Comments: Women Bishops - diocesan debates

I imagine someone in Sheffield will enlighten us further. I know Sheffield i quite a polarised diocese in many ways.. a good number of very definite anglo-catholic parishes and some very large and wealthy conservative evangelical parishes. Is the Diocesan Synod representative of opinion in the diocese at large or have the "extremes" managed to have disproportionate influence. I know the last Bishop, Jack Nicholls had a difficult time trying to hold everyone together; I imagine the present bishop is doing his best as well!!. Chichester /Blackburn and Exeter may vote in a similar fashion... I am not sure how the motion will fare in London... but so far the support has surely been greater than was expected which will make the pain sharper if it does fail by a small margin in one house of General Synod.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 11 September 2011 at 11:38am BST

An interesting result from the Sheffield Diocese. One wonders how long the duplicity of having both affirmers and deniers of women's ministry in the Church of England House of Bishops can be sustained. We are told in the scriptures that "A House divided against itself will fall".

I can quite understand now why Archbishop Rowan feels it's time he stepped down from Canterbury. It must be really dis-spiriting for a Primus Inter Pares to continue to maintain his theological balance, in the light of so many discrepancies.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 11 September 2011 at 11:50am BST

This is certainly depressing. We lived in Sheffield Diocese for 13 years and although there was a strong 'biretta belt' in mining parishes the general attitude was much more in favour.

As it is so far only one Diocese I hope General Synod will ignore the plea to leave a woman bishop out of delegation. This would make nonsense of her position.

It also breaks the commitment of the opposition to regard women as well as men as lawfully and canonically ordained.

Posted by Jean MAYLAND at Sunday, 11 September 2011 at 5:36pm BST

"It also breaks the commitment of the opposition to regard women as well as men as lawfully and canonically ordained."

Since the essence of the Anglo-Catholic "opposition" is to regard the pretended ordination of women as an impossibility and, hence, a nullity, I have no idea of what this statement can mean, except as a kind of acknowledgement that the "outward legal forms" have been followed in such ordinations -- as might be said, e.g., of the ordination of an unbaptized male. Perhaps, though, the statement refers primarily to the "Evangelical opposition" -- cf. Archbishop Jensen of Sydney's strange comment some years ago that while he is opposed to WO he would license a clergyman, otherwise orthodox in doctrine, "ordained" by a woman bishop, to serve in his archdiocese should such a circumstance ever arise.

Posted by William Tighe at Sunday, 11 September 2011 at 8:00pm BST

Doesn't the existence of "affimers" and "deniers" regarding women's ordination and other issues, simply echo the variety of doctrinal positions that seems to be the hallmark of Anglicanism? If a uniformity of belief on these issues is what people want then surely a more widespread theological uniformity needs to be developed as well.

Posted by William at Sunday, 11 September 2011 at 11:48pm BST

[We can always rely on Wm. Tighe for scare-quotes, can't we? :-X]

"diocesan debates on the women bishops legislation ... Sheffield had its debate today. It too voted in favour"

Did it really? I read their amended motion as voting in favor of "Women: Bishops, 2nd Class". Just to placate the unplacatable scare-quote crowd! :-/ "Isn't it a pity and a shame"

Posted by JCF at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 4:54am BST

Perry Butler, Father Smith et al. why will you not accept that there can be a diversity of opinion on this issue? I am astonished that Perry Butler should suggest that the reason for the vote going the way it has in Sheffield is that Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals somehow have a disproportionate influence in that Diocese. Furthermore, the members of Synod were elected in free and fair Synodical elections. If the vote had gone the other way, I wonder whether Butler's suggestion would be the same. I suspect not. It would no doubt be down to the work of God's Holy Spirit. Shame on all of you!

Posted by Benedict at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 1:34pm BST

In July 2006 the Synod resolved
‘That this Synod welcome and affirm the view of the majority of the House of Bishops that admitting women to the episcopate in the Church of England is
consonant with the faith of the Church as the Church of England has received it and would be a proper development in proclaiming afresh in this generation the grace and truth of Christ.’

The Manchester Group was asked to draw up a scheme which “(a) had ecclesiological integrity; (b) left space within the Church of England for those who in conscience could not accept the priestly
or Episcopal ministry of women; and (c) avoided any flavour of discrimination or half-heartedness on the part of the Church of England towards women priests and bishops.”

In July 2010 General Synod agreed that the proposed legislation with a Code of Practice held that balance.

The Sheffield resolution destroys it.

Posted by Jean Mary Mayland at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 4:23pm BST

Let's be clear, JCF. There is no "amended motion".

There is the fixed-wording main motion, which was passed, albeit by the narrowest of margins in the Clergy.

And then there is a separate, standalone "following motion".

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 6:30pm BST

Dear Jean Mayland,

The Sheffield resolution doesn't destroy it: it reactivates 'the Archbishops' amendment'. Nor did General Synod 'agree'. There was a vote, which by the rules of the game prevailed (although actually, as I remember it, a numerical majority wanted 'the Archbishops' amendment'). I write as one completely in favour of women priests and women bishops and women archbishops and women popes. But these people (people who in good conscience cannot accept WO or WBs) exist, they are good Anglicans, and they should be given whatever space they require. Look to the broad picture.

Posted by john at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 7:16pm BST

The problem with this divide centers on the one thing that unites the sides: the moderated decision to vitiate a woman bishop's authority modifies the concept of what a bishop is just as much as the "impossibilist" position holds that woman in the episcopate also vitiates the episcopate itself. Or at least her "episcopate" as Wm Tighe might put it.

The effort at Laodicean lukewarmth endorsed at Sheffield is not likely to succeed except as a dilatory. The "imposibilist" position will have to be addressed more directly, at least for a church with bishops. That is the reason this is such an important matter, as it cuts to the heart of English Church governance.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 7:29pm BST

I stand corrected re the process, Simon. (Ignorant Yank here: My Bad!)

I think my point about their *sentiment* stands. Dio Sheffield would see women appointed bishops, but in an (untenable, IMO) 2nd class status, not having legal jurisdiction over her entire diocese. I believe this is an insult to the (divinely called to orders!) Imago-Dei-made-female.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 12 September 2011 at 10:24pm BST

'Just as much.' Surely not.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 9:55am BST

'Imago-Dei-made-female'! That's a good one for the book! I wonder how many females will seize upon it to obfuscate debate.

Posted by John Bowles at Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 9:59am BST

This is all reminiscent of what happened in Sweden some 30 years ago. When WO was accepted by the Church Assembly in 1958, a "conscience clause" was formulated and officially endorsed as "policy" by the Minister of Religious Affairs, and most bishops conducted separate ordination services for men opposed to the ordination of women (a big sticking point for whom was that Scandinavian ordination services contain at the end a "giving of the right hand of fellowship" among the newly-ordained by which they all recognize one another as "ministers of the Word and Sacraments," which those men opposed to WO were unwilling to do).

In the late 70s the provision of such separate ordination services, and indeed the mere existence of Swedish clergy who would not recognize the validity of the Orders of other Swedish clergy, became a matter of contention especially after the last-but-one Swedish Church bishop opposed to WO retired. Some proponents and opponents of WO thereupon got together to see whether they could come to an agreement on whether and how what might be termed a "code of practice" could be formulated to allow what might be termed "both integrities" to coexist in the Church of Sweden. Remarkable practical progress was made, but then it became clear that the proponents of WO, or many of them, involved in the process, seemed to assume that the basic problem for the opponents of WO was that they had "psychological" or "cultural difficulties" with accepting the ministry of ordained women. The opponents of WO who were parties to the dialogue at that point felt obliged to clarify that their "difficulties" were not "psychological" but rather rested on belief that women could not be "validly ordained" according to the Bible and Lutheran confessions, whereupon the dialogue broke down in acrimony. The "conscience clause" was rescinded in 1983, the Swedish bishops agreed informally (around the time of the retirement in 1991 of the last Swedish bishop opposed to WO) not to ordain anyone unwilling to express his support of WO, and at the disestablishment of the Church of Sweden in 2000 this ban on the ordination (or, if already ordained, promotion to the episcopate) of opponents of WO was formally included in the "constutution" of the newly-disestablished church.

I expect that matters will play out analogously in the Church of England over the next decade or two.

Posted by William Tighe at Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 1:47pm BST

Can somebody please explain to me the logic of voting in favour of the main motion (I want the legislation to proceed exactly as it is) and also voting in favour of the following motion (I want the legislation to be amended)?

Several people must have done so in Sheffield.

Posted by tommiaquinas at Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 5:47pm BST

John @9:55 am, my point is that both positions basically result in a bishop who is a bishop in name only -- effectively in scare quotes: on one side, as to action, on the other, being. I did not mean to imply they are the same thing, but that both positions undercut the actual work of the episcopate. And, or course, I think it fair to say that mos of those who reject being ministered to by a woman bishop do so because they do not believe she is a bishop, so the two positions are joined at the hip.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 10:05pm BST

"I expect that matters will play out analogously in the Church of England over the next decade or two.

- William Tighe -

Perhaps you are hoping, William, not to still be around when that occurs in the Church of England?

However, this does not negate the fact that, with the continuation of the 'Two Integrities' on the matter of acceptance, or not, of women as 'valid' bishops' in the C.of E. (as Tobias correctly points out) indicates a falling short of the reality: that a bishop is a bishop - whether male or female - and needing to be recognised as such - with full episcopal powers and dignity of office.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 13 September 2011 at 11:47pm BST

Great post, DS.

Tobias,

I knew what you meant. It still seems to me exaggerated and disproportionate.

In my view, principle sometimes needs to be tempered by pragmatism - or, more precisely, other principles are also in play and correct decisions involve weighing up a whole range of factors. In the C of E, there are women priests and there will be women bishops (only a small minority within those who reject WO are trying to prevent the latter happening at all). Advocates of women bishops don't seem to realise that their 'winner takes all' mentality is actually delaying the implementation of women bishops. Furthermore, the C of E remains a very mixed church. Example: there are FiF people in the church we go to (which some might regard as 'liberal', pro-gay, pro-WO, Anglo-Catholic, though there are of course different churchmanships within it). Another example: a pretty Evangelical ordinand attends our church with his family because (a) it's near; (b) there are kids; (c) people are pleasant; (d) he's come to like it. He's also decided to be 'trained up' in an anti-WO church in Newcastle, because - like many ordinands - he's movingly rather committed [as I am] to the notion of the C of E as a broad church. Another example: a posse of Derby men (most, or all, pro-WO) are going on a retreat next month to Alnmouth Priory, which is FiF but which is a very nice place, with very benevolent priests. Now, I certainly think such people are wrong about WO and about women bishops; indeed, I know ('know') they are. But I want to keep them in the C of E (which is where they want to be - the ultras have been flushed out by the Ordinariate) and to keep them happy, because their position is historically valid and because many of them are very good priests and run excellent churchs, often in difficult inner city areas. The C of E, you may have noticed, isn't doing very well. It is a liberal delusion that the reason is the debate about WO. (I certainly think that the other great debate, about homosexuality, is damaging the church, but again I think it's delusional to suppose that full acceptance of gay people would bring the punters in in droves). The real battles have to be fought elsewhere, otherwise we'll all go down: ALL, supporters and opponents of WO alike.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 14 September 2011 at 12:33pm BST

John, I take your point from a pragmatic perspective. And I quite agree than in a "Fabian" sense incremental change is likely the best practical way forward.

I was speaking more in the theological sense of the nature of the episcopate itself. It seems to me that having a bishop whose _episkope_ is limited is a bit like a kind of constitutional monarchy. It isn't really "monarchy" because it has been robbed of its "_arche_". I suppose this may be a bit like the fabled tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it. But it seems to me that having bishops without a characteristic mark of the episcopate (the sacramental authority over and ministry to a geographical area's clergy and laity) is still a serious diminution in the nature of the office, in practice if not in essence.

But as to a way forward, yes, a painful one, but the optimists can see the arc bending towards the eventual inclusion of women in all orders of ministry, even in Rome and the East. (Yes, I think so... not soon, however. The theology is there in favor of it, which is why Rome clamped down on all discussion of the subject -- always the last gasp of a disciplinarian.)

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 14 September 2011 at 10:18pm BST

Well said John. Our Deanery Synod has just voted against the draft Measure. The main speech against was by a General Synod member whose wife is an ordinand. No clergy, not even the women voted in favour and only 7 laity. The Following Motion was passed with only 1 vote against.
I attribute the voting to precisely the sentiments you express.

Posted by Fr Jed at Wednesday, 14 September 2011 at 11:33pm BST

Dear John, it seems that you still haven't 'got' the reason for clarification of what is involved in the two-tier episcopate. Surely you do understand that first and second class bishops just won't do! What is involved here is the very nature of episcopacy. In the catholic tradition (which the Church of England would certainly claim to uphold) the diocesan bishop is the consecrated authority to ordain within her/his diocese. Nobody can usurp that traditional right - certainly not a puppet bishop.

While the parent Church of England (when it does, eventually) affirms the place of women in the episcopate, then all members of the Church of England will need to accede to the authority of the local diocesan bishop. Simple as that.

The Church can no longer seek to advocate 'two integrities'. This is a travesty of 'catholic and apostolic order'. 'Flying Bishops' were meant to be only a stop-gap; not a permanent solution for the anti-women bishops school of theology. I would have thought that Anglicans who claim their catholic heritage would be the last people to flout the catholic order of the episcopate - as determined by the parent Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 14 September 2011 at 11:53pm BST

"While the parent Church of England affirms the place of women in the episcopate, then all members of the Church of England will need to accede to the authority of the local diocesan bishop. Simple as that." Father Ron Smith. Who says so Father Smith? So simple it is certainly not. As members of the Church of England, I and others will be neither coerced nor forced to accept such an innovation. And therein lies the problem. That there will indeed be both clergy and laity who remain within the fold of the Church and yet who will be unable, in conscience, to accede to the authority of a woman bishop. That is the reality and there's nothing simple about it at all.

Posted by Benedict at Friday, 16 September 2011 at 1:24am BST

The Church of England ( as opposed to a party of thought)has never had an understanding of episcopacy as Ron articulates.

To begin with the episcopal jusrisdiction of the bishop is a gift from the monarch, whether that monarch be a woman or a man.The monarch is the ordinary of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

As regards the office of bishop, the Church of England does not see episcopacy as the esse of ordained Christian ministrty. That is why for 400 years there has been a French Pressbyterian church in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

The Church of England has adapted and continues to adapt the episcopal office.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Friday, 16 September 2011 at 7:26am BST

Dear Tobias and Father Ron,

I assure you I do understand the arguments. There is even some overlap between the present forum and the day job:

http://research.ncl.ac.uk/histos/documents/2011104MolesJesustheHealer11782.pdf.

All I would add is that Steve Croft, Bishop of Sheffield, exemplifies the C of E at its best: although pretty Evangelical (at least by formation), he adapts himself most graciously to Anglo-Catholic settings, he is the best preacher (bar none) I have ever heard, and he hasn't an anti-gay bone in his body. He exudes benevolence and in his presence one feels oneself become benevolent. And his RC wife takes communion in Anglican churches. He is a star, and I am sure he will do his utmost to keep his people together - and pretty sure that he will succeed.

Posted by John at Friday, 16 September 2011 at 11:09am BST

RIW suggests that the jurisdiction of English bishops is a gift of the Crown, and that the Crown is the ordinary of the two Abps.

I think you may have got your facts wrong, Robert. The CofE is quite clear that a diocesan bishop receives the spiritualities of his see (including jurisdiction) at the confirmation of his election; this confirmation is made by te provincial court at which the Archbishop presides -- or in an archiepiscopal vacancy the appointed senior bishops of the Province, led by London (in the southern province) or Durham (in the northern province).

What is received from the Crown is the temporalities of the see, which in former times included the episcopal palace, and the episcopal lands and wealth, all of which were long ago surrendered to what is now the Church Commissioners in return for an episcopal stipend and use of a house.

As for the Crown having ordinary jurisdiction over the Abps in some special sense (i.e. in a sense other than that in which the Crown generally has jurisdiction over everyone in these islands), please suggest what on earth you might mean by this.

The role of the Crown, as Supreme Governor, is to protect the temporalities of the Church and to allow the practice of its spiritualities; in the same way that the Crown's secular role is exercised through the Crown in Parliament and the Crown in Council, so the Crown's role of Supreme Governor is exercised through Parliament and through the General Synod.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Friday, 16 September 2011 at 11:35pm BST

I think Robert's understanding (or, rather, misunderstanding) of the situation vis a vis control of the Church by the Sovereign, relates to the tradition of his own Church, where all bishops owe their episcope to the Pope - with no intermediary.

Fortunately, Anglican Bishops are not so derived of their Orders - they are derived in a direct line from the Apostles - all of 'em, not just Peter!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 17 September 2011 at 4:34am BST
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