Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Women as bishops: Close, but no cigar (yet)

Charles Read, Vice-Chair of WATCH, writes: “Close, but no cigar (yet)”.

…In the Church in Wales debate, the assistant bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, reminded people of how he had been John Habgood’s chaplain when the latter, as Archbishop of York, had drafted the Act of Synod. Bishop Wilbourne told the Welsh Governing Body that the first flying bishops had deliberately been chosen from men nearing retirement because the Act of Synod was meant to be a transitional arrangement. As he said, “Yet here we are 20 years later.”

The Welsh church will make provision for those opposed to women bishops by means of a Code of Practice, not by enacting legislation. This has been where the Church of England has got into a tangle. The July General Synod asked for simple legislation to create women bishops precisely because making provision in law for opponents had proved unworkable and was leading to women bishops being second class bishops. If Wales and Ireland can do it, so can England.

In Wales and Ireland, the sky has not fallen in by going about it this way. Perhaps developments in these countries will give us courage to press on with legislation that does not discriminate. Meanwhile, here’s a sobering thought:

It is May 2014 and Kenny has moved from Dunboyne to live in Manchester. He is exploring a call to ordination but has only just been confirmed by bishop Pat – one of her first. However, the English DDO tells him that the Church of England does not recognise bishop Pat’s confirmation as valid because she is a woman. He needs to be confirmed again.

Can we get our house in order on matters like this? It is only going to get worse now – we have a female bishop on our doorstep and we don’t recognise her ministry. If we don’t move ahead quickly, then it won’t be Kenny the ordinand, it will be Sally and Simon the Irish priests, ordained by bishop Pat, who cannot minister in England because we don’t recognise their orders as valid – not because of them but because of her – or more specifically her gender. Theology of taint anyone? Or is it just the Church of England’s inability to welcome the ministry of ordained women – even women who are bishops. Our neighbours show us a better way. Let us walk in it.

Charles Read is a Vice-Chair of WATCH and member of General Synod

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 at 10:17am BST | TrackBack
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It is shocking that we can fail to recognise the orders and acts of churches with which we say we are in full communion. Especially when General Synod has already voted to accept the principle of consecrating women, and it is only the detail to be worked out here. There is now no reason in principle to do other than recognise orders in a straightforward and hospitable way.

A question for information, if a person has been confirmed a Roman Catholic (which can be done by a priest) and received into the Church of England before being ordained, do they have to be reconfirmed?

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 at 8:21pm BST

Attention should be paid to the Opinion of the Church of England's Legal Advisory Commission in May 2004. This states that as a matter of law episcopal acts (confirmation and ordination) performed by a woman bishop of another Anglican church are, as a matter of law, to be recognised in the Church of England.

Posted by: Will Adam on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 at 8:54pm BST

The document to which Will Adam refers is, I believe, this one


Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 at 9:33pm BST

Will: But not, apparently, by a woman bishop of a Lutheran church with which we are in full communion under the Porvoo agreement,

Posted by: Barbara Moss on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 at 9:53pm BST

Remember the card FIF gave it's members .."in the event of a serious accident I want a male priest only." No doubt that will have an added " or a priest who has not been ordained by a woman bishop!"

If the legal ruling stands..the C of E has women bishops by the back door. Imagine if pro women bishops sent their ordinands to be ordained by women bishops abroad.That would soon get the measure passed in the Church of England.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 at 11:06pm BST

Thanks Charles - don't worry I shout at car radios too ...
But on the day when the news+Ebbsfleet is consecrated it is the testimony of the Assistant Bishop of LLandaff that I find most striking. I wish we had heard this before. That the first PEVs chosen were quite deliberately selected from among older men because their ministry was not going to be needed for long is now revealed as the hopelessly misguided approach to the problem but it does make plain that there were no 'promises' made in the way so often claimed.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 6:52am BST

I don't know the answer to Mark's question but I will make enquiry via GS questions - ditto with the legal opinion. I had forgotten about that - thanks to Will for reminding me.

David Runcorn (excellent speaker at our clergy conference by the way - his rates are reasonable...) makes another sobering point. I was quoting the CT report of +Llandaff. A telling comment indeed.

Posted by: Charles Read on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 9:45am BST

Charles Read correctly draws our attention to the fact that, when the Act of Synod was first drawn up - providing alternative episcopal oversight for dissenters against women' ministry in the Church of England, it was meant to a 'an interim measure' only.

However, twenty years later, like the arguments over women's ordination as clergy, the intention by the Church to further the process - to ordain women as bishops - seems to have bogged down.

This may be because of the unwillingness of the Church's hierarchy to follow through on the prospect of outgrowing the out-dated, and unjust, discriminatory ethos of PEVs by the progressive process of diminishing their further relevance.

To have already appointed fresh PEVs is to have already pre-empted the necessary movement away from their provision - a measure that would seem to have prejudiced the uncluttered oversight of a female diocesan bishop.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 10:27am BST

It is May 2014....
I stand to be corrected but would assume the CofE recognises confirmation and ordination by women Bishops in other provinces?

Barbara: The Church of Sweden practices confirmation by priests which is not recognised by the CofE even if Swedish Lutherans are permitted to receive communion in Anglican churches. Anyone: Would a Swedish priest wishing to minister in the CofE need to be reconfirmed?

Posted by: Fr Paul on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 10:37am BST

The Church of England does not, at present, license priests who were ordained by women. However, we recognise that they are ordained so do not (re-)ordain them. This, it seems to me, sets up distinctions within orders in other provinces of the Communion (which are, of course, independent) as such is not the case for clergy ordained by male bishops.

Posted by: Hannah on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 11:33am BST

Mark & Charles,

We do not repeat Catholic confirmation or Orthodix chrismation, even when it has been given by a priest. (And so we remain quite strange in being one if the few churches in Christendom which doesn't allow priests to impart Confirmation.)

See this - quite readable - legal opinion:


Barbara, I'm confused by your distinction. If we do not licence such priests, do they remain in some sort of ecclesiatical limbo, that we think they are ordained priests, but just that we can't/won't recognise the fact? It sounds remarkably similar to +Ratzinger's statement to Graham Leonard, who apparently addressed as Leonard as Bishop. Ratzinger apparently said Rome was not prepared to say he was or was not a Bishop (presumably due to his Old Catholic lineage.)


Posted by: Tristan on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 12:08pm BST

What Hannah said (in response to Fr Paul) but I am not sure we do actually recognise their orders in practice. (A priest ordained by a male bishop in, say, TEC can be licensed in the CofE).

The Archbishops could do the same with clergy ordained by a female bishop. They choose not to. There is now, it seems to me, a strong argument that they should.

Posted by: Charles Read on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 12:16pm BST

all I can say is that I was confirmed into the German Lutheran Protestant church by a priest and when I trained for Lay Readership in the CoE they checked and said I did not need to be re-confirmed.

The requirements for Lay Readership include: "All candidates for Reader ministry will need the support of their local parish church, must be, or
become, confirmed and regular communicant members of the Church of England, and will be asked
to provide two additional referees, at least one of whom has knowledge of them outside the church

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 12:16pm BST

Thank you Tristan, that is very helpful.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 4:14pm BST

In reply to Charles @12.16,

But if we don't recognise their (bishops who happen to be female) orders, why do we not (re-)ordain people whom they have (or have not) ordained? If an Anglican priest goes to Rome, he has to be ordained because the RC church does not recognise Anglican orders. Current policy re the licensing of those ordained by women in other provinces is not saying that: it is saying, you are ordained but we won't let you minister. At least, that is how I understand it.

Posted by: Hannah on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 5:16pm BST

So when the Archbishop of Canterbury invites women to Lambeth Conferences he is recognising they are valid, but will not allow them to function episcopally in the Church of England...that is no ordinations or confirmations.

So a cleric ordained by an Anglican woman bishop, male or female is persona non grata in the Church of England!

You can just see the Bishop of Chichester asking an American clergyman to prove his untainted lineage from a male bishop.

But heres a six million dollar question, what happens if the male bishop who ordained the priest was consecrated by a female presiding bishop. Would the Church of England view the presence of the other bishops as supplying the defect? In strict application of FIF quasi catholic theology, surely an episcopal consecration with women bishops present invalidates the sacrament.

This question needs to be addressed by the Synod.

Posted by: robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 6:02pm BST

In the US, the Episcopal Church "receives" someone who has been confirmed Catholic, should they choose to participate. When my wife swam the Thames, she was received by our Bishop at Easter, at the same time that other adults were confirmed. The words are different but the overall experience was similar. She is a very ritually-minded person, and the experience made a firm statement of her intention.

Posted by: IT on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 at 9:19pm BST

In the midst of all this controversy about the prospect of Women Bishops in the Church of England, it is surely most interesting to note that my Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Revd. Victoria Matthews, in ACANZP, (and formerly Bishop of Edmonton in the Anglican Church of Canada) is actually a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the Anglican Communion!

What does this have to say about equivocation on the subject of Women in Leadership in the Church?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 12:48am BST

Well, RIW, that rather depends on whether one holds a theology of taint (which, of course, no-one does....). It makes no sense at all.

Posted by: Hannah on Thursday, 26 September 2013 at 7:47am BST

Erika, the Protestant Church of Germany is not an episcopal church and not a member of Porvoo, so reception of its "confirmations" (the English word even translates to different German words for Protestants and Catholics) would be treated differently.

My mother and I were both received into the Anglican Communion, even though I had been confirmed by a bishop and she by a priest using episcopally consecrated chrism. Intriguingly, though, the same would have been the case if we had been confirmed by a presbyter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which doesn't generally use chrism in confirmation.

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 27 September 2013 at 3:39pm BST

RIW - the idea of human deficiencies "invalidating the sacrament" rather than divine grace perfecting the sacrament has always mystified me. Also Ordination is not, according to the Church of England, a Sacrament in any sense equivalent to Baptism or the Supper of the Lord (read the XXXIX articles). I guess the legal position referred to by Will Adam is that ordination is an act of the church rather than of the consecrating bishops. So rejecting the act implies the church is defective - except that we are in full communion with it. The playing with evasive language is coming to an end, and the Church of England is being brought to face realities.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 28 September 2013 at 8:42pm BST

that's an interesting thought, thank you!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 29 September 2013 at 3:40pm BST
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