Comments: Opinion - 29 March 2017

Not only have Managing Directors rather than Spiritual Directors taken over the Church but now legalism takes precedence over Scripture and theology. The disputes in the dioceses of Sheffield and Llandaff, having now been referred to legalistic independent review, shew no indication of having taken note of Matthew 5, verse 25 "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art on the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge..." etc.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 9:01am BST

Superb analysis from Archbishop Cranmer, and an intriguing line of argument from Sam Charles Norton.

It makes one wonder whether we should recognise frankly that the Church of England is at the point where there are no normative ecclesial convictions that bind us together at all. We see ourselves as Christians of one kind or another, and we live alongside each other in the same institution, but we appear to have no common theological understanding of episcopacy, priesthood, sacraments, the nature of the church, ethics, etc., and are tired (or 'exhausted' as the Welsh Bishops might put it) even of discussing the issues.

So we handle disputes by focussing on process, not substance. Ironically (as those familiar with political philosophy will know), one might see this as the very definition of liberalism.

Posted by Charles Clapham at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 9:33am BST

I don't understand why Arch. Cranmer describes the ABC's referral to the Independent Reviewer as 'passing the buck'. Nor do I understand why he describes this as a 'political' review. That the process needs examining and held to account is plain to all. That is what I understand this referral to be about and I welcome it. But I do see it as sitting alongside a very necessary theological review and I have yet to hear if and how this is planned? Have I missed something?

Posted by David Runcorn at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 10:58am BST

'It makes one wonder whether we should recognise frankly that the Church of England is at the point where there are no normative ecclesial convictions that bind us together at all.'

I think we have been at that point for a very long time, at least since the rise of Tractarianism and Evangelicalism, if not before. The 39 Articles were meant to provide normative ecclesial convictions for all in the C of E perpetually, but clearly have not done so. I wonder if anyone really believes them now?

The argument that the link between the bishop and the presiding priest determines the authenticity of the eucharist has been a new one to me within the last couple of weeks. I've only encountered it in posts on this site, and I was first ordained in 1987. I've always considered that the authenticity of the Eucharist relies on the recipient's faith in Christ (as indeed Article XXVI tells us). This is New Testament teaching, and anything else seems to me to hint of gnosticism. We have direct access to Jesus, we don't need layer upon layer of intermediary. Thank God, since we intermediaries are so unworthy to carry the burden!

The Guiding Principle I most struggle is with No. 3, that we are still in a period of reception re. the ordination of women as priests and bishops. How can that be? As Archbishop Cranmer points out, this is in direct contradiction to GP 1, that ordained women are lawfully and truly ordained. Is it really considered possible that at some point the Church may decide ordaining women was a mistake? What would happen to those already ordained and exercising 'lawful and true' ministry? Would their ministry suddenly become unlawful and untrue? How would congregations and dioceses react to their priest or bishop being declared not a priest or bishop? Would some of them worry that their baptisms or marriages were invalid?

It doesn't make sense to me, and that is one GP I would be unable to affirm if asked. I had offered to mentor candidates for ordination, but if I were required to guide them through affirming the 5 Guiding Principles I would have to decline. The Principles themselves seem to be lacking in integrity, and requiring ordinands to sign up to them compromises the ordinands' integrity at the outset. Unless of course the Archbishops, House of Bishops or (better yet) a representative working party can provide us with the theological and practical outworking we keep asking for.

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 12:30pm BST

There is of course this review already in progress. But that is concerned with the CNC in general, and not with the Five Principles in particular.

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/007373.html

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 12:56pm BST

'The Principles themselves seem to be lacking in integrity, and requiring ordinands to sign up to them compromises the ordinands' integrity at the outset.'

I entirely agree, Janet, and I don't think I'd be happy to sign up to the principles myself. (I was rather surprised to learn that ordinands have to!) So one ends up with a situation in which (in order to get a piece of legislation through) the General Synod and/or House of Bishops have set out a set of principles that many clergy or lay people not involved in the decision cannot in good faith support (or even understand the logical consistency of).

Incidently, the idea of eucharistic validity being connected to the relationship between bishop and priest is not a novelty unique to Thinking Anglicans ! It's connected to the idea of apostolic succession (which in fact arose historically as a way of combating Gnosticism).

For want of a better reference, try Wikipedia's discussion of the various debates at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostolic_succession
which will also link through to numerous other accounts and resources.

Posted by Charles Clapham at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 2:28pm BST

Although I have no definite views about the North imbroglio, I am in some sympathy with Sam Charles Norton’s intriguing and perceptive piece. He has touched upon the tensions inherent in Anglicanism that have never been properly resolved since the Act of Supremacy, and which are now being exposed by the remorseless logical corollaries of those changes to Church policy made since 1993 that have been driven by the desire for gender equality.

The question is whether it is now sustainable for the Church to declare itself as being both ‘catholic’ and reformed. We have 'Apostolicae curae' (1896, but arguably based in part upon the flawed and prejudiced scholarship of Gasquet) and 'Ad tuendam fidem' (1998), both deprecating the notion of an apostolic succession within Anglicanism. The Anglo-Catholic party believe the succession to have been maintained. However, absent Francis (or his successors) overturning Leo XIII we shall have to assume that Rome considers the English Reformation to have sundered the succession and created a schismatic organisation in England which may (or may not) be a church. Therefore, the claim that the Church is ‘catholic’ (i.e., part of a wider organism in succession from the apostles) is problematic from the perspective of Rome, if not also of ‘Constantinople’.

This being so, one of the fundamental predicates of Anglo-Catholicism (specifically that the legitimacy of prelacy and priesthood is contingent upon an unbroken succession) is perhaps doubtful, even if meant sincerely. It perhaps follows that all Anglican bishops are not really bishops in any apostolic sense and it therefore matters scarcely a whit whether clergy are ordained by male or female bishops or are ordained at all. This then, leads us ineluctably to query whether, in a ‘reformed’ Church (where the rhetoric of a priesthood of all believers is commonplace), it is necessary to have ordained clergy administer the two sacraments. By law it is, of course, necessary to have clergy perform these rites; however, if some of the ecclesial and theological justifications underpinning consecration/ordination are impaired, or debatable, do we really need clergy at all? Must we, especially in an era of acute financial difficulty, have clergy only if they are useful? [NB: This is not currently my own view.]

If these questions ever become pressing can the Anglo-Catholic party really feel at home in an organisation where the verities they once presumed immutable and eternal become increasingly uncertain and transient?

Posted by Froghole at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 3:04pm BST

Gave the shop worn arguments in the Archbishop Cranmer article a glance: "The theology of patriarchal Church leadership is straightforward and well-known, not least because it has endured for 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy." Well known it is; but it endures no longer. Feminist theologians and biblical scholars have already provided rigorous and erudite analysis regarding the bias of patriarchy/kyriarchy.

"In short, Christ is the Son of God; God became man. He revealed to us God as Father. The Son of God chose 12 male apostles to establish and lead the Church." This kind of short hand is largely a begging of the question--or rather questions.

Most interestingly is the notion that the twelve (males) were chosen to establish and lead the church. Were they indeed? There is every indication that the twelve were chosen based on the twelve tribes of Israel motif to sit as judges when the kingdom arrived. As Jesus' expectation about the arrival of the kingdom appeared to be mistaken, the notion of the twelve as a functioning group after this manner seems to dissipate in the early Christian communities with leadership by men and women outside the twelve becoming a more immediate and vital concern.

Notwithstanding, Archbishop Cranmer likely does have a point about the politics of an independent review.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 3:17pm BST

What's interesting about Cranmer's piece which, I think, shows that he is a man of integrity prepared to listen to argument, is that it's a pretty violent shift on his take on Martyn Percy's argument. I suspect he differs from Martyn Percy on the eventual endpoint he would like to reach, but he now agrees completely with Percy's basic argument: that the five principles are unworkable, because the "true and legal" part won't be agreed to by the very people for whom the five principles were drafted to "protect".

That's a double bind that once (to mix a metaphor) out of the bottle can't be put back: people who accept women's ordination don't need the five principles, and people who don't accept women's ordination don't accept the the five principles either. Joseph Heller couldn't have done a better job.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 4:43pm BST

'Incidently, the idea of eucharistic validity being connected to the relationship between bishop and priest is not a novelty unique to Thinking Anglicans ! It's connected to the idea of apostolic succession'

Charles, I didn't think the concept was a TA novelty (perish the thought!). I'm familiar with the concept of apostolic succession as being conveyed by the laying on of hands in unbroken succession - it's just that I hadn't previously heard that outworking of it.

Coming from an evangelical background, I was taught that apostolic succession is a matter of conforming to the apostles' teaching, being called to ministry by the same God, and operating in that ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. I'm more post evangelical now but I still consider that a good definition.

St. Paul was not a follower of Jesus during Jesus' lifetime, and began his teaching and preaching ministry without anyone ordaining him (laying on hands to set him apart for ministry). That was eventually done when he was sent on his first missionary journey, by a group of prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch. The group did not include an apostle, unless Barnabas and Matthias are the same person.

It would be interesting to study New Testament accounts to see how the people laying on hands, and the office of the person set aside for that ministry, are described in different cases. I don't read that it was usually done by an individual, or that those ordaining had their spiritual lineage checked. If I've overlooked something I'd be glad to have it pointed out - and I'm sure someone will!

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 8:32pm BST

Reading the comments so far ( the latest I see is from Interested Observer 4.43) makes me wonder if I am a bit unusual.

As I scanned down the Opinion offerings (thanks again TA for this amazing service) I saw first David Pocklington Law & Religion, and thought, "that looks interesting".
Next came Archbishop Cranmer , and I thought, "Also interesting".
Then Sam Charles Norton Elizaphanian, and as he is a new name for me, I thought "even more interesting."
But when I saw Paul Bayes ... For Carol’s Sake, For Christ’s Sake, We Must Look After The Poor, my response was "Now this I must read"

I am so glad I did. As usual from him, an excellent, and very moving piece of writing, putting so many other matters into perspective. Our outrage about how the most vulnerable members of our society are being treated (and the NZ scene is not unsimilar to the UK one) should find its way to the top of our considerations and inform our Lenten reflections. I still think the other stuff is interesting, and I'm going to read it now, but I am glad I read +Paul first.
Any chance of moving him to London?

Posted by Edward Prebble at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 8:40pm BST

OK, I have read the articles now, and indeed they were all very interesting. I think I have to go along with Interested's double-bind-out-of-the-bottle-catch-22 analysis.
But let's not forget about Carol.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 9:16pm BST

A key paragraph in 'Cranmer's' article is this:

". If a diocesan bishop can have no confidence in the women clergy he leads, believing, as members of The Society do, that women priests and bishops are inconsistent with the apostolic tradition, in what sense can Philip North assent to the whole of the first principle without obfuscating the meaning of ‘true’? Whether his objections are ontological (that women are incapable of receiving ordination), or ecclesiological (that the decision to ordain women cannot be taken by the Church of England in isolation), his theology of leadership refutes the ‘true’ validity of their ministry."

It really is all down to the authenticity of the sacerdotal ministry of women; which the canons of the Church of England now embraces. The C. of E. cannot be duplicitous about this important matter. Neither can 'The Society' nor Bishop North.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 9:37pm BST

" I've always considered that the authenticity of the Eucharist relies on the recipient's faith in Christ (as indeed Article XXVI tells us). This is New Testament teaching, and anything else seems to me to hint of gnosticism. We have direct access to Jesus, we don't need layer upon layer of intermediary. Thank God, since we intermediaries are so unworthy to carry the burden!"
- Janet Fyfe -

Your statement here, Janet, makes me wonder why you bothered with ordination to the priesthood - if you really believe what you say in your penultimate sentence here. How would your own ministry as a priest be any different from the priesthood of the laity, which the Church recognises as that of a different 'order'?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 29 March 2017 at 11:56pm BST

Traditionalists have evolved a theology of communion in varying degrees to explain/justify their position in relation to those who support the priestly and episcopal ordination of women. However, a principle issue cited as the root of their doubt over the validity of women’s orders is the lack of catholic consent in the wider church. So, let us hypothesise a future time when, say, the RC church decides to ordain women to the priesthood and perhaps the episcopacy. How would our Anglican traditionalists view such a papal edict? What then would be the status of those women already ordained and those men who have by then been ordained by women?

Would this hypothetical future RC decision suddenly make their ordinations retrospectively valid?

Would they all need to be ordained afresh before the validity of their orders could be accepted?

In the former case, the erstwhile objectors would need to acknowledge (and repent?) that they had, in the intervening years, denied the action of the Holy Spirit in the ordination and ministry of those clergy whose orders they had not accepted (cf Mark 3.29; Luke 12.10??) – or is the Bishop of Rome able to alter the action of the Holy Spirit retrospectively? The latter case seems more consistent with their present traditionalist position, ie that it’s only possible for a woman to be validly ordained once catholic consent has been achieved, which would require ordination afresh.

This isn’t just angels on pinheads. An answer to this hypothesising might flush out a clearer understanding of the present traditionalist theology. If (as I suspect) the members of the Council of Bishops of The Society assert that God has not yet “sent down His Holy Spirit … for the office and work of a priest in His church” upon the female Anglican priests and bishops whom the rest of the church considers to have been duly ordained, then I fail to see how any bishop of that Council could function as a diocesan with integrity. They could not, for example present any women (not being a valid priest) for collation to a benefice under their patronage. Neither could they authorise by seal (as required by canon) the institution of any woman (not being a valid priest) to any other benefice in their diocese. Nothing in the Declaration (which is not law) can go against the extant Measures and Canons.

Posted by David Smith at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 1:21am BST

«I suspect he differs from Martyn Percy on the eventual endpoint he would like to reach, but he now agrees completely with Percy's basic argument: that the five principles are unworkable, because the "true and legal" part won't be agreed to by the very people for whom the five principles were drafted to "protect". »

You and Cranmer might be missing a point. It is worth restating the first principle in full:

"Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;"

You will notice that the "true and lawful" bit applies to "office" not "orders" used in the first part. This is crucial. Offices are a matter of law, not theology like orders. So it is possible to believe someone has, by operation of law (so "true and lawful") been appointed to an office without believing they are a priest. My understanding is that this is the loophole which allows Society members to accept the guiding principles. I would also add that the clause also only says that 'those whom [the Church] has duly ordained' are the 'true and lawful' office holders is anyway vacuous in the face of disbelief that women can be 'duly ordained'.

The first principle sounds as though it signs traditionalists up to acceptance of the women as priests and bishops but it is actually empty. Upon inspection the second and third principles are equally vacuous. Then although traditionalists have accepted nothing other than legal reality, principle 4 then gives them the full protection they wanted. Principle 5 then builds on 4 to extend that protection but it has a limit and that is the limit which was triggered in Sheffield.

The principles are 95% slanted to protect traditionalists. My objection to the principles is that they are fundamentally dishonest, and I believe were known to be dishonest from the start by a significant number of bishops. They are not as balanced as they initially appear. It is a sleight of hand which to me appears deceitful and un-Christian. That ordinands are then being required to accept them is oppressive.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 3:03am BST

'Your statement here, Janet, makes me wonder why you bothered with ordination to the priesthood - if you really believe what you say in your penultimate sentence here. How would your own ministry as a priest be any different from the priesthood of the laity, which the Church recognises as that of a different 'order'?'

I was stating the classic Reformed/Evangelical point of view. This is enshrined (oxymoron alert!) in historic formularies of the Church of England and is authentic Anglicanism. I have referred to it in several posts because I think it is being overlooked, and catholic theology and ecclesiology assumed to be the norm. My first vicar (from a Reformed outpost in Chichester diocese) used to say that the Reformed position was more genuinely Anglican than the Catholic.

Of course the C of E is both catholic (small c) and reformed (small r) and I have moved on over the years to where I now have more devotion to Our Lady, St Theresa of Avila, St. Hilda & St. Cuthbert than I to Calvin or J. C. Ryle. I'm quite an eclectic mix.

But I would still argue that no intermediary is needed between the believer and Jesus. This is the NT view as I understand it, and the BCP view. Note that in the BCP the priest is more usually referred to as the 'minister', and the BCP absolution can be used by ordinands, deacons, & readers.

The minister/priest can function as a pastor/teacher, evangelist, encourager, prophet, healer etc to build up the body of Christ. But when the priest comes between the believer and Christ rather than pointing people towards Christ, there is a problem. I'm sure catholics would agree with this, though their language and concepts might be different. An RC friend used tell me that a true vision of Our Lady would always point people to Jesus. If the vision concentrated on Our Lady herself, in his view it was false.

Returning to Reformed arguments, they maintain that the derivation of the word 'priest' in English harkens back to the NT 'presbyter' (elder), via 'prester' and 'prest'. I'm not an expert on Old or Middle English so don't know if this is true, but it is true that the place names 'Preston' and 'Prestbury' mean 'priest town'.

I don't see in the NT an incidence of someone being 'ordained' (having hands laid on by the church leaders to set them aside for a specific task), specifically to confer baptism or celebrate Holy Communion.

I was ordained because God called me to it, I fought it until I couldn't fight any longer, and the Church recognised my vocation. Being ordained first deacon and then priest meant more to me than I expected, coming from my theological background. The Holy Spirit is always surprising us! Celebrating the eucharist was and is a profound experience which I have written about before. Having been a priest 23 years next month I am still exploring its meaning and riches.

But I don't want the Church's Reformed roots to be neglected entirely, because I think it provides a healthy balance.


Posted by Janet Fife at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 12:13pm BST

'Any chance of moving [+Paul Bayes] to London?'

No way! We love him and need him here in Liverpool.

Posted by David Emmott at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 4:18pm BST

" Offices are a matter of law, not theology like orders." -- Kate

Having just whiled away ten minutes waiting for EP to start by reading the Ordination of Priests in the BCP Ordinal I am not so sure. The questions put to the candidate all speak of "the office" to which he is to be ordained. Those who drew up the principles must have known this; if they'd wanted to separate out "pastoral charges" from "priesthood" they surely would have chosen another word?

Posted by american piskie at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 7:03pm BST

I have been trying to follow the issue about the see of Sheffield, mainly on TA but also in other places, and I cannot understand why it should be thought out of order to question the appointment of a member of The Society as a diocesan bishop. The first thing to say, of course, is that it is deplorable that Philip North has suffered personal attack and insult. There is never any excuse for such behaviour. But there are questions that have gone unanswered, and the Archbishops need to do better in their reaction to this crisis than they have done so far.
We are told that Philip North does not doubt the validity of the orders of women clergy. But, as I understand it, his position is that it is important to him to adhere to the tradition of male priesthood which is maintained in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and this is so crucial for him that he wished at his consecration as Bishop of Burnley to have hands laid on him only by three male bishops who share his position. While I have to respect this, I have difficulty in understanding how the Church as an institution did not foresee that this insistence on separateness might limit his effectiveness as the bishop who has to lead a whole diocese. (I don't find the term 'focus of unity' a helpful one). Since in our church it is agreed that all orders of ministry are open equally to all, this privileging of the male seems damaging to women - not just women clergy! - and I suspect there are also men who find it inappropriate. I speak as an ordinary laywoman, and occasional sacristan and server; I am concerned about how this looks to anybody whose mental processes are not shaped by ecclesiastical thinking. None of my adult children or their partners have any interest in church affairs: that makes eight youngish people with backgrounds variously in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches who have moved away. I am reminded of how out of touch the Church was exposed as being, when the House of Lords debated equal marriage, and the bishops seemed to be surprised to discover that most of their fellow members were in favour. In both the exclusive attitude to women in the Sheffield story, and the unimaginative and unsympathetic treatment of LGBTI people over the marriage issue, I see the Church displaying a wrong sense of priorities.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 8:56pm BST

"[T]he Archbishops need to do better in their reaction to this crisis than they have done so far."

I seriously doubt we will see anything more from the Archbishops, other than a thank-you to the IR once he issues his report.

This episode was caused by the (arch?)bishops' five principles. The five principles have either proven unworkable or have given anti-women-bishop traditionalists false hopes.

Additionally, I would not be at all surprised if Ebor has been quietly pushing North's candidacy to a degree that Ebor will not want made public.

So for several reasons, the Archbishops will want this to end slowly and quietly.

"I am reminded of how out of touch the Church was exposed as being, when the House of Lords debated equal marriage, and the bishops seemed to be surprised to discover that most of their fellow members were in favour."

Well said. It may be odd to hear it from lords and ladies, but the culture is speaking to the church. Let us hope the church will break out of its closed circle, and listen.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 30 March 2017 at 11:07pm BST

@american piskie

This is the Forward in Faith commentary:

"This principle states what the Church of England corporately holds, not what individual members of it may or may not believe. But in any case, it is not problematic.

"To understand it correctly, we must bear in mind the distinction between office and order. With parish clergy this is easy, because the names are different. ‘Rector’, ‘vicar’, ‘priest in charge’, ‘assistant curate’, etc are offices; ‘priest’ is an order of ministry. With bishops, however, we use the same word (‘bishop’) for the office and the order, and that may cause confusion."


Source: http://www.forwardinfaith.com/WBProvisions.php?id=217#

Posted by Kate at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 4:54am BST

I'm not sure if the "American Piskie" and I are reading the same BCP? He writes "The questions put to the candidate all speak of "the office" to which he is ordained." However, the Ordinal in my 1662 BCP has the title "The Form and Manner of ORDERING of Priests" and the very first words are "Reverend Father in God. I present unto you these persons present, to be admitted to the ORDER of Priesthood." NB. ORDER not OFFICE.
The Ordinal of the 1977 BCP of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America uses neither the words OFFICE nor ORDER but calls the service "The Ordination of a Priest" and in the words of Presentation - "we present to you N.N. to be ORDAINED a priest in Christ's holy catholic Church".

Posted by Father David at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 7:28am BST

I apologise to Fr David and others; it is not (as I wrongly asserted) in the questions, but in the Bishop's introduction to them: "You have heard, brethren, as well in your private examination, as in the exhortation which was now made to you, and in the holy Lessons taken out of the Gospel and the writings of the Apostles, of what dignity and of how great importance this office is, whereunto ye are called."

But I think I still stick to my point: the BCP, gold standard of C of E doctrine, uses "office" for something more than an archdeaconry or vicarage or whatever. I don't find FiF a safe guide in these matters.

Posted by american piskie at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 8:02am BST

'in the BCP the priest is more usually referred to as the 'minister', and the BCP absolution can be used by ordinands, deacons, & readers.' : Janet Fife

The BCP is very exact in its use of words. It uses 'Minister' where the function can be performed by a deacon or priest and 'Priest'/'Bishop' where its is more restricted.

Thus in the order for Evening Prayer:
'The Absolution or Remission of sins to be pronounced by the Priest alone, standing: the people still kneeling. [...] If no priest be present the person saying the Service shall read the Collect for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity, that person and the people still kneeling.'

Similarly, in the Order of Holy Communion:
'Then shall the Priest (or the Bishop, being present,) standing up, and turning himself to the people, pronounce this Absolution.'

This is fairly explicit as to the role of priest (and bishop) as against the more general role of minister.

Posted by NJW at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 4:41pm BST

I have finally got round to reading Paul Bayes' piece - rather late, to my shame. We need more prophets like him.

As Cranmer said (Thomas, Archbishop, not the blogger): 'Food grows dearer. Do our brothers grow dearer too? No! they freeze and starve beneath our heaven-bent feet.'

Posted by Janet Fife at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 5:00pm BST

Chichester has been mentioned a number of times in the various discussion threads here about the Sheffield situation and the role of 'The Society'.

+Chichester is a Bishop of the society.

Until recently no bishop of the diocese would ordain women as priests though the diocesan ordained them as deacons. Instead a retired or 'assistant' bishop was imported to do the deed.

On the arrival of +Martin and the retirement of +Walkace Benn the new Bishop of Lewes was chosen from amongst those who would ordain women priests and subsequently the Bishop of Horsham resigned his membership of 'The Society'. This meant that only the Diocesan would no longer ordain women to the priesthood.
Again until recently the practice was that all Deacons were ordained in the Cathedral but priesting took place in a parish church by the appropriate one of the three bishops, +Martin ordaining those who would not be ordained alongside women.
In 2016 again all Deacons were ordained in the Cathedral by the diocesan but that year there were two ordinations in the Cathedral on successive days. On the first all except one man were ordained priest by the Bishop of Lewes with the Diocesan and +Horsham in attendance. The following day one man (a member of the Society) was ordained priest by the Diocesan with the others in attendance. Almost exactly the same service was used with the same resources including the choir and volunteers, something which caused considerable disquiet amongst members of the Cathedral community. As can be seen on the Diocesan Facebook page, the second ordination was concluded with a private blessing of some people by the new priest out of sight of the congregation in the Shrine area of the Cathedral.

It seems to me that this practical out working of the beliefs of The Society along with the separate episcopal ordination of Bishop North exemplifies the doctrine of 'taint' which the Society is at such pains to deny. That such special measures have to be taken ensures that there is no cross contamination between those who ordain women and those who don't. It would seem to be clear that the Society is setting itself up as a third province in embryo and that its priests and bishops can only be described as semi-detached from the Church of England.

I see that this year the former practice is to be resumed.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 6:19pm BST

Actually, unless I am seriously mistaken, when the BCP uses the term "minister" it intends to mean that any baptized person can function as the minister.

There also seems to be a misunderstanding among some here that a priest is required to administer baptism. While in practice that is going to be the common practice, and is an aid in maintaining order, it is also possible for a lay person to administer baptism when there is good reason. Eg., it is not at all unusual or inappropriate for an alert nurse on a neonatal ward to baptize when there is a baby in danger of dying and when she knows the parents would want that. Similarly, there have been occasions when lay people living in remote communities in Canada, where an ordained person may seldom be present, for periods that may be as long as years,, when a lay person may baptize on perfectly good authority.

And to extend this even further, again in remote communities in Canada, a couple can undertake marriage vows by themselves or with others as witnesses and have a perfectly valid sacramental marriage, which is then recognized formally and blessed the next time a bishop or priest is present.

Good sacramental theology has it that any baptized person can act as the minister of the sacrament of baptism, and that the ministers of the sacrament of holy matrimony are the couple themselves. In the later case, a priest or deacon acts as officiant, to guide and support the couple and, if a priest, to pronounce the blessing of the Church, and where the local civil law permits, to pronounce the recognition of the state.

Posted by Garry Lovatt at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 6:32pm BST

Richard Ashby -

As the deacon for the ordination of the Society priest in Chichester Cathedral last summer, I can confirm to you that no private blessings took place afterwards. It was a public blessing - traditional for a newly ordained priest - which was announced before the end of the service and which included women priests. I should think about 200 people received his blessing. It was conducted at the back of the cathedral simply for the sake of convenience, no theology of taint at all, as the women priests whom he blessed can testify!

Posted by Edward Morrison at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 10:50pm BST

"no theology of taint at all"

Well, there wouldn't be, would there, as it was a man, ordained by a man who ordains only men, doing the blessing.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 31 March 2017 at 11:15pm BST

The foundation of the Society's objection to WO and WB is taint. Otherwise, separate consecrations and ordinations would not be necessary.

According to the Society, women taint apostolic succession (as if Mary Magdalene wasn't an apostle) and women taint the sacrament. Apparently, women are so powerful that we can negate the internal Grace of God.

I know they use other words, but it comes down to that. And that is why girls and women can't flourish under a Society diocesan as things stand now. Get many more WB's, then balance out Society bishops with WB's within dioceses, then maybe there could be mutual flourishing.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 3:53am BST

Edward Morrison Can I ask you:
1. Is the rest of Richard Ashby's summary correct?
2. Do you carry a card?

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 7:12am BST

NJW - good points! I have forgotten what the Reformed answer to them is - it's been a long time.

Posted by Janet Fife at Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 12:52pm BST
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