Comments: Women bishops: a detailed response to GS Misc 1033

"How could we allow a situation where individual church members or groups decide who are real bishops and who are not? To reject the bishop is to reject the Church that he represents." - Robert Runcie -

This statement quoted by April Alexander, in section 12 of her submission, seems to sum up very well the peculiar situation that the Church of England finds itself in at the present juncture of debate about the means by which Women might be able to become Bishops in that Church.

For a continuation of the present scheme, whereby parishes can opt out of receiving episcopal ministry from their local bishop - whether male or female - would only exacerbate the problem of a two-tiered episcopate, which was initiated in the Church of England by the provision of 'Episcopi Vagantes' - in the form of 'Flying Bishops'.

For Anglicans who value traditional Catholic Order - perhaps the majority of protesters against Women Bishops - the undermining of the diocesan bishops by substitution of a bishop chosen by a dissenting parish would seem to be against the whole ethos of catholicity in the Anglican tradition.

For the Church of England to perpetuate such a situation, uniquely among Anglican Provinces of the Communion, would prove a mark of difference in some ways little different from another Province's determination to ordain Gay and Lesbian Bishops - except that, this latter initiative could be seen as a mark of progress, rather than regressive and discriminatory.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 23 August 2012 at 10:44am BST

I am distressed by the fact that according to April Alexander I am an extremist for wishing the Church of England to hold a valued place for those of us who believe that Western Catholic Church Order should not be replaced by the General Synod going it alone! Clearly we disagree on this issue, but I wish that just for once she and others could hear that this is not an anti women view, but simply and directly about Church Order. Perhaps it is time that we prepared to sadly leave our beloved Church of England.

Posted by Fr Frank Nichols at Thursday, 23 August 2012 at 6:56pm BST

Fr. Frank here demonstrates the fact that 'Church Order' seems (by F.i.F. people) not to have been undermined by the imposition of outside interference by 'Flying Bishops' into the area of jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop.

However, in the Church of England - if it agrees to the ordination of Women Bishops - this will make the issue compatible with the legal 'Church Order' of the Church of England. Presumably, anyone staying within the C.of E. would need to subscribe to the 'Church Order' of the C.of E.

You cannot be both part of the Church, and yet apart from it - on issues of your own choosing.

This is all, of course, presuming that the C.of E. will not go ahead on the basis of a two-tier episcopate (which would be non-catholic).

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 24 August 2012 at 2:02am BST

Fr Frank
when "orthodox" believers insist that other vital aspects of ancient Church Order must be changed without any reference to Rome or the Orthodox church to ensure that individual groups of people can decide who is a bishop and who isn't, so that they can rightfully deny the validity of the sacrament of even bishops validly ordained in their own eyes who just happen to have a different opinion on women's ordination - then one has to suspect that Church Order is a bit of a smokescreen and that it is really more about keeping women out.

If that is the wrong impression, it would be helpful if someone could explain why it needs the whole of Christianity to decide that women can be ordained, but not the whole of Christianity to change the structure of the Episcopate, the whole theology of the validity of the sacraments and to create a church in which it is officially accepted that people decide individually who they are in communion with – all in the name of orthodoxy.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 24 August 2012 at 7:49am BST

Thank you April Alexander for such a detailed and cogent response. I support the view that the measure should be returned to General Synod without any amendments from the House of Bishops. My reasoning is that the measure emerged from thousands of person-hours of debate within the Synodical process. It is very far from being perfect or even satisfactory as a piece of legislation. Its legitimacy is given it by its place within the network of conversations which is Synod.
Once it is removed from its Synodical context, then it becomes an object to be redesigned within a political battlefield. Manipulative calculations are put in place: would it look prettier and more acceptable if it were round or square? Are we able to play with it satisfactorily in its more perfected shape? If we give the other team an advantage, is the game still playable? How best can we win?
It seems to me to be a choice of which process of governance to use. To me the choice between measures emerging from a network of conversations within Synodical processes or measures imposed from on-high to give greatest political advantage is a no-brainer. This is an ethical choice: do you choose to trust processes embedded in relationships or those imposed top-down to give best political advantage?

Posted by Julia Evans at Friday, 24 August 2012 at 5:54pm BST

I'm surprised that Archbishop Runcie's statement isn't brought up more regularly. What, I wonder, have those who reject male bishops tainted by association with women's ordination, to respond to it?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 25 August 2012 at 1:25am BST

I take 'western catholic church order' to mean 'as currently laid down by the church of Rome' and I find this strange for an Anglican and especially for a clergyman, since his orders are no more according to 'western catholic church order' for the church of Rome than mine are.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Saturday, 25 August 2012 at 5:18pm BST

What happens at the September General Synod now seems pretty clearly to depend on whether, or not, the House of Bishops is willing to acknowledge its mistake in seeking to over-ride the decision of the previous G.S. which, after long discussion, decided on the un-amended Measure to empower the Ordination of Women to the episcopate in the Church of England.

If the measure fails - on account of the amendment - it will be the House of Bishops who must share the blame, for undermining the Mind of G.S.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 26 August 2012 at 8:56am BST
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