Comments: General Synod: Friday morning

So, George Pitcher says, the Church of England is to try to attract more young people to become priests.

Do we think that saying "Of course, if you're a woman, or gay, or even gay-friendly, then don't think we're ever going to treat you equally" is having a good effect on our image with young people? If we want to attract people, perhaps first we need to stop making ourselves well-known for who we don't like and won't welcome.

When are we going to get some joined-up thinking from the C of E authorities? Giving out the constant message that we are a group of small-minded backward-looking haters is catastrophic for our standing with young people.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 12:23pm BST

Q: Should the CofE ordain women as bishops?

A: Yes, but not at any cost.

The thing that the CofE needs to recognize is that the 1993 Act of Synod creating the Provincial Episcopal Visitors, commonly known as the Flying Bishop scheme, introduced a serious ecclesiological innovation into the life and legislation of the Church. This innovation, which fundamentally undermines the integrity of dioceses and provinces, and makes a mockery of Catholic episcopal order, was introduced without due regard to the law of unintended consequences, and without any consultation with the wider Anglican Communion, which has been suffering those unintended consequences.

I will allow that the motive behind the Act of Synod was positive and pastoral - an attempt to reach out to those who were distressed by the introduction of ordination of women priests. But, as Archbishop Williams has noted with respect to the GafConsters' offer of oversight in other provinces, how does one discern whether the distress over women priests, or now women bishops, is a sincere theological position, or based on some other, less worthy factors?

It is ironic that those who pretend to want to maintain Catholic order in the Church by resisting women bishops are the most vocal in demanding a further structural erosion of that Catholic order. Already the mere presence of the Flying Bishop scheme has given rise elsewhere to demands for Alternative Episcopal Oversight, and to GafConite boundary-crossing. Further entrenching this anti-catholic ecclesiological innovation in the misguided attempt to broker a deal for women bishops would only exacerbate matters by encouraging further actions of decoupling clergy and parishes from their bishops and dioceses.

Yes, the Church of England should move forward with women bishops, but not at any cost. If further erosion of catholic order is the only way to have women bishops, then with reluctance, I suggest the General Synod should take its cue from the Church in Wales' Bench of Bishops, and put off ordaining women as bishops until they can be ordained on the same terms as men.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 2:01pm BST

I am grateful to Christopher Hitchens for a quote in a recent article. He mentions that Abraham Lincoln said, 'If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong'. Well, if denying full recognition of women in the Church is not wrong, then nothing is wrong. The Southern States expected to be able to go their separate way to keep their slaves. Lincoln was deeply unpopular at he time for refusing to accept this, and, of course, it resulted in a terrible war. But he was right. Sometimes, it's worth being unpopular and worth a fight. This is one of those times. No separatists, no confederacy. One Church. I cry no tears for those who lost the War Against the States. It was not possible to accept their point of view and create a society where there were no slaves. It is not possible to accept the point of view of the protesters here and still have a Church where women are equal. They will say this is intolerant. So said the slave owners.

Posted by poppy tupper at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 3:31pm BST

It's a bit like going to the scene of a multiple pile up on both carriageways and saying, "Were recruiting for drivers."

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 4:04pm BST

The Episcopal Church U.S.A. and The Anglican Church of Canada are always on call for people who Get their Act Together!! ...and those who would rather follow the hearse.

Posted by David Green at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 4:06pm BST

I guess I have lived too far into fairness and equality - worked with too many women on too many highly effective professional teams? - known way too many very competent and caring women in social life? - to have much real interest in these claims that something special attends sex and gender which prohibits discerning the gifts of either men or women who might be called to ministry, even to being bishop.

If the CoE simply cannot bring itself to step forward into a modern understanding - to live out what it says it honestly discerns as true of women - then surely that failure of conscience, understanding, and courage cannot easily be dressed up as pastoral care for those who still say they cannot see God in women, except for perhaps motherhood?

At this point in time, given how well so many women have conducted themselves in so many different daily life venues or domains, the holding back is hard to understand as anything but a cover story for fear, deep fear, and stubbornness, a principled males-first unwillingness to change for the better.

How odd that we Anglicans must let this sort of thing tear us apart in church life, when traditional beliefs and barriers about women hardly carry the day in any other realm of British life.

Inside the closed, airless circles of traditional thinking, the question cannot even be raised very well - so doomed are women to be nothing but what men preach they are allowed by God to be, headed up by some particular father or brother or husband as the traditional claims go. Of course the men whom God has designated to head up so many different women feel just peachy-keen about their calling to head up the women subordiate or subservient to them. Sweet.

Outside, well compared to all that, it seems more and more wonderful to follow God and Jesus, outside.

Posted by drdanfee at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 5:17pm BST

On the surface, it's ingenious marketing:

But "diversity" is made explicit by grown-up organisations enticing young talent: Stonewall's star logo is a badge of pride used by companies committed to equality and recognised as such. Many organisations are actively seeking to recruit gay people, not just in order to comply with legislation, but to attract the brightest and best.

Given the choice, it seems unlikely that very many young gay people would want to follow a calling into ministry with the current level of corporate hostility, absent elsewhere. And that's the Church's loss.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 5:30pm BST

I find it amazing that there is so much opposition to the ordination of females. I realized this morning (I probably read it somewhere a while ago and it has just now sunk now) that the defining event of Christianity - the Incarnation is a feminine event - embodiment and relational - as opposed to a masculine one - intellectual etc. So yes, Jesus was male but God chose a feminine mode with which to enter into creation's history. I would say that is a case for both/and rather than male only.

Personally I have lost patience with those who cannot open their eyes beyond their narrow scope of understanding. To deny fullness to one sex is to cheapen us all. If we cannot celebrate the fullness of humaness then we improverish the very gifts of life that God gives us.

Posted by Ann Marie at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 6:49pm BST

Nom de Plume, can you please explain just what you mean by "I will allow that the motive behind the Act of Synod was positive and pastoral - an attempt to reach out to those who were distressed by the introduction of ordination of women priests"?

I am an opponent of the ordination of women. I am not in the least "distressed" by the innovation. Why do you assume that I am? In what way do you imagine the Act of Synod to "reach out" to me?

Posted by Alan Harrison at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 6:55pm BST

Fr. Mark is absolutely correct. You only have to look across the Channel to see the results of church stuck in the past (and whose property is owned by the local governmental authorities!). You'll have young people, that will come to see the architecture, and gawp at the handful of oldsters fumbling around in what has certainly become a museum and curiosity.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Friday, 4 July 2008 at 7:30pm BST

"Should women become Church of England bishops?"

The relevant question is, "Is God calling women to become Church of England bishops?"

And IMO, it's beyond debate that the answer is *emphatically* YES!!!

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 5 July 2008 at 7:34am BST

It used to be, in Anglo-Catholic circles, that of those things the Articles refer to as "those commonly called Sacraments" (but which ACs just called "Sacraments"), it was said, "All may, none must, some should." It appears that the "all" didn't quite sink in, or was perhaps, not even intended as such.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 5 July 2008 at 3:34pm BST

Alan Harrison asks why I assume he is distressed about women clergy, when he is merely opposed to them and not distressed about them.

I don't think I said, and certainly didn't mean to imply, that everyone who says he is opposed to women's ordination was necessarily so opposed that he was distressed by the prospect. But...

The original Measure that allowed for ordination of women created two options for parishes that chose to discriminate against women clergy - the famous Resolutions A and B. One allows the parish to state that they will allow women to function in their parish, but not in the capacity of Incumbent. i.e., the priest in charge of the parish must be male, but they would allow women in subordinate roles. The other resolution allows the parish to state that they will not allow women clergy in under any guise.

The Act of Synod took this discrimination a step further, allowing parishes to diassociate themselves from their diocesan bishop, and request instead the episcopal ministrations of a Provincial Episcopal Visitor.

It seems to me that the resolutions allowed for in the Measure are sufficiently discriminatory to protect the consciences of parishes that are against ordination of women. But to have demanded the sort of ecclesiological innovation in the Act of Synod suggests to me a certain level of distress that claims it's not good enough to protect the parish from any contact with women priests, it also has to be protected from the ministrations of a male bishop who might have ordained one.

So, I don't know what sort of parish you are in, Mr Harrison, but if it's either Resolution A or B, then I presume that is enough to satisfy your need to be shielded from the ministrations of women clergy. If that was not enough, then I would ask the question, what is it about contact with women clergy that somehow invalidates the ministrations of a make bishop? I just don't get it. Sorry.

I believe the Act of Synod, however positive its motives, has been disastrous for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. It has undermined catholic order, and opened the door in the wider Communion to demands for similar schemes, as individuals personalise their disputes with their bishops. As the GafCon bishops begin to make invasion plans for the CofE, the blowback is just beginning.

Incidentally, in case anyone is mistaken on this point, I fully support the ministrations of women in all three of the Holy Orders, and would happily serve under a woman vicar, bishop, or archbishop.

Posted by Nom de Plume at Saturday, 5 July 2008 at 7:18pm BST

Why can't women be priests or bishops? I don't know : only that, however wise and wonderful their ministry has been in the past they have not been ordained, and secondly, that the Incarnation took place at a particular time and place in the past, and not now! The argument "If Jesus were here today he would...." is irrelevant : in faith we presume that God knew what he was doing!

God - of course - is not bound by the Sacraments, and even "invalid" sacraments bring grace to their recipients. We are so bound.

Lastly, the rule used to be that in matters of importance, the safer opinion should be folowed (tutiorism). Today we seem to have moved to accepting what used to be denigrated, "probabilism" - that a "probable" opinion may be followed, even if a more probable and opposing opinion exists!

Posted by D.J.Brecknell at Wednesday, 9 July 2008 at 11:55am BST

"in faith we presume that God knew what he was doing!"

But this presumes that not ordaining women is what God wants. We are discerning the will of God as we go. For those of us for whom Scripture is not the final authority, this is not an issue. We have been led many times to perceive the will of God as contradicting Scripture. Can we say that 2000 years of not ordaining women represents the will of God, or merely our human inability to discern his will, prehaps as a result of our own political entanglements, fears, and even prejudices, all of which are part of our fallen state? Put another way, we can have all faith that God knew what He was doing, but can we have faith that a Church that sold out to the Imperial power and compromised some of Her most basic principles to secure the support of that Imperial power could accurately discern the will of God? Many of us, both Anglo-catholic and Evangelical alike would agree that the Church certainly had lost the ability to reliably discern the guidance of the Spirit by the late Middle Ages, that's why we broke with Rome, after all. Is our lack of ordained women a product of that unreliability?

"the Incarnation took place at a particular time and place in the past, and not now"

No, the Incarnation occurred at a particular place and time, but the Incarnate God is as much Incarnate now as He ever was. Indeed, in a mystical sense, He has eternally been the Incarnate God. Furthermore, He has assured us that He is with us, "even to the end of time". So, you're right in one respect, the argument "if Jesus were here" is wrong. There's no 'if' about it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 9 July 2008 at 1:28pm BST
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