Friday, 15 September 2017

Independent Reviewer’s report on See of Sheffield

Church of England press release

Independent Reviewer’s report on See of Sheffield published
15 September 2017

A report of the review of nomination to the See of Sheffield by the independent reviewer Sir Philip Mawer has been published today.

The report and appendices set out the findings of a review requested by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in March this year following the announcement that the Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, was to withdraw from nomination to the Diocese of Sheffield.

The 75-page report draws from meetings with and personal submissions from more than 100 people (including over 60 from the Sheffield diocese) over recent months seeking to learn lessons from the events surrounding Bishop North’s nomination to and subsequent withdrawal from the See.

Sir Philip was appointed in 2014 as Independent Reviewer to resolve disputes arising from the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration, which sets out the Five Guiding Principles behind the legislation which opened the way for women bishops. His report seeks to set out valuable lessons for the wider Church of England following events in Sheffield.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said: “We are very grateful and deeply indebted to Sir Philip for this detailed, thoughtful and authoritative review.

“We will be reading it carefully and discussing the lessons with the House of Bishops when it meets later this year and will respond in greater detail in due course.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the vital principle of mutual flourishing as the Church and will endeavour to maintain the bond of peace and affection and live God’s reconciliation in Jesus Christ, even amid difference on questions on which Christians may disagree Christianly.”

Concluding his report, Sir Philip remarks: “The story of what happened in respect of the Sheffield nomination is not populated by villains but by people who were simply seeking to do their best according to their own understanding of their responsibilities and in the light of their Christian convictions.

“There is, frankly, no merit, if those of differing convictions in the Church are to continue to live together, in anybody searching for scapegoats.”

He adds: “I have suggested in this report that further consideration under the auspices of the House of Bishops, of the theological and pastoral issues raised so far by the Church’s experience of living out the 2014 Settlement would be healthy.

“But at the end of the day of the day, the choice facing the Church is a simple one … whether to continue wrestling with the issues I have identified, for the sake of the Gospel, or whether to abandon the Settlement.

“If those who take the majority view in the Church are to retain credibility in the eyes of the minority, there is only one choice which I believe they can make.

“Equally if those in the minority wish to continue as honoured and full members of the Church of England, they need to ensure that they act and speak in ways which show understanding of the position of ordained women, which emphasise their commitment to the corporate life of the Church and which encourage the majority to remain unequivocally committed to the success of that Settlement, ‘that they may all be one ….. so that the world may believe’.”

Notes to Editors

Summary of findings and conclusions:

Sir Philip finds that Bishop Philip North’s nomination to the See of Sheffield was entirely consistent with the terms of the 2014 Settlement which enabled the consecration of women as bishops in the Church of England. However:

The nomination of Bishop North - a bishop who would not ordain women as priests - came as a surprise to many, indicating a failure to inform and educate people that such a nomination was possible under the terms of the Settlement.

There is scope for improvement in the processes leading to the nomination of candidates to the Crown for appointment as diocesan bishops.

Events surrounding the nomination also raise some fundamental theological and pastoral issues relating to the 2014 Settlement and its operation.

They also point to a failure to anticipate the likely reaction to Bishop North’s nomination and to plan for handling it.

Sir Philip makes four recommendations, principally to the House of Bishops, designed to enable the whole Church to address these issues:

1. That the House of Bishops commissions a group with balanced membership to review what has been done to inform and educate clergy and laity about the Settlement agreed in 2014; distil examples of good practice within dioceses; and provide resources to help dioceses, deaneries and parishes, and theological training institutions to engage in further consideration of the issues.

2. That questions raised in the Review over whether the current procedures relating to a Vacancy in See committee and to the Crown Nominations Commission are capable of improvement be considered alongside the outcome of a separate review of the Crown Nominations Commission led by Professor Oliver O’Donovan. These should include the issue of the extent to which the cloak of confidentiality currently surrounding the work of the Commission can be relaxed in order to ensure the degree of preparation for the announcement of a nomination commensurate with the controversy it is likely to arouse.

3. That the House of Bishops invites the Faith and Order Commission to examine the theological challenge which has been posed to the 2014 Settlement and that the results of this work - together with the House’s response to the pastoral challenge as to what the nomination of a non-ordaining bishop as a diocesan implies for the ministry of women clergy and lay ministers - inform the ongoing process of discussion and education about the Settlement.
In addressing this challenge, it will also be appropriate to address the implications of appointing a woman bishop for her pastoral relationship with those male clergy in her diocese who are unable on theological grounds to accept the sacramental validity of her orders.

4.That, together with his colleagues in the National Church Institutions, and those involved in the dioceses of Sheffield and Blackburn, the Secretary General reviews the lessons to be learned from what happened in order to plan better for handling any such events in future.

Further information:

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Comments

Crucially, what this report does not address (and it was not within Sir Philip's brief to do so) is the undeniable fact that every time the wider Church of England is in a position to comment on the settlements that have been suggested and then finally agreed by the General Synod, the church has overwhelmingly shown that there is very weak support for the principle of mutual flourishing - in fact it is only ever members of Synod and senior church office-holders that I hear speaking of such a concept. It ought to be obvious that you cannot stifle people's freedom to express their opinions about the place of women in the Christian tradition and in wider society and that that opinion, in England, is now heavily loaded against the persistent exclusion of women from leadership in the church. To try to 'educate' people out of this is a herculean task and one that is directly related to people turning away from the church. We might wish for polite respectful behaviour from all quarters but, as Sir Philip found, most who commented were doing so in a spirit of wishing to speak the truth as they see it and this suggests that the best hope for 'mutual flourishing' is for people on both sides of the debate to be tough enough to stand firm and try to persuade others to walk with them. There will always be opposition as there has been to the appointment of women priests and bishops as well as bishops who will not ordain women. The Church of England Settlement is founded on an illogicality that will perpetually cause difficulty and there are two ways forward: either remove the Settlement or appoint people on both 'sides' who will stand their ground and suffer the consequences of their beliefs.

Posted by: Janet Henderson on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 11:23am BST

Nothing like publishing on a Friday a report that highlights the lack of leadership on a fundamental issue.

Guiding principles, forsooth. The fact is that the Archbishops did what they had to do in 2014 to ensure that women would be bishops, and to change the church before Parliament legislated on the subject.

It was a bad bargain then, and it looks worse now.

Until the Philip North episode there was no good reason to revisit the issue. So no one did. After all, why draw attention to the fact that part of the Church still engages in sex discrimination?

As a result of the Sheffield situation, every Vacancy in See Committee will know that they will have to clear on this issue, going forward. Which means that there will in practice be very little room, going forward, for bishops who think that women cannot be bishops.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 1:45pm BST

I suppose the basic problem here, as with sexuality, is that we’ve reached a point where fundamental disagreements go too deep. I’ve heard and read all the arguments against the ordination of women, and could give a good account of them if need be. But I can’t really see them as anything other than bits of religious ideology used to justify institutional sexism. I don’t say this with malice. It’s just a commonplace sociological observation. I’m sure those who resist allowing women into golf clubs likewise try to justify their position, but I don’t take their arguments seriously either, ethically or intellectually.

So being in a church which accepts this kind of sexism is just embarrassing. It’s a bit like when your elderly relative starts making comments about the blacks or Pakistanis bringing the neighbourhood down. You might put up with them because they’re family, but you don’t give serious credence to their views, nor do you want them to talk like that in public.

Of course I understand that the General Synod and the Bishops want to us to respect different convictions on this and support mutual flourishing. But I don’t. You might as well ask me to support bringing back capital punishment, or rescinding universal suffrage. I’m just not interested. Nor do I feel morally bound by the misguided decisions of a church will allowed this situation to evolve in the first place.

In the church, views like mine are seen as extreme and unchristian. But in the rest of society, they are not simply normal but (in fact) necessary: a failure to express this commitment to gender equality would raise questions about your fitness to hold public office, or operate as a manager in the workplace. And on this issue, it is the rest of society, not the church, which is morally correct. Just as many Americans say of Trump “Not my president”, so Anglicans like myself will say of male diocesans who refuse to ordain women: “Not my bishop”.

If even just a minority of the church feel like me, it’s difficult to see how we go forward

Posted by: Revd Dr Charles Clapham on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 1:54pm BST

There can be no doubt that the 2014 settlement did make provision for a 'non-ordainer' to be appointed as a diocesan bishop. This is a matter of regret to me, but it cannot be denied.

However the settlement did only make provision for this but did not make it mandatory, and therefore, if no such bishop was ever to be appointed, it should not be seen as a failure of the settlement.

As Sir Philip points out, the principal reason for the Sheffield debacle was that nobody asked the critical question' Would the appointment of a non-ordainer as bishop be acceptable to the diocese?'. He has been assured that the question is now always asked.

This being the case, I would suggest that the great majority of dioceses, if not all, would answer 'No' to the question, and that therefore the appointment of a non-ordaining diocesan is unlikely. But it is not a failure, or abandonment, of the settlement.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 3:39pm BST

“If those who take the majority view in the Church are to retain credibility in the eyes of the minority, there is only one choice which I believe they can make."

Obviously, not a lot of creative thinking went into this report if they see "only one choice." The problem is that women in a diocese can not possibly be affirmed (clergy, lay women, and girls) with a non ordaining diocesan. And this is an exceedingly unhealthful state for the women and girls. So this report's "one choice" is to demand that women and girls continue to suffer for the greater good of making excluders feel included. Why prioritize the feelings of excluders over the health and well-being of women and girls?

There could be structural solutions, two diocesans, one female and one male for any diocese with a non ordaining male. There could be "flying bishops" for women affirming parishes - why not, the conservatives got that. Conservatives could acknowledge that inclusion and acceptance of their view means a glass ceiling at the suffragan level. It would take enormous humility, but a look at articles on the health and well being of women and girls could promote empathy and humility.

I'll read the whole report when I have time. But the conclusion quoted above is absolutely unacceptable. And it suggests that the whole song and dance is designed to force women and girls to accept their inferiority in some dioceses but not others. In a country that otherwise has great equality laws, in the established church. Right.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 4:06pm BST

I'm interested that the Mawer report recognizes (paragraph 157) that the 5 Guiding Principles have taken on an "almost totemic significance" but I'd challenge Sir Philip's claim that this is the case "in the thinking of many in the Church". I very much doubt that anyone in my congregation could name even one of them. The totemic significance is for a limited group of bishops, General Synod members and various types of activist. From where I'm sitting, it feels like the 5GPs were created and imposed without any prior discussion.

As for the challenge in paragraph 147, "It is for the House of Bishops, if it so wishes, to comment on whether or not Professor Percy’s or the Society/Forward in Faith’s interpretation of the first Guiding Principle is valid," I wonder if the House will take this up?

Posted by: Cassandra on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 7:22pm BST

Afraid that I still take the deeply unfashionable broad church view.

Even if I agreed with the "No compromise!" position, it simply didn't have the votes to pass in England, 2014. Equal consecration was achieved only with conditions. Personally, flawed as it undoubtedly is, I believe that compromise should be respected, or promises mean nothing.

If nothing else, by making traditionalists fear that change means unconditional surrender, reneging on it a mere three years down the line will make future change much harder to achieve. Conservatives have voiced this fear to me, as I predicted they would. The hard truth is that the practical consequence of "no compromise!" is to delay equality for other groups.

I disagree with the traditional position as strongly as anyone. Yes, it's straight-up sexism, rooted in a patriarchal society, and I'd like to see it vanish from the face of the earth. But toleration's worthless unless it's applied to the things you detest. I may detest the position, but I recognize that many good Christians hold it, and I want them to feel welcome in Anglicanism.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 7:24pm BST

"I can’t really see them as anything other than bits of religious ideology used to justify institutional sexism."

Quite right. And there is no "theology" that can dress this up as anything other than what it is--discrimination.

The only principled option is to abandon the 2014 bargain. (I'm not going to call it a "settlement" because I reserve that term for use when modified by "Elizabethan.")

I doubt a bishop opposed to ordaining women will ever become a bishop again. That's fine by me--but I never put any stock in the so-called guiding principles. At the time I was hoping that anti-WO Synod members would face electoral consequences, so that Synod members would better reflect the views of the Church of England on this issue.

For whatever reason--their interest in keeping Synod as conservative as possible? We all know why that might be--the Archbishops chose another, less forthright way.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 7:28pm BST

I'm at a loss to understand why Bishop North isn't a bishop in FiF. Traditional Anglo-Catholicism ended when women were ordained, except under the provisions made with flying bishops for those who didn't wish to join the Ordinariate. It is obvious Bishop Philip will be the last traditionalist to aspire to be a diocesan bishop since he hasn't embraced the other two alternatives.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 9:48pm BST

I agree with James Byron. Respect for conscience. Broad and various Church. The 'bishop' problem is conceptual: we elevate bishops conceptually, when actually they are servants. Anglicanism is a broader Church than other protestant kinds. That's been its genius in my opinion: necessitating co-existence of diversities, with all the grace and love that calls us to open to. We are catholic and we are protestant. We are liberal and we are conservative. We are charismatic, contemplative, socially conscious, lively evangelical. But can we still Love? Can we grow enough to co-exist with one another, and see each person's humanity and fidelity before Christ?

It's the same with the sexuality debate. We shall never all agree. In fact we're divided down the middle. So do we divide into smaller and smaller, 'purer' and 'purer' sects? Or do we respect that a person's faith can be expressed in different ways and still be true? And do we seek... more than theological 'rightness'... the God in the other person, their unique value to God, and open up, open up again and again, to love?

We may do this while still championing our own conscientious beliefs.

I would have been pleased to see Philip North as Bishop of Sheffield, and I am a woman, and I believe in women's ordination.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 15 September 2017 at 10:26pm BST

For one who also believes in women's ordination, I find Susannah Clark's words wise and welcome.

Posted by: John Bunyan on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 12:10am BST

Surely, the Diocese of London managed the problem of diversity of the issue of women clergy - only because the Ordinary was willing to accept that women's ordination is a reality in the Church of England. The 'problem' was managed by the Ordinary allowing for the ordination of women in his diocese to be conducted by another bishop. Although this could be considered to be an 'inconsistency', is that not what Anglicanism is all about? We have to be very clear about the extent of our 'Broad church' philosophy.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 1:18am BST

Now I've had more time to read the report. Mr. Mawer did a great service in laying out the history and context for this event - I say that even though I find it deeply biased. He gives the impression of a person trying very hard to be even handed, but is unaware of his own blinders. Which is the danger of putting something like this in any one person's hands. For example, it seems to me that there should have been at least one very independently minded woman on the job as well. Sir Philip accepts Bishop Philip's "nuanced view" on the ordination of women as being separate from the Society's version, and reaches the conclusion: see, he's really not so bad for women. But I find Bishop North's answer on his views of WO to be horrifically unaffirming and I can easily see why the Doncaster Minster meeting went so badly. (I'm sorry he suffered, but there simply is no polite or acceptable way to tell women that we aren't absolutely equal - it's impossible).

The fundamental question was never answered - how can women and girls flourish with a non-ordaining diocesan? He never says that he accepts the validity of the sacraments in women's hands.

Much empathetic ink is spent on Bishop Philip while much, much less is spent on the impact on women and girls. Mr. Mawer is still under the spell that this is about disagreement, when for one side, it is about the very being of women and girls. That's not an "issue" or "disagreement" that can be compromised. It would have been nice to see more ink spent on flourishing for women. The spectre that the same issues raised for North equally apply to women diocesans seems to me to be a false equivalency - especially in light of fact that CoE created a whole order of flying bishops for the anti-WO folks, the whole point of the settlement was to get WB before Parliament intervened, and the anti-WO crowd are the minority - surely women make up at least half the membership in CoE.

I believe that Mr. Mawer is incredibly naive to think that better management of the announcement, combined with more education about the guiding principles could have made the appointment work. That's just putting lipstick on a pig. The principles are flawed, Martyn Percy brought up incredibly important issues - that must be resolved - CoE has to learn that questions of being and justice are not simply issues that can be reduced to agreeing and disagreeing, and the issue has to be approached with "how are women and girls going flourish," not how the excluders can be accommodated at the highest levels. It never occurred to me that the 5 Guiding Principles were a sort of "affirmative action" for conservatives.

I still think that some creative thinking can make "mutual flourishing" work. But it won't come from the entitled male point-of-view. It has to come from what works for the historically oppressed, those still carrying the scars, and the girls who need nurturing. You can't just crack the whip on women and say "flourish damn it."

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 6:13am BST

I don't think that in order to love someone you have to condone and enable their prejudices, or consider their conscience to be enough reason to let them practice discrimination freely. We wouldn't accept it if we had clergy or bishops who believed the curse of Ham meant that black people couldn't be ordained (as the Mormons did until the 70s). Why should we accept the equivalent when it comes to women?

Posted by: Jo on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 8:02am BST

I think Mawer's suggestions are going absolutely nowhere.

Mawer must support the 5 principles because he is the independent reviewer who is supposed to give anti-WO some comfort that the principles will be implemented.

But no one else signed up for these principles. They are a project of the House of Bishops.

That no bishop has given the 5 principles much shrift, in the three years since they served their purpose, speaks volumes.

No sensible, peace-loving bishop will take teaching about the 5 principles on as a project. The 5 principles are a shambles--a badly stitched up sop to anti-WO Synod members--and they should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 12:56pm BST

It is interesting that the recently published Statement of Needs for the appointment of the new Bishop of London also does not state that the person appointed must ordain women to the priesthood.

Posted by: Robin Ward on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 4:23pm BST

I thought the report made some sensible observations such as seeking to ensure that the workings of the CNC are far more transparent. I am not sure about the education argument - if the starting position isn't coherent to what end is education to be aimed? I also think the notion that managing the situation would have led to a better outcome is a bit of a stretch. I would have liked to see the word priesthood used far more explicitly and ministry far less often as it is the p word that sits right at the heart of this debacle. The ABY doesn't seem to me to escape unscathed. I thought Philip North's defence of his own position i.e. that to ordain would be to effect an act of disunity with the remainder of the apostolic church was 'interesting.' I also think that a women should have been invited to co-author the report. It seems to me that on any 'inclusive' issue the church is in grave danger of talking about certain categories of people and only then offer 'inclusivity.'

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 6:57pm BST

Jo, I think citing racism - "it's like not ordaining people because they are black" - is a bit like Godwin's Law.

It doesn't address the genuine grounds that non-ordainers have for their position. These are fellow Christians who lead lives of decency and faith. They don't despise women. They hold one of a number of positions in our Church on the nature of priesthood.

It's abundantly clear that for people like myself who champion women priests, we have basically won the day in the Church of England. It's the dominant position. Those who disagree are a minority. But sometimes minorities deserve protection, inclusion, respect for their consciences. That's what I feel.

I want a broad Church of England that has space (at all levels) for a wide range of views - on priesthood, on sexuality, on ways of understanding the bible.

And in my view, a non-ordainer is not akin to a racist. A non-ordainer has a conscientious position. And is my brother, my friend, and the far more pivotal issue is the capacity of us all to love, even when we hold diverse views. We need grace to hold together as a Church. We don't need to lock minorities out. I'd say there should be MORE female diocesan bishops. But to find space, too, for other traditions - that seems magnanimous too. This is the not-easy principle of 'unity in diversity' that I believe in.

Otherwise, we shall lose one another, and difference of opinion will become the gateway to schism... and I really don't think we have to live that way.

I re-iterate my view that I think Philip North would have made a worthy bishop of Sheffield, and would be great in London too. (Though personally I prefer Adrian of Stepney because he's amazingly open!)

I want a diverse Church, with strands of Catholicism, orthodoxy, evangelicalism, charismatic expressions, social care, liberalism, traditionalism, monasticism, green consciousness... held together by love.

A church where women and men all flourish. Where lesbian and gay couples are welcome. Where we're trying to live IN the community, alongside people, engaging, sharing. Women - lay or ordained - play a huge part in this. If a bishop believes in male priesthood, I can live with that if that bishop has integrity and goodness. And even so, women in all roles can flourish and we can dignify one another, and know prevailing acceptance.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 7:00pm BST

The reason I use the comparison is that I'm sure there were and are people of great faith who are otherwise decent people who believe that the Bible compels racial discrimination. I used the Mormons as an example precisely because they cited scriptural evidence as the reason for the policy, and I don't doubt that there were Mormons in the late 60s who had no personal animus against black people who nonetheless believed that the curse of Ham prevented their ordination. Scripture has also been cited in support of slavery. There comes a point when we have to acknowledge that people's consciences are sometimes wrong and the negative impact on others and on the mission of the Church so great that their views should not be enabled by the structures of the church. All enabling them does is perpetuate injustice.

Posted by: Jo on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 7:52am BST

Thank you, Jo. Your reply is reasonable and I assure you I feel the tension of it in holding my own view. I feel the same tension on the human sexuality issue. I appreciate your response and engagement with me.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 9:45am BST

"All that enabling them does is perpetuate injustice."

Not entirely all--it also has the additional effect of making the Church of England more conservative, both in its doctrine and its personnel.

Welby's basic goal is to maintain his own position as a "global" theo-politician. This in turn requires delaying reforms in the Church of England. Especially as to same-sex marriage.

So the 5 principles were a device to bring about women bishops, while at the same time preventing electoral upheaval, and thus liberalisation, in Synod.

In other words, the Archbishops are in a box of their own making: how to commit to "flourishing," within the Church, of discrimination against women, without making the Church a laughingstock?

There is no way to square this circle.

The time for traditionalist to adhere to discrimination, as a point of sincere religious conviction, is long past. Discrimination against women is not Christian. And the Church of England, taken as a whole, knows this.

Pleas for the "flourishing" of discrimination are intolerable.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 1:53pm BST

I wonder if I am alone in being concerned that there was in effect a 7th representative for the Sheffield diocese on the CNC, in the form of Jane Paterson - a central member, who did not withdraw from the process?

According to Sir Philip's report (paragraph 42):

"Ms Patterson’s participation in the Commission has been questioned by a number who gave evidence to me. This is because she is one of the representatives of the diocese of Sheffield on the General Synod and a regular attender at Christ Church, Fulwood, a large conservative evangelical parish church in the city of Sheffield. Additionally, she serves as Chair of the Trustees of two congregations planted by Christ Church, one of which is openly affiliated to a conservative evangelical organisation, the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)."

Personally I do not understand how one can be Chair of Trustees for a congregation that is part of AMiE and also hold senior office within the Church of England - surely the two are incompatible by definition?

Posted by: Jayne Ozanne on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 3:20pm BST

As the transatlantic hand-grenades have been lobbed back and forth since last Friday, and we've been wringing our hands about institutionalised discrimination in the Church (from which I have suffered for longer than I care to think about), I'm struck by the selective myopia that has characterised many responses to this report. For me, Janet Henderson's comment at the outset hits the nail on the head, and helpfully clarifies how this report offers a pretty accurate snapshot of where the Church of England currently is. Clearly, many of us don' t like it. And why should we? We are aghast that it has come to this, and that compromises and promises made in the heat of the need to get legislation through Synod must be honoured.

We also don't like the fact that Philip Mawer has pinpointed these realities, and told us that there is a clear choice between working-through these realities for the sake of the Gospel or abandoning the promises we made to others as a consequence of our desire to open the episcopate to women.

Last Sunday, the Archbishop of Dublin preached about leadership in Cambridge (he cannot have known the outcome of the Mawer report, but his words have a clarity that speak directly to this situation). He said 'We live in a world of information overload; and this very overload is beginning to become the handmaid of injustice because it has become the motive force of selectivity and truthlessness rather than the tool of discernment. This is a time when all of us need to dig deep in order to continue to look beyond narrowing self–interests. This is a time to transcend narrowing self–understandings, to undertake creative thinking such as none of us has ever needed before.'

To my mind, given the agreements made in the 2014 settlement and all it requires of us as a Church, the only person to have come out of this situation with his integrity intact is Philip North.

The rest of us, who prize our liberal perspective and our insistence that a progressive reading of history is the only means of living and interpreting the Gospel may be asking 'How on earth did it come to this?' But we also need to recognise that the majority of the world's Anglican's (indeed, Christians) don't see it the way we do. What might the Gospel be asking of us? And what does it mean to say that we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church? This report requires thinking - and speaking - 'such as none of us has ever needed before.' That is profoundly unsettling. But it is no less the Gospel.

Posted by: Simon R on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 8:44pm BST

Jayne, you're not alone, see my post on the next thread up!

Posted by: Cassandra on Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 9:00pm BST

Simon R's comments will not please everyone. But I am grateful for his focus on the wider perspective and his reminder that our western liberal preoccupations are not the whole story of the Gospel. I looked-up Archbishop Michael Jackson's sermon, and was especially struck by his punchline, which also speaks to the concerns of the Mawer report: "remember that your nearest exit may be behind you."

Posted by: Henry Morton on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 9:05am BST

Not just a Western, liberal, perspective @Simon R & Henry Morton, but an over-dominant Anglo-American world-view, too!

Posted by: Colin Graham on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 11:36am BST

"given the agreements made in the 2014 settlement and all it requires of us as a Church"

What "agreements"?

I'll ask on this thread the same question I'm asking on the other one: When did Synod vote on the Bishops' five principles?

Or were the principles simply the Bishop's attempt to grease the skids?

Why should proponents of women's ordination feel bound by principles that they never approved, and as to which they had no input and no voice?

In retrospect it looks as though the Bishops were promising more than they could deliver. But whose fault is that, and whose mistake for believing them?

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 12:47pm BST

"Not just a Western, liberal, perspective @Simon R & Henry Morton, but an over-dominant Anglo-American world-view, too!"

Also known as the racism of low expectations: holding particular ethnic and cultural groups to different, usually lower, standards on the grounds that universal human rights aren't quite as universal as we used to think. If white girls are entitled to be treated as their brothers' equals, so too are girls of other colours.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 12:55pm BST

"...holding particular ethnic and cultural groups to different, usually lower, standards"

Yes, the word "lower" tells it all. The liberal ditch separating Rousseau from Locke.

Posted by: crs on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 2:07pm BST

Picking up Robin Ward's comment: It is interesting that the recently published Statement of Needs for the appointment of the new Bishop of London also does not state that the person appointed must ordain women to the priesthood.
The second bullet point of B7 in the Statement of Needs, 'A bishop who is committed to affirming women in their ordained roles as priests and bishops by appointing, supporting, pastoring and enabling their ministry and fostering their vocations (irrespective of the bishop's own theological position on Holy Orders)' is similar to the way in which people who worked closely with the former bishop of London have described him to me. Perhaps the idea is for that approach to continue? Rowan Williams, in the chapter 'An enemy hath done this', in his book Open to Judgement, reminds us that: 'One of the worst threats anyone can feel is the sense that their identity, their particular and single being, is menaced; there is an unfamiliar presence in the home, a contradiction and a frustration, to trip them up, to catch them out, to twist their words, to bewilder and encircle them... And madness is the accuser's triumph, his coming into possession of the house, when the mind at last finds the contradictions insupportable'. I have found Forward in Faith's musings bewildering, and am grateful to Martyn Percy for his contribution to the report, particularly for repeatedly setting out - dissecting, even - the contradictions which are at issue here.

Posted by: JKR on Monday, 18 September 2017 at 9:39pm BST

'A bishop who is committed to affirming women in their ordained roles as priests and bishops by appointing, supporting, pastoring and enabling their ministry and fostering their vocations (irrespective of the bishop's own theological position on Holy Orders)'

Interesting.... potentially an invitation to hypocrisy.

How can a bishop honestly "affirm women in their ordained roles," "support their ministry," and "foster their vocations" if he doesn't think they should have been ordained, or are validly ordained, in the first place?

I think the CNC will have to ask each non-ordaining candidate to say the words "women priests" several times, and to closely observe the candidate's body language as he does so.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 2:14am BST

I am surprised (or am I?) that my comment inviting a different mode of theological discourse, in the light of this report, should attract implicit accusations of racism and hypocrisy. We seem to have gone from A to Z very swiftly and superficially without going through the rest of the alphabet. It is a telling example of displacement activity, which relieves us of the need to wrestle with issues that refuse to go away. This report shines a spotlight on the way some of our less-than-liberal insecurities have been exposed, and aggressively questioning the objectivity with which we are confronted will do nothing to commend our distinctive voice in an increasingly conservative Church of England.

Posted by: Simon R on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 10:15am BST

Jeremy,
"When did Synod vote on the Bishops' five principles?"
Originally "received" by GS in Nov 13 as part of the draft Declaration, and then "welcomed" in Feb 14 with the motion ‘That this Synod welcome the draft House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and the draft Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations as set out in GS 1932.’

In addition to the proposer (Bishop of Rochester) the proceedings record 13 speakers from across the spectrum none of whom indicated they would vote against, one of whom counselled caution, and after which the motion was put and carried. This included the HoB commitment that the declaration would not be amended in future without the agreement of GS by a 2/3rds majority in all three houses.

It may not have been 'approved'- because it is not a legislative measure - but Synod had the opportunity to question the Declaration, including the 5GPs, and suggest changes to the HoB at various stages. It seems to me that Synod had the chance to look more critically on behalf of the wider church, and perhaps be rather more prescient than they were, and we are now contending with the 'unintended consequences'.

Posted by: David Smith on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 12:14pm BST

David Smith, the resolution that the Church of England itself points to is the that of 20 November 2013:

REPORT OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE FOR THE DRAFT LEGISLATION ON WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE (GS 1924)
11 The motion
‘That this Synod, welcoming the package of proposals in GS 1924 and the statement of principles endorsed by the House of Bishops at paragraph 12 of GS 1886, invite the House of Bishops to bring to the Synod for consultation in February a draft declaration and proposals for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure which build on the agreement reached by the Steering Committee as a result of its facilitated discussions.’
was carried after a division of the whole Synod. The voting was as follows:
IN FAVOUR: 378 AGAINST: 8

But if we are reduced to discussing words like "receive" or "welcome," then we are having all over again the discussion as to what the ACC meant when it "received" Cantuar's report on the Primates' gathering.

Indeed, the powers that be in the Church of England seem to specialise in drafting neutral-sounding resolutions--with words and phrases like "welcome," "receive," and "take note"--which are then taken to have meant far more than they did in the minds of those who voted for them.

Having couched Synod "reception" or "welcoming" of the 5 principles in weasel words, the Bishops cannot complain that their 5 principles are now being ignored by the rest of the Church.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 2:59pm BST

See also now Martyn Percy's latest article published today on the Christian Today website, together with a commentary on the article from journalist Harry Farley.

Posted by: David Smith on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 3:36pm BST

I think there is a difference between 'receiving' a document and 'welcoming' it.

If you welcome it, there is a degree of affirmation. If you merely 'receive' it, that is non-committal... as was the case with ACC-13.

And I have little doubt whatsoever that Justin *knew* that. It was not his finest hour.

In the case now being discussed, if GS 'welcomed' the proposals, I think that honestly could be seen as a degree of assent.

And has any attempt been made by Synod since to challenge and overturn them? Why not? They certainly haven't been repudiated, and then... you get the Sheffield crisis.

I repeat my view that it is better for our Church to be inclusive of diverse traditions, and that there should be a place for 'non-ordainers' at all levels of Church life.

The catholic tradition is precious in the Church of England. The grounds for male priesthood offer a legitimate conscientious faith view (it is not my own). I believe we need to strive to hold our Church together in its sometimes awkward diversities. And maybe General Synod thought so too.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 6:54pm BST

There is an assumption in some comments that the interpretation of the guiding principles advanced by FiF and the Society is one which properly reflects the content of the text they are interpreting - is it an interpretation the text can properly bear? And if the text does bear that interpretation, what are the ecclesiological implications for those who hold it? What does mutuality mean to a body which apparently purports to be a separate ecclesial entity (almost a "third province in waiting" - though that idea was rejected)? The interpretations involved here are not the only ones available to those who oppose the ordination and/or consecration of women.

I am reminded of Newman's attempt in Tract 90 to reconcile his catholic theology and ecclesiology with the thirty-nine articles.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 12:12pm BST

Quite what the place for 'non-ordainers' is in the Church of England is now moot. We need to honour those already ordained. However, any discerning a vocation to priesthood and presenting for ordination whose wish to be ordained by 'clean hands' may find that the Church has moved on. It is now clear what the settled mind of the Church is. The Guiding Principles exist for now and need to be respected and interpreted, but they are not for time immemorial.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 10:25pm BST

The HoB Declaration and 5GPs remain in force until some distant point when the HoB recommends an amendment and that amendment is carried by a two thirds majority of each house of the GS. The present policy regarding discernment of vocation and subsequent ordination of traditional candidates remains in force until then.

Posted by: Philip O'Reilly on Thursday, 21 September 2017 at 12:25am BST

Well said, Anthony. The 'clean hands' idea (where candidates not themselves opposed to women bishops nevertheless ask to be ordained by a man who has not ordained a woman, so that their orders may be accepted anywhere in the church) is poisonous and destructive, and must be resisted at all costs.

Traditionalists must be allowed to ordain their own candidates using their 'own' bishops, but this view of a small minority must not be allowed to infect other ordinations of those holding the settled view of the Church, or else it will make women bishops second class and will lead inexorably to a third province.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Thursday, 21 September 2017 at 2:42pm BST

"The HoB Declaration and 5GPs remain in force until some distant point when the HoB recommends an amendment and that amendment is carried by a two thirds majority of each house of the GS."

Why two thirds? The 5Ps were never legislated by Synod in the first place.

Even taking the strongest view of what has happened so far, change would merely require a new HoB declaration to be "welcomed" by Synod.

The weaker view is that the HoB declaration no longer has much force when natural turnover in the HoB creates a majority of bishops who were not present when the declaration was voted.

Not so distant after all.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 22 September 2017 at 9:48am BST

Thank you, Anthony Archer, for stating your position so clearly. As a central member of the CNC we can obviously look forward to you employing this position to best effect to ensure that no diocese ever gets the best bishop from now on; but only those who fulfil your self-selecting criteria. Now you have decided that the Church has 'moved on' from the solemn promises we made to our minorities in 2014, we now know where we stand. How very generous. How very (un)Anglican.

Posted by: Will Richards on Saturday, 23 September 2017 at 9:25am BST

How can the best candidate for a diocese be one that believes that a significant fraction of its priests either are not or should not have been ordained? How can they be a "focus of unity"? (as is always thrown up as a roadblock when eminently suitable priests such as Jeffrey John are nominated)

Posted by: Jo on Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 8:48am BST

Jo,

What's your take on Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London? Should he not have been appointed?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 9:42am BST

+Richard was probably an appropriate appointment for London in 1995. His 20 years younger clone would not be a suitable one today.

Posted by: Jo on Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 3:01pm BST

Jo, you have put your finger on it.

"Focus of unity" is a sine qua non only, it would seem, for Anglican Communion unity.

It may not matter so much for diocesan unity in England.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 25 September 2017 at 12:10pm BST

Interesting discussion between Giles Fraser and +Wakefield on Sunday Programme (24 Sep, 0745).
(Still available to listen on Radio 4 website)

I wonder why this wasn't highlighted in the CofE Comms Unit's 'Daily Media Digest' . . . .?

Posted by: David Smith on Monday, 25 September 2017 at 5:38pm BST
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