Comments: Sheffield and the Five Guiding Principles

Can't read the full article. I get the message 'unauthorised action to download'.

ED: yes, sorry, this is a quirk of the Modern Church website. Have removed the offending link. Just go to the press release, and follow link from there.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7:03pm BST

I don't wholly agree with Martyn Percy on this matter, but it is powerfully and persuasively written, and a good contribution to the analysis that Sir Philip Mawer will need to carry out.

Where I differ is here: "Bishops are to be a focus of catholic and local unity. Bishop Philip could be neither, through his own choice to be a member of ‘The Society’."

I believe that conscience is not necessarily a 'choice'. It can be a conviction that overrides the easier way you might otherwise choose. Is being a Christian a 'choice'? Or is it something that happens to you, by God's initiative and grace?

Arguably, the same with conviction over the priesthood - a conviction felt by millions over thousands of years, and still widely held by many Christians around the world. It is a conscientious view, held in good faith.

Whether - and to what degree - that conviction can co-exist with other, contrary convictions... that is the pivotal question.

My view is that because the Church as an institution recognises the validity of women priests (and so do I) there is never a time now when their ministry is nullified by the institution, even if someone in an intermediate position between a priest and the Institution (the diocesan bishop) holds a contrary view.

What is essential in the tension between two convictions is not banning one and not the other, but finding the love and grace to co-operate.

Personally I believe that would have been possible, even if uncomfortable. However, I am not black and white on the matter, but the presence of people with faith and conviction, opposed to women priests, does not render the Church of England institutionally discriminatory. If anything, it renders the Church more diverse and arguably richer.

Unless one believes that a person's conscience on this matter should be crushed in the name of equality, regardless of the reality of this conviction through the centuries and in much of Christendom still today.

I personally believe in women priests. But I would still have wanted to work with Philip North, and he with me, even with our different views. I think Martyn's article is valuable and intelligent. It makes many points about equality and the harm of discrimination.

However, I personally feel there is still space for Christians of different convictions, without imposing ceilings which themselves become discriminatory in a way.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7:23pm BST

Now been able to read the article through another route. Thank you Martyn Percy. Please keep stirring the pot. You ask some very pertinent questions.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7:23pm BST

The issue is really quite simple: every person has a thorough right to his/her own beliefs and convictions and he/she should be free to live by and to express those beliefs and convictions —SO LONG AS THEY DO NOT DAMAGE OR HARM OR IMPINGE UPON ANOTHER. And how a person can be a bishop and believe that a third of his/her clergy are not validly ordained, I simply cannot conceive. I suppose it comes down to a simple matter: it is unjust for anyone to use a position of power or authority to demean or debase anyone else.

A teacher with sincere thought-out racist convictions is NOT morally free to harm or demean people of color in the classroom. A doctor who is a convinced sexist may NOT allow that sexism to endanger or humiliate a patient. A convinced vegetarian school cook is NOT free to deprive the students of meat.

It seems to me that anyone with an ounce of moral sensitivity would remove her/himself from any such circumstances in which those prized convictions would cause even simple discomfort or pain for anyone else.

Posted by John-Julian Swanson at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 8:23pm BST

I share Martyn Percy's belief in opening all orders of ministry to women. I'm not a theologian and I won't attempt to argue his theology, but I will question Martyn Percy's methodology as I believe he's doing liberal faith no favours.

Why does Percy continue to lay his arguments around the person of Philip North after the bishop has withdrawn from the Sheffield appointment? Why does he pepper his article with "what if..?" hypotheticals when the eventual (or actual) reality could turn out to be quite different? It comes across as quite condescending to me.

Most of all, where were Martyn Percy and Modern Church in 2014? If the Five Guiding Principles are so terrible and in dire need of review, why weren't most liberals decrying them then?

Posted by Tim M at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 8:46pm BST

A strong piece with many cogent arguments as to outcomes for the C of E. But I deeply wish the article's justifications were explicitly theological rather than based in current social attitudes and standards. For Christians, discrimination against identity is wrong because Jesus showed it was wrong, because it goes against the order of God's creation, and because it goes against the divine invitation to absolutely everyone to participate in the city of God after all is said and done. Christians who believed this 100 years ago were ridiculed because they were at complete odds with contemporary beliefs, both secular and sacred. To base our arguments on prevailing social winds is not robust enough for our faith, and is dangerous in a world in which this generation's beliefs can pass like the wind.

Posted by Peter S at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 9:04pm BST

An excellent, thoughtful and carefully argued essay. I am relieved that we have theologians like Dr Percy who address issues like this in developed and accessible arguments​ like this and not sound-bites. Moreover, I respect his courage in putting his head above the parapet because he will inevitably be vilified in some circles.

Posted by Daniel Lamont at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 10:40pm BST

At several points during the Sheffield debacle Dr. Percy affirmed that he had no problem with the appointment of Traditionalists as Area and Suffragan Bishops in the CofE , it would have been good if he had said so in his latest article. It would also have helped his case if he had reflected that it is not only Traditionalists and Conservative Evangelical diocesans who cannot exercise a completely authentic catholic episcope. Every Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishop is in full and unimpaired communion with all the other bishops in their own Communion. Moreover, all the members of their individual diocesan presbyterates are in full communion with one another and there is a completely interchangeable ministry within the diocesan college of priests. This has not been so for any diocesan bishop in the CofE since the ordination of women and the opening of the debate about human sexuality. In purely catholic terms, the ministry of all diocesan bishops in the CofE is wounded. It wouldn’t have hurt Dr. Percy to mention it rather than just lay that charge at two doors.

Posted by philip o'reilly at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 12:49am BST

What happens when, inevitably, the Dean of Oxford turns his intellect and pen to the other conspicuous aspect of discrimination and shows the contradiction and discrimination inherent in welcoming LGBTIQ people into the Church while insisting that we are only welcome if we leave our God-given identity at the door? For he surely will do so.

It no longer matters what the archbishops tell the other princes of the Church in the Anglican Communion. It no longer matters what deals and tactics the House of Bishops tries to impose. It doesn't even matter what Synod votes for. The pen of Martyn Percy, Dean of Oxford, is mightier than all of those. The contrast is sharp: following the withdrawal of Philip North, the archbishops have called for a review of process; Martyn Percy instead writes about the theology and does so in terms everyone can understand. He doesn't hide behind arcane layers of tradition, Church reports or Synod motions, but talks directly to people's consciences.

Perhaps the sharpest moment in his latest report comes at the end. I wonder how many conservatives - how many bishops - will see it for what it is. In saying that he welcomes card-carrying members of the Society into the Church so long as they don't expect other people to accommodate their views beyond the basic welcome, Martyn Percy apes the hate-the-sin-but-love-the-sinner response to LGBTIQ people. Percy is far too intelligent for him not to have noticed the comparison, not to have meant the comparison. How long before he openly makes the comparison between how the two minorities are treated?

It would be wrong to over-emphasise what Martyn Percy has written. It is just one moment. But it is hard not to conclude that Martyn Percy is now the single most important voice in contemporary British Anglicanism.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 3:06am BST

Like Susannah, I agree with a broad church on principle.

Even if I didn't, by showing traditionalists that compromise means surrender, the campaign Percy contributed to has ensured that LGBT Anglicans will be denied equality for years, possibly decades. He's helped ensure that the only way it can happen is by forcing it through over their objections.

That being so, I look forward to his evangelism strategy, 'cause boy, he's got a lotta numbers to make up.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 9:35am BST

Talk about kicking a man when he is down! I can't quite see the necessity of this second essay by the Dean of Christ Church when he has already achieved his aim and objective of preventing Philip North from becoming Bishop of Sheffield. Percy is surely over-egging the pudding and labouring his case. In this second essay he keeps pounding away at discrimination.
In all he writes the word
discrimination 27 times
discriminate 4 times
discriminatory 15 times
discriminators 2 times
discriminated 2 times
In all a total of 40 uses of discriminate and associated words! This surely is over-kill?
I find his defense in saying that Traditionalists are not being discriminated against unconvincing. He spends reams of paper putting the case that women priests in the diocese of Sheffield would be discriminated against were Philip North to become their Father in God. Yet just one brief paragraph suggesting that Traditionalists are not being discrimated against. "So let us deal with this briefly", he writes. A fuller explanation would be welcome as it is plain for all to see that Traditionalist are indeed being discriminated against within the contemporary Church of England.
Further, he states that there are "nine serving bishops who won't ordain women". I can only bring to mind six - Chichester, Burnley, Beverley, Richborough, Ebbsfleet and Maidstone. Who are the other three?

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 10:38am BST

Father David: "Who are the other three?"

Well, +Fulham and +Wakefield for two. That only leaves one more.

Posted by RPNewark at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 2:17pm BST

"A fuller explanation would be welcome as it is plain for all to see that Traditionalist are indeed being discriminated against within the contemporary Church of England."

Could you please explain how since many of us cannot see it?

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 2:24pm BST

With another clear minded and rigorous article Martyn Percy will once gain suffer the slings and arrows aimed at people in the church who make sense.

Someone may wish to warn the current Archbishop of Canterbury that it will take more than 90 seconds to read it ( : Speaking of which, one wonders about mutual flourishing as possibly part of a wee chess game. Is there something at work in all of this to make sure that, when the day comes, there are bishops on the board so as to be sure that only a man, and a conservative, will ascend to the throne of Augustine? Some one else referenced this scenario on an earlier thread I believe. It is a question that is of interest in the rest of The Communion.

Finally, I liked Percy's use of the word "asinine" in describing current policy.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 2:25pm BST

James Byron raises the good point of the precedent this creates.

Supporters of male priesthood came to a compromised agreement, giving ground, in the belief that they remained welcomed and included at all levels of the Church of England. Now, having given ground, they are learning that wasn't enough, and they are being further edged out to the margins of Church life.

Turning to LGBT+ issues, those who in conscience don't believe in gay marriage are being appealed to give ground. But will they *really* believe that it ends there? Viewing the priesthood issue as a precedent for what happens when you give ground, will they not be more inclined to hold their ground and concede nothing.

From my continuing discourse with the bishops, fundamental opposition to gay and lesbian marriage focuses on the nature of marriage, which some believe sincerely is ordained between one woman and one man; the view that this issue is a higher order issue than even the gender of priests (and therefore less negotiable) - a 'first order' issue and a matter of salvation; that allowing formal prayers and blessings of gay marriage compromises the Church's position on marriage and relativises the eternal truth, and is therefore inadmissible; that conservatives in the Church simply cannot accept such changes.

Now, doubtless like James Byron, I hold very different views on the subject. But short of complete schism, how - in practical terms - are conservatives to be persuaded to give ground, when they see what happens if you do? First it will be prayers for civil marriages allowed in church. Then it will be letting some churches actually marry LGBT+ people, subject to law change; then it will be ALL churches must marry LGBT+ people. They will observe the present 'priesthood' train of events, and STILL think, okay we're only being asked to give a little ground.

Well good luck with that.

If we want a broad and inclusive Church, then *everyone*'s consciences have to be respected, not just our own. And while I take and value John-Julian's point that one conscience should not be allowed to harm another conscience, frankly I believe a female priest remains intact and unharmed by a decent person like Philip North.

The Church says Anglo-Catholics are welcome. It has not previously said they should be excluded from higher offices. Nor in my opinion should it.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 2:39pm BST

Wakefield and Fulham Father David..don't know the third.

Posted by Perry Butler at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 4:07pm BST

What Martyn Percy has written is really not an attack on Philip North. If you read it carefully you should see that it is a critique of procedures currently being used in Episcopal appointments, which certainly need to be improved. As I see it, the actions of those concerned with the Sheffield appointment did not take proper account of the needs of the diocese, and also caused harm to Father North himself.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 4:18pm BST

In different ways, both Kate and James Byron have it right. Theology abhorring a vacuum, it is both unsurprising and fitting that Dr Percy is being listened to, though I can see how this could also be counterproductive. Minorities deserve nothing less than love, whether they have faced persecution in the past, or face loss and change in the future (memo to correspondents: I am not *equating* anything here). Our identities, whether sexual or social or otherwise, are mostly "given", and saying to one identity that "Whatever you thought we all signed up to, it's actually 'Game Over' for you" is unlikely to build trust, common life or happy outcomes for the whole and its parts. But it's not for me to say, I'm just an ExRevd.

Of course, someone in good standing, with both a theological *and* pastoral office, not just a cathedral but a cathedra, could offer an alternative vision to Dr Percy or his opponents, discern an eirenic way forward perhaps. But as I write this, the second prelate of the land is too busy recycling fake news about Cadbury chocolate products and the National Trust, meanwhile grossly misattributing confected outrage (i know, i know...) to another Christian tradition.

Apparently the heritage charity and the candy manufacturer are "spitting on the grave" of the Quaker chocolatier, to quote the Primate of England, by failing to refer to seasonal Springtime sweetmeats as "Easter Eggs" (actually they are: it's fake news). Note in passing how this attack has drawn in three institutions far more trusted by the English public than the current CofE; more seriously how this is a rehash this side of the Atlantic of the whole "War on Christmas" nonsense and it's attendant dog-whistle politics; and more seriously still, the way it belies a frightened defensiveness regarding the one identity we claim to have and share by virtue of grace rather than of birth or culture.

"Spitting on a grave!" Words that a pastor would want to use judiciously, you would think, and quite a Jeremiad on a subject on which Tradition and long-suffering Reason, let alone Holy Scripture, are uniformly silent. Meanwhile I've yet to hear a peep from ABY and the rest of the English bench about drastic cuts of welfare to bereaved families - and these people get to sit in our PARLIAMENT!!

As I said, theology abhors a vacuum. And neither stones nor chocolate eggs are a substitute for bread.

Posted by ExRevd at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 5:37pm BST

"Most of all, where were Martyn Percy and Modern Church in 2014? If the Five Guiding Principles are so terrible and in dire need of review, why weren't most liberals decrying them then?" — Tim M., 3 April.

Because we made the compromise we had to make to have justice done. As I said at the time, it would be later generations' (such as mine) problem to unpick the blasted thing. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

Posted by DBD at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 6:04pm BST

Father David - I assume that Tony Robinson (Wakefield) won't; Richard Chartres (London - technically was still diocesan when the essay was written) - not sure who the other might be.

Posted by Richard Gillin at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 6:40pm BST

Father David What Martyn Percy is kicking is the basis on which the Church of England can come to appoint a Traditionalist Bishop and argue this is an expression of mutuality in any meaningful sense of the word. He is not kicking the man at all but unless you engage with his actual arguments you could be read as doing precisely that yourself.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 6:54pm BST

DBD: 'Because we made the compromise we had to make to have justice done. As I said at the time, it would be later generations' (such as mine) problem to unpick the blasted thing. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.'

Being of the same generation as you, DBD, perhaps I ought to be glad it's some of the very same supporters of the 2014 measure and 5GP - not a future generation - who are doing the work to unpick the mess they rejoiced in creating just three short years ago.

Maybe I am being unkind in seeing a certain hypocrisy in "repenting at leisure" over 5GP, as well as a concern for the barriers this debacle builds up on the way to bringing in positive change in celebrating same-sex partnerships in the Church of England.

Posted by Tim M at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 9:02pm BST

"Even if I didn't, by showing traditionalists that compromise means surrender, the campaign Percy contributed to has ensured that LGBT Anglicans will be denied equality for years, possibly decades. He's helped ensure that the only way it can happen is by forcing it through over their objections."

As a person in a same sex relationship, I wish to dissociate myself completely from this sentiment expressed in a number of recent comments on this and other threads. I have no interest in same sex marriage bought at the price of failing to defend other disadvantaged groups or minorities. I also struggle to see how LGBTIQ people can convincingly argue that other groups should put aside their own self interest to engage with us if our attitude is to put our own interests first.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 3:04am BST

For those enumerating Anti bishops, it's mostly pretty simple: Maidstone and Chartres plus the Society's rogues gallery here:

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 11:14am BST

Not quite that simple, in relation to the implementation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests. Para 26 says:

"...In all cases the choice should be made from among the male bishops who are members of the House of Bishops of the diocesan synod of that or another diocese of the Church of England."

So I think that now excludes Richard Chartres. And I'm not clear whether one of those pictured on that page DBD just linked to, i.e. Roger Jupp, is eligible. He was a bishop overseas, but now serves as a parish priest in Derby diocese.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 12:10pm BST

Ah yes, an excellent point, Simon. Although diocesan HoBs have included bishops other than the diocesan and suffragans/areas/stipendiary-assistants, i.e. Ian Stuart in Liverpool.

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 2:00pm BST

I wonder whether Philip North might have been acceptable if he hadn't been prominent in the Society? Martyn Percy certainly infers a lot from that membership.

Rightly I think.

The Society has an explanation why they don't believe in the ordination of women but why isn't half the leadership group female? Or more to offset the bias in terms of ordination. Don't they believe women can be leaders and managers either? I think that link illustrates why many of us have a problem with the Society and with Philip North becoming a diocesan bishop - and it isn't explained by their theology, even if that were accepted.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 4:45pm BST

Simon that's right re +Jupp - the Bishop of Derby apparently won't let him exercise any episcopal authority in his diocese.

And Dan - what's this about the compromise "we" had to make? Are you lumping yourself in with the liberals in the Synod that Tim mentions? You've never been on Synod to my knowledge, and last time I hear you were calling yourself a Progressive and categorically not a Liberal?

Posted by A Person at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 5:59pm BST

Philip O'Reilly has said, above, that "(e)very Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishop is
in full and unimpaired communion with all the other bishops in their own Communion. Moreover, all the members of their individual diocesan presbyterates are in full communion with one another and there is a completely interchangeable ministry within the diocesan college of priests. This has not been so for any diocesan bishop in the CofE since the ordination of women and the opening of the debate about human sexuality. In purely catholic terms, the ministry of all diocesan bishops in the CofE is wounded.

While in a strictly legal sense, I suppose this is true or close to true; but those of us who have done any study of church history can't but be aware that a lot of this being "in communion" is enforced by an often heavy-handed demand of conformity vs expulsion--and that tool has been used to address a wide array of differences of opinion and practice within the church, time-out-of- mind. I'm not persuaded that such a legally enforced "intercommunion" is a reliably wholesome way of evaluating communion, but still less, of appreciating fidelity to the Gospel and to the church's Lord. The fact is that, in the churches Mr O'Reilly cites, plenty of variety of opinion, dissent, rancor, willingness to exclude, inducement to fear, and, in fact, violent exclusion has been used in any church you care to name. We Anglicans are just less shy about letting the world see what a messy thing the Body of Christ is. Don't be deceived: our part of the household is no messier than anyone else's. What we have going for ourselves is that most Anglicans still seem to value above all getting everyone to the Table, no matter what their histories or opinions. THAT is the Gospel: not unprovable theories about what constitutes a valid charismatic daisy-chain.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 6:35pm BST

My apologies, Comrade Person, and my thanks for your correction. I wouldn't wish to give an inflated impression of my own agency — I merely stand in solidarity with my comrades who were active at the time: whether we are liberals or progressives, we were & are aiming at the same general goal.

Posted by DBD at Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 12:05am BST

I wish Martyn Percy had done a bit more theology. we certainly need it, but there's barely any at all in his essay, which I feel amounts to not much more than "we all know discrimination is wrong, the law says it is wrong, so let's not allow it." He may well be right, but let's have at least a glance at scripture or Tradition please. A thought about Tradition/liturgy would provide a clue to answering his conundrum about Patrick - we have conditional baptism, where there is doubt about the original: "If thou art not already baptized, N, I baptize you ..." (BCP). Might there not be conditional ordination in such a rare case as the hypothetical Patrick? It's at least a possible line of theological thought.

In any case, I think he is wrong in one rather important respect.

Revisit Percy's example of a prospective Headteacher who does not really believe women should be teachers because of "religious conscience." He assures the governors this will make no difference to how he supports women on the staff (let us suppose too that he has glowing references from his previous place of work, including from many women he line-managed). If he is the "best candidate in every other sphere" then, contra Percy, the Law says they *must* appoint him, since to do otherwise would be discrimination on grounds of religious belief, which is forbidden. Of course, once in place, he must follow up on his promise, since he must not *do* anything which would discriminate against female staff members on grounds of their sex, since that too would be unlawful. Nor would the parents "rightly complain," since they would never know - the contents of his application and interview process are covered by Data Protection laws, and cannot be revealed (even to staff), and nothing he would *do* would be any different from any other of the candidates.

Anti-discrimination law is very much on Philip North's side here, whatever other (theological?) arguments might be adduced against him being a diocescan bishop. Percy, on this at least, is hoist on his own petard.

Posted by Bernard Randall at Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 10:45am BST

Bernard Randall, I'm afraid your argument falls down. To be an exact parallel with the North case, your prospective headmaster would also have to be a board member of an organisation which openly campaigned against women teachers. This organisation would also have to issue ID cards to male teachers, to ensure they had not been appointed by a female head, or appointed a female teacher (I know North would have appointed female clergy, but since teachers don't have an equivalent of ordination the parallel follows).

Thus the parents and staff would be very much aware of his convictions and might well wonder how he could encourage their daughters to fully develop their characters, and be prepared to take on leadership roles as adults. Teachers and governors would be entitled to doubt whether male teachers would be given preference over female teachers when applying for jobs. So yes, the appointment of such a head would create a major problem.

Posted by Janet Fife at Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 6:00pm BST

Communion with Rome and the Orthodox is wounded because of WO and WB, but not because of married priests and/or divorce? Or because some in CoE don't believe in the "real presence" in the sacrament... The subjugation of women is the only difference that "wounds" communion?

What about communion with women? Oh yes, we don't matter.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 2:53am BST
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