Comments: WATCH response to House of Bishops press statement

Predictably unbending and unyielding, just as we have come to expect from the mouthpieces of WATCH. They didn't get their way the last time, and how they think that they will achieve their end this time is beyond me. The whole process is now being handled in a way that may actually lead in this current synod to a suitable outcome. The Christian approach is not about majority rule as WATCH seems to think, nor is it about oppression of minorities. We are the body of Christ and as such have all of us a part to play in the life of the Church. Saint Paul's allusion to the body is very helpful for us in this respect, for what WATCH is attempting to do is remove one of the limbs that it somehow and erroneously finds disabling. That can not be allowed to happen, and I believe the Bishops have understood this in their belief that new legislation must clearly embody the principle that those who dissent from the prevailing view are to be seen as loyal Anglicans too and thus to be provided for.

Posted by Benedict at Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 5:39pm GMT

While I support the broad argument of this statement it needs to be said that the Anglican Church of Australia has not adopted a single clause measure (or any measure at all) to permit women being appointed as bishops. Some Australian dioceses have female bishops while others do not allow women to be ordained as priests. The ordination of women as bishops was allowed after a legal judgment indicated that the legislation paving the way for the ordination of women as priests, combined with revisions to the definition of canonical fitness, in fact removed any barriers to women as bishops. This was because the 1992 legislation for the ordination of women as priests simply removed any inherited law of the Church of England that might prevent such ordinations. Convoluted I know, but it is the way Australian Anglicans work! The bishops agreed on a non-legislative protocol for accommodating Anglicans in a diocese where a woman is bishop though there seems little evidence to date that they have been used - perhaps because we have yet to elect a woman as a diocesan bishop.

Posted by Peter Sherlock at Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 9:30pm GMT

Benedict conveniently ignores the fact that the CofE is episcopally led and synodically governed. If it was purely episcopally led, there would be women bishops by now. But synod has voted otherwise. It is entirely reasonable for the Chair of WATCH to say that, if necessary, the proponents of women bishops (of which I am one) will wait until a new General Synod in 2015. If the current one is incapable of representing the clear view of the Church there is every probability that the new Synod (of which I hope to be a part again) will be rather more on message. There is nothing unChristian about majority rule. Every effort has been made to respect the rights of the minority and the minority have had the gall to throw it all back in the faces of the majority.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 12 December 2012 at 11:40pm GMT

So the single clause Measure is back on the table again. The reason the amended Measure failed to achieve a sufficient majority in the House of Laity was precisely because it was deemed to provide too little provision for those who dissent from the innovation. So what chance of success has a Measure which contains absolutely NO provision? Surely to propose such a one clause Measure (as WATCH suggests) to the current General Synod would be to head straight for an even bigger "train crash".
It was interesting the hear the Right Honourable Member for Birkenhead speaking in Parliament yesterday on this divisive issue. Dear Frank Field was indeed being very frank in "thinking the unthinkable". He seemed to be encouraging other dioceses to follow the rebellious example of Bristol in passing a vote of No Confidence (my, aren't votes of No Confidence "the flavour of the month" - what with poor Dr. Giddings position as Chairman of the House of Laity hanging in the balance and awaiting the outcome of that Kangaroo Court as it meets to debate a one clause Measure - i.e. a vote of No Confidence in its Chairman)in the General Synod and thus forcing early fresh elections to be fought on a single issue. He further comes up with the novel suggestion of suspending the appointment of any more male bishops to the House of Lords. Future vacancies to be filled by female deans of cathedrals. If Mr. Field's idea came to fruition it looks like the Deans of York, Salisbury, St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich and Birmingham are heading for the ermine. I wonder what episcopal Lords a Waiting would think to that - as they line up, in order of seniority of service, to enter the best dining club in London? Further what do senior male Deans think to about this novel proposal?

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 5:51am GMT

No, Benedict, it's you guys who didn't get your way last time. Let's be very clear, WATCH and many other supporters of women bishops went as far as they conscientiously could to accommodate you and others who can't accept women bishops in a highly complex series of structures and arrangements. Their bottom line is that if there are to be women bishops then they should be so on the the same terms as men - what is not acceptable to them or to people like me is that we have a class of diocesan who is less than fully the bishop of the whole diocese. Add to that a determination not to make double jurisdictions and all ideas of societies, or non-geographical dioceses or Third Provinces have also failed to command support. But those two principles are, I would have thought, fairly unsurprising.

Traditionalists wanted more. They played a brinkmanship game to try and force it. And the whole caboodle fell over the cliff edge, thanks principally to evangelical lay people who had done the bidding of the proper provisionists.

The serious miscalculation was theirs. There is no way that WATCH or very many other supporters of women in the episcopate, faced with the mess that we didn't make, are going to provide even more - and certainly not break the "lines in the sand" that I have described. Synod's vote was russion roulette played by traditionalists. The consequence is that a much stronger move for a Single Clause Measure now exists, with whatever provision worked out afterwards with no guarantees at all. It may turn out that all the chambers in the gun are now loaded, and not in the traditionalists favour - but if they couldn't see a good deal when they had one who is to blame?

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 7:44am GMT

Benedict, I think you will find that WATCH would like those who ASSENT as well as dissent to be considered Loyal Anglicans. By a process leading GS to a suitable outcome am I right in thinking that the outcome you think will be right is one that gives more provision to those opposed? It might be worth considering that blocking vote at Synod can also be interpreted by many as the result of unbending and unyielding positions held by REFORM and FiF. I think at this point it would be more helpful not to cast stones from glasshouses... WATCH was yielding last time and stepped back from the position of SCM. After the vote both our members and many people beyond that membership are now asking WATCH to put SCM back on the table for discussions and serious consideration.

Posted by Lindsay Southern at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 8:20am GMT

Benedict - members of WATCH supported the previous legislation with the provision for those who do not wish to accept the ministry of female Bishops, the unbending and unyielding attitudes were evidenced in those who voted against it.'They did not get their way' is an unhelpful childish comment and majority rule as you point out may not be the answer but neither is minority rule. Isn't that how terrorists operate? The Body of Christ image is I agree helpful, to move forward a body places pressure on one foot whilst the rest catches up!

Posted by Val at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 9:21am GMT

After last month's historic vote of General Synod re women bishops, I don't think that liberals can assume that their hand will be strengthened after the next set of Synod elections. Mark Chapman from Cuddesdon suggested that Bishops should hold their nerve and not be put off course by noisy pressure groups who overplay their hand. Chief among which are WATCH. They are unrepresentative, as are a lot of commentators here who seem to assume that because they have strong opinions, that the majority of the CofE are on their side. I think the majority want a peaceful settlement and co-existence.

Posted by Neil at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 9:44am GMT

Neil WATCH continues to be presented as the aggressors when it fact they have been left to fly this particular flag alone over these years. I haven't always agreed with their stance but I have always experienced them as consultative - and brave for standing up as they do.
So what is your basis in fact for claiming they are unrepresentative? And what evidence are you drawing on for your own claim to know what the majority really want?
And does a 'peaceful settlement' mean that a church where those who choose can live in open denial of the call, validity, ministry and episcopal oversight of those who happen to be women? That's 'peace'?

Posted by David at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:27am GMT

Val - WATCH blocked the Archbishop's amendment, blocked July's 51c, blocked all the other proposals. The legislation failed and they have only themselves to blame, they should have been willing to compromise. The majority has spoken, there will be women bishops but please look after the minority not by imposing your will but by asking what do you neeed. And perhaps asking why people in favour of Women Bishops voted against the motion - indeed the result would have been far more overwhelming had people on the payroll, unelected to the synod not voted.

Posted by Philip at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 11:48am GMT

Go on haggling and killing off the C of E. While we mess about in the sand dunes, the tides are coming in !

At least two tides :
1. women WILL be ordained and all that means.
2. Cf the Census results published yesterday,

testifying to the increasing irreleavance of institutional religion in the UK.

We are becoming dodos and whatever we do it's probably too late.

A long time ago CG Jung said, 'the Spirit has left the Churches - never to return.'

But Jim Lovelock has some encouraging things to say about Gaia and the future of microbes.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 12:15pm GMT

Can we have a Single Clause Measure With Trust please? As a clergywoman, why do I need to be legally protected against? Are my sacraments illegal?

Posted by beth at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 2:28pm GMT

As an unapologetic member of the 'noisy pressure group' in question, I want to challenge the contention that we are 'unrepresentative'. I have never claimed to represent the views of anyone other than myself. I sometimes speak on behalf of WATCH, giving the position that was agreed by the group who was there. That is how positions are agreed (by the House of Bishops, for instance). We consult with our members, so might reasonably claim to represent their views - and try to do so fairly where there is a range of opinion. If this makes us 'unrepresentative', I would aver that the same can reasonably be said of General Synod.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I want 'a peaceful settlement and co-existence' too, but not if the price of that is to institutionalise discrimination and claim that half God's redeemed humanity is somehow second-class. That was why I supported the legislation that fell at General Synod last month.

Posted by Hannah at Thursday, 13 December 2012 at 6:17pm GMT

What Lindsay Southern and others on this site have failed to grasp is that the legislation was scuppered, not by Reform members or by Fif, but by reasonably minded synod reps eg. Mary Judkins, Tom Sutcliffe, who, although they are in favour of women bishops, could see that the word 'respect' wasn't worth the paper it was written on, as we're now discovering, judging by the reactions of WATCH etc. Their true colours are now coming out.

Posted by Benedict at Friday, 14 December 2012 at 11:02am GMT

As a member of WATCH I support Hannah, we are consulted and yes I was against the changes in the legislation because the Dioceses had approved overwhelmingly a way forward which was supported by WATCH and incidentally the process of producing the legislation had taken in to account the difficulties of the minority.

Posted by val at Friday, 14 December 2012 at 3:22pm GMT

David. Yes - since 1992 and the Act of Synod there has indeed been relative peace, with the exception of stories of rudeness and misogyny from some opponents. Many of whom have hopefully gone to one branch or other of Rome. But the vast majority have indeed co-existed peacefully and co-operatively and got on with the work of the gospel. The evidence for WATCH overplaying its hand and frightening off the proposals of the Bishops was in the summer when a compromise was rejected. The noise of pressure groups is not the same as the mind of the Church, and this was expressed by what is in fact the most representative house of the Synod - the laity. Who were elected after a lot of politicking on both sides, but most effectively and efficiently by women and their supporters. My point is that we have already had elections with this issue at the top of the agenda, and whilst I have no idea how the next elections will go, it cannot be assumed that the hand of liberals will be stronger. The simplest solution would be Tom Sutcliffe's I think - extending the scope of the Act of Synod. Women were prepared for 20 years to be ordained Priest under this provision, and promises were made to opponents that provision would remain as long as discernment continues - so why not Bishop?

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 11:18am GMT

Beth - 'your Sacraments?'. Whether valid or not, they are not 'yours'.

Posted by veronica at Saturday, 15 December 2012 at 12:19pm GMT

The "relative peace" of the last 20 years has often been at the price of the sense of self worth of many women priests. In areas where there are few Resolution C parishes, or where bishops have been positively supportive, then that may have been less obvious - but the continual repetition of the mantra"proper provision"for those who cannot accept the orders of women (without any real awareness that this provision undermines the full acceptance of the ministry of women ) is very destructive for ordained women. The collapse of the legislation in November has opened up this sense of being devalued (and oppressed by the institution)and many of us are no longer willing to suppress the fullness of our own ministry for someone else's conscience. it's not just women who feel like this - but I can't speak for men. It's a myth to say that the Act of Synod maintained unity- what it has done is make structural disunity normal. (What sort of unity creates (eg) two chrism masses in a diocese??!)

Posted by RosalindR at Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 10:11pm GMT

Neil, in answer to your question women were prepared for 20 years to be ordained under this why not Bishop? ( and to take that question utterly seriously) can I commend the booklet After July which can be found on the Salisbury Diocese website.

It was written well before this vote took place and outlines many of the concerns women have had about the situation they were asked live with. Certainly, I had reservations myself over whether it was wise to be ordained into a Church where so many issues had been left unresolved, which I expressed at the time of my priesting. I was led to believe by senior leadership that all would be well and that calling to priestly ministry should trump any reservations I had. Four years on the landscape looks very different and my deep misgivings appear to have been realised. Now, having been ordained, I remain faithful to that calling. But if I was making that decision now in the light of the recent vote of the General Synod, I might well have decided differently. The context ordained women are asked to minister in is not spiritually, mentally or emotionally healthy and they should not be asked to endure it indefinitely.

Posted by Lindsay Southern at Monday, 17 December 2012 at 8:13pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.