Comments: Write in Support of Women as Bishops

"over the past 2000 years women have been excluded from different types of ministry because of how it would affect the mission of the Church in the context of the surrounding culture."

Really? I suspect there are more issues than that.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 12 November 2008 at 11:17am GMT

This really is remarkable for its mixture of naivety and nastiness.

For the (possible) naivety, see: "In other words, no more ‘flying’ bishops, and those men who are currently flying bishops should be invited to become ‘proper’ assistant bishops, ministering to all in their area, not just to those who oppose women’s ordained ministries." Do the authors imagine for one second that +Ebbsfleet, +Richborough, +Beverley or the semi-flying +Fulham would accept such an "invitation"? If they do, they really are very naive. If they know very well that the prelates would regard such an "invitation" as the sack, we are beginning to move towards nastiness.

We are certainly in the realm of nastiness when we move to the reference to "reactionary conservatives / fundamentalists". I am quite prepared, in the ecclesiastical context, to be labelled a conservative. I am neither a reactionary nor a fundamentalist. I just do not share the authors' conviction that two provinces in an anomalous situation and their faux-parliamentary synod can claim to decide on behalf of "the Church" (authors' capital).

The authors have, at least, succeeded in one of their aims. They have stirred me from my apathy and I shall be writing to His Grace the Archbishop with a copy to the persons suggested in the article.

Posted by Alan Harrison at Wednesday, 12 November 2008 at 4:43pm GMT

"(Rowan) needs to be supported in his position as Archbishop of Canterbury and encouraged that the vast majority of the Church are behind him and the bishops in moving forward with consecrating women."

Given Rowan's speech in the synod debate, would it not be better to support him totally and back not only his desire for women bishops but also his call to honour previous promises and establish structural provision for oponents?

Or is this a cynical attempt to undermine Rowan under the guise of support?

Posted by David Malloch at Wednesday, 12 November 2008 at 8:05pm GMT

It is not the holding of views with passion, commitment and vigour that saddens me, nor even if such views are contrary to my own, but it is the labelling of people and positions and indeed the less than charitable tone that gets me. On all sides of this and indeed other issues, can we at least be civil and courteous in what we say and write?

Graeme Buttery

Posted by Graeme Buttery at Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 10:48am GMT

Well if conservatives can somehow manage - a big and difficult narrative gospel task? - to stop claiming that women are subordinate and defective, compared to men - we can lower the heated tone of many conversations. I confess I am stuck.

I have been listening a while to all the conservative views, and so far I am not convinced that any of the views advanced about women involve anything other than fairly direct claims that women are defective, so God cannot do certain things in their ministry and life and work that God can still do, when it comes to men.

Besides all that vexation, typical preachments that ordained women somehow endanger or damage such conservative or traditionalistic believers - to the extent that a sealed bubble must protect them in multiple levels of church life? - well that one, too, smells overripe and past its sell-by dates.

Apparently for these moderns, God can use a woman - neurologist to heal their aterial-venous malformation, or teach or parent their kids, or be chancellor of Germany or Prime Minister of England - but goodness, goodness sakes - not and never, to embody and lead a worshipping believer community to proclaim Christ and praise God?

Then it gets even more sneaky, more difficult, when we can clearly see how such conservative believers will use every allegedly protective leeway - flying bishops, separate virtual provinces, planting churches anywhere they like, enforcing woman leader-free zones - to further demean and attack and destroy whomever they prefer to target at any given moment - women, progressive believers, and queer folks now being the favorite bullseyes.

Progressive believers cannot lower the heated tone on those differences, mainly, all by themselves (as if nothing going on was skanky?). How can the rest of us not raise questions and resist all that? Vigorously?

Are any of the loud fearful objections, anything but modern conservative dress and disguise to grimly pledge ourselves yet again to old tribal cultural taboos about women and menstruation?

Stuck, as I said. The best I can imagine is to offer leeway while seeking ways to ensure that such leeway cannot be used to further demean ordained women, because that is just what has happened in the past fifty years of giving traditionalistic Anglican believers such leeway.

Can conservative Anglican believers play nice, ever again, in shared church life spaces with women, progressive believers, queer folks?

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 7:52pm GMT

drdanfee, you say 'I am not convinced that any of the views advanced about women involve anything other than fairly direct claims that women are defective, so God cannot do certain things in their ministry and life and work that God can still do, when it comes to men.'

I think you misrepresent what is said. I've never heard it suggested that God CAN'T do whatsoever God chooses to do. The question is what has s/he chosen to do. What does God's will for the orders & ministry in his/her church? Does God reveal that the ordained ministry is open to male & female or not?

I'm not pushing the case in either direction but your statement turns the whole thing round and assumes God does not reveal; rather the church decides what she wants in the way of ministry and God puts up with it because s/he can use it.

Posted by rose gaudete at Thursday, 13 November 2008 at 11:39pm GMT

I doubt even the writers/propagaters of "The Fundamentals" a hundred years ago, claimed the title "Fundamentalists."

...but they did express a powerful sense of religious CERTAINTY, accompanied by a merciless religious CHAUVINISM, and for those religious groups with similar C&C (regardless of the larger religious umbrella they gather), it's proved a remarkably useful descriptor. Ergo, it richly applies to the "I KNOW that God is NOT calling you to priesthood, girly!" crowd...

...but of course, I could be wrong. I welcome you stay Anglican, Alan (et al anti-WO), if you're willing.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by JCF at Friday, 14 November 2008 at 6:22am GMT

Dan: you're quite right, again. Except that she was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (or possibly Britain for short), much as many Scots might have wished for her role to have been limited to England. Sorry to be pedantic.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 14 November 2008 at 9:16am GMT

One wonders what Saint Paul would have had to say if he were here today about the 'priesthood of all believers'? Would he have excluded women from that category of Christian, I wonder? And if not, why exclude women from the orders of priest and bishop in the Church. I'll bet women like Saints Brigid of Ireland, Teresa of Avila, and Hilda of Whitby would have kicked up a fuss. Somebody would have got a smack with their pastoral staves and hit over the head with their mitres.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 14 November 2008 at 10:08am GMT

"so far I am not convinced that any of the views advanced about women involve anything other than fairly direct claims that women are defective"

And I am pretty much convinced that the arguments for the most part are not about this at all, and I have made such arguments in times past. As a matter of fact, while I support OOW, I have reiterated the anti-OOW arguments on several occasions here, and have never even hinted at a view that women are somehow defective. If, and it's a big if, priesthood is only for males, that's no more about "defect" than the fact that men cannot be mothers is not a defect. I grant you there are some for whom the issue is about women having authority over men, but they are so far from the Gospel they see nothing wrong with redefining God Himself to get their way, so you can't really give them any credence.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 14 November 2008 at 11:41am GMT

Christina Rees is a brilliant lady and she is not going to allow women Bishops, and their male and female ordained clergy to be second class clergy in the Church of England.

To regard her as naive is to underestimate a very remarkable and determined lady.

Posted by Robert Ian Williams at Friday, 14 November 2008 at 7:00pm GMT

"To regard her as naive is to underestimate a very remarkable and determined lady."

Which may provide the answer to:

"Do the authors imagine for one second that +Ebbsfleet, +Richborough, +Beverley or the semi-flying +Fulham would accept such an "invitation"? If they do, they really are very naive. If they know very well that the prelates would regard such an "invitation" as the sack, we are beginning to move towards nastiness."

Posted by David Malloch at Saturday, 15 November 2008 at 10:51am GMT

Yesterday at the Chichester Diocesan Synod John Hind, Bishop, announced that he would not appoint any candidate for the vacancy of Bishop of Horsham who ordained women. The entire diocese has been invited to take part in the process of choosing candidates and the advisory committee for the appointment has yet to meet. Obviously this consultation is simply an exercise in hypocrisy and yesterday the Bishop acted entirely without integrity. The vast majority who support women as priests and Bishops have no voice. Any ideas out there as to what we do to combat this religious "chauvinism", I hesitate to use the word Christian.

Posted by Marguerite Saffery at Sunday, 16 November 2008 at 3:55pm GMT


Some ideas as requested:

1) Note the facts of the situation - i.e. women are ordained and Licensed in the Diocese of Chichester and that will continue. Bishop John Hind does not ordain women and whether you like it or not that is a position of integrity within the church of england, recognised by synod. A suffragan acts on behalf of the diocesan i.e. if a suffragan ordains women it is an act of the diocesan.

2) By not allowing a suffragan to ordain women +John is acting with total integrity even if you don't like it.

3) Strange as it may seem, the ordination of women is not the be all and end all of ecclesial life. If you honestly think that the ordination of women is the main criteria for this post it is to be hoped you are not part of the appointment process. There are a whole range of issues re skills, pastoral gifts, godliness etc to be considered and, frankly, I think it strange that you do not even mention them.

4) The synod has agreed that those who accept and those who rejct WO are equally loyal anglicans so if you prefer to use the term chauvenism rather than christian that is a matter for you to discuss with your spiritual director/confessor. It is not an accurate reflection of the position of the church.

5) Where have you been in all the years traditionalists have been sidelined throughout the Church of England? The evidence for this is in the synod's own Pilling Report. Have you been campaigning about the fact that bishop upon bishop who ordain women have systematically refused to appoint suffragans who will not?

Posted by David Malloch at Sunday, 16 November 2008 at 5:11pm GMT

"The vast majority who support women as priests and Bishops have no voice. Any ideas out there as to what we do to combat this religious "chauvinism", I hesitate to use the word Christian."

The only thing I can see is to patiently and calmly point out to those who claim oppression from "liberals" that this is a prime example that it cuts both ways, and perhaps they should at least tone down the rhetoric of claiming to be some faithful remnant oppressed by the heathen hoards, if not stop making such self serving statements entirely. Don't forget, all those in your diocese who support women bishops and yet have no voice are the very ones conservatives are claiming are silencing and oppressing THEM.

Posted by Ford Elms at Sunday, 16 November 2008 at 5:17pm GMT

David Malloch,
Your Bishop, John Hind, must be very pleased to have your support in his opposition to women's ordination in the Church of England,

How glad I am that I do not work in your diocese because to do so would by tantamount to cocking a snook at all of those saintly women in the Church of past generations who have not only exercised the charism of leadership, but have also shown great integrity in bringing with them the many spiritual gifts that women, uniquely, have to offer.

A particular favourite of mine is Saint Hilda, Abbess of Whitby in the 7th century, who, at the Synod of Whitby in 664, sided with Saint Aidan in his defence of the Celtic custom against Saint Wilfrid. However, after the decison went in favour of the Romanizing party, she loyally accepted the 'mind of the Church'. She presided over a double monastery of women and men, and was possessed of an abbatial crozier and mitre. How's that for the leadership of a woman?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 17 November 2008 at 10:28pm GMT

Ron Smith,

I do not live in the Diocese of Chichester and John Hind is not my bishop! In fact, I live in a diocese where traditionalists are constantly sidelined and abused. We take issue with the diocesan bishop on many matters but have never treated him or our female colleagues with the disrespect shown to John Hind.

Re Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, yes I love her too! A wonderful example of loyalty to the universal over the provincial, of fidelity and obedience. Of course, if she was a member of today's general synod, she might just have argued that promises were made to be broken and have founded a movement to limit wilfrid with a code of practice she had every intention of recsinding???

Posted by David Malloch at Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 5:31pm GMT

"traditionalists are constantly sidelined and abused."

Can we get some specifics, especially about the "abuse"? IN my experience as Joe Anglican here in Canada, the only abuse I have been subjected to is that coming from the GAFCONites. Now conservatives have publicaly, and utterly falsely, accused our bishop of "abuse", but you can't base a grievnace on lies.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 10:37pm GMT

David Malloch.
Did I hear you say, under your breath at the end of your last posting: "Typical Woman"?

I suppose, really, David, I was trying to justify the ministry of leadership among women - especially it's flexibility; which is a breath of fresh air, especially in the present climate of inflexibitiy in the application of Scriptural dogmatism.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 18 November 2008 at 10:43pm GMT

"Did I hear you say, under your breath at the end of your last posting: "Typical Woman"?

Not unless your hearing aid needs new batteries!

"I suppose, really, David, I was trying to justify the ministry of leadership among women - especially it's flexibility; which is a breath of fresh air, especially in the present climate of inflexibitiy in the application of Scriptural dogmatism. "

Much of this I would agree with. The Church benefits greatly from the holiness of so many women and they serve and lead in so many ways. My objection is to the ordination of women - an objection which I appreciate you do not share but an objection held by thousands of women who give so much to the church.

Furthermore, whilst I do not accept WO, I have never suggested that they are not gifted pastors and I have not suggested that they should be denegrated in anyway. Neither have I suggested that their ministry should be 2nd best. All I have said is that thousands of members of the cofe have been told that they are equally loyal members and have been promised provision in perpetuity. That provision should be maintained in a way that actually meets their needs. For what it is worth a number of female clergy share that view.

So, to sum up, I do not deny the holiness and spiritual gifts of christian women. I do not accept the O of W. I believe that provision promised should be delivered. I find the comments made by the Bishop of Chichester reflect my own views and the comments about him inaccurate and offensive.

Posted by David Malloch at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 4:25pm GMT

"the ministry of leadership among women"
Fr. Ron, I have to take an opposing view here. While some conservative Evangelicals are arguing against the, for me, bizarrely worded concept of "female headship", that has never, I don't think, been the basis of opposition to ordained women, at least not formally. I think, if what we wanted to do was to empower women in the Church, there were better ways than to ordain them to an office that is not supposed to be about power at all, but servanthood. We can't ignore the arguments about whether or not women can fulfill the priestly function simply because many of those who argue against OOW obviously have a problem with women in leadership. So, it isn't about the quality of women's ministry, or the propriety of women as leaders. It is about whether or not there is something in the nature of priesthood (and episcopate) that requires the holder of the office to be male. I keep making the statement that if my comments on gender in relation to priesthood are true, and I have come to believe they are not, BTW, though the anti-OOW side obviously thinks otherwise, then it makes no more sense to claim women are somehow oppressed by not being ordained than for me to claim I am oppressed because, being a man, I cannot be a mother. Continually seeing opposition to OOW as denigration of women's ministry, as though priesthood is somehow some sort of "uberministry" before which all other ministries are secondary, just clouds the issue. I think it's true that many who argue against OOW ARE coming from an "anti-woman in power" standpoint, but it isn't helpful to just address that without addressing the issues surrounding gender and priesthood, not as Church leadership, but as priesthood.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 19 November 2008 at 6:11pm GMT


Respectfully, I do get your point about the need to separate the issue of the 'leadership' of women in the Church, from their perceived (or not) qualification for 'priesthood'. However, as anyone in the Australasian Anglican situation will tell you, the two, for certain Evangelicals, are intimately connected.

The Sydney Diocese, under the Jensenites, wants to allow women deacons, as well as lay men and deacons, to preside at the Eucharist; simply because they consider sacramental ministry to be of a lesser 'order' than any form of leadership in the Church. Yes, most clergy are aware that the priesthood is, in essence, a ministry of *Servanthood*, but it also represents the *Personhood* of Christ in 'Presiding' at the supreme Sacrament of the Mass (Holy Communion).

Now, to us who are Catholic in principle, this issue of presiding is a significant ministry of leadership in the Community - needing the Laying on of Hands by the Bishop (the Leader of the local Church Community) - and therefore vital.

To the leaders of the Sydney Diocese who are promoting lay-presidency at the Eucharist, this role is not vital, and therefore it is peripheral to the role of leadership: which they want to reserve for the male of the species.

Priesthood is not something, for them, to be considered in any way to be part of the charism of leadership in the Church. Whereas, for most of the rest of us, a Church without an Ordered Priesthood (as derived from the espiscopacy), is not a Church in the Anglican Tradition.

To some Catholics (not myself) in the Anglican Church, however, I realise that this is an altogether different matter. They presume that Scripture and Early Church Tradition forbids the ordination of women, and therefore they should not be ordained. This is an entirely different (and, I believe, equally defective) reason for being against women's ordination, and should not be confused with that of those Evangelicals (like the Jensenites) who also object.

What both parties have in common here is the fact that they object to women being ordained - not the premise of their objection.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 20 November 2008 at 11:44pm GMT

Fr. Ron, I agree entirely, and I am aware of how anomalous Sydney is. To me, they are my stereotypical Evangelicals incarnate: convinced by their leadership that their rather extreme Protestantism is somehow "Real Christianity" and the rest of us are just heathens, which requires a huge amount of revisionism and ignorance of or willfull disregard of historical fact, self delusion of their own righteousness. It's just that their arguments are so bizarre, so far out in left field, their terminology is so odd, I mean, really, "female headship"??? So, I tend to think of them as the "lunatic fringe", and while I am aware of linkage of ordination with power, I tend to give consider it just another bit of their bizarre take on things. I just can't take them seriously, and I am unable to accept that I belong to the same Church they do, really. I honestly don't think I could receive in Sydney cathedral, and that is a huge, and I think awful, thing for me to say.

I also have no time for arguments for OOW based on rights or the quality of women's ministry. Priesthood isn't a right for anyone, it isn't about power, it isn't about the quality of the ministry of the individual priest, if it were, we'd have far fewer priests than we do. We come at it from the point of view of "How can a woman represent Christ in the Mass?" or "How can a woman have authority over a man?" We ought to be asking "Is God calling women to priesthood in the Church or not?" I happen to believe He is. Then we can ask "What does this do to our understanding of the priest acting 'in persona Christi'?" or "What does this mean for our understanding of female headship?" We are trying to make God fit our understanding instead of adapting our understanding to fit God, in some sense. I think we need to clearly tell the diocese of Sydney that their understanding of priesthood and sacraments is just as far beyond the pale as they think OOW or being nice to gay people is. Maybe it's all about rubbing their fallen humanity in their holier than thou faces.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 21 November 2008 at 2:01pm GMT
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