Thinking Anglicans

Necessary but not sufficient

Robert Cotton, Rector of Holy Trinity Guildford and a member of the General Synod, writes …


At various points in the Measure actions are described which, it must be presumed and hoped, spring from deeply held beliefs; but these beliefs are not described. For example, section 2 (5) says “ … includes a statement by the bishop that he will not ordain women to the office of priest…” This statement is a declared action with no reference to the supporting theological rationale. Moreover, the provision that must be made in the diocesan scheme flowing from the bishop’s statement does not need to refer to the attitude of the diocesan bishop. ‘Legislation is generally about the achievement of practical objectives’ (paragraph 35, GS Misc 1033). So there are already examples within the Measure of restraint being shown. Legislation is not the best place to name and describe theological convictions.

Necessary but not sufficient

This is partly because theological convictions appear different to different people. My passionately held belief may appear to you to be prejudice, or vice versa. The church flourishes when convictions are articulated and understood, and not merely held. In particular, spiritual discernment is made possible when theological convictions are articulated in the company of those who may disagree. Convictions may become held more passionately when we speak with our sympathisers, but they become better tested when we are not “preaching to the choir”. Indeed, it is a present danger for the church increasingly to fragment into pockets of ardently held beliefs where the ability to listen and speak is not fully practised. It is humbling to be in a position that our deeply held convictions are not convincing others. Such humility is needed both for conversations within the church and, even more pressingly, with those ‘in the world’.

So, theological convictions may themselves be necessary but not sufficient. The Archbishop of Canterbury identified that something was missing in section 2 (1) of the original Measure in his speech to Synod on July 9 (Para 33, GS Misc 1033). He pointed out that the church should be rightly fearful of accommodating itself to certain beliefs. But paragraph 36 notes that it is very difficult as well as contentious to seek to define what theological convictions are acceptable. It may also be seen to be inappropriate for legislation to attempt this task. What the legislation can do is commit all parties to become involved in further discernment by requiring there to be conversations that explore both the roots and consequences of firmly held beliefs. Indeed, the example that is frequently used is misogyny. Given that what to you appears to be misogyny may be to the other person a deeply held belief (a theological conviction), the example acknowledges that there are theological convictions that can be deemed unacceptable. The method for making that judgement must include conversation between interested parties; no legislation can be sufficient in itself to determine the rightness or otherwise of theological convictions.


The logic of these points moves us towards option 4. Restraint urges us to ‘prune the provision’ (Para 52); but this must be balanced by reference to process. So the suggested wording in paragraph 55, second option, captures these two aspects. Paragraph 56 raises a concern that there is no ‘assurance that the guidance would result in the provision of ministry that parishes would be able to receive’ – nor should it. For, as has already been established, there are deeply held beliefs, that will be presented as theological convictions, which the church should resist accommodating (see the archbishop’s remarks). Rather the inclusion of reference to process ensures that there will be opportunity ‘to discover more than is apparent from the Letter of Request’ (Para 60).

Seen as an enlargement of option 4, option 5 falls foul of the criteria of seeking to state too much. We have already recognised that a desire to have a male bishop leaves the theological rationale unsaid. This is inappropriate for relationships (where reasoning needs to be offered, heard and discussed), but appropriate for legislation (which is not the right forum for such discernment). In a similar way, the consequences that flow from having a male bishop should also be left unspoken within legislation, but articulated in the context of spiritual relationships between bishops, priests and parishes. The structure of the theological argument should be “we request a male bishop for XYZ theological reasons so that ABC may follow”. For example, a Traditional Catholic parish should be able to describe the particular ways in which it will flourish given the provision of a male bishop. Both reasons and goals, once discussed, heard and respected, will enable parishes, priests and bishops to work actively together with mutual understanding. The word “effective” in paragraph 67 is a good example of legislation over-reaching itself. No law can assure parishes of effective ministry; only proper training, active prayer and the blessings of the Holy Spirit can do that. So legislation itself is not the right place for reasons (XYZ) or goals (ABC).


Global South Primates' letter to the Crown Nominations Commission

In their communiqué a week ago the Global South Primates wrote that they had written to the Crown Nominations Commission about the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Episcopal Café has now seen a copy of this letter and published it in full: Global South Primates: next ABC must ‘address the ecclesial deficit’ of Communion.



Theos has published a two part series on the establishment of the Church of England. Jonathan Chaplin writes that it is Time for the Church to cut the knot, whereas Nigel Biggar writes Why the Anglican establishment is good for a liberal society.

Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian about The art of religious sunbathing: giving up trying to be in control.


Women Bishops: A closer look at option 5

This article is concerned with what GS Misc 1033 calls “Option 5”. To encourage a constructive discussion of this option, I have brought together below the specific sections of the document which deal with this. This option is titled Focus on suitability/appropriateness and it builds in a specific reference to the ‘suitability’ or ‘appropriateness’ of the person selected for the particular context in which he was to exercise ministry.

Paragraph 59 contains the suggested possible rewording of sub-clause (c)

(c) the selection, following consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests, the exercise of ministry by whom appears to the persons making the selection to be [suitable][appropriate] for the parishes concerned.

The full text of the relevant section of the paper, paras 58 to 67 is copied below the fold.

The paper also comments on what wording in the Code of Practice would be appropriate in conjunction with option 5. Reference is made to the most recent draft code, contained in GS Misc 1007 and a few extracts from that are included as an annex at the end of GS Misc 1033.

Here is what it says:

88. In the case of option five, an alternative version would be preferable. There would also need to be a revised version of paragraph 97 (which could incorporate some of the elements from paragraph 91 below), with consequential amendments to paragraphs 126 and 127. The text to go in after paragraph 40 might be along the lines of the following:

A diocesan scheme should provide that the arrangements for selecting bishops who will exercise their ministry by delegation will enable parishes to receive ministry that is [suitable] [appropriate] to their circumstances given the basis on which the Letter of Request was issued.

This does not mean that the arrangements should allow a parish to choose its own bishop or insist that the person selected should be of its own churchmanship. But they should provide for the diocesan bishop, through consultation with the PCC, to seek to establish the nature of the conviction that underlies the Letter of Request, and, in the light of that, to select someone whose ministry can be effective in that context.”

Paragraph 91 which is mentioned above, as being partially relevant to option 5, reads as follows:

91. Paragraph 97 [of the draft code] would then be replaced (and there would be corresponding amendments to paragraphs 126 and 127 in relation to priestly ministry) by the following:

Before sending the PCC the written notice setting out the arrangements to give effect to the Letter of Request, the diocesan bishop should inform him – or herself, by consulting the PCC of the parish (either personally or through a representative), of its position in relation to the celebration of the sacraments and other divine service and the provision of pastoral care.

The Measure does not allow parishes to ask that their bishop should hold a particular set of beliefs, or subscribe to any statement of faith beyond what all bishops have to affirm when making the Declaration of Assent. Nor does it allow parishes to choose their own bishop or insist that the male bishop selected for them reflects their own churchmanship.

In determining what arrangements to set out in the written notice the diocesan bishop should seek to accommodate the parish’s concerns relating to holy orders and the exercise of ordained ministry of women so far as those matters are relevant to the parish’s position in relation to the celebration of the sacraments and other divine service and the provision of pastoral care. But the diocesan should not take into account other, unrelated matters. In practice, the needs of conservative evangelical parishes, and traditional catholic parishes, in this respect are unlikely to be identical.



Prime Minister criticises Church on same-sex relationships

The Prime Minister hosted a reception at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday evening, and a transcript of his remarks has been published: Prime Minister’s speech at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Reception.

There have been several reports of this event including:

Changing Attitude David Cameron reveals government’s total commitment to equal marriage

Pink News Exclusive: Out4Marriage says David Cameron personally backs gay religious marriages

Thurible At Number 10

The speech linked above includes the following paragraph:

…I run an institution – the Conservative Party – which for many many years got itself on the wrong side of this argument, it locked people out who were naturally Conservative from supporting it and so I think I can make that point to the Church, gently. Of course this is very, very complicated and difficult issue for all the different Churches, but I passionately believe that all institutions need to wake up to the case for equality, and the Church shouldn’t be locking out people who are gay, or are bisexual or are transgender from being full members of that Church, because many people with deeply held Christian views, are also gay. And just as the Conservative Party, as an institution, made a mistake in locking people out so I think the Churches can be in danger of doing the same thing…

This has provoked a response from Anglican Mainstream Prime Minister urged to correct serious misrepresentation.

And Reform has issued this Media Statement.


Church of England publishes discussion document on women bishops' legislation


A discussion document (GS Misc 1033) has been issued to all members of the General Synod today. It explores possible ways of resolving the issue which led to the adjournment of the final approval debate of the women bishops’ legislation in York a fortnight ago.

Here is a link to GS Misc 1033: Women in the Episcopate – the Final Legislative Lap in PDF format.

And here is a copy of the document as a web page.

The document is in the name of the Secretary General and has been issued with the agreement of the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops (Canterbury, York, London, Coventry, Dover, Gloucester, Norwich and Rochester).

It also reflects input from the Steering Committee for the legislation (Bishop of Manchester, Bishop of Dover, Viv Faull, Paula Gooder, Ian Jagger, Margaret Swinson and Geoffrey Tattersall), and from the three bishops (St Edmundsbury, Chichester and Coventry) who were previously members of the Code of Practice Working Group.

No recommendations are made at this stage. Instead the document sets out the decision making process which now has to be followed, explains how the disputed issue concerning clause 5(1)(c) relates to the rest of the legislation (which cannot now be amended) and discusses seven possible options.

Two of these are to retain or remove clause 5(1)(c). The other five are ways in which the present wording might be replaced by a new provision. These five alternative drafting approaches are not intended to be exhaustive. As the document says at paragraph 11: ‘The hope is that these possibilities will stimulate further suggestions.’

The consultation period ends on 24 August so that the results can be assessed and reported to the House for its meeting on 12 September. On that occasion – which will also be attended by the Steering Committee – the House will need to decide how to respond to the Synod’s request to reconsider clause 5(1)(c). In the light of the decision taken then Synod members will have just over two months to reflect on how they will vote when the Final Approval debate is resumed at the group of sessions called for 19-21 November.

On 12 September the House will also consider the need for supplementing the illustrative draft Code of Practice which was circulated to Synod in January (GS Misc 1007). A final decision will not be needed then because drafting the Code does not at this stage form part of the formal legislative process.


Women bishops: Clause 5 (1) (c) What are the options?

To start our discussion of how the House of Bishops (HoB) might respond to the action of General Synod in referring the legislation back to them, let’s first look at the range of options that is legally possible.

The first point to note is that under the terms of the referral, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the General Synod, the HoB cannot make changes to any other part of the draft Measure. The only part of the Measure they are now permitted to alter is that which comes between sub-clauses (b) and (d) of Clause 5 (1).

The wording is shown in context below the fold.

There is however nothing to prevent them introducing some additional separate documentation, outside the text of the Measure, including but not limited to some proposed wording for the Code of Practice.

The second point is that the HoB could decide not to make any further change at all, and simply return the existing text to the Synod. Again this might be accompanied by some separate documentation. Those who wish to argue in favour of this course of action need to explain why they think that, despite the clear majority vote for referral, this is what the HoB should do.

The third point is that the HoB could simply withdraw the existing sub-clause altogether, thus restoring this part of the Measure to the wording that existed previously. Again, those who wish to argue for this option, need to explain why they think that, despite a clear lack of a two-thirds majority for referral in the House of Laity, this is what the HoB should now do.

The final point is that the HoB could propose some modifications to the existing wording of sub-clause (c). This would involve the additions of new words or even sentences, or the deletion of existing words or phrases. They might also split the sub-clause even further, for example to make a distinction between what it says about bishops and what it says about priests. They might add words to clarify the meaning of the term “theological convictions”. In all these cases, and any others, it may be helpful if the bishops issue some additional separate documentation, as mentioned above.

Before the General Synod considers any further change, the “Group of Six” has to determine that it is not now so substantial a change from the original draft Measure that it requires further review by all the diocesan synods.

But the purpose of any change now must be to increase the level of support that the Measure will receive in the Synod in November, and subsequently in Parliament. The question we are discussing here is what more can be said in the Measure that will allow those opposed to the underlying principle of it to feel less exposed, whilst still allowing those in favour of the underlying principle to feel able to support the Measure.



Dean of St Albans reiterates his support for equal civil marriage

The Dean of St Albans, The Very Reverend Dr Jeffrey John, has made a video for the Out4Marriage website.

You can view it via this link.

He was a signatory to a letter to the editor of The Times on this topic, published in April, which is reproduced here.


Global South Conference issues a (separate) Communiqué

In addition to the document issued by the GS primates, there is now also this: A Communiqué from the Global South Conference on the Decade of Mission and Networking, July 16 – 21, 2012 at Bangkok, Thailand.

1. This Conference is a response to the call at the 4th Global South to South Encounter in Singapore April 2010 to gather leaders from Provinces of the Global South and other mission partners, which are unequivocally committed to the apostolic-historic faith for the Global South Conference on Decade of Mission and Networking.

2. We received with thanks a note of greeting from Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who affirmed his support for the work of the Conference.

3. Similarly, we also received with thanks a note of greeting from Elder Fu Xianwei, Chairman of the National Committee of Three Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches of China. He affirmed his friendship with the Global South Anglican Churches and continual desire for further dialogue and partnership in ministry.

4. More than 100 delegates from provinces in the Global South (comprising Africa, Asia, the Pacific and South America) gathered together in prayer, fellowship and listening to the teaching of the Word. We were also joined by a number of our mission partners from other parts of the Communion and various Mission agencies…

Jim Naughton has already commented on this statement at Episcopal Café in The Global South Anglicans and what they didn’t say:

…Followers of Communion politics will note that the statement contains no mention of The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada or the Church of England’s politics and practices regarding the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The statement comes on the heels of a relatively mild statement from the “Global South Primates”, a smaller group that often meets in conjunction with larger Global South gatherings, but in the past has taken a harder rhetorical line against more gay-friendly churches.

While the communique does identify the members of this particular fellowship as “unequivocally committed to the apostolic-historic faith” (hence the usual absence of the leaders of numerous southern Anglican provinces who define that term differently than the organizers of this meeting) that phrase is perhaps the only example of the kabuki boilerplate that previously studded the statements of all parties in the Anglican struggles over sexuality…


Global South Primates issue a Communiqué from Bangkok

The full text of the document: Communiqué of the Global South Primates Bangkok, Thailand, 20 July 2012

It starts out:

1. We, the Primates and representatives of 17 Global South Provinces, met in Bangkok, Thailand, from 18-20 July 2012, in conjunction with the Global South Conference on the Decade of Mission and Networking.

2. The theme of Conference called the Church to “Be Transformed by the Renewing of the mind to Obedience of Faith for Holistic Mission in a Radically Changing Global Landscape”, offering our sanctified bodies and renewed minds as living sacrifices for our Lord’s glory.

And it includes this passage:

6. We note with great sadness the passing of Resolution A049 at the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church which authorized a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. This action confirms our disappointment that The Episcopal Church has no regard for the concerns and convictions of the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide.

7. We stand in solidarity with our brethren in the Communion Partners who have dissented from this action. We uphold them in prayer and support them in fellowship as they continue in their commitment to the evangelical faith and catholic order of the Church, as expressed in their Minority Report known as The Indianapolis Statement.

8. We also appreciate and support all the faithful in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as well as those in the Anglican Church in Canada who remain true to our biblical and historic faith.

9. We deeply respect and appreciate our historical and spiritual relationship with the See of Canterbury. We have written to the Crown Nominations Commission with concerns from the Global South and important principles for consideration as it nominates candidates for the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Those present are listed:

Primates Present or Represented:

The Most Rev Dr Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem & the Middle East
The Most Rev Nicholas Okoh, Primate of Nigeria
The Most Rev Ian Ernest, Primate of the Indian Ocean
The Most Rev Bolly Lapok, Primate of South East Asia
The Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala, Primate of Kenya
The Most Rev Stephen Tan, Primate of Myanmar
The Most Rev Henri Isingoma, Primate of Congo
The Most Rev Daniel Deng, Primate of Sudan
The Most Rev Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of Burundi
The Most Rev Onesphore Rwaje, Primate of Rwanda
The Most Rev Valentino Mokiwa, Primate of Tanzania
The Most Rev David Vunagi, Primate of Melanesia
The Most Rev Joseph Kopapa, Primate of Papua New Guinea
The Right Rev Dr Johannes Seoka representing Southern Africa
The Right Rev Matthias Medadues-Badohu representing West Africa
The Right Rev Dr Chad Gandiya representing Central Africa
The Right Rev Peter Bartlett representing the Southern Cone


Review offers a new vision for the Church in Wales

The Church in Wales has issued this press release: Review team offers radical vision for Church

A radical new vision for the future of the Church in Wales is set out in a report launched today.

Supersize parishes run by teams of vicars and lay people, creative ideas for ensuring churches stay at the heart of their communities and investing further in ministry to young people are among the report’s recommendations following an independent root and branch review.

The Church in Wales commissioned the review a year ago to address some of its challenges and to ensure it was fit for purpose as it faced its centenary in 2020. Three experienced people in ministry and church management examined its structures and ministry and heard evidence from public meetings across Wales attended by more than 1,000 people.

On the Review Group were: Lord (Richard) Harries of Pentregarth, former Bishop of Oxford, who chaired it; Professor Charles Handy, former professor of the London Business School; and Professor Patricia Peattie, first chairwoman of the Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust and former Chair of the Episcopal Church in Scotland’s Standing Committee.

Their report will now be presented to the Church’s Governing Body for consideration.

It makes 50 recommendations which include:

  • Parishes replaced by much larger ‘ministry areas’ which would mirror the catchment areas of secondary schools, where possible, and be served by a team of clergy and lay people;
  • Creative use of church buildings to enable them to be used by the whole community;
  • Training lay people to play a greater part in church leadership;
  • Investing more in ministry for young people;
  • Developing new forms of worship to reach out to those unfamiliar with church services;
  • Encouraging financial giving to the church through tithing

The full report is available as a PDF file here.



Mark Chapman writes for Thinking faith about Rowan Williams in Retrospect.

Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that No, I am not a liberal – I believe that community comes before the individual.
And in the Church Times he writes that It might be legal, but it is not right.

Paul Handley writes this leader comment on the Church Times Peace is part of the Christian DNA.


Church of Ireland Gazette interviews at General Synod

Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, interviewed the bishop of Dover, and two of the editors of Thinking Anglicans, following the General Synod vote to adjourn the debate on final approval of the women bishops legislation. You can listen to, or download, both interviews here.

The Gazette also has an editorial about the Synod meeting which you can read here.

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Bishop of Durham to serve on Banking Standards Commission

It was announced earlier this week that the Bishop of Durham is to serve on the Banking Standards Commission. Here is the Church of England press release.

Bishop of Durham to serve on Banking Standards Commission
17 July 2012

The Rt Revd Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, has been invited to sit on the Parliamentary Commission On Banking Standards. His appointment to the Commission underlines the depth and value of the non-partisan expertise the Lords Spiritual bring to their work in the House of Lords.

The Commission will be chaired by Andrew Tyrie MP, Chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee. The terms of reference set out in the motion which established the Commission require it to consider and report on ‘professional standards and culture of the UK banking sector, taking account of regulatory and competition investigations into the Libor rate-setting process’ and ‘lessons to be learned about corporate governance, transparency and conflicts of interest, and their implications for regulation and for Government policy’.

Following graduation, Bishop Justin spent most of his professional life in business, including 11 years in the oil industry. He was part of the senior management team of a large British exploration and production company, responsible for its financing operations, eventually becoming Group Treasurer of Enterprise Oil PLC in 1984.

Giles Fraser interviews the bishop for The Guardian: The Saturday interview: Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham

There are some press reports of the bishop’s appointment.

Ed Thornton in The Church Times Durham joins team to tackle banks

BBC Bishop of Durham on UK banking committee

And The Guardian has a list of all the commission members: Parliamentary commission on banking standards set up.


General Synod – business done & electronic voting

The official summary of the business transacted at the July Synod (including the texts of the motions carried) is now available for download: Business Done.

All the electronic voting results lists for the group of sessions are now available to download here.


What's in A Name? A report on Equal Marriage

The Policy Exchange think tank has published a report entitled What’s In A Name? Is there a case for equal marriage?

The synopsis reads:

The Government’s proposals to introduce civil marriage for same-sex couples have provoked controversy and a wide-scale debate. The public consultation, which concluded in June sparked more responses than almost any other Government consultation. The debate has, in many ways, been more diverse, impassioned and wide-ranging than previous debates around ‘gay rights’. In particular, a ‘conservative case’ in favour of reform has emerged.

Supporters of equal marriage suggest that allowing same-sex people to marry would be an important act to ensure that gay and lesbian people have equal rights under the law. It’s also suggested that marriage is a beneficial institution, encouraging commitment and stability and that these benefits should not be denied to gay people, with some suggesting that marriage could be particularly beneficial to gay people.

Opponents argue that the change would redefine the nature of marriage and weaken the institution as a whole. They also argue that it could lead to a ‘slippery slope’ that could see the likes of polygamous marriage legalised at some point in the future. Concerns have also been expressed by opponents that the changes could be detrimental to religious freedom.

This report adopts an evidence-based analysis of the arguments around marriage equality to consider whether there is a compelling argument to reform the law. It pursues a reasoned analysis of the equal marriage concept and its practical implications and evaluates the arguments on both sides of the divide. It also explores the experience of other countries where marriage equality is already a reality.

The report can be downloaded as a PDF from here.


Clifford Longley writes about the General Synod

This article, which appeared in The Tablet last week, is reproduced here by kind permission of the Editor.

Nowhere is it written that a parish may excommunicate its bishop’

The Church of England has reached an impasse over the issue of women bishops. As conservatives blame the liberals and liberals blame the conservatives – and both blame the bishops – might a candid friend suggest that they would be more honest if they blamed themselves?

On 11 November 1992, the General Synod gave the required two-thirds majority to the decision to ordain women as priests. There were three hostages to fortune given that day. The first was to suppose a theological issue could be settled by such a majority as that. Not long before, the issue of unity with the Methodists had required a 75 per cent majority, which it failed to get. Two-thirds was chosen simply because the pro-women-priests side felt it could be achieved.

Secondly, the assumption was made that the issue of the consecration (i.e. ordination) of women bishops could be postponed to another day. Anything that might have alarmed the waverers was removed. Indeed, even this minimalist proposal was only secured by a margin of two votes, and there were more than that number of abstentions. But in the apostolic tradition, the priesthood is a unity. Priests exercise their ministry with their bishop; bishops with their priests. Theologically, one follows from the other. It is the attempt to separate them that is now coming unstuck, for the theological unity of the ordained ministry is deeply embedded in the Church of England’s structure, where it has survived since before the Reformation.

Thirdly, the two-thirds requirement guaranteed that up to a third of the Church would withhold its assent. The solution was to give the minority what was, in effect, their own Church-within-a-Church, with its own bishops who would not themselves ordain women (dubbed flying bishops because in effect they flew in when episcopal ministry was needed, and then flew out again).

This had two consequences. It meant abandoning any attempt to achieve a better consensus, to bring the Church to one mind on the matter. The Church proper and the Church-within-a-Church were henceforth destined to be rival and mutually incompatible versions of Anglican orthodoxy. It also implied that there was, in conservative eyes at least, a fundamental flaw in the episcopal credentials of any bishop who had ordained women, a “taint”.

By voting for the flying-bishop proposal as part of the minimalist package, furthermore, the liberal majority had colluded in this theology of taint, whether they meant to or not.

But it is not a doctrine known to the Catholic and apostolic tradition, to which the Church of England has pledged to be faithful. Nor is it biblical. It is a toxic novelty. Nowhere in the tradition is it written that a parish may excommunicate its own bishop and opt for another one, which is what the flying bishops idea amounts to. If a parish decided to reject the ministry of the local bishop if that bishop was female, it could arguably question her orders. But to reject it because a (male) bishop had, at least once, ordained a woman priest is contrary to the necessary (and Catholic) principle of ex opere operato – that the validity of a sacramental ministry is independent of the worthiness of the office-holder.

So the pro-women-priests majority may have set up this untenable situation by their eagerness to scrape up a two-thirds majority. But the anti-women-priests minority then made a grievous error by embracing the theology of episcopal taint that the flying bishops solution implied, contrary to the Catholic tradition. Henceforth they were sitting on a time bomb. If the Church decided to follow the logic of 11 November 1992 and ordain women as bishops, the minority’s position would become hopeless. Bishops often participate in each other’s consecrations: “taint” would become a sort of theological virus, transmitted by the laying on of hands. Sooner or later, none would be untainted.

The measure to ordain women bishops was adjourned by the General Synod this week because it entitled parishes by law to choose a bishop of the pure kind if their local diocesan bishop is tainted (or even more so, if the local bishop is female). The objection was made that this is deeply insulting to women priests and to any woman subsequently chosen as a bishop. So it may be, but this is an issue that is better dealt with by rigorous theological analysis than by indignant rhetoric.

Theological chickens have a habit of coming home to roost. The next step forward therefore needs to be a step back, to examine afresh what happened on 11 November 1992. And to be honest about – wherever that may lead.
Clifford Longley is an Editorial Consultant to The Tablet. He is a journalist who has been a religious affairs specialist since 1972, for The Times for 20 years and then until 2000 for the Daily Telegraph.


General Synod – electronic voting results for adjournment

Updated Monday evening to add a webpage version of the spreadsheet.

The detailed electronic voting results for the vote on the motion

That the debate be now adjourned to enable the new clause 5(1)(c) inserted by the House of Bishops into the draft Measure entitled “Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure” to be reconsidered by the House of Bishops.

at General Synod last Monday are now available for download.

As already announced at the time of the vote the result was 288 votes in favour and 144 against with 15 recorded abstentions.

From the detailed electronic voting results I have calculated how the votes went in each house.

  for against abstain
Bishops 36 10 4
Clergy 136 54 6
Laity 116 80 5
total 288 144 15

From these figures it can be seen that there was a comfortable two-thirds majority in the houses of bishops and clergy. But the majority was only 59% in the house of laity. These figures may or may not be relevant to the vote on final approval in November when a two-thirds majority will be required in each house for the measure to be approved.

I have split the voting lists into houses in this spreadsheet, also available as a webpage. I have also added the names of those members who did not record a vote or abstention. They are marked as absent for convenience but at least one (the Archbishop of York, who was in the chair) was present.



David Keen writes about The Leading of the 5000: Redesigning the CofE.
And Sam Charles Norton says that The dying of a church is not a management problem.

Simon Barrow writes for Ekklesia about Why the church should back community schooling.

Alan Wilson blogs Overview and Inner View.

Peter Heslam writes for LICC (The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity) about Barclay’s Apology.

Giles Fraser writes on The guardian that An inclusive church is a fundamental gospel imperative.


Vicarious liability: RC Diocese of Portsmouth loses appeal

Last November, we reported Court rules on RC priest/bishop relationship.

In the event, that decision was appealed by the RC Diocese of Portsmouth, and this week judgment was given in the appeal case. The panel of three appeal judges voted 2-1 against the diocese.

JGE v The Trustees of the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust

The full text of the judgment can be found here (PDF).

A press statement by the diocese is over here (PDF).

Some press reports and comment:

Guardian Owen Bowcott Catholic church loses abuse liability appeal

Telegraph John Bingham Clerical abuse case ‘disastrous’ for charities, claims Church

Catholic Herald Mark Greaves Court rules that Diocese of Portsmouth is liable for clerical abuse and Alexander Lucie-Smith Yesterday’s Appeal Court ruling strikes me as a serious blow to religious freedom

Southern Daily Echo Diocese of Portsmouth loses appeal against liability for priests’ wrongdoings