Comments: women bishops: more radio discussion

I don't think a Third province is either viable, or likely to gain majority support in Synod.

In one sense I can understand their perspective, and it would certainly set the precedent for alternative structural arrangements

However, I think that the more logical position will be for , when the Church splits, for opponents to consider whether there are other groups they can affiliate to - whether that be RC, Orthodox, or Akinolan - before they set up yet another denomination.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 2:48pm BST

Merseymike: this is about power. Those who want to leave, leave because they have discovered they are losing power. By setting up another church, they get to have regained power in that other church. By contrast, if they joined some other group, they would not have their power back.

You might say, "no, this is not about power," but then why not do what you rightly see as more logical? No, if you want to make sense of their actions (for they are not fools), you must take their actions as being directed at their goals, and thus their actions show what their goal is.

Posted by Thomas Bushnell, BSG at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 4:46pm BST

Thomas - beautifully expressed - and (I would have thought) often correct.

Not always correct, however. Plenty of times it's not about power - it's about truth (or, as the case may be, perceived truth).

Posted by Christopher Shell at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 5:16pm BST

I think it's about both-- what they believe to be absolute truth, and the power to impose that truth across the board.

Posted by Anna at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 7:39pm BST

It IS about power - the General Synod will try to assert its power over every cleric and every parish and force them to accept this innovation.

But the only way for both sides to avoid continuing controversy is for there to be the kind of arrangements envisaged by Forward in Faith. Conscience can not be compelled: the only solution is separation.

Posted by Catholicus at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 8:00pm BST

But separation would be better, I think, in two separate denominations, not a church within a church. Which I don't think is feasible, and I am sure FiF know its a non-starter.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 17 July 2005 at 10:46pm BST

All this talk about power and separation is fine and good - for those who think they might somehow be affirmed by such action. The more disturbing paradox is a group that claims to represent Anglicans of a Catholic tradition betraying that very identity by slipping into a glorified sort of congregationalism, based on self-defined 'victimism' and dissent. The problem facing pressure groups such as FiF is that they failed to carry the argument 13 years ago, and as Jane Shaw has pointed out, the basic argument over vocation has not changed in the current discussion. More to the point, having taken the effort to make it possible for women to realise their vocation to ordained ministry, by denying them access to the whole of the threefold order of ministry the Church does something that is profoundly un-Catholic.

Who exactly is proposing the creation of a third province, or supporting some sort of dissenting network? The only group seriously advocating it is FiF. In Australia they have attempted to go further by supporting the uncanonical consecration of two episcopi vagans. One of these was recently removed from his Brisbane parish following a lengthy process of enquiry and consultation by the Archbishop. The sounds following this have been shrill and increasingly absurd. What is more important is that the original action was undertaken without due process, and poses a risk of deepening any existing rifts if it is pushed further. Now FiF Australia is talking about taking legal action to secure properties currently held by the Anglican Church in Australia where the congregation 'disagrees' with the ordination of women, although this is more likely to be the result of strongly held opinions on the part of specific individuals within such parishes. Surely the Church and the world would be better off if they devoted the energy that goes into this sort of politics towards mission and evangelism.

Posted by k1eran at Monday, 18 July 2005 at 12:10pm BST

There is rather a bizarre paradox about claiming some sort of Catholic orthodoxy for the recent actions of the General Synod. The vast bulk of Catholic Christianity (and some Evangelical strands too) rejects the claim that women can be ordained to holy orders.

The problems now being faced by the Anglican Church in Australia would likely never have arisen if they had had the generosity and grace to make room for the minority which holds to the genuinely Catholic view of holy orders. It's the desire to seize the whole estate, not just to win the debate, which prolongs confrontation.

And it's no surprise that some parishes in Australia want to continue in the Catholic faith, rather than hand over everything they hold dear to those who wish to eradicate their memory.

A pity to have to resort to the civil law to obtain justice, but there's none to be had from the ACA authorities, so the civil courts it has to be.

Posted by Vincent Coles at Monday, 18 July 2005 at 1:49pm BST

But how can you 'make room' for the minority without institutionalisng discrimination?

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 18 July 2005 at 5:15pm BST

That's your perception.

Posted by Catholicus at Monday, 18 July 2005 at 7:39pm BST

Catholicus: hundreds (thousands?) of women have now been ordained within the Anglican Communion. Every single one of them, had to go through all the hurdles of holy orders within our tradition, to ascertain that it wasn't just a "perception," but rather that *God* was calling them (a discernment process *no different from that of men called to orders*).

So, "misperception" was passing through all those Commissions on Ministry, all those Standing Committees, all those bishops? All those women---w/ the same presenting calls as that of men? Year after year? Parish after parish (or other ministry) where they were called (and *loved*) by their flocks: false perceptions all?

All those hosts/cups lifted? The Body and Blood of Our Lord, which I felt working its Grace through *me*? (Whoops, it may have felt the same, consecrated by male or female priests---may have effected the same sanctification in my life---but it was really only so when the priest had a Y chromosome?)

The Vatican's (and fellow-travellers') arguments may be very well thought-through (though they haven't convinced me, as I've read them).

But those of us who affirm that God has, IN TRUTH, called women to holy orders *also* have EXPERIENCE of priests-who-are-women on our side.

. . . and that makes all the difference. :-)

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 7:37am BST

And so the implementation of a vote, and your feel-good factor, entitles certain provinces to seek to exclude or persecute people within the Church, whose only crime is that they have not changed their beliefs?

And to call this "Catholic orthodoxy"?

I don't think so. The word "Orwellian" springs rather to mind.

Posted by Catholicus at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 9:49am BST

Hi Anna

I think that power and truth are not necessarily so closely connected as you suppose.

A simple academic with insights into truth will very often not have the power to have their ideas either promulgated or even understood.

What makes it difficult is that so many people simply 'believe' what they want to believe. In such circumstances, we need to listen to scholars who have been trained to disregard personal bias and parti pris.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 10:21am BST

But, Catholicus, things do change and move on. I don't think that the Third Province idea makes sense or would be workable - and after all, there are denominations, part of the Christian Church, where women are not allowed to be priests and where change is unlikely for at least your lifetime.

I do perceive that anything which restricts the ministry of an individual on the grounds of their gender is discriminatory. And as I don't find that acceptable, I do think change is needed.

The Anglican Communion, when it splits, may more easily find room for you in its conservative wing which may not have a majority for women bishops.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 4:09pm BST

Christopher, I don't quite understand your comment. I don't think power and truth are necessarily connected in general-- I meant only that coordinated efforts toward new provinces, networks, alternative episcopal oversight are about both what these leaders believe absolutely to be true and the right/ability/opportunity to cut themselves off from those who do not agree. They would thus have the power to impose that truth across the board in their newly-created spheres of influence, and, if you buy the more conspiracy-minded accounts, eventually across the communion.

Posted by Anna at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 5:02pm BST

I sense on the part of those who do not want women bishops, gay bishops, or anything that represents "change" a sense of entitlement. That is the thining seems to be: "You owe us a third province because you did these terrible things to us or to 'our' church." In other words, we must give you a third province with existing church property because we have erred and this is how we balance the scale.

I don't think so. Generally the way these things go is that those who cannot abide change either accommodate themselves to it, work within existing church structures to change it (that is, not try to implode ECUSA through covert tactics), or leave and start their own church. But, you don't get to ransack the place or implode the church on your way out.

Those in rebellion against the polity of ECUSA or C of E, especially the clergy--suprisingly--don't get it. Our system(s) of governance is what you signed on to. If your conscious will not permit you to work within those structures and to abide by the decisions of synod or GC, then the decision you need to make it to stay or to leave. It's not up to the rest of us to "give you" a third province with property and assets that belong to C of E or ECUSA, etc.

Does that make sense? Or, am I missing something?

Posted by Peter at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 7:04pm BST

"the right/ability/opportunity to cut themselves off from those who do not agree"

Actually it's those in positions of authority who are using their power to seize the property of congregations in N America and illegally to remove their clergy from office. Ask the Vestry of the church in Bristol, Ct, who took their buildings and imposed as their priest someone opposed to all that they stand for?

People don't want to leave the Anglican Communion but they are being marginalised/excluded/robbed of their place in this church, and being told (eg by Merseymike) how much better it would be for them to leave.

Is it any surprise if some of them try to gather together to try to discern a way forward?

Posted by Catholicus at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 7:04pm BST

But you are not being excluded , marginalised or robbed - a decision has been made, and you either live with it or not.

After all, I don't agree with some things the church has as its official position, but I don't leave.

The problem is that the only way forward you have come up with to date isn't going to either wotk, or win enough support. Its simply not going to happen. Either we have women in the priesthood and episcopate, or we don't - to have some sort of woman-free space in a denomination which welcomes and affirms the full minisrty of women simply isn't an acceptable compromise.

So, it may be a case of make your choice. That may be the case for me too - if conservative evangelical beliefs held sway, then obviously I wouldn't be able to stay in the CofE

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 10:17pm BST

MM wrote: "The problem is that the only way forward you have come up with to date isn't going to either wotk, or win enough support. Its simply not going to happen."

Mike, how do you know ? Even though I am not against women clergy, I am very sympathic to those who are; they have a reasonable interpretation of scripture, church tradition and a good amount of reasoned arguement (eg. Christ chose only men; men and women are equal but different etc).

On the other had proponents of the loving "tell 'em to conform or get out" brigade seem much too hard core and almost gleeful at the prospect of excluding a large group of faithful Anglicans from the church..

I for one think that the agenda is being hi-jacked by the liberal grouping at the moment. We have people in the church who aren't christians by any reasonable definition the church would use: don't believe in a real God, don't believe Christ was God as a human being, don't believe that He sacrificed Himself as an atonement for our sins, don't believe in a real resurrection, don't believe in heaven hell judgement etc, don't support the souvereignty of the bible in matters of faith and practice.

If people are not Christians, do not really believe and trust in Christ, and reject the teachings of Him and His Apostles in the NT, WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN THE CHURCH ? Shouldn't they be just be honest, admit that they are not really Christians or Anglicans, leave us and start up a religion that reflects what they really believe and value ?

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 11:07pm BST

But, Dave, its not actually the liberals who are leading the way on this one. Its the group who are best described as 'open evangelical', who are strongly in favour of change - indeed, Christina Rees herself and many in WATCH are not necessarily 'liberals'

I do not think that the third province has any major support outside FiF - Reform will support it as part of their 'deal' but they're not particularly botheread about bishops per se, simply 'leadership'.
The House of Bishops, in particular, is very hostile to the idea. I think you will find that the Clergy will be little more sympathetic. There will be more support within the laity - but a 2/3 agreement for a 3rd province simply to keep ageing misogynists happy - I don't think so.

As for the rest of the post, you've already said - many, many times - that you don't want liberals in the church. Why, then, do you spend so much time posting on liberal-led websites?

And what has any of those matters got to do with women bishops?

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 19 July 2005 at 11:44pm BST

"But you are not being excluded , marginalised or robbed - a decision has been made, and you either live with it or not."

How delightfully easy it is for those who are pleased with the outcome to say such things!

Posted by Catholicus at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 12:11am BST

Mike, I do hope that the HoB changes their mind, or that the laity and clergy stop implementation of women bishops 'til a reasonable settlement for all true Christians in the church can be arrived at. The Church is for all Christians.

On that theme, I am very happy to have liberal Christians in the church. And I am happy to learn from each others understandings of what God wants based on scripture, tradition and reason. What I object to is liberal people who do not really believe or trust in Christ - hypocritically masquerading as Christians - trying to say that the rest of us are wrong in our faith, worship and morality.

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 12:59am BST

Isn't the Queen Head of the Church of England? Wasn't it a woman who was instrumental in the founding the modern Anglican Church and the principals which we hold so dear. As for Catholicus statement about the American Church in CT., such a pity. The game is afoot.

Posted by Christain at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 2:25am BST

I realize this is off-topic for this post, but I did want to respond to this: "I for one think that the agenda is being hi-jacked by the liberal grouping at the moment. We have people in the church who aren't christians by any reasonable definition the church would use: don't believe in a real God, don't believe Christ was God as a human being, don't believe that He sacrificed Himself as an atonement for our sins, don't believe in a real resurrection, don't believe in heaven hell judgement etc, don't support the sovereignty of the bible in matters of faith and practice."

I would like to point out that I believe all of these things. If pressed, I would call myself a liberal, although I prefer not to embrace labels, as there is far too much labeling going on in the church at the moment.

Please don't equate "liberal" groups, majorities or minorities, with unbelievers. Nearly all "liberals" take their faith just as seriously as "conservatives" do, wrestle with the Scriptures just as much, have as profound as a spiritual life. A Spong or two doesn't change that fact.

Posted by Anna at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 3:17am BST

Dave ; I don't think there will ever, or could, be a solution which everyone agrees on.

The question then is the pattern of the denomination after whatever decision has been made.

A decision to do nothing is also a decision.

I also think that it is not up to you to define who you think is a 'true Christian'. Those who fall outside that definition of yours have just as much right to express their view as you do. You may not like this, but it is the case.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 8:54am BST

Mike, the definition of "Christian" is out there, you know it as well as I do.

Why should the church include non-Christians in it's decision making proceses ?

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 9:40am BST

It doesn't, Dave. Decisions are made by baptised communicant members of the Church of England, who are not required to fulfil your conservative definition of Christian, as much as you would no doubt like them to!

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 1:40pm BST

I disagree with Mike on many things, but (from my very distant observation point) I think he is correct in pointing out that it's the 'open evangelicals' in England who are pushing the case, along with the liberals, as the Anglo-Catholic movement has now largely disappeared from the C of E. Unlike Anglican Catholics who look to Kirk ('The Apostolic Ministry' 1948) for their understanding of the episcopate ('successors of the apostles'), evangelicals have followed Lightfoot in seeing bishops as basically senior presbyters - an historical view which I incline to think is correct. So if women can be priests/presbyters, the theological groundwork for women bishops is largely laid. But what 'open evangelicals' may fail to see (or don't want to) is that bishops have a trans-local, even international significance in the church, and to insist on this innovation without very wide agreement is to un-church those who in conscience cannot accept it. Does the C of E, in its terribly reduced state, actually need more division and internal non-recognition? (And speaking frankly, does it need more bishops when it is scrapping parish jobs?) To force people out over an *innovation* is to act in a sectarian way. Those seeking a Third Province are trying to stay in the C of E, and of course the bishops don't want it - they know they would lose 500 or more parishes, including some of the biggest and wealthiest evangelical churches in England who are not greatly interested in bishops in the first place. My contacts suggest to me that some of the biggest churches in London, for example, might line up with a Third Province. Diocesan finances would be devastated.

Posted by Martin Hambrook at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 5:20pm BST

Vincent Coles: the reason why the law courts should not be involved is because this is directly prohibited by Paul in 1 Corinthians.

Peter - you (and those who want women bishops at all costs, of whom you may or may not be one) are indeed missing something; it's called charity. I don't mean that you personally are being unloving towards conservatives but it is strucurally unloving to unchurch thousands of people just because they don't agree with the innovations on what is ultimately a secondary matter. It is not easy to stay together but every effort should be made. I don't much like sharing a church with MerseyMike or indeed with Andrew Burnham and David Banting but that's my tough luck because some issues are primary and some issues are secondary. Personally I see no theological or biblical reason why women should not be bishops. I believe women held equivalent roles in the early church and are scripturally sanctioned for such a ministry. But your comments about how we "signed up to a system of governance" fundamentally misses the point, which is that it is an act of ungracious uncharity to exclude faithful Christians from fellowship, which is what would happen to these people. When said systems of governance were supposedly signed up to nobody supposed they would capitulate to the culture of victimhood or whining about "rights", as if that was what Christian ministry was about.

Posted by Sean at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 6:02pm BST

Martin, Sean, I agree. We need to make provision for faithful Christians in the church, even when there are some theologically "secondary" disagreements.

I can't see how it is right that some faithful Christians are being lined up for ejection, while people who don't believe in a real God, or the Incarnation of Christ, are left alone. These faith-less people just drag the church down!

But how do we get the priorites right on the church's "agenda"`?

Posted by Dave at Wednesday, 20 July 2005 at 6:27pm BST

Sean said:

"...you (and those who want women bishops at all costs, of whom you may or may not be one) are indeed missing something; it's called charity."

Sean, thanks for the post. I wonder: Is it charity for those who do not want change to hold the church hostage by subverting polity? When do we cease being an Anglican or Episcopal church and slip into mere congregationalism? If the roles were reversed--if GC 2003 or Synod had affirmed no gay bishops or no women bishops, would not those screaming currently screaming "foul play" be demanding adherence to the decisions of GC and Synod?

You cannot have it both ways and maintain integrity. I don't think it's a lack of charity to say "We're sorry you don't agree with the decisions of the church, but that's how we live together in community. If you want to change that, work within the system. If you can't abide it, then God bless and goodbye."

Posted by Peter at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 12:56am BST

Indeed, Peter. After all, thats what those of us who work for change in some areas are prepared to do, and get labelled as not Christian at all by elements of the conservative faction currently posting here with such enthusiasm.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 8:54am BST

That is precisely the problem, MM. You are working to change the Church into something else, which is why those who believe it to be a part of the revealed word of God can not go along with the secular values which you seek to impose.

The conservative view is that if you want a new religion or a new version of the church, or a parallel universe all of your own, then the responsibility lies with you and those who share your views, to create it de novo.

At present you are engaging in what resembles a religious version of entryism. You do not accept the Christian faith as it is historically and generally understood, yet you have set about inviting those who do so accept it to leave the Church.

You should not be surprised that people are reluctant to follow your advice to leave.


Posted by Catholicus at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 12:13pm BST

Catholicus...Both ECUSA and C of E, gathered in council (GC and Synod), have made decisions according to their polity. Are you saying that the majorities in these councils were misguided or possessed by Evil? Are you saying that they do not "accept the Christian faith as it is historically and generally understood?"

The church gathered in council is how we govern ourselves. You may not agree with the decisions, which is fine. But that doesn't equate with holding the wider church hostage by either subverting polity or demanding you be given a third province. The choice is yours: stay or leave. But I wonder: Why would you stay in a church which you believe has erred so terribly?

ECUSA and C of E, gathered in council, believe they have been faithful to the Christian faith. If you don't agree, then you should work for change within the existing church structures, not try to subvert or implode the church. No one owes you a new province with existing church property.

Oh, by the way--you don't get to decide who is in and who is out. Fortunately, God makes that decision.

Posted by Peter at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 1:12pm BST

Peter - you are still working on a tit-for-tat understanding of how the church should work: "the conservatives wouldn't act like this so why should we?" The answer is, once again, charity: we're called to act lovingly to those with whom we disagree. I disagree with those who are opposed to women bishops but I am called to love them. It is not loving to unchurch someone over a secondary issue. It is akin to the weak and the strong in 1 Corinthians, in which passage Paul places unity above the exercise of one's freedom. We are free to have women bishops - but why should we exercise it at the expense of another?

Similarly, I would not seek to unchurch those who take a revisionist line on homosexuality, if they do so on the basis of trying to interpret Scripture faithfully (as opposed to ignoring or dismissing the bits of Scripture they dislike, which would make it a primary not a secondary issue). Unfortunately I am aware that some would seek to unchurch "revisionists" in this way, because they regard the issue as primary per se. But I can't answer for them - I think they are wrong.

Posted by Sean at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 3:14pm BST

Sean ; I accept your point, but the problem is that in my view, your option leads to the continuing instituionalisation of discrimination within the Church.

I think that is far worse than the suggestion that those who want a woman priest/bishop-free church may need to look elsewhere - no-one is being 'unchurched', because there are many other branches of the Church where they will both be welcome and find what they desire.

The solution you suggest is one of 'no change, ever'.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 3:44pm BST

Sean--Thanks for the post. I'm not sure we're having the same conversation, though.

Either we govern ourselves according to our polity--council--or we spin off into mere congregationalism. Would you argue that unless we had 100% unanimous approval of decisions at GC or Synod we should not move forward. Should a minority of one, or 33%, be allowed to hold the church hostage and keep if from moving forward?

The church is organic, living. We don't stand still. We believe we're called by the Holy Spirit to keep moving forward. Majorities of faithful Christians in Synod and GC--the historically understood and accepted practice for making decisions as a church body--have agreed on these directions for the church. The minority view has been heard and a different view adopted. The individual who dissents is left to make the next move: Abide the decision, work within the church structures to change the decision, or find a denomination that embraces their view.

Imploding the church or demanding an unreasonable accommodation (a third province with existing church property) is not a reasonable or historically consistent outcome.

It's not uncharitable to expect a dissenting individual to act responsibly.

Infinitely more important: Let us pray once again for the people of the United Kingdom as they face yet again another difficult day.

Posted by Peter at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 3:58pm BST

I hardly need remind Peter that majority votes in the secular world do not determine truth and sometimes bring about tyranny, as in pre-war Germany.

Within the Church the ancient principle on which change in first order issues should be achieved is that of consensus: securus iudicat orbis terrarum. When the world is agreed then the decision is safely taken.

Interestingly the WCC has now adopted the consensus principle. Had it not done so it would have made it impossible for the Orthodox to continue in membership. Both ECUSA and the CofE should take note. Majority votes in either a General Convention or a Synod guarantee only that a majority, in a tiny part of the world church, on a certain day, agreed with a certain proposal.

Interestingly again, the first ordinations of women in ECUSA and Australia were carried out illegally according to the rules of each church. Presumably MM has no problem with that - a majority can come along later?

Posted by Catholicus at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 4:25pm BST

But there isn't a consensus - and to say that unless you can get total agreement, nothing must ever change, simply equals torpor.

In any case, it isn't the way that decisions are made.

I think you'll just have to wait and see what happens and then make your mind up as to what you want to do.

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 5:24pm BST

Still hung up on majority votes, then?

Actually that is not how consensus works.

Posted by Catholicus at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 7:47pm BST

Thats how it will be decided, Catholicus, and thats what the church has agreed.

I really think you'd be happier with the RC's. There no one votes on anything!

Posted by Merseymike at Thursday, 21 July 2005 at 11:43pm BST

And I think you would be more at home in Derek Hatton's Liverpool City Council... so there!

Posted by Catholicus at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 12:04am BST

Peter - there is a difference between taking decisions which some disagree with and taking decisions which unchurch a significant proportion of the faithful members of one's church. Personally I disagree with the proposals of the Hind report but its adoption hardly means I cannot in all conscience remain an Anglican.

Yours and Mike's comments demonstrate that you are pretty clear that this change must come at all costs - that is the real difference here. I think that sometimes one has to sacrifice change for the sake of loving people who are in the wrong. This is not about correcting an injustice. Nobody has the right to do what is wrong; nobody has the right to a certain role in the church of Jesus Christ, where leadership should be based on humility and suffering servanthood, not on throwing your toys out of the pram if you can't get promoted. Where is the sense of the cost of Christian ministry, the idea that the first shall be last and the last first, a taking up of the cross?

Posted by Sean at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 12:35am BST

PS Peter: you said

"the historically understood and accepted practice for making decisions as a church body"

I snorted tea through my nose when I read this. Can I just check that you honestly believe that this is an accurate historical assessment?

For someone who keeps telling me that we're not supposed to be congregationalist you appear to pay scant attention to two important concepts - episcopacy and catholicity.

Posted by Sean at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 12:38am BST

Please would commenters cease making personal attacks on other commenters. Any further comments that do not relate to the original article in some way will be deleted.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 8:37am BST

Sean ; no, I think its that I regard the cost of institutionalising discrimination as a greater cost than some members of the CofE feeling that they will have to join another denomination.

After all, denominations are only structures, and all are part of the greater Church, so if one moves from one part of it to another, it may be a cultural and personal loss, but no-one is being 'unchurched'

However, if we continue the currently discriminatory policies of the CofE, then that institution is itself, in my view, failing to speak truth to power.

In terms of priorities, I would regard the creation of an inclusive and non-discriminatory denomination as more important than the feelings of those who believe discrimination should be retained. Particularly given that there are places where they could go where institutionalised discrimination is questioned far less.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 10:08am BST

"Particularly given that there are places where they could go where institutionalised discrimination is questioned far less."

It looks as though we have come full circle once again. But along the way we have learned that MM regards the church as being broadly the same as (say) a trade union or a golf club, where who can be employed or be a member is a human rights issue.

For the great majority of members of the world church to be a Christian is to hold beliefs which often run clean contrary to the culture of secular society. Since most of what passes for British culture these days is about sex, how often and who with, the difference between Christian morality and secular morality is often the point at which the two can be seen to diverge, although it is not necessarily the most important point.

Christians also have a different understanding of Creation and our purpose within it. That means a different understanding of sexuality to the one which absorbs contemporary Britain. And since sexuality is one of the core issues of what it is to be human, if affects how we live and what we do as Christians. There are clear differences between the respective roles of men and women in society as the church understands them, and as society understands them.

For classical Evangelicals and for Catholics, the role of women within the Christian society does not include ordained leadership. You can find the arguments well rehearsed in "Consecrated Women?" by Jonathan Baker, "Women in the Priesthood" by Manfred Hauke and elsewhere. God made us to be different: not just for the purposes of procreation but to be complementary as companions one for another.

It is categorically not about rights of employment or membership of a club: it is categorically about the understanding of Creation which is shared by most Christians who allow their understanding of God to be shaped authoritatively by the Scriptures.

As I said before, the onus on those who want a club for the like-minded is to create one in their own likeness and image. Not by entryism into a weak state church but as a fresh expression of their political vision for humanity - which is not shared by the universal church of Jesus Christ.

Posted by Catholicus at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 3:48pm BST

Let's make this clear.

No-one is being thrown out of the Church. Some people are choosing to leave one denomination within the Church, no doubt for another. Thats all.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 6:50pm BST

PS And are you seriously suggesting that 70% of the current General Synod is made up of liberals - in fact, the only opponents of women as bishops or priests are Reform and Forward in Faith. They were joined by some who take the Tom Wright line of 'yes, but not yet', but still are in a minority.

You are entitled to your opinion, but you will have to make your choice- to stay in a denomination which does not always behave in the way you wish, or to find a more congenial home.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 22 July 2005 at 6:54pm BST

What I am suggesting is that 70% of Synod members got it very wrong when they voted as they did, and that if enacted their wishes will cut off the Church of England from its roots - and from any prospect of recovery of its Catholic identity.

I don't want the Church of England to become a cosy club with religious trappings. I want it to be a Church. It is the Church of England itself which is on the brink of disaster.

I would remind you how steeply its membership fell in the 1990's following women priests: estimates range up to 25%. There will be similar attrition this time. Next will be formal approval for homosexual "marriage" and another attrition. "Open Communion" is the next thing lined up on the ECUSA conveyor belt - and more losses. Union with the Methodist Church will bring more defections.

If it ever stops redefining itself in pursuit of some kind of total inclusivity, there will be hardly anyone left within it to welcome the illusory newcomers - and there will be nothing left of value to potential newcomers. People already find the local pub more congenial.


Posted by Catholicus at Saturday, 23 July 2005 at 10:56am BST

Having read the many postings since my last comment, I suspect this might be harking back in the conversation...
One of the intellectual heroes of the Anglo-Catholic movement in Australia was Farnham E Maynard (Vicar of St Peter's Melbourne, 1926-63). In a tract entitled "Bishops: What They Were, What They Became, and What They May Become", Maynard wrote "We look for bishops in the future who will...refuse to allow such pressures as necessarily beset us all, pressures of custom, local tradition, and involvements in temporal obligations, to obstruct them in fulfilling the dutites to which God has called them in their holy Order."
Maynard's main argument in this tract was that bishops represent the church to the world and the world to the church. The bishop excercises a ministry that is essentially prophetic and transformational: it prefigures the world as it SHALL be, not as it is. If this is a vision held in common between Anglicans of Catholic and Evangelical (of whatever shade) views, then clearly this argument over bishops (gay, flying, extra-provincial, female etc) is ultimately self-defeating when the admission of people called by God (and the church, through the Prime Minister, Convention or Synod) to the order of bishops might ultimately entail removing traditional barriers of gender and some more recently constructed concepts of sexual orientation. Little wonder that the church is faring so badly in relation to the world when, as Stephen Bates has pointed out, on issues of gender and sexual orientation the church is seriously out of step with the world around it, not the other way round. The sorts of arguments the church is embroiled in are reasons make the pub look deeply attractive: at the very least it's likely to be a more inclusive place than most churches these days. I'm sure Thinking Anglicans has its share of pub theologians/philosophers on the discussion boards. What newcomers look for in the church is a prophetic voice. The church owes newcomers a chance of belonging: a rigid hierarchy to which admission is governed by posessing the 'correct' gender and/or sexual orientation does not seem particularly inclusive, even of existing members!
We are all concerned with these issues as they affect the church on the larger scale, and often fail to deal with each other in good faith and charity. The result seems beside the point: shouting at each other (perhaps on websites like this) and suing for property over the gender or sexual orientation of bishops so we can choose another one who disagrees on the a common set of issues. As Maynard wrote "There is but one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and so one Church and one Episcopate." The nature of the order of bishops is not changed one iota by admitting women or gay people: perhaps the more disturbing possibility is being honest about it. This might even still stand the chance of being prophetic.

Posted by k1eran at Saturday, 23 July 2005 at 2:33pm BST

The problem is that these tired arguments are demonstrably not working. The Church of England (like ECUSA) has been conforming itself to the world for at least 75 years, in pursuit of 'relevance' and now it has little left to offer to the world which is prophetic or transformational. The membership has mostly gone home.

In one sense it won't make any difference if the CofE finally turns to its bishops and makes them more like leaders in the secular world (what kind of leaders? Politicians? Journalists? Footballers?) since the world will not take any notice anyhow.

Few people bother to vote these days. They certainly won't turn out every week to hear from the pulpit what they can hear at home on the radio, TV or in the papers. Not even for the most relevant of bishops, even if she is a partnered gay, post-Christian, with qualifications in crystal therapy, and a leading figure in the Liberal Democrats on the County Council.

Posted by Catholicus at Saturday, 23 July 2005 at 9:53pm BST

Post-Christian implies you've already moved on to something else. These sorts of arguments are little more than a red herring. The church exists to model the world as it shall be, which is only possible through it being a place where God's activity is discerned, or even sought. Part of that activity is calling people to the orders of ministry. The question is whether we have the courage to be honest about the fact that it appears that God has called some men AND some women to ordained life. I consider this to be a question of both/and rather than either/or, with the implication being that we can somehow put a limit God. Sexuality is not a matter of dogmatic orthodoxy unless you suddenly decide to sell out to current day marketing. In this respect, the christian imagination has never been more creatively sordid than in imagining that "the world" consists of wall-to-wall sex and promiscuity. Moreover, how many gay men are on the membership list of Forward In Faith? Perhaps inclusiveness is confronting to some people in the church, but it may not be such a shock for people who might come to it in the future. It might even be a vision of the world as it shall be.

Posted by k1eranc at Monday, 25 July 2005 at 2:49am BST

You will probably find it difficult to understand, but there are quite a number of gay men and gay priests among them who are members of movements like Forward in Faith, who live entirely chaste and celibate lives. They do so because they understand that this is part of their calling as Christians.

Their witness is all the more compelling because of their personal faithfulness to God.

In God's sovereign will as it is widely understood in the Catholic world, there is no "right" to marriage; no "right" to have sex; and no "right" to ordination.

The problem for those who wish the church to conform to the world, rather than to God's word, is that when the Church ceases to have anything distinctive to say to the world, it loses its own identity. If salt ceases to be salty, it is worthless and is thrown out. The Church without the word of God can only reflect the world back to itself.

Posted by catholicus at Monday, 25 July 2005 at 10:17am BST

"...there are quite a number of gay men and gay priests among them who are members of movements like Forward in Faith, who live entirely chaste and celibate lives. They do so because they understand that this is part of their calling as Christians."
Actually, I don't find this difficult to understand. However, one presumes that none of these people are under any compulsion to be celibate. Their choice is admirable because it has been made freely. One might even assume that celibacy is part of their vocation, and in this respect you are right, Catholicus. But there is something dishonest in the equation gay + called to ordained life = mandatory celibacy. Celibacy is widely understood to be a vocation as well, and is not understood to be a condition of ordination in the Anglican Church. You cannot seriously mean to imply that sexuality is part of a dogmatic framework of credal orthodoxy. At most it's a very significant pastoral concern for the way some people live, but it doesn't actually touch on the substance of the Faith as we have inherited it in the creeds and tradition of the Church.

But you do beg a couple of obvious questions. Is not the whole world, including the Church, God's creation? Why should a more inclusive view of 'the world' involve capitulation to it? The Church is not without it's own particularly worldly corners, after all. Plus, who mentioned the question of 'rights'? It might be that the concept has no real significance in the sight of God. This might even be a useful corrective in assessing the value of arguments for greater recognition of gay relationships, and how the Church might frame a godly pastoral response. However, exclusion and victimising people for such arbitrary reasons such as their sexual orientation would seem to be most un-godly. Surely Christ didn't die so that we could reenact the enormities of the pharisees whom he repeatedly condemned as hypocrites?

I thought this was a discussion board about women in the episcopate, and the implications of a Third Province for those who can't accept the proposition. As I have said previously, the most disturbing aspect of pressure groups such as FiF is that while they claim to represent a Catholic voice, they are actually advocating a episcopally dressed congregationalist polity. This is the conflict that really threatens the Anglican Communion: being atomised for all the 'right' reasons. Except that they are the 'right' reasons articulated in an untrue way, and not matched by the obvious actions (i.e.: due process, respect for vows to obedience etc), and distorted by an essentially un-Anglican rhetoric. And this is just what the world hears....

Posted by k1eranc at Tuesday, 26 July 2005 at 1:21pm BST

1. For Catholics "sexuality IS part of a dogmatic framework of credal orthodoxy" set out in scripture and in the magisterium.

2. The world must ultimately conform to God's word, not vice-versa. The atonement is not about approving sin but judgement upon it.

3. I think you will find that the FiF agenda as currently published masks a subsequent agenda which simply embraces the wider (Roman) Catholic church, which is hardly congregationalist.

Posted by catholicus at Tuesday, 26 July 2005 at 2:13pm BST

1. Sexuality is a gift. How we use this gift is a serious matter, for which the dogmatic framework provides some guidance. However, there is rather more to creedal orthodoxy than sex; I don't recall it being mentioned in the Nicene Creed last sunday...

2. Hooray. However, the world is also God's creation: judgement ultimately belongs to God, not to us.

3. In that case, then we are all wearing the consequences of a contradiction in the nature of FiF. Maybe they should be honest with themselves and 'go to Rome': it seems unlikely that Rome is coming to them any time soon. But until then, I maintain that they are pushing a glorified congregationalism.

Posted by k1eranc at Wednesday, 27 July 2005 at 1:27pm BST

There is much more to credal orthodoxy than just the Nicene creed!

If you assert a universalist theodicy you deny the possibility of judgement: you have already decided on God's behalf.

Decisions by the General Synod of the Church of England to act independently of the wider catholic community, in the question of the ordination of women, are themselves viewed as a form of glorified congregationalism.

FiF must speak for itself.

Posted by Catholicus at Thursday, 28 July 2005 at 2:29pm BST
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