Comments: Opinion - 23 September 2017

I enjoyed Jesse's article for its historical overview.

There can always be a temptation for the participants at the Lambeth Conference to tend towards thinking they can lay down the law for the Anglican provinces. That simply isn't so.

The 1998 declaration of "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture" has little or no moral authority for probably at least half the membership of the Church of England, who simply regard gay sex as positive not negative.

The idea of an Anglican 'constitution' is off target because there is no worldwide Anglican Church. There are Anglican Provinces, each of which follow Christ in the context of their own communities, their living culture, and explore faith and flourishing community by community.

The Lambeth Conference should simply be a chance to share together, and pray for one another's flourishing, and listen to one another's needs - with benevolence, prayer, friendship.

The Lambeth Conference is not a 'Governing Body'. We need to shift mentality away from 'hierarchical dictat' and towards enabling and supporting the flourishing and self-determination of diverse churches in diverse communities.

Each of our communities ventures on a journey: a journey of exploration and service, involving engagement, sacrifice, sometimes taking wrong turnings. And the Holy Spirit helps us on that journey, not from some top-down email from 'the bosses', but in the opening and response of our hearts to the love of God, right where we are, day to day.

Love springs up like that, in daily encounter, like water in dry places, that can flow and feed parched lives (that's all our lives), and open wider communities to a sharing and an engagement and a trust.

Edicts from on high are a confused paradigm. The ministry of Jesus did not operate that way. It was a journey together, a journey alongside people, a sharing, and day to day love.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 23 September 2017 at 12:56pm BST

Andrew Lightbrown's piece is terrific. He demonstrates clearly, with beautiful language, that the 5 Guiding Principles can't be used as a hammer to force a nominee on an unwilling diocese. It's sacramentally impossible. Which is incredibly ironic, of course.

This is why I keep returning to the theme of creative thinking. Maybe the "flying bishops" still have role. Maybe once the church is 50-50 male-female, a non ordaining diocesan would be more palatable. Maybe there could be co-diocesans, female and non ordaining male? Or maybe CoE will finally admit that excluding women is just immoral and needs to stop.

The solution will not be found in higher ups imposing their will and desperate political agendas on the masses.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 23 September 2017 at 6:16pm BST

I agree with every word Andrew Lightbown writes.
It leaves us with a real problem. General Synod clearly thought this would work. There were those who genuinely wanted to make sure that traditionalists were as fully included as possible, and there were those who knew they would not get women bishops without compromising.

Now, there's a debate whether the 5Gs were part of what Synod voted for - they were part of a whole package that was "received" or something similar, so one could argue that GS did not actively vote for them.
But that's like saying that the Brexit referendum was only advisory. Political decisions create their own reality, whatever the legal situation may be.

There is another debate whether the 5Gs meant that there would be a non-ordaining Diocesan. Some say they never thought that was part of their intention, others say that they knew exactly that this was part of what they voted for.

The reality is that any back-tracking now is going to cause a legitimate outcry by traditionalists who will feel betrayed.

On the other hand, GS clearly voted for something that is going to be less and less likely to be accepted by people in the dioceses and parishes.

Martyn Percy is right to use the metaphor of smoking in a non-smoking room. Unless you exclude smokers from the non-smoking room and give them a room of their own, everyone will be affected by their smoking.

I wish we had stayed with a system of flying bishops and I don't understand how anyone thought the new system could work.

But here he we are - where do we go from here? With integrity, without betraying traditionalists and those who voted for women bishops on the strength of the proposed compromise?

What is a genuine way forward now?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 23 September 2017 at 7:51pm BST

If a diocesan bishop doesn't ordain women and other bishops can step in and do it instead, is that an insurmountable problem?

The understanding with 'traditionalists' was that they were valued members of the Church of England, welcome and eligible at all levels of the Church.

At the same time, there is now prevailing acceptance and celebration of ordained women in the Church of England. So it's not like they are marginal to the Church as a whole.

My 'take' on this is that we can find unity in our diversity, and instead of acting confrontational, what's needed is grace. Grace in the conduct and relationships that a non-ordaining Diocesan has with ordained women and female ordinands in the Diocese. And grace towards the Diocesan, recognising his conscientious faith in the Church's tradition through the ages.

The major issue, I'd argue, is not the battle of the sexes, but the quality of the grace and love we show one another. There were female priests who'd worked with Philip North who attested to his grace and integrity in their working relationships with him. We should be able to work together. We are a diverse Church, and that can be a strength. The catholic parts of the Church of England offer precious qualities and grace - they are part of 'us'.

And as James Byron has previously mentioned, if ecclesiastically conservative or traditional church members are betrayed, and promises reneged, then why ever would they trust the Church in any future compromise over LGBT+ issues?

I think your comment (above) Erika, is very well balanced, thoughtful and fair. We have a problem. Do we want to divide and separate into smaller and smaller sects? Or is a particular chrism and grace of the Church of England that it was *not* a narrow puritanical sect in Reformation times, but nearer to a via media, with diverse Christians having to find a grace to co-exist?

Personally, I believe with generosity these issues can be worked through. We really don't need a kind of feminist confrontation, but rather, accommodation and seeking one another's flourishing.

And women who are priests will flourish. They are mandated and welcomed by the Church as a whole. They hold the position of majority support. There is prevailing acceptance. Their existence is not threatened. The challenge is can they, and others, open enough to love and wish each other well?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 23 September 2017 at 11:47pm BST

The five GP notwithstanding we seem to be forgetting that in the “debacle” the bishop voluntarily withdrew his acceptance after long deliberations (no doubt with friends and FiF friends) & prayer. How are we to see this in the light of CNC and Ordinand selection in general? If the panel got it right, guided by the Spirit, which they clearly believe, then the nominee who accepts believes that he/ she has been chosen by God and confirmed by the Church. If this nominee then withdraws their acceptance “under pressure” or whatever other words were used are they
• Opposing the call wilfully – like Jonah
• Distrusting their own initial discernment of accepting
• Distrusting the CNC as guided by something other than the Spirit
Perhaps the “hounded” bishop should have talked to a few of the early female ordinands and found out about the hell they had to walk through for many, many years in many colleges, in many, many parishes, with more hostile than friendly colleagues and in rigged interviews in order to follow the call.
What I detect is a huge lack of courage, and a lot of “backseat-driving” from an unassailable safe episcopal seat and a lot of backing from his own tradition, particularly as the same cycle of “nomination, acceptance and withdrawal” happened before with the same candidate. Maybe God was trying to tell him something for the second time? Only self-styled Martyrs fall at the first sign of opposition.

Posted by Mother Hubbard at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 8:28am BST

One question Jesse's excellent article didn't address is 'How is the Lambeth Conference to be paid for?'

Posted by Donald Reeves at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 10:11am BST

Mark Clavier’s excellent piece on the fall of academia’s reputation nails many of the causes — a practical need to boost numbers — but doesn’t focus on the underlying cause: a change in the balance of power.

England’s Anglo-Catholics have never recovered from their split over equal ordination, leaving evangelicals as the sole power in the church. Only the most foolish interview panel would dare address an evangelical theologian with the disrespect with which Clavier was addressed, and would receive swift and terrifying rebuke in that unlikely event.

Yes, management speak has overtaken the church, but only ‘cause it’s a fad beloved of many (though certainly not all) evangelicals. This is less a battle between academia and pragmatism than it is between the powerful and powerless, and gives the usual, terrible warning: never surrender power if you can possibly avoid it.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 1:09pm BST

Clavier and theological education. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. When I was in medical education, educationalists did medical students and patients no favours by holding that knowing how to look and act “caring” was more important than learning basic science. It seems to me that something similar is going on in theological education. Trainee clergy, I hear from people who are in training, hear a great deal about feminist theology and politically correct liberal theology, but next to nothing about Church Fathers, Aquinas, Anglican divines, and 20th-century catholic theologians. Teaching trainee clergy about fashionable fads and causes may do wonders for the egos of the staff, but in my experience it isn’t much use in parochial ministry. I hear that at one of the most right-on colleges, whole sessions are devoted to how to lay out service sheets. Perhaps this passes as a management skill. Is there a core curriculum? Should there be?

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 1:37pm BST

The point was made very forcibly by Giles Fraser this morning on the Sunday programme that it's no longer a question of what conclusion the CNC comes to, it's whether or not the diocese will accept a non ordaining bishop. And none will now.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 2:42pm BST

'If a diocesan bishop doesn't ordain women and other bishops can step in and do it instead, is that an insurmountable problem?'

Yes I think so Susannah. The problem is being required to swear allegiance to a diocesan bishop who does not actually think you should exist - that you are not really a priest. What can possibly be 'mutual' in such an arrangement As a DDO I do not know how I could prepare and present women candidates for selection and ordination to my bishop knowing he did not believe their ordination would be valid. A suffragan bishop with the same beliefs is not a problem.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 2:52pm BST

Re: Stanley Monkhouse, "educationalists did medical students and patients no favours by holding that knowing how to look and act 'caring' was more important than learning basic science. " The better practice would be learning science, while at the same learning to be caring and empathetic--not just 'acting' that way. I knew a veteran family practitioner who once told a specialist that he would send his referrals elsewhere. The specialist, the GP said, belonged in a lab somewhere studying esoteric diseases but not in a clinic dealing with ill people.

"Trainee clergy, I hear from people who are in training, hear a great deal about feminist theology and 'politically correct' liberal theology...." One can only hope. Without reading feminist theologians, for example, one misses the opportunity to study some of the sharpest intellectuals in the business with the added bonus of properly evaluating the boys' club i.e. the church "fathers" of near antiquity.

I met a devout Roman Catholic a few years back who told me Vatican II was a fad. I think he would who have liked to re-name his parish our lady of a Fad-a-ma. I think he lives with chronic disappointment.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 5:58pm BST

"We see it in the behaviour of Church of England bishops – particularly the diocesan bishop of Blackburn, recently returned from the GAFCON meeting in Egypt – who have welcomed the arrival of an AMiE bishop in England. We see it in the behaviour of conservative evangelicals like Jane Patterson who sit on the CNC and at the same time act as trustees for AMiE- affiliated churches. It’s so counterproductive." - Giles Goddard -

Thank you, Giles, for pointing out the fact that even one of the bishops of the Church of England is not disassociated from the homophobia and sexism of the GAFCON Primates.

In the case of Jane Patterson; surely, a Trustee for the schismatic entity - 'Anglican Mission in England' - AMiE (the English equivalent to ACNA, the North American breakaway church) can have no legitimate place on the CNC, which has the task of helping to choose Church of England Bishops? AMiE, in anyone's language, is in direct conflict with the Church of England's authority in the UK.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 24 September 2017 at 9:44pm BST

@David Runcorn - Are ordinands required to swear allegiance to bishops? Shocking, if so. I thought they were only required to swear allegiance to the Queen, and merely canonical obedience to bishops.

Posted by T Pott at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 12:21am BST

"Trainee clergy, I hear from people who are in training, hear a great deal about feminist theology and politically correct liberal theology, but next to nothing about Church Fathers, Aquinas, Anglican divines, and 20th-century catholic theologians." Stanley Monkhouse.

Personally, I can't help but wonder that if the Church Fathers had been assisted and challenged, at the time, by feminist and women theologians, then the Church would not now be struggling so badly with the issues of sexuality and misogyny.

But better late than never. At least today's ordinands are learning about the other 50% of the world's population, and are less likely to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 9:09am BST

‘If in doubt refer to the liturgy’ is the advice Andrew Lightbown was given. Sadly, Andrew has not followed that advice. If I were his liturgy tutor, I would be awarding him gamma minus. More so because his thesis was repeated parrot-fashion by Giles Fraser on BBC Radio 4 yesterday. You cannot square a theological and ecclesiological circle by equating ordination with the episcopal appointments process, which is the fundamental flaw in Andrew’s argument. Another is the selective way in which Andrew has ‘refer[red] to the liturgy.’

First, a bishop is not ordained to serve in a specific Diocese. A bishop, if you ‘refer to the liturgy’ is ordained ‘a bishop in the Church of God.’ There was no objection raised at Philip North’s ordination. He was duly ordained and consecrated and, more specifically, received by the whole Church.

Second, there is no ‘reception’ in the appointment process, because the basic assumptions is that a duly ordained and consecrated bishop has already been received by the Church. Ok, I know, these days that most enthronements contain words of welcome and so on. But this is a (no doubt sincere) confection that has crept in over the past few decades. It has no historic, liturgical basis. It is theologically cavalier, at best, to suppose that the rite of ordination is being, somehow, repeated at an enthronement (although people could be forgiven for thinking this is so with the thoughtless ‘repeat’ anointing that now seems to be obligatory).

For an individual Diocese (or pressure groups within – and without – it) to subsequently attempt to object to the appointment of a bishop, who has not only been ordained and received by the whole Church, but appointed to a Diocese after due process, in accordance with the relevant Canons, seriously undermines the catholicity of the Church’s identity – especially when the representatives of that Diocese in the appointments process are there as a result of a democratic process.

Andrew Lightbown cannot have his cake and eat it. He wants to introduce ‘gracious reception’ (after the model of the baptismal liturgy). Unfortunately for him and his thesis, that ‘gracious reception’ is already there in the ordination liturgy; and, in Philip North’s case, has been joyfully affirmed. That reception cannot then be made provisional pending subsequent appointment to a See. Refer to the liturgy. Could do better. Much better.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 10:17am BST

T Pott. You are right my wording was careless. But I am really not sure why you think it is 'merely' obedience that is sworn to a bishop. It makes me ponder how oaths of allegiance and obedience differ in practice?
Allegiance - loyalty or commitment to a superior or to a group or cause.
Obedience - compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another's authority.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 10:49am BST

But Michael is wrong we don't have an appointments process we have a nominations process. The line in the liturgy immediately prior to ordination is the clinching line because it is essentially asking the people to verify that after everything that has hitherto taken place 'it is' the will of the people that the archbishop ordains. This line is no mere liturgical padding. It makes it clear that the bishop is ordained after having first been received. All the liturgical up to this point are designed, for sure, to help 'the brothers and sisters, affirm that ordination is their 'will.' The notion that bishops are appointed is just plain wrong. Bishop Philip withdrew 'his nomination.' If we were to move to an appointments process then the 'catholicity' of the Church of England's identity would be seriously undermined. Yes, Bishops serve the whole Church of England (and also the nation) but the platform from which they do so is the goodwill of the diocese. So I think I would be asking for a second marker if given gamma minus.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 1:58pm BST

I think canonical obedience is very narrow, it is not obedience in general, it is obedience only to instructions which a bishop is expressly and specifically, authorised, by canon, to give.

An unqualified oath of obedience would require obeying anything the bishop said, provided it was not illegal. But canonical obedience is nothing of the kind.

Posted by T Pott at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 3:13pm BST

Andrew Lightbown, you seem to be equating ordination with the stage before nomination.
But once someone has been ordained priest or bishop and then moves from a first post to a second, the ordination element no longer applies.

Could you explain how you see the liturgy of a bishop simply moving from one Diocese to another and up from area bishop to Diocesan, to connect with the nomination by the CNC?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 8:49pm BST

In our ecclesiastical province (Rupert's Land), the oath simply says 'I, A.B. do swear that I will pay true and canonical obedience to the Bishop of ... in all things lawful and honest. So Help Me God.'

In our ordination service we promise to respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of our bishop.

I don't read any of that as 'swearing allegiance' to a bishop. But perhaps in the C of /e the wording is different?

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 10:01pm BST

“It is an important principle that although the Crown nominates, it is not appointment by the Eika - Crown but acts of the Church – election on behalf of the diocese and confirmation of that election on behalf of the province and the wider Church – which make the person concerned bishop of the diocese”. So according to Moore's Intro to Canon Law it is the diocese that 'elects' a bishop and in doing so accepts that they are also doing so on behalf of the wider church, that is to say the wider church doesn't select and first and then appoint to a diocese. Again I think it is really important to notice the language of nomination (followed by receipt).

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Monday, 25 September 2017 at 10:46pm BST

Andrew Lightbown has made an important point about nomination. I accept that (you will have to forgive the fact that I am more familiar with the process in the Church of Ireland than of England). However, I think Andrew’s argument falls-down after that. Yes, Bishops are nominated to a See in the first instance. But, surely, in England, it is not the Diocese that confirms the nomination and makes it an appointment: it is the head of state! Andrew is right that Bishop Philip withdrew his nomination, because he had not yet been to tea at Buckingham Palace, and the legal processes which follow in its wake had not been enacted. To say that the platform on which a bishop exercises is his ministry is the goodwill of the Diocese is not only inaccurate – it is nowhere given expression in the liturgical formularies. Again, Andrew has not ‘refer[red] to the liturgy.’ He has constructed an argument based on shaky ecclesiological assumptions. I think it is reasonable to assume that my mark of gamma minus still stands.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 26 September 2017 at 7:38am BST

Michael Mulhern: the process for the appointment of diocesan bishops in England is this:

1. The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) meets and considers whom to recommend for nomination. That name goes, via the Archbishop and the Prime Minister to the Crown, and the nomination is then "informally" announced from 10 Downing Street.

2. The Crown gives permission to the College of Canons of the cathedral of the diocese that they may proceed to an election. In a separate document the Crown formally nominates the person who has been recommended.

3. The College of Canons meets and elects the nominated person, who now becomes the bishop-elect of the diocese.

4. The election of the bishop is confirmed at a provincial legal confirmation hearing. It is at this confirmation hearing that the bishop-elect legally becomes the bishop of the diocese, even if not yet consecrated.

5. If the person has not been consecrated then the church makes haste to remedy that deficiency and the archbishop of the province assisted by as many other of the bishops of the province as is convenient consecrates the person a bishop.

6. The new bishop pays fealty to the Crown and the temporalities of the see are restored after the vacancy.

7. The bishop is enthroned in their cathedral church, entitling them to sit on their episcopal seat, and to hold a service of welcome in the diocese.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 26 September 2017 at 7:58am BST

The word appointment is never used by the Head of State or anyone else in the process. Believing that we have an appointment process rather than a nomination process is to locate ordination to the episcopacy, or inter diocese translation, on the shakiest of grounds. In terms of the liturgy I have expressed that where an ordination takes place all the questions leading up to the 'brothers and sisters.......' are designed to help facilitate a resounding 'it is.' Election - by the Deans and Canons of the Diocese and (where necessary) ordination on the assent of the 'brothers and sisters' of a nomination both (either practically or symbolically) represent that it is the goodwill of the diocese that comes first. The bishop is effectively then sent from the diocese to exercise a national role. But as long as the word 'appointment' continues to be used I would have to insist on a different marker!

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Tuesday, 26 September 2017 at 8:08am BST

I will gladly be corrected on the process of 'appointment' (Simon Kershaw) or 'nomination' (Andrew Lightbown) in England. However, nothing Andrew Lightbown has written, or my examination of the liturgical formularies, or the Canons, provides any evidence to justify Andrew's claim that 'it is the goodwill of the diocese that comes first.' This is to place far too narrow and selective an interpretation on the totality of the process, certainly as Simon Kershaw has outlined it - especially when the 'election' is not an election as most of us know it in other Anglican provinces.

I think what this discussion points up is the wholesale theological paucity that has given rise to the Sheffield situation in the first place, and the vacuum into which many of us seem to be stepping. Part of me says this would not have happened with Rowan Williams in office. In that sense, Oliver O'Donovan's review cannot come soon enough, and I hope, this time, the archbishops do not revert to form by diminishing the theological dimension of the report.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 26 September 2017 at 10:14am BST

This is an interesting example of the old political jibe of people being "in office but not in government". It appears from this discussion that a diocesan bishop could be imposed over the heads of local opposition, because the process does not require either the local ordained or the local parishioners to approve of the selection. That's "in office".

But in the face of active opposition from the people in the diocese, it would be impossible for a bishop to function. There has been a lot of focus on the alleged "right" of bishops to refuse to accept the orders of priests in their diocese: Martyn Percy believes Philip North does not accept their orders, North claims his position is more nuanced, but it doesn't really matter: the perception on the ground would be that priests in Sheffield would have been answerable to someone who believes either that they are not priests or they should not be priests.

It would be perfectly reasonable for those priests to respond in kind. If you do not believe that I am a priest, then the relationship between us is not that of bishop and priest, but of (at best) manager and staff (although a manager who does not believe his staff are qualified to do their jobs is in a delicate position) or (at worst) two random people in the street. The bishop would be in office, but he would not be in government.

Talk about he is appointed to that office is irrelevant; if he would be unable practically to function as a bishop, the rest is just posturing.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 26 September 2017 at 10:29am BST

Interested Observer offers some useful analogies. However, by claiming to be part of the Catholic Church, the Church of England can never simply be a 'local' institution. That is why arguments about the primacy of local opinion and local 'reception' are, ecclesiologically, debatable at best. It is also why we need a much clearer theological statement of what the appointment/nomination process is about, and how mutual flourishing (if that is what it is to be) is an operative element in this process. Hopefully, Oliver O'Donovan has this in his sights.

Posted by Simon R at Wednesday, 27 September 2017 at 7:39am BST

I have experience of working for/with/under (choose your preferred word) a bishop who denied the reality of my priesthood. It was enormously undermining, especially as I had taken on a parish where it was known I would face opposition (the previous incumbent having retired into the parish). This bishop even refused to use the word 'priest' at my licensing to the parish. That sent a negative message to parishioners at the outset.

Whatever the technicalities of 'appointment' or 'nomination'; whatever the 5GS say; we have to ask about any particular nomination: is this person going to be good for the diocese? Is he/she going to be able to support those working at the sharp end, and in areas of conflict? Can the congregations be confident that the bishop is confident in their priest?

Posted by Marcella at Wednesday, 27 September 2017 at 12:31pm BST

Clavier's piece is illuminating. It has been obvious for some years that the Church no longer values pastoral clergy, but I hadn't realised it also devalues scholarship. The desperation to manage multiple parishes and the shortfall of clergy, seem to be leading to an abandonment of the Church's wider vocation to teach and care for the flock.

This short-sightedness will inevitably contribute also to a decline in the Church's ability to evangelise. If we do not have a people ready to 'answer for the faith to which they are called', how will they convince others to follow Jesus? If we are not caring for the flock, why should people join it?

Many years ago I worked with a visiting African bishop on a report he was to present to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The bishop's English was rather gappy (though much better than my Swahili) and he used the memorable phrase 'the people greatly detest the decay of the clergy'. I hope we are not finding ourselves in a position where English congregations have cause to 'greatly detest the decay of the clergy'.

Posted by Marcella at Wednesday, 27 September 2017 at 12:42pm BST

It may be helpful to note that the Ordinal (1662) acknowledges that a bishop is consecrated and ordained "IN the Church of God" but "OF" the Church of England and a particular See within it. This is in keeping with the old conciliar canons that insisted on ordination only to a particular cure, and the continued insistence that priests and bishops confine their ministries (apart from synodical functions) to their parish or diocese.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 27 September 2017 at 3:06pm BST
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