Thinking Anglicans

"Yes" to Women Bishops, but not at any price

Press Release – 14th May 2008 for immediate release

Women Clergy Message to Bishops: “Yes” to Women Bishops, but not at any price

In an outspoken statement sent this week to all bishops in the Church of England, nearly half of all licensed women clergy called for no further delay on women bishops, but also, for no further discrimination written into the legislation.

The statement, drawn up by leading women priests, states: “We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishop, but not at any price. The price of legal ‘safeguards’ for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole.”

It goes on to say: “We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation.” None of the 15 Anglican provinces which have voted for women bishops have included discriminatory legislation.

The statement challenges any suggestion that those who want the simplest statutory provisions do not care for those who remain opposed to women’s ordained ministry, and points to “strong relationships” and to the possibility of a code of practice that make “the passing of a single clause measure realistic in today’s Church, as well as theologically and ecclesiologically cohesive.”

The statement declares that “all bishops should work within clear expectations and codes of practice. The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately.”

The covering letter, dated 11th May 2008, is signed by Jane Hedges, Canon Steward at Westminster Abbey, Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Secretary of the National Association of Diocesan Advisors in Women’s Ministry and Lucy Winkett, Canon Precentor at St Paul’s Cathedral and more than 500 other ordained women. Since then a further 213 women priests have added their names to the statement, representing nearly half of all ordained women in the Church of England.

CONTACTS:

Christina Rees (Chair National WATCH)
Tel: 01763-848-822
eMail: Christina@MediaMaxima.com

Revd Canon Lucy Winkett
Tel: 020-7246-8321
eMail: precentor@stpaulscathedral.org.uk

Revd Vanda Rowe
Tel: 01980-610-305
eMail: rev.vandarowe@gmail.com

Revd Canon Jane Hedges
Tel: 020-7654-4867
eMail: Jane.Hedges@westminster-abbey.org

The full text of the statement follows below the fold.

Statement to the House of Bishops regarding the Single Clause Measure as outlined in the Manchester Report

From: Women Clergy undersigned

We welcome the work done by the Legislative Drafting Group outlining ways forward for the Church with regard to the consecration of women as bishops. As ordained women, from amongst whom some of the first generation of women bishops may come, we wish to make our own contribution to the current debate.

We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory laws. In this, we support the recent principled stand taken by the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales.

After 21 years of ordained ministry and 14 years of priesthood, many of us have much experience of building trustful relationships with those unable to accept the priestly ministry of women. In the Anglican Communion overseas, women take this experience into the episcopate, which leads them to invite other bishops into their Dioceses or Episcopal areas to ordain, confirm and take other services when required. Bishops should be trusted to act wisely and behave with dignity, and all bishops should work within clear expectations and codes of practice. The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately. We would commend the good practice over the past 20 years of the 15 Anglican Provinces which have already opened the episcopate to women: none of these has passed discriminatory legislation.

Discussion of a single clause measure without including the possible arrangements for those opposed, characterises those who argue for it as somehow “not caring” about those who oppose the ordination/consecration of women. This is far from the truth. Strong relationships have been forged on the anvil of profound disagreement and there is ample testimony to the richness of these encounters, to set alongside those situations which have proved painful. As the broken body of Christ on earth, the Church’s internal relationships should rest on trust, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, rather than on protection and an over-anxious reliance on the letter of the law. Work has already been done on a draft proposal of robust and clear arrangements that make the passing of a single clause measure realistic in today’s Church, as well as theologically and ecclesiologically cohesive.

We long to see the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, and believe it is right both in principle and in timing. But because we love the Church, we are not willing to assent to a further fracture in our communion and threat to our unity. If it is to be episcopacy for women qualified by legal arrangements to “protect” others from our oversight, then our answer, respectfully, is thank you, but no.

May 2008

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Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
13 years ago

Well Good for these women! Much as it grieves me to think about even more shameful delay in the C of E enjoying the episcopal ministry of women, I am glad they are taking this stand. To treat women bishops as entities that some people have to be protected against is demeaning and, moreover, silly.

Reminds me of the kind of twaddle one heard here before women were ordained -“What is a lady priestess is, you know, having her, erm, “monthlies” when she’s presiding?” Like – the wine will turn sour, right?

You GO ladies!

gareth powell
gareth powell
13 years ago

I think many of us at westcott are also praying for the same thing. I think it would be a profound moment in the C of E if it did vote for the simple option, it would be a bold gesture that would at last confirm women as full members of the body of Christ in Anglican terms rather than the half-hearted measure we have now.

drdanfee
drdanfee
13 years ago

Bravo, speaking clearly up for womens gifts and calls and innate competencies can only aid us in understanding what the real church life issues are. Bravo to all the signing women who may to some extent have risked even further meanness from those who say they are not really called by God and by traditionalistic definitions cannot be called by God. I strongly agree that the notion that traditionalistic Anglican believers have to be protected from the best and the brightest women who manage to persevere against all institutional odds is offensive. More, the notion is sheer meanness, dressed up… Read more »

L Roberts
L Roberts
13 years ago

Very good to hear this.

Please speak out again soon. We need to hear you.

We do.

Pluralist
13 years ago

Dioceses allowing the whole Church to look two ways at once would be a bolt hole for all sorts of discontented authoritarians, the dioceses soon becoming a province given the tainted status of the Archbishops reaching out to all. The simple option means a decision is taken.

Robert Ian Williams
Robert Ian Williams
13 years ago

Good on the women, and now they should block any attempt to set up a third province , safe diocese or legalised discrimination which would extend to male clergy ordained by women.

Nom de Plume
Nom de Plume
13 years ago

In a word, brilliant. The creation of the Flying Bishop scheme in the C of E was an ecclesiological innovation which has been extended into demands for Alternative Episcopal Oversight for dissidents in other Provinces. The signators to this statement clearly do not want to extend this dangerous and anti-Catholic innovation and will even delay their aibility to respond to the call to ministry in order to preserve the catholicity of the Church. That is a serious attitude of self-sacrifice which, unfortunately, also means that the Church will not (because of its own inability to move forward) benefit from their… Read more »

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

It’s that these women priests have written/ signed this letter. It is so good to be reminded that not all Anglicans are so docile as to supinely accept injustice. The reason the anti-women priests/bishops lobby is still vociferous is that we have allowed some clergy to go on in the C of E as if women clergy did not exist all these years. I think that was a big mistake: there should never have been no-go areas for ordained women in the first place. We certainly shouldn’t sanction further types of no-go areas – it would just create an enduring… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“it would be a bold gesture that would at last confirm women as full members of the body of Christ in Anglican” I am not opposed to women’s ordination/consecration, but what does not being able to be a bishop have to do with one’s status as a Christian? Are bishops the only “full members of the Body of Christ”? I am not a bishop. I could never be a bishop. I do not have a vocation to ordained ministry, and, though it IS conceivably possible, I doubt there would ever be a spontaneous move to elect me a bishop. Does… Read more »

William
William
13 years ago

And what if the decision is taken, and it is NO to women bishops in the church of england. Would you accept that? If not, why deny others that right?

JCF
JCF
13 years ago

A few nights ago, I heard (on the Popoid cable channel, EWTN) the conversion story of a former CofE priest, a “Father Geldard.”

What was striking, was his TOTAL disregard of women who heard the Call from God to ordained ministry (and beyond that, disregard of all who, in their hearts, BELIEVED in the God calling these women). They were simply non-persons, to Father Geldard.

May all who believe as he does, similarly take their *dehumanizing* attitudes OUT of the CofE (and the Anglican Communion)—or, better yet, REPENT. Lord have mercy!

britannicus
britannicus
13 years ago

Cardinal Kasper has recently asked members of the Church of England to come to a decision about whether that Church is Catholic or Protestant. Despite their invocation of ‘the Church as a whole’ (Rome and Constantinople can effectively be ignored), the petitioning women clergy have answered very clearly: they are Protestants. Catholic members of the Church of England, however, are obedient to the practices of the Universal Church and, make no mistake, will leave rather than be bullied into a one size fits all arrangement.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
13 years ago

Ford:

If, by one’s very gender, one is forbidden to answer a call from God to serve, then one is not a full member of the body of Christ.

John Henry
John Henry
13 years ago

It was Vatican II Roman Catholic theologians of the stature of Karl Rahner, SJ, who then advocated WO, saying in effect that, if women couldn’t be ordained, they shouldn’t be baptized either. Yet, the Church Catholic from its inception has baptized females, not only males.

Of course, there will always be misogynists like certain ungodly bishops headed for the Southern Cone, who will never accept menstruants as Presbyters and Bishops, stealing on the way out TEC’s silver. After all, accepting women as equals is a greater sin than outright theft–at least in the perverted minds of those ungodly bishops.

christopher+
christopher+
13 years ago

“Catholic members of the Church of England, however, are obedient to the practices of the Universal Church and, make no mistake, will leave rather than be bullied into a one size fits all arrangement.” Britannicus, does this mean that “Catholic” members of the C of E are reasonably content as Anglicans as long as women are ordained as Anglican bishops in other dioceses (or provinces), just not their own? And does this mean that these same “Catholic” members of the C of E – if they are, say, clergy – are celibate, that is, truly “obedient to the practices of… Read more »

choirboyfromhell
choirboyfromhell
13 years ago

BRAVA!!

Spirit of Vatican II
Spirit of Vatican II
13 years ago

Delighted to hear of Rahner’s remarks.

Misogyny is a poison of the clerical mindset that we in the RCC have not even begun to address.

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
13 years ago

The Anglican Church was founded in 1559 as a “one size fits all arrangement”, “Britannicus”. It has been both “Catholic” and “Protestant” since that date. For Cardinal Radner to demand that the Church of England come down off the fence on this issue shows a seriously blinkered understanding of the Church’s history, as, incidentally, does your post. I consider Radner’s comment impertinent, coming, as it does, from one who holds the entire Anglican priesthood, from Rowan Williams downwards, to be invalid. As to who the bully is in this matter? – perception varies, Britannicus.

Robert Ian Williams
Robert Ian Williams
13 years ago

Just a quick comment addressed to John Henry:

Southern Cone ( Canada) has women prebyters, fully licensed!

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

If I could only understand where all this Misogny comes from. The 6 Misogynous verses in the NT? All 2nd century, mostly Alexandrian.

Hellenism. Gnosticist, Philosphy. Hierarchic models of Society.

Proclaiming that “what is” (Patriarchal sub-ordination) is Right (Indian principle of Rita).

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Britannicus: no, Catholic is not by definition “anti-women priests”, and you misuse the term “Catholic” when you try to make the two synonymous. The majority of Roman Catholics across Europe come out in favour of women priests whenever polled. It may be that the elderly male-dominated RC hierarchy has a different view, but I wouldn’t put any money on that staying as it is for much longer.

Charlie
Charlie
13 years ago

With some trepidation can I record my (slightly different reactions) on reading this story? Headline: ‘Yes to women bishops, but not at any price.’ For a few seconds my heart burst with joy: I read this as those personally committed to full inclusion saying the price in hurt to those who disagree might mean delay. Then I read the article. I appreciate their position; I understand the integrity and feeling behind it; I hear the theological reasons; I know it’s expressed far more graciously than by many who oppose them. But just for a second I thought real grace and… Read more »

Roman
Roman
13 years ago

Fr Mark,
can you link me to these polls that you are refering to? And, hrm, not just one from a liberal parish in the Netherlands.

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
13 years ago

I meant “Kasper”, not “Radner” when I posted above, didn’t I? Moral – don’t post immediately after waking from a mid-evening nap! Apologies to any who may feel subconsciously libeled.

Jeremy Bonner
13 years ago

As someone who lived for ten years in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington I would like gently to suggest that not all women bishops have “acted wisely and behaved with dignity” when dealing with Anglo Catholic parishes under their jurisdiction. The Bishop of Rhode Island is an honorable exception in this regard, but I don’t think you can regard her as typical.

Consequently, while people may regard the anti-woman bishop position, as foolish, uninformed or worse, the writers of this letter are making assumptions that are not always borne out by the facts on the ground.

counterlight
counterlight
13 years ago

Rome will have women clergy, including women bishops.

Just not in this century, and maybe not in the next one.

MRG
MRG
13 years ago

The real question, Britannicus, is: when will the Church of Rome return to its properly Catholic roots? The Protestant Reformation may have produced one batch of heretics, but the Catholic Reformation produced a worse one. We of the one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church will be here waiting for you when you decide to join us, women priests and all.

drdanfee
drdanfee
13 years ago

Hmm in this as in many other current hot button controversies, we modern Anglicans are working within the three customary and usual intellectual tensions among Protestant, Catholic, and Empirical-Democratic-Modern approaches to topics which get heated quickly, and appear anything but simple to understand from more than a single angle. Typically, Anglicans always need time, time, and more time to sort out how life and discernment in the mix of such fundamental tensions will go in any given generational era or historical-cultural context. Only to take a different direction, say, ten to fifteen to twenty to thirty years later – as… Read more »

Wolfstan (Edward Spivey)
Wolfstan (Edward Spivey)
13 years ago

I strongly urge the bishops to avoid succumbing to the troglodytes by maintaining “alternate arrangements.” It is time to quit excusing those prejudiced against female clergy, even if it means that some will leave the church. The Episcopal Church made a serious mistake by continuing to honor prejudices.

Leonardo Ricardo
13 years ago

God protect us from those who feel they need protection from women bishops!

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Wednesday, 14 May 2008 at 5:42pm BST

YES, then let’s arrange some emotional and spiritual help (Camp Allen/Diocese of Texas is quite often available for out-patient therapy activities) for such, excluders, at The Body of Christ…rent a Vigin Atlantic jumbojet.

Mark Wharton
Mark Wharton
13 years ago

If the Church fails to make adequate provision for traditionalists then we are effectively saying, “We don’t want you in this Church”.
If this is what we are saying, we are neither open nor inclusive and if this is the CofE of the future, then many faithful Anglicans will have no option but to leave.
We cannot claim to be open and inclusive and then exclude faithful Anglicans because their witness to 2000 year unbroken tradition is no longer popular.

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

Charlie “But just for a second I thought real grace and bearing with each other had broken out. To this reader it felt like sadness to realise it was ‘business as usual’ across our divides.” If they had agreed to delay it would not have been a “bearing with each other”, but a case of one side doing all the bearing. Can you come up with a response that is Christian, graceful and yet does not enshrine the status quo in stone? Because I have no doubt that “a delay” would be no such thing. Unless women and their supporters… Read more »

Malcolm+
13 years ago

Rather a remarkable leap of logic, Jeremy. A female bishop in Washington did not, in your view, act wisely or behave with dignity towards an Anglo-Catholic parish. Ergo, most women bishops do not act wisely or behave with dignity towards Anglo-Catholic parishes – and if one does, she is the exception. Quite apart from the specifics, you have made a bald assertion with no evidence to support it. Even assuming your charge against the particular bishop in question is sustained, that does not prove that women bishops in general have done anything at all. It would prove only that one… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Sara MacVane
13 years ago

For Roman:
I am a priest in the C-of-E, ordained and now working in Rome. The Roman Catholics I meet with and often pray with are enthusiastic about my ministry – a small sampling, but a significant one. From my experience I would agree that Roman Catholic lay people don’t have a problem about women priests, nor do many RC clergy.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
13 years ago

Mark Wharton:

Who’s excluding them? They’re welcome–they’re just not welcome to treat properly ordained or consecrated women as anathema.

Wolfstan
Wolfstan
13 years ago

Mark Wharton: Nobody is telling you to leave. What they are telling you is to get over your outdated prejudices and recognize that women are equal to men in the church as well as in secular society. It’s no good to try to soften the word “misogynists” by the euphemisms “faithful Anglicans” and “traditionalists.” I find it very odd that Brits can shout “God save the Queen” while denying other women advancement in the church.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Sara: then you must find that your local RC clergy are more enthusiastic about your ministry as a woman priest than your C of E docesan bishop is!

Robert Ian Williams
Robert Ian Williams
13 years ago

Of course as a Roman Catholic we don’t go on majority democratic decisions. The majority after all shouted for Barrabas.We believe the Holy Spirit guards the Church through the successor of Peter…who in 1994 issued a definitive magisterial statement on the ordination of womenin his capacity ” as confirmer of the brethren.”

Malcolm+
13 years ago

Sara – the average Roman Catholic is an Anonymous Anglican (with a nod to Karl Rahner, SJ). S/he desires catholic liturgy, catholic sacraments and catholic church order, s/he believes the clergy should be allowed to marry, s/he is okay with the ordination of women and s/he doesn’t want to listen to the Pope.

Wolfstan – careful old bean or the crypto-calvinists will start quoting John Knox on the “monstrous regiment of women.”

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“If, by one’s very gender, one is forbidden to answer a call from God to serve, then one is not a full member of the body of Christ.” Well, the question is whether or not God IS calling women to ordained ministry. I believe He is, and has been for a very long time. I can’t explain why He isn’t calling the Orthodox and Romans to the same, but who am I to question the Almighty? So, in that sense, yes I agree, I guess. But, let’s say for the sake of argument that there IS something important about the… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Robert Ian Williams
13 years ago

Comment: “Catholic members of the Church of England are obedient to the Universal church.” Is that why FIF and the flying bishops all agree to women deacons? As for Lapinbizarre the Church settlement in 1559 was PROTESTANT, and a faithful remanant of Catholics saw it for what it was and refused to join it. Recusancy cost them their social position and for others their lives. Even to this day Roman catholics in England are viewed with suspicion and denied full civil equality. It a total lie that Elizabeth’s church was inclusive. A person could even be prosecuted for possesing a… Read more »

Sara MacVane
Sara MacVane
13 years ago

To Mark:
He did license me though!

Erika Baker
Erika Baker
13 years ago

Ford
“I can’t explain why He isn’t calling the Orthodox and Romans to the same, but who am I to question the Almighty?”

You’re assuming that all the churches have perfect discernment and that each is hearing a particular message God wants them to hear correctly.

I find it highly suspect that God should be calling different churches into different truths and far more likely that some are better at discernment than others.

Mark Wharton
Mark Wharton
13 years ago

If you are seeking to change the nature of Holy Orders in the Church it is imperative that you ask those who wish to maintain the universal teaching of the Church, how you can accommodate them. This had systematically failed to happen and i think we need to have the integrity to give faithful Anglicans a structural solution where they can continue to be part of the Church of England and adhere to the universal faith of the Church. Cardinal Casper has asked the Church of England to decide once and for all whether she is catholic or protestant. Its… Read more »

John Richardson
John Richardson
13 years ago

I would just like to point out that what the letter asks for is actually not an unreserved acceptance of the Manchester Report’s ‘single clause’ Option 1. On the contrary, it offers guarantees of inclusion for those opposed to women bishops, up to an including the availability of male bishops. To quote from my own blog: “What at first blush, then, seems to be a demand for the whole cake and for a recognition of only one valid theological position is actually a much more modest proposal: that opponents of women’s ordination should continue to find a place in the… Read more »

poppy tupper
poppy tupper
13 years ago

just 2 things.

it was not, of course, ‘the monstrous regiment of women’ but ‘ the monstrous regimen (i.e. rule) of women’

and:

interesting to see john richardson here. he claims that he neither reads nor contributes to blogs other than his own. his cage must be really rattled.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
13 years ago

Sara: well, that’s something to be grateful for! As it is, though, I noticed from the ad recently in the Church Times, that the post of Dean of the cathedral in Gibraltar is restricted to men only – how a cathedral can have passed the anti-women Resolutions and still expect to be a place available to the whole diocese is beyond my understanding.

Wolfstan
Wolfstan
13 years ago

Mark Wharton: You said “I am sick and tired of being called Sexist, Misogynist, woman hater and a variety of other things.”

I concur; you are both sick and tired. Fortunately, healing awaits all who ask for it.

Walsingham
Walsingham
13 years ago

I agree that many opponents of women in the priesthood have been badly misunderstood as being sexist or discriminatory. Surely there has to be some way of accommodating their views in good conscience. On the other hand, I strenuously object to the notion that women in the priesthood or episcopacy is somehow “uncatholic”. It is news to me, for example, that the Nicene Creed or any other apostolic formulary forbids women’s ordination. The Pope can say he’s against it until he’s blue in the mouth, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the catholic position to take. (Remember I don’t buy… Read more »

Ford Elms
Ford Elms
13 years ago

“I find it highly suspect that God should be calling different churches into different truths and far more likely that some are better at discernment than others.” Definitely, Erika, but what says that Canturbury is better at discerning the will of God than Rome or Constantinople? And Mark Wharton: “If you are seeking to change the nature of Holy Orders in the Church it is imperative that you ask those who wish to maintain the universal teaching of the Church, how you can accommodate them.” No, actually, you must answer their theological arguments faithfully. I remember the debate in this… Read more »

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