We have all been struggling through the thousands of words which have been written about the debacle in Sheffield with the appointment of a Bishop of The Society to the Diocese of Sheffield and his subsequent withdrawal from the post. I think that much of what has been written may have missed the point. In a number of places we have heard people in the Diocese of Sheffield, lay and ordained, male and female, who have said that they did not realise they needed to put in the Diocesan Statement of Needs that they wanted a Bishop who would ordain women “because it is so obvious”. That is exactly the point. We have to accept that it is not obvious and that every statement of needs for a parish or a diocese must include a comment on whether the person who is to be appointed should be somebody who ordains women or not, or somebody who accepts the priestly ministry of women or not. And not some phrase such as “committed to the flourishing of men and women.” We need to be explicit. The experience of another Diocese might help. During discussion in the Vacancy in See committee the point was raised that the Diocese needed a Bishop who would ordain women and that it should be in the statement of needs. A number of people objected saying that it was obvious. However, fortunately the member persisted. It had to go to a vote against very vocal opposition, but the vote was passed and the comment was included in the Diocesan Statement of Needs. The experience in the Diocese of Sheffield has shown us that there are a variety of interpretations of the 5 Guiding Principles. Interestingly, and perhaps something for future discussion esewhere, those who objected to the inclusion of the comment in the Diocesan Statement of Needs were all people who object to the ordination of women. I rest my case.
'One priest may experience the ministry of her bishop who does not recognise her priestly ordination as personally supportive and deeply affirming'. I'm not in a position to comment on individual cases where this may be true, but in principle a bishop's refusal to recognise the validity of a woman's ordination surely implies that in his eyes her actions at the holy table are automatically and permanently deemed to be null and void. I'm not clear as to how this can be 'affirming'.
Once again we have a statement that by-passes core theological questions with appeals to 'patience, tolerance and openness'.
What can possibly be 'mutual' where one side simply does not believe the other side validly exists? That some have found the grace to live within this is impressive and gracious but not actually the point. Andrew Lightbown summed up the situation well when he recently wrote 'the Church of England has in fact veered off in a direction where the concept of leadership is, in reality, prized over and above priesthood, ontology and sacramentality'. Theology is being sidelined. It is very worrying. But it is also clear that 'patience, tolerance and openness' (and all variations on the same) without being based on careful theological foundations are not sustainable.
To Eamonn Rodgers: There are many Anglicans who don't recognise women's orders. To acknowledge such people's rightful place in the Church of England is affirming of them.
Eamonn Rodgers: there are many Roman Catholics, priests and laity, who would theoretically have to say that sacraments celebrated by me as a male Anglican priest are 'null and void.' In practice this is not how they see things; any more than we Anglicans who (again theoretically) have to say much the same thing about Methodists, URC and others would dismiss their ministry. Many Catholics are happy to receive communion from Anglican priests of both genders, whatever the official rules might say. It's not as clear-cut as some might want.
"A bishop's refusal to recognise the validity of a woman's ordination surely implies that in his eyes her actions at the holy table are automatically and permanently deemed to be null and void. I'm not clear as to how this can be 'affirming'."
Hasn't this happened for years in the Church of England? What about an evangelical bishop who has to minister to an Anglo-Catholic? Presumably the evangelical bishop would not recognise the Catholic credentials of the Anglo-Catholic priest. It is quite possible that the bishop might not believe in priesthood at all and simply see his clergy as ministers of the Gospel. And presumably the Anglo-Catholic priest would not feel particularly 'affirmed' by this. I'm afraid this is the reality of being a 'broad church'.
Mutual non-recognition of orders is endemic in Anglicanism. Many evangelicals don't even believe in priesthood; Anglo-Catholics should, if they're obedient to Rome, believe that their own orders are invalid; and the CoE has tried to give its apostolic succession a boost by importing Old Catholics with the magic touch.
That's the mess you get with a broad church. If the CoE's gonna stay one, a way's gotta be found to live with it.
I have many evangelical clergy colleagues who believe that there are only two sacraments and that ordination isn't one of them. They would find talk of ontology and priesthood to be deeply unanglican. As Anglicans all we can do is ask our bishop's to license us. We cannot expect them to necessarily affirm our own understanding of ordination as that takes us way beyond the Elizabethan settlement. Another reason why +Philip should have gone to Sheffield.
Building on David and William:
Non-conformists, on the whole, don't care whether Anglicans recognise the validity of their priestly ministry, because they don't claim to have that sort of ministry themselves to start with. They see themselves as ministers not priests, and what matters most to them is that their Anglican colleagues recognise that: that they are good pastors, preachers, teachers, leaders. There are quite a few Anglican priests whose theology is in practice pretty similar. These are presumably likely to be among the ones who praise Philip North's episcopacy: they don't care whether he thinks they are valid priests or not, but they do care whether he affirms and encourages their ministry, which by all accounts he has done.
There's a circularity here: to over-simplify, only those who share Philip's theology to a significant extent (the importance of Apostolic Priesthood and valid sacraments) find the areas where they nonetheless differ from him (women priests) important. But of course, the same applies to Philip himself: if valid Priesthood didn't seem so important to him to start with, it wouldn't matter that a third of his new Diocese are deprived of it, and conversely, it is precisely because it is so important to him that it is hard to see how he should be countenancing so many of his flock lacking it.
Can someone explain to me in what sense this statement is actually affirming of women's ordination in the Church of England? If i were a member of AffCAff I would be asking for my money back under the Trades Descriptions Act.
'I agree with David'
For me, the key words in this statement are "The Five Guiding Principles affirm that the church is a community, not an organisation, and that its business is love, not unanimity." "Love" is very often indefinable and is the hallmark of any true relationship.
No William. The difference is that being a woman is obviously a state of being and theological differences (Evangelical vs. AC) are matters of belief. The E vs. AC is a classic way to get along in disagreement, because no one's very being is attacked. No one is saying that E's or AC's are less equal in the eyes of God. Non ordaining bishops, particularly those card carrying members of the Society who believe in the Donatist, and deeply offensive, theology of taint, attacks the very being of women and girls.
Andrew Lightbown expresses the problem beautifully. And many people are asking those questions. Further, it has to be said that these principles were led by an all-male bishopric. A 50-50, female-male, House of Bishops would surely have come to an understanding of how deeply offensive and actively harmful the theology of taint is. Somehow those men never foresaw that appointing a non-ordaining diocesan who actively subscribes to the theology of taint has the potential to piss-off every woman and girl in an entire diocese. That is a human reality. The reality is that women and girls CAN'T possible flourish if they are seen as less in the eyes of God and invalid because of their being.
The whole thing is just flawed. I can't imagine a young family wanting to raise girls in such a toxic atmosphere. The only way this works is if there's a way to keep the Boy's Club solidly in the boys camp and not let its toxic effect pollute the self-esteem of girls and validation of female clergy.
Cynthia, your comments are either tragically misinformed, or shockingly offensive. Traditional Catholics categorically reject anything that goes by the name of "taint".
Like it or not, traditional views on the nature of Holy Orders, and who may be admitted to them, are affirmed as entirely legitimate and valid. Not only that, but those who hold them have been promised that they will be enabled to flourish - not just to exist, but to flourish.
The Church needs to move on from this debate, accept that the 5GPs were the way we agreed to have women bishops, and deal with the reality that there are, and will continue to be, traditionalists in senior posts.
"Hasn't this happened for years in the Church of England? What about an evangelical bishop who has to minister to an Anglo-Catholic? Presumably the evangelical bishop would not recognise the Catholic credentials of the Anglo-Catholic priest. It is quite possible that the bishop might not believe in priesthood at all and simply see his clergy as ministers of the Gospel."
The difference is that your hypothetical evangelical bishop would feel the same way about everybody, ++ including himself ++. A traditionalist sees himself and some others to have greater validity than women. That is a pretty stark difference so your comparison is not really applicable.
Am I correct (speaking as a New Zealand Anglo -Catholic) in assuming that 'Affirming Catholics' have assumed that title because of its members' affirmation of Women priests and bishops?
If so, surely - unlike the members of the 'Society of SS Wilfrid and Hilda'- Affirming Catholics do believe that women may be validly ordained in the Church of England. How can they then, for any logical reason, support the divisive appointment of an opponent of the women clergy under his direct pastoral care?
Such a process is not 'Unity in Diversity', but rather; 'Denial in Disunity'. This is not in any way a 'catholic' perception of ordained ministry.
I am a priest of The Society. I have never met anyone who subscribes to Cynthia's "theology of taint", but I have met some people who ascribe it to us. It is not found in The Society's Declaration that clergy, including women deacons, make when asking for episcopal oversight. None of our bishops, including Philip North, teach, encourage or hold Cynthia's theology of taint. The Society instead specifically speaks against it, as Cynthia can read for herself on The Society's website. Finally, it's hardly a Boys' Club (apostrophe, note, Cynthia) when women deacons are to be found there. The whole thrust of Cynthia's argument is based on detractors' fancy because The Society does not subscribe to a theology of taint. Just one more thing: how can a bishop who ordains men (and women deacons) be described as a "non-ordaining bishop"? This same phrase is used on WATCH's website (see their statement about +Philip). It must logically mean non-recognition of men's orders.
The increasingly obvious problem James is that we are a broad church that isn't "at ease with itself". We mostly function like congregationalists on the ground. Above that its like a boxing match where the bouts go on and on but no one can deliver the knock out blow.
"We suggest that it would be helpful for the Church of England to compile a series of case studies which offer examples of mutual flourishing across difference, whilst being realistic about the difficulties which are sometimes expressed."
It's not hard to do this: all you have to do is look to us, your cousins, across the water. One supposes that the leadership in the CofE feels that the experience of the American and the Canadian churches has no meaning or validity (in all the ways one may use the term) for themselves - has nothing instructive or useful to say and show. But we went over all this ground more than 40 years ago. Volumes of documents were published by the American church that scrutinized the ins and outs, theological and otherwise, of admitting women to Holy Orders. Would it really be so hard to access that material to see if something helpful to the English situation might be gleaned from it? Seriously, folks. This isn't new territory, allergic as some may think they are to the American experience.
I don't get all these denials of a theology of 'taint' although I would like to believe it. Because the question has been asked several times and no answer has ever been given (that I have seen anyway):
Why, if he does not hold to this theology, did the ABY not lay hands on Philip North? Surely he could have readily scotched those rumours (if that is indeed what they are) so easily at that point.
Someone explain please??
I wish that people would try more to understand the theology of Forward in Faith, even if like me, you don't agree with it. There may have been members who had an idea of taint in the past but now it is wholly rejected by everybody. Anyone, member or not, who espouses it can be comprehensively reprimanded.
I was ordained Deacon by the then diocesan Bishop of Blackburn, now retired and a bishop of SSWSH and was ordained priest by the suffragan bishop in his diocese who of course ordains under the authority of the diocesan bishop. I was collated into my current parish by the diocesan Bishop who celebrated in giving the parish their parish priest. I think the view of Forward in Faith is that there may be a fracture in the college of priests, but women are still priests. There is no doubt of that. In no way is my integrity as a priest compromised by being collated by a bishop who 'couldn't' directly ordain me, how could it possibly be? I am fully and unequivocally the parish priest here, collated by the Diocesan Bishop. No one theologically questions that. It is not my theological integrity as a priest that is compromised. I have questioned members of Forward in Faith - surely it is their theological and ecclesiological position that begins to get inconsistent. I nevertheless seek to understand it. Through understanding, we are all better able to ensure that there isn't a situation that would compromise it for them. In doing so we can work and minister as closely as possible together, and have each others flourishing at heart. I may be wrong, but that's my experience here.
With great respect, I don't think the US or Canadian churches have anything helpful to offer the CofE in terms of mutual flourishing as neither of them have a place for those who are unable to accept the ministry of women priests or bishops. They abolished any and all provisions a long time ago and make no effort to live with difference on the issue - which is why I had to go to Rome after moving to Canada.
If the CofE wasn't trying very hard indeed to truly enable "mutual flourishing" they wouldn't have these problems either, but they are (and to my mind, it's greatly to their credit) trying to find a way to allow both supporters and opponents of WO to flourish. That is inherently messy, will inevitably lead to theological inconsistencies and can never be neat and tidy in the way things are in Canada and the US.
Lots of work was done here on the admission of women to holy orders. But none was done on mutual flourishing, and it's that part that the CofE is now wrestling with.
"The Church needs to move on from this debate, accept that the 5GPs were the way we agreed to have women bishops, and deal with the reality that there are, and will continue to be, traditionalists in senior posts."
You are right. We are a broad church.
We should have traditionalists in senior posts (As Jonathan Clatworthy suggests we could even create some if necessary).
Mutual Flourishing depends on it.
But just not as 'diocesan bishops'.
Mutual Flourishing depends on it.
"I don't think the US or Canadian churches have anything helpful to offer the CofE in terms of mutual flourishing as neither of them have a place for those who are unable to accept the ministry of women priests or bishops."
This is surely an overstatement.
Does either TEC or ACoC bar such people from holy orders?
I understand entirely the discomfort with the term 'taint'. I would like very much to think that it is mistaken theological shorthand for a more complex ecclesiological position which I, and many of a catholic theological tradition, have failed to understand, though to be fair, not without trying.
To help with that, could someone explain in terms of catholic order:
1) Why the Primate of the Province of York was *not* the chief consecrator or the celebrant at the Eucharist as he should have been when the bishop of Burnley was consecrated - and remembering that PEVs have, I believe, all been consecrated by the primates? And yes, good catholic practice is for the chief consecrator to also be the Eucharistic president, I know, but that doesn't answer the key question.
2) Why most of the (male) bishops present, including the Archbishop, did not lay hands on the candidate? 'Gracious restraint'? - but why is any 'restraint' necessary, gracious or otherwise? What precisely is being 'restrained'?
3) If Burnley had happened first, and then Stockport, would that had made it acceptable for the Primate of the Province to consecrate the bishop of Burnley? Is the order in which these services took place key to explaining 1&2?
4) How any of this maintains 'the highest degree of Communion possible' as outlined in the Five Guiding Principles?
The Primate did not want to create a wrong precedent. If he were to be succeeded by a woman as Primate... You can see where that's going. It's nothing to do with "taint" which, as has been pointed out, is not held by The Society or FIF. In my case, I was ordained both deacon and priest in the same service as women; never has any cleric of The Society (of which.I'm a priest) ever behaved any differently towards me than towards one another. I am also a Priest Associate at Walsingham. Taint? Utter rubbish.
Yes, it is my understanding that to be ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada you have to sign a statement in favour of the ordination of women. Nobody opposed can be ordained, and besides, there are no measures that would enable anybody opposed to remain in the Anglican Church in good conscience.
It's one way or the highway in the US and Canada. And there are good and logical reasons to do that; it's certainly cleaner and tidier and traditionalists were a much smaller minority here than in England. But it isn't what the CofE decided and not what they're trying to do.
Clive, your response is quite general, even as to Canada. Can anyone cite something specific?
And to say that "there are no measures that would enable anybody opposed to remain in the Anglican Church in good conscience" is simply to say that there is no PEV scheme.
Dominic, thank you so much for your comment. I would be grateful if you could clarify one thing for me. You say that you are a priest of The Society and that you were ordained both as Deacon and as Priest in the same service as women. Did the Bishop who ordained you also ordain the women? I had understood that to be a Priest of the Society you had to be ordained by a male Bishop who had not ordained women. Have I misunderstood? I should be really grateful if you would clarify this for me. Thank you.
Thank you. I admit I can’t recall the ABY saying that he did not do what he normally would in a consecration because he did not want to ‘create a wrong precedent’ in case his successor was a woman – the argument being, if I've followed, that he was creating a 'right precedent' by not doing what he would normally do …? Could you point us to the statement where he explains this, please? It would be very helpful to read.
"I had understood that to be a Priest of the Society you had to be ordained by a male Bishop who had not ordained women."
For certain the Society won't accept male priests ordained by a female bishop either directly or indirectly. That is incompatible with accepting the validity of female ordination. That too is taint. Appeals to mutual flourishing aren't going to magic the issue away. The present structures just aren't suitable.
Anne, that is not correct. The criterion is that the priest must "have been ordained by a male bishop in the apostolic succession of bishops at whose ordination male bishops presided"
I was ordained by my diocesan bishop at the same time as women were ordained. I would be eligible to be a priest of the Society, should I desire such a thing. (I don't.)
Dominic that will not do.
By your own admission the idea is to prevent a potential female successor of the ABY laying hands on a future bishop of 'The Society'.
But if there is no effect (not even of taint) in her so doing, then it seems to me that as long as a bishop approved of by 'The Society' also lays on hands then the consecration is still valid.
Excluding a future female ABY from so doing is then, at best, contrary to the first principle of 'due respect' - and looks more like a theology of taint.
I'm am pretty new to church politics so I apologise if there is some well known reason for this, but why are the arrangements for traditionalist male priests under a female diocesan bishop (i.e. so called flying bishops who have care of them) not mirrored by the same arrangement for female priests under a traditionalist diocesan bishop?
Re: Jeremy,Clive and Canada, The decision was made to ordain women as priests in 1975. A conscience clause was put in place which stated (paraphrasing) that no one should be penalized or otherwise required to violate their conscience as a result of the decision to ordain female priests.
The conscience clause was grand-fathered out in 1986 because some opponents of women's ordination used it as a shield to continue to publicly oppose women's ordination and in some cases undermine the ministry of colleagues.
As I understand the situation now, anyone ordained in the Canadian Church is required to acknowledge that they belong to a Church which ordains women as priests and bishops.
Our diocese here has a few parochial situations in which the rector and/or a constituency in the parish do not accept the ordination of women. We had a female diocesan for several years who chose not to exercise her full sacramental ministry as a bishop in those parishes out of deference to said positions. I understand that at least one other Canadian Female diocesan bishop cut some her traditionalists a similar kind of slack.
The statement by Clive (above) That Canada has no "...place for those who are unable to accept the ministry of women priests or bishops." is not entirely accurate in terms of practice; but it is reflective of formal policy, and in my opinion, good thing it is.
Clearly the C of E voted for a policy. That doesn't mean you have to stick with it if you have discovered it to be a dysfunctional fiasco in practice.
Anne, in each of the two ordination services, the same bishop ordained all of us, men and women alike. Clearly he was not a traditionalist bishop!
" I think the view of Forward in Faith is that there may be a fracture in the college of priests, but women are still priests."
- Nancy Goodrich (priest) -
Indeed, Nacy? It would be most helpful, then, if the 'Forward in Faith' members themselves were to declare this fact. From my limited understanding, the whole edifice of F.i.F. exists because of its disbelief in the ontology of women's ordination.
Thank you Anne. I also have a question for Dominic. I have wondered what would happen if a man were ordained by a female Bishop but over time came to believe that the Society's position was the correct one. Could he become a member of the Society and aspire to become vicar of for example one of London's Fulham parishes? Or would he be forever beyond the pale? I am not being facetious; I am genuinely interested.
I too would like an answer to the question that Anne puts. It's good to hear that the Society repudiates 'taint', but does that only mean the unpleasantness of the term is rejected? Or are male priests ordained by a male bishop who also ordains women to the priesthood welcome as priests 'of the Society'? If not, the repudiation of 'a theology of taint' seems to address only a verbal squeamishness.
Re: Taint. If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If it's "unacceptable" for even a single woman to lay hands on a priest or bishop (amongst many male hands), it's taint. If men who believe in WO, or have been ordained or consecrated by WB's are excluded, then it is taint.
I'm sorry. There is no sophistry around the offensive theology of taint. Card carrying members of the SSWSH can't lead any diocese that contains girls and female clergy without doing harm. There is no way around this. Women and girls can't flourish.
Finally, there is science that indicates a psychological toll on girls and women due to discrimination, lack of affirmation, and just being thought of as unequal. You can't get around that science as evidence of the fruits of exclusion. All CoE can do is to decide whether or not to indulge the privileged at the expense of harming girls and women.
It's that simple and that difficult.
"I don't think the US or Canadian churches have anything helpful to offer the CofE in terms of mutual flourishing"
I disagree about TEC (I don't know about Canada). Parishes can call the rector who is the right fit for them. So if they prefer men, or conservatives, or whatnot, they can do that. There are lots of conservative parishes. More conservative dioceses can elect a more conservative bishop, though there are limits to the power of bishops. For some, this works very well, because they are getting what they want in their own local parish.
As CoE is learning, mutual flourishing is not possible to achieve when a top leader doesn't affirm the equality of all people before God. So TEC has the most liberating policies, church wide, but let's them play out on the local ground. The flourishing parishes and dioceses tend to be the liberal ones. Your mileage may vary.
JKR, The Society's catch-phrase is, "receiving sacraments with confidence". Nobody queries the validity of orders given through the historic apostolic succession, which we share with the RC and Orthodox Churches who have not tampered with it. As they don't ordain women, Anglicans took the decision alone, losing the confidence we once had. The Society is a database of those whose orders are in that historic line.
Tony, I answered that very question earlier.
On the one hand, I find it really hard to believe that there are men showing their credentials as members of something that chooses to abbreviate its name to 'The Society'. Don't they realise how sinister that sounds?
On the other hand, at a purely intellectual level, I still don't understand how they maintain their credentials. For example, if Dominic - ordained both deacon and priest by a man who also ordains women - should become a bishop, is what matters simply that the man who ordained him didn't have any women laying hands on him? And thus Dominic can still have his 'membership card'? So the issue becomes one of keeping bishops who are women away from ordination services, or always having a service somewhere which has no such bishops present?
'I have many evangelical clergy colleagues who believe that there are only two sacraments and that ordination isn't one of them. They would find talk of ontology and priesthood to be deeply unanglican. As Anglicans all we can do is ask our bishop's to license us. We cannot expect them to necessarily affirm our own understanding of ordination as that takes us way beyond the Elizabethan settlement. Another reason why +Philip should have gone to Sheffield.'
As I have posted elsewhere, officially Anglicans believe there are only 2 sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. Ordination is not a sacrament (Article XXV). Article XXVI tells us that the efficacy of the sacrament is determined by the worthiness of the recipient, not of the minister.
All clergy have to affirm the Articles when they are ordained and every time they move to a new post. Frankly the Affirmation and oaths are an embarrassment to many of us for one reason or another, if we stop to think much about them (and I do).
However we cannot claim 'the Elizabethan settlement' as a reason why a bishop of the Society should become a diocesan. It's much more likely to be a reason why he should not.
Philip, I don't know if you have had the experience of working with/for/under a bishop who believed a) in the sacramental priesthood and b) that you did not share it. I have, and the experience was deeply undermining
The theology of taint is a misconception. It isn't about taint - male bishops who have ordained women are still bishops and still administer valid sacraments. For traditionalists, the problem is one of communion. They see the ordination of women as a public act of schism from the wider church, and thus see the bishop not as 'tainted' in any ontological sense, but as having wounded the Body of Christ - and thus he has impaired his own communion through an act of public disobedience. There is also the understanding that priests who have been ordained by a bishop form a 'college of priests' around him: traditionalists cannot be a part of a college of priests that does not have a catholic understanding of what priesthood is and which purports to include women.
Kathy brings up - again - taint. Stop it! I've already explained it's a matter of confidence in the apostolic succession, which we get from when there was only one Church. It was accepted by RC, Orthodox and (until very recently) Anglican Churches that only male bishops would ordain. To depart from this unilaterally, as the C of E and other Anglicans have done, impairs communion and questions the succession. The Society maintains that succession within the C of E for reasons of sacramental assurance.
On the ABY, yes the primate usually ordains, but there is no legal compulsion. As Fr Philip North was to be ordained very soon after Libby Lane (I think a deliberate juxtaposition and test of the mutual flourishing), the ABY was conscious that if he were to be succeeded by a woman as Primate, there might be an expectation that she would lay hands on subsequent traditionalist bishops, which would cause inevitable problems. Better for him not to lay hands and set a different precedent. You might also have seen a photo of +Philip and +Libby embracing warmly at the Peace, and another of the two of them, happy and natural and at ease, with the ABY between them after the service. Mutual flourishing in action, and continued by them ever since.
Hello Dominic. I am trying to say this in the gentlest way possible - but - I'm not sure that 'tampering' is quite the word to use! My question is actually a serious one (and you haven't answered it ...). Let me see if I can re-phrase it within 400 words. I am perfectly able to put to one side my personal views about the ordination of women. When I do that, I find it easy to view the Society and Forward in Faith (through the lens of the Fulham set-up, as I have been London-based, and through regular reading of New Directions which has wonderful articles - numerous by Philip North, for example) as something sustaining and entirely good - both for the priests themselves, their flocks and their parishes. I think I'm correct that the number of ‘Society parishes’ is increasing. Clearly, if I was ever ordained I wouldn't be able to be part of all of that, not least because all the priests - young, old and middle-aged - for whom I have much regard wouldn't be able to regard my orders with confidence. No place in the database for me! I have absolutely no doubt that all of them would continue to be kind and loving but it would hardly be a joyful state of affairs. (I wonder if you can imagine what a sad thing it is to see something good, and know that it is closed to you). But the man I referred to in my earlier post wouldn't have the 'problem' of being a woman. So if, despite having been ordained by a woman, he - through prayer, contemplation and adoration - were to come to your view of the historic line and sacramental assurance (surely we have to allow for development / change of thinking?) would he need to re-ordained or would he be another one peering at a closed door? Note that if we were able to get beyond thinking in terms of men and women and think about people being in the apostolic succession, then the perspective would shift and we would be closer to those often-quoted words, ‘So I did sit and eat’.
Helen finds the title "The Society" sinister. How can a group representing a minority within the C of E be any kind of threat? Does Helen think they're a secret society like the Masons? They're not. You can find out anything you want about them from their website: there are no secrets, there is no plot, it doesn't protest against women's ordination. And, it's actually The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. I can't think St Hilda would find anything sinister about us or we wouldn't be benefiting from her intercession. And do, please, remember our women deacons (distinctive deacons, men and women, can be deacons associate at Walsingham).
Thank you JKR for your thoughtful post. "People in the apostolic succession" would indeed be welcome to all of us, were this possible. I think what is difficult is the go-it-alone action of Anglican Churches. We are a fraction of the number of Christians on the planet, most of whom are RC or Orthodox. Were the Holy Spirit to move the majority towards the ordination of women, traditionalists would readily accept it. At present, what we do know is apostolic succession in the direct male line is commonly held by those other two groupings. That is holding to the Tradition, and being faithful to it should not cause me to be insulted by Cynthia, who persists in her baseless accusations of taint.
Thank you Dominic. I wonder whether some might say that the early Christians, not to mention the apostles themselves, made a little bit of a habit of 'going-it-alone'! Sorry - I am just teasing you. Let's hope that one day it will be possible to think about people rather than men and women. There could then be so much less anxiety about getting things right! I like Rowan Williams' suggestion in Tokens of Trust (page 154), 'If eternity as God purposes it for us is a world of joy in giving and receiving, awareness of the glory and generosity of God in all things, all held in the context of the Holy Trinity, our best preparation is getting accustomed to gift and joy, opening ourselves to vision'. (Must get back to work!).
Dominic, it's the definite article which does it for me: 'The' Society. When did the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda become abbreviated in this way? 'The' Society, the only one among lots of other societies to be singled out in this way? On 'the Masons', when I was preparing for a long-ago General Synod debate on freemasonry, I found that they too were very willing to answer questions and explain what they do. I didn't feel any better when I knew, though.
I'm certainly learning a lot here. From Jules too: "There is also the understanding that priests who have been ordained by a bishop form a 'college of priests' around him". Does anyone have the origin of that understanding? As a lay woman, I had no idea that ordination meant joining a group 'around' the ordaining bishop. What's such a group for?
Jules writes: "There is also the understanding that priests who have been ordained by a bishop form a 'college of priests' around him: traditionalists cannot be a part of a college of priests that does not have a catholic understanding of what priesthood is and which purports to include women."
That would seem likely to exclude over half the clergy in the CofE. Many of the bishops and clergy of the CofE would not share a "catholic understanding" as described by SSWSH, I suspect. That didn't seem to stop us all being in unimpaired communion before the ordination of women.
Nor does it take into account the fact that our Roman Catholic cousins do not (at least officially) consider that anyone in the CofE shares *their* "catholic understanding" (apart from a few priests ordained in the RCC who have swum the Tiber in this direction).
Good point, Helen. SSWSH is better. I think clergy of SSWSH have got used to being called deacon/priest/bishop of The Society and thus it's become a sort of shorthand which has the disadvantage of ignoring its two patron saints! It's not, though, a membership organisation: as I've said before (quoting +Burnham), it's a database.
Thanks, Dominic, but if SSWSH is a database, why does its website say it is an 'ecclesial body'? This 'it's not a membership organization' is odd too, when its website talks of 'members', e.g. "The members are those baptized members of the Church of England who worship in parishes and institutions that receive episcopal oversight from the bishops of the Society and ministry from priests and deacons whom they have commended".
" The Society's catch-phrase is, "receiving sacraments with confidence"."
That is taint. QED.
"At present, what we do know is apostolic succession in the direct male line is commonly held by those other two groupings. That is holding to the Tradition, and being faithful to it should not cause me to be insulted by Cynthia, who persists in her baseless accusations of taint."
Why does the Society exclude women from the line of apostolic succession when women have clearly been ordained and consecrated by those who are part of apostolic succession.
Because women taint the line! QED
Why is it that the Society might go along with women if Rome does, but dismisses the MANY Anglican provinces that have WO and WB, some of us for decades?
Believe it or not, Dominic, I'm Anglo-Catholic. There is nothing about the sacraments that women can't do faithfully and validly. Thousands of discernment committees have found that the call to the priesthood is authentic. But it only matters if you get the green light from Rome?
The Kingdom of God is diverse, and so is God's priesthood. The sacraments are valid. And no sophistry gets past the fact that what the Society is engaged in is keeping their lines untainted.
Thank you Rod for your very clear contribution on the situation here in Canada. I think the restraint shown by the female bishops you mention is commendable - in contrast to forced visits that took place in Washington DC while I was living and worshiping there. But although the bishops' charity is to be commended, in reality those "hold out" parishes or clergy in Canada are living a lie. There is a consistent policy across the board here and I honestly don't think anyone with misgivings about the ordination of women can remain an Anglican in Canada with any integrity.
One can debate the merits of this policy vs the CofE. The numbers of traditionalists are much larger in England. I still think it would have been worthwhile to explore church sharing and full cooperation with the Ordinariate. There could have been arrangements whereby people "left" but still contributed financially and pastorally to their parishes while holding their own Mass. But that didn't happen and the CofE has a messy situation to handle. Not for us expats to say how it should go.
'We are a fraction of the number of Christians on the planet, most of whom are RC or Orthodox. Were the Holy Spirit to move the majority towards the ordination of women, traditionalists would readily accept it.'
It would be difficult to obtain the number of practicing RCs and Orthodox, as distinct from those who live in a nominally RC or Orthodox country and are baptised into that church. But if we compared the number of active RCs and Orthodox to the number active in other Christian denominations and groupings, we might find they weren't so dissimilar. The fastest growing churches are mainly Pentecostal, especially in Africa and Asia. If the global number of Christians outside the RC and Orthodox churches came to exceed those inside (which is entirely possible), would you then acknowledge that their understanding of matters such as ordination must be normative?
Cynthia: I would suggest that 'taint' is a bit more restricted than your definition. 'Taint' means treating other clergy and laity differently because of their sacramental association with women clergy.
So, having doubts about the ordination of women as priests or bishops is not 'taint'. Not receiving the sacraments from a women bishop or priest is not 'taint'. Not receiving the sacraments from a male bishop or priest who was ordained by a woman bishop is not 'taint', and similarly any male priest with a woman bishop somewhere in his succession. None of these is 'taint', whether one agrees or disagrees with those who take that position.
It's when someone does not receive the sacraments from a bishop or priest who has ordained or consecrated a woman, that we might accuse that person as regarding the bishop or priest as 'tainted'. It's when someone does not receive the sacraments from a bishop or priest who supports the ordination of women that we might accuse that person as regarding the bishop or priest as 'tainted'.
Several men here have pointed out that they themselves were ordained by a male bishop who also ordains women, perhaps at the same ordination service, and they are accredited by SSWSH. And this seems to be at the heart of the rejection of 'taint' by SSWSH.
But questions can still be asked about attendance at chrism masses and at diocesan eucharists and ordinations etc. Do SSWSH-accredited clergy attend and fully participate in a chrism mass at which their diocesan bishop presides? (We'll allow those in Gloucester or Newcastle to exclude themselves without accusation of 'taint'.) Do SSWSH-accredited clergy attend and fully participate in other diocesan eucharists alongside their diocesan bishop and the other clergy of the diocese?
And it is very hard not to see 'taint' as part of the consecration of Philip North as bishop, where only SSWSH bishops laid hands on him, and a SSWSH bishop presided at the eucharist and was chief consecrator. Perhaps the Archbishop was wrong in offering to restrain himself and encouraging all the other bishops to restrain themselves -- but this certainly makes that consecration very open indeed to the charge that the archbishop and other bishops were seen as 'tainted' by the earlier consecration of Libby Lane.
You make some fair points, Simon - although you won't expect me to agree with the last two paragraphs! Chrism Mass - yes, I've participated as both deacon and priest when the diocesan bishop presided; they weren't concelebrations. (I've also been deacon to both the diocesan and area bishops.) Now as a SSWSH priest I am looking forward for the first time to concelebrating with a SSWSH bishop, as a chance to be together with them all. This is particularly important in my view at this time after what happened to one traditionalist bishop...
Simon, thank you for trying to explain. But as you pointed out, the consecration of +Philip North screams of "taint." And, it is taint. The whole thing is based on taint.
The heart of the matter is what everyone has been asking, without a good answer. Also, no one seems to consider the most vulnerable, in this case girls. Some people have considered the situation of the female priests, which is certainly difficult.
I'm Anglo-Catholic and totally embrace the sacraments as external signs of God's inward Grace. The idea that women "invalidate" the Grace of God by their being, their body parts, is taint. It's brutally humiliating and dismissive and horrific in terms of identifying as a Child of God, created equally in the Image of God. People who need "confidence" in the sacraments should certainly have it, but without thrusting that brutal and cruel message on girls, as would happen with a diocesan bishop. No one has answered how a liberal Anglo-Catholic female priest, lay AC's, and girls can flourish if the bishop doesn't believe the sacraments are valid? Or how any female priest, lay women, and girls can flourish?
The fundamental premise is donatist. In the middle ages it was resolved that if the priest or bishop was a horrible rascal, murderer, whatever, the sacraments are still valid. In recent times, Rome has had to assure people that baptisms and marriages by pedophile priests are sacramentally "valid." But now in CoE there's a whole new episcopacy devoted to the conviction that women invalidate, i.e. taint, the sacrament. Male murderers and philanders are OK, but a righteous woman? Taint. There are ways for people to receive "sacramental assurance" without insulting and demeaning every woman and girl in particular dioceses.
You can define it more narrowly if you like. But if you are serious about the sacraments, taint is the only explanation. Apostolic succession doesn't need to exclude women (Mary Magdalene, other female early church leaders). And the ontological bit is just ludicrous. Guys get it but women don't? Oh please. That is just made up. It's all or none.
Dominic, I'm still wondering how your 'it's a database' fits with SSWSH's own website's description of what it is? And your enthusiasm for 'being together with them all' goes beyond what I'd expect of any database!
Cynthia, you receive the traditionalist position as taint but your view is not evidence-based; your argument is based on false premises which invalidate the conclusion. Rather than chanting, "Taint! Taint! Taint!", which is convincing no one, if you really want to know how the traditionalist position works out in practice, read the statement of support for +P by female clergy in Blackburn diocese and write to +Libby asking if she feels humiliated, second-class, unable to flourish as a bishop. Armed with hard evidence you can then produce hypotheses that can be validated as true and come to a logical conclusion.
Helen: fair comment. I suppose, then, it's a database+!
I've always been told we're not members. Essentially it consists of those who've been ordained in the historic line of succession and wish to be associated with the SSWSH's principles and come under the pastoral care of one of the SSWSH's bishops. Parishes can be affiliated to the SSWSH: these would necessarily have been granted alternative episcopal oversight.
Very interesting, Dominic. But clearly, the women of Sheffield, and their supporters, also received the traditionalist position as something unpalatable for them. You can't hold up the women clergy of Blackburn and +Libby while ignoring the women of Sheffield. So much for logic.
The evidence is how it is received by modern women. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church, I know how the patriarchal practices impact girls. TEC has had women clergy, priests and bishops, my entire adult life. My experience is receiving powerfully valid sacraments through the ministry of women. Including women in CoE, by the way, because I've lived there.
There are two real issues here, and another one of accepting semantics ("taint"). First, is the issue of the vulnerable, one that CoE overlooks as people carve out their intellectual territory. The science tells us that discriminatory behaviour against women and girls has a terrible impact. Those are the fruits of the non ordaining beliefs. Jesus tells us that we can discern truth by the fruits of the labors of "prophets." CoE has not expressed any concern for girls receiving this message, let alone worked out "mutual flourishing". The second issue is the sacrament and how it could be that someone who doesn't believe that the sacraments are valid at the hands of Gods female priests can be a diocesan, especially in a heavily womens' equality diocese. Again, this is about being for the women, not agreeing or disagreeing.
As for semantics over taint. No matter how you package it, it comes down to the fact that Society members believe that women invalidate the sacraments. I'm not sure how women can undo the Grace of God, or how it is that their external signs would mess with interior Grace. That would be a stingy God, not the generous, loving God who created us all in his/her image and called us to love one another and look after the vulnerable.
As a woman and a lesbian I've gotten the full brunt of hateful, discriminatory, and exclusive behaviour. I've come out OK, thanks to a loving God and a line of female clergy who helped open my heart to God's Grace. And I have enough privilege for therapy and whatnot. I can't possibly go through that experience and not Witness for the vulnerable.
I can see providing sacramental assurance for those who just aren't up to speed with God's Grace as revealed through women. Fine. We don't all get to the Promised Land at the same time and on every issue. But the exclusive beliefs are not harmless. So the mutual flourishing bit is difficult.
Dominic, Jules, Philip?
I would rather avoid terms such as 'taint' and 'traditionalist'. They clearly mean different things to different people and I don't think we're going to get very far by arguing over definitions.
I'd be grateful though if you could clear up one point for me. If the ordination of a man is conducted by a woman bishop but male bishops participate in the laying on of hands, do you consider that ordination valid? And if not, why not?
Cynthia, you are completely missing the point. Let me ask you: what possible reason could women bishops who know +P and women clergy whose ministries have flourished under him in the Blackburn diocese have for giving written testimonials of his fitness to be a diocesan bishop? Unless they supported him - or can you think of another reason? In contrast, the Sheffield pressure group had no real evidence to oppose his appointment: they must have acted from non-evidence-based motivations, which must surely be ideologically-based opposition to traditionalists. You are doing exactly the same, with no evidence, using false premises that lead to an illogical conclusion. In your above message you've made it plain you have no intention of finding any evidence. You also again use the curious phrase (taken from WATCH?) of "non-ordaining bishop"; logically, then, as +P only ordains men to the priesthood, these men aren't validly ordained. Also, by the same argument, any women he ordains deacon are still laywomen. Further, in your message you class women as "vulnerable", implying victimhood, with all the baggage that carries. Fact: all three orders and preferment are open to women and the majority of the C of E welcomes it. How, then, can you argue they are being victimised? What's happened - and you clearly don't care two straws about it - is that traditionalists are the ones who are vulnerable because (a) they are in a minority; (b) they are being discriminated against (I have been, very painfully, abusively, and very recently); (c) preferment is being denied them, as shown by +P and the strident, unrelenting voices raised against him. So, please, Cynthia, do not try to make out that women in the C of E are having a raw deal: the tables have been turned and traditionalists (who represent what the Church of England has taught since it was founded by St Augustine in AD 600) are now trying hard not to see themselves as a persecuted minority, because playing the victim is unhealthy and doesn't lead to progress.
Janet: certainly the word "traditionalist" has many connotations. Those to whom it's applied are representing that leg of the stool Tradition: how the faith has been passed down to the saints - the faith, the doctrines, the interpretation of Scripture, not "the way we've always done things" like pews vs chairs or bells-and-smells vs stark services. In other words, it's a theological position, not motivated by the desire to have a "boys' club" (proof: women deacons as members of SSWSH and as deacons associates at Walsingham). What our opponents mean by it is usually negative and disapproving, when it's not hostile.
On your point of the validity of a man's ordination when both men and women bishops lay hands: of course it's valid.
On the term, "taint", this is an invention of non-traditionalists, intended to evoke disgust, to hint at menstruation and thus a belief in the inherent uncleanness of females. It is a vile accusation, and those who use it know perfectly well that traditionalists don't believe in it. That they persist in using the term says more about them than the people they oppose (and the opposition when smeared with the t word is inherently non-theological). If a woman deacon can perform the full diaconal role at Mass in the Shrine at Walsingham, including preparing the altar, raising the chalice at the elevation and so forth, that is a practical and theological denial that the presence of women at the altar contaminates it. It seems astonishingly stupid to me to attack traditionalists for what they don't even believe!
Anyway, Janet, I'd like to know what alternatives you suggest for both t words, please.
Dominic, thank you for taking the trouble to reply. I did not mean my post to be offensive and I'm sorry if you took it as an attack.
Thank you too for clearing up the question about whether an ordination is valid if male and female bishops both lay on hands. That had not been clear to me from previous posts. I agree with you that if such an ordination is valid, the word 'taint' cannot apply. I think it an unhelpful one for the reasons you give. Thank you too for the illustration re. a female deacon at Walsingham, that's good to know.
I have been treated with courtesy and friendliness by men of your persuasion, and am grateful for that. It has to be said that at times I and colleagues have also been treated by 'traditionalists' as if we were indeed tainted, and that leaves a lingering hurt and defensiveness.
I recognise that traditionalists also can be on the receiving end of such treatment, with the same effect. I am sorry for that.
Now, 'traditionalists'. I come from the Reformed tradition, though I'm now more central, with a strong Celtic flavour. The Celtic church of course had a strong tradition of female leadership, including St Hilda who led a double monastery and trained a number of bishops. To the Reformed wing of the Church 'traditional' means holding to the 39 articles and Preface to the BCP, which are strongly Protestant. That's very different to the FiF approach, but equally traditional. And of course, in any parish church 'traditional' is simply what they're used to doing there, no matter how unusual it may be elsewhere. I've been informed that hymns such as 'Lift high the Cross' and 'Rock of Ages' aren't traditional, simply because the last vicar never chose them!
Janet: I didn't take any offence or think you were attacking me. Thank you for your courtesy.
I am sorry that some "traditionalists" have been unpleasant to you, but also pleased that in general you have been treated with courtesy and respect, which is how +P has always behaved (and will no doubt continue so to do, regardless of the personal hurt and spite meted out so unjustly to him).
Interesting you mention St Hilda: did you realise that she is one of the SSWSH's patrons?
Dominic, you are the one missing the point. I'll try to be clearer.
1. It isn't about +Philip personally, no matter how wonderful he is as a suffragan in Blackburn. So mentioning how much he's supported by lots of people doesn't support the argument that I'm making. I feel bad for him because it is the situation that is problematic, not him.
2. The "victimhood" bit, not my words, is that women clergy would be working for a diocesan who doesn't believe in their priesthood or that the sacraments are valid in their hands. This is an incredibly difficult work environment. CoE did not work out how female clergy and their supporters "flourish" in an environment where the sacraments aren't considered valid and the women aren't considered real priests.
3. The vulnerable bit, which are my words, includes the fact that girls suffer due to exclusionary and discriminatory rhetoric and reality. No one has answered how girls "flourish" with a non affirming diocesan.
4. The theological issues expressed by Linda Woodhead are completely unanswered.
5. You are not getting it. Issues of being are profoundly different from simply disagreeing. Even if your arguments made total sense, and they don't, it would be a problem of women and girls being being unaffirmed and even challenged.
Your arguments are full of illogical premises and conclusions. Sheffield's opposition being "ideological" rather than seeing that the appointment of +Philip revealed the problems of "mutual flourishing," plus the theological problems that Linda Woodhead raises. You don't understand that despite being in the majority, the particular women and girls in particular dioceses would struggle with "flourishing" in some circumstances.
You think that this can be won or lost by arguing how many angels can sit on the head of a pin, and it can't. It is "won" when two things happen: 1. women and girls feel lifted up and affirmed (not when men tell us we "ought" to feel affirmed if we would just see it your way); and 2. traditionalists have sacramental assurance, without unaffirming women and girls.
I'm sure there's a way to work that out. On another thread someone expressed a potentially workable idea. But it won't be won when women follow your problematic "logic" and premises.
Cynthia, you very clearly have no intention of recognising that +P's female clergy supporters and women bishops "feel lifted up and affirmed" by him. You are ignoring evidence because it doesn't fit your preconceptions. These women are the only ones whose experience is valid in this whole sad saga because they know for themselves, which you don't. The whole basis of everything you've written on this thread is this: a traditionalist male bishop must never be allowed to be a diocesan and you (and WATCH) will implacably oppose such an appointment. You will ignore any evidence from women of such a man's ability to encourage the flourishing of women clergy: their evidence and experience don't count for you. Why? And on this answer hangs the soundness of your case.
Yes, I did know that St. Hild(a) is one of your patrons. I do find it quite ironic - I wonder how she feels about it? We'll know someday!
Yes, Janet. She's praying for us now for the hastening of that Day when all three of us will rejoice together in the presence of Our Saviour! Marana tha!
Dominic, I'm not ignoring "evidence." You are lifting up the women of Blackburn, who dealt with +P as a suffragan, while your ignore the evidence that the women of Sheffield had unanswered questions.
You have not even begun to answer the questions that I and many others have raised. You go on about evidence and logic without recognizing your own clear fallacies, and without answering the questions.
You can't even quote me properly. I didn't say that "traditionalists" could never be diocesans, but that the issue needs to be worked out so that "1. women and girls feel lifted up and affirmed (not when men tell us we "ought" to feel affirmed if we would just see it your way); and 2. traditionalists have sacramental assurance, without unaffirming women and girls."
Really, what is clear, is that you are not dealing with the reality of how the exclusionary and discriminatory beliefs and actions negatively impact girls and women. The science is in on that. Whatever happens has to deal with that reality and figure out how to do the traditional thing and do not harm. The traditionalists need to have some sensitivity about that.
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