Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England)

The House of Commons held a Westminster Hall debate on Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England) recently. The Hansard transcript is available here, and there is a video recording here.

WATCH issued this press release:

Westminster Hall Debate: Women’s Contribution to the Ordained Ministry (Church of England). Thursday 20 March

I hope our debate has sent a message to the 4,200 ordained women that we greatly value what they do. The Church of England needs to embrace the gifts that men and women bring”, Caroline Spelman MP for Meriden.

WATCH congratulates Caroline Spelman MP and other Members of Parliament for taking part in the Westminster Hall debate on the role of ordained women in the Church of England over the past 20 years. Ordained women across the country will be affirmed to hear the many appreciative comments made on their contribution within Church and Society that has ensured that the priestly role has become “Transformational”. We hope all ordained women will welcome the recognition given in the debate that their work and ministry now seen as, “a valued, valuable and wonderful part of church life”. WATCH also concurs with the comment that much still needs to be done to ensure that the glass ceiling does not remain in place.

In the debate hope was expressed that the proposed legislation coming before the General Synod in July will go through. We welcome the assurance given by the Second Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, that all efforts will be made for the Measure to be fully properly considered, approved and passed into law well before Christmas. Sir Tony also offered the hope that we will see the first women bishops consecrated shortly thereafter.

We appreciated his reading from the New Testament showing the loyalty of the women who stood witness to Christ’s crucifixion, and how Mary Magdalene was the one sent to the disciples to tell of his resurrection. In this context, we welcome and fully endorse his comment that the last 20 years have demonstrated that women priests are well able to proclaim the risen Christ throughout the land. By their ministry they have made and continue to make an enormous contribution to the life of the Church, community and country.

WATCH welcomes the appreciation of its long years of campaigning work, together with those supporters in Deanery, Diocesan and General Synods who wish to see women enter the Episcopate.

We concur with the commendation of The Archbishop of Canterbury for the “urgent and effective manner” in which he has worked for the new legislation since his appointment.

Sally Barnes coordinator of the WATCH Parliamentary Task Force said,
WATCH would like to thank those Members of Parliament who took part in this debate for the many affirming comments made from their personal contacts with ordained women. We are all heartened to know that after so long the value and worth of their vocations have been so emphatically recognised, along with their spiritual, pastoral insights and gifts. We look forward to the same recognition being given to those women who will be appointed as bishops and to the time when the Church of England will have finally broken the stained glass ceiling of discrimination. Then we, with so many others, will rejoice fully.

Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail reported that Church is ‘running out of men to be bishops’: Labour MP uses debate on women being consecrated to says Anglican talent pool is drying up.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 10:34am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | News
Comments

'The church is running out of men to be bishops'. Well if the recent pronouncement by the HoB on gay marriage is anything to go by they ran out years ago.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 11:03am BST

Surely there are many Traditionalist male priests "good enough to be bishops"? The trouble is that for the first time in history the Church has decided no longer to consecrate those who do not adhere to the new orthodoxy. Then we stand back and wonder why the Church of England continues its long and steady decline.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 11:28am BST

David: we have not decided any such thing.

Posted by: Charles Read on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 2:00pm BST

Father David, is it actually a serious suggestion that if the House of Bishops contained more members of Forward in Faith the CofE would be better off financially/numerically/spiritually? It's an assertion you've made before but without any evidence to back it up. Our local FiF shack is dying on its feet - long and steady decline is exactly how I would describe it...

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 2:41pm BST

The willingness of 4,200 women to commit themselves to an institution that has so often been so rude to them is a significant witness to the Church's continuing vitality.

On the other hand, the refusal of so many in the Church to recognize God's call to women seeking orders is a constant reminder of how bound to a particular moment in history so many in the Church continue to be.

Posted by: jnwall on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 2:48pm BST

I might also suggest that the Church artificially restricts the 'pool' because of the desire for exclusively white, heterosexual, married and preferably fertile men, none of whom have any skeletons whatsoever and all of whom allegedly support a major football team. When presented with an eminently suitable man married to a divorcee, or even worse, some one who is divorced the Church goes into a flap. When the man is gay, and even worse, partnered, the shutters come down completely. 'We can't have that sort if thing, it might disturb the faithful'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 5:13pm BST

Alastair, may I respectfully suggest that you look at the websites of the Bishops of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley and see the large number of candidates being confirmed by these three splendid bishops.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 6:18pm BST

I'm sorry, Richard Ashby - the Church of England has had lots of gay bishops, with or without acknowledged partners. We have not yet had a female bishop in the Church of England, even by mistake. I agree there have been (partially successful) attempts to restrict the pool. But these have just focussed attention on what is publicly known (for example divorce and remarriage, or in previous generations, I think, illegitimacy, which involves no personal fault at all).

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 1 April 2014 at 11:49pm BST

"The Church of England is running out of male priests good enough to be bishops, a senior Labour MP said yesterday."

I was sure this MUST be a Story o' the Day (1 April), until I saw the byline was 20 March! :-0

Good heavens, THAT is not the reason women ought to be ordained bishops---it's because God is CALLING them!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 4:42am BST

"none of whom have any skeletons whatsoever"

Richard Ashby, the wording of your description of a preferred type of candidate for episcopal ministry implies that men in this restrictive pool have no backbone.

So it can often seem.

Posted by: Sister Mary on Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 6:25am BST

Why is it that so many clergy who have a quite legitimate devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, seem unable to understand God's valuation of women as archetypes of the facilitation of The Word Incarnate. When devotees of Our Blessed Lady go to Walsingham on pilgrimage, finding no woman allowed to preside at the Eucharist, do they ever reflect on the fact that Mary, called by God, born Jesus in her womb - not just upon the altar.

"Hail Mary full of grace - the LORD is with you. blessed are you among women" - but, not only among women but also in all creation. Through Mary's fiat, we received our Saviour - not in the forms of Bread and Wine, but in the flesh!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 11:22am BST

"may I respectfully suggest that you look at the websites of the Bishops of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley and see the large number of candidates being confirmed by these three splendid bishops"

But Father David, that statement means precisely nothing and in no way supports your hypothesis unless compared accurately with the number of candidates being confirmed by bishops who are not FiF.

Surely the far more likely consequence of a larger number of FiF bishops would be that the same number of candidates would be confirmed in conservative catholic parishes, but spread between more bishops. Or do you have something to suggest otherwise?

You also don't answer my point about our local FiF parish which is dwindling to the point of non-existence. The FiF parish near where my parents live (200 miles away) is in a very similar position.

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 1:38pm BST

@ Father Ron: My home is blessed by the presence of a Russian icon of the Theotokos represented as a priest, with the Christ Child emerging out of the chalice before her. It's a remarkable thing that churches that can produce and use an image like this can fail to grasp its obvious practical implications. If a woman can bear God Incarnate into the world, then surely women of faith can consecrate bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ on the Holy Table.

Posted by: WilliamK on Wednesday, 2 April 2014 at 11:37pm BST

Alastair, how on earth am I expected to comment on the two parishes you mention when I know absolutely nothing about them, other than the anecdotal and totally negative intimation that you impart? The clear evidence shewn in photographic form on the three PEV bishops' websites clearly shews FiF parishes which are both thriving and flourishing and for that, praise God!
Your recent comment means "precisely nothing" as I am sure you, like me, would not find it very difficult to point to scores and scores of non FiF parishes which are rapidly declining; sadly to the point of near extinction.
When Pope Benedict XVI asked Archbishop Rowan what women priests were like, the Archbishop is reported to have said that like male priests some were good and others were not so good.
Maybe Archbishop Justin had a point in his much criticised comment that good priests result in growing churches. Sadly, the reverse is also true.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 6:30am BST

Furthermore, dear Alastair, it stands to reason than 100+ bishops will be confirming more candidates than those confirmed by the faithful three Flying Bishops. But what is devastating worrying is how many candidates the total number of bishops confirmed in 2013 compared with 2003, let alone 1953, I don't have the exact figures to hand but sadly I know the most recent figures are significantly reduced. What we all must surely address as a matter of dire urgency is what is the cause of this rapid decline and how can it be halted?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 7:31am BST

WilliamK. Couldn't agree with you more. It seems that the male supremacy syndrome is the only factor blinding any Christian to the fact that Our Lady - a woman - was responsible, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the Incarnation of Jesus in the flesh. This was the origin of the Jesus who then gave us the Sacrament of His Body and blood. The ministry of Mary as female Theotokos is surely as important as the ministry of any male priest, in bringing forth the Presence of Christ at the altar.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 10:31am BST

Fr. David - you are assuming that confirmation is important.

Posted by: Charles Read on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 12:49pm BST

Father David, the only evidence either of us have is entirely anecdotal.

I hope we can both agree that there are FiF parishes and non-FiF parishes that are growing, and others that are declining, towards extinction as you say. I think that we would also both agree that there are good and not so good FiF priests and good and not so good non-FiF priests. Similarly, and why should it be any other way, there will be good FiF bishops and not so good FiF bishops.

All of which, I think, would support the null hypothesis that having more FiF bishops would have absolutely no effect on the growth or decline of the Church of England. Now, there may very well be good reasons you have for wanting to see more FiF bishops, but nothing that has been offered here suggests to me that it would stop the Church of England from continuing "its long and steady decline".

"But what is devastating worrying is how many candidates the total number of bishops confirmed in 2013 compared with 2003, let alone 1953, I don't have the exact figures to hand but sadly I know the most recent figures are significantly reduced. What we all must surely address as a matter of dire urgency is what is the cause of this rapid decline and how can it be halted?"

I'm totally with you on that one at least. Clearly some of the decline will be only cultural: it having been the done thing to be confirmed, but that is far from the whole story, and it should be of concern to everyone in the CofE.

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 3:57pm BST

Alastair, I'm delighted that we seem to be in agreement on so much and want the very best for the Church we both love and wish to see grow and flourish.
From my own knowledge of the Flying Bishops I am certain that all three of them exercise an amazing and much appreciated ministry, the pastoral care they offer is second to none. The great strength of such an addition to the episcopal ministry is that they are not bogged down with synods and committees and thus can devote more of their time to be what bishops are meant to be.
Had I been a Conservative Evangelical I would certainly desire to have a fourth PEV of that persuasion to enhance the existing three Catholic PEVs. I think that might be a wise and sensible addition, particularly as so many strong and wealthy Evangelical churches sometimes raise the possibility of withholding their quota payments to the central diocesan authority.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 8:20pm BST

"they are not bogged down with synods and committees and thus can devote more of their time to be what bishops are meant to be"

So how do we change things to release all bishops (and priests for that matter) to do this? What chance real reform?!

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Thursday, 3 April 2014 at 10:30pm BST

Alastair, a sage retired priest recently told me that he and his parish one year gave up meetings and committees for Lent and, surprise, surprise, come Easter the Church was still in existence and the gates of hell had not prevailed against it. Why not extend the period and have a year's moratorium sans synods and meetings, concentrating instead upon mission and evangelism and see if that can create growth where now there is decline?
I know that in this, the centenary year of the Chelmsford diocese, every parish is encouraged to have a mission.
In preparation for this, prior to the onset of 2014, the Diocesan Bishop and his team held several gathered events throughout the diocese enthusing and encouraging the parishes with suggestions and ideas as to the kind of things they has in mind. What a marvellous use of a bishop's time, I'm sure that would warm the heart of old St. Paul.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 4 April 2014 at 6:43am BST
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