Comments: Consultation document on women bishops legislation

One can read fairly easily between the lines of the "consultation document." This process is going nowhere.

The working group is evidently considering whether the House of Bishops can commit future female bishops, but not male bishops, to some way of treating their opponents.

Why, precisely, would this not amount to a second-class female episcopate?

One rather thinks that anything that inhibits the power or discretion of a future female bishop would lead to the very problem that this document calls 'anathema.'

How many times does one have to put the basic principle?

There should be no honoured place for discrimination.

Especially no place in the House of Bishops.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 7:29pm GMT

Canon Jane Charman's piece on the WATCH website sets out really clearly how the second objective in para 29 of the consultation document is now untenable if the Church of England is to have bishops of both sexes fully interchangeably. If this objective is retained then the process is doomed to fail, whatever new contortions the working group explores. Please can we therefore avoid going around in circles again, and present the simplest legislation to the General Synod in July so that it can proceed to the Dioceses and be ready for Final Approval as soon as the next Synod is elected in 2015 ?

Posted by Hilary at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 7:46am GMT

This is a useful document with some sensible proposals. It also has some intractable problems. Proposition 4, point 2 states: "Provide, through the totality of the elements in the package, a greater sense of security for the minority as having an accepted and valued place in the Church of England while not involving the majority in any new element of compromise on matters of principle."

This is not possible. The church needs to decide whether we accept the principle of non-discrimination against women or whether we accept that those who discriminate are accepted and valued. There is no compromise that can achieve both aims no matter how simple, or complicated the wording of a new measure.

Posted by tim budd at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 10:49am GMT


As far as I can see, there will be no solution, unless we can find a way of living with the impaired communion that arose the moment women priests were ordained, and a minority refused the development. This impaired unity with be magnified once women are ordained bishops, and yet again when women bishops ordain priests. For these reasons I cannot see an honest solution that does not involve parallel jurisdiction.

The choice is stark: a full and formal schism or an untidy internal schism in which both groupings circle each other at a uneasy distance.

I have long maintained that if the liberal majority really believe history is on it's side (it probably is) it should accept the compromise of maximum provision and watch the conservative branch wither on the vine.

50 years of a "Third Province" - surely a small price to pay.

Posted by Labarum at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 11:58am GMT

I seriously doubt that a 50 year solution is needed as a provision for the discriminators. My guess is that 95 percent of them are above the age of 60. I've only spent 6-7 months living and worshipping in England, but it really doesn't seem like the next generation of under 60's are very different from the US. I suspect they are just as unwilling to continue arcane and hurtful discrimination against women as in TEC and Canada.

The local bishop can accommodate those older people in a pastoral way. The CoE need not enshrine discrimination. As the Established church, enshrining discrimination is highly likely to be a last straw for the public at large, and that is a bigger problem than a minority of "traditionalists."

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 3:13pm GMT


You may be right on the 50 years.

"Provision for the discriminators"? That really is an offensive way to describe loyal Anglicans who hold a view formally recognised as legitimate, and who have been promised an honourable place in the world wide communion.

Once upon a time to have "discriminating taste" was a positive virtue, but I rather think the term is here used in very poor taste, and as little more than a swear word.

Posted by Labarum at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 5:45pm GMT

Let's suppose that the issue were whether blacks can become bishops.

In that case, should "the liberal majority . . . accept the compromise of maximum provision" for those who wish not to be ministered to by black bishops?

Merely to state the analogy is to see how untenable the position of the discriminators is.

There should be no provision for discrimination.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 8:18pm GMT


Exactly why do you think that I am not created fully in the image of God, same as the guys? Be precise. I challenge you to find language that isn't offensive and/or distasteful. In fact, I dare say it is impossible. But by all means, give it a go.

We've had WO and WB's in TEC since I was a child. I'm sorry, but CoE can only look backwards to us, Neanderthal comes to mind. But go ahead. Tell me why I'm not equal in the eyes of God. Give it a whirl.

Honored place in the Anglican communion? At one time so did racism, anti-semitism and persecution of witches. How is your prejudice different from those? I'm all ears.


Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 6:14am GMT

@ Cynthia and Jeremy.
65% of the world's Christians belong to churches which don't ordain women. Are these 2 billion people all women hating discriminators? This is about the ecclesiology of the worldwide Church, not about rights or discrimination. Wanting to remain part of that much larger tradition dosn't make its supporters women haters!

Posted by Paul at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 8:46am GMT

The only way forward is one which trusts Bishops to do the right thing, anything less than this takes us back down the slippery slope of ever more legislation and the interminable debates, displacement activity and the wrangling this involves.

We have to have a solution which does not create separate female bishop free zones i.e. a structural solution, or anything which creates different classes of bishop based upon gender. We have desperately and genuinely tried to make provision for those who find this hard, as they asked, to such an extent that we were compromising the episcopate, hopefully ever so slightly. That this solution did not pass indicates to me that nothing of this type ever would and that we should therefore go for the simple solution where those called to be bishops are trusted to provide for the flourishing of all the clergy under their care as happens elsewhere. Is this such an unusual thing for a Christian organisation to espouse?

Posted by Stephen at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 11:03am GMT

Paul - so stop ALL bishops marrying. And then you can be in accord with the churches that hold the majority of members.

Posted by Commentator at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 11:47am GMT

Paul, there is no such thing as "the worldwide Church." There never has been.

The Roman and Eastern churches certainly are discriminatory traditions. But of course they are not monolithic. Many Roman and Eastern Christians want women to be ordained.

I didn't say "women hater." I said "discriminator." State of mind can be judged not only by subjective perception of emotion, but also by action.

After all, in prior times, a slaveholder could truthfully have said, "I don't hate blacks. I just want to continue to own them."

The position we are discussing basically says, "I don't hate women. I just want to exclude them from the priesthood."

Like it or not, that is an immoral and women-hating position.

To want to perpetuate discrimination is itself discrimination. There should be no "honoured place" for it.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 11:57am GMT


Putting to one side the entirely different cultural assumptions of the UK and USA (not a point about discrimination, but you can't read from one country to the other more broadly) you really need to look around the CofE more before you're in a position to make sweeping judgments about how long provisions might need to be made.

Go somewhere like Pusey House, or the larger ABC parishes and you'll see many young people - you're not coming across them because the parallel ecclesiology of the last 20 years has ghettoised them.

Also, places like Staggers have been, and are, merrily training young men in their 20s according to this honoured place who are then ordained.

Bluntly, the demand from the minority is there, and is self sustaining, UNLESS AND UNTIL they are told to go away. That is what needs to happen for a no compromise single clause measure, and that is why I just can't see it happening given the way the Synod works and the desire of people generally to be nice.

I'm 32 and "traditional." I'm staying until I'm legally forced out because I'm an ANGLO Catholic not a ROMAN Catholic so I've got nowhere else to go.

Posted by Primroseleague at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 12:51pm GMT

'These 2 billion people' may not be women haters (indeed many of them are women themselves) but they are by definition discriminators because they seek to deny to women roles which are available to men. They seek to justify the discrimination on grounds of conscience, ecclesiology etc., and that's a different argument, but to say it's not discrimination is just playing with words.
Prebendary David Houlding made an impassioned intervention in similar terms at one of the GS debates last year. Regrettably, nobody put him right.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 1:00pm GMT

'about the ecclesiology of the worldwide Church'

There is no such thing in reality. It is a romantic fantasy.

There are many 'Churches', denominations, all rather different in their 'ecclesiologies', their arrangements for Ministry.

So let's get on with what needs doing on the ground - women bishops no strings. Gay bishops no strings.

Ah yes an all-celibate house of bishops would be very good - it might concentrate their minds, and discourage too much pontificating from them !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 1:52pm GMT

What's the theological basis for discrimination against women? No one has answered the question with anything other than tradition and the fictitious world wide church. Some Muslim cultures do a horrible operation on women genitalia. Is that the "world wide church" you want to be in communion with? Or are you talking about the Quakers and Reform Jews and tons of Protestant churches that are fine to women's leadership? There is no way to justify the discrimination without serious cherry picking.

Please, exactly how am I less perfect than men in the eyes of God? That is the question. The only question. And if all women are less perfect, then there's no reason for equality in any area of church, society, governance or law. Justice is pretty much an all or nothing thing. Ask Martin Luther King about that. And have another look at how Jesus interacted with women.

By the way, I'm Anglo-Catholic as well. A/C being defined by the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and a beautiful, symbol rich liturgy that engages with that Great Mystery. It does not automatically mean RC without the pope.

Jesus was about liberation. So far, the only justification I am seeing for the exclusion of women is CULTURAL.

People are mistaken if they think that the "boys club" mentality doesn't have a hurtful effect on girls. It is hurtful and that is a big reason for the secularization of society.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 3:53pm GMT

I broadly agree with Primroseleague. I'd just add one thing. You can be 100% in communion with certain fellow-Anglicans and have no desire to enter their churches (I have no desire to enter Miranda's church and even less to enter flourishing Evangelical churches; nonetheless, I wish them well and salute them as fellow-Anglicans). Equally, you can be less than 100% in communion with certain churches and find them lovely. There is one such just up from the station in Newcastle. We've attended occasionally, if we've been in Newcastle that day. The building is beautiful; the choir is very good; the services are very moving. I don't care that they don't accept women priests. They're not bigots and they help people (including me and including people who live on the streets). I think they should just be left alone to get on with it.

Posted by John at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 4:50pm GMT

St Stephens House is hardly overrun with ordinands - over 50% of our ordinands in the CofE are women. Of the male ordinands, the vast majority are pro OW.

Posted by Charles Read at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 6:49pm GMT

Primrose league is right: the demand for discriminatory practice will continue while ordination training continues to be predicated upon traditionalism and fundamentalism rather than scholarship and ethics. The bishops' collective failure to challenge discrimination (or even, so far as one can gather) to keep up with biblical scholarship doesn't help. Cynthia, they need you to cut through the crap-go to it!

Posted by Helen at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 6:49pm GMT

Paul said: 65% of the world's Christians belong to churches which don't ordain women. Are these 2 billion people all women hating discriminators? This is about the ecclesiology of the worldwide Church, not about rights or discrimination. Wanting to remain part of that much larger tradition dosn't make its supporters women haters!

Oh Paul. How many of these 65 percent live in 3rd World countries? Have you spent any time in the 3rd world? I've visited one country extensively. I am an honored guest when I'm there but the society is HIGHLY patriarchal. Meanwhile, all the studies show that the greater the gender equality the greater the prosperity.

I draw several conclusions. One of them, however, is NOT that the US, the UK, TEC, and CoE should aspire to resemble 3rd world patriarchy in our polity! Good health is associated with gender equality. And church should be different?

Discrimination is ugly. It is hurtful. It humiliates women, it denies the gifts God calls us to accept. It is AWFUL for girls. Believe me, I loved the Greek Orthodox Church until I got old enough to see that I didn't rate. You can tell my writing that I'm over it, however, not everyone has the advantages I had. And in the US I think we are more open to changing religious affiliation. I could be wrong, it's an impression.

If discrimination is hurtful and unhealthful, especially to children, how could it be justified?

Our church is growing in young families who don't wish to raise their children in hateful environments. CoE might consider that that secularization is a bigger problem than pandering to discriminators.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 2:34am GMT


I totally agree- I wasn't trying to suggest that Staggers or anywhere else is overrun with Ordinands full stop - more that Staggers, and others, has spent the past 20 years continuing to train Traditionalists for ordination, some of whom are young, so it's not the case that we're waiting for the unhelpful ones to die off - they are being replaced.

If they had said in 1992 that going forward there would be no further traditionalist ordinations (which would probably have caused the legislation to fail but that's beside the point) then we wouldn't be where we are now which is 2 decades (during which I've come to maturity in the church) being told that it's perectly ok to be CofE and against WO, we can have our own bishops, and if we want to go through the discernment process and are successful, there are no barriers to ordination on that basis.

The promises in 1992 probably shouldn't have been made, and the set-up post that date ditto, but they were and they have been. Rowing back from that is going to be painful and far from simple for people on both sides of the argument (if indeed it's even possible) - but it's where we are, for better or worse.

Posted by Primroseleague at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 9:43am GMT


It depends what you mean by 'overrun': it's full this year.

Posted by Richard at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 10:36am GMT

I agree that it would have been better if provisions had been made for existing Resolution ABC parishes but on the understanding that all new ordinands would have to accept that their church now ordains women.
And I also agree that that legislation would not have gone through.

I think what is happening with women's ordination is the same that happens with all awareness of discrimination - it moves in stages.

From slavery to "equal but separate" was a big step, but it still needed the next step to "equal".

Society as well as the church have changed in their attitude to women over the last 20 years, and what was not seen to be discriminatory and therefore inherently immoral and wrong in 1992 is definitely seen so now.

People's perception has changed and their acceptance of traditional theology has change with it. This process is not reversible.
It is quite possible that another compromise solution will be found this time round, but it, again, will be subject to further change in society and in the church in the coming decades.

We may welcome that or regret it. I do believe it is nevertheless a fact.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 11:07am GMT

I think we're in broad agreement Erika, albeit on different sides of the fence. However, I wish (genuinely) I shared your analysis that "this process is not reversible." If history teaches us anything, it's that pretty much nothing is irreversable.

I genuinely can't put my hand on my heart and promise that in 200 years time (or whenever) we won't have slavery, or patriarchy, or matriarchy, or whatever, all over again - can I be clear that I'm NOT advocating any of them. The Whig interpretation of history, that it's moving forward, and getting better all the time, is just as flawed as the Marxist one that there's a revolution around the corner.

Posted by primroseleague at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 1:11pm GMT

veering off topic now... but it is clear that those countries with the greatest social inequality and in particular those with a poor status for women are also the ones that do least well economically.
Equality makes economic sense as well as being a human rights imperative.

I would therefore hope that this trend will, indeed, continue.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 2:05pm GMT

Discrimination is hurtful and humiliating. Somehow, that fact is getting lost as people claim their individual right to institutionalize their culturally based prejudices.

What a remarkable thing it is to claim to speak for God or God's will that hurting a group of people - equally created in the image of God - is somehow part of their "conscience." It is more remarkable in the 21st Century when mistakes of the past should give us pause to arrogantly continue to hurt women or the group du jour. Slavery, anti-semitism, in the Americas the treatment of native populations... and on and on.

Practically speaking, the discrimination in CoE is driving people out of the church and into secularism and atheism. Isn't that a bigger problem than appeasing a tiny minority whose views look more and more bizarre each day?

"The moral arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends toward justice." Martin Luther King. From the Rocky Mountains, I can see the arc bending in the East.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 5:38pm GMT

"What right does anyone have to draw lines beyond to whom God's grace, care and favor extend?" "God has no favorites."
+Barbara Harris, the 1st female bishop consecrated in TEC, an amazing African American woman.

I can't believe that in 2013, CoE is still rejecting such gifts and drawing arbitrary lines.

However, if you want to do so, please ask your ABC to discontinue Rowan's practice of punishing and isolating TEC because we have amazing women like +Barbara blessing us profusely with the gifts God has given her, and us.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 6:31pm GMT

It's worth reading the report of the conference Rowan Williams arranged in 2011 (though he pretty well ignored the messages he didn't want to hear), especially the address by Mary Grey Reeves, bishop of El Camino Real. She recounts her experience of working with a parish that wouldn't accept her as a bishop, and argues strongly and convincingly against enshrining separate provision in law: if you do that you make reconciliation impossible, she says. In fact a simple measure with a code of practice would allow John'sNewcastle church to carry on as they are, and why not, but the trouble is FiF's unpleasant and unchristian notion of impaired communion. Anyone who reads the history of the Act of Synod etc must realise that separate development for ever was neither intended nor promised, but Rowan's implied consent to the PEVs setting up virtual separate dioceses gave another message altogether. Anyway, the link below provides a plan of action for the bishops if they want to take it!

Posted by Helen at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 6:38pm GMT
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