Comments: women bishops: REFORM and WATCH respond

Rod Thomas grossly misleads if he thinks the admission (or not) of women to ordained ministry in the Church of England has anything at all to do with being an evangelical and/or wanting to see a "strong evangelical presence" in the CofE. It does not.

Posted by Alastair Newman at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 1:22pm BST

I read it as a not very veiled threat that Reform members - who presumably are the 'strong evangelical presence' referred to - will withdraw from the C of E if women become Bishops.

I'm not sure where they're planning to go to.

Posted by Pam Smith at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 5:27pm BST

Ignorant Yank's hypothesis: WATCH's failure to play tit-for-tat (i.e., "we'll endorse anything the conservatives oppose") might actually help the amended measure's passage?

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 9:19pm BST

From the outside (ACANZP) looking in - on the contra-indication by 'Reform' of its attitude towards the newly-amended Draft Measure to come before the General Synod of the Church of England in November - Reform's action is not at all surprising. Reform is determined not to tolerate Women Bishops in the Church, therefore, it will implacably oppose any movement towards their inclusion. (Although, if they left the Church in the wake of Women Bishops being approved - as someone has already mentioned: Where would they go? I'm not sure that even the Ordinariate would accept them)

On the other hand, it is difficult to understand why members of WATCH might also vote against the Measure - even though it may not be precisely what they (and many of us in the Communion) might really want - simply because, at this stage of the proceedings, the 'special accommodation' being afforded to dissidents (against the Measure) may not last 'for all eternity' in law.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 10:23pm BST

The "headship" thing is what I find amazing. If that is the center of theological anthropology and ecclesiology for English Evangelicals, no wonder the CoE is so often a laughing stock.

Posted by John R. Robison at Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 11:20pm BST

I am assuming Reform's withdrawal from the C of E might involve the setting up of the English version of ACNA, with ensuing wrangles about various legal issues as we have seen in the US.

Which will obviously bring new converts to Christ flocking in droves, since obviously the good news he brought was mainly about making sure the right categories of people were excluded from leadership and fighting about who owns the silverware.

Posted by Pam Smith at Thursday, 4 October 2012 at 1:52pm BST

Pam - from my understanding I think Reform aren't suggesting withdrawal from the C of E due to women entering the episcopate (they have accepted that this will happen) but rather that there isn't suitable provision for those who theologically disagree. In many respects Reform are being very Anglican here...wanting to keep unity as one church whilst being able to hold to differing theological positions which is what we are all about isn't it? In fact, I would say that they are being far more Anglican (in this sense) than the many of the pro lobby who I have met whose message has been 'our way or the high way'...

Posted by Bob at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 7:44am BST

@ John R Robison Just to correct your assessment - evangelical Anglicans in the CofE are split on the issue of the ordination of women. Only a minority (those we call the Con Evos) hold to the so-called headship understanding. The majority of evangelical Anglicans have rejected the headship argument as not being consonant with scripture.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 7:49am BST

@Bob - taking out your subjective experiences of what you call the 'pro lobby', you appear to be saying that Reform are indeed threatening to leave the C of E if they don't get exactly what THEY have decided is the best way forward.

So regardless of what any of us think of using such a threat as a way of winning an argument, the question about where they are planning to go, and how 'Anglican' such a threat is, remains.

Posted by Pam Smith at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 9:01am BST

How can something which is found in Scripture not be "consonant with scripture"?

Posted by Father David at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 9:17am BST

"the many of the pro lobby who I have met whose message has been 'our way or the high way'..."

So women and their supporters have accepted that there must be parishes that can chose never ever ever to be served by a woman.

And those parishes have accepted... what?
That everywhere else can have women as long as they remain completely unaffected? That is being more Anglican than actually giving and taking?


Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 9:22am BST

'...wanting to keep unity as one church whilst being able to hold to differing theological positions which is what we are all about isn't it?'

Applied very selectively. Not invoked around equality and the rights of lgbt people.

To be honest, I have no idea what 'we' are 'all about'.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 4:27pm BST

The word 'headship' is never mentioned in the Bible.

'head' is a metaphor and so needs interpreting / approaching with imagination.

Posted by Charles Read at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 6:04pm BST

Reform and FIF have now rejected the revised clause. It looks like a defeat in November.

Posted by robert Ian Williams at Friday, 5 October 2012 at 11:47pm BST

"Its provision is entirely inadequate for those who believe the Bible’s teaching of male headship in the family and the church."

Why does such a belief deserve any provision at all?

That some people in the Church of England still believe this is nothing less than an embarrassment.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 1:21pm BST

Surely Reform and FiF would have voted against any legislation that enabled women to be bishops?

I understood that people who are against women being bishops voted for the original clause because they thought members who supported women in the episcopate might vote against the legislation as well if that clause remained.

I don't think anyone who is opposed to women's ordination is ever going to vote to enable it. If this means that General Synod is not representing the views of the majority in the C of E, maybe that will encourage those of us who vote for GS members to be a bit more incisive in our questions to candidates at the next elections.

Posted by Pam Smith at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 3:32pm BST

'... wanting to keep unity as one church whilst being able to hold to differing theological positions'...etc

Surely this is an impossible dream?
What's the point of claiming 'unity in diversity' when, in reality, we are rendered dysfunctional in the effort to please everyone.

Helen Rawdon

Posted by H.R. at Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 11:28pm BST

Lack of ecumenical progress, women and gays suggest that Helen Rawdon is right. What seems to keep the show on the road is the fact that C of E life is so parochial...and most of the "issues" aren't really issues for most people in the's the roof, the common fund, the Sunday School, the choir, whether we keep the 8 o'clock.. What interests me, given Christianity is an Incarnational religion, is that we live with diversity over biblical authority, substitutionary atonement, the reality of hell, devotion to the BVM, eucharistic doctrine and extraordinary liturgical anarchy etc yet find the tension revs up when its about something "embodied" like gays and women.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 8:44am BST

PS re Jeremy's post. i have often thought that "headship" is a doctrine held "in" the C of E, but in what sense is it a doctrine "of "the C of E?? I dont believe it, Jeremy doesn't, Bishop Pete doesn't,Bishops who institute women priests to benefices dont believe it..and that is most of them. It seems to me Reform is more or less saying,"Please, we know most of you are apostates, but please let us stay on board..we are the true C of E." ...rather like the Non Jurors though they did mostly leave. The puzzle to me is how can they stay when the Church they are in has committed this theological enormity, whatever the measure might say.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 4:43pm BST

"maybe that will encourage those of us who vote for GS members to be a bit more incisive in our questions to candidates at the next elections."

Posted by: Pam Smith on Saturday

Pam's remark does darw attention to the fact that, in the election for General Synod, diocesan synods need to exhaustively question the candidates, who may, or may not, represent the views of either the diocese or the people in the pews. This may not have happoened in the past. otherwise, how ever did Chris Sugden get elected to General Synod?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 8 October 2012 at 9:03am BST

Do we know how many clergy and laity actually vote in GS elections...I always did, and always asked my Deanery Synod reps if they had voted...usually we had a full chat about issues and candidates. I think the voting percentages ought to be in "Communist State" percentages eg 95%+ but I do wonder?

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 8 October 2012 at 1:32pm BST

The level of participation in clergy elections to GS is normally quite high, but dropped in 2010. (460 clergy out of 800 for London electors, I think) It is a universal franchise - all licensed clergy get to vote. It's also STV, which means that you get a fair and proportionate spread of opinion, representative of the diocese as a whole. (Which would mean that Chris Sugden is representative of a significant proportion of the Oxford electorate, though he only came on at a subsequent recount of votes at a by-election).

The lay suffrage is much less representative - I've always argued for it to be all electoral roll members, but unfortunately it's only Deanery Synod members, who aren't necessarily representative of lay opinion.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Tuesday, 9 October 2012 at 8:04am BST

Erika: Yes, sadly this has been my painful and humiliating experience.

Thus the hub issue isn’t how - can both groups be happy and satisfied with outcome. Even with full alternative oversight for the conservative/traditionalist/reform parishes, they will still be greatly affected I think in comparison to how things are now. If they were being unanglican their line would be far harder and something like, “no women bishops or we’ll leave” which isn’t what they are saying is it?

Laurence Roberts: Surely we are about being Anglican and what makes us distinct from other denominations – 39 Articles, canon laws etc.

Helen Rawdon: not at all, we already do it on a number of issues for example our theological understanding of the eucharist, the variety of music and liturgy. As Anglicans we fundamentally differ greatly on these and many issues but we don’t make them one position or other a standard of orthdoxy.

Posted by Bob at Tuesday, 9 October 2012 at 2:18pm BST

Bob,I take your point but until we can truly say...

'We are one body because we all share in one bread'

there is no true unity.

If 'Provision' is granted for those who in conscience cannot accept the episcope of women then we condone discrimination in the most holiest of our sacraments the Eucharist -fundamental to our credence.

This applies too in an ecumenical sense -
existing at the heart of our dysfunction and despite our open mindedness on many other issues, is the crux of the matter, for me.

Helen Rawdon

Posted by H.R. at Tuesday, 9 October 2012 at 11:51pm BST

The Anglican church has always been generous about the range of individual theological views it can encompass. But it achieved this (historically) by "orthodox" behaviour eg under the (16th C) Elizabethan Settlement you could still believe in RC dogmas, or presbyterian ones, as long as you attended the C of E church, and in practice, accepted the authority of the bishop. What is at issue, as I see it, is that if an individual's theological conviction leads him or her to believe that a woman cannot be a priest or bishop, then this leads to a break down of "practice", and confusion over where authority lies in a diocese and then in the national church. It's not about a standard of orthodoxy, but of "ortho-praxis".

Posted by Rosalind R at Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 12:13am BST

but you are saying "no women anywhere near us".
I would genuinely like to understand where you believe you compromised.

Because what I can see is female priests and their supporters accepting a reduced role in the church and recognising that there will be parishes which will never accept them. That's a big thing to accept! And it impacts directly and personally on every single female priest and bishop.

What is it you are giving in return?
All I can see is that you say "we won't object to women in other parts of the church as long as this has absolutely no impact on us".

Where's the compromise?
What is painful about your stance?

I'm not criticising you, I genuinely do not understand this.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 10 October 2012 at 3:53pm BST


Sorry for the slow reply...I suspect this feed may have gone to the history files beyond page 1 on the TA site!

This is such a messy/complicated issue and I'm not clever or thought through enough to be able give suitable ideas and solutions to the issue (if that is possible at all!).

Putting aside all the very painful history of women's role in the church to date, if the current legislation for women entering the episcopate is carried in reality how much will they have to compromise? Is the code of practice strong enough in keeping the "reasonable" conservatives (i.e. not the radical fundentalists) in agreement - I don't think it is. The code of practice feels like a blank document that can be used with the discretion of the diocesan bishop in which ever way they feel appropriate.

If the code of practice is stronger, the compromise would be two ways in that the pro women bishops lobby would have to accept that some churches would, in agreeement with their diocesan bishop, look to an alternative bishop for their oversight and the conservative churches who request this would lose the diocesan structure and relationship that is one the of the great strenghts of the anglican church. Surely this would help both sides of the issue continue to work in communion together rather than one or other threatening to leave?

There is no doubt that over the years the conservatives have regretably behaved in ungodly and ungracious ways when addressing this issue. But it now is beginning to feel like the shoe is on the other foot....

When women entered the priesthood there was concerns among the conservatives about this leading to women the episcopate. When that concern was raised I am told the response (in the UK) was "trust us". That trust hasn't panned out and the conservatives are again being told to "trust us" when it comes to the code of practice - you can see why perhaps some are feeling uneasy.

Posted by Bob at Wednesday, 17 October 2012 at 3:19pm BST
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