Saturday, 26 October 2013
Women in the Episcopate: Catholic Group, FiF and WATCH respond to new proposals
The Catholic Group in General Synod has also issued a statement:
STATEMENT FROM FATHER SIMON KILLWICK, CHAIRMAN OF THE CATHOLIC GROUP IN GENERAL SYNOD
on the report of the Steering Committee on Women in the Episcopate to General Synod for November 2013 Group of Sessions
“The Catholic Group recognises that a huge amount of work has gone into producing a comprehensive and detailed legislative package, work which has been costly in spiritual and emotional terms, as well as in time - we are deeply grateful to all the members of the Steering Committee for all that they have done for the Church.
“Naturally, such a complex package will need careful study and prayer by all, rather than instant responses, and we will comment further in due course. However, as important as the detail of the proposals themselves, will be the spirit in which they are received and taken forward - a spirit of reconciliation and trust, which we believe has been growing this year, by the grace of God; it is in that light that we shall study them.”
Forward in Faith has issued this response:
Women in the Episcopate: Initial Response to the Proposals
Forward in Faith thanks the members of the Steering Committee for their work.
The proposed combination of a House of Bishops’ Declaration with a Mandatory Disputes Resolution Procedure represents a new and different approach which deserves careful consideration.
In line with the resolution passed at our National Assembly, we shall be examining the proposals closely over the coming weeks to see how far they would ensure that our parishes and their clergy and people have continued access to a ministry that will make it possible for us to flourish within the life and structures of the Church of England. We shall also be attentive to the responses of others within the Church.
After discussion, prayer and reflection, we envisage commenting further during November, in the run-up to the General Synod debates.
Women and the Church has issued this response:
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Saturday, 26 October 2013 at 6:07pm BST
WATCH encouraged following publication of WiE Steering Group’s draft legislation
The Women in the Episcopate draft legislation put forward for General Synod next month by the Steering Group contains much to encourage those campaigning for the full inclusion of women at every level of the Church. WATCH’s thanks and prayers go to those on the Steering Group working hard to achieve this and who worked under the principles of simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality.
There is much in the report that is welcomed by WATCH. Firstly, that the legislation put forward is simple and General Synod’s desire to resolve the issue as quickly and as simply as possible has been reflected in the draft legislation. WATCH also supports the recommendation of the Group to legislate on this issue through a Bishops’ Declaration, not an Act of Synod, and the wholehearted endorsement of women’s ministry in the five guiding principles. It is particularly encouraging that every diocese will have a bishop, whether the diocesan or suffragan, who ordains women to the priesthood with emphasis on consultation between diocesan bishops and parishes and diocesan bishops and PEVs.
The appointment of an Independent Reviewer is a new proposal and one which allows a forum for all sides to raise issues and concerns. As a new development, it will be interesting to see how this is received by all groups involved.
WATCH has noted the proposed arrangements for those opposed to women holding leadership roles in the church. The church will rarely be unanimous about the appointment of particular people as bishops but it is important that the leadership of bishops is widely recognized and respected amongst those they are appointed to lead.
WATCH thanks those involved in the Steering Group for their hard work and commitment to this issue and remains committed to working towards the highest possible degree of communion.
Anne Stevens, a WATCH vice chair said, ‘It’s good to see draft legislation that is so clear and concise, and we look forward to a day of great national rejoicing when women are finally made bishops. We’re grateful to the Steering Committee for all their hard work on the Bishops’ Declaration, which offers people on all sides of the debate a new opportunity to move forward in a spirit of trust and openness to one another.’
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| General Synod
"which offers people on all sides of the debate a new opportunity to move forward in a spirit of trust and openness to one another." - Anne Stevens -
Just as long, Anne, as a woman bishop is not burdened with the necessity of having to pretend that her episcopal authority is in any way compromised.
What is, I feel at issue here, is whether or not the nay-sayers are prepared to accept that any 'special arrangement' made for them to avoid the ministry of a women diocesan will still be at the disposition of their (female) diocesan bishop.
(Or is that being put 'out of court'?)
Fr Smith, I suspect the conservative catholic wing *will* accept that, but the conservative evangelical wing won't...
All very encouraging.
As for the representation of a Conservative Evangelical, they are entitled to it, and one can hope that fairer representation across the board will lessen acrimony and plotting.
It seems to me that the legislation will maintain a degree of compromise so that traditionalists will still in good conscience be able to call on the ministry of traditionalist bishops. Good!
This "entitlement" is a nonsense. Bishops aren't appointed in order to represent a constituency. ConEvos aren't *entitled* to their (?) bishops. And many of them simply don't "get" the rest of the Church. If God's calling someone to be a bishop, then that's a different thing. But we don't do this office to be representatives of a particular theology of so-called headship. A bishop is a bishop is a bishop.
"This "entitlement" is a nonsense. Bishops aren't appointed in order to represent a constituency. ConEvos aren't *entitled* to their (?) bishops. ....
. But we don't do this office to be representatives of a particular theology of so-called headship. A bishop is a bishop is a bishop.
Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Sunday,
Thank you, Bishop Pete, for your stance here on the nature of the episcopate. This is what was so wrong with the idea of 'Flying bishops' who were appointed expressly to minister to the No-Women Brigade. That is where the Church failed us.
Seems as if bishops can be as bad-tempered as the rest of us. One can quarrel about a word ('entitled'). I am not personally a Conservative Evangelical, but I do think it is folly when a distinctive and fairly substantial strand of the C of E goes unrepresented at episcopal level. Seems as if the Steering Group as a body agrees.
The mood music seems to be encouraging, a Conservative Evangelical Bishop in the House of Bishops shows graciousness, which is needed by all.
All I can think of is pray for General Synod when in meets in November - come to think of it that is what most of us have been doing for some time.
Stephen, it's not a ConEvo bishop in the *House* of bishops but in the *College* of Bishops. The *House* comprises all diocesans and a small number of suffragans (elected, I believe, by the suffragans to represent them).
The suggestion is that procedures might be put in place to ensure that there is always at least one ConEvo bishop in the *College* and there is no suggestion that the process would grant such a post-holder any jurisdiction. But then, as Bishop Pete points out, a bishop is a bishop is a bishop and, PEVs apart, we don't select our bishops to please/placate any specific theological stance.
I look forward to the time when the new proposals have worked well enough to allow the Anglo-Catholic contingency in our church to agree to the extinguishing of the Sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley (which, believe it or not, grant no jurisdiction either).
The Archbishops currently have three sees at their disposal to minister to those opposed to the ordination of women. Presumably any appointment such as that referred to in the proposals could be made to one of those three sees.
That said, I think that it is a Bad Idea to enshrine in the Declaration a particular churchmanship and (worse) a particular interpretation of scripture and (worser :-) a place on the episcopal bench.
Thanks, Bishop Pete, for your contribution. It's the fact that you and other distinguished contributors feel able to contribute openly that makes this forum so much better than any other I can think of.
Whilst I'm sure you are right that 'a bishop is a bishop is a bishop', I'm also sure that it must be very difficult for a woman priest to be so undiscriminating when the particular bishop to whom she is required to swear canonical obedience is one who does not believe her orders to be valid. Although the Steering Group has given much thought to the 'opposite' situation when a traditionalist priest is required to swear obedience to a woman bishop, it is not clear that they have given so much (or indeed any) attention to this long-standing problem for women priests. Indeed by stating that each diocese should have at least one bishop (diocesan or suffragan) who will ordain women, they appear to have implied its indefinite continuation.
I would personally hope that no new non-ordaining bishops will be appointed to any post having jurisdiction. If this means that more PEVs are needed to meet the needs of dissenters, so be it.
Thanks to +Pete for hitting the nail on the head. There is no problem with appointing a Complementarian Evangelical (let's stop pretending it's anything else that is being talked about) as a bishop if such a person can function effectively as a bishop and can regard those who take a different view from him as equally Christian. But to appoint someone for their stance on one issue is dangerous. Plus, we need to face the question of whether male headship really is an acceptable theological stance - especially if it entails seeing subordination in the Trinity. This last facet is out of line with historic trinitarian doctrine and anyone holding this view cannot be a bishop as they have actually ceased to defend the historic Christian faith. (They may still hold that women should not be in positions of leadership on other grounds - but not this one.)
Many of the problems of the Anglican Communion can be traced back to the fateful decision of the Church of England to "square the circle" on the ordination of women by introducing the heteropraxy of the so-called "flying bishops." This heteropraxy led to the appalling heterodoxy that every theological minority is entitled to the ministry of a bishop who agrees with them. This is a 20th century heresy unknown to either Mr. Pusey nor Mr. Wesley.
@Malcolm and others: as so happens, when a diocesan bishop doesn't ordain women, his suffragan can only do it at his behest. In Europe, and probably elsewhere, although our suffragan bishop is in favor of women, he cannot 'priest' us because that would mean he was acting in place of and at the behest of our diocesan, who will not permit that. So two bishops - one who does and one who doesn't isn't really the answer. Thank you to Bishop Pete for reminding us that a bishop is etc
Sara. Neither the Chichester diocesan, nor his suffragan of Horsham, will ordain women as priests. However the diocesan, +Martin, has promised that the next Bishop of Lewes will ordain women as priests and will do it across the Diocese. So a variety of belief and practice, even within this small minority.
Sara - I don't think that the situation you describe in Europe is replicated in all other dioceses where the bishop won't ordain women, although it may be in some of them. In London, where the diocesan doesn't ordain priests of either gender, one of his suffragans does it, presumably with his permission. In Chichester, a bishop from outside the diocese has to be brought in to ordain women, and that can only happen with the diocesan's agreement.
But, if the situation you describe exists in any diocese, it only reinforces my belief that we shouldn't have any more diocesans appointed who won't ordain women. Blackburn was a good start in that respect.
I am in two minds about +Pete Willesden's comment!
The main problem I have is how people are arguing that a Bishop shouldn't be appointed on his stance on one issue but laity/clergy in +Whitby, +Blackburn and others would insist that they want a Bishop appointed who ordains women (Surely that's appointing a Bishop on their stance on one issue)
On the other hand, I can understand the basis of such a statement! I have always believe a Bishop should be appointed on the basis that they can fulfil the role and not solely on their integrity - Like I don't believe a black person should be appointed a Bishop because they are black but because they are the most qualified candidate.
The same as the OoW - I don't believe women should be bishops just because they are women but because they are the best candidate for it
On the issue of PEVs, they are Bishops who have the specific purpose of caring for those who in conscience cannot accept women priests/bishops - In this case, they should be appointed on their stance but also because they are capable
"I would personally hope that no new non-ordaining bishops will be appointed to any post having jurisdiction".
The Steering Group's work all represents quietly encouraging progress. I agree with Malcolm on this. But the fact is that the number of diocesans who do not ordain women as priests is dwindling. Someone will correct me, but the list is limited to +London (who ordains woman to the diaconate and has a comprehensive area scheme in place), +Chichester (mentioned above) and +Europe, which becomes vacant in 10 days. I suspect the PEV machinery will remain in place for a time and, on that basis, would not oppose a ConEvo holding one of these sees, but +Willesden is right; the Church would be better without it all.
"I have always believe a Bishop should be appointed on the basis that they can fulfil the role"
But that's not how the CoE has operated. It has always tried to balance Anglo-Catholics, Liberals and Evangelicals, which is how it has managed to be the wonderful big tent church that it is. The office of ABC is deliberately given to a Catholic and an Evangelical Bishop in turns.
So all we're seeing here is a heartfelt attempt to retain this system and to make sure all can remain in the church.
To pick up a phrase from July: "I agree with Pete". I can understand that Con Evo's might well feel aggrieved that all the PEV's are from the Catholic wing of the church; arguments could be made for finding ways of enabling their voices to be heard when bishops meet up as a college. But to specify one theological viewpoint as being the criterion on which a bishop should be selected opens the door to all sorts of arguments for another 20 years (at least) and a mentality that sees bishops being appointed to represent a grouping in the C of E, rather than to fulfil the role of a bishop in a particular place. When do we stop defining different minority interests that need a bishop to represent them? Yes, there has been a convention that the ABC should be elected alternately from a Catholic background and an evangelical background - but it is convention, nothing more, and certainly not written down in something that will be enforced by Canon Law. It might well be important to find more ways for the bishops to consider how to include and hear the views of minority groups within the C of E when they meet - but setting down one theological view out of many as the criterion for appointing a man(sic) to be a bishop will sow the seeds of continuing conflict of one sort or another and lead to the concept of "pick your own" bishop
So what happens when your parish and PCC is in favour of full inclusion but the priest is not and your Patron is The Guild of All Souls.
You have to wait until there is a vacancy. And you then have to have a PCC prepared to say what it wants. And you have to have a candidate available with credentials the Guild will accept but prepared to move things on.
It can happen, believe me. We were in exactly this position until two years ago, with Resolutions ABC in place etc etc. The Guild exercised its patronage. And this year's diocesan handboook lists a woman as associate priest in the parish.
With regard to Marlene Gray's offering, I am rather sceptical about her comment that says both the parish and PCC are all in favour of full inclusion. It is a sweeping statement which is not backed up by evidence. If what she says were really the case, the current PCC could have done something about it. In most parishes I know where the Guild is patron the resolutions have been passed, simply because those parishes tend to be Anglo Catholic in character. And again, even were this not true the claim could not be made that ALL the parish and ALL the PCC were singing from the same hymn sheet. Even in parishes where there are women priests some of the congregation can still be opposed to it.
'You have to wait until there is a vacancy. And you then have to have a PCC prepared to say what it wants. And you have to have a candidate available with credentials the Guild will accept but prepared to move things on.'
...and if you cannot come to agreement as to a suitable candidate, the patronage is eventually passed on to the bishop (at least for this appointment). A parish in our deanery was in this position, with resolutions in place. In time, they got the priest they wanted. Her name is Lucy.
Sara referred earlier to the Diocese in Europe and Richard referred to the Diocese of Chichester. I think that in the former case, the reason why the suffragan does not ordain women is a little more complicated than suggested. My understanding is that this arrangement - suffragan not to ordain women - was put in place some time ago to avoid any possibility of a European chaplaincy petitioning for oversight by another bishop under the 1993 Act of Synod (so-called Resolution C).
Thank you Simon, but I'm not quite sure what that would mean. If say, the Diocesan bishop didn't ordain women and his suffragan did, why would any parish opposed to women priests need to ask for more than the diocesan to do their priestly ordinations (ie why would they need resolution C at all? they would already have a bishop to hand who didn't ordain women as priests). And if this is so for Europe, it is so also for any other diocese - or have I missed something (undoubtedly.....)?
I love Anne Stevens, but anyone who confidently asserts that 'we look forward to a day of great national rejoicing when women are finally made bishops' lives in a bubble. We, the church, have blown it long ago on this matter and are probably about to blow it again on the gay debate. Most people will smirk and move on.
The reason flying bishops were needed was not only because traditionalists didn't 'like' the idea of being ministered to by someone they disagreed with. Another important issue was that of ordination. Unlike deacons, whose ordinations put them in a one-to-one personal relationship with their bishop, priests are ordained into a College surrounding their bishop. Traditionalist ordinands could not, therefore, countenance belonging to a College of Priests which contained women. It was therefore necessary, to allow traditionalists to be ordained with integrity, to have them ordained by a bishop whose college was all-male.
Except Barrie the PEV's were meant to provide Extended Episcopal Care ( not Alternative Episcopal Oversight) at the behest of the diocesan.They weren't meant to have a "College" of Priests...indeed when did this idea enter the C of E theological vocabulary??? I doubt if it was thought of pre 1960's in any meaningful way.
so there were parishes that accepted only male priests and these parishes also needed their own bishops because they could not tolerate being in a college of priests that included women.
Could you explain to me to which extent this group of people is actually part of the CoE?
I'm not having a go, it's a genuine question. It strikes me that in order to remain in the church you seal yourself off almost completely from it.
I can see the practical reasons for wanting to remain within that church, I cannot see the theological ones.
Erika, because traditionalists in the CofE do not consider the CofE to be "the Church", but to be only a small part of the one Church of God. Traditionalists therefore feel that the departure from the rest of the universal Church's teaching on church order is an act of separation from the one body. It is akin to the CofE determining it's own unique date for Easter. Trads therefore, far from not being part of the Church, are calling on the CofE to return to the mainstream of orthodox Christianity.
but if the CoE has, according to traditionalist views, departed from mainstream orthodox Christianity, then why would you want to be remain in it, if orthodoxy matters so much?
And how is creating a hermetically sealed church within a church orthodox?
And how does it differ from leaving the church and having a separate group outside it?
Is there a difference between separate inside and separate outside?
Every single traditionalist knows that the CoE will not go back to not ordaining women, that is so abundantly clear that it is impossible that a single person genuinely believes otherwise.
Wouldn't it be more honest to look at the reality of this church?
Again, I'm not criticising, I genuinely do not understand this. Thank you for engaging.
Barrie, the CoE is both Protestant and Catholic. CoE broke off from Rome (as a person raised Greek Orthodox, I have never looked to Rome as "the church universal"). CoE has married priests, tolerates divorce, contraception, abortion, and a host of issues that differ from Rome, and Rome differs from the Orthodox… Meanwhile, there exists a host of Protestant churches for which the issues of women and LGBT persons in CoE seem absolutely barbaric and arcane. Are you including those Protestant Churches in "the church universal?" If not, why not? CoE has a foot in each camp. Your request is that CoE cherry pick one branch over all others. That sounds like a personal preference, not a corporate one. And asking for church governance to bend to that seems odd.
The CofE has always been fundamentally catholic in its character. It retains an apostolic episcopacy and priesthood, and while Rome doesn't alone constitute the church universal, the CofE is historically part of Western Latin Christianity rather than Orthodox, and so it is natural for it to look to Rome rather than the East for those cultural, historic and doctrinal reasons (the Filioque being a case in point). It is for that reason of it's essentially catholic nature that the CofE should look to Rome and the Orthodox churches (which make up over 70% of the church universal) rather than the host of Protestant expressions, many of which do not subscribe to basic catholic doctrine. Divorce remains a contentious issue in the CofE across all traditions, and certainly it takes a strong pro-life stance on abortion, so you are wrong on that one. One must also accept that there are issues of different orders of magnitude. Abortion is first order, whereas married priests are not. However, the issue of purporting to ordain women as priests when the tradition of the Church, the Bible and the great majority of Christianity say it is impossible is a first order issue because we are putting laywomen in parishes who are not administering valid sacraments and therefore cutting off thousands of people from sacramental grace. Yes, that "offends" and no doubt "hurts" you, but that really can't have any bearing on truth. Fundamentally the CofE does not have the authority to change the priesthood in this way because there is only one Lord, one Church and one priesthood which belongs to all, and even Rome has said it does not have this authority. The CofE is therefore acting in a way which is inflicting unhealable division in the body of Christ when it should be working to end those divisions.
"Yes, that "offends" and no doubt "hurts" you, but that really can't have any bearing on truth."
The truth is that God is calling women to ministry, to the priesthood and the episcopacy. The sacraments are my lifeblood and are not at all "compromised" by my female priests and bishops in TEC. The idea that sacraments can only be administered by men and that our stingy God withholds grace when a women administers them is sheer superstition, no matter how many times you call it "the truth." God created male and female in God's image, and calls us all to justice, mercy, and compassion. Excluding women who have been called, and people who welcome that call somehow doesn't fit.
CoE is about to right that, finally. Unlike the other provinces that don't oppress women clergy, CoE is going to reserve a spot for a bishop who holds theological views that are not received theology. I take it that you are more on the catholic wing? Male headship is not a catholic doctrine at all. So the proposal is reserving a spot for one ConEvo. Does this make sense? Are other theologies going to have reserved spots in the College of Bishops? Bishops who don't believe in divorce? Bishops who believe in lay eucharist? Etc.
the CoE is an independent church with its own discernment processes.It does not subscribe to the idea that there is a "universal" church that has to come to the same conclusions it does before it can discern God's will.
All priests are ordained into the CoE and promise to accept and uphold its Canons.
These Canons include the provision that the church can make major discernment decisions if the right process is followed and the right majorities are obtained.
It seems to me to be pretty clear that the CoE does not define itself with a view to Rome, or the Orthodox church or any other churches that are part of this mythical universal church.
This church has now discerned that, regardless of what the Roman Catholics or the Orthodox are saying, and regardless of how many of them there are, women are called by God to be ordained priests (and soon bishops).
What is is that makes traditionalists be unable to see the reality of their church?
And I would still like you to answer my previous questions.
Is the sealed off church within a church an orthodox concept? And is this church still part of the surrounding church? How is being separated within different from being separated outside?
And does any traditionalist still seriously believe that there will be a time when the CoE sacks all its women priests and refuses to ordain any new ones?
You and 2 other conservatives are the only ones on this forum who have been able to answer at least some of my questions and who have taken my questions seriously.
They are genuine questions. I would be really pleased if you could answer them.
Erika, I will try to answer your questions as best I can.
Is the sealed off church within a church an orthodox concept? It is difficult to answer this question. On the one hand, no, because there is only one Church, and so no logical distinction can be made between a church 'within' and a church 'without'. However, it is an orthodox position to hold that while some in the church are wrong, others are right, but still both remain in the Church by virtue of their baptism. It is in this way traditionalists in the CofE stand apart from the majority (though minority as far as the whole of Christianity is concerned), but we do not form a separate church.
And is this church still part of the surrounding church? Answered above I think.
How is being separated within different from being separated outside? I take this to mean how is standing apart from the majority of the CofE different from being separate from Rome/Orthodox. The Reformation was a regrettable rupture within the body of Christ that needs to be healed. This differs from the current issues dividing the Church of England because the issues in contention, we believe, are ones that will perpetuate and widen the rupture in the universal church that we seek to close.
And does any traditionalist still seriously believe that there will be a time when the CoE sacks all its women priests and refuses to ordain any new ones? We believe that if the ordination of women is wrong and causing sacramental grace to be stifled in our church then God will eventually guide us away from that error. Many heresies have come and gone in the past. This one is particularly pernicious, however, because it will cause all sorts of confusion as to whether men have been validly ordained. This has the potential to seriously undermine the integrity of the Anglican priesthood, the priesthood through which we receive the means of grace.
I would, by the way, totally and unequivocally reject your contention that the CofE can proclaim 'truth' that is explicitly condemned by the rest of the body of Christ.
I agree that we are all part of the church in as far as we refer to the Body of Christ.
But we are not all part of the same expressions of that body. Some of us are quite deliberately not Roman Catholic, others are quite firmly not Protestant, and our array of churches and churchmanships reflects those very major differences between us.
My second question had referred less to the Reformation but more to the CoE and to the requirement of Anglo-Catholic traditionalists to have a structure of sacramental assurance that places them in a position where they are virtually sealed off from being part of the Diocesan structure of the CoE, from what you call the College of Priests, from the Bishops who serve the individual dioceses.
To what extent are FiF parishes who have their own priests and bishops part of the CoE?
You see, I am still trying to understand why people want to remain in a church that is patently developing into something they cannot approve of.
I can see the practical reasons but I still do not see the theological ones.
Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics will require levels of protection that place them outside the church they are a part of. What, theologically, keeps them in that church?
You reject my contention that the CoE can proclaim truth that is explicitly condemned by the rest of the body of Christ.
Even assuming that we can restrict that body of Christ to Catholic churches and that this whole body explicitly condemns women as priest - the CoE is very clearly not taking any notice.
I mean - that's obvious, isn't it? It has got women priests, it will have women bishops. You can suggest that it is wrong to proclaim those truths, but it very clearly does proclaim them and will continue to do so.
I am truly astonished that anyone can believe that the CoE will eventually change its mind on this. To me, that is part of the same wishful thinking that prays for institutional church unity meaning we all trot back to Rome.
Our unity in the body of Christ is not based on uniformity. The trend is towards more and more different expressions of that truth according to the discernment of individual parts of that body.
You may regret that. I find it inexplicable that you do not appear to recognise it.
Barrie, you argument about Rome and the Orthodox completely falls down in the fact that lay members have no say at all. Plenty of Orthodox and Catholics would welcome women's ordained ministry, but the leadership rules with an iron fist and won't even allow a discussion. You are not talking about vast millions in the misogynistic camp, you are talking about a handful of leaders who hold on to their power tightly and won't even allow the conversation.
Sorry, but that's the truth. Most Orthodox leave the church. Those who stay tend to do so for cultural reasons. In countries like Greece, they pretend it is still relevant, but it really isn't.
I don't think it follows that if we have our own structures we are no longer part of the church. If you look at religious communities, they have their own structures and even their own bishops or ordinaries. These communities exist geographically within a diocese, but of course they aren't governed by the diocesan bishop. Nonetheless, they are still fully part of the church. I think you would find that traditionalists are less willing to cooperate with the local woman priest in the next parish as long as we feel we are sitting on a time bomb or that the CofE is trying to make it practically impossible to hold the view of an all-male priesthood with integrity. If there were safe and secure structures which upheld that tradition (which is still accepted, in letter if not in spirit, as a valid theological position) we would be much more comfortable working with women. What keeps me in the Church of England? I was baptised as an Anglican when I was a 9 month old baby, I was brought up an Anglican and the Anglican Church showed me the path to Christ. It is my spiritual home, as it is yours, so I don't feel it's right or just for me to feel obliged to leave only because I uphold a view that had been the case for 2000 years, and that continues to be the view of most Christians. I know the CofE has an opinion on this as a whole, and while I believe that women priests and bishops are not just bad for me but bad for the whole CofE, all I can ask for is that there remains in place a structure which allows my constituency to carry on existing, and, if one wants to look at it practically like this, prevents the CofE going down an irreversible path that it may regret.
thank you, your point about religious communities makes sense.
And please don't think that I'd want you or anyone else to leave!
It's the other way round, if the boot was on the other foot I would no longer feel at home in the church and would personally want to look for somewhere else. I would not be pushed out but I would have to leave for my own spiritual sanity.
But my questions were not about personal preference but about the undergirding theology for wanting to remain somewhere if you have to isolate yourself from it as effectively as if you left it.
And you have been able to answer that question for me. Thanks.
Cynthia, it's not the job of the sheep to guide the shepherds. Most people are not learned in the Scriptures or the Fathers. Many don't understand that the Holy Tradition is not 'tradition' in the Werther's Originals and grandma's apple pie sense. One of the reasons we have a priesthood is so that there are people who can guide the flock in sound doctrine. Otherwise there would be chaos!
Erika, I'm glad I could answer your questions even if we disagree. I sense that even we may have discovered a 'spirit of reconciliation and trust'!
reconciliation and trust, I sincerely hope so!
It am still puzzled, mind you. You say to Cynthia that it is not the role of the sheep to guide the shepherds. And yet you have been baptised into a church and desperately wish to remain in it, that follows precisely that principle through its synodical government.
The CoE has always employed a system of lay participation and of majority voting to come to discernment about God's will for this church.
I can just about understand that you believe the church is wrong to change and that you need it to make provisions for you so you can remain it the kind of church it used to be.
But you are now arguing for an understanding of theology that this church has never ever had, most certainly not since you were baptised into it.
Do you actually agree with the Canons and the polity of the CoE?
Again, this is a genuine question.
That's true. 'Episcopally led, synodically governed'. I'm not against lay participation, but I do think it's the job of the priesthood to defend sound doctrine. Paul was doing this all the time against the apparent wishes of the laity. This is especially important when society's secular values are so far apart from the Church's. We've been warned from the earliest times that "The time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." This is what I mean when I emphasise the importance of a godly and well versed priesthood - almost, dare I say it, to defend the faithful from themselves!
isn't the point where our difference arises precisely because the CoE believes that through it's synodical system its House of Bishops and the Clergy it has discerned something they believe to be sound doctrine?
And the polity of this church foresees that it is possible for this kind of discernment to be made.
This is not the sheep leading the shepherds, this is the majority of the shepherds leading their sheep... and if we look back to last November, it was actually the Lay Chamber, the sheep, who narrowly rejected the new discernment.
It's really not as simple as dismissing what we don't like as secular.
But my sticking point is not that we differ on this particular issue. My sticking point is that traditionalists who were baptised into this church and who are desperate to remain it it, nevertheless appear not to recognise that it has always claimed the authority to use its own discernment and governance structures to discern God's will for it.
"Cynthia, it's not the job of the sheep to guide the shepherds. Most people are not learned in the Scriptures or the Fathers. Many don't understand that the Holy Tradition is not 'tradition' in the Werther's Originals and grandma's apple pie sense. One of the reasons we have a priesthood is so that there are people who can guide the flock in sound doctrine. Otherwise there would be chaos!"
That's very amusing! I can't possibly see myself as a "sheep." In my congregation, many lay members have M. Div's (Master's degrees in Divinity) and/or like me, graduated from the 4 year course called EFM, Education for Ministry. Plenty of us read extensively. But yes, it's true, most of my priests have ivy covered educations like my own. And yet they are also preaching sermons on the Bibles call for justice, mercy, compassion. They tend to use those fancy educations to share with us how counter cultural it was for Jesus to heal, teach, and hang out with women. They share with us how radical it was for Jesus to defend the outcast against the establishment.
Sheep? In the 21st Century? In congregations where many of the parishioners' college degrees (plural in all senses, including undergraduate and graduate degrees) are just as ivy covered as the priests?
Yours is a medieval view where the clergy were likely literate and the parishioners likely were not. It's a brave new world! Chaos is coming from oppressors against the oppressed, and the oppressed now know better.
I think sheep and shepherds is a perfectly intelligible biblical term that most can understand. It refers to the priest's responsibility for their congregation's spiritual well being, part of which is to make sure they are taught the sound doctrine. This has nothing to do with college degrees. I would actually say it was unpastoral of a priest to allow his people to form their own doctrines as you seem to advocate. I'm surprised you didn't understand my point.
your answer to Cynthia does not take into account the fact that women bishops were approved by over 2/3 of the Bishops and the Clergy in Synod.
Whatever other churches may believe, this church believes that God calls women to the priesthood and that affirming this is sound doctrine.
How wise is it for a shepherd to lead his flock into an enclosed pasture, lock the gate and then throw the key away? Eventually, the sheep will eat all the forage and die.
That is exactly how I see the hierarchy of the Roman church having acted in the past 50 years...they have led their parishioners into a doctrinal cul-de-sac. The smart sheep have taken the courage to "jump the fence" and look for the grass on the outside.
"I'm surprised you didn't understand my point."
I get your point. I just find it Medieval, perhaps childish, and a completely inappropriate relationship for 21st Century people to have with God. Again, despite being raised Greek Orthodox, I am embracing both the catholic AND the protestant aspects of Anglicanism. You are completely ignoring the Protestant bit. I have a personal relationship with God. It was helped mightily by a number of priests, 2 women in particular. The interesting thing is that those holy moments are about my healing and my discernment. I have never felt the presence of God in supporting judgement against others. So I am highly skeptical of any theology that imposes judgements, such as those against women's ordination and equality.
Pat O'Neill has it right with the metaphor of the shepherd leading the sheep to an enclosed pasture, to die.
For me there is an underlying question - is divine grace in the end a God-given gift, or a human work? Tradition consistently, to my reading, asserts the former. Sacramental theology which reduces divine grace to human work is sub-christian to my way of reckoning. I know there are different views, but one would have a hard job to shoehorn them in to the tradition of the 39 Articles, Book of Common Prayer and Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Newman's Tract 90 didn't succeed in bridging the gap.
Cynthia, you seem to me to reject any kind of spiritual authority, whether from scripture, tradition or the clergy. I really find it difficult to converse with someone whose theology extends no further than the socialist manifesto. You are clearly your own pope so there really is little point in arguing. I have tried to ground everything I've said in the Bible, the precedent of 2,000 years, and the teaching of the Christian majority. I'm afraid in return I feel you offer rather angry and emotional rebuttals based on politics and the idea that as long as the church accepts everything an anything we are doing God's will. I just don't see it like that.
you criticise Cynthia for speaking as if her theology extended no further than a socialist manifesto.
May I say that I have now asked you several times how you would respond to the fact that women priests were approved by more than 2/3 of members of the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, and that this church believes that God calls women to the priesthood and that affirming this is sound doctrine.
I'm sorry that you have not responded to this, especially as your last reply to me indicated that you believe that sound doctrine should be the preserve of trained clergy and not laity. And yet, here we have the vast majority of clergy in the church you were baptised into and in whose system of synodical government you say you believe, affirming women priests.
Clearly your theology and your understanding of the discernment processes of your church extends beyond “they can’t do it because I don’t believe in it”. Or at least our previous conversation gave me the hope that that was the case.
Are you really saying that “I agree with the systems and processes of this church provided they only use them to affirm what the Roman Catholic church would affirm but I dismiss their legitimacy when they affirm something I don’t personally believe in”?
How is that different from the approach you believe Cynthia to be using?
There is only one Church, and therefore one truth. I simply can't accept that the CofE, as part of the catholic and apostolic church, affirm something of this nature independently. I don't think it has the authority, neither does Rome nor the Orthodox. The priesthood belongs to Christ and he set an example of an all-male priesthood that Paul affirmed, that the Fathers affirmed and that the Church stuck with for 2,000 years. In answer to your question it doesn't matter what CofE bishops have said - firstly because it's obvious when the establishment only ever appoint liberal bishops that this will be the case, and secondly because there are hundreds, probably thousands of bishops out there who disagree. One church, one truth.
so would you say that no church has made any valid discernment on anything since the 343 to 398 schism over Arianism? And that all discernment made by any of the churches ever since is invalid until that day when they all unite again and affirm or reject everything any of them has ever said?
Or is Chalcedon the dividing line? Or the Reformation?
In any case, that is not the view your own church holds. It seems to me that you were baptised into a church and want to remain in one whose Canons and processes you fundamentally disagree with. That must be a very uncomfortable place to have been in all your life.
And yet, it strikes me that that disagreement is only individually chosen and not consistent. Because you clearly accept the priests who have been serving you all your life, yet Rome will not accept them and every single priest who joined the Ordinariate had to be re-ordained.
How do you decide which level of discernment and difference between churches doesn't matter and can be embraced and which level is unacceptable?
Why are Anglo-Catholic CoE male priests acceptable, when Rome doesn't accept them, but female priests are not?
If the sound doctrine from clergy in your own church doesn't guide you, who or what does?
Roman Catholics don't accept the orders of male Anglican priests for quite different reasons to their opposition to female priests. It's pure politics on Rome's part, hence why they made no pronouncement on Anglican orders until 1896, 360 years after the break from Rome. Why? Because with the establishment of RC dioceses in 1850 the RC Church felt threatened by the increasing awakening of the catholic character of the CofE due to the Oxford Movement and the effect that might have on the Roman Catholic mission in England. Pope Leo XIII's case was spurious, because of course ordination is passed on through the laying on of hands, and this was unbroken in Anglicanism. This is why Pope Paul VI gave an episcopal ring to Archbishop Ramsey in 1966 - a tacit recognition of his orders, and why Graham Leonard was only conditionally re-ordained in 1994. This is not the case when it comes to women's ordination, which is an ontological matter. I believe the church has and does make valid discernments, but I cannot accept this as being one of them in the face of (a) the explicit rejection of it by the RC and Orthodox churches, and (b) the prospect of unity will be shattered by this move - is this therefore really something of God?
"The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow patriarchate recognising the church hierarchy of the Anglican church." Department of External Church Relations, Russian Orthodox Church
my theological problem here is that if you say that no individual church can make any discernment unless the One Church does it together, there has not been a single valid discernment since the first split.
And until that One Church comes together again and decides on that very first split it is quite impossible who was right at that time.
I know Anglo-Catholics always instinctively turn to Rome and the Orthodox church because the others have moved away from these.
But until there is this One Church meeting, it is impossible to say whether moving away was not the right thing to have done.
Personally, I do not believe in this mythical church. Faith evolves, churches evolve and we have to make individual decisions about which church we believe to be representing God and his will best.
Referring back to the tradition of one group of churches alone, however many members these may have compared to other churches, is not going to get us any closer to the truth.
Your quote only shows that this institutional unity is getting more and more remote. It says nothing about whose discernment was right.
You know, the more I think about your position the more desperately sorry I feel for you. If you believe in the One Church that hasn’t existed for some 1700 years, then any other expressions of church can only ever be lacking and you’re not really at home anywhere.
The CoE isn’t your home because you don’t agree with its Canons and its insistence that it has the right to make any discernment it likes about anything as long as it follows its processes. It includes Evangelicals who are even further outside your own frame of reference. It includes Ango-Catholics who are happy with women priests. Yet you do not feel you belong to Rome either, or to the Orthodox. I cannot imagine being so rootless in my faith, so worried that my church might get it wrong while having to recognise that not doing anything might be wrong too. I do hope you will find the provision offered satisfactory so you can at least remain rootless within the church you happened to be baptised into.
I'm not my own Pope, Barrie. I just don't think that we are empty shells meant to accept whatever rubbish an authority figure thrusts upon us. My Popes include Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and a vast number of bishops and priests who believe that the radical love of Jesus extends to all, and preach that in their sermons. The idea that I'm making this up and not a single religious leader subscribes to the idea that all people are created in the image of God is really crazy.
I'm highly skeptical of allowing 4th Century men of a particular culture dictate oppression to anyone. I think we have evolved in many ways, including our understanding and relationship to God. Bonhoeffer believed that humans have "come of age" and now it was our time to be partners with God in the healing of the world. Healing includes justice, mercy, compassion for ALL of God's people, including women and LGBT people.
The idea that as a woman I'm supposed to live a submissive life because they did 2000 years ago just doesn't wash with God's actual creation. If he wanted women to stay in that condition, then God should not have made us smart and creative and capable, etc.
Your premise that women CAN'T be priests repudiates the actual experience of millions of people being happily ministered to by female priests and bishops. You act as if everyone is deluded.
Of course, you've said it, you know the truth and don't want to be confused with the very evidence of God's own creation. Nothing works for you until authority figures say it's OK, is that right?
@Barrie, @Erika and @Cynthia... this is a fascinating discussion to watch, especially since I share points of view on both sides.
I am not as certain as Barrie that OOW is impossible; rather I am uncertain that Anglicanism going it alone makes for valid ordinations and therefore sacraments. So I kind of share that point of view.
That said, I did take the view that in the end that uncertainty was best resolved by heading to Rome - because I agree with everything Erika has said about trying to find a home in a church that clearly has its own discernment process. You can't hold to a "one true church" view and live with integrity within Anglicanism, as Erika has so ably pointed out.
Whilst I see your point Cynthia, I think you must also be prepared to recognize that just as those 4th century men were culturally conditioned by the world in which they lived, so are you. In two thousand years time, it's quite possible that people will be sharing through telepathic discussion forums the view that 21st century socialism was a terribly quaint cultural phenomenon. You don't want to be dictated to by those 4th century men and their culture but you are perfectly happy to dictate to other Anglicans that they cannot live their beliefs, based on your own world view and today's culture.
In summary, in this discussion, I think an acknowledgement of uncertainty on both sides of the debate does everyone good. We are all blundering around trying to discern for ourselves the will of God. I have respect for all points of view on women's ordination. Where I think we lose respect is when we set ourselves up as the final word on the issue, and especially so when we do not then act with integrity on our concerns or our own beliefs.
I in some measure agree with Barrie on the issue but I agree with Erika that those of us who do take those views, or tend toward them, belong no longer in Anglicanism. And I think the Cynthias of the world should own their role in eliminating a home for traditionalists within the Anglican fold.
"You can't hold to a "one true church" view and live with integrity within Anglicanism"
That's a very sad indictment on Anglicanism.
""You can't hold to a "one true church" view and live with integrity within Anglicanism"
That's a very sad indictment on Anglicanism."
No, Barrie, it is just a recognition of the fact that the Church of England came into existence because it decided, along with other churches at the Reformation, that it disagreed with the Pope and that it had a responsibility and the right to make its own decisions about its future. Those who do not believe that to be the case should, logically, be or become Roman Catholics (or perhaps Orthodox).
While Anglicans believe and assert that they are part of the "holy catholic church" in the sense that all Christians are part of the Body of Christ, they do not believe this means that they must be structurally and doctrinally united to any other particular expression of that church. While it would be great if we all agreed with each other, there has never been a time when that was so (if we are to trust the evidence of the Epistles, which seem largely to be about the struggles of various factions to live more or less peaceably together). No one had a monopoly on truth then, and no one does now. Our unity does not reside in or originate from any human organisation, nor from us thinking and behaving alike, but from the knowledge that each of us is loved by God as his child, and that we are therefore brothers and sisters to each other, whatever our differences.
One more comment from me:
In my experience, anyone who confidently asserts that he knows what God wants him (or us) to do really only knows what he would like God to want him (or us) to do.
I suppose it depends on what we mean by One True Church.
To me, The Church is the Body of Christ to which all Christians belong regardless of the individual expression of their faith. We all trust that we stumble towards God as well as we can and none of us knows for sure.
Until we can know, we ought to walk together, each in that expression of Christianity that suits us.
We do not need to claim superior ultimate Truth for our denomination, all we can say is that we, personally, believe that this or that denomination reflects our own experience of God better and helps us better to walk in faith.
And, Barrie, I agree with Clive. You cannot know that women cannot be priests. According to your yardstick the universal church that has not existed for the last 1700 years can be the only arbiter of that question. Every church that has spoken on the matter since may be wrong.
So there is nothing to stop Protestant and Anglican churches from stepping out in faith and believing that God calls women to the priesthood.
It's no more likely to be wrong than Catholic churches may be wrong in being unable to recognise that call.
"And I think the Cynthias of the world should own their role in eliminating a home for traditionalists within the Anglican fold."
That's actually not the intent. The problem, in simplistic terms, is that of including the excluders. We live in a moral universe and the arc of it bends toward justice. But we aren't all arriving at the Promised Land simultaneously. In fact, it is quite messy, some who are open and affirming of racial minorities (in our respective cultures) haven't arrived on equality for women, some who are onboard with women aren't onboard with LGBT, etc.
We've learned so much from Gandhi, MLK, and Desmond Tutu. We have learned about Celtic Christianity and protestantism, and all sorts of developments that challenge the status quo. The status quo got that way because of systems of power. Might does not make right. This creates a great need for a discernment process, of keeping what's good from the past, but moving towards processes that honor the image of God in ALL people.
As we progress in recognizing the image of God in all people and in God's creation, we come across knotty problems. How to include the excluders without dishonoring women, LGBT people, etc.?
Regarding the CoE, Clive, the proposal for accepting women in the episcopate includes reserving a spot in the College of Bishops for a man who believes in male headship. This is not received theology, and it hardly represents the view of all "traditionalists." The ACs don't subscribe to male headship. A knotty problem that doesn't seem to even serve the needs of all "traditionalists."
Meanwhile, in TEC, we call our own rectors and elect our own bishops. Consequently, parishes tend to get the rectors who match their views, traditional or otherwise.
So Clive, I'm not trying to exclude the traditionalists. I live within a system that tolerates a wider range of messiness. CoE's more hierarchical approach has put it in a box where it must decide one way or another.
I'm sure TEC, or former TEC members have a different view. The national church is progressive. But at the parish level, most can get liberal or traditional rectors, as the mind of the parish chooses. And I think the "male only" crowd will be able to call male ordained priests for generations to come.
I have never said the one church hasn't been around around for 1,700 years! It exists now as the collective body of disparate denominations. We have splintered, but that is something we should regret, and therefore one splinter among many should not embark on grave doctrinal novelty on its own, because the one church of which we are all a part does not operate like that. We should be minimising division, not widening it.
Thank you Cynthia.
There seems to me to be so much fear in so much of the rigid opposition to change. As if behind it all was a terrifying God who would endanger our salvation if we got anything about our faith wrong.
And there also seems to be this idea that faith is separate from normal life and that God's rigid rules could ever go counter to our increasing awareness of social justice.
We do not want to exclude anyone. But the price for inclusion cannot be the continued exclusion of women from all levels of Ministry, not after the CoE has discerned that this is what God wants from it.
Let's hope and pray we can find structures that will make it possible for everyone to stay. The current proposals make me hopeful.
but you say that no individual denomination can make any discernments until the One Church makes them. That means that all the splinters - every single one of them - would have to come together.
And that has not happened for 1700 years since the first split.
So your One Church has been in limbo ever since then.
I personally do not regret this at all, I celebrate it. Everything in creation is about diversity and so are the various expressions of our faith. We will never go back to one single body making discernments on behalf of all of us.
Although I admire much about the Catholic churches, I emphatically reject much about them too. I feel about them as disdainful as you do about Protestant churches.
Any move towards institutional unity on Catholic terms would unchurch me as much as women priests without provisions would unchurch you.
It is not only not going to happen, it is not even remotely desirable.
I'm sorry Erika, but what you're advocating is heretical. Not even desirable for the Church to be one again? As Paul said, 'is Christ divided?' No! The Church is Christ's bride, and we must work together to be fit to meet him, our bridegroom. The Church is a beautiful thing, but these divisions scar us.
Christ is not divided. We do not need institutional unity in order to be all one in Christ.
And, realistically, we all know this. I do not see any existential effort by Roman Catholics to bring the US Southern Baptists into the fold. We know very well that we are all Christians but that we all experience and express our faith differently.
What's stopping us from being One is this pointless insistence that some parts of us are "Right" and the others "Wrong" and that only when the wrong'uns have been brought back into the fold will the church be one again.
The Church IS one. Always has been. It's just that its warring factions have not understood that. Once they do, the argument is over.
The church is the body of Christ, right? Is your body all one thing...or is it made of parts, each doing what is necessary to keep the body healthy? Hands, arms, legs, brain, heart, stomach, etc? Why not view the current universal church, with all its many diverse parts--Roman, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern, Coptic, etc.--the same way? Each "part" of the universal church performs a function in keeping the church healthy.
And, Barrie, even that fierce sounding statement from the Orthodox Church you quoted earlier only mentions the impossibility of that church "recognising" the hierarchy of the churches in the Anglican Communion.
It doesn't say anything about institutional unity, it doesn't say anything about what doctrines developed since ... shall we say Chalcedon? .. were up for re-negotiation once the whole church assembles again. I have never heard the Roman Catholics putting papal infallibility on the table.
There is not a single church that is serious about this mythical One Church that existed in the dawn of time.
The Catholics would be happy if the rest of the world became Catholic but that's the extent of the kind of unity on offer.
And that, legitimate as it may be for Roman Catholics, is nowhere near your description of this One Church that is the only one that has authority to make discernments about God's will for the church.
That church does not exist.