Ruth Gledhill in her Times blog reports that the Bishop of Guildford has said Give trads their own diocese. This refers to an open letter from the bishop which is online here and is copied here below the fold.
13 June, 2008
AN OPEN LETTER ON WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE FROM THE BISHOP OF GUILDFORD
As we all know, the General Synod will debate the Manchester Report on Women in the Episcopate in York in just a few days’ time. The Report outlines a number of legislative possibilities to fulfil the previous Synod’s decision that the time was now right to move forward.
Please pray especially for Bishop Ian and me, and your elected clerical and lay representatives on General Synod in relation to this matter. The Diocese of Guildford has expressed itself through our own Synod in the past as firmly in favour of moving forward towards the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate. There are also, of course, minority convictions. We pray for those on either side of the debate.
At the recent meeting of the House of Bishops, the majority of that House both affirmed
That special arrangements be available within the existing structures of the Church of England for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops and priest.
That these should be contained in a national Code of Practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard.
This was affirmed by a substantial majority of the Bishops though a significant minority dissented.
With this Resolution from the House of Bishops, the Archbishops have also sent to General Synod a Note reflecting on the House of Bishops’ Debate and the significance of the Resolution.
The Archbishops specifically draw attention to a matter also carefully considered by the House of Bishops and identified within the Manchester Report. The Report identified these two key questions:
The majority of the House of Bishops are clear that we wish to answer both questions in the affirmative, and at the same time affirm the importance and urgency of admitting women to the Episcopate for the sake of the mission of the Church. The Bishops further recognise that Synod would wish to consider all the options of the Manchester Group, and this is endorsed by the Archbishops’ Note. There was also real recognition that any limitation of the exercise of the episcopacy of duly ordained women priests would be discriminatory and ecclesiologically anomalous. There, however, the episcopal consensus ended. The Archbishops are clear that the Motion from the House of Bishops, now before the Synod
is offered as a starting point for discussion. It does not represent a consensus within the House on what the conclusion should be but rather the view of the majority of the best place for Synod to begin examining the options. The House hopes and expects that amendments will be tabled which will promote other options identified with the Group’s Report in order to test the strength of opinion with the Synod. Some members of the House are likely to table or speak in support of amendments of this nature.
My dilemma, as your diocesan bishop – as one who has worked with this question ecumenically and within the Anglican Communion and the Church of England since 1975 – is that if the answer to the two questions posed by the Manchester Group (should we have diversity of theological view on women’s ordination and should there consequently be special arrangements for those who dissent) is ‘yes’. I do not believe that just a Code of Practice would enable this to happen. In which case, the question arises as to why we should be offering a discriminatory Code of Practice when it is known, in advance, with some certainty, that this will not provide a distinct enough space for those who cannot accept this development within the Church of England. I do not think that the circle can be squared – or certainly not in this way, and I have worked as Vice Chairman of the Rochester Commission for a number of years and then with the Guildford Group and then with the Bishop of Gloucester on precisely trying to see whether there is an acceptable way forward.
My own conviction (at least prior to the General Synod Debate) is that if we do not wish to say ‘goodbye, it really is time for you to go’ to those who are against, some sort of structural provision will need to be provided in a way which least damages the nature of the Church and least impinges on the general recognition of women’s ministry, including Episcopal ministry. In the end I think the choice is simply between a completely clean Measure with no exceptions, or a Measure which keeps discrimination out of the main part of the Church but allows a distinct part of the Church of England space to continue.
We have here a classical case of the conflict of ‘goods’: both sides are arguing for different kinds of inclusion with diversity.
In the time before the General Synod, which meets in York from 4 – 8 July, I call – as the Archbishops do in their note to the Synod – for a time of patience and prayer within passionate conviction. The time for lobbying on either side is now over. Pray for the General Synod, your representatives on the Synod, your bishops, and pray for each other, especially for those who differ from you in whatever convictions you hold on this fundamental matter.