Thinking Anglicans

women as bishops: the Australian protocol

The bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia recently agreed a Protocol about Women in the Episcopate.

The text of this document can be found as a PDF file on the national church website, here.

It is also reproduced in full below the fold.

AUSTRALIAN ANGLICAN BISHOPSPROTOCOL

No. 011 YEAR: 2008

WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE

1. As bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, we recognise that the ministry of ordained women has been accepted in many dioceses of this Church, and also acknowledge that there are those who, for various reasons and to varying degrees, are unable to accept women in the ordained ministry.

2. We recognise the good faith of those who support the ordination and consecration of women and of those who cannot receive these developments, and pledge that those who hold either conviction will continue to have a valued and respected place in this Church.

3. We resolve to nurture the highest possible level of collegiality as bishops, seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4. We affirm that all people are made in the image of God, and expressly reject any intolerance or unjust discrimination against any member of this Church on the grounds of gender, since all are one in Christ Jesus, while acknowledging that diverse biblical and theological views on the place of gender in the order of creation and the church are genuinely held.

5. We affirm that episcopal ministry should be available to every community of faith and every member of this Church, whatever their belief as to the acceptability of a woman holding office as a bishop, and that the diocesan bishop will ensure that pastorally sensitive and appropriate episcopal ministry is provided.

6. We affirm that every diocesan bishop and every bishop providing episcopal ministry within a diocese should be mutually accountable in collegial solidarity with his or her episcopal colleagues for ensuring that there are reasonable and appropriate arrangements for episcopal ministry. Accordingly, we encourage all dioceses who desire to appoint or elect women as bishops to make provision for reasonable and appropriate episcopal ministry, addressing matters including the following:

a. arrangements for episcopal visitation, confirmation and ordination;
b. provisions for matters of discipline and pastoral succession;
c. procedures through which a community of faith may request the provision of this ministry; and
d. provision about the manner in which the costsofproviding this ministry are to be borne.

We also note the proposed provisions for alternative episcopal ministry in the Bill for a Church Law (Further Clarification) Canon 2004 and commend these to the dioceses for consideration in developing “reasonable and appropriate arrangements” with a degree of continuity across the Anglican Church of Australia.

7. We recommend that the custom of the Metropolitan or Primate acting as chief consecrator should be varied to the extent necessary when the Metropolitan or Primate is a woman or when a woman is to be consecrated.

8. We encourage Metropolitans, when planning consecration services, to consider that for some it will be important that three of the consecrating bishops are men, and we also pledge to act with respect for one another in the ordering of services of consecration.

16 comments

  • drdanfee says:

    As USA Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and San Joaquin (formerly under JDS) plus Sydney help show us, the efforts to give certain conservative believers their conscientious wish – to be carefully, strictly freed from having to deal with women who are foolish enough to think God has called them to ministry, and from any other believers who are foolish enough to discern such women as their bishop – is not a transitional phase during which reception inevitably occurs.

    Rather, so far what has happened is that conservatives of this type close ranks, put up walls, continue to demeaningly characterize and even on occasion preach a false witness about the motives/person of any woman priest or bishop, and we end up with the planned Balkanization of church life sectors intentionally devoted to keeping certain conservatisms undefiled or pure from the contaminating touches of women outside the limited and subjegated roles certain conservatives assign to women based on narrow readings of scripture.

    At first glance, the live and let live part of me thought, why not let certain conservative believers avoid women, since they prize it so highly and with such rigor?

    Then I noted that the uncanny sense of fearful contamination from women that is part and parcel of anti-women theologies necessarily spread to anybody who treats women in some manner other than the divinely ordained subjegation orderings that certain conservative believers sincerely preach.

    Then I noted that even drawing boundaries and putting up walls was not going to be enough, as any non-properly subjegated woman who managed any success or recognition – is it too much to say that some folks love their women priests or bishops and thank God for their ministries? – continued to be an offense and a target.

    I understand that such accommodations are meant to be gentle, transitional, and spatious. However much of a certain type of vigorous conservative believer campaigning repeatedly renders them transitions to the fortified, weaponized ghetto zones where men fearful of women cooties claim to follow God by keeping women everywhere of all sorts confined to limited, lesser roles in conservative church life. Many conservative believers would yet again spread this terrible mean-spiritedness to the whole of civilized life, if only they had the power and the means to apply that power to all women.

  • Kurt says:

    Drdanfee is absolutely correct! It is a mistake to set up such “temporary” structures, because the reactionaries work overtime to make them PERMANENT. I agree, that’s one area where we Americans made a mistake. The reactionaries MUST BE FORCED to accept female clergy from the very beginning; if they don’t like it, they can always leave and form their own denomination.

  • Megan says:

    As an American Southerner, does anybody remember the “separate but (un)equal era”? What is the difference? Why are these dioceses bending over backward to legitimize and indeed codify discrimination against women when it would most certainly not be allowed against minorities?

  • mike says:

    Per Megan’s comment, I have substituted “aboriginal persons” for “women” in portions of the document. It is very illuminating and, I think, absolutely horrifying.

    For example:
    2. We recognise the good faith of those who support the ordination and consecration of aboriginal peoples and of those who cannot receive these developments, and pledge that those who hold either conviction will continue to have a valued and respected place in this Church.

  • Robert Ian Williams says:

    “Can a house divided against its self stand” …the words of the Lord Jesus Christ , as recorded in Mark 3,v25.

    Its also interesting to observe that Sydney will be soon implementing lay presidency…will they be providing ” clerical consecration ” for those in parishes appalled at this development?

  • JCF says:

    Notice that, in essence, this says:

    “Accordingly, we encourage all dioceses who [are going to be DIFFICULT and] desire to appoint or elect women as bishops…”

    And why, pray tell does

    “5. We affirm that episcopal ministry should be available to every community of faith and every member of this Church, whatever their belief as to the acceptability of a woman holding office as a bishop, and that the diocesan bishop will ensure that pastorally sensitive and appropriate episcopal ministry is provided.”

    mean a MALE bishop is required to step in? A bishop-who-happens-to-be-a-woman can CERTAINLY “ensure that pastorally sensitive and appropriate episcopal ministry is provided” by and through her own person!

    Honestly, this misogyny (proposed to be enabled in Australia) is SO OVER.

  • MrsBarlow says:

    I think these comments on the protocol are a bit unfair. Remember that this is simply an agreement by the house of bishops in Australia with no legislative standing or statutory force. Nor does it compel any diocese to do anything. And it leaves it up to women and men bishops to act responsibly and pastorally – as they would in any case. But if the bishops had not said anything on the subject, they would have been ignoring the fact that women cannot be admitted to the orders of priest or bishop in five dioceses in Australia, and that it is true there are still a (diminishing) number of parishes in other dioceses that are not yet prepared to receive the ministry of priests and bishops who are women. So they did need to agree on something. Where room for criticism may exist is in the absence of any reciprocal provisions for those Anglicans who do wish to receive the ministry of priests and bishops who are women but live in dioceses that do not permit that. In short, it’s a good protocol: succinct, and based on trust, not on law and mutual suspicion.

  • Kurt says:

    “…the fact that women cannot be admitted to the orders of priest or bishop in five dioceses in Australia…” MrsBarlow

    These dioceses don’t belong in an ANGLICAN Church of Australia. Let the Jensenites–and their few Anglo-Catholic hangers on–go found their own denomination.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “Sydney will be soon implementing lay presidency”

    My understanding is that will soon be giving formal approval to something that has been going on for years, actually. One has to question the Catholicity of those who happily ignore the radical redefinition of two Sacraments, I would say the denial of their nature AS Sacraments, yet are ready to split the Church because some of us want to show Christian love to people in whose oppression and murder the Church has been complicit for centuries.

  • kieran crichton says:

    Hang on – did someone say 5 dioceses that won’t have priests-who-are-women?

    I think you’ll find that that’s now FOUR.

  • Robert Ian Williams says:

    Actually one Anglo-catholic just caved in on women priests and except THE Murray and Ballarat all ordain women as deacons. Furthermore the Bishop Of Ballarat has said he is willing ordain women deacons if his diocese agrees.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “These dioceses don’t belong in an ANGLICAN Church of Australia.”

    Yes they do, just as much as gay people do. We all belong, that’s the point.

  • Brian R says:

    “Where room for criticism may exist is in the absence of any reciprocal provisions for those Anglicans who do wish to receive the ministry of priests and bishops who are women but live in dioceses that do not permit that.”
    Amen to this. As a person forced to worship in the Diocese of Sydney but who has only feelings of utter revulsion to Jensen and his mates. It makes me sick when my church has wonderful women (priested in other dioceses) visiting and preaching who then have to sit as a spectator during the Eucharist just because we have to obey this excuse for an Anglican Archbishop

  • MrsBarlow says:

    Yes it’s five dioceses: Sydney, Armidale, North West Australia, The Murray and Ballarat. Armidale does have a woman licensed as a priest but that’s a long and complicated story and the 1992 General Synod canon is not in force there.

    Ballarat now has women in the diaconate, having ordained three last weekend, though they are being termed permanent deacons (mind you, if the canon for women in the priesthood went to the vote, that’s potentially three more yes votes in the house of clergy). Only the Murray has no provision for women in holy orders.

    I do believe it is important to show respect for people in this debate even if we passionately disagree with their views. It’s crucial to focus on sharing that passion, not on writing off people altogether. I’d be delighted if Australia were like Canada and every diocese wholeheartedly embraced women as priests and bishops, but we’re not, and we need to spend many years in dialogue to get there.

  • Alan Fouche says:

    As one of the Anglo-Catholic “hangers-on” referred to disparagingly by one contributor, I am surprised and disappointed at the venomous tone of some comments. Those of us who believe, along with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, that ordination should be restricted to men base our view on biblical and theological grounds. We most emphatically do not wish to demean or discriminate against women, whose contribution to the Church has been and is immense. The Queensland president of Forward in Faith International (Australasia), of which I am a member, happens to be a highly respected professional woman. If Jesus Christ had been born in the modern era and chose only men as his disciples, he would no doubt be condemned out of hand by the advocates of political correctness. The argument that a man who was prepared to die an agonising death on the cross set the pattern for 2000 years of “injustice” because he was too timid to defy the social conventions of his day is simply ludicrous. We respect the consciences of the innovators who believe the ordination of women to be consonant with God’s will. They ought also to respect the consciences of those who believe such a development is doctrinally flawed. In any case, ministry of any kind ought not to be about power, but about service.

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