Thinking Anglicans

17 men bishops write about women bishops

17 bishops of the Church of England have written a letter, which is published this week in the Church Times
Delay vote on women, say bishops
the Church of England Newspaper
Church urged to refrain from allowing women bishops
and also The Tablet (where the letter lacks one signature).

The letter (full text below the fold) is also reported in The Times as Senior clergy move to block ordination of women bishops

The bishops include 6 diocesans, one suffragan (Beverley, PEV for the Northern Province) who is an elected member of the House of Bishops, and 10 other suffragans (the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle is a suffragan in all but name).

Most of these bishops are well known to be opposed to the ordination of women as priests, never mind bishops. The exceptions are Tom Wright (Durham), Peter Forster (Chester) and Michael Langrish (Exeter).

Text of letter

Sir, At the July meeting of the General Synod a motion is to be debated asking that the legal impediments for the ordination of women as bishops be removed. As a number of diocesan synods have requested this, we accept the decision of the House of Bishops to test the mind of Synod in this way. We hope, however, that members of the Church of England as a whole will be given the opportunity to consider the implications of the Rochester Report (Women Bishops in the Church of England?) before any such decision is taken.

This matter touches profoundly both the order and identity of the Church of England and its place in the Church as a whole. The Report shows that this is still a matter of major theological disagreement within the Church of England, and is also a matter of deep concern to those ecumenical partners who share our historic commitment to apostolic order.

Bishops are called to be instruments of unity. They are ministers of the communion of churches and are specially charged with guarding and handing on the faith and order of the Church. That faith and order the Church of England has consistently claimed to be the apostolic faith and order of the universal Church. In our proposed new ordinal, those being ordained as bishops are required “to strive for the visible unity of Christ’s Church”.

There is ample evidence from church history, not least, and most recently, in the Anglican Communion, that actions by individual provinces touching the scriptural and traditional faith and order of the Church, actions that inevitably unchurch those who cannot accept such changes, do not serve the unity which Christ asks of his Church. “Reception is a long and spiritual process” (Grindrod Report (1988) cited in Resolution III.2 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference)

At the very least the full and extensive theological debate requested by the General Synod in setting up the Bishop of Rochester’s Working Party must be held throughout the Church of England, and in consultation with all our ecumenical partners, before it would be appropriate to act as if that debate had already taken place and had been concluded in a particular way. To begin the process of removing the legal impediments to the ordination of women as bishops before such debate would widely and correctly be interpreted as assuming the answer.

On this feast of the apostles, St Peter and St Paul, who, despite their often sharply expressed differences, witnessed to the unity of the Church both in their teaching and their faithfulness to death, we pray that new divisions be not forced upon the Church of England, and that the episcopal ministry may continue to be the (albeit imperfect) ministry of unity our Church has hitherto maintained.

The Bishops of Gibraltar in Europe, Beverley, Blackburn, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Exeter (members of the House of Bishops);

Together with the Bishops of Burnley, Ebbsfleet, Edmonton, Fulham, Horsham, Lewes, Pontefract, Richborough, Whitby, and the Assistant Bishop of Newcastle.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
18 years ago

Are there currently any women bishops outside the churches of North America? If those provinces are excluded from Lambeth 08, will that once again make Lambeth a men-only club?

Graham Kings
18 years ago

Deep theological work on the calling of a bishop has already gone into the new Common Worship Ordinal, which has already been discussed by General Synod and is up for final approval this month. The following is the introduction to the declaration which sets out the calling of a bishop. In this quotation, I have deliberately changed ‘he’ to ‘she’ to help us think through if we believe God is calling women to be bishops. I do. ‘Archbishop: A bishop is called to lead in serving and caring for the people of God and to work with them in the… Read more »

18 years ago

I have three thoughts to drop into this: First, if God can use an ass to convey his message, how much more so a human? Secondly: what does it say about God if we persist in applying two-thousand-year-old cultural values to Him? This seems to be putting God in a box, which I’ve long-since been informed is a bad idea. Third: what is it about the role of `bishop’ that makes males and females any different? Is it some competition in a man-made organizational hierarchy for who can score the most points, or does the hierarchy exist to serve God’s… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
J. C. Fisher
18 years ago

“actions by individual provinces touching the scriptural and traditional faith and order of the Church, actions that inevitably unchurch those who cannot accept such changes”

By such a standard, Church leaders in the past who became *abolitionists* “inevitably unchurch[ed] those who [could] not accept such changes”.

Will the Church play it safe? Or be *faithful to the Gospel*?

Simon Sarmiento
18 years ago

Fulcrum has published a talk by Tom Wright which might shed some light on why he is taking this line about women bishops. The article is at
I can’t understand the article myself, but perhaps someone else can explain it.

Prior Aelred
18 years ago

New Zealand had the first female diocesan — Penelope — of course I forget her surname (doubtless her husband’s surname, anyway) — Sudan has approved the ordination of women to all orders (although I don’t know if they have acted)

The English Methodists have been clear all along that their moving to merge with the CofE is contingent on all orders of the church to open to both men & women — to equivocate on this is to be dishonest in the talks with the Methodists (sadly, the CofE has a tradition of that)

18 years ago

Hundreds of priests may leave the C of E if women are consecrated bishops? Let them. Better to travel lighter than to be bogged down with discrimination wrapped in theo-babble passing as “unity of the church.”

When did the church stop being the prophetic voice in the wilderness? Women have been Queen, PM, and Cabinet members–what are these “hundreds of priests” afraid of, anyway?

David Skinner
David Skinner
18 years ago

Dear Sir , a major problem of our society lies with the withdrawal of men from the headership of their families. The family, the buildig block of society knows nothing of authority, discipline or accountability. Each member does exactly as he or see thinks fit. Men must be taught again to take responsibility for their families and christian fathers should be taught to be spiritual leaders in their own homes. For men to exercise Ephesians.5:25 would be quite a revolution in the church. Those families that model the christian family in their communities would transform society in a way that… Read more »

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x