Comments: Women Bishops - more delay?

There will never be a decision that appeals to all - that is the problem. Trying to find one is a pointless exercise.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 1:10pm BST

Good news ! At last the HoB is realising their duty to do more than follow the latest societal norms.

Even though I am supportive of the episcopy being open to men and women I think that the attitude of the leaders of WATCH (in particular) and Inclusive Church is reprehensible. A measure concerned with extending "women's rights" cannot be said to be reducing those rights because it is has limitations.

I'm brought back again to the idea of episcopy along the lines of official Anglican networks, rather than geographically. This has in fact been the way real spiritual authority has been exercised in many parts of the CofE for years. I hope that the HoB will use this opportunity to consider whether it is in fact "what God is doing" in His Church.

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 3:40pm BST

A hit, a very palpable hit. Thanks to Dean Faull for speaking up, though it must have been difficult or stressful. The idea of a virtual province, uncontaminated by divergence in Anglican ethics or religion must still seem like the beginning of the end of historic Anglican leeway. Imagine, Anglicans now wish to be uncontaminated by women with leadership gifts and callings? You would think if the Anglican house were really on fire, they would welcome whatever help came in the dire emergency from whatever neighborly quarters. But this crisis is not that sort of crisis. Apparently. You know, when we all pull together to save lives and watch the rest burn, while we protect the rest of our diverse neighborhoods.

It is really a next step in the wedge strategies of our Realigment.

So far as answering the target groups question - Who is next on the biblical-conservative attack lists? - we shall continue to keep women in mind, probably. Especially smart women. Especially women with training, skills, gifts, and genius. Some of our most ancient traditional taboos have had to do with body fluids from women, so in a way this deep caution and persistent fear of uncleanness is quite orthodox.

Posted by drdanfee at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 4:07pm BST

I am a smoker. My society has decided that it is morally wrong for other people to have to put up with my smoke when they are in a pub. Not only will abide by the new laws when they come in, I have already, because of the moral decision of society stopped smoking in enclosed public spaces, even though this makes my life less enjoyable. Fox hunting has been banned because society, overwhelmingly regards it as wrong. Not only has this made its practioner's lives less pleasurable it has deprived some people of their livelihood. Yet I still expect those in favour of hunting to abide by the law and accept the moral decision of the society they live in. I would love, really, really love to marry same sex couples in my church with their being no difference of status involved. This is for moral reasons. But I don't do it because I am a member of a church that does not allow it present. I say what I think but as long as I stay in the church I follow the rules.
There are moral reasons and one pragmatic reason why women should not become bishops. The moral argument has been won by those in favour of women priests. The pragmatic reason is that it will make communion with the Roman church more difficult. But Cardinal Kaspar made it absolutely clear the other day that our bishops are not bishops in the view of his denomination. I can not see then why the sex of our "phoney" bishops should be any more of a problem than the problems we have already. To be in communion with Rome would obviously mean accepting things of Rome that most Anglicans will never accept. The ARCIC report on Mary showed that there is a line the people will not cross. Therefore, the pragmatic argument is also nothing worth. Forward in Faith (their term not mine) rejoiced at the cardinal's speech. They should not have done because it showed the rest of us exactly what Rome is after.
So we should have the guts to get rid of all divisive provisions and get back to a proper, catholic threefold ministry with women involved in everything in exactly the same way as men. If we did that one thing then all sorts of problems would be easier to sort out because everyone would know that they had to win their arguments by rhetoric rather than blackmail along the lines of "We will only accept a third province."

Posted by MadPriest at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 5:18pm BST

A couple of points in response to Dave.

I don't have a great deal of time for the rights agenda, nor for simply following social norms. (What rights did Jesus ever claim?) Unfortunately the early church did follow social norms and excluded women from positions of leadership. I firmly believe this was a mistake, that men and women can be and are called to serve God, are equipped with the gifts to do so, and that the church should recognise at long last the fact that women are called to be bishops.

I believe this on biblical and theological grounds, and believe that in failing to consecrate women as bishops episcopal churches are implicitly denying their supposed doctrine of God, celebrated this Trinity Sunday. I think our Doctrine of God and our mission to all people are much more fundamental than the human leadership structures we have inherited from our history, and I would change the structures to be true to God.

I'm sure Dave will say I'm wrong about this and tell me I can't possibly be right. But please don't characterise those of us who support the robust and theologically grounded stance of WATCH as pursuing a 'rights' agenda. That might be where some are at, but certainly not all of us.

Posted by Mark at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 6:36pm BST

I watched "The Associate" with my daughter last night. Great movie. One thing that is really annoying is the degree of stereotyping and "bundling". All women are to be as Paul desired (for himself?), and too bad if their temperament or gifts make the roles unfulfillable. Especially, too bad if they witness the houses of their sisters and their children burning with the distress of abuse. It's okay, Jesus loves them, and when they die they can live happily ever after in heaven. So in the meantime, shut up do the dishes and look after the children, or else we will speak to God and have you shut out of heaven. Similarly, if you are gay, shut up, repent (or at least be celibate) or we will speak to Jesus and have you shut out of heaven too. Under no circumstances is anyone allowed to have any official position who might feel empathy for abused women or GLBTs, because then God might listen to them because of their divine ordained position. And we will keep reminding God of Eve's original sin (apparently Adam's duck-shoving was not a sin), to exclude any distressed woman or GLBT from making a direct plea to God. And if God does affirm any GLBT or woman, we will hide the evidence, suppress the truth, or undertake a slander campaign. That way, we never have to take responsiblity for the duck-shoving of failing to protect or provide a voice for women, children, GLBT, or any other "unworthies" who have been abused. And as a bonus, we will never be short of institutionalised funds as every King Xerxes will sponsor our church to provide divine advice to justify their ruling determinations and keep the masses under control.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 7:19pm BST

Dear Mark, thanks for your comments... it's nice to know that demanding "rights" is not ubiquitous in Watch. (In fact I imagined that is wouldn't be hence I was critical of the leaders' attitudes - not necessarily all Watch supporters).

Although I wouldn't join you in using the word "unfortunately" about the decision taken by the Apostles (!), I also think that the issue in St Paul's mind was primarily cultural and practical - therefore, as I said in my first post, I am not against women bishops. However I'm not prepared to walk over other people's legitimate beliefs. And I don't think that there is a strong arguement for women bishops from the point of view of "the mission of the church", provided it is done on clear doctrinal grounds... The largest and fastest growing churches are all evangelical/traditionalist or conservative evangelical - it doesn't seem to put folk off in real life (except in the minds of some angry liberals)!

Posted by Dave at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 9:20pm BST

Well, this is all very sad, very sad, indeed.

As Lord Runcie said, after receiving communion from a woman priest when he was in hospital in the states, "What was all the fuss about?"

Of course, "papering over the cracks" does not make for a very solid join.

What is the position of the spiritual leader of the Church and Primate of All England?

Posted by Prior Aelred at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 9:30pm BST

Dear Mark,
Can you please explain to me "the robust and theologically grounded stance of WATCH"?

Posted by Ordinad at Sunday, 11 June 2006 at 9:40pm BST

Dave ; if it doesn't 'put folk off' then why is church attendance still only 5% at best in the UK? I would say that if you actually talk to those outside the church, there is hardly any appeal for the conservative position. It appeals to those who want that very narrow focus but I think that is by its nature a small number of highly committed zealots.

Linking that to womens ministry, the appearance of a church which is still arguing about something as old-hat as this is an antiquated and irrelevant institution. I think the entire ides of 'church' as we have known it is essentially dead in any case and thats why I think 'liberal' churches will not 'grow' either, but there is a role for meeting peoples spiritual interests which I think only 'liberals' can meet. However, I don't think it will be recognisable as 'Christianity', a religious view which has past its sell-by. And I don;t think that it will have anything much to do with 'the Church' which is likely to die as it now exists. In that sort of scenario, discrimination against half the population won't even be on the agenda.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 12:41am BST

Perhaps the CofE should look west to North America where the issue of ordaining women to both priesthood and the episcopacy was handled without spliting the church. Yes there were those who were unhappy and a small number went their own way, but 20 years later the church has found the blessing of those women whom the Spirit has called to ordained ministry.

From this side of the pond I sit and wonder whether this will be the next issue to stand as a wall between the "mother" church and North America (and South Africa, and New Zealand and...)

Posted by Rae Fletcher at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 1:54am BST

I can't speak or write for WATCH as a whole, and there is too much literature to summarise. I think it is unarguable that the stance of WATCH is robust so I assume the question is about 'theologically grounded'.

Here, for me Gen 1.27 that humanity was created male and female in the image of God (so both are required) and Galatians 3.28 that we are all equally redeemed in Christ underpin a wider grounding attested through scripture. (Richard Bauckham's 'Gospel Women' contains some interesting studies for example).

The exegesis of the head image as referring more naturally to a source (head of a river) than an authority shows how cultural assumptions about what images mean get drawn into our reading of scripture and into a tradition of interpretation (which does exist in "conservative evangelical" circles).

The theological grounding in Christian tradition of not having women as priests includes a passage in Aquinas about women looking daft with their heads shaved - but this is no longer required of male priests.

But I haven't time to put the whole argument together just now.

Posted by Mark at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 9:06am BST

With respect, that theology sounds like fitting the end result around a theology rather than the other way round. Someone mentioned that the moral arguement for women priests has already been won. Just because it makes more sense to a more disingenous population does not mean that it should be taken seriously as an academic arguement. I do admire the H of B for trying to reach a solution of sorts - the fact they are divided implies strong views all round, and I respect that, despite my known belief that 1992 et al was perhaps one of the most idiotic (intellectually) things the church has ever done.

Posted by Edward at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 9:46am BST


Perhaps it only sounds like the wrong way round if you've already decided the answer the other way. How a culturally fixed idea of God as male and the male as the iconic image of God gets so embraced by the church when the first statement on the subject in scripture says something different - well that's an interesting question.

That it is culturally embedded in some parts of the church is shown by how difficult it is even to ask the question amongst some groups, let alone have a discussion where the answer has not been decided in advance.

I cited Aquinas just to show how daft the arguments get when you have decided the answer in advance. Aquinas was an intelligent man, an intellectual giant of his age, and yet felt that this was relevant to the argument. (To be found in Supplement to part 3 of the Summa Q39 Art1)

My motive is to read scripture seriously, not to argue any way I like 'because it makes more sense to a more disingenous population ...'. There is plenty of serious acadamic work on the subject - to dismiss it by imputing motives and then dismissing the imputed motives - that is not academically serious, and represents a failure to engage.

Posted by Mark at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 12:17pm BST

"The moral argument for women priests has already been won" - but Cardinal Kasper (representing a much bigger chunk of world christianity) did not think so, and neither does a majority of the Anglican Communion.

And is it not just a tad hypocritical for the Church of England to be leaning on ECUSA for consecrating VGR, and at the same time to be planning to break the sound barrier itself by ordaining women as bishops?

Posted by Alan Marsh at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 4:07pm BST

Merseymike wrote: "Dave ; if it doesn't 'put folk off' then why is church attendance still only 5% at best in the UK?"

Dear Mike, If the liberal arguements were right you would expect to see the liberal CofE churches doing better, not worse, that the evangelical and traditioanalist churches. But it is overwhelmingly the liberal churches that are shrinking away. Evangelicals are still attracting new members, winning converts and, overall, at least "breaking even".. with some show extremely impressive growth over the last 20 years (eg HTB). The conservative traditionalist "FiF" churches have also been growing, I understand, and are all more-or-less self-sufficient now.

Posted by Dave at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 8:28pm BST

No, you wouldn't, Dave. Most Anglican liberals simply have no idea at all how to communicate or engage the many people who are interested in spirituality but feel utterly alienated from 'church'

Conservative churches of all sorts attract the small minority who want that sort of conservative religion. They always will. But they will never be more than a small minority.

What religious liberals need to do is have a major rethink. I fully agree that soggy Anglican liberal compromisers appear frightened to do so. And, frankly, most liberal churches are deadly boring.

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 12 June 2006 at 10:26pm BST

Simon, can this story be true?

That FIF (and the Ahmanson-Scaife-IRD-AAC-Network folks) must agree before there are women bishops in England?

Hope not!

(just my 2 cents worth)

Posted by Tim Stewart at Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 2:31am BST

Merseymike, I guess what you are saying is that most people don't really want Christianity, either in its full-blooded or anaemic versions. On that, and on the boring character of liberal churches, I fully agree. But Paul said it all long ago (Romans 1.21-23). The contemporary interest in 'spirituality' is as much a flight from God and a quest for power (crystals and mumbo jumbo that appeal to women of a certain age) as it is a search for truth.
Actually, our Lord never encouraged his 'little flock' to imagine they would ever be the majority.

Posted by Steve Watson. at Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 6:47am BST

Dave, you wrote "I also think that the issue in St Paul's mind was primarily cultural and practical". If you look carefully at 1 Tim 2:11-14 the reasons Paul gives (vs13-14)are theological, based on Creation and the Fall, and still apply today if they applied then.

Posted by Erasmus at Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 12:44pm BST

I'm afraid to say that Aquinas never would have agreed with Mark !

Posted by Edward at Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 2:36pm BST

Dear Erasmus, verse 12 starts with a rather telling word "I" - to me this is reminiscent of 1Cor7:12 "... I say this (I, not the Lord)". Paul could be indicating by this form that he believes an instruction is right (and gives his reasons in this case) but not an absolute. You might also note that, in Acts 18:26, Priscilla is said to have taught Apollos. Now Paul was very close to Priscilla and Aquilla... maybe that is why he said "I" ?

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 13 June 2006 at 10:52pm BST
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