Comments: Women in the Episcopate – Synodical Process

'[T]he imperative need to avoid a second failure.' One thinks of the situation in 1928 when the proposed prayer book failed a second time in the House of Commons. Poor Randall Davidson, then-archbishop of Canterbury, retired immediately and died shortly afterward. In a memo where he commented that he had been 'sharply unwell' during the entire process of the second defeat, Davidson wrote:

'I do not think I have ever known in public life a situation which was so perplexing - every pathway in every direction seems to lead into a morass. But I believe that in answer to our prayers we shall be shown a way out. That anything can be devised which will have general assent all round, I am not foolish enough to believe.'

Best of luck to poor, incoming Archbishop Welby.

Posted by Scot Peterson at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 3:40pm GMT

Readers may also be interested in this article from today's WaPo.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 3:50pm GMT

Davidson was not alone. The recently published book about his successor Cosmo Gordon Lang,

gives a detailed account of the efforts Lang made to resolve the prayer book crisis in the following decade, with very little success. What is striking in this account is how the House of Bishops repeatedly refused to follow the lead that Lang attempted to give. Not at all like modern times...

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 5:22pm GMT

On the day of That Vote, the blog of the American RC review COMMONWEAL coincidentally posted this nugget from the Journal of Yves Congar at the Second Vatican Council.

“I would never have believed it!”
November 20, 2012, 3:12 pm
Posted by Robert P. Imbelli

Fifty years ago today, Yves Congar wrote these words in the journal that he was keeping during the newly-opened Second Vatican Council. (Congar’s “My Journal of the Council” has recently been published in English translation by Liturgical Press).

His astonished exclamation concerned the fact that 62% of the Bishops gathered in Council had voted against the draft document “On the Sources of Revelation.” However, according to the Council’s rules, it required a two-thirds negative vote to remand the document back to committee. Then, with his sanctified common sense, Pope John intervened, reconstituted the committee, now to be headed jointly by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bea, and commissioned them to produce a new document.

[end of blog excerpt]

Such decisive action is of course possible in a Church where the supreme governance is accorded to a single individual. Such is not the way for the C of E!

But I did ruefully note the contrast, and briefly wish . . .

Posted by Sister Mary at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 7:38pm GMT

Thanks so much for the article referring to Father Yves congar O.P. His name brings back memories of a fine theologian.

However, note this post excerpt comment, "Such decisive action is of course possible in a Church where the supreme governance is accorded to a single individual" Wrong. Decisive action is possible in any church where the leadership is willing to step up to the plate. Courage is the often forgotten gift of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 12:07am GMT

“It would, therefore, be possible for legislation introduced in 2013 to complete all its stages in the lifetime of this Synod, which ends in July 2015."

Maybe this was just what was required to bring the charism of female episcopal leadership into the Old Boy's Network of our Mother church of England. But let's all hope it will be 'without prejudice'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 7:21am GMT

I’m not sure the 1928/9 Prayer Book fiasco analogy is a good one here. A second failure would be General Synod’s doing, not Parliament’s. Whereas, a group of remarkably well-informed, theologically literate, cross-party MPs seem to be redeeming the Commons from what it did in 1928/9 by using its constitutional role to help achieve what the vast majority in and without the Church would like to see – women in the English episcopate. In 1928/9, there was a real sense of the Commons ‘getting at’ the established church using the revised Prayer Book as the pretext. And given the historical legacy of the Anglican treatment of protestant non-conformists and Roman Catholics for centuries, who can blame them?

But what has been so striking following the 20 November vote, is that we have *not* seen a CofE bashing fest on this issue, but real evidence that the Church of England is still perceived as a ‘co-operative society which exists for the benefit of its non-members’. It is precisely because the Church of England is *not* a complete irrelevancy than so many feel both within and without the Church, that it is crucial that her bishops are drawn from her most able of priests. There is, given the popularity of the ‘secular Britain’ thesis, some good news here for English Anglicans if we care to listen.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 11:30am GMT

Judith: Couldn't possibly disagree with your point that here parliament are the good guys and that in the 1920s they were getting revenge and point scoring (against the church, not another party, as the votes were basically unwhipped).

The way my analogy works is that both were no-win situations. Then, a group of pretty insistent Anglo-Catholics were able to convince the Church Assembly (the then-Synod) that their proposal should succeed. (Anti-Roman Catholic) Evangelicals, who lost in the Church Assembly, like Joynson-Hicks, took the case to Parliament and won. Here, the Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics (some of them, anyway) have formed a blocking coalition in Synod, so that whatever makes it out of Synod may well be unacceptable to Parliament. This seems to me likely to continue given the makeup of the recently appointed committee. (Of couse, as an Anglican I hope not!)

Even a success in Synod that offers accommodation to the conservatives may well fail in the House of Commons.

Both were no-win situations for the poor Archbishop of Canterbury. Hence, poor Justin Welby.

Posted by Scot Peterson at Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 12:09pm GMT

Judith's right that the 1928 PB fiasco is not a true parallel to the 2012 WB fiasco, but still I am cynically reminded that the 1928 mess was only resolved in 1958 (?) with the creation of the Liturgical Commission and that Series 1 was 1928 tarted up. True liturgical revision came in the 1970s (arguably). So... women bishops in 50 years then?

Posted by Charles Read at Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 3:06pm GMT

The memo's procedural optimism must be weighed against the political realities.

How many people in the House of Laity will vote for a "simpler" measure now, who did not vote for the measure in November?

Unless a fair number of such people can be found, and persuaded to change their minds, the business is hopeless.

But perhaps this Synod needs to be given one more chance to get this right. (Or to prove itself wrong again.)

One is forced to conclude that the real remedy will be early dissolution of this Synod, and election of a new one.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 22 December 2012 at 4:44pm GMT

Don't forget that if Parliament hadn't vetoed the 1928 Prayer Book - we would no longer have the incomparable 1662 BCP as the official Prayer Book of the Established Church for 1928 was meant to replace Dr. Cranmer's jewel rather than be an alternative to it - as was the 1980 ASB.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS and "God Bless us - everyone!"

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 25 December 2012 at 6:30am GMT

Jeremy wrote:

"How many people in the House of Laity will vote for a "simpler" measure now, who did not vote for the measure in November?"

I wonder what "simpler" means here? I would doubt that it can mean "single clause" for I doubt the House of Bishops could consent to that approach while remaining faithful to the 1998 Lambeth Resolution III 2

"The unity of the Anglican Communion

This Conference . . . calls upon the provinces of the Communion to affirm that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans;[and]therefore calls upon the Provinces of the Communion to make such provision, including appropriate episcopal ministry, as will enable them to live in the highest degree of Communion possible

Posted by Labarum at Tuesday, 25 December 2012 at 9:06pm GMT

@Labarum -- That 1998 Lambeth resolution is not a serious consideration.

After all, half a dozen other provinces ordain women bishops. Southern Africa/Swaziland is the latest. These provinces have ordained women bishops without any formal provision for dissenters.

The Church of England eventually will do the same.

But as I said, the Laity politics are such that it will likely require a new Synod.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 27 December 2012 at 3:50pm GMT
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