Comments: Church Times feature on women bishops

Another article provoked by the Church Times feature is this by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes: Loyal Anglicans : A historical view

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 10:46pm GMT

I've added extracts from Miranda Threlfall-Holmes's article to my piece above.

Posted by Peter Owen at Sunday, 27 January 2013 at 11:19pm GMT

As M T-H wrote (and was partially excerpted above:

"So loyalty was the heart and soul of early Anglicanism. Loyalty to the Crown, and loyalty - shown by conformity - to the church. Explicitly not, ever, loyalty to your personal theological convictions, or the claims of any other church body. Explicitly not, ever, loyalty to a certain theological position over loyalty to that proclaimed by the bishops, monarch and parliament."

Except for "bishops" in the last sentence, I can think of no better parallel than that of 1559, in which the Elizabethan Settlement was devised and enforced by the monarch and parliament (once a trio of "troublesome" bishops were excluded from the House of Lords, and thus could not vote against the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity), against the will of "the bishops." So I suppose the lesson is that all "loyal Anglicans" should cherish and embrace the Erastianism that is foundational to the Reformed Church of England.

Posted by William Tighe at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 12:56am GMT

Perhaps one gift the Church of England could give the rest of the Anglican Communion is recognition of orders for the increasing numbers of women and men who have been ordained by a female bishop for the past 20 years. Are non-English Anglicans to be considered loyal as well?

Posted by Peter Sherlock at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 1:33am GMT

Read the article by Ed Dowler, whose central thesis is "putting it bluntly, we have been trying to decide whether to have women bishops without really having a clue what either a bishop or a woman (or a man) actually is." Sure Ed!

His comments reminded me of an article in the WashingtonPost.

"The truth is that the Abrahamic religions fear women and therefore go to extraordinary and sometimes brutal lengths to control them, constrain them, and repress them in every way. Show me a non-religious society that feels so threatened by the thought of female sexuality that it will slice off the clitoris of a young girl to ensure she can never experience sexual pleasure."

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 2:32am GMT

On Rachel Weir's article: and of course how ironic is the 'hesitation' of the bishop-designate of Fulham, given that the church of Rome is 'more than hesitant' about his own confirmation, ordination, and consecration (totally null and void, isn't that it?) ....... a position I find impossible to understand (Fulham-designate's that is) and totally illogical.....

Posted by Sara MacVane at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 6:09am GMT

A generation ago now, the Church of England decided that there are no theological objections to the ordination of women, more recently it decided to proceed to the consecration of women as bishops. The argument now is about the legislation to do the latter, it is not about the theology of women's priestly ministry.

To my mind the chair of the recent Synod debate should have ruled as out of order all those contributions which sought to re-open the theological issue and admitted only those which concerned the current legislation and the adequacy of the provision for those who still object to women's ordination. This was a serious mistake.

Furthermore, The Church Times has done the whole Church a dis-service by publishing such a supplement and thus giving legitimacy to those who wish to reopen the theological issue as if the past twenty years and more had never happened. However, by giving space, it has legitimised both the pernicious doctrine of male headship and the 'wait for Rome' camp followers, neither of which can possibly help the Church minister to the real world in the 21st century.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 8:59am GMT

In Printing Rachel's letter to the CT should you also not have printed the editorial response to it?

ED: It's not a letter to the Church Times, check the link.

Posted by Collette Drake at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 9:14am GMT

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes' article very neatly describes the double-mindedness that has crept into the arguments of the anti-women bishops camp in the Church of England.

Loyalty to the Church of England surely involves being loyal to her polity concerning Holy Order.
If the C.of E. has already officially, in General Synod affirmed the ordained ministry of women, then this is a fact that should be accepted by the whole Church - in order that there may be cohesion in both the exercise and the acceptance of such ministry by the entire membership.

Anything less than acceptance by everyone in the Church is surely divisive, and counter to the efficient and orderly administration of the canonical authority of the Church. Any other system is a devaluation of the Unity of the local Church - to the extent of a schismatic rift.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 9:48am GMT

What has gone wrong at the Church Times now ?

It souns like a veritable capaign against women's ministry- but who knows for sure behind the pay wall ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 2:01pm GMT

Rod, re the Washington Post article you quote. Since female genital mutilation in northern Africa and the Middle East appears to predate both Christianity and Islam, and to be forbidden in Judaism, and to exist within Islamic and Christian cultures in the region as an informal but very embedded cultural practice to do with 'purification', despite frequent condemnations by theologians, and since Christianity and Islam elsewhere do not feature it as a practice - it seems a bit tendentious to claim that it shows that 'the Abrahamic religions fear women'. This sounds to me much more like a projection of the American culture-war assumption (on the liberal side) that 'religion' and the autonomy or sexual pleasure of women must, axiomatically, be opposed. I don't think it tells us much about the C of E's problem with women bishops.

Posted by Francis at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 3:20pm GMT

Re Francis, did you have opportunity to read the entire article? For example, right under the by-line, the subject she proposes to evaluate is laid out.

"Many traditions teach that while both men and women are equal in value, God has ordained specific roles for men and women. Those distinct duties often keep women out of leadership positions in their religious communities. What is religion’s role in gender discrimination?"

I think if one reads the entire article, the reader will find criticism of Abrahamic religion is forceful, and yes, there are a number of relevant touch stones with the ongoing gender biased ordination issues in the C of E.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 6:23pm GMT

Anglo Catholics of a traditional hue have long lamented the demise of The Church Times as their house journal, which it once was. We mistakenly assumed it had "gone over to the other Side" but clearly it is a disappointment to those who wish only their view to be represented on its pages. The tendency in Roman Catholicism towards the silencing of dissent and the acceptance of infallibility seems to find a reflection in attitudes to the paper's contribution to the current debacle and the statement of General Synod on the ordination of women in the 1970s.

Posted by Peter Bostock at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 6:48pm GMT

I have read the explanations of their positions offered by the opponents of women bishops. Enough has been said about the idea that the Church of England has to keep in step with the Church of Rome, which does not recognise Anglican orders. In the other direction, I found it hard to follow the reasoning of Peter Myers of the Church Society. He includes in his argument against 'being made to submit to a woman' his concern that 'playing male roles leaves many women stressed, burnt out, and their gifts not nourished effectively'. Myers maintains that it is not sexist to define separate roles for men and women. But to argue by implication that women in general are not fit to occupy positions of authority indicates a kind of essentialism that is difficult to distinguish from sexism.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 7:30pm GMT

I am not sure what Peter Bostock is on about. It would be good to think the Church Times had suddenly rediscovered a distinguished Anglo Catholic past, sadly I suspect it was more down to poor or even incompetent journalism.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 28 January 2013 at 8:51pm GMT

Readers here may also be interested in the editorial from National Catholic Reporter, the R.C. publication here.

"After our editorial "Correct an injustice: Ordain women" (NCR, Dec. 7-20), several readers asked us to provide more background on some of the issues raised by the editorial. This is the second in an occasional series of articles looking at these issues."

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 3:40am GMT

I consider myself to be a loyal Anglican. I am not 'loyal' to the monarchy, except in the sense that I do not want to remove it by force. The attempt to link loyalty to the Church of England and loyalty to 'the Crown' (and yes, I do know the history and the outward forms) seems, in this day and age, almost farcical.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 4:47am GMT

Flora Alexander: "But to argue by implication that women in general are not fit to occupy positions of authority indicates a kind of essentialism that is difficult to distinguish from sexism."
Amen to that, Flora. It was the casual statement that 'playing male roles leaves many women stressed, burnt out, and their gifts not nourished effectively' which worried me in this particular article. Of course some women find being in authority stressful. Many men do too. Being in authority is bound to be stressful sometimes - "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown". The discernment process for ordination is a very thorough one, however. The criteria against which candidates are assessed include very clear requirements that they should have the ability to sustain the demands of ministry and be able to lead others and take authority. My experience as a BAP advisor and part of my Diocesan discernment process is that this is something which is taken very seriously, not just for the sake of the church but for the sake of the individual. I have seen many excellent candidates whose leadership was obviously going to be clear, wise, and sustainable. I have also seen candidates who really didn't want to be "up at the front", and whom it was obvious would buckle under the pressure. Men and women have been equally represented in both groups. Being male is not a guarantee that one can shoulder the burdens of ministry; being female is not a reason to suppose one cannot. We not only do women a disfavour in suggesting so, we also condemn men who might be struggling in ministry to suffer in silence, since the implication is that being able to lead is a sign of being a "real" man.

Posted by Anne at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 7:59am GMT

Rod Gillis links to some National Catholic Reporter articles which are fascinating and well worth reading as a counter to the Church Times articles.

But what is sad is the footnote to the first article

"This article was prepared with consultation with scholars knowledgeable about the topic but who asked that their names not be used."

So much for academic freedom.


Posted by Simon Dawson at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 9:27am GMT

ED, I do apologise - the letter in the CT was of course from another WATCH Council Representative

Posted by Collette Drake at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 9:42am GMT

Truly beyond belief! Some of the contributors to the CT supplement remind me of the the knight in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' who has his arms, legs and head cut off one by one but still wants to fight on. For them it is as if the last twenty years never happened. In the real world we have women priests, archdeacons, deans and bishops and the sky has fallen on nobody's head. The Church of England made itself wholly ridiculous in November in the eyes of the world and many within its own ranks, and supplements such as the CT will only confirm that view. Reading it, I felt like an alien who had crash-landed a meeting of the Flat-Earth Society! For God's sake, it is time to move on!

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 10:19am GMT

Peter Myers trotted out the same arguments used in the c19 to prevent women having the vote, taking degrees, joining the professions etc. What exactly is a "male role"anyway? And who is he and what does he do apart from displaying a Taliban like beard? Presumably he does not work in any profession that involves working under a woman. So that must leave him suffering a woeful lack of experience. I think we should be told.

Posted by Helen at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 3:03pm GMT

Picking up on Anne's remarks, based on actual experience, about the ability of men and of women to cope with the stresses of ministry, can anybody enlighten me about the notion of complementarity (between men and women) that the bishops have been invoking in connection with same sex marriage, and that some evangelicals are using to oppose women bishops. It looks to me like an old-fashioned essentialism that most of us discarded a good forty years ago, but I'd be interested to know if it's derived from anything more than a naive reading of the OT and St Paul.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 3:41pm GMT

I think I have come to the conclusion that people who refuse to accept the vote of the General Synod that women can be priests just cannot be described as 'loyal anglicans'. They are loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and maybe that is their proper home.

Posted by Jean Mayland at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 4:32pm GMT

> If the C.of E. has already officially, in General Synod affirmed the ordained ministry of women, then this is a fact that should be accepted by the whole Church

The problem with this view is that the C of E is only a tiny part of the whole Church.

Posted by Veuster at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 5:12pm GMT

"The problem with this view is that the C of E is only a tiny part of the whole Church."

There is no problem with this view. The Whole Church is an almost mythical body that does not actually exist in practice and it is only ever evoked when someone wants to stop the CoE from doing something the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox haven't yet caught up with.

The CoE is a precisely defined legal entity with its own discernment processes and it is absolutely entitled to make those decisions as, indeed, it has done.

And so the fact of women priests should indeed be accepted by this whole church.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 6:10pm GMT

...and of course Erika neither the Roman Catholic Church nor the Orthodox believe ( unambiguously) that we are part of "the Church"..Indeed many Orthodox dont believe the Roman catholic Church is part of the Church. The official theology of both churches affirm that schism can only be FROM the Church, whereas from the 16thc onwards we have believed that schism is WITHIN the Church.Not suprising then that ecumenism with both Churches has stalled.

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 7:10pm GMT

Re Simon (Dawson) and R.C. academic freedom. I don't think one would associate "academic freedom" with the church, any church, per se. Academic freedom is a crucial part of the academy, but corporate believing is part of the corporate nature of the church, and it can be difficult for folks who sometimes function in these two different contexts to balance the two--sometimes one must decide.

However, I certainly agree with your essential observation. Roman Catholic academics who stick their neck out and offer critical evaluation of Vatican policy must contend with Vatican intimidation. There is nothing like the theological toleration most Anglicans ( though not universally all by any means) enjoy.

Well educated articulate Roman Catholic dissidents, and a highly educated Roman Catholic intellectual community, are putting forward sound theological arguments against conventional church policies. Since most conservative Anglican lobbyists are simply parroting conventional Roman Catholic theology in advocating continued gender bias, so, Anglicans ought to utlize the fresh research and theolgical inisght of dissident Roman Catholics.

Opinions from the scribbler of traditional Anglo-Catholic or Evangleical opinion tends to wither in the face of much of the new theology being produced by Roman Catholic thinkers.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 7:31pm GMT

It is clear that not everyone who has commented on this thread has read all the articles in the Church Times supplement which, as Peter Owen points out, are behind the CT paywall. It is to be hoped that they will shortly be freely available to all online.

For me, the most significant contribution is that by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, who, as he points out, as someone nurtured in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, was not a natural supporter of women's ordination. His article deserves to be read in full but I will quote just this from the final paragraphs:

"... we must always let Gamaliel have the last word: if this development is of God, then it cannot be stopped. Not only will it flourish, but in trying to stop it, you run the risk of opposing God himself.

"I am slightly embarrassed to admit my own misgivings about the ordination of women, or at least the Church of England's authority to do it. Yes, I did wrestle with the theology, as I continue to do so. But, in the end, as well as by the force of the theology, I have been won round by the sheer fruitfulness of women's ministry; of seeing how God is at work in and through their leadership and ministry; and of how this development, at this stage in our history, enables us to speak more coherently and compellingly to the culture we are called to serve.

"It is this culture that poses the question; so the revealing of this truth—that episcopacy belongs to men and women—will enhance the mission of the Church in our day. Male and female bishops working together will reflect God's intention of equality, and beautifully express the new humanity that Christ has given us." Amen to that.

Another way of putting the non-theological part of +Stephen's case in answer to those who still question whether women can be priests (and bishops) is to quote Philip's answer to Nathanael in John 1.46: "Come and see."

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 9:37pm GMT

Pete Myers, he who cannot submit to a woman and claims that women are unfitted for "male roles", is a 29 year old ordinand at Oakhill College ie he has entered the only profession in Britain where he has a reasonable chance of escaping the dreadful prospect of a female boss. The church is the last legal refuge of the insecure (and immature) male sexist.
Had his comments referred to Jews or blacks rather than mere women, they would have been seen for what they are- deeply unpleasant expressions of prejudice founded on nothing more than personal gut feeling ("conscience" has nothing to do with it). That the Church Times feels free to commission and publish this sort of unacceptable stuff is simply disgraceful. That the hierarchy in the Church want these kinds of attitudes to "flourish" is almost beyond belief.

Posted by Helen at Tuesday, 29 January 2013 at 11:04pm GMT

As one entirely in favour of women priests and women bishops, I find the standard of debate on this thread depressingly low-grade. It is axiomatic that when you engage with opponents, you take them at the level of their best arguments. Instead, here we get ritualist denunciation of their prejudice and sexism. It's so profoundly lazy. As for M T H, as a fellow academic of some status, I can only say that if I marked her exam papers, she would get a 2:2.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 7:16pm GMT

John says contributors are lazy, but hides behind his Christian name while uttering a gratuitous insult to a fellow academic. If he was marking my exams I would be making an official complaint about bullying or harassment.

Posted by Sue Slater at Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 11:03pm GMT

I think you've rather missed the point John: prejudice and sexism lie at the heart of at least some of the arguments against women bishops, and your own dismissal of comment on this as "ritualistic" is pretty lazy in itself. Rather than grading MTH's essay from your lofty academic heights, perhaps you could enlighten the rest of us as to what its shortcomings actually are. Do remember that for many people the "best arguments" against women bishops have lost any sort of currency they might once have had, though do by all means raise the tenor of this thread by engaging with them.

Posted by Helen at Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 11:26pm GMT

Re John "Instead, here we get ritualist denunciation of their prejudice and sexism. It's so profoundly lazy."

While I agree that comment boards do not always elevate discourse, I think one can also point out that for many us, but I'll post for myself, the church is, in fact, profounldy deeply sexist. Sexism and prejudice rationalized with theological langauge, remain sexism and prejudice. Opponents of gender equality may advance their "best" arguments from a theological point of view, but that does not make those arguments any less sexist.

What's lazy, is the dimissal of feminist analysis, some of it done by first rate religious minds. What's lazy is dismissing out of hand an engagement of human rights with the label "secular." What's lazy is advancing well grounded Christian social teaching in the service of justice outside the church, but failing to work out the inherent contradictions when its applied to the policies and practices of the church.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 30 January 2013 at 11:27pm GMT

"It is axiomatic that when you engage with opponents, you take them at the level of their best arguments."

Wow. What kind of ivory tower do you live in?

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 3:50am GMT

The whole point that many contributors here were making is that the arguments made in the Church Times should not be engaged with.
They are yesterday's debate and it is profoundly wrong to give the impression that there is still even the smallest debate about the validity of women's orders to be had.

The Church should really do itself a favour and stop this winding back the clock firmly. The only argument worth having and the only one that should be had is what kind of provisions should be granted to the tiny minority who still cannot accept the official position of their church.

THAT would be a helpful argument to have because so far, those asking for provisions have not even hinted at what compromise they might be willing to make.

What we should be doing here is to try and draw them out no that instead of allowing them to draw us back into a can women be priests yes or no debate.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 7:55am GMT


I'm sure she knows who I am. But for the record, John Moles, Newcastle University.

Posted by John at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 10:57am GMT

Jean Mayland, you said "I think I have come to the conclusion that people who refuse to accept the vote of the General Synod that women can be priests just cannot be described as 'loyal anglicans'. They are loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and maybe that is their proper home."

I'm afraid I fail to see how your statements are linked. As someone who cannot accept the admission of women to the sacred ministry, I don't see what this has to do with the Roman Communion. Were I to be able to satisfy myself that it was consonant with the Divine Will, that would supersede oecumenical concerns, to my mind.

I am not, and cannot imagine myself ever being without an awful lot of doctrinal rejigging, a Roman Catholic and so simply do not understand how I can be accused of being loyal to that branch of the Church.

Posted by Richard at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 1:34pm GMT

John Moles: Well, that's a relief to all, to know that our 'depressingly low-grade' 'profoundly lazy' comments are being marked by a fellow academic of some status from Newcastle University. I thought we were commenting on the Church Times rather strange decision to issue a supplement on the theology of women's ordination, rather as if we were at the beginning of the process, rather than more than two decades down the line! The manner in which contributors express themselves is surely a matter for the moderator, and actually, nothing to do with this thread.

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 1:38pm GMT

@ Erika "those asking for provisions have not even hinted at what compromise they might be willing to make." A prior question might be, are they in good faith interested in compromise? Looks like a lot of stonewalling to me.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 2:00pm GMT

John Moles - it was me, not Helen, who did not know your identity. It would be rude of me to suggest that your attention to detail is lazy, wouldn't it? :-)

Sue Slater

Posted by Sue Slater at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 8:00pm GMT

I'm afraid I didn't have a clue who you were John, nor, following the revelation of your surname, am I any the wiser.

Posted by Helen at Thursday, 31 January 2013 at 10:30pm GMT

I am not, and cannot imagine myself ever being without an awful lot of doctrinal rejigging, a Roman Catholic and so simply do not understand how I can be accused of being loyal to that branch of the Church.

Posted by: Richard on Thursday,

So, then, Richard; might you be of the school of thought believing that 'Male headship' trumps any idea of women becoming clergy or bishops. it would be helpful to know - so that you may be challenged on your opposition to women in ordained ministry

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 1 February 2013 at 7:58am GMT

It is sad beyond words that some of the most caustic comments in this thread are being posted by the same people who promoted the 'respect and trust' agendas in the failed WB Measure. As the Archbishop Elect has said in his recent interview, unless Christians disagree in love then the Church is damaging its witness in a very profound way.

Posted by Geo Noakes at Friday, 1 February 2013 at 9:00am GMT

Even Homer nodds. But I stand by my comments on the general standard of debate here and the standard of M T H's piece.

As for the Church Times feature, I took it as designed not to rehash all the old arguments but to show how people of good faith could in good faith reach different conclusions. In that it succeeded.

Posted by John at Friday, 1 February 2013 at 6:25pm GMT

'show how people of good faith could in good faith reach different conclusions.'

So what ? The Church of England as a national body has not only reached a conclusion on women's ordination, but has actioned it, twenty years ago. So there is no need to rehash all that again and again.

I hope there will be a simple motion and no para church, no artifical 'Sees' to foster misogeny and further discontent.

It is impossible both to ordain women and not to ordain women.

No more bishops who do not believe that women ministers are in fact Ordained. It was a crazy notion, even 20 years ago !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 2 February 2013 at 12:02am GMT

you have still not made a constructive contribution to this conversation or substantiated any of your points.
You used to be a really constructive contributor here, with views that were not always immediately accessible but ultimately always well thought through and well argued and that did frequently move the debate forward.
Do you really want to give that up in favour of becoming one of those you yourself criticise so harshly here?
I would find that very sad.

I agree, at first I also thought the Church Times just wanted to present the arguments so that they did not have to be re-hashed. I'm not sure it has succeeded. It has merely continued what the Archbishop of York has allowed to happen during the GS debate.
And the next debate will again focus on whether women can be priests at all, and there may well be many who have come only just to believe that, on reflection, they can't.

This conversation is as if the response to a government initiative to introduce marriage equality was a renewed debate on whether homosexuality out to be decriminalised.

The church lives and dies with its symbolism. The symbolism of this is all wrong.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 2 February 2013 at 9:06am GMT

I do not believe in women ministers.

I do not have to - I have seen them with my own eyes and heard them for myself.

And, some of the current bishop vacancies WILL be filled by women.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 2 February 2013 at 4:26pm GMT


A number of contributors here think that anyone who does not accept women priests or bishops is by definition sexist and bigoted. I think that is wrong. Indeed, I know people who do not accept women priests or bishops who (in my judgement) are not remotely sexist or bigoted. I would be surprised if you did not also. At least you and others here 'know', through this site, a number of such people. Do you think Father David or Benedict by definition sexist and bigoted? Since the contributors to whom I refer think in this way on this basic issue, I have no chance whatever of persuading them of the correctness of my other judgments (e.g. about M T H's piece). So I can't 'substantiate my points'. Their fault, not mine.

Posted by John at Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 4:43pm GMT

@ John "A number of contributors here think that anyone who does not accept women priests or bishops is by definition sexist and bigoted."

The idea seems to be to re-define sexism so that it encompasses only sexist attitudes one disapproves, but not sexist attitudes one approves. Men who oppose the ordination of women don't get to decide how sexism is defined. But that's part of the whole problem, men defining for women else, what is or is not acceptable for women.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 8:57pm GMT

thank you.
I know John as a genuine liberal who really would like both sides to keep together and who truly believes in women being priests but who is concerned about the cost to traditionalists.

I have to admit, I used to believe like John did and I used to think that there wasn't a single woman who did not have to forego her calling as a priest, whereas there are traditionalists who really cannot live with a woman priest.

And I know that it is generally not accepted to try to compare one group's suffering vs the other one and to have a kind of "my suffering is worse" competition.

But I have to say, having heard women's stories of just how badly they were being treated, and having tried to draw out traditionalists here and discovering time and time again that they do not even realise how much WATCH has compromised so far, and who are nothing but scathing about pro women's groups, I have changed my mind.

I now see one side as giving and giving and giving, and the other as not even acknowledging that women are compromising while being completely unwilling to compromise themselves.
And I know that John has in the past asked traditionalists to compromise or else their position would become untenable.

I would like to hear what compromise traditionalists could live with (and compromise meaning BOTH sides giving something). And from John I would like to hear at what point he would believe that traditionalists are being unreasonable and the others actually do have a point when they reject any more compromising.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 9:28pm GMT

Erika, thanks for your post. I was ordained in Canada at a time when called and qualified women faced open rejection, when the chancellor of the dicoese had to be present to respond to public objections during ordinations when women were ordained. We had a "conscience clause" provsion in the early days, as a pastoral provision. Eventually it was grand-fathered by our GS becuase the clause was being abused by some conscienctious objectors as a cover for an ongoing campaign aimed at women colleagues. What was especially galling were the attitudes of young male theological students, some converts from other churches, who were very vocal in their oppostion to ordaining women who had been life long Anglicans, and had put in years of ministry as deacons, deaconesses, or lay readers and the like.

To this day in Canada, some diocesan bishops still feel compelled to ask parishes if they will "consider" taking a female priest.

So, while I think I understand the altruistic motivation on the part of supporters of women's ordination to accomdate tradtionalists, I just cannot support the notion of formal special provisions. I think that male clergy, and I include myself in this, truly have to continue to hear the feminist critque of the church's theology.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 3 February 2013 at 10:34pm GMT

Thanks Rod,
I agree with what you say.
That's why I would have liked John to explain what he did not like about MTH's essay rather than dismissing it without any indication as to whether it had to do with her style of writing, her argument itself or her explanation of what loyal Anglicanism meant.

Because I suspect that it was more to do with the point of view expressed, and like you, I believe that men in particular need to do a lot more careful listening to feminist theology and not just dismiss it as special pleading.

Ultimately, this issue will be like any other moral issue in history. There is only a limited period of time in which two contradicting views can have equal validity. Eventually, what used to be the norm becomes so obviously immoral and what used to be an extreme innovation becomes so obviously the only moral way forward, that a church cannot be seen to accept and to live both views.

And I can understand true liberals wanting to make space for all opinions. And in most walks of life that is possible and an honourable thing to do.
In the case of moral issues, though, it cannot be done, not in the long term, but only ever during the period of change.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 4 February 2013 at 8:28am GMT


I don't know. What is being written here seems to me so crude. I don't remotely 'just dismiss feminist theology'. I accept it. I think scandalous injustice has been done to women in the church as elsewhere and it must be righted. But feminist theology is not the only ball-game and when its essential goals (!) have been secured, one must take account of those who, using other criteria, are unconvinced about women bishops. I also think that there is a deeply significant mismatch between demands for 100% conformity (of 'orders' or whatever) and the way people - for utterly understandable and justifiable reasons - actually behave. Example: I personally am 100% 'in communion' with Miranda but have little desire to attend her church (a couple of miles away). Equally, I am equally sure that she, 100% in communion with several Evangelical churches here in Durham, has no desire whatsoever to enter their portals. So all this talk about absolute interpenetrability seems to me essentially a sham, with 'liberals', entirely opportunistically and implausibly, appealing to 'catholic order' when it suits them (i.e. when they think they can win) but rejecting it when they're not sure they can (as e.g. on the gay issue, where I am entirely with them).

Posted by John at Monday, 4 February 2013 at 8:09pm GMT

John "A number of contributors here think that anyone who does not accept women priests or bishops is by definition sexist and bigoted."
No-one on this post has accused anyone of being "bigoted", and there is a significant difference between judging an argument or comment to be "sexist" and accusing a person of being a sexist. I'm appalled at this sort of crude misrepresentation from an "academic of some standing". Furthermore, when John marks his students' essays, as he's marked MTH's, does he refuse to give any reasons for his judgement? It's hardly likely that that would be acceptable at Newcastle, so why does he think it's all right here? To blame others for his refusal to substantiate his own points because they're insufficiently persuasive (and who knows? we haven't heard his arguments), is just silly. (However, maybe it's something his students should try: "It's the prof's fault I didn't finish my essay: I knew he wouldn't agree with me!")

Posted by Helen at Monday, 4 February 2013 at 10:02pm GMT

If I understood John's most recent comment as he intended, he seems to be confusing the huge range of beliefs and convictions held by individuals within the church of England, with the views of the church as an institution (or a corporate body, if you prefer that term). Either the C of E as an institution (a church!!) believes that it can and has ordained women to the priesthood (and I say priesthood because in fact, this is what most of the arguments are still about) or it doesn't. If it doesn't believe it has this authority - how come a third of clergy are now women? If it does believe they are truly priests then to try to write a law that says in one clause that they are validly ordained and then in another clause that it's OK to say and act (NB I say nothing about personal belief) as though they are not, is not possible because of the internal contradiction. I have met no supporters of the ordination of women as priests and bishops who think that those who believe that women cannot be ordained should be "forced out" of the church", nor any who think there should be no provision at all. BUT such provision should be clearly pastoral and outside laws (and therefore more flexible) The "provisions" that have caused such anguish are those that, at their root, enable those who asked for them to argue that the Cof E does not have the authority to ordain women. There are plenty of examples of individuals who still hold this belief continuing to worship, even hold roles within a parish , in a church with a women incumbent - I heard another today. The way to live with this sort of difference is through pastoral sensitivity, not through self-contradictory legislation.

Posted by RosalindR at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 12:13am GMT

'No-one on this post has accused anyone of being "bigoted", and there is a significant difference between judging an argument or comment to be "sexist" and accusing a person of being a sexist. I'm appalled at this sort of crude misrepresentation from an "academic of some standing".'

All right, I suspect John was thinking of me. And indeed I am not burdened with tea-party politesse.

So I will go there. J'accuse.

People who oppose women bishops are, by and large, proponents (witting or unwitting) of bigotry and misogyny.

Whether this makes such people themselves bigots and misogynists is a fine point, and perhaps altogether too fine.

Indeed, I would say it makes no difference. How can one, for example, propound or support racism, and not be a racist?

Why is Helen's purported distinction not utterly false?

When did racism, sexism, bigotry, have an intent element?

. . .

Having proved John's empirical claim, I must then address the academician's soi-disant 'status'....

Newcastle? They have a university, do they?

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 4:07am GMT

Don't agree, Helen. Your own comments on Pete Myers seem to me to illustrate the point. Your further comments on me seem distinctly 'ad hominem'.

As for 'academic', I was merely responding to Miranda's stating of her credentials. I do think her linkage of loyalty to the C of E and loyalty to the crown absurd (and actually offensive). She's a tough lady - she can look after herself. She may even take the same view of my arguments as I do of hers. Fine. It's a free country.

I am a very fair marker. You can have a look of some of my scripts if you like. Got some on the table.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 5:03am GMT

I have absolutely no issue with you on the principles you describe.
Nor do WATCH, who have repeatedly compromised. The draft measure that was debated in November was already a significant compromise over a single clause measure.
And all the while those on the other side of the argument have not compromised one iota nor, as far as I'm aware, indicated what compromise other than a Third Province, they would actually accept.

I have every sympathy for people who now say that it is clearly impossible to come to an agreement here and who say that, in this case, it's time to go back to first principles, which are that this church has discerned that women can be priests and bishops.

You know, you do remind me a little of those opponents I so despair with. You keep saying that women have not given enough, yet you don't even hint at what compromise might be acceptable and what the other side should give.

That approach cannot work. Just to remind one side of its moral obligations towards their opponents without asking anything tangible from the other is a recipe for precisely the political disaster we are now facing.

As for you and Miranda not entering each other's churches - but you could if you wanted to. Let's not forget that. There is no-one in your congregation who would say they are not willing to listen to a woman preaching to them.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 7:49am GMT

Fr Ron Smith

I certainly don't believe in male headship.

I suppose, theologically and ecclesiologically, I'm a sort of post-Tractarian, non-Romanist, "Anglo-Catholic".

Posted by Richard at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 12:00pm GMT
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