An outstanding reflection again by Andrew Lightbown. Thank you.
Just as Philip Hammond's Budget has driven a coach and horses through the Conservative Manifesto commitment, pledge and promise not to increase National Insurance contributions on 1.6 million self employed workers - so too the debacle over the Sheffield appointment has shattered to smithereens the Five Guiding Principles. In both cases - all that can be said is - "We didn't really mean it!"
"For mutuality to apply both parties have to either progress and develop, or the status quo has to be retained."
On this occasion, I firmly disagree with Andrew. It shouldn't end up being 'my way or the highway'.
I don't think everything hinges around systemic relationships between priests and bishops etc.
I believe everything hinges on shared life in Christ. What is shared is what Christ gives us, and giving our lives to God, to each other, and others outside the Church.
I believe in this context, that everything hinges on love and grace.
The love and grace to live in tension with one another's differences and beliefs.
When I talk above about 'giving our lives to each other', I sincerely believe that as Bishop of Sheffield, Philip would have given his life to men and women in ministry and service for Christ - whatever his conscientious theological views - through the grace and love that comes from life in Christ.
In the deep heart of contemplation, we may encounter a God who is at heart a sharing God... sharing not only consciousness and awareness along the vast plains of contemplative encounter... but even sharing one's own child, in a givenness and sacrifice.
This drawing into the One-ness of God, and into the community and eternal household of God, speaks to us of how difference and diversity are reconciled in the end. Each one of us is created uniquely and called into our being and becoming. We are - like all life on Earth (and probably the heavens) - so diverse and varied.
And yet we are called and drawn into oneness and love for all eternity, and even the eternal now.
At this point of sharing, we discover it is far more about opening up to love and grace, than systems of theology. Our Church is a mystery, and the cloud of unknowing marks the limits of our systems and control... and yet love breaks through, and God resides in the innermost hearts of our being, and frankly, we can co-exist if only we have the grace and willingness and kindness and determination to do so.
Colin Coward is absolutely right about the oppressive culture in the House of Bishops, but it's a culture the bishops themselves have chosen to create, and any one could break without threatening their position or pension. Given the harm their actions do, I have vanishingly little sympathy.
To break it, England needs to consecrate people with the courage of their convictions. Yet when one comes along in Sheffield, he's driven from his post because he believes the wrong things. The English diocesans would've gained a man universally praised as a pastor first and foremost, but no.
If the English episcopacy's plagued by company men, after the treatment of North, maybe the church has gotten the bench it deserves.
thanks Susannah for your feedback and reflection.
Fantastic article by Andy Walton (only just got round to reading it between domestic chores!)...
In my opinion he nails it, and his points are essentially what James Byron was saying in the previous thread.
In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd almost imagine James Byron IS Andy Walton, writing under a nom de plume!
If the Church of England can't learn to co-exist, and find unity in diversity... which is predominantly a test of grace and love... then it faces disastrous rifts, separations, and schism. And who wants that?
Please take the time to read Andy's article, right to the end. It's incisive analysis and a call for temperance, generosity and love. I am proud of the 'broad church' diversity of the Church of England. It teaches people with diverse consciences to co-exist and find ways to negotiate paths between tensions through love, grace and growth.
Unfortunately, when outcomes get determined by Facebook mob, the 'short-cut' to a dominant and uniform theology (and hounding out of dissidents) leads to fracture, hurt, distancing and separation.
When we seek grace to live and serve alongside people very different to ourselves, we likely grow, and they likely grow, and perhaps there were signs of that already in Philip's relationships and friendships with plenty of women priests and bishops like Libby Lane.
Our Church grows through the exercise of grace and loving kindness.
It grows through tension and difference.
It grows when people have courage to love beyond their comfort zones. Such tensions have characterised the Church of England through its history, but arguably also deepened it, and made it far more than a sect, through the necessity for grace and love. We are called out of our own depths, to grow and become more than we each are individually.
Unity and diversity - or acceptance of diverse integrities - these are maybe paths of grace. They may even be the paths of grace that God is calling us to, as the Church tries to chart its way out of so much discord and alienation.
"Just as Philip Hammond's Budget has driven a coach and horses through the Conservative Manifesto commitment, pledge and promise not to increase National Insurance contributions on 1.6 million self employed workers - so too the debacle over the Sheffield appointment has shattered to smithereens the Five Guiding Principles."
How has it shattered them? Seriously, I don't see that it has. The fifth principle says:
"Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England."
Appointing a non-ordainer as a diocesan bishop neither maintains communion nor contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England and is not, as I read the principles, in accordance with them. Clearly arrangements need to be made (eg a third province) but appointment to a regular diocese is clearly not in accordance with the Guiding principles. The problem is that the archbishops needed to make proper arrangements but haven't done so.
Er no! Peter - you posted Colin Coward's excellent piece 'A tale of two bishops' last Saturday and I commented!
Andrew Lightbown - thank you for your continuing grace, thoughtfulness, and thought-provoking articles. I very much agreed last week with your point on the importance of acknowledging diversity in the Church, and especially the bishops openly doing so, and affording it a voice. This week, I didn't agree so much with some of what you wrote, and some people might have taken offence at my critique above, and yet you responded with grace. That really heartens me, and teaches me how I should try to engage with other people. We can learn much from one another, and especially so, if our discourse and exchanges are prayerful and founded on seeking grace in the face of our own limitations (of which, like lots of us, I have plenty).
So thank you.
"How to run a perfect PCC". Thanks Mark Tanner (I think). They are not the perfect form of government. Not even close. They are necessary though. Because we have an absolute monarch running the show we need to keep in mind He will be judgemental but forgiving. And just maybe we can run counter to our stereotype.
" Doctrine is not necessarily static, it can also be progressive. But, what it can’t be is simultaneously static and progressive; at least not when what we are talking about is relational theology, such as the theology that binds priest and bishop together in a shared and mutual undertaking of sacramental ministry."
- Andrew Lightbown -
What a masterful summary of Anglican 'catholic' order is here given by Andrew Lightbown!
Whatever the controversy about 'mutuality', there can be no compromise on ACC episcopal recognition of priesthood within any one of the catholic orders of ministry.
As Andrew says; the episcopate in the Anglican setting - in order to sustain the 'mutuality' of ontological priesthood - has to recognise the authenticity of all its clergy. No diocesan bishop who does not recognise women clergy as bearing the grace of priestly ordination into the Anglican Church should ever be given the oversight of women clergy.
Arguments from the point of view that: "This has already happened in the case of the Bishop of London, therefore, why could not that model of episcopacy be continued, can never deny the fact that a diocesan bishop, by virtue of the charge of the clergy entrusted to his personal oversight, cannot give the proper pastoral care and ministerial authority needed by all the clergy in his diocese - with no exclusion due to gender or sexuality.
The present set-up in the Church of England would seem to require the authorisation of a separate 'women free' diocese under the title of The Society of SS Hilda and St. Wilfred. Although, one does wonder whether a present day "HILDA" would allow herself to be associated with such non-Pauline gender discrimination: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female"
I fully agree with Andrew Lightbown that "No amount of slogans, strap lines, or mere rhetoric can change this Anglican fact. A bishop who is not content to ordain cannot be said to be truly affirming, or at least not unless we, as a church, are prepared to accept that sacramentality is incidental to our identity. This would of course be a mega change in our understanding of the theology of both priesthood and episcopacy." I don't agree with him that the notion of apostolicity changed when the episcopacy was opened to women, but his call for a return to theology is fundamental--something certain bishops have long forgotten.
Gary Paul Gilbert
Thank you, Susannah. You said very much what I would have liked to say, but very much better than I could have done.
Susannah, I love your posts,which are full of light and love and gentleness. But I do not think it is wrong that questions be asked of a bishop- designate as to his true feelings about those to whom he entrusts the care of souls, and whether or not he not only respects them and loves them but also accepts that they are part of his priesthood and true ministers of the sacraments. The events at his consecration, when he wished to be consecrated only by "true " bishops, and excluded all the others,do not augur well. He may well be a very godly man, and dedicated to the poor, but that does not necessarily make him a good diocesan bishop, there for all in love and truth.
Another great article from Andrew Lightbown. As Andrew points out, a diocesan bishop who won't ordain women contradicts liturgy and sacraments. This was obvious from the start and the Bishops should have recognised and addressed the problem at outset. They did not.
The bishops - all men at that time - put themselves in the shoes of traditionalists and thought what might be needed to protect their theological integrity but those male bishops singularly failed to put themselves in the shoes of women to think what we need to protect our theological integrity.
The same is happening now with same sex relationships. All the energy of the Bishops Reflection Group went into thinking about the needs of conservatives, none apparently was devoted to putting themselves in the shoes of LGBTI Christians and thinking what we need. They didn't even seem aware that trans, intersex and queer Christians even exist. So we already have the unresolved problem of Christians who lawfully enter in to same sex marriages in churches in which the Church of England is in full communion. That means that sacramentally we regard those marriages as valid. It is exactly the analogy of the question of conservatives having problems with the ordination of women.
As Andrew rightly says, "So as the C of E we need to get back to the job of doing theology and, doing it properly, and this is largely the job of our bishops." What he misses, I think is that bishops also need to learn to put aside their own preconceptions and prejudices to look at theology much more objectively from multiple angles. The Sheffield mess arose because the bishops viewed theology through a traditionalist prism. The report of the Bishops Reflection Group failed for the same reasons - it ignored affirming theology.
"Whatever the controversy about 'mutuality', there can be no compromise on ACC episcopal recognition of priesthood within any one of the catholic orders of ministry."
I agree. One of the primary responsibilities of a bishop is to teach the sanctity and efficacy of the sacraments. Why should a potential convert believe in any of the sacraments if our own bishops aren't all seen to wholeheartedly support the sacraments?
Thank you, Kate, for your excellent posts! Yes, bishops need to look at theology from multiple perspectives. Moreover, some of the best professional theologians are not ordained sraight white males. Theology should be done by the whole community.
Susannah, I appreciate your sentiments, and those of Andy Walton, but how are female clergy and girls to "flourish" if WO is not affirmed?
The problem here and in the LGBTQI inclusion is simply that the privileged, and moderates, are asking the most vulnerable to continue to bear the heavy burden of exclusion, injustice, and attacks on their self-esteem. Psychological studies bear out the nasty fruits of exclusion, and you're asking girls to carry the burden so that adults can have "good disagreement." Folks need to speak up for those who don't have a voice, like girls.
I find that CoE needs to give much more weight to the vulnerable and less to the privileged (or at least the ones who want their privilege at the expense of others). "Mutual flourishing" might have to mean a glass ceiling for members of SSWSH at the level of suffragans who minister to traditional parishes. Otherwise how can the female clergy flourish? And girls? And young women?
Finally, as Jane Charman pointed out, the Synod and bishops did not spell out what "mutual flourishing" meant and so people are making it up as they go along. SSWSH aggressively formed themselves into a whole new order of card carrying priests and bishops. No one agreed to that. They just ran with it. So to act now as if +Philip's withdrawal is a betrayal of something everyone agreed to is not exactly true. It's buying into SSWSH's narrative, not an agreement at Synod.
Tone policing has always been a great tactic to take the spotlight off of the vulnerable and help the privileged stay in power. Ask MLK.
Grace is when the lowly are lifted up, the proud scattered, the hungry filled, the rich sent away empty, and mercy is upon those who love the Lord. It isn't when Cynthia the radical sells out the vulnerable to make others comfortable. I, and others, have to be radical BECAUSE CoE leadership forgets the Good News for the poor at every political twist and turn.
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