Comments: GRAS writes to General Synod members

So, after offering firm leadership (which we are often told is the function of the episcopate) in fine tuning the Measure and voting in favour of the amended Measure by a large majority - their Lordships are now being requested by GRAS and "Senior women clergy" to go away and reflect further.
I hope that our overseers are made of sterner stuff than to accept being treated like a naughty dog being sent to a corner with its tail between its legs. If the bishops accede to this request one would begin to wonder what is the point of the House of Bishops?

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 5:44pm BST

A shrewd move as I felt the the motion
( unamended or amended) was going to be defeated any way.

Posted by robert Ian williams at Tuesday, 26 June 2012 at 7:48pm BST

Quite so, David. It's the 42 dioceses who, after presenting a remarkably unified front on this matter, should accept being treated like naughty dogs being sent to a corner with their tails between their legs.

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 2:29am BST

'Firm leadership' ... hmmmmmm.

If a vicar tried to exercise 'firm leadership' by overruling a decision that had been thought through so thoroughly, and voted for overwhelmingly, I think s/he might rightly expect letters to be written to the Bishop, and senior staff to enquire what was going wrong.

We aren't conscripts, with no choice but to do what we are told - we are all of us volunteers, even those who are currently employed by the C of E have a choice about whether they continue, and those who participate in churches without the benefit of a stipend even more so.

I'm not sure what exactly the House of Bishops will have left to lead if they continue to disregard the views that have been expressed completely properly through the synodical government of the church.

Members of the House of Bishops were given no more than 5 days to consider 6 different amendments, and then discussed them in a closed session and voted on a show of hands - so we outside may not know who voted for what but those running the meeting certainly did.

By some accounts, such meetings can occasionally become heated. Bishops could have felt an enormous pressure to adopt the amendments that the Archbishops have consistently favoured throughout. Assumptions have clearly been made about how such a decision would play with those outside the meeting which have been proved to be optimistic.

Leadership is not always about knowing you are right and ploughing on regardless. It is also about gauging what is possible by listening and responding to those you lead. I think this used to be quite fashionable in the C of E a few years ago - it was known as 'collaborative ministry'.

Posted by Pam Smith at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 2:43am BST

A shrewd observation Ian - in that the runes do indeed suggest defeat (unamended or amended). I note that the senior women clergy (it's that "two-tier" concept creeping in again - if some are "senior" then presumably others are junior? Personally I've never warmed, being one myself, to the title "inferior clergy"!)similarly seeing the writing on the wall - have now requested that the amemded Measure be referred back to the House of Bishops for further reflection - "to be returned to General Synod for approval LATER IN THE YEAR". I see that the last item on the July Synod's Agenda is "Farewell to the Archbishop of Canterbury". Surely after all Rowan has had to suffer during the past decade of his archiepiscopate this divisive and troublesome Measure can wait until the good Archbishop has left for Cambridge before it is once again trundled back to the Synod NEXT YEAR for debate? Haven't we tortured Dr. Williams poor soul enough already - or is one more turn of the screw still required?

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 5:32am BST

Perhaps, I should capitulate to the liberal view on this from the very start.

It might mean that, on this thread, I'll preserve my right to a final rebuttal.

Perhaps, I'll just wait to see what the leading lights have to say before I choose to think submissively.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 7:25am BST

Williams time as Archbishop has been a tragedy, in the classic sense and I feel terribly sorry for him. But however personally sad this is for him, the C of E must do the right thing as soon as it can. Protecting its Archbishop from himself cannot be be its priority.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 7:37am BST

"Leadership is not always about knowing you are right and ploughing on regardless. It is also about gauging what is possible by listening and responding to those you lead." - Pam Smith.

That is precisely what the Bishops have done, gauged what is possible, listened and responded, cf. following motions by Diocese, and the mind of the General Synod in February, as well as countless occasions on which the two thirds support has not materialised after translating voting patterns. There is a clear majority, for example, in the House of Laity who, although desirous of women bishops, wish to see better provision than that which was included in the unamended Measure. The Chairman of that House said as much back in February. The Bishops are also taking a lead "as they think fit". If GRAS and WATCH are succesful in their campaign for an adjournment, it is my hunch that the phrase "be careful what you wish for" will come back to haunt their members, possibly delaying the innovation for even more years to come. Synod just needs to get on with this, whatever the outcome. The Church would be doing serious harm to herself by allowing the wrangling and struggles to continue. GRAS and WATCH are being completely unhelpful in their approach to matters, seeing vocation as simply one more right among others, and applying a secular mentality to a question that cannot be dismissed as lightly as they would wish.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 10:49am BST

The Archbishop brought the problems upon himself by putting the desires of a vociferous minority before the expressed will of the Church.He is also influenced by a desire to 'cosy up ' to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Posted by Jean Mary Mayland at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 11:04am BST

"If the bishops accede to this request one would begin to wonder what is the point of the House of Bishops? " - Father David -

Well, as you yourself have observed on another threead, David, the Bishops are meant to lead - but not to govern! General Synod, and the Draft Measure, looks like being the Authority here, and needs to be respected by the House of Bishops.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 11:51am BST

What desperately sad things people do write about a truly great man - Rowan our chief pastor and Archbishop.
"a tragedy"? I think not - just go to Archbishop Rowan's web site and read some of his profoundly deeply spiritual sermons and speeches to see there the depth of intellect and spirituality contained therein.
"'cosy up' to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches" - a far from worthy comment on the Ecumenical Movement - Unity is, after all, in accordance with Our Blessed Lord's will. "That they should all be one" - as He said in His Gethsemane prayer. In accordance with the divine will - shouldn't we all be seeking a greater unity among the various Christian denominations - rather than pursuing an innovation that so obviously brings with it disunity and disharmony?
As ever, Benedict is highly perceptive in his comments - "be careful what you wish for".

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 11:56am BST

@ Benedict - it has been flagged up more than once that Parliament will not pass any discriminatory legislation.

By adding those amendments, regardless of how General Synod reacted, the eventual passing of the legislation was therefore made far less possible.

In this sense it is hard to argue that proper leadership has been exercised, unless the intention was to end up with no legislation. In which case they should say so.

Posted by Pam Smith at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 12:34pm BST

"rather than pursuing an innovation that so obviously brings with it disunity and disharmony?
As ever, Benedict is highly perceptive in his comments - "be careful what you wish for"."

Posted by: Father David

This sounds a wee bit like the arguments made by the Scribes and Pharisees - about the significant changes that Jesus was about to bring to the ethos of Jewish contemporary religion. In his arguments about tradition, Jesus said, in one notable instance: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". In other words, tradition is not the only consideration in pursuit of the Gospel integrity.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 12:46pm BST

Father Ron, the oft quoted mantra is that we are "episcopally led and synodically governed". However, recent events have shewn that to impose two systems - one of leadership and the other of governance - upon one body is not the wisest or the best system of organisation and leads to great difficulties - as we have seen to our cost. Once again - the age old question must be asked - within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion where does true Authority lie?

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 1:05pm BST

"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath"
But! I suspect that Jesus would also agree with the Jewish saying,
"More than Israel has kept Shabbat [the Sabbath], Shabbat has kept Israel."
At first glance, these two statements seem to oppose each other.
However, Shabbat represents the notion that there is more to life than mindless drudgery. There is more to life than just working for your existence or creating wealth.
Life is also about beauty and reflection and enjoyment, and it is okay to occasionally take a break.
I believe “the Pharisees” of the Gospels, as viewed by most Christians, have been given a bum rap. I have an explanation, too long for this post. Christians believe that Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. I believe the human Jesus was a Pharisee. The Gospels say he worshipped in synagogues, for example. He certainly wasn’t a Saducee, and he probably wasn’t an Essene.
Jesus was attacking pedantic, rote, form-over-substance "thinking" that leads some Orthodox Jews in Israel to reason,
"It is forbidden to light a fire during Shabbat. Car and bus engines create a spark or heat (fire) to make them work. Therefore, driving on Shabbat is against Halachah (Jewish law and precedent). Therefore it is OK to form mobs and stone tourist buses on Saturday in the Old City of Jerusalem."
In my opinion, Jesus wasn't against Pharisees and Pharisaism (post-biblical Judaism’s foundation), per se. He was against literalism, against mistaking the forest for the trees, against making sure the outside of the cup was clean (all rituals observed, Halachah strictly enforced, less-than-rigorous observation suppressed), while ignoring the dirtiness inside the cup (sanctimoniousness, ignoring the reason behind the laws, failing to be just, instead favoring surface obedience).
And isn’t that what we still fight today?

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 8:54pm BST

"..within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion where does true Authority lie? "

It remains - as designed - dispersed .......

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 9:26pm BST

Fr David, I reflected on the differences between leadership and g9overnance in my essay contribution to "Shared Governance" that focuses on structures of the Episcopal Church. But the general principle applies: leadership is intended to motivate, and governance to regulate. In a properly functioning polity, they work together. When they are not working as they should -- witness much of the difficulty in the AC, the CoE and TEC -- it is often due to one element or another of the system attempting a play at "authority" -- which is the power to impose.

The most effective leaders are those who inspire their people, and earn and hold their respect and trust. When they have to resort to "authority" they are skating on thin ice. In a relatively free society they will simply lose their following.

This isn't about "pleasing everybody" or adopting a position that simply placates a majority, or even a minority (in part, at least it seems to me, Rowan William's and Barack Obama's chief failings) but in showing a kind of foundational consistency and principle that encourages trust and willingness to continue to work even in the midst of imperfection. The sword of Authority, such as that which cuts the Gordian Knot, is the easy but mistaken answer. This is, perhaps, why Jesus said his followers were not to exercise authority after the manner of the secular lords.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 10:10pm BST

"@ Benedict - it has been flagged up more than once that Parliament will not pass any discriminatory legislation." - Pam Smith. Say no more. Pam Smith has given great weight to the argument I posited earlier, namely that of the secular mentality which is currently driving proponents of the current innovation, hence the recourse to the secular arguments and claims of MPs.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 11:05pm BST

A tragedy is not played out where trivial things happen to venially-minded people. It happens when a really great person is destroyed, or is lured into terrible behaviour, by circumstances revealing the fatal flaw in their personality which then plays out with terrible results.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Wednesday, 27 June 2012 at 11:34pm BST

Getting back to the remonstrations of GRAS, Watch (isn't this the same group as Senior Women?), Affirming Catholics et al.. If they had bothered to listen and think, rather than reacting in "knee-jerk" fashion to increased affirmation of traditionalists, they might have noticed that their arguments were rebutted in advance by the Archbishops' statement on 25th May! http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/05/women-bishops-statement-from-the-archbishops-of-canterbury-and-york-about-the-amendments-to-clause-5-and-clause-8-of-the-draft-measure.aspx

Posted by RevDave at Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 12:19am BST

ps "..within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion where does true Authority lie? "

I think GRAS, WATCH, Affirming Catholics et al firmly believe it should now lie solely in their hands! Witness the apparent power grab in Southwark.... presumably because the rest of us aren't liberal enough. And the rumoured attempt to replace ++Rowan with another Affirming Catholic - +Norwich - as a "compromise candidate"(!!!) rather than rotate to an evangelical.

Posted by RevDave at Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 12:38am BST

Tobias makes a helpful contribution to the discussion when he writes:- "leadership is intended to motivate, and governance to regulate" - although personally I'd have thought that "governance" was there to rule. Unless, of course, the governance referred to is that which is currently exercised by the present House of Lords which is indeed at present a regulatory body for House of Commons legislation. However, this whole discussion and disagreement over the issue of women and the episcopate is rather like Cameron and Clegg fiddling with House of Lords reform while the country goes to Hell in a handcart.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 4:41am BST

Surely the answer to the question 'who holds authority' is the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England? The role of Parliament flows from that.

Even if the Anglican Covenant had been accepted by a majority of Diocesan Synods, giving the Archbishop quasi-Papal authority across the whole Anglican Communion, without disestablishment this position would have been unchanged within the Church of England.

I think not only the Bishops, but a lot of other people, have forgotten that Parliament has no obligation to rubber stamp legislation put forward by the Church of England. That may be uncomfortable to different people for all sorts of reasons, but it is not a new departure and does not reflect the 'spirit of the age' (whatever that is) but the foundation of the Church of England.

Posted by Pam Smith at Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 8:29am BST

RevDave - actually WATCH waited, consulted and deliberated long and hard before issuing a very lenthy discussion document - we deliberately are not telling GS members how to vote as opinion is divided amongst supporters of women bishops on that one. What we agree on is tht the Bishops' amendment to clause 5 is very unhelpful and better removed. If it is not, then there is a hard decision about how to vote.

And Graham James - my bishop - is hard to label. He is an excellent bishop, liked by parishes and people of all shades here. If he goes to Canterbury we shall be very sad - but not for the same reasons as RevDave!!

Posted by Charles Read at Thursday, 28 June 2012 at 11:29am BST

Jean Mayland says ++ Rowan "is also influenced by a desire to 'cosy up ' to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Would that be the 2 denominations who make up the overwhelming bulk of Christendom, West and East then, Jean? Well who gives a toss what they think; we're little englanders and we know better!

Posted by bob at Friday, 29 June 2012 at 1:26am BST

Bob, perhaps Jean is aware that the remit of anglican ecumenical relationships encompasses, but is wider than, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. Equally important are those whom we work alongside for the Kingdom of God. Some of whom we already have a covenant ie Methodists & Porvoo. If we fail to admit women to the episcopate in a way that enables their ministry to flourish or admit them in a way that compromises their humanity and identity in Christ, then we jeopardise those ecumenical relationships too. We care greatly about ALL our ecumenical relationships, but we also need to focus on what God is asking of the Church of England - and the overwhelming consensus is that includes admitting women to the episcopate. We need to be obedient to that.

Posted by Lindsay Southern at Friday, 29 June 2012 at 1:17pm BST

Numbers make right?! Well, shouldn't we all be Muslim, then?

Still, it's baffling that conservatives say "The Truth isn't decided by what's popular" then turn around and say, "But Rome and the EO have more people, so we have to listen!"

There's a word for that, though it is feared by moderators.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 3 July 2012 at 7:09am BST
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