Comments: Women Bishops: opinion

The piece by Martin Dales is mildly offensive - likening members of Forward in Faith to minorities who have been persecuted by the Church - women, gay people and ethnic minorities. It all comes down to choice - you can't choose who you are, but you do choose what to believe.

Then this statement sits in stark contrast to the rest of his article:

"Today, history is being made with the Installation of the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull as the first female Dean of York Minster and this is an occasion in which we all should rejoice."

Does he really believe that even those who oppose the ordination of women will be rejoicing at this? It simply doesn't make sense!

Posted by Nick Nawrockyi at Monday, 3 December 2012 at 10:50pm GMT

But there are those who say they have seen no generosity - witness articles referenced here by Martin Dales and the Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

Now what is an outsider like me, with only one foot in the CofE, to make of such claims and counter claims?

And as to generosity to the point of profligacy, I would say, 'Go for it!'

If history is indeed on the side of those want women bishops, there is nothing to be lost in letting the 'regressive' parties wither on the vine. Some sort of provision that allows parallel jurisdiction may be an anomaly, but we live with plenty other untidy corners.

Why not give them what they want? Like the non-jurors, they will fade away.

The choice seems to be between all-out schism and a contained and time limited schism. Why not chose the lesser evil?

Posted by Labarum at Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 6:21am GMT

Astonishing piece from Martin Dales. I quote (re the BBC programme he cites): "It was an interesting experience with two of the leading proponents railing at those of us who didn’t agree with them like spoilt children who couldn’t have the latest gadget." It scarcely lies in the mouths of the traditionalists to speak of sharing toys. A better analogy would be of boys in the playground reluctantly acknowledging the presence of girls, but trumpeting that they will continue playing as if they did not exist.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 8:02am GMT

Rev. Rachel Weir offers a concise and insightful analysis of the political issues. The only thing she might be accused of is being too irenic in the face of obstructionist tactics. Experience shows that the more anti-women factions are appeased the more entitlement they demand. Opponents of women's ordination are minorities in the same sense that inhabitants of gated communities are minorities.

The church at large must recognize that opposition to women's ordination is not simply an outcome of conservative evangelical and catholic theologies.Rather its an expression of an essential tenet of the world view of conservative patriarchal religion.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 4:25pm GMT

"Are the Laity Revolting?" - Quite a provocative title really. As a matter of fact, I find most of the Faithful Laity to be the Salt of the Earth. And it WAS only a very few of them that tipped the scales at the last G.S. Meeting.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 10:35pm GMT

The big difference is, Anthony Archer (and this is regardless of our personal views on the issue of WBs) the "leading proponents" were an embarrassment to the church in their aggressive, ungodly and vitriolic attitude and this stood in very stark contrast to the measured and and grace minded words of the traditionalists.

And I think you judge the traditionalists view a little harshly. I of course generalise, but I think the concensus is accepting of WBs (and many would say that WBs are needed for the sake of unity in the Anglican church) but rather there needs to be suitable alternative provision for those who theologically disagree in order for this unity to be kept and the matter of women in the episcopate doesn't become a matter of orthodoxy.

Posted by Bob at Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 10:57pm GMT

Following divine worship I happened to see some of the BBC programme "The Big Questions" - the contrast between the two sides was striking. Amid much provocation and interruption from those in favour of the innovation (particularly Christina Rees and George Pitcher) those against remained calm, cool and collected - presenting their objections in a rational and reasoned manner. Although, let the reader understand, I was viewing this broadcast through rose tinted spectacles!

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 5:08am GMT

Bob said:

"there needs to be suitable alternative provision for those who theologically disagree in order for this unity to be kept and the matter of women in the episcopate doesn't become a matter of orthodoxy"

Unfortunately - and it is unfortunate for all of us who hoped a way could be found to move forward together - it has become obvious that no provision will ever be good enough. Several opponents of women's ordination spoke of wanting more time and going back to the table with a blank piece of paper - the implication being that they felt no responsibility for putting anything onto that piece of paper themselves. All the possibilities that one speaker listed out as being potential solutions have been discussed.

As for orthodoxy - there was some very odd theology on display at general synod, and many of us are deeply concerned about any arrangement whereby some Diocesan bishops, determined by gender or attitude to gender, are different in terms of authority from a male bishop who is not 'tainted'. Not in terms of equal opportunities but in terms of ecclesiology. There is nothing 'traditional' about changing the way bishops function to suit the views of the minority who say they cannot accept change.

In terms of people being 'aggressive, ungodly and vitriolic' - we have been playing this 'graciousness' game for years now. I don't recognise that description, but it is true that many people who have suppressed their feelings on this matter are now speaking out. There can be no reconciliation unless people are honest with each other. We have spent 20 years in a polite stand off and this is where it has got us.

Posted by Pam Smith at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:49am GMT

Bob: women in the episcopate is a matter of orthodoxy already. Lambeth 98 made it quite clear that acceptance of women in the episcopate is an entirely orthodox position. That is partly why the continued use of the word 'orthodox' by some Anglo Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals is so misleading and, frankly, offensive. It attempts to claim a moral and theological high ground when the C of E and the Anglican Communion have already concluded that the episcopate is open to both women and men and that this does not constitute a heterodox development.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 9:35am GMT

The idea that making 'suitable alternative provision' for so-called traditionalists will prevent 'the matter of women in the episcopate' becoming a matter of orthodoxy is absurd. The whole point for the 'traditionalists' is that the exclusion of women from the episcopate is a matter of orthodoxy. But so is their exclusion from the priesthood: I may not have read closely enough, but I thought there was something weasly about the way Bishop Jonathan Baker can express gratitude for ordained women or women clergy, but manages not to refer to them as priests. The only priests he refers to are those of the See of Ebbsfleet. I assume that's because he thinks women are incapable of receiving that office in reality, whatever the titles they may be given. All is not quite as gracious as it seems.

Posted by Tony Phelan at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:25am GMT

I read that other people are now being inspired to get into the spirit of things:

Bristol Christian Union bans women speakers

Posted by Randal Oulton at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 10:59am GMT

The Bible bans blind and disabled people from being priests, too. Will Reform, etc, follow Biblical principles and request an exemption from those priests and bishops too?

Leviticus 21:17-18 (New International Version (NIV)): 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed

Posted by Randal Oulton at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 11:07am GMT

"Aggressive, ungodly and vitriolic."

Stop clutching your pearls.

Anyone who would defend the recent vote must realize that the discriminatory Church of England will now be described as bigoted and misogynistic.

People are no longer willing to make excuses for intolerance. The status quo is far more ungodly than any call to change it.

The Overton window is shifting. "Get with the programme."

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 11:19am GMT

Well on the politeness front no doubt there is fault on both sides but I have heard much over the years that is insulting to women clergy and in the debate we had some odd theology (as Pam said) which was also insulting.

If you read New Directions you will see what I mean. Even under the new, more professional management ND is pretty insulting at times.

Posted by Charles Read at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 11:36am GMT


On your comment that "no provision will ever be good enough". I fear for some that is sadly true (along with those at the far end of the pro-lobby who want only the single clause). This mutual ground must be sought for the legislation to go through? ++Sentamu saying "So what we need to do is find the legislation - 99.9% of the legislation is there - it's this little business of provision for those who are opposed." - is that more optimistic than the reality?

By Orthodoxy I was meaning that by passing legislation without suitable provision we could in effect be making WBs part of the creed of what it is to be Anglican and thus making it a doctrine that makes up part of our salvation rather than keeping it in the right place as "secondary" issue (I use the word secondary to mean that it isn't a salvation rather than meaning it isn't as important!) along with the very diverse churchmanship we have on many issues (commmunion, litury, baptism, gifts of the Spirit, healing etc ) whilst still being united as one Anglican church.

Graciousness - In the past I think the traditionalists have behaved very poorly. It seems now that the shoe is little on the other foot. In my experience, traditionalists have been accused of being sexual bigots and not christians whilst at the same time being thanked for being gracious by those who say that. I deeply feel the frustration and hurt but surely politeness should never give way ungodliness should it?

Posted by Bob at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 1:43pm GMT

Maybe politeness is now being considered over - rated. There are biblical precedents for being a little more assertive when dealing with dissent after all. - In the context of addressing various church disputes in Galatia, Paul encourages them not to fall away from his teaching regarding circumcision, exclaiming 'I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves.' (Gal 5.12) Even in my most exasperated moments this is not something I wish on those I disagree with, but it is probably a good time to remember that church disputes have a long pedigree of being a little heated.

Posted by Lindsay Southern at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 2:27pm GMT

Bob: Bishops are part of the 'creed of what it is to be Anglican'. We are an episcopal church. This is why talk about 'women bishops' can be very misleading. What the vast majority are saying is not that we want women bishops but simply that we want bishops and do not want to exclude 50% of the population from having the possibility of that office. As Anglicans we are clear that is an entirely orthodox position to hold.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 4:22pm GMT

Bob - thank you for your answer.

I'm really not sure what 'ungodly' means in this context, I don't think that being honest is 'ungodly' but it does sometimes result in uncomfortable things being said.

Of course there is place for self control, restraint and biting our tongues - being honest doesn't mean we have to blurt out the truth in the bluntest possible terms regardless of the effect this might have.

I think we have got to a place where we can only rebuild on a basis of honesty. There are many things I can respect and celebrate about my fellow Christians regardless of their views on women being ordained.

However there is a lack of reciprocity in all this. Nobody is saying the Bishop of Ebbsfleet isn't a priest, but he can say that I am. No female priest can insist on receiving ministry from a Bishop who does believe she is a priest, but those who don't believe she is a priest can insist on ministry from a bishop who agrees with them. I think this is why many ordained women - who ministered for years in a church that doesn't know whether they are ordained or not - have finally lost patience with talk of 'proper provision'.

Posted by Pam Smith at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 4:40pm GMT

"Aggressive, ungodly and vitriolic."

A bit like Jesus in the Temple, maybe?

Protectors of the Temple status quo are not likely to like the challenge then or now. In fact, I thought that while Christina was angry her opponents were passive-aggressive. Apart from Hitchens, who was just rude.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 9:43pm GMT

Randal, the Leviticus quotation is quite different in the RSV and makes more sense there I think - the idea of an unblemished sacrifice pointing to the unblemished sacrifice of Christ. Either way, we can't base the Christian priesthood on Old Testament cultic rules otherwiswe we'd all be offering blood sacrifices. The cultic and civil laws are fulfilled in Christ - that's the whole point of them - they look towards something in the future. Thus Christ can truly say, not one iota will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Posted by William at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 9:52pm GMT

To me, these words of Pam Smith are crucial, and yet one rarely hears this stated so clearly (or at all) :-

'However there is a lack of reciprocity in all this. Nobody is saying the Bishop of Ebbsfleet isn't a priest, but he can say that I am. No female priest can insist on receiving ministry from a Bishop who does believe she is a priest, but those who don't believe she is a priest can insist on ministry from a bishop who agrees with them.'
(Pam Smith on Wednesday, 5 Dec 2012 at 4:40pm).

This prolonged state of affairs is extraordinary, and is collapsing from both its injustice, and the fatigue of many years :

'I think this is why many ordained women - who ministered for years in a church that doesn't know whether they are ordained or not - have finally lost patience with talk of 'proper provision'.'(Smith).

I can never forget women like Phoebe Willetts and all she endured. And many other women in many ways, and as we here women priests today have to endure much.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 11:46pm GMT

Ron Smith,

I'm glad someone else's mind went there.

I was thinking Mel Brooks in "History of the World: Part One."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 5:38am GMT

Clarification, please:

There are two posters in this thread - Jeremy and Jeremy Pemberton. Are they one and the same?

Posted by Labarum at Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 10:48am GMT

No, they are not.
Jeremy Pemberton

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 9:52pm GMT

The reality that democratic ideals that have permeated western culture for such a long time, it is not hard to understand how modern-day churches have adopted similar systems of governance, including General Synods.

E. B. White once noted humorously that "democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time." While the will of the majority may be a satisfactory basis for decision making that encompasses a wide-range of constituents, I cannot see how we can automatically assume that because the majority votes on something, the majority opinion must be God's will.

I find it very interesting that had the result at General Synod gone the othe way, we would have heard many a comment saying "That this was God's Will for us". I have no doubt that many believe that it is God's will for the C of E to allow women to enter the Episcopate. But what if they are wrong?
Could you imagine the following?







The majority is not always right. In fact, there are times when the majority is dead wrong. Ten of the twelve spies sent out to explore the Promised Land advised against invasion--and paid for having spread a "bad report" with their lives (Numbers 14:36-7, cf. 13:32).

In dealing with the Arian heresy centuries ago, Athanasius was certainly in the minority - yet he was right.

Just some thoughts.

Posted by Joshua at Friday, 7 December 2012 at 2:13am GMT

yes, there are times where the majority is wrong.
And there are times where the minority is wrong.
Now what?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 December 2012 at 8:08am GMT

"In dealing with the Arian heresy centuries ago, Athanasius was certainly in the minority - yet he was right."

Or maybe all we can say is that his view prevailed.

In the current controversy which view will prevail world wide, and in the long term?

Posted by Labarum at Friday, 7 December 2012 at 8:32am GMT

How do you know when people are right or wrong Erika? That's the whole problem - or am I only right when I agree with you?

Posted by William at Friday, 7 December 2012 at 9:57am GMT

That was my question to Joshua who seemed to imply that just because the majority in the CoE wanted women bishops the minority was nevertheless right.

I think in this particular case we can safely say that none of us will ever know this side of Heaven whether we were right in any absolute sense.

That doesn't mean we can simply do nothing.
Because if there are two options, then both have an equal probability of being wrong, however long of them one has been the only option the world ever knew.

There seems to be this thinking that we cannot be wrong if we stick with tradition, while we can be wrong if we move away from it.
That is not logical, because it is 50% likely that tradition was wrong or that it is wrong now.

And let’s not forget that despite the drift this conversation is taking here, we are NOT discussing whether women can be priests or bishops. The church has affirmed women as priests when it first ordained them and it confirmed only a few years ago that there is no theological reason they should not be bishops. Two integrities does not mean that the church believes two different things, it merely means that it accepts that others cannot follow its discernment and that some level of provisions should be made for them. We are only talking about the level of accommodation, we are not talking about the principle.

What does worry me, though, is this terrible fear of getting it wrong.
What kind of image to we have of God if we are terrified of stepping out in faith and risking a choice that might later turn out to be wrong?

This God who sits there with a whip behind his back saying "just you wait until they have women, all their Eucharists will be invalid because I shan't recognise them however sincere they are" is a creation I just do not recognise.
Why are you all so terribly afraid of getting it wrong? What do you think will happen?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 7 December 2012 at 11:51am GMT
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