Comments: Media coverage and responses to Mawer report

I've worked with some very smart people, both in academia and in industry, and I like to think I have pretty decent instincts for what they look like. Martyn Percy, whom I've heard speak or chatted with multiple times, including on the topic of Philip North, is clearly one of those smart people. Every time I have heard him speak, he is the smartest guy in the room, and charming with it.

Sir Phillip Mawer clearly doesn't like the cut of his jib. He appears to think Percy is too clever by half. Unfortunately for him, he can't lay an intellectual glove on Percy, or on Percy's position, and is reduced to cavilling over what the OED provides as various senses of disingenuous. Percy, and others', question - what does it mean to have a bishop who does not accept the validity of the sacraments of his priests? If the sacrament is valid for the parishioners, why is it NOT valid for the bishop? - is unanswered, because it is unanswerable.

The report spends 75 pages leaving that elephant relaxing in the corner of the room, while both Percy and the equally estimable Linda Woodhead lead the elephant through the corridors and out into the garden for a stroll. I doubt the report will satisfy anyone, and it was clearly written from a starting position that people should just shut up and accept what the CNC says. But the clear message that comes through is that if the traditionalists have intellectual heavyweights about to engage successfully with Percy and Woodhead, they didn't write to Mawer.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 15 September 2017 at 10:17pm BST

Philip Mawer’s report is not the most exciting read, but he makes some sensible recommendations on improving processes next time around.

But Martyn Percy’s various contributions (appendix 7, with a whole string of sub-appendices!) still stand out as beacon of clear thinking, and ask the pertinent questions that remain underanswered by Mawer: namely, do traditionalists believe that women clergy are genuinely called by God to the priesthood, and do they believe in the validity of the sacraments they offer? And if not, how can they fulfill a role as Diocesan bishop in relation to women clergy?

Mawer’s report makes clear that Bishop North felt his views on this were misrepresented, but it’s still not clear to me what they are. Bishop North’s statement on the matter (in full, para.141) is still hedged with ambiguity. He does not doubt ‘the validity of those orders that the Church of England bestows on female candidates’, and affirms that the ‘ministry’ of women is ‘transformative and grace-filled’. But he is unwilling to say specifically whether they are priests or not, and whether their sacraments are valid. So we are still in the dark.

The argument remains that the five guiding principles are simply incoherent and do not add up to a consistent package (as the injunction to hold them together ‘in tension’ implicitly recognises). Philip Mawer recognises (in fairness) that it isn’t his task to resolve this, but the observations he offers don’t help much.

Above all, I was reminded that ordinands are now required to affirm the five principles prior to selection and again prior to ordination. Combine this with the need to sign up to “Issues in Human Sexuality”, and we are in a position where to be ordained in the Church of England, you need to make an explicit commitment to accepting (and respecting) institutional sexism and homophobia. Would I be a priest today if I’d had to make this commitment when I started out?

And for comic relief, read the piece by Arun Arora, the Church of England’s director of communications (Appendix 11). Academics who are against racism, misogyny, and violence, etc., are a product of “left-wing group-think”, Arora believes, and he genuinely cannot understand the analogy between sexism and racism, or that discriminating against someone because of their sex might mean you are sexist. It’s a bit like listening to Trump on Charlottesville.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Friday, 15 September 2017 at 11:11pm BST

This whole matter of 'mutual flourishing' is going to be even more problematic on the matter of S/S Blessings. We, in ACANZP, are already experiencing threats of schism if our proposal - about to come before our G.S.2018 in the form of a 'Way Forward' for SSB - is found acceptable.

Although women's ordination is a more basic item on the justice agenda; S/S Blessings is a not dissimilar situation of trying to balance the accommodation of private conscience with a perceived need for doctrinal coherence.

What has, surely, to be taken into account is whether a bishop should ever be appointed to be in charge of a diocese whose corporate pastoral needs are manifestly at odds with the pastoral gifts of the Ordinary.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 10:35am BST

"Academics who are against racism, misogyny, and violence, etc., are a product of “left-wing group-think”,

Oh, that article is a whole parade of stupidity. One cannot help thinking that after boasting of an academic spouse, said spouse is either someone very unpopular in their department, or someone who is currently unhappy with their spouse making them sound like a bit of an idiot.

People who sneer at intersectionality usually don't do so because they have some subtle and nuanced way to separate racism, sexism and other forms of oppression so that they are no longer facets of the same quest for power. They usually do so because they don't care about, or believe in the reality of, any of that oppression.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 1:39pm BST

"[W]e are in a position where to be ordained in the Church of England, you need to make an explicit commitment to accepting (and respecting) institutional sexism and homophobia."

Well put. And this is indeed the problem.

Leave aside the anachronism, and the fact that the Church is now engaged in what would create enormous legal difficulties for any private employer.

More basically, the Church of England has painted itself into a deeply immoral, indeed sinful, corner.

Uncle Screwtape rejoices.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 1:56pm BST

"to be ordained in the Church of England, you need to make an explicit commitment to accepting (and respecting) institutional sexism and homophobia"

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 3:32pm BST

Just as the Code of Practice and Resolutions A, B and C now lie like corpses rotting in the desert sands of Anglican Ecclesiastical history, so now the 5 Guiding Principles are being subjected to Death by a thousand cuts.
As FinF's Response to the Sheffield Review states:-
"In the last three years - and indeed for some time before that - no priest who publicly espouses the traditional catholic position on holy orders has been appointed as an archdeacon, dean or residentiary canon in the Church of England. The Bishop of Burnley is the only such priest to have been appointed as a bishop in the last three years since the 2014 Settlement was concluded."
Alas, "Mutual Flourishing" and the 2014 Settlement appear to be nothing more or less than a mere miasma hanging over the Established Church.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 3:50pm BST

"[W]e are in a position where to be ordained in the Church of England, you need to make an explicit commitment to accepting (and respecting) institutional sexism and homophobia."

And that preserves the "most conservative bench of bishops" in CoE's recent history, as Welby bragged to the homophobic and often misogynistic GAFCON bishops.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 5:37pm BST

Father David Although you refer mutual flourishing you only appear here to address the concerns of traditionalist catholic tradition. Since the accent is on 'mutual' would you explain how you understand this agreement to honour and enable the flourishing of those deacons and priests in the church who are women? I read one of the challenges in the Mawer report is to the traditionalist tradition to be concerned beyond its own interests and be clearer how they understanding flourishing to work for those they disagree with.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 6:06pm BST

I suspect probably Philip Mawer is not a subtle enough theologian to untangle the theological issues here (and nor should he be expected to be.)

But if you ask a traditionalist what he thinks about his local female Methodist minister, for example, he might well praise her character, preaching, teaching, evangelistic and pastoral skills, and see her ministry as ‘grace-filled and transformative’. (An older generation of anglo-catholics might have talked here of ‘uncovenanted graces’.) If you pushed the traditionalist to say whether he thought his local Methodist minister was duly ordained, he might well be able to say: “Yes, she is duly ordained as a Methodist minister, that is, ordained in the sense that the Methodist church understands ordination and ministry.” But the traditionalist himself, of course, does not share the Methodist understanding of ordination. So from his perspective, she is not a priest offering valid sacraments.

I suspect this is how most traditionalists understand women clergy in the Church of England - as the equivalent of committed and well-meaning Methodist ministers. So a traditionalist can say he is supportive of women clergy and women’s leadership, in the same way he is supportive of Methodist ministers. Good Christian leaders and preachers, but not priests per se.

Bishop North’s refusal to say directly whether he regards women as priests, or their sacraments as valid, suggests something along these lines. So his peculiarly expressed view that he does not doubt ‘the validity of those orders that the Church of England bestows on female candidates’ suggests that he accepts that women clergy have gone through the legal processes and have received the orders that the rest of the Church of England believe to be bestowed at ordination; whilst at the same time he reserves his (personal) opinion that this does not make them priests in the Church of God (as he understands it), nor able to offer valid sacraments (as he understands them).

This of course would be exactly the kind of split between legal office and sacramental priesthood that is apparent in the public statements of Forward in Faith that Martyn Percy so ably dissects (and regards as disingenuous). It may be that this is not Bishop North’s view, and Philip Mawer appears to think it isn’t. But in the absence of any clearer statements from him (despite ample opportunity) there is nothing in Bishop North’s comments to suggest otherwise.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 6:59pm BST

I of course defer to the smarts of Percy et al, but however ingenious their arguments, they miss the point: accepting, arguendo, that the compromise is a mess, it's a mess that advocates of equal consecration signed up to in order to achieve change. That being so, if promises mean anything, we're obliged to keep our word, and no amount of cleverness can do an endrun around it.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 9:28pm BST

Dr Charles Clapham is right in saying that ordinands are now required to sign up to institutional sexism and homophobia. If you object to those terms then let's just say they are required to respect the consequences of theologies that exclude women and gay people from the sacraments of ordination and marriage in certain instances. I have been an Anglican all my life, a priest for 23 years and a theological college tutor. The need for ordinands to sign up to this agenda crept up on us without discussion, explanation, preparation or warning, imposed by the actions of Synod and the Bishops. I'm afraid it was too much for me. I simply could not in good conscience help to persuade ordinands to sign up to something I would never have signed myself. I now worship with the Quakers, one of whose testimonies is to the essential equality before God of all people. We hear so much about protecting a minority view point; much less about those who in good conscience cannot work to perpetuate the position of those whose theology constrains, restricts and excludes women and gay people.

Posted by Janet Henderson at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 9:54pm BST

I'm still trying to work out what Jane Patterson is about. From the Mawer report: "116. No criticism can be made of Ms Jane Patterson’s decision not to withdraw from the Sheffield CNC (see paragraphs 43-44 above), as Baroness Fritchie’s observation on this point was considered but not adopted as a matter of policy following the Southwark vacancy. Nevertheless the issue of influence and perception of influence raised by Baroness Fritchie is a powerful one. It would, I suggest, be timely to revisit it."

Going back to 42, "Ms Patterson’s participation in the Commission has been questioned by a number who gave evidence to me. This is because she is one of the representatives of the diocese of Sheffield on the General Synod and a regular attender at Christ Church, Fulwood, a large conservative evangelical parish church in the city of Sheffield. Additionally, she serves as Chair of the Trustees of two congregations planted by Christ Church, one of which is openly affiliated to a conservative evangelical organisation, the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)."

The CC Fulwood site lists 4 plants, Christ Church Central, Christ Church Endcliffe, Holy Cross Gleadless Valley and Christ Church Walkley. The last of these describes itself as "seek[ing] to remain faithful to our heritage in Anglicanism" but not as part of the Church of England.
 CC Central features on the AMiE website. Is it a little naive to describe AMiE as merely 'a conservative evangelical organization'? With which of these plants is Jane Patterson associated? Would it matter if a member of General Synod were to be (is??) a chair of trustees of at least one church which isn't in the Church of England? And whatever Sir Philip says, I still find it very odd that it's OK for Jane Patterson to have been involved in the Sheffield CNC.

Posted by Cassandra at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 11:02pm BST

I do understand your point, James Byron, and I appreciate the desire to be inclusive. I don't want to hound traditionalists out of the church (and nor does Martyn Percy); I understand there are churches where women priests may not serve, and I am willing to live with this for the greater good. (I've even served in a resolution B parish myself.)

But I don't think it's true to say that 'we' signed up to the five principles. I myself certainly didn't. Like most Anglicans (whether clerical or lay) I am not on Synod, was not asked my view, nor did I at any point agree to the five principles. Like many of those in Sheffield, I (frankly) hadn't even heard of them prior to Bishop North's appointment, much less agreed to them. So I don't see that I should be bound by them, and I don't see anything in my ordination vows (or the obligations renewed at induction/installation) that suggest I should. And as the reaction to Bishop North's appointment made clear, I'm far from alone on this. Ruling by fiat from the top is not an effective form of leadership.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 11:43pm BST

"it's a mess that advocates of equal consecration signed up to in order to achieve change"

Really? When, pray tell, did Synod vote on the 5 principles?

Or are they a bone that the House of Bishops threw to the traditionalists, that the traditionalists fell for, and that ever since, no one else particularly wants to defend?

This all comes back to how Welby and Sentamu chose to manage the politics of 2014. They made bad choices, mostly with an eye to relations with the Global South.

The rest of us, however, are not bound to those choices.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 1:20am BST

In response to David Runcorn, I wonder why he omits women bishops from his list, referring only to women deacons and priests? I would refer him to the brief statement from WATCH where the following concern is expressed:-
"Since it has been possible for women to be part of the episcopacy in the Church of England sadly only two diocesan nominations have been made."
I can discover no reference to mutual flourishing in this short statement.
Personally, within our own Team Ministry I work most happily with our female Distinctive Deacon and deeply value her excellent contribution to the extension of Christ's Kingdom in this place.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 7:42am BST

Charles Clapham,
I think that all members of the CoE are "bound" by the decisions made in General Synod, simply because that's the system in our church.
Just like I'm bound by the laws Parliament makes although I personally don't vote for any.

The question, for me, is whether the 5Gs will ultimately stand or whether they will be so unpopular that they become a Poll Tax moment.

It strikes me that if North had answered the question put to him in the way he answered it during the enquiry, he would be Bishop of Sheffield by now.
Yes, there would have been continued opposition, but not enough to make him step down.

But Sheffield was completely surprised because they had never expected that a non-ordainer could be selected. Future Dioceses will not be so sanguine and will make it much clearer in their profile whether they are prepared to accept a traditionalist Diocesan.
And ultimately, you cannot rule people without their consent.

It would be serious if it became clear that the CoE was prepared to accept and honour traditionalists as a price for getting women bishops through Synod, but that it then refused to respect that agreement.
And yet, it could well be that reality is that the 5Gs look good on paper but don't actually translate into real life.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 8:41am BST

Jeremy, Synod approved the package of measures in November, 2014, details provided by this very site.* The guiding principles are referenced in the documents, and I can find no examples of Synod voting to reject them.

In any case, when equal consecration was passed earlier in 2014, it was clearly understood that traditionalists would remain welcome in the church, and not be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of their beliefs. That's why an ombudsman was agreed to.

It's of course the right of anyone to disagree, voice their disagreement, and persuade England's Synod to change the canons. Until that time, they still apply, in letter and spirit.

* http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006792.html

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 10:11am BST

“to be ordained in the Church of England, you need to make an explicit commitment to accepting (and respecting) institutional sexism and homophobia." Though I share the concerns that lie behind it I have to say I find this kind of statement unhelpful and misleading. Nor is it factually true.
The papers I submit, as a DDO, to selection conferences, signed by the candidate, require the inclusion of two affirmations.
‘x has read the Five Guiding Principles. I have discussed this with him and he has indicated his assent of them’ and ‘I have discussed Issues in Human Sexuality with x and she is willing to live within these guidelines.’
I do not understand this to be an statement of agreement so much as of an understanding - and an acceptance of the cost and responsibilities that go with being part of such a church at such a time. We always talk through the historic background and present context of these documents. I note both are under significant review - and for good reasons. I explore with them what it means to be a public minister in a church whose decisions and prejudices can often leave my personal conscience harrowed and conflicted. We talk through our Christian understanding of being part of such a flawed and unfinished church and what loyalty and honesty to it means. I point out that I live within yards of the place where a former bishop in this diocese was burned at the stake for his refusal to accept the prevailing beliefs of the institutional church of his day. They struggled with mutual flourishing too.
This is not new.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 11:13am BST

Father David I was asking you about your own position on this. 'What about them?' is not an answer. In fact you do not answer my question. You say nothing about your commitment to seeking the mutual flourishing of women are priests and Bishops. I am in no doubt, within your tradition, you value your colleague's minister as a distinctive deacon. Why wouldn't you? But, as Mawer points out, mutual flourishing asks for more than that of us all.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 11:21am BST

One of the things which makes Martyn Percy's intervention more damaging is that he can explain his position clearly. You may not like his position, but one thing he cannot be accused of is a lack of clarity.

Philip North, according to the report, was unhappy that his "nuanced" position was not conveyed adequately by the summary of the Doncaster meeting. He always has the opportunity to clarify his position in writing, but I suspect his position is not clear or he is not able to clarify it. Martyn Percy has the advantage of a career of academic writing.

Let us be charitable. What is the most generous interpretation one could make of Philip North's position: the position which is consistent with his words and deeds, but least unpleasant? I think I can put one together.

North holds that the decision to appoint women as priests, or as bishops (it's not clear where he draws the line) is not one that is open to the Church of England. As part of the catholic church, it is a decision the CofE should not make without the support of (presumably) Rome. That is clear from what he has written. Perhaps, and I stress perhaps, this is North's only objection. Perhaps he personally believes that women can be priests, and that they are valid priests and their offices are effective, but that they should abjure from becoming priests (or perhaps bishops) until the rest of the wider Christian world agrees.

I don't think that position makes him any more suitable to be a bishop than simply thinking women priests are lay people in fancy dress. Martyn Percy I suspect wouldn't. But it's a slightly less obnoxious position. If only he could clarify his thinking.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 2:10pm BST

Thank you for your response, David Runcorn. It is good at least to have a forum to have these conversations. You put the assent to the 5 principles and to Issues in a very diplomatic (and Anglican) way. But to me it doesn't really change the substance.

It seems to me the problem currently in the church is the assumption that somehow or other we can square the circle - and come up with some compromise that keeps everybody on board. But I don't think we can. Every time a concession is made to those who don't believe in the ordination of women (or the ordination of married gay people), it just means you lose people like me at the other end of the spectrum. I believe in equality for women and those who are LGBTQI. I can't switch these convictions on and off. It's not 'political correctness'; it's basic ethics. And I find the (deliberately chosen) moral compromise of the institution deeply distasteful, and undermining of the moral credibility of its leaders.

So what do I do in practice? I carry on as an ordinary parish priest, preaching, presiding, evangelising. I'm excited this week because we are launching a new weekly children's club at church on Wednesday nights for kids aged 8 to 11; and will be launching another set of events for young teenagers in the next month or so. This is all about mission and growth, and it's what energises me.

But at the same time, I am more or less disengaged from national church politics and leadership, seeing it as a mass of moral failure and courage. And I do not see that the leadership really care about losing goodwill and support from those like me. I may be a minority, but not I'm certainly not alone. Your approach with potential ordinands as a DDO may be required by the church, but (I believe) it is morally wrong. I'm pleased that I was accepted for ordination without having to make such a choice.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 5:02pm BST

"we are launching a new weekly children's club at church on Wednesday nights for kids aged 8 to 11"

So what happens if one turns up whose parents are of the same sex? Do you tell them that their parents' relationship is sinful, or do you dissemble and deny the basic tenets of the organisation that pays your salary? I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just asking what your basic moral calculus is as a non-homophobic representative, speaking ex cathedra, of an organisation which holds that same-sex relationships are invalid.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 6:34pm BST

Various references have been made to what the Society/FinF thinks about the status of ordained women, and of men ordained by women bishops. Surely, the answers are:

- the ordained women are ordained, but only as deacons

- the men are not ordained at all.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 6:58pm BST

Interested Observer,
that's how I read North's position too.
But we have to be clear that the legislation for women bishops passed with provisions for those who genuinely do not believe that women can be priests and bishops.
However acceptable and sanitised North's view may be, the rules would allow him to be a bishop even if his views were far more traditionalist than that.

We cannot give up on the settlement now we've got women bishops just because we don't like the compromise we had to sign up to. That would have absolutely no integrity and really stink.

It's such a complicated problem, and I think it is rooted in the fact that you can have two or three or more official versions of the Atonement and of the virgin birth, but you cannot have several official views of the status of people.
That just doesn't work long term.

It was easier while we had a hermetically sealed church within a church in the form of flying bishops. I don't know why anyone thought it would be a good idea to give them up, but integrating the two views was always going to be a disaster. Father David is right to complain - as are the women affected by this.

I suspect the current system will hold for a little longer. I am pretty sure it won't be around in 20 years' time - people will simply not accept it, regardless of how good GS thought it looked on paper.

And the real problem is that the staus quo is messy and unacceptable to many on the ground, just as any change will be.

I can't see any route forward that has any integrity.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 7:11pm BST

Interested Observer,
that Pastoral Guidelines are quite clear that the church supports same sex married couples and their children. Charles won't have to lie.

18. We recognise the many reasons why couples wish their relationships to have a formal status. These include the joys of exclusive commitment and also extend to the importance of legal recognition of the relationship. To that end, civil partnership continues to be available for same sex couples. Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community and not be subjected to questioning about their lifestyle. Neither they nor any children they care for should be denied access to the sacraments.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 7:18pm BST

Thank you for the question, Interested Observer. As it happens we have several same sex couples in the congregation, who are valued and much-loved members of the church, including one couple who have young kids.

So I make it clear that all are welcome, and that this parish church does not discriminate against those who are gay. If they quiz me (though in practice they never do) about the 'official' teaching on homosexuality, I explain that I think the 'official' teaching is wrong, and needs to change. I'm pretty up front about this both in sermons and on my blog, which is emailed out every week around the parish (see recent posts on 'Why Tim Farron was Wrong' and 'Trans people and radical Christian inclusion' at www.pneuma.org.uk). And I would imagine this approach is pretty typical of other inclusive-minded churches or clergy.

The real problems come when I can't arrange a legally binding marriage in church for a same-sex couple (despite my willingness and desire to do so), or confidently send a gay potential ordinand (in a civil partnership or marriage) to the DDO, without having to warn them in advance of the intrusive questions they may be asked, and try to talk with them about how they might respond.

Perhaps behind your question lies a further question: in that case, if you don't agree with the 'official' teaching, why don't you just leave what you see as a homophobic institution? And my answer to that would be that I'm not willing to let the gospel of Jesus Christ be hijacked by prejudice, especially when that prejudice runs contrary to what Jesus himself represents. We - those are us who believe in inclusion - are the ones championing the real Jesus. (Sorry if that's a bit preacherly... but it's what I believe.)

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 8:12pm BST

Very well said, Rev. Dr. Clapham.

If English progressives abandon the church out of some desire for an elusive and likely nonexistent moral purity, the effect will be a national institution left in the hands of traditionalists who'll block all change. Equality will be further off than ever.

We do the best with what we have. No more can be asked, nor reasonably expected.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 9:39pm BST

Agreed, Erika, this compromise is probably unsustainable. Perhaps the "third province" that traditionalists asked for back in '08 is the answer. If so, it's one that can be extended to encompass those who refuse to compromise on sexuality.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 9:42pm BST

James Byron,

First, in 2014 I opposed the compromise because it would enshrine discrimination against women as church policy. I was wrong, as it turned out; but only in the sense that, as the Society complains, no one is paying the 5 principles much attention.

Second, and relatedly, what "canons"?

As the materials you link to show, the 5 principles were contained merely in a declaration from the House of Bishops.

As you will recall, Synod contains two other houses, of clergy and of laity.

I am willing to be corrected on the facts, but my recollection is that the text of the 5 principles was never legislated by Synod as a whole. If this is right, then no vote by Synod is necessary to overturn or disregard them, and they do not have the force of ecclesiastical law.

The last I checked, the Church of England may be episcopally led, but it is synodically governed.

Part of the problem now, in 2017, is how things happened then, in 2014. If the 5 principles were not enacted by Synod, then why is anyone surprised that the Church of England is disregarding them?

The House of Bishops raised hopes that it alone cannot fulfill.

What is surprising since the 5 principles were declared, as Mawer suggests, is that no one even in the House of Bishops has spoken up for them. This suggests that the 5 principles were nothing more than a temporary political expedient, and a rather embarrassing one at that.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 9:47pm BST

"Pastoral Guidelines are quite clear that the church supports same sex married couples"

Really? All of them? So what did Jeremy Pemberton do wrong?

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 10:03pm BST

"why don't you just leave what you see as a homophobic institution? "

No, I wasn't asking that. I admire your position. I happen to think that the survival of the Church of England as a long-term institution is vital to the polity of the UK, and that many centuries of (on the whole) positive service both to people and the people should not be sacrificed to appease a small hardcore of obsessive homophobes. You are on the right side of history, and it is more important to the country that you fix the CofE than abandon it.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 10:08pm BST

More than once in his report, Sir Philip argues that there must be equivalent treatment for traditionalist priests serving under a female diocesan as for female priests serving under a traditionalist diocesan. This implies that he considers the two situations to be equivalent and analagous. If that is what he really thinks, and is not just an adopted position in the hope of steering his report to the conclusion the commissioning Archbishops would like to see, then I am afraid it only proves the extent to which he doesn't understand the problem or the underlying issues. There is little or no equivalence between the two positions.

True, a traditionalist priest serving under a female diocesan has to swear obedience to her 'in all things lawful and honest', but that is purely a legal matter, which is recognised even in the distorted reading of the first of the 5GPs peddled by FiF/SSWSH. For all other matters, pastoral and sacramental, he is generously provided with an alternative 'sound' bishop, about whom he can have no qualms. And his diocesan has no doubts whatever that he is really a priest and that the sacraments he celebrates on her behalf are entirely valid.

On the other hand, a female priest serving under a traditionalist diocesan knows that her bishop doesn't believe that she is really a priest and cannot himself share in the sacraments that she celebrates. Having a suffragan bishop in the same diocese who does acknowledge the validity of her priesthood is no substitute - it is with the diocesan that she shares the cure of souls. It is totally undermining of her very being and purpose in life, and simply too much to ask.

There is no significant equivalence, and this is not a minor matter that can be overlooked in the interests of mucking along together in a friendly, broad church sort of way, as advocated by James, Susannah and others. It is fundamental, ontological and unanswerable.

And, as I have pointed out on another thread, the 2014 settlement provided for the possibility that a traditionalist could become a diocesan, but it did not promise that it would happen. If no diocese desires it, then it should not happen, because it would be entirely wrong to force a non-ordainer upon an unwilling diocese.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 12:38am BST

oh, I get it, its all about the poor man Phil North. And here I was thinking it was about gender equality. Silly me. But do carry on chaps.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 3:43am BST

David Runcorn - I am more than happy to accede to Philip Mawer's suggestion contained in his report (How Not to become a Diocesan Bishop) which speaks of "The need to speak to each other in terms of regard and affection rather than disdain or condemnation." I would further add courtesy to his list of two positives.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 7:07am BST

I am struck by Erika's clear understanding that the Pastoral Guidelines claim to support same-sex married couples and their children. It would be believable if that paragraph were the whole story.

However, the truth is that the Church of England has not yet made up its mind if same-sex married people are even "really" married. Whatever they have, it clearly isn't Holy Matrimony - as they fought tooth and nail to be excluded from the legislation - so that it is impossible (and illegal) for a same-sex couple to contract a marriage in a Church of England church.

It is not yet clear whether the Church of England thinks there are two kinds of marriage - the Holy Matrimony kind, and the civil marriage kind - or just one. It is not yet clear whether the Church of England thinks those unions contracted by same-sex couples are marriages or whether they are just pretend marriages, nor yet whether having one or two categories of marriage makes any difference to that.

And beyond the etymological confusion, it is hard to see how a church can at the same time claim to welcome married same-sex couples and their children, while regarding clergy contracting such marriages as committing so heinous a crime that they must be punished. This is more double-think.

Paradox is a lovely way of doing theology, but it is not a lovely way of treating people, who have a tiresome way of just being one thing at a time. The Church of England has a nasty habit (and I use the word advisedly) of wanting to have its cake and eat it, of pretending that it can be all things to all men (sic), and of hoping that no one will notice the collateral damage done by this immoral way of treating women and LGBTI+ people.

I know that those committed to maintaining the double-think don't like the accusation of institutional sexism and homophobia - but it seems to me entirely appropriate. If it is felt as a rather stinging attribution, then it ought not to be rejected so swiftly (with defensive little chapters in Pilling etc explaining why this isn't fair). It ought rather to make those who wield power in the church stop and think rather harder why some of us will continue to name these entirely unattractive and damaging qualities of our communal life.

I can understand why Janet Henderson (who I greatly respect) now worships with the Society of Friends. But some of us will remain, and hope, and mourn in Babylon (for so the Church of England mostly feels these days), and dream of better days for all God's people.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 8:23am BST

James,
that is of course where the third province would become a logistical nightmare. Because not all who oppose women priests are also homophobic, and so you'd need a province for people who don't accept women priests or lgbti+ equality, one for people who are fine with priests but anti gay/trans, and one for people who are anti women but pro gay/trans.

And all that shows is what a weird understanding of the Episcopacy we have created.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 8:26am BST

Interested Observer:
Nothing. But a great deal of money has been spent trying to make out that it was a cross between the Great Train Robbery and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, so dire were its consequences were I not made an example of.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 9:22am BST

Father David Thank you

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 9:48am BST

I think Jeremy Pemberton shows well why the 'live and let live, Anglicanism is a big tent' approach has limits. Opinions have consequences, and when a licence or PTO is withdrawn because a priest or a layreader has entered a same-sex marriage, or an ordinand is not ordained for the same reasons, this needs to be named and challenged as discrimination. Both sides cannot be morally right or equally valid, nor is there equal 'integrity' on both sides. (This is Donald Trump territory!)

Jesus called the religious conservatives of his day 'broods of vipers', and the evidence suggests they were extremely offended. The language of 'institutional sexism or homophobia' or Martyn Percy's talk of 'sacralised old-fogeyism' is comparatively mild.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 11:03am BST

Rod, I can't see anyone on this discussion who has the slightest sympathy for North personally, nor any agreement with his position, whatever it might be. There a few people advancing the honourable, although in my view overly legalistic, view that "well, it was a bad compromise with bad people, but we should stick to our side of the bargain", which is about as far from sympathy or agreement as you can get. So quite where "it's all about the poor man Phil North" comes from, I don't know.

Anyway, thanks to JP I've been refreshing my memory of the Edicts of Nantes and Fontainebleau, and education is always a good outcome of a discussion.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 11:12am BST

Interested Observer
"Really? All of them? So what did Jeremy Pemberton do wrong?"

No, of course not. As the paragraph I copied showed, it refers to lay people.
But you were asking what Charles could say to members of his congregation - and I assume that they would be lay. If they were ordained, they wouldn't need to ask. That's what he could say.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 11:31am BST

Jeremy,
the CoE position on same sex marriage is theological mess.
But we can play the same game our opponents have been successfully playing all these years, therefore shifting the goal posts.

Lambeth 1.10 became quasi law because conservatives kept insisting that it was and acting as if it was.
There is nothing to stop us from taking the Pastoral Guidelines as face value and on affirming that the CoE has said it accepts same sex married lay people and their families and that it will not ask intrusive questions of them.

We need to remind ourselves of these guidelines, so we can challenge individual churches when they don't follow them.

I see no reason to concede any ground on that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 11:36am BST

I have a good deal of sympathy for Philip North personally, but little for his views on women priests, and none at all for the idea that he could have been an acceptable bishop of Sheffield or of any diocese whilst he holds those views.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 2:02pm BST

Re: Interested Observer, "Rod, I can't see anyone on this discussion who has the slightest sympathy for North personally..."

Never said they did. I was referring to the macro situation which created this alleged "crisis" and some of the media coverage, including the captions, which TA has posted above this thread. Check out the Premier Radio story, for example, including the comments thread there.

In any event the effort to create, for reasons of church politics, moral equivalency between sexism and equal rights in a statistically moribund institution, prompts me to write only dismissive comments.

The whole sad circus is what people have come to expect from organized religion. Let's paste it to the latest document on church planting or congregational development or the new evangelism or whatever it is we are calling the strategy for institutional survival this week.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 3:46pm BST

"I was referring to the macro situation"

Ah, sorry. I thought you were critiquing this discussion on TA, not more widely. I agree: the narrative of the report is "poor Phil, whatever has he done to upset people?"

"The whole sad circus is what people have come to expect from organized religion."

With good cause. Because a peculiar obsession with who has a penis and what they do with it, which outside the church is no longer an issue for society at large, is pretty much organised religion can talk about these days.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 4:12pm BST

As part of the catholic church, it is a decision the CofE should not make without the support of (presumably) Rome.

Well, that was my view then, and it was the only view I held on the matter. and that is why I am a Roman Catholic now.
Oh, and BTW Dr Clapham, you might have embarrassing elderly relatives with unacceptable views on race.
As someone in my sixties, I learnt my anti racism as a teenager from the pages of Naught for your Comfort and my views have not changed since!


Posted by Ian at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 4:19pm BST

'Let's paste it to the latest document on church planting or congregational development or the new evangelism or whatever it is we are calling the strategy for institutional survival this week.'

That's unnecessarily nasty, Rod.

I have a colleague here in Edmonton who is a pastor in the Alliance Church. He's a young man, father of two, and he's working hard to plant a congregation in our neighbourhood. Church planting is backbreakingly hard work, but also very worthwhile; many studies have shown that new church plants are far more successful than existing congregations at reaching non-Christian folk and helping them come to faith. But the money is tight and the growth is slow, and this takes its toll on the people involved in it.

My colleague is not at all motivated by a desire for institutional survival (the Christian and Missionary Alliance is doing quite well in Canada, thank you very much). He's motivated by love for Christ and a desire to share the gospel with others. And he's not alone. I've know a few British church planters too (Stuart Murray Williams for instance, of Bristol Baptist College and the Anabaptist Network UK), and I can tell you that for many of them, institutional survival is nowhere in sight on their radar screen.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 5:30pm BST

If a question wasn't asked that should have been asked, and if other questions were asked that didn't have clear answers (such as whether Bishop North had agreed to accept the post if offered it), shouldn't someone be being held to account?

Maybe I'm missing something, but if this was the business world it would be clear whose responsibility this was...

Posted by Jayne Ozanne at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 5:49pm BST

Jeremy, General Synod welcomed the five principles in November, 2013.* Maybe they're wrong, but if so, Synod appears to be in agreement.

* https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/about-general-synod/house-of-bishops/declaration-on-the-ministry-of-bishops-and-priests.aspx

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 8:48pm BST

Re: Tim Chesterton, "That's unnecessarily nasty, Rod." Wasn't intended to be, Tim.

It is intended as political sardonicism on two fronts. First, church growth schemes are self evidently about institutional survival, the de rigueur mantra at all levels of an institution that is facing a demographic crisis.

Which leads to the second front, i.e. the church is striving to grow itself while engaging in practices that in any other world but church land would be understood as sexist and discriminatory. Seems to me to be a self sabotaging strategy i.e. advertising the good news as better news for some than others.


It's discrimination that is nasty business, Tim. And for my money there are only three options available (1) leave the institution (which people have done in droves); (2) remain complicit; (3) critique it vigorously with a commitment to reformation. I'm working on the third option so as to avoid the first.

I wouldn't be dragging anecdotes into it about the altruism or work ethics of others. I have no doubt that is true; it just doesn't help me much to know it.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 9:18pm BST

Rod:

'church growth schemes are self evidently about institutional survival'

That's an outrageous generalization which is impossible to prove. I don't deny that it may sometimes be true; I just think it's an unpardonable slur on the many, many people who are trying to grow churches because they believe it's a good way of growing disciples for Christ.

'I wouldn't be dragging anecdotes into it about the altruism or work ethics of others. I have no doubt that is true; it just doesn't help me much to know it.'

Of course it doesn't - it shows that your slur on the people involved in church growth is an untrue generalization.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 18 September 2017 at 10:47pm BST

For the record, I have a lot of empathy for Philip North+. But I do believe that his views on WO are errant, they aren't the Good News, and they are harmful to women and girls. Thus, he needs to minister in places and ways that do no harm.

The 5 Guiding Principles are flawed, they do not take into account how women and girls are to flourish. The wishful thinking of the bishops and members of General Synod is unlikely to wash with a laity and clergy who are appalled by discrimination.

North+ may have gotten tied up into some wishful thinking of his own, supported by anti-WO conservatives. Even so, that is a scenario of many a Greek tragedy.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 12:49am BST

James Byron, you appear to be referring to the following item of business, by which Synod did not adopt the 5 principles, but did something rather different:

REPORT OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE FOR THE DRAFT LEGISLATION ON WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE (GS 1924)
11 The motion
‘That this Synod, welcoming the package of proposals in GS 1924 and the statement of principles endorsed by the House of Bishops at paragraph 12 of GS 1886, invite the House of Bishops to bring to the Synod for consultation in February a draft declaration and proposals for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure which build on the agreement reached by the Steering Committee as a result of its facilitated discussions.’
was carried after a division of the whole Synod. The voting was as follows:
IN FAVOUR: 378 AGAINST: 8

Your interpretation--and that of Mawer and the Archbishops--puts quite a lot of weight on the word "welcoming." Do you really think that weight is justified?

Not for the first time do I observe that the powers that be in the Church of England seem to specialise in drafting neutral-sounding resolutions--with words and phrases like "welcome," "receive," and "take note"--which are then taken to have meant far more than they did in the minds of those who voted for them.

Fortunately, as the February "take note" debate demonstrated, Synod is wising up to these deceptions.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 1:59am BST

"Church planting is backbreakingly hard work"

Yeah. Like subsistence farming, eh? Anyone who describes church planting as "backbreaking hard work" has never done manual labour, I would guess. It's this sort of self dramatising narrative which makes churches look ridiculous. No-one would describe extending the local WI from one village hall to a second village hall as "backbreakingly hard work".

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 6:19am BST

"Oh, and BTW Dr Clapham, you might have embarrassing elderly relatives with unacceptable views on race."

Indeed. And the word for such people is "racist". That does not make them incapable of change.

I am, as our transatlantic cousins would say, done with the idea that past some age people are incapable of growth and change. I'm in my fifties. Over my adult life, I have obviously met many people in same-sex relationships. Their parents, now in their eighties, might have held regressive views on homosexuality fifty years ago, but are now mostly happy for their children. They say things like "oh, times have changed, I get it now, you need to keep up, don't you?".

The exceptions are a certain sort of "Christian", who have bad-mouthed, ostracised and in one case actively attacked their children. Not all the Christian parents are hateful to their children, far from it. But all the people who are hateful to their children are Christian.

If you meet elderly people who hold regressive views on race, sexuality and gender and are incapable of change, it's not because they're old. It's because they think that their religion legitimises their prejudices, and don't want to change.

One friend has a sister who, scandalously, married her husband in a registry office, which in the late 1980s appears to scandalise the "old" (her mother would then have been in her late fifties) in the way same-sex marriage does now. Her mother claimed that this meant that as a "Christian" she could not attend, and could not accept the marriage. She didn't, and didn't. Said mother never met her grandchildren (no relationship with my husband, no relationship with our children), but the daughter was still deluged with people from her mother's church demanding _she_ apologise for marrying and "have a blessing so your mother can come". She apparently regretted her actions in her last few months. To quote Oscar Wilde, it would take a man with a heart of stone not to laugh. Decent people don't behave like this.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 6:37am BST

The other question that seems not to have been answered, either by Philip North or by any arguing for the 'traditional' position is in what sense is a diocesan bishop exercising the cure of souls entrusted to him (sic) if he believes a significant proportion of them are not receiving valid sacraments?

What measures might we expect a diocesan bishop to put in place to minister to those people who believe they are receiving the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist but who are, in fact, not participating in a 'real' Eucharist. Who cannot guarantee they have been blessed when their 'priest' blesses them or their sins forgiven when the same priest gives the absolution, whose baptisms have been conducted by a lay person?

I can quite see how women (particularly female priests) cannot 'flourish' under a diocesan bishop who doesn't recognise their priesthood, but I also can't see how a male priest who doesn't accept the sacramental validity of women's ordination (for whatever reason) can aspire to be a diocesan bishop without either ignoring the spiritual welfare of many in his diocese or making significant steps to 'promote' his own views.

Posted by Essen at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 11:55am BST

The working group that first proposed a version of the 5 principles also wrote this, about Acts of Synod, declarations by the House of Bishops, and the civil law:

'Under the Synod’s Standing Orders an Act of Synod represents “the embodiment of the declared will or opinion of the Church of England as expressed by the Synod” and can therefore give formal expression to the policy of the Church. Similarly, a declaration made by the House of Bishops can give a commitment as to how the members of the House at the time of the declaration intend to act. But neither can create rights or duties. It is also very doubtful whether either could create a ‘legitimate expectation’ of a kind that would allow proceedings to be brought by way of judicial review if a particular policy was not followed in a particular case.'

In other words, the women-bishops compromise of 2014 was carefully designed so as to be legally unenforceable.

Note also the description of a declaration by the House of Bishops: All that such a declaration does is "give a commitment as to how the members of the House at the time of the declaration intend to act."

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 12:46pm BST

Re: Tim Chesteron, You are confusing what you believe to be the altruistic motivation of some with the impetus of the institution. The fact is, the institution at all levels, national, diocesan, parochial, has in the past decade "got religion" with regard to congregational development and "making disciples" as the demographic crisis deepens. At the same time the institution struggles with human rights internally. A survey of churches will yield the ubiquitous promo for the myopic and theologically challenged Alpha program. So my point stands: I think it you who is generalizing from the self declared motivation of a few.

You used the word "nasty" in your initial post and the word "slur" twice in the follow up.

"If you prick us do we not bleed ...And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? " Perhaps the bard was describing evangelicals?

May God bless you Tim, and make you a blessing. ( :

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 2:40pm BST

Very well put, Essen. There are some basic theological issues that you express very clearly which have never really been answered, and still remain unanswered, presumably (so far as I can see) because no coherent answer can be given. What a mess. I spend eight years of my life studying theology full-time, and it depresses me how irrelevant most of it is to life in the Church of England. One fears it will only get worse.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 2:48pm BST

Essen says: 'The other question that seems not to have been answered, either by Philip North or by any arguing for the 'traditional' position is in what sense is a diocesan bishop exercising the cure of souls entrusted to him (sic) if he believes a significant proportion of them are not receiving valid sacraments?

What measures might we expect a diocesan bishop to put in place to minister to those people who believe they are receiving the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist but who are, in fact, not participating in a 'real' Eucharist. Who cannot guarantee they have been blessed when their 'priest' blesses them or their sins forgiven when the same priest gives the absolution, whose baptisms have been conducted by a lay person?'

Why not look at this the other way round and ask, if a bishop believes the Eucharist is central to the life of the Church (as Philip North obviously does) and believes that he has ultimate responsibility for the celebration of the Eucharist throughout his diocese (as a bishop in the Catholic tradition he is bound to believe this), then if he delegates this ministry to female priests he must in some way accept that their (his, Christ's) Eucharist is valid. It would be a dereliction of his duty if, not believing that, he didn't arrange for male priests to celebrate in their place.

It's clear that +PN doesn't deny the ministry of female priests in that sense. I know it's all a bit Alice in Wonderland and other Christians, let alone the rest of the world, must be laughing their heads off. What presumably he finds difficult is accepting that he, as a bishop in the Catholic Church, has the authority to do what the whole of the Catholic Church is yet not prepared to accept.

if he can make sense of that contradiction why can't we just accept it as we accept thousands of other eccentricities in the Church of England? Some of them much more damaging and much more dismissive of the role of women, such as the 'male headship' evangelicals.

Posted by David Emmott at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 4:45pm BST

Fantastic piece by Martyn Percy in Christian Today on Mawer report. Why is Percy not a Bishop? Presumably because he writes pieces like this. The irony in a church that says being a bishop is all about "leadership"...

Posted by Charles Clapham at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 4:46pm BST

Cleverest guy in the room, writing in Christian Today: https://goo.gl/BsQdhy

"It is odd to single out ordination as the factor in the 'authority and unity' of the One Holy Catholic Church (ie, Roman Catholic and Orthodox). The official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on the sanctity of life – conception, contraception and so forth – and the proper ordering of family life are major non-negotiable tenets of Catholicism. The Church of England departed from such positions decades ago – 'decide(ing) unilaterally' – that managing the size of a family through artificial means (ie, contraception) was not wrong or sinful. Roman Catholic orthodoxy disagrees. So why do traditionalist Anglicans choose to ignore one major Roman Catholic doctrine, but select others? Indeed, there are many other 'essential' Roman Catholic doctrines and teachings that Anglicans have not assented to for centuries. So it is somewhat specious to draw a line in the sand with women priests and women bishops."

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 8:48pm BST

Again, Martyn Percy is absolutely spot on. His analogy with smoking is particularly apt, given what we know about the harmfulness of second-hand smoke. He completely unpacks and exposes the false equivalency that the anti-women view is somehow equal and equally valid as the pro-women view - along with noting that being female is a state of being, not a view, and so those things can't be equal.

So far I've only seen one FaceBook post that exposes the male-centeredness of the Mawer report. I gently said that the report needed a female co-author. But I'm not seeing the critique it deserves. How many women are featured in the report vs. men? How are they talked about (wife, unnamed, etc.)? Why doesn't an "independent report" spend 50 percent of the ink on women? Why is it so weak on the issue of how women and girls are to flourish? Percy refers to the harm done by having a bishop who doesn't believe the sacraments are sacraments. Mawer never addresses it, he reports on North's view and essentially says "see, his views aren't so bad," when they are dreadful.

I'm with Martyn Percy. The CoE should have a total moratorium on consecrating conservative bishops until women make up 50 percent of the bishops. Then talk about about "mutual flourishing" from the perspective of actual equality, rather than a stunt to give oppressors power to continue oppressing. That actually isn't particularly radical. It's achievable in CoE. Much more difficult for those of us who elect bishops (because the image of leaders as male still holds sway, unfortunately).

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 10:39pm BST

Re: Interested Observer, a very clear minded article by Martyn Percy. Thanks for the link.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 19 September 2017 at 10:52pm BST

As a supporter of equal ordination and a left-leaning liberal, Philip Mawer’s report does little to allay my troubles over Philip North declining the See of Sheffield. What the report has confirmed is that this has been another manifestation of shallow populism overruling due process. It has show us that those who shout loudest, who can rally the troops, and who choose to ignore certain material facts, can win the day by feeding irrational insecurities and resorting to misrepresentation. There would seem to be a very thin line between what Philip North, allegedly, believes about the ordained status of women, and three hundred-and-fifty million quid for the health service after Brexit.

John Milbank recently wrote about populism as being anti-democratic, suggesting that ‘its main passion is not obviously or mainly for democratic equality and democratic involvement. Instead, as to causes pursued, these tend to centre on a way of life that is perceived as threatened. Not so much equality is demanded as the right to go on quietly flourishing in a particular way to which people are attached.’

He was not writing about the Sheffield debacle, of course, but his words could be a telling reflection on the tactics – and the insecurity – of those who took to social media; and, worse, used their academic credentials as a pretext for adopting an irresponsibly cavalier posture. This finds expression in Milbank’s assertion that ‘populism characteristically cares little about formal democracy or the rights of minorities. Typically, it looks to a strong leader to deliver it from forces seen as perverse, though they may sometimes be inevitable.’

That could not only be a description of what happened in the run-up to Bishop North withdrawing from Sheffield. It could also describe the defensive reaction to the Mawer report by those subject to criticism. Again, obvious material facts have been easily glossed over or ignored. The perfunctory response from WATCH is indicative of this.

This whole episode highlights the woeful lack of theological leadership at the top of our Church, as we no longer have archbishops and bishops capable of interpreting the evolving tradition. Not surprisingly, others have attempted to step in to that gap. Sadly, by doing so, they have treated the rest of us with contempt by their reliance on secondary sources to advance their cause. This simply undermines the place of serious academic theology and is wholly lamentable.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 8:04am BST

This report is so much the Church speaking to the Church, inevitably I guess. I find it so sad.

I'm now told several male ordinands (for example at Westcott House) are seeking to be ordained by 'clean hands' male bishops now to keep options open. They say if they are ordained by women bishops their orders will not be recognised through the whole Church of England and they will be excluded from some parishes and barred from Walsingham.

Inevitably a bishop who doesn't ordain women will now also move out of communion with men ordained by women in his diocese?

How on earth can mutual flourishing survive? Persoanlly I cannot support it.

It was a deceit to get the women's bishops legislation through and the majority of Church people, ordained and lay are both unaware of it and will not agree to such discrimination flourishing.

When will church people and even a bishop have the integrity to speak out and say it is the nonsense it so obviously is?

Posted by Pete at Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 10:55am BST

Re: David Emmott's comment
I think if Philip North had actually said 'I think that female priests in the diocese of Sheffield would be receiving my delegated authority when acting as priests in the Eucharist and thus I would have no concern about the validity of the sacraments they dispense' we could have avoided a lot of the problems to begin with.

However, there are definitely conservative priests who could NOT say that, were they to become bishops, and the question for them is 'What steps would you take to ensure the Eucharist was validly celebrated across the diocese?'

Posted by Essen at Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 11:00am BST

"It was a deceit to get the women's bishops legislation through and the majority of Church people, ordained and lay are both unaware of it and will not agree to such discrimination flourishing" says @Pete.

Come on. The terms of the 2014 legislation were very clearly spelt out. No-one could have been in any doubt about it. If these provisions were not included, the legislation would have failed - again - and we would have seen a repeat of the wrist-slashing and gnashing of teeth that followed the November 2012 failure. When the parliamentarians challenged the archbishops over the provisions for those who could not accept such ordinations on the grounds of theological conscience, they said, unequivocally, that we had made promises and we would be expected to keep those promises. Far from being deceitful, they were crystal clear. Those who were desperate for women bishops at any price knew what they were signing up to, and those who have claimed (on this and other threads) that 'it doesn't mean this' are (to quote Martyn Percy not entirely out of context) 'disingenuous.'

I am neither a conservative evangelical nor a traditionalist catholic, but I am ashamed of the way certain parties have bullied the church into reneging on the commitments we made to our minorities. We want the best bishops who will serve a given diocese with imagination and effectiveness, not those who meet the criteria of conspicuous campaign groups. It's no different from the Christian Union in universities requiring their speakers to sing-up to their statement of faith. @Michael Mulhern's comments about populism are spot on.

Posted by Will Richards at Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 12:44pm BST

"If these provisions were not included, the legislation would have failed - again - and we would have seen a repeat of the wrist-slashing and gnashing of teeth that followed the November 2012 failure."

And then the last Synod election would have produced a much more liberal Synod--which is exactly what the Archbishops were trying to avoid.

It's no use pretending the 5 principles were legislated by Synod. They weren't.

A declaration by the House of Bishops doesn't bind anyone else. It also doesn't bind the Bishops newly consecrated since then.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 20 September 2017 at 2:38pm BST
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