The Bishop of Durham has addressed his last diocesan synod. He had a lot to say about women bishops and about Anglican Communion matters. Read the full text at Diocese of Durham: Diocesan Synod, May 21 2010. Two extracts follow:
On women bishops:
…It therefore doesn’t surprise me that the discussion over women bishops has run into such difficulty. As you know, I have argued strongly and scripturally for the propriety of ordaining women to each order of ministry; my colours have been nailed to that mast for a long time. And I have argued, again and again, in line with successive Lambeth resolutions, that this is something the whole church has said it can live with but need not impose on everyone – though I am very well aware of the particular problem this poses. In other words, this has not been an innovation, carried out by rogue provinces who declare on their own local authority that this is adiaphora and can therefore be decided by them alone. It has been debated and decided by the whole church meeting in solemn conclave. That doesn’t, of course, make it any easier when the decision is passed down from Lambeth to Canterbury and York, which is where we now are. But it does tell us that the church as a whole has said that this matter is adiaphora: that it ought not to be something over which the church needs to divide.
I know, very well, that for some the issue is that Lambeth cannot decide such a thing while Rome, and perhaps also Constantinople, remains uninvolved. The obvious reply is that while Rome still officially treats Anglican orders as ‘absolutely null and utterly void’ it is hard to give them a veto on what we do with those orders, and that if we went that route we should have to return to the celibate priesthood and embrace the Papal dogmas. These are just as mandatory in Rome as male-only ordination, and I don’t know of a sustained argument as to why Anglicans who insist that only when Rome changes will we be allowed to do the same should be allowed to disagree with Rome on these other points. If there is an implicit hierarchy of truths there, I have yet to hear it articulated. However, like many bishops who are in principle committed to the ordination of women to the episcopate I do not think I have yet seen the scheme which would enable us to proceed as one body, without further and deepening division, without straining one another’s consciences. All ministry, according to St Paul, is given to serve the unity of the church, not to divide it. That is especially true of the ministry of Bishops. I hope and pray we will be able to square that circle, and I would rather get the right answer in two or three years’ time than the wrong one tomorrow. I really do believe that ordaining women is the right thing to do; but St Paul’s insistence on how adiaphora works prohibits me from forcing it on those who in conscience are not ready for it. And the answer here, I believe, is a proper theological argument, which we have not yet had. The Rochester report has never been properly discussed.
My hope and plea, then, is that this summer in General Synod, and in the months that follow whatever happens there, we will observe restraint and patience with one another, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As followers of Jesus, invoking his Spirit at Pentecost, we should expect to have demands made on our charity, our forgiveness and our patience; not on our conscience. That is the key to how adiaphora works in the church.
And on TEC and the Anglican Covenant:
…And that, too, is why recent events in America are placing an ever greater strain on the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury is, I believe, in the process of writing a pastoral letter to all the churches, and I don’t want to pre-empt what he will say. But the point is this. Unlike the situation with children and Communion; unlike the situation with the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate; in the case of sexual relations outside the marriage of a man and a woman, the church as a whole, in all its global meetings not least the Lambeth Conference, has solidly and consistently reaffirmed the clear and unambiguous teaching of the New Testament. But the substantive issue isn’t the point here. The point is that the Church as a whole has never declared these matters to be adiaphora. This isn’t something a Bishop, a parish, a diocese, or a province can declare on its own authority. You can’t simply say that you have decided that this is something we can all agree to differ on. Nobody can just ‘declare’ that. The step from mandatory to optional can never itself be a local option, and the Church as a whole has declared that the case for that step has not been made. By all means let us have the debate. But, as before, it must be a proper theological debate, not a postmodern exchange of prejudices.
Actually, if you want to know about the present state of the church in America you ought to watch the video of last Saturday’s service in Los Angeles, which is readily available on the web. The problems, shall we say, are not about one issue only. But my point for today is this. In November the newly elected General Synod will be asked to approve the Anglican Covenant, which has been through a long and thorough process of drafting, debate, redrafting, polishing and refining. Synod will be asked to send the Covenant to the Dioceses for approval, and all being well it should be with you, the Synod of this Diocese, by the end of the year, and you will be asked to think wisely and clearly about it. No doubt it isn’t perfect. But it is designed, not (as some have suggested) to close down debate or squash people into a corner, but precisely to create the appropriate space for appropriate debate in which issues of all sorts can be handled without pre-emptive strikes on the one hand or closed-minded defensiveness on the other. The Covenant is designed to recognise and work with the principle of adiaphora; and that requires that it should create a framework within which the church can be the church even as it wrestles with difficult issues, and through which the church can be united even as it is battered by forces that threaten to tear it apart. Some of the voices raised against the Covenant today are, in my judgment, voices raised against the biblical vision of how unity is accomplished and sustained, the vision which enables us to discern what is adiaphora and what is not. I hope and pray that this diocese at least will appreciate where the real issues lie, and think and live wisely and cheerfully in relation to them.
Also Martin Beckford reports in the Telegraph that
The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, called repeated demands for Criminal Records Bureau checks a “waste of time” and claimed they are solely designed to create a “paper trail” rather than safeguarding the vulnerable.
He also condemned the weight of legislation created by the recent Labour government, saying that new rules and regulations do not make for a better society…
Read the full report at Bishop of Durham criticises ‘time-wasting paper trail’ of Criminal Record Bureau checks.