Comments: WATCH responds to Bishops' proposals on women in the episcopate

No surprises in WATCH'S response. Typically unbending and unyielding.

Posted by Benedict at Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 8:24pm BST

A response worth waiting for. To me, this reads as a carefully considered, measured and thoughtful response to the Working Group / House of Bishops' proposals (just have a second look at points 10 and 11 in the WATCH response if you're not as convinced yet). Thank you!

Posted by Keith Addenbrooke at Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 9:41pm BST

"Typically unbending and unyielding."

How unladylike of them: tsk, tsk!

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 11 June 2013 at 10:29pm BST

I was similarly impressed with 10 and 11. Excellent points indeed.

I am so rooting for the unbending and unyielding version to be adopted. There can be pastoral arrangements for those who don't recognize women as equal in the eyes of God and called by God to serve. Those of us who have been ministered to by women priests and bishops know what a gift that is. This gift must not be withheld or diminished.

Today is the anniversary of the desegregation at the University of Alabama, where then Governor George Wallace declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

That is exactly what the traditionalists sound like to me now. Institutionalizing misogyny is not the answer. Pastoral care for the unbending and unyielding traditionalists seems like the only way to go.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 12:25am BST

Keith, I'm not seeing what's so thoughtful in 11). Sounds to me like the "minority" must be aided where it can be translated as women, gays, lay progressives in conservative areas. But if the "minority" is conservatives.....forget it. Then the "whole" church is what's important. There will never be any accommodation to conservatives that WATCH will accept that will be acceptable to conservatives.

Posted by Chris H. at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 4:34am BST

Openness of ordained ministry regardless of gender identity or sexuality would be nice.

Posted by clairejxx at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 6:19am BST

What does "pastoral care for the unbending and unyielding traditionalists" mean in practice?

Posted by Original Observer at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 8:45am BST

Original Observer. I think it's a funeral rite. Normal funerals have dead people but what seems to be envisaged is burying living ones. Bit like euthanasia

Posted by joseph Golightly at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 9:40am BST

So WATCH will only settle for option one because they want nothing written into the measure (no surprise), and FiF/Reform want safeguards written into the Measure (no surprise). Back to square one. No surprise.

I like the working party's report; it has good things in it, but it really isn't convincing anyone to give a little ground or think of another way of doing things. So it looks as if we shall repeat the whole process of the previous draft Measure; things will go through on simple majorities all the way up to final approval, and then it will fail to get the necessary two-thirds.

And that may very well still apply even if final approval is voted on after the next elections. We knew women bishops would be the big issue before the last elections, but the "traditionalists" increased their support. And is it really right to ask a new Synod to vote immediately on something they've had no chance to shape?

For what it's worth I still think option two with teeth is the best compromise way forward. I think WATCH's point (9) is plain wrong - the previous draft Measure, supported by all those Dioceses, had provisions in the Measure itself for opponents, which included a Code of Practice which would have had legal force, plus the right of parishes to issue "Letters of Request." That looks to me somewhere between options 2 and 3 of the current GS1886, and closer to 3. It was certainly "enshrining discrimination in statute" as WATCH understand that idea. It was, for them, a "major compromise," but one they were willing to make in November last year. They are now saying they are unwilling to compromise even as far a option two. So perhaps we're not even as far as square one.

I just wish we could all agree a way to move forward. Ho hum.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 9:45am BST

It is certainly a high risk strategy. Unless there is a change of heart on the part of the swing votes in the current Synod it seems likely that were legislation put to the vote then it would still fail once again.

To put off final approval until a new Synod is in place would risk the fiasco that it's first action would be to reject women bishops.

Personally I think that the idea that parliament would intervene and impose a change in the Canon Law is complete fantasy.

Posted by Original Observer at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 11:02am BST

There is no magic formula which will satisfy all. Furthermore Fif and Reform don't seem representative of Catholics and Evangelicals respectively: a recent survey (sorry I don't have the details to hand) found that most Evangelicals thought that women should have leadership positions. Neither group has said how they would react if (and when) a woman becomes Archbishop of Canterbury or York. What happens to their notions of headship and sacramental assurance then?
The new proposals do contain an appeals/ mediation procedure, which is important, but it's hard to see what could be provided byond that. And is it not absurd that bishops should be found acceptable or not according to their gender, something about which Jesus said absolutely nothing?

Posted by Helen at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 12:00pm BST

this is not WATCH in one corner and FiF/Reform in the other. This is WATCH responding to the new formal proposals by the House of Bishops and saying: We are particularly heartened by paragraph 21 which says: “The conviction of the House [of Bishops] is that the Church of England should now commit itself fully and unequivocally to all orders of ministry being open to all, without reference to gender. It would, in the view of the House sit very uncomfortably with that if the [General] Synod were to enshrine in legislation a series of rights, duties and definitions that would inevitably be seen as qualifying that commitment.”

There has been a definite change in the HoB's views since November. The CoE is changing.

I think people really did not understand back in November that they voted down the most generous Draft Measure they were going to get. The naivety of the "let's all have a nice cup of tea and find a solution we all like" stance is now becoming increasingly apparent to everyone.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 12:21pm BST

O. Observer... look across the Atlantic for examples of women bishops offering "pastoral care" to traditionalists:

Jane Dixon's forced visitations to conservative parishes, and her long and ultimately successful legal battle to fire Fr. Edwards from Christ Church Accokeek for being an opponent of WO.

Bishop ********'s telling African bishops at Lambeth that they probably beat their wives, because that's their culture.

And KJS comparing traditionalist bishop Mark Lawrence to Adam Lanza, the Newtown school shooter.

That's "pastoral care" - but only *after* they've won the vote. Until then, it's all smiles and assurances.

ED: the comment about African bishops originally contained the name of the "wrong" American bishop; the claims mentioned were made, and refuted, about a different American bishop. See

Posted by Clive at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 4:19pm BST

"What does "pastoral care for the unbending and unyielding traditionalists" mean in practice?"

Well, in TEC, we call our own rectors. They have to be approved by the bishop, but we go through an organized process aimed to get the rector with the right fit. So a flaming liberal priest is not likely to be called to a conservative parish, for example.

Has this been perfect? It's worked perfectly fine for plenty, but no, not everyone. It came to a head when after ordaining women for 20 years, there was a tiny handful of bishops who wouldn't ordain women in their diocese. I think it was 4 or 5. But at the parish level, this has every potential of getting a priest who is sensitive to the needs of the congregation.

I don't know how your rectors and vicars are selected. But surely there's a way to do it with a sensitivity. This ought to work for most people. The problem spots, as I surmise from this list, is evangelical priests who actually believe in male headship and would have problems with obeying a female bishop. I can't imagine that this describes even a majority of evangelicals. The other problem, is with traditional Anglo-Catholics, because of the sacraments. The rector issue is easy to address, however, down the road, there will be the fact that WB's ordain priests. I am Anglo-Catholic and know that the sacraments are just as valid, and Affirming Catholics seem to accept it too. But it is a trouble spot down the road.

The problem spots simply don't justify institutionally demeaning women and girls any longer. I truly pray that you can work it out. CoE is different from TEC because most of you are born into the church, many of us (in some areas the majority) were not born in the TEC, we chose it.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 4:43pm BST

Actually, it doesn't work so great in some places in TEC. Our bishop refuses to hire conservative priests in a diocese in a rural/conservative state where there are only half as many priests as churches. And he's supposed to be a "moderate" bishop. He's determined to drag our conservative state into the "modern era" but meanwhile no priests means shrinking ASA and closing parishes.

Posted by Chris H. at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 6:31pm BST

Great, hysterical untruths passing as evidence.

In the TEC most conservatives simply call a male priest and that's it. Plenty of dioceses with female bishops had perfectly fine experiences. We have over 100 dioceses. We are geographically enormous.

Even if Clive's "evidence" was true, it pales in comparison to the harm done to women and children.

Helen affirms my suspicions. Most evangelicals don't subscribe to male headship and many Anglo-Catholics accept WO and WB. So we are talking about a rather extreme fringe, yes?

Jesus called us to love our neighbor without excuse. He broke taboos to teach, heal, and include women. Women were the first Witnesses to the Resurrection. God created female and male in God's image. Both. The fruits of discrimination are dreadful, the fruits of inclusion are improved health and prosperity. That is powerful enough. No more indignity for women. Find a way to minister to the folks who just can't accept all as created equally in God's image.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 9:00pm BST

The accounts of the "forced visitations" certainly sound grim. I can't quite imagine that in England somehow. CofE people do not go in for outright confrontation, especially when other methods can be more effective.

Many Anglo-catholic parishes have already been pushed down the candle over the years, but by more subtle means. This might happen via the appointment of a superficially suitable incumbent, but one who then gradually introduces reforms and ideas which alter the traditionalist stance of the parish.

Even ResC parishes must deal with the Archdeacon during an interregnum. However, a PCC which is determined to stand firm, together with the influence of a PEV, may together be sufficient to ensure a traditionalist appointment.

The fascinating question therefore is what will happen to the PEVs once pastoral care of traditionalist parishes becomes purely the preserve of the Diocesan Bishop. Will PEVs - all Suffragan Bishops of London, York or Canterbury at present - be delegated much as now? Or will some Diocesan Bishops say that any male Bishop must suffice and traditionalists may not request a Bishop who does not ordain women?

Posted by Original Observer at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 9:48pm BST

@ED: methinks Clive probably believes *all* TEC bishops make (ALLEGED) prejudicial statements, because that's their culture.

"Jane Dixon's forced visitations": yes, I'm sure +Jane (OBM) knocked on the red doors w/ tremendous force.

I'll half give Clive the MLawrence/ALanza one. It wasn't a direct comparison, but it was clumsy and ill thought-out. Even Presiding Bishops have off days/sermons.

The CofE's "traditionalists" would be BLESSED to receive the *lengthy* period of reception that the anti-WO contingent of TEC did.

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 9:52pm BST

I should like to issue a gentle warning on this thread also. Please note that the subject matter of this thread is the WATCH response to the proposed legislation for women bishops in the CofE. Comments should be related to this subject.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 12 June 2013 at 11:23pm BST

I hear you Simon. But CoE is acting as if the WB thing has NEVER been done before. I'd love to hear how things might have worked out with the Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, etc.? Do or did they have a pastoral model for "traditionalists?" If so, what is it and how is it working out?

It might be helpful info.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 12:05am BST

Something related to forced visitations has apparently happened in England. Over a year ago I was reading letters to the editor in the Church Times and one of them was about a couple of elderly shut-ins who didn't want a female priest but did want to be visited and given the Eucharist. The parish priest was a woman who refused to let a male priest into her parish to minister to them, so at least one of them didn't receive it again until they were in hospital. Not forced visitation, just blackmail and denial. I don't doubt that forced visitation could happen if Synod or Parliament rules for women bishops. And many would cheer the action, just as they cheered a diocese demanding a liberal bishop instead of a conservative one and forcing someone out of a job.

Posted by Chris H. at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 1:00am BST

I find it all very depressing. The inability of C of E people to resolve this (and the gay issue) is just disgraceful. I am glad Bernard Randall is still fighting for decency. Personally, right now I'm out of ammo.

Posted by John at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 10:29am BST

Archbishop Williams criticised "unrealism" in the November 2012 debate. "The idea that there is a readily available formula just around the corner is, in my view, an illusion."

It's no good complaining that you can't square the circle. A herculean effort was made to do that in November 2012 and it failed because opponents of women bishops (and of women's ordination) rejected the best on offer.

Hence, a choice is needed, and it cannot satisfy everyone. The opponents have been satisfied for 20 years in the hope that there would be convergence. The convergence did not happen and those beyond the blocking minority in the House of Laity want a separate church within a church which makes convergence impossible. Now their time is up.

It is tragic that no solution has been found, but it is realistic to conclude that the reason is that it does not exist. The only solutions acceptable to Reform and Forward in Faith are unacceptable to everyone else. This is where voting comes in. The minority cannot win; they can only frustrate the majority. If they do that, Parliament will be asked to step in and, if asked, it will.

Posted by badman at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 11:12am BST

"Personally I think that the idea that parliament would intervene and impose a change in the Canon Law is complete fantasy."

I am not sure what your authority is for this statement, Original Observer. Those who have engaged closely with Westminster (particularly with members of the Ecclesiastical Committee) are not hearing that. The advantage of Option 1 is that it makes it much easier for Parliament to legislate with a single clause Bill in the event that the revised Measure (assuming it to be Option 1 or a variant thereof) is defeated by this Synod or the next. Actually the reality is that the new Measure will probably not get to Final Approval in time for July 2015, in which event the new Synod will find it easy to approve, given that it will have been the issue members were elected on, and no member who voted it down in November 2012 is likely to get re-elected. All this presupposes that the Ninth General Synod survives until 2015.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 12:31pm BST

"Parliament will be asked to step in and, if asked, it will."

I suspect it won't, actually. There's very little political upside for a government to get involved in a row with a church, especially one which is so divisive.

The Tories will regard same-sex marriage, which actually is the state's business, as enough provoking of its elderly members, and not want to get involving in a similarly nasty squabble which the state has less interest in. Labour will be perfectly happy to let the CofE rip itself to pieces, and will see no need to help resolve the CofE's internal problems. Neither will see it as worth the effort.

It's possible someone might have a crack at removing the religious exemptions in discrimination law, but that would upset a lot of people apart from the CofE and again not be worth the political blood and treasure.

No, what will happen is that a CofE without women priests will just look like another discriminatory private members' club, and will find itself treated as such. When it speaks about anything, it will find its credibility isn't there any more. Government won't punish the CofE by trying to force it to behave better towards women, it will punish the CofE by simply ignoring it. Welby has already found that all the political power the CofE could muster against SSM achieved precisely nothing, but left him looking weak and his ideas as obsolescent. A few more years' opposition to women priests will make the CofE's credibility today look like a golden age.

How much political influence does the Catholic church have today? Precisely none. The CofE should look closely and see what will happen to it.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 12:35pm BST

I am afraid that the only solution is for General Synod to be dissolved then the responsibility is on the lay electorate to send folk to GS who represent the will of the Church of England otherwise Parliament will do it for us.

The traditionalists and conservative evangelicals will then be surpised by how "Christianly" they are treated by those responsible for the nurture of their ministries.

Posted by Stephen B at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 1:38pm BST

> those beyond the blocking minority in the House of Laity want a separate church within a church

Would that be so awful? Wouldn't it rather, in the words of the Eames Commission, "maintain the highest degree of communion possible"?

Posted by Veuster at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 2:23pm BST

Interested Observer,
Parliament is indeed not interested in what the church does in its own realm. But as the established church it has a place in the House of Lords.
Already, there are charities that cannot work with the CoE any longer because their own Codes of Practice forbid them from entering into working relationships with bodies that have no equality policies.

If the church should yet again vote against women bishops its position in the House of Lords will become untenable for the same reason.
MPs will not intervene in the political affairs of the CoE, but they may well consider disestablishment very very seriously.
My own conservative MP confirmed that to me when I wrote to him after the November vote.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 3:52pm BST

Anthony Archer - Interested Observer is right, I think. Activists on the Ecclesiastical Committee might well be up for parliamentary intervention, but it wouldn't be worth the bother for any secular government to try to make Canon Law on its own. It would be wrong in principle as well.

After all, if the legislation were lost again then that would be because, following the rules, Synod had not produced the requisite majorities. Only sore losers blame the rules.

Synod could of course come up with different rules and then submit those for approval.

Posted by Original Observer at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 3:54pm BST

"The traditionalists and conservative evangelicals will then be surpised by how "Christianly" they are treated by those responsible for the nurture of their ministries."

Well there's the other elephant in the room - nowhere does any of this say the CofE will cease ordaining anti WO priests, which bodes well for many of the current and indeed putative future inmates of that place and others. As a 32 year old FiF member currently weighing up attendance at one of the Additional Curate Society's events and going back into the discernment process, that's reassuring to me - might mean the problem isn't going to go away within the lifetimes of many people though.....

Posted by primroseleague at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 3:56pm BST

agreed, but one would hope that any future ordinands are under no illusion that they are entering a church that ordains women to all levels of ministry and that, eventually, they might be faced with the possibility of a female Archbishop of Canterbury.
Provisions, whatever they may turn out to be, will not mean two churches, one with and one without ordained women,and new ordinands ought to have a greater sense of realism about this than some people who comment here and who still argue about the theological basis for women's ordination appear to have.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 5:05pm BST

This isn't meant to be provocative in any way, just a genuine request for information: people frequently refer to majorities and minorities regards this issue, but how has this been calculated? Was there a survey or similar? No one has ever asked me for my view, nor the view of the congregation where I worship.

Posted by Steven at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 5:51pm BST

"a separate church within a church" Would that be so awful? Wouldn't it rather, in the words of the Eames Commission, "maintain the highest degree of communion possible"? Posted by Veuster

Yes, that would be awful. JMO, but I'd rather have *ecumenical* relations at that point. If communion is broken (as it would be, if ordained ministries and sacraments cannot be recognized), better to acknowledge it, and work from there. As a wise priest once told me, "Resurrection follows death. It doesn't follow denial."

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 8:04pm BST

"MPs will not intervene in the political affairs of the CoE, but they may well consider disestablishment very very seriously."

Honestly, they won't. I mean, they might talk about it seriously, as opposed to while wearing silly hats and clown trousers, but it won't come to anything.

Disestablishment is all downside. You're the people who ended hundreds of years of tradition. You're the people that kicked the Queen in the teeth in her old age. You're the people that made a mess of the coronation (after all, realistically there's going to be one within a couple of parliaments, and then another a few parliaments after that: two before 2040, almost certainly).

Why would a politician do this? To remove 26 people from the House of Lords, 26 people who rarely all show up, who don't vote as a bloc and therefore cancel each other out, and on recent history can't influence a vote on SSM that goes to the heart of their concerns?

If the bishops managed to swing a vote in the Lords that was significant, the Parliament Act would be used, and some arm-twisting would be done to make sure it didn't happen again. They might even get slung out of the Lords, as most of the hereditaries were. After all, annoying the Commons to the point of provoking the use of the Parliament Act won't make them popular amongst the Lords, either.

Why bother disestablishing the CofE, which interests precisely no-one, when they're an ineffective force in Parliament who could be silenced with far sharper and less contentious weapons? Fox hunting wasted vast amounts of political effort for little return, but there were genuinely people who cared, it was an issue in the Labour Party (although more about class warfare than any concern for poor Reynard) and at the time the economy was benign so it didn't look too self-indulgent. Disestablishment would be a political minefield, no-one outside the CofE cares, and it would look like a self-indulgent waste of precious Parliamentary effort because it would be a self-indulgent waste of precious Parliamentary effort.

The CofE has a problem with women bishops. It will have to fix it itself. Parliament will not, waste time legislating for something which is only a problem because of the intransigence and lack of leadership within the church. Mummy and daddy are busy doing important things, and aren't going to sort out who gets to play with the trainset, even if the toddlers ask them to.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 13 June 2013 at 10:19pm BST

"Labour will be perfectly happy to let the CofE rip itself to pieces, and will see no need to help resolve the CofE's internal problems."

You do not appreciate the political possibilities inherent in the situation.

If Labour would be happy to let the CofE rip itself to pieces, then Labour would not hesitate to seek political advantage from the women-bishops debate. The Opposition would be happy to hang discrimination around the Tories' necks--and on this point, the Liberal Democrats would move quickly to distance themselves from their Coalition partners.

Any goodwill that Cantuar might have enjoyed as the new Archbishop is surely gone after his vote against the Commons-passed marriage bill.

The Church of England's worst enemies could not have wished for a sequence of events more damaging to Lambeth's political influence--and more likely to inflame opinion against establishment.

As for the next coronation, firstly, it won't be for another 20 years, and secondly, anyone who thinks the government of the moment will allow it to look like any past coronation ought to have his head examined.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 2:23am BST

"Mummy and daddy are busy doing important things, and aren't going to sort out who gets to play with the trainset, even if the toddlers ask them to."

Yes, but it was the other way round. After November Mummy and Daddy told the toddler to sort himself out and if he wasn't able to, they would intervene.
Go back to what was actually said in Parliament after November.

Of course, it is possible that, when it comes to it, Parliament may not do anything. But it is not wise for the CoE to gamble on that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 10:22am BST

" 26 people who rarely all show up"

I've mentioned before - the bishops do themselves no favours by not responding to comments like this, which get repeated and repeated.

The bishops are probably the only members of the House of Lords who actually have full-time jobs outside politics.
On a retirement, the next bishop in line has no choice about whether he joins the House.

From what I think I can remember from two decades ago, when I knew a little about this:

The bishops have a rota so that 3 (?) are on House of Lords duty: meaning two or three weeks a year when they are not available in their dioceses.

If a bishop speaks in a debate, he remains in the House for the full debate.

There's probably more that should be said on this, and if 'a spokesman for the Church of England' were up to his job it would be being said. [It *must*, surely be a spokesMAN]

As I've asked before - could a bishop or someone who really knows please contribute?

Posted by John Roch at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 10:56am BST

I have to say that I think that 'traditionalists' are right not to trust 'liberals'. Every WATCH comment and many of the comments here show that 'liberals', most of them, do not really embrace the logic of tolerance/'pastoral provision' (whatever).

Posted by John at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:58am BST

But what does "embrace the logic of tolerance/pastoral provision" mean in practice John? It seems to me that most "liberals" on this site have no objection at all to parishes specifying the churchmanship and gender of their priest. But while a small minority of Evangelical clergy are free to preach male headship and run their parishes on those lines, most people in the Church don't want male headship enshrined as a mainstream doctrine in the CoE. What is unreasonable about that? As for FiF it is hard to see how their demands as detailed on their website can be met without a third province made up solely of male clergy ordained by FiF bishops which would not come under the jurisdiction of a future ABC who was either a woman or who had been ordained by a woman bishop. I suspect such a province would require an Act of Parliament and the Commons would certainly not oblige!

Posted by Helen at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:00pm BST

Why should I "embrace" something that does not exist?

There is no logic to tolerating discrimination.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:36pm BST

John - there are liberals and liberals. I've been a hard-line liberal all my life, and I do not think you are liberal at all. Your ivory tower is so lofty you cannot see the ground anymore. There is no 'logic of tolerance' in this debate. Liberals in the CofE have bent themselves backwards and beyond to accommodate the traditionalists and it has never been and will never be enough. A simple majority has never been enough. A two-thirds majority has never been enough. You speak of 'trust.' When will traditionalists begin to show any inclination to trust the will of the majority?

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Friday, 14 June 2013 at 11:39pm BST

"There is no logic to tolerating discrimination"

Ever read Romans 14?

Posted by Dan at Saturday, 15 June 2013 at 4:04pm BST
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