that evangelical parishes would be assigned evangelical oriented priests. In TEC, parishes "call" their own rector, which helps them at least try to get a good match. I don't know how CoE does it, I suspect it's more hierarchical/patriarchal, but still. It seems like those parishes would get their man. After all, their problem is not the sacramental one of the AC's.

No sympathy for male headship. It is stupid and destructive. Plenty of sympathy for good clergy/parish matches, unless the parish is toxic...

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 5 June 2013 at 11:57pm BST

"where is your compassion and understanding?"

Love the sinner. Hate the sin.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:02am BST

I'm sure Jeremy remembers you as a conservatie evangelcial too,robert - so what !

I too have no sympathy for REFORM - (and I remember when I was a conservative evangelical in my teens).

They are a spent force, lacking credibility.

They represent a shrinking minority.

Posted by: Laurence on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:30am BST

The invective on this thread is not at all helpful. Conservative evangelicals, many of whom are women, clearly believe that their position is biblically represented. In my own view, the complementarity of the sexes is largely forgotten in this debate. We are indeed equal but not the same. This is why the current discussion on gay marriage, too, is so polarised. We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever. To borrow a phrase from a well known musical, where "anything goes". Jesus id not advocate that!

Posted by: Benedict on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 9:51am BST

Aren't Reform, Forward in Faith etc. just stating the obvious? Whatever you think about these organisations and their views, it is set out clearly by the House of Bishops that the 'option one' they wish to pursue will remove all existing provision in statute (and so all legally binding and enforcable provision) for those who feel unable to receive the ministry of women priests and bishops. The effect of this (again, whether you think it desirable or not) would be that parishes would not be able to be legally sure that they would be served only by male priests and bishops (whether because they would have no legal redress against a bishop or patron who refused to provide them only with male priests and bishops, or because they may now be exposed to action under equality legislation).

Again, however desirable or undesirable one thinks that an end to statutory provision for such groups would be, these groups also raise the obvious question of political reality: whether a Synod which could not muster sufficient support for a Measure which contained SOME statutory provision would be able to muster sufficient support for a Measure which not only contained NONE but removes that which exists.

As a supporter of opening all levels of ministry to women, I am genuinely bemused both that the House thinks such a Measure may succeed and that people seem surprised by what seems to me the obvious and predictable reaction of those opposed.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:40am BST

So if they are a spent force..why are their churches thriving and their vocations doing well?

"O what hath bewitched thee" jeremy?

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:49am BST

@Philip Hobday, the thinking is probably as follows.

November 2012 proved that nothing which is acceptable to the majority is going to be acceptable to the leadership of Reform or Forward in Faith.

In the Synod debate a number of no voters said that they were hoping for more generous provision before voting yes. Since more generous provision is actually not possible, given that the majority offered the most they felt able to (and some have since said they think they actually offered too much), those who thought that holding out would mean getting more have to understand that is not the case.

It may be that some of the less committed dissenters will then see that the vote is actually between women bishops and no women bishops, and vote for women bishops. This is in line with what Rowan Williams said immediately after the vote, about there being a degree of unreality in the suggestion that there was some solution acceptable to the dissenters and to the supporters which had somehow been overlooked - everything had been considered, nothing had been overlooked.

The thinking is probably, also, that even if all the current no votes hold firm (unlikely), those who will not follow the Bishops' line will not be elected to the Synod which takes the final vote requiring a two thirds majority, and so the legislation can pass for that reason too. In my own diocese, for example, the 2 out of 3 lay members who voted no seemed quite shocked by the reaction against them in a liberal diocese which is overwhelmingly in favour of women bishops, at Deanery Synod level and in the parishes.

Posted by: badman on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 1:46pm BST

Benedict
"We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever."

What evidence do you have for this? The common category error here is to confuse equality with sameness. They are not the same. The distinctive differences of men and women will be preserved in their heterosexual relationships, and a fortiori in their marriages. The extension of marriage to same sex couples will not obliterate this, nor obscure it, nor do anything to it at all.

What equality will do is extend marriage to same-sex couples - whose differences are just as real, despite the sameness of their genders. There is a work of complementarity to be done by the spouses in a male/male or female/female marriage. Sameness of gender does not mean that distinctive difference has been eradicated, either within same-sex marriages or in society in general.

Robert - I was bewitched by the prospect of the justice of God as Jesus announces it, and revolted by hypocritical religious cant towards women and gay people.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 3:00pm BST

"In my own view, the complementarity of the sexes is largely forgotten in this debate."

Benedict, the problem with the theory about the complementary nature of the sexes is that it is out of sync with reality. In practice, it forces women into a box that God in her diverse creation did not intend all of us to occupy. That means it is oppressive to the majority of us who have been created and called to do more than cook your meals and iron your shirts. For the women with the economic means and desire to stay home and do that, fine. But vast numbers of us were created and educated to take a different path.

Similarly, the complementary theory doesn't deal with the reality that God created LGBT people, and gifted us with loving partners and the desire to live in marriages, real, sacramental marriages.

The oppression needs to end. It isn't based on God's creation. It is based on male oppression. Empire is over. And it provides a new opportunity for us all to to enter into the New Jerusalem of love, compassion, justice, for all of God's creatures, not just Benedict's favorites.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 5:21pm BST

That's an interesting question asked by Robert Ian Williams (of conservative evangelicals) "So if they are a spent force..why are their churches thriving and their vocations doing well?"

It's certainly true that ConEvo churches attract large numbers of affluent people. The churches themselves would put it down to their being 'bible believing' and 'bible teaching' (as though other parts of the Church work from the Hindu scriptures) etc but I suspect the truth is less flattering.

As long as folk are sexually orthodox, i.e. straight, ideally married or, if not, very obviously celibate, then the ConEvo gospel offers no challenges to life style whatsoever - which is nice if you're above averagely well off. People will be challenged immediately if their sexual behaviour is suspect, but no such challenges are forthcoming in areas such how money is earned and spent - which, again, is nice if you're something big in the City.

Posted by: Fern on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 5:40pm BST

Cynthia, can I, for example, bear a child? No. Can you, as a woman, impregnate someone else? No. I say it again, equal but different.

Posted by: Benedict on Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 11:57pm BST

"We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever."

In my experience, the differences between people of the same gender are just as great as the differences between people of different genders. Distinctiveness is suppressed by prescriptive gender roles, rather than encouraged and celebrated.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 12:01am BST

"Judge not....etc." Are all members of the CoE poor? No rich people in special pews? No reason for, hmm ..Occupy? Or a priest that wears Prada? TEC has one of the highest percentages of rich members in America. As for norms, TEC doesn't want them, they're "exclusionary". I suppose since any person in Britain can claim to be Anglican, norms are hard to enforce these days. There was a Hindu/Anglican priest,no? And in TEC, Pagan, Buddhist, and Muslim priests teaching from their books, not the BCP. TEC is not poor and loves money/land. Or why all the lawsuits? One parish is worth Billions... And I bet the CoE isn't exactly penniless either. Pot meet kettle. We need to stop the polarization.

The greatest example of mercy, and forgiveness I've heard of in America for years was when the Amish went to forgive, console, and care for the family of the man who attacked and murdered their children. But they are so patriarchic, misogynistic,fundamentalist...any insult that generally flies at conservatives here except rich.... many here would say they aren't Christian. I can't. I can only hope one day my heart is that big.

Posted by: Chris H. on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 3:58am BST

Benedict asks: 'Cynthia, can I, for example, bear a child? No. Can you, as a woman, impregnate someone else? No. I say it again, equal but different.'

Clearly this is the case, advances in technology notwithstanding.

But that is a (generally pretty clear) biological sexual distinction. To extend it beyond the roles of literal paternity and literal maternity is a largely social construct. We accept female doctors, female lawyers, female MPs, even female Prime Ministers, even women wearing trousers, all of which, 100 or so years ago, would have been regarded as unnatural and dangerous, and perhaps even immoral. Further back, the charges against Joan of Arc included the fact that she had dressed as a man, regarded as clearly unnatural.

The complementarity and nature arguments were made in these cases -- and I suggest that they were clearly wrong. That's not to say that many women find their roles in these spheres and many men elsewhere. But there should be no a priori reason to force this role designation.

Being pregnant is unarguable biological fact. The rest is at the least arguable, and certainly impossible to prove invalid.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 10:15am BST

Simon Kershaw's notion of priesthood rests on a functional premise, and demonstrates a secular argument, namely that because there are women barristers etc, there should be a right to ordination in the same way. No one, but no one has a "right" to be ordained in the way described.

Posted by: Benedict on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 2:00pm BST

Thanks Simon Kershaw, you saved me some effort!

It's pretty rigid thinking that because of one difference, men are welcome to define women as completely different. More realistic is that we are all individuals with our individual differences. Theologically speaking, it takes us all to make up the Body of Christ and we each have gifts in different measure. But all guys aren't limited to Gifts A, B, and C, while all women aren't limited to Gifts X, Y, and Z.

I think a world based on that rigid model is not very life giving. God has called women to ministry. She/he really has. The women and their discernment committees are not delusional. I have been so lucky to be ministered to by clergy of both genders, though I have to say the women have been stand outs.

I get that there are people who I unkindly refer to as fossils. In my kinder moments, I have to acknowledge that the call to Radical Love, as exemplified by Jesus is probably not achievable by humans. We are all going to fall down somewhere. I fall down in talking to "traditionalists," traditionalists stumble over accepting the Radical Love via female clergy. I can't believe that the answer is to subject half the population to institutional indignity. So something other is needed. There is no way around the fact that the traditionalists are in a small minority in the church, and absolutely tiny in society at large.

I marvel at the Quakers. They don't do majority rule, and yet they came to moral conclusions about slavery and LBGT equality ahead of most everyone else.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 4:54pm BST

"We are heading towards a society in which there will be no distinctiveness whatsoever."

The distinctiveness will not change. Men will be men, women will be women.
What will change is the imposition of social and other restrictions on the basis of that distinctiveness, and in particular the imposition of those differences by the powerful group on the less powerful group without taking the wishes of the less powerful group into account.

Biological difference does not justify enforced unequal treatment.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 5:03pm BST

"No one, but no one has a "right" to be ordained in the way described."

Absolutely. That's why there is a discernment process to discover which individual who feels called to ordination does have that calling from God.

And just as you cannot say "all men have the right to be ordained" so you cannot say "no woman has the right to be ordained".

Every individual called by God to the priesthood has the "right" to be ordained. It is God's right to call them to that vocation. All we do is respond to that call.

And this church has for the last 20 years recognised that and ordained women.
That is not going to change.
We really should stop having this pointless conversation.

The CoE is a church that ordains women.
End of story.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 8:05pm BST

Cynthia, can I just say that you may call opponents of women's ordination 'fossils', but as someone with first-hand experience of a certain Anglo-Catholic theological college I can tell you that two-thirds of the ordinands do not accept women priests or bishops. The average age of ordinands at this college is just 32. I know there is a similar picture at other traditionalist colleges and so this is an issue that simply isn't going to go away.

Posted by: Barrie on Friday, 7 June 2013 at 8:11pm BST

I'm with Philip Hobday on this. I also dislike the cynicism about process implicit - effectively, explicit - in the strong-arm response to a result which most disliked. I really can't see why FiF (and similar) and Reform (and similar) can't be given what they want. (Yes, I know, why many here think they can't, but I think these objections are altogether disproportionate to the matter in hand.)

Posted by: John on Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 11:42am BST

Benedict: I'm not sure how you infer that my "notion of priesthood rests on a functional premise, and demonstrates a secular argument".

I was simply challenging the logic of your statement that (to paraphrase crudely) -- women have babies and men don't, therefore women and men are different, and therefore men can be priests and women can't.

The initial premise is a reasonably clear biological fact, the middle bit is true in so far as it relates to the first bit but its extension to anything else is unproven, and the final bit is pulled out of thin air. (Okay I admit this is perhaps harshly expressed, but I don't think it is a totally unfair summary of the argument.)

I can't see that any of this is based on a secular argument, nor on 'functional premises', nor does it say anything about anyone's right (or otherwise) to be ordained, chosen, called or anything else.

It is simply suggesting that your conclusion is not proven from your initial premise.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 5:37pm BST

The reason i suggest that FiF and Reform cannot "simply be given what they want" is that it simply destroys the Church and any concept of communion. If you have episcopal jurisdictions that are separate you have separate churches. If that is the truth, acknowledge it. What they are asking for is the creation of three churches from one. They are asking to end the Church of England and to take its 'brand name' to themselves. The one to become Roman and other to be Calvinist.

Posted by: commentator on Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 5:52pm BST

I don't accept that it destroys 'the Church', since, obviously, those who were given 'what they want' would still - in some sense - be adhering to the concept of 'the Church of England', which is what they, obviously, want to do. Nor do I accept that it destroys 'any concept of communion'. There would still be communion, at some level, through some persons. And after all this, I still stoutly maintain that these objections are 'disproportionate', because Christianity in any form, but perhaps particularly the C of E form, is on its uppers in the UK, and one has - one really has - to maintain a sense of proportion.

Posted by: John on Saturday, 8 June 2013 at 6:50pm BST

"The invective on this thread is not at all helpful."

Helpful to what? The cause of discrimination?

Why does that cause merit any assistance?

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 4:52am BST

It doesn't matter to me whether the fossils are 32 or 82. One has to be blind to truly important teachings and actions in the life of Jesus Christ to carry the primitive view of male headship. That's fine for the laity, unacceptable in clergy.

There is enough in the life of Jesus to at least give potential clergy pause.

Fossils with big blind spots. Not one more child, male or female, should be exposed to that hateful and unhealthy position.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 5:37pm BST

It's not hateful or unhealthy Cynthia, it's what people genuinely believe is the revealed word of God. You clearly believe this is a justice/equal rights issue, but I'm afraid you have to respect the fact that others think this is an obedience issue. I fully support women taking leading positions of authority in politics, business, or any other kind of organisation. But the church is not any of these things, we owe obedience to a higher power. That you call them fossils just shows the absurdity of your position- the church presumably was made up entirely of fossils until 1992? Ridiculous. Look at your own Church- it has collapsed since it abandoned scripture and tradition, it hasn't brought people to Christ, it has caused millions to be repelled from your message because it's made-up liberal political mush led by a woman who even many liberal CofE bishops would have no problem calling a heretic.

Posted by: Barrie on Sunday, 9 June 2013 at 11:33pm BST

Barrie, just a quick and somewhat rhetorical question:

If I'm a Baal worshipper, and I genuinely believe the revealed word of God instructs me to sacrifice newborn children to the flames, do you have to respect that, because for me it's an obedience issue?

(I'd argue no, no matter how sincere a believer is, and I think you'd argue that too.)

Posted by: Simon Morden on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 9:35am BST

Simon, Baal worshippers have not been assured an honoured place in the Church of England 'in perpetuity', nor do their views represent the majority of the worldwide church. My comment was directed at those who seem to think that the views we hold are held out of nastiness and that we somehow know full well that we're only using arguments from scripture, tradition and ecumenism as convenient excuses to justify our wicked unchristian thoughts.

Posted by: Barrie on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 12:25pm BST

Barrie
"Simon, Baal worshippers have not been assured an honoured place in the Church of England 'in perpetuity'"

can you possibly point me to the precise wording of the assurance given 20 years ago? This is a genuine question, there seem to be so many different understandings of what was actually promised and I was not part of the debate then. I would really like to understand which of those promises people talk about or dismiss were genuine and binding and in what way.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 4:02pm BST

So, Barrie, to conclude: in a secular society where Baal worshipping has a residual legacy and is the national church, the majority who no longer sacrifice children have to respect the beliefs of those who do, and accept child-killing as a valid expression of the religion.

Yes, it's a reductio ad absurdum argument, but it's pretty much where Reform is at. The CofE and society at large has, for whatever reason, decided that women should be bishops. It's not like we don't know the reasons objectors hold - it's that we reject them. The way we practice our religion is changing, and it that means you can't sacrifice children anymore - sorry, exclude women from the episcopate - under the cloak of scripture, tradition or ecumenism.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 4:07pm BST

So what do you make of the oath of obedience, Barrie, that every ordinand has to make to the Queen as head of the Church of England?

Posted by: Helen on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 4:42pm BST

Simon your point is ridiculous. We are not an island as the CofE or the Anglican Communion. There is one God and one Church- we therefore should operate as one church, since there can only be one will of God. The Church of Rome and the Orthodox Church, which represent 95% of worldwide Christianity, are totally opposed to this novelty and as such we cannot operate independently of the rest of Christianity. "The way we practice religion is changing" - yes, in a certain part of one small communion within Christianity. We are totally out on a limb here. How can we have such inward-looking arrogance as to ignore the rest of the universal church? It's literally amazing.

Posted by: Barrie on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 5:27pm BST

The WATCH paper below contains a good round up of what was actually promised, and by whom, and on what authority, and what wasn't, when women were first ordained as priest, Erika.

http://womenandthechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Promises-R-Rutherford-2011-GRAS.pdf

Posted by: Anne on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 5:51pm BST

That report puts words into traditionalists' mouths. We do not believe that taking part in female ordinations invalidates a bishop's orders, but we do believe that it is an act of such violence against the body of Christ that those who perform it impair their communion with the rest of the Church Catholic. That is why alternative episcopal oversight is needed, and will be needed more than ever once the CofE claims to be consecrating women bishops.

Posted by: Barrie on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 7:20pm BST

So didn't the Reformation happen Barrie? There are Reformed churches elsewhere, you know, with whom we are in communion. Do you discount them all?
However, we are not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, nor does it recognise Anglican orders (even male ones!). We have operated independently of Rome for some 450 years or so, and will presumably go on doing so. If you don't approve of this, what are you doing in the Anglican Church?

Posted by: Helen on Monday, 10 June 2013 at 9:06pm BST

I'm not an Anglican, I'm Church of England. I do not consider myself to be in communion with churches such as the TEC for instance. I believe the Reformation was a great wound inflicted against the body of Christ also, but the fact is that when it happened the priests and people of the CofE did not cease to be part of the Universal Church. We maintain that position to this day. Though we severed our ties with Rome we did not assume authority to change the matter of the sacraments. Anglican orders were declared invalid about 350 years after the reformation- and actions by popes since then indicate that this is in practice no longer their view- John XXIII giving the AofC an episcopal ring for instance, for the ARCIC dialogue. They have said that such dialogue will cease to be meaningful if we go down this route, and the Orthodox Church has said likewise. As for other reformed churches we are in communion with, yes I obviously consider them of far lower importance, especially since churches such as the Danish Church do not have a valid episcopacy.

Posted by: Barrie on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 12:15am BST

Barrie - my point is only ridiculous because it points out the ridiculousness of your own position. The CofE is a church which ordains women, and has been for 20 years. We don't need to rehash the other arguments about other communions - you lost those way back when. All we're arguing about now is the timing of women bishops.

Posted by: Simon Morden on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 12:19am BST

"Look at your own Church- it has collapsed"

Really? And that's why my church, my diocese and over 30 percent of our dioceses have posted growth in recent years. And there's this: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/dioceses/churches_are_returning_to_the.html

Sorry Barrie. We are thriving.

Your beloved obedience is not to the Living Christ who broke taboos to teach, heal, and include women. Or who made women the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Or who inspired Paul to write that in Jesus there's is neither male nor female...

I'm sorry Barrie. Believing in male headship in the church requires cherry picking and prioritizing one passage of Paul over another passage of Paul, and prioritizing OT and NT culture over the life of Jesus. There is no integrity left in it. There's only the human reality that people struggle with the fact that God made us all in her/his image. Good enough, let's get some nice male pastors for those people. But to subject women to further institutional indignity? No.

Jesus said we can tell the true prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor. The fruits of misogyny are dreadful - violence, rape, economic degradation... You can't have it both ways "equality in society but not the church." It doesn't work that way. All of us or none of us are God's children. It is a fantasy land setting that you can discriminate in just one area without doing harm. You can't. It's harmful.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 12:43am BST

Anne,
thank you!

Barrie,
if you believe that the WATCH report is inaccurate, can you point me to a correct report, or preferably to the original documents so we don't have to rely on other people's interpretation?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 7:40am BST

"Anglican orders were declared invalid about 350 years after the reformation- and actions by popes since then indicate that this is in practice no longer their view"

The Anglo-Catholic priests who joined the Ordinariate all had to be ordained into the Roman Catholic church.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 10:13am BST

"We do not believe that taking part in female ordinations invalidates a bishop's orders, but we do believe that it is an act of such violence against the body of Christ that those who perform it impair their communion with the rest of the Church Catholic."

"Violence against the body of Christ"?

Quick, where's the ambulance?

. . .

Oh . . . you meant platonically?

So women get discriminated against, and the Church is denied their priestly ministry, for the sake of a metaphor, an abstraction?

Do you not see how this kind of thinking gives Christianity a terrible name?

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 10:54am BST

My points are as true of the Church of England as the Anglican Communion, Barrie.
You do assume an extraordinary capacity to judge others. I wonder if God agrees with you. Have you read the Gospel in which Jesus says that the Sabbath is made for man (meaning women too I assume), not man for the Sabbath. He doesn't seem to have been a great one for rules, unlike one branch of the dear old COE.

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 10:59am BST

Very good use of stats there Cynthia, but you know as well as I do that the 70% of diocese that have seen decline far outweighs any growth. In fact the Episcopal Church has lost 23% of its members since 2000. And for you to talk about prioritising one passage of Paul over another really does make me laugh- you, who place your entire Pauline argument on Gal 3:28, which refers to equality of salvation rather than the abolition of gender roles. When he is actually writing about gender roles he is very clear that the model is that of a traditional family with the father as head. You cannot theologically justify changes to doctrine based on emotional feelings to do with your perceived oppression of women. It's a non sequitur. Bringing rape into the issue is similarly absurd.

Posted by: Barrie on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 2:10pm BST

"Bringing rape into the issue is similarly absurd."

Only if you have no comprehension of what the 20th Century taught us. And only if your ears, heart, and mind are completely closed to the story of those who have suffered. Discrimination leaves the less powerful vulnerable. The perception of a group as weaker, as less equal, leaves them vulnerable.

Look at the most extreme example, Africa. There was a recent conference on women at the UN. Women spoke of the problems there. A number of them cited the church as part of the reason for their suffering, because of the misogyny. It is worth hearing from the victims, they know what oppresses them.

The fruits of discrimination quite measurably include: depression, domestic violence, rape, and murder. In the church it also means excluding extraordinary gifts, and sending an awful message to girls and boys alike.

Your theology is off too, but I won't bother. We've seen the hard heartedness before. The Alabama governor who pledged "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." We've heard it before.

30 percent growth in an age of decline of mainline churches isn't bad. Yes, TEC had schism, but at least it came out right on the moral issues. And that's why 30 percent of us are growing. I suspect there will be more, some of the schismatics are coming back, and young people want non bigoted churches. I hear CoE is hemorrhaging people. We have almost as many Sunday attendees as CoE and we are not the established church.

Barrie, you need to tend your own nest. TEC is quite robust and has a strong focus on mission. We have moved on beautifully. So will CoE when they deal with the moral issues.

I agree that there needs to be a pastoral solution for those who can't recognize women as their equals before God. But I hope CoE doesn't perpetuate institutional indignity of "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 5:09pm BST

You're right, Barrie: Paul and the later writer whose pastoral epistles were attributed to Paul ( the two are usually conflated in anti women priests circles) do preach a traditional view of the family. But whose tradition? Their guidelines are standard 1st. Century Roman fare. Why? Because at the time of writing the revolutionary creed called Christianity had to look respectable. But nothing of the sort can be found in Jesus' reported sayings. That's one reason why most of us don't think the Church should behave like the average patriarchal 1st century Roman family. There are those who prefer Paul and an anonymous writer taking his name to Jesus, but the Church is supposed to worship Jesus rather than Paul.

Posted by: Helen on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 10:23pm BST

It's impossible to argue with people who deny clear statistics, so I won't bother. People can look them up themselves. To equate our position with apartheid is absolutely ludicrous. Forward in Faith has a membership which is 70% women, 45% of the opposition to women bishops in synod was female. These are Christian women who accept the teaching of the Holy Scriptures and maintain obedience to the consensus of the universal Catholic Church. Segregation, misogyny, racism, rape, oppression of all kinds are morally reprehensible, but it emphatically does not give us the right to change Church doctrine. It is your fast and loose treatment of scripture and doctrine which has caused PECUSA to collapse. It shouldn't be too long before ACNA is the voice of Anglicanism in the US anyway, so I shouldn't worry.

Posted by: Barrie on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 11:35pm BST

Thanks Helen, for taking that on.

The position, in the 21st Century, is that we know much more about ancient cultures. We know where the church has fallen off the rails, burning witches (uppity women like me), slavery, etc. We have (collectively) studied the Bible in Hebrew and Greek. We know that much of fundamentalism, such as the anti WB crowd, absolutely MUST cherry pick from the Bible to support the unsupportable.

Do the liberals cherry pick as well? Yes! Of course. But the fact that there is conflicting evidence is where things get interesting. What does one do? One weighs the evidence, goes into discernment, and looks at God's Creation for the best evidence. We make choices. I choose Jesus over Paul. I take the wisdom of Jesus very seriously when he tells us that we can tell the real prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor.

My favorite bits from the Bible are compelling, but the criteria of the fruits is living, breathing, and real Studies show that that cultures with more gender equality are healthier and more prosperous. That's a fruit. And we can go out and experience it by visiting less prosperous countries. Or less prosperous parts of our own countries where domestic violence is endemic and where single moms struggle to support their children because they don't get equal pay.

The idea that it's OK for women to be equal in all areas but one, the church, is insane. Because women are called to ministry. Because there are people out there hungry to be ministered to by women. Because excluding women affirms and emboldens every bigot out there.

What are the fruits? Blessings? Or hate? That's the choice.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 12:46am BST

Barrie,
I don't understand this conversation at all.
Nothing will change the fact that the CoE HAS women priests and that it will have women bishops.
We're not talking about whether any individual member approves or disapproves of that or what reasons they might have or what dire predictions for the future of the CoE they might foresee.
We are only talking about what provisions might be acceptable.

In that context, could you please point me to the records of the actual promises that were made at the time so we can have a more reasoned and grounded conversation?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 8:12am BST

They might be healthier and more prosperous in one sense Cynthia, but where is the gospel healthiest and most prosperous? Where is there the greatest example of liveliness of faith, trust in God and joy in the Spirit? Africa, Latin America, the emerging churches of the Far East. These places are poor in wealth, but rich in faith.

Posted by: Barrie on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 8:46am BST

I note Barrie that you avoid dealing with the origins of your beloved doctrine and studiously fail to apply any critical understanding to "the teachings of the Holy Scriptures". One would think 200 years of Biblical exegesis had never happened.

Posted by: Helen on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 9:06am BST

If you want biblical evidence look at 1 Cor. 11:3-12, 1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Peter 3:1-7, Ephesians 5:22-24, and Col. 3:18-19. Also consider Tertullian when he said "It is not permissible for a woman to speak in church, nor may she teach, baptize, offer, or claim for herself any function proper to a man, and least of all the office of priest." Or what about Epiphanius? "If women were ordained to be priests for God or to do anything canonical in the church, it should rather have been given to Mary... . She was not even entrusted with baptizing... Although there is an order of deaconesses in the church, yet they are not appointed to function as priests, or for any administration of this kind, but so that provision may be made for the propriety of the female sex. Whence comes the recent myth? Whence comes the pride of women or rather, the woman's insanity?" Or John Paul II when he said the Church does not have the authority to ordain women because Christ didn't choose women as apostles, despite being, as you say, radically affirming towards women in other ways. There's plenty more where that came from Helen.

Posted by: Barrie on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 1:06pm BST

Quite so, Barrie, but you have completely missed my point. You seem unaware of any critical scholarly work on these texts. You discount entirely the context in which they were written, and apply them indiscriminately to all times and all places.
It's noticeable that none of the Texts you cite actually quote Jesus! As for Tertullian , give me a break! You can find as much misogyny as you like in the writings of the Church fathers, and I'm sure you've gone looking for it, but it is just conceivable that they may have been mistaken.
As for "woman's insanity" , don't be so offensively silly. It makes you sound like just another immature little MCP. Argue on the basis of theology if you're going to argue at all. And bone up on biblical scholarship a bit.

Posted by: Helen on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 6:19pm BST

"There's plenty more where that came from Helen."

But not in the CoE.
Why does it seem to be so impossible for traditionalists to recognise the facts?
We are not having a debate about whether women can be priests. They have been in this church for about 20 years.
We are not even having a debate about whether they can, in principle, be bishops. We are merely discussing the provision required to make that happen.

Would traditionalists here please start to engage with the actual question the CoE is talking about rather than their fantasy debate as if women priests could just disappear again?

Barrie, I ask you for the third time. As you keep talking about promises made, can you please point me to the actual original documents that contain those promises so we can all look at their precise wording and then base a conversation on that?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 7:57pm BST

Can I sound a warning note, please, about the tone of conversation. Please let's try and keep a civil discourse here, and if at all possible, stick to the subject of this thread which is actually about what *Reform* thinks concerning the women bishops proposals in the Church of England.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 11:14pm BST

"but where is the gospel healthiest and most prosperous? "

It isn't the gospel that needs to be healthy and prosper, it's God's children, of which half are women and girls.

Nonetheless, the love of God is manifest in all places, but most of all when we practice compassion. Whether it's working with the poor or justice for the marginalized, God's healing love is there. When I say TEC is robust, I'm saying it's because many of us, and the larger church, are engaged in the work of God's healing, at home, and in places like Haiti, Africa, and Latin America.

I observe that nothing that I have read from the "Reform" group indicates any compassion for the other view. On this list WO and WB are denigrated as an "innovation," without acknowledging the existence of Mary Magdalene and the female early church leaders. It is very odd, God calls women to ministry, that's why we have the "problem." Folks like Barrie and Reform are pretty much saying that every one of these women and all of their supports, most especially their discernment committees, are delusional.

What's the compassionate route? I'm having trouble seeing it. You can't discriminate and not discriminate at the same time. It isn't possible. You can't respect and disrespect simultaneously. You can't inflict hurt and not inflict hurt at the same time.

I believe our God wants us all to prosper, and that isn't compatible with Reform.

BTW, I was raised Greek Orthodox and I wish people would stop using them as a call to Christian unity. They are a highly patriarchal culture. One ought not confuse culture with the Will of God.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 12:45am BST

Barrie - we also have to take into consideration that, for example, in a letter from Pliny to the Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the C2nd C.E. that he confirms that women servants (slaves?) were ministers in the church at Bithinia. The evidence is not as clear cut as you might suggest. (Pliny 'Epistles'10:96.)

Posted by: maggie on Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 2:04pm BST

Of course there were women ministers, they're in the Bible. But they are never ordained ministers who exercise spiritual authority. Just look at the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. Great women, amazing saints, but not priests or bishops.

Posted by: Barrie on Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 9:53pm BST

This sounds to me, Barrie, like you are holding the early church fathers, and their culture, higher than the radically inclusive life of Jesus. (You know, of course, that nobody was ordained by Jesus.)

This is far beyond the rational. Which is precisely why it makes no sense to enshrine discriminatory policies. Human irrationality is a pastoral matter, not a policy matter.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 11:54pm BST

Well no, Barrie, the two Marys were not priests or bishops, but no other contemporaries of Jesus were either, not even the male apostles. Bishops and presbyters emerged much later, long after the death of Jesus, as a mode of organising the growing church. The threefold ministry is a manmade structure therefore and a reasonably good way of organising the church, if not the only one. Secondly, its emergence represents a change and development in structure from the earliest churches. There is no rational reason why further developments should not take place: the only place where change doesn't happen, as has been memorably remarked, is the cemetery.

Posted by: Helen on Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:08am BST

"And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach." Mark 3:14

Cynthia the church has never relied on the sayings of Jesus alone, but also on the writings of the apostles, the church fathers and the saints.

Posted by: Barrie on Friday, 14 June 2013 at 3:19pm BST

The Greek word used in Mark 3.14 is the perfectly ordinary word meaning "to make""to do" or "to appoint". It doesn't have any great spiritual significance, Barrie, let alone "ordination" in the way we would currently understand it. It is always a bit risky, in any case, to place too much emphasis on the choosing of "the twelve" as the Gospels have different lists of who "the twelve" were, and subsequently Jesus sends out "the seventy" (names and genders unspecified) to do the same work of proclaiming the Gospel. If we are looking at people who are sent by or on behalf of Jesus to convey his message, which is the point of Mark 3.14, we should also be aware of, say, the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4), who is sent to her village, and has a considerable impact there, and the women sent from the empty tomb to proclaim the message to the rest of the disciples, not to mention those sent or appointed by Paul, among whom there were a number of women.

While we can see in the early church writings a reflection of one view of what was happening in the early church, any historian worth their salt would tell you to beware of thinking that we have the whole story, especially when there were theological prejudices against women already. Whose voices went unrecorded at the time? Which records have been preserved, and which lost or devalued, deliberately or by neglect? The story of church history over the last century has been the gradual rediscovery and reappraisal of many women theologians and writers - Julian of Norwich, the Beguines, Hildegard of Bingen, and others like them, who were once little known or researched in theological study, but are now recognised as significant figures in their time. How many others have yet to be given the attention they would have had if they had been male? How many stories have we overlooked or lost completely?

Posted by: Anne on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 10:04am BST

Actually the CofE holds to the doctrine of apostolic succession, and therefore it considers it's bishops to be apostles and the apostles to be the first bishops.

Posted by: Barrie on Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 10:16am BST

I respect Reform, although I think they are wrong on headship. Their centre stage concern seems to be that of canonical obedience. But why is that such a big deal? Are they saying that in their eyes the woman bishop is not a real bishop and therefore the oath is a legal impossibility (canon lawyers will have a field day on that one) or that the woman bishop should not be a bishop for reasons of male headship and therefore they will not be able to acknowledge her as Chief Pastor. I thought conservative evangelicals sat fairly light on the whole question of bishops. They have never been slow in inviting 'one of them' for confirmations et al and no woman diocesan is going to stand in their way. On which subject, if conservative flying bishops are needed, let's appoint them. Some would consider it a shame that they are necessary, but their appointment will hardly institutionalise discrimination. And anyway, the Measure is hardly likely to produce a raft of woman diocesans on day one. M'thinks they are tilting at windmills.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 at 3:54pm BST
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