Press release from Affirming Catholicism 30 March 2007
Women bishops: the limits of dissent
Affirming Catholicism has made a formal submission to a Church of England group charged with drawing up the legislation that will enable women to become bishops. In its submission, Affirming Catholicism argues that women bishops should have the same authority and status as their male counter-parts and that pastoral provision can be made for many but not all of the opponents of the move. The legislative drafting group was created by the Church’s governing body, the General Synod, after a debate in July 2006 when the great majority of its members backed a motion in favour of women bishops, although the question of how to deal with opponents was left unresolved.
The Rev’d Jonathan Clark, who chaired the Affirming Catholicism working party, said:
The General Synod has asked the legislative drafting group to produce proposals which will require all members of the Church to accept the fact of women bishops but which affirms that it is possible to dissent from that decision while still remaining loyal Anglicans. We argue that the clear implication of this tough brief is that pastoral arrangements can be put in place for those who regret or disagree with the decision to admit women to the episcopate but not for those who want to insulate themselves from the rest of the Church by living as though women had never been ordained.
The debate about women’s ordination as bishops has been high on the agenda of the General Synod over the last three years, with no set of proposals gaining the full support of its members. Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, Chair of Trustees of Affirming Catholicism, said:
The Church has been grappling with the ordination of women for a generation now and many many people are keen to see it at last resolved. Although only a minority of parishes and priests oppose the ordination of women as bishops, we are arguing for generous and secure pastoral provision to be made for them, provided that it does not put women who are bishops on a lesser footing than their male colleagues or create a church within a church. We believe our proposals strike the right balance between clarity and charity.
The legislative drafting group is due to meet in the middle of April to consider the submissions it has received from individuals and groups and is expected to make a progress report to Synod when it meets in July, although it is as yet unclear when the final vote on legislation will take place.
To read the full text of the submission, click here (.doc format)