Friday, 30 January 2015

WATCH Statement on the consecration arrangements for the Bishop of Burnley

WATCH published this statement yesterday.

Statement on the consecration arrangements for the Bishop of Burnley on 2nd February 2015
Posted on January 29, 2015

We rejoice that as a result of the consecration of Bishop Libby Lane the Church of England is living in a new era. We therefore recognise that these are early days in finding expression of the five guiding principles in practices that reflect the highest possible degree of communion. Decisions made now will inevitably come under scrutiny. As actions are tested within the community of the Church, we will all be reflecting upon them, and on the shape of mature practices that will in due course emerge to express wide communion and enable mutual flourishing. It will not be easy to do this well, but WATCH is committed to making a constructive contribution to this process from the perspective of its own core principles. For the moment that involves asking sharp questions about this particular consecration, and asking that reflection be done on those questions in a way which engages the wider church as well as those immediately involved.

We recognize that the Archbishop has had very difficult decisions to make about the arrangements for the consecration of the Bishop of Burnley, and we know that he will have thought and prayed deeply about those decisions. This is the first significant test in practice of the Five Principles contained in the House of Bishops’ Declaration, and is therefore highly significant.

Given all of this, we would value an explanation of how the Archbishop reached his decision to be present but not to consecrate. We acknowledge that this is based in a wish to offer Christian generosity towards the dissenting minority. However, we are concerned about the theological and ecclesiological implications of this decision and its impact on the unity of the Church of England. Consecrations are public moments, of great significance, and the actions that take place within those rites, as with all Anglican rites, declare our belief as a Church, as much as any written documents. The visual symbol of a divided House of Bishops is a very powerful one, given how hard we have all worked to stay together in one church.

The Five Principles are the basis from which good practice needs to be worked out. In many cases it will not be straightforward to know how best to enable mutual flourishing within the highest degree of communion possible. Our hope is that when decisions are made which purport to aid the flourishing of all they will be carefully tested in terms of the perceptions they will create and their consequences, including the pain and offence they may cause. In our view, male bishops and archbishops will need to exercise particular diligence in this respect, as their common practice is so rooted in a previous male-only era. This will require significant efforts to hear the disparate views of all those most affected, and to help them listen to each other and work out a solution that all can assent to. It would be good to know that such collective wrestling underpins this decision.

What might the Archbishop’s decision to refrain from consecrating a bishop indicate? At the least, it appears to be a tacit endorsement of the rationale that his active laying on of hands would not be welcome by the candidate or a particular constituency that he represents. Given that, we believe it would be very helpful for the House of Bishops to invite the Faith and Order Commission to examine and explore this rationale and the theology underpinning it. That might help those who are perplexed to comprehend it, and therefore be more able to honour the faithfulness of its adherents.

Our greatest sadness is that the word ‘taint’ is in the atmosphere again. However much dissenters refute this as a basis for their beliefs, it is very hard to overcome the perception that because the Archbishop has consecrated a female bishop, he is now unacceptable as a consecrator of a dissenting bishop. This concept causes such deep damage to all of us but it cannot be avoided in these circumstances. We all know the message this conveys to members of the Church and wider society about how women are perceived.

All these issues have particular resonance in this case, as the Bishop of Burnley is a bishop for the whole church, not a PEV. We are concerned that he should be affirmed and upheld through his consecration as a bishop for the people of Blackburn Diocese, not as a bishop whose ministry will be directed solely towards the dissenting minority. He will share the cure of souls across Blackburn Diocese with female and male priests, and will minister across all parishes.

We are very aware of the individuals involved in this case who may find themselves in a spotlight that is unwelcome and unexpected. We pray particularly for them, and for grace and strength to live and speak faithfully in such demanding circumstances.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 30 January 2015 at 11:36am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Instead of asking questions, why won't WATCH just say what it thinks in its next statement? Does WATCH believe the rules - including the Five Principles - have been wrongly applied, or are the rules themselves wrong?

The word "taint" is in the atmosphere largely because of a disturbing emergence of liberal intolerance by some supporters of gender inclusion, with the debate at times becoming indignant and personal towards the bishop-elect. I have seen no instance of WATCH acting to diffuse the situation and ensure the discussion remains civil and charitable.

I fully support women in the episcopate, but this isn't about me: the Archbishop of York seems to be satisfied he has interpreted the regulations correctly. By Monday afternoon, therefore, we should have a new canonically ordained and consecrated bishop. The HoB Declaration and Five Principles came about not just after all sides came round the table to talk, but was also endorsed with the enthusiastic support of WATCH members and their allies.

Posted by: Tim M on Friday, 30 January 2015 at 5:24pm GMT

re Tim M's contribution: Interesting is this week's 'Tablet' Editorial, which questions the R.C. non-attendance at Bishop Libby's episcopal ordination, virtually calling their absence regrettable, and hopefully not a sign of 'things to come' in terms of the quest for Christian Unity.

It will be interesting to see if there is any R.C. representation at Fr. North's 'Do'.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 30 January 2015 at 11:39pm GMT

There is no surer way to create a church-within-a-church than to decide that some bishops can lay hands on some ordinands, and other bishops cannot.

If an ordinand, or his or her faction, feels that consecration by either Archbishop is inappropriate, then perhaps the ordinand should not be ordained in the CofE.

If this abstention from laying on hands was truly and entirely the Archbishop's idea, then I would strongly suggest that the next General Synod restrict the ability of the Archbishops to abstain from consecrating due to the theology of the ordinand.

Is the Church of England one church? Or not?

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 31 January 2015 at 2:22am GMT

One thing the T A Blog proves above all else is that it buries the untruth that to be a member of the Church of England you don't have to believe in anything very much.
The commentators on this blog shew time and time again that they do indeed passionately believe. One only has to look at the passionate opposing responses to the consecrations of Bishop Libby and Father Philip to note the strength of passion, feeling and belief on both sides of the discussion. If only this could be done with a measure of "gracious restraint" and Christian compassion without descending into personal abuse, then the Blog would be immeasurably improved for the good.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 31 January 2015 at 10:56am GMT

I like the WATCH statement. We've spent a few weeks now criticising what we THINK is behind the statement, but all our energy could have been wasted if that isn't what they were thinking at all. It's valid to say "I have the impression that this is taint, I know you say it isn't, so can you please explain what you did mean".
We need to get away from talking at each other and talking properly with each other - and that ought to include the bishops and the archbishops. The Western world has moved on and this lack of transparency and accountability is a huge turn off for so many.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 31 January 2015 at 11:48am GMT

I certainly never supported the House of Bishops Statement nor the five principles. Now they are being worked out we can see how harmful they are. Those in the Church might tie themselves into knots in this way but those outside are just more horrified by the Church of England. I have daughters and grand daughters whom I long to return to faith and worship but this just drives them fur her away

Posted by: Jean Mayland (Revd) on Saturday, 31 January 2015 at 11:55am GMT

Jean Mayland voices the fears of many, that, as in the past, the words we hoped would hold a single church together will in fact be interpreted in ways which pull us apart. There were people who didn't vote for this legislation and the five principles and who don't see themselves in it. If it is their influence which is trying to grow practices in the church inimical to the principles, then in the end we all have a problem - those of us who own the principles need to be part of shaping the practices. I find the principles difficult personally, but having supported the settlement I know I have to give them a go and not ditch them at the first hurdle.

If "gracious restraint" becomes just another way of "being nice to each other and not engaging", the settlement will fold in another way. Anyone who has studied this at all knows that it will be hard, and the principles are about remaining in relationship with each other. To pick up an idea in Father David's post, they are essentially about being passionately faithful without losing sight of each other, and each other's faithfulness.

The statement rightly says we are in a new era. The five principles mean that we have work to do to shape our common life. It is work we have to do together.

I am sad that the first outing of "gracious restraint" seems to involve some form of mandated corporate discipline. To me the whole idea only works when it is a costly gift rather than a compelled but reluctant act.

The Church of England can do so much better than this, but that is for the church to work through together. It is right to pray for the individuals involved, for they will bear the mark of history as well as the burden of office.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 31 January 2015 at 10:23pm GMT

And yet the bishop of Chichester, was ordained bishop, by archbishop Sentamu !

Posted by: Laurie on Saturday, 31 January 2015 at 11:19pm GMT

Father Ron intimates that there was no official Roman Catholic delegation or representation at last Monday's consecration, was there any official Orthodox representation in the Minster, or were the Great Churches of East and West significant by their absence?

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 1 February 2015 at 6:06am GMT

I've copied below an article from New Directions by Fr Philip. Take the time to read it, then say why you disagree with him - apart from the worry of 'taint'. This is what we in the Diocese of Blackburn are thankfully getting - Positive Mission.

ED: as the article is far too long for a comment, I have obtained the permission of Forward in Faith to reproduce the full text as a separate TA article, which I have just now published. Scroll up....

Posted by: Henry Dee on Sunday, 1 February 2015 at 2:46pm GMT

I can see a private member's motion coming for rescinding the Guiding Principles, not that it would get through the House of Bishops. It might however lead to an honest debate.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Sunday, 1 February 2015 at 11:14pm GMT

I can see questions being asked in Parliament about why the church established by law is creating a misogynistic church within a church.

This would be silly -- a hand-scrawled sign saying "no girlz allowed" -- if it were not so theologically pretentious and abusive.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 2 February 2015 at 3:51am GMT

"And yet the bishop of Chichester, was ordained bishop, by archbishop Sentamu" @ Laurie. Precisely. So was +Beverley. Which is why this is NOT - and never has been - about taint.

Posted by: Simon R on Monday, 2 February 2015 at 10:08am GMT

I wish Philip North well in his ministry but the theological questions raised by the manner of his ordination are important. If the non-laying on of hands signals 'impaired communion', what does it mean to have a suffragan not in full communion with his diocesan bishop, archbishop and majority of clergy and parishioners he supposedly serves? As far as I am aware, this is unprecedented.

For instance, suppose you are a teenager about to be confirmed by, and take your first communion from, a bishop who appears to have indicated publicly that he is not in full communion with your vicar and the rest of your congregation, including your parents. Are you in communion with him or them? Does this depend on your attitude to women clergy and, if you regard their ministry as valid - the opinion of the C of E and the vast majority of its members - what does it mean to be confirmed by someone who does not believe you can be in full sacramental fellowship with him?

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Monday, 2 February 2015 at 7:27pm GMT

You make a good point, Savi, but I am not sure it is entirely unprecedented. There are other non-ordaining bishops who are suffragan to ordaining diocesans, e.g. +Tony Robinson (+Pontefract/soon to be +Wakefield), one of yesterday's co-consecrators. Is their situation any different to that of +Burnley? Conversely, the ordaining +Lewes is suffragan to yesterday's chief consecrator +Chichester.
And, although the three PEVs are arguably a special case, they are technically suffragan to their respective Provincials, both of whom ordain women.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Tuesday, 3 February 2015 at 5:05pm GMT

In the past, Malcolm, I believe bishops who do not ordain women have been willing to be consecrated by bishops who do.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Tuesday, 3 February 2015 at 5:42pm GMT

Yes indeed, Savi, non-ordaining bishops have been willing to be consecrated by ordaining bishops. And I like to believe (being as positive as possible in a very unsatisfactory and worrying situation) that Philip North would have been willing to be consecrated by ++Sentamu. But the arrangements were imposed on him (and everybody else) by an authoritarian ABY, using the power given to him and overriding all objections. And the unfortunate Fr North, now twice wronged by the same person, felt obliged to go along with them out of loyalty to his new Metropolitan. That's my take on it, anyway!

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Thursday, 5 February 2015 at 2:48pm GMT

"[A]n authoritarian ABY, using the power given to him and overriding all objections."

I can't speak to Bishop North's willingness. feeling of obligation, or loyalty. But it does appear that this strange ordination came about in the way it did because Archbishop Sentamu thought it right.

So I agree with you about where responsibility and accountability should lie. And I agree with you about "the power given to him."

Let us hope for a question or two in Parliament, and the implied threat of legislation if either Metropolitan uses his power again in such a foolish way.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 8 February 2015 at 2:49am GMT
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