Pat Ashworth reports for the Church Times on the revision committee’s decision: Synod’s women-bishops committee draws back from code of practice.
SUPPORTERS of women bishops have expressed shock at a decision by the revision committee for the draft legislation not to go further down the route of a statutory code of practice. Traditionalists say that the change of direction proposed does not go far enough…
Scroll down that page for responses from David Stancliffe Bishop of Salisbury and from David Houlding Pro-Prolocutor of the Convocation of Canterbury.
THE news that the revision committee has chosen not to explore the option of the single clause with a statutory code of practice any further, and has gone for “certain functions to be invested in bishops by statute” will strike despair into the hearts of many. What the committee is proposing takes a step back from the position Synod thought it had reached in July 2008.
My concerns are on several levels. First, these proposals appear to institutionalise mistrust in legislation: the opponents of women’s ordination do not trust the bishops to make proper provision. Is that really what we have come to?
Second, it destroys the ecclesiology of the Church of England, making it legitimate to “choose your own bishop”. Are there to be any limits as to the grounds on which you might petition to do this?
Third, it seems wildly impracticable: something very similar, Transferred Episcopal Authority, has already been found wanting, and it must remain doubtful whether such discriminatory legislation would pass parliamentary scrutiny or stand up to challenge by judicial review…
…The Act of Synod, despite its imperfections, has given space to many to flourish and grow. Embracing the principle of “reception”, it provides for extended episcopal care, under the Ordinary. Once a woman is ordained a bishop, there is correspondingly a much higher degree of impairment of communion. We have never had to face this situation before. This is why, I suggest, it is proving so hard for us to get our minds around the new solution required.
The decision last week of the revision committee to provide by means of law for the transfer of episcopal authority is, therefore, a real turning point in helping us reach the decision that will need to be made. Anything by way of code of practice or delegation can only lead to a diminution of a woman’s ministry. To provide for both positions to co-exist alongside one another by statute rules out the possibility of any further wrangling. By creating proper space and the necessary boundaries, the Church is including everyone.
Women in the episcopate remain a contested development in the wider Church, and therefore the principle behind the nature of provision must be inclusion for all. The Archbishop of Canterbury has enunciated this more than once in speeches to the Synod: “the others (whoever they may be) are not going away.” Our task is to hold the Church together for the sake of its mission and to ensure that we live together in the highest degree of communion possible
Giles Fraser writes about it in his column, Let Synod’s ‘yes’ be ‘yes’.
I admit that I have never been a huge fan of the General Synod, even when I was a member. But to see a representative body treated with such contempt ought to make everyone who gives up their time and money to support synodical government wonder why they bother.
In July 2008, the General Synod voted clearly that it wanted women bishops with no small print that made them into half-bishops, and no further institutionalisation of the sexism that keeps them out of the episcopate.
Some did not like this clarity, and sought to protect the consciences of those who are against women bishops by securing legal no-go areas where women in purple would not be welcome. After a comprehensive debate, where all shades of opinion were represented, the Synod said no…
The Church Times leader column is titled Revision committee deserves a hearing.
…Until the committee reveals its deliberations in a final announcement, probably in January, it would be wrong, therefore, to condemn it. It might be wise, though, not to be over-enthusiastic, either. There are several examples where a small group runs ahead of the people who commissioned it, finding agreement where none exists outside. A case in point was the Final Report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which was ignored and then rejected by the Vatican. A General Synod that is, in the main, sceptical about any agreement over women bishops can overturn any of the committee’s recommendations. The committee knows this perfectly well, and yet believes, clearly, that its preferred solution is worth fielding. It deserves an opportunity to make its case.
Two letters to the editor on this topic are now available without subscription, see St Thérèse of Lisieux and women bishops.