Thinking Anglicans

Bishop of Richborough's Pastoral Letter

Pastoral Letter – 16th July 2010 from the Bishop of Richborough:

THE AFTERMATH OF THE GENERAL SYNOD

The members of the General Synod have returned home; no doubt some will be preparing their addresses for the forthcoming Synod election in the autumn. For many this Synod achieved exactly what was wanted as far as the ordination of women to the episcopate is concerned but for a sizable minority it has left them feeling despondent and unwanted. When the Bishop of Manchester commended the draft legislation for revision in February 2009 he emphasised that it would be possible to make significant changes during the revision process. Despite the valiant efforts of some members of the Revision Committee what came back to the Synod this July was even less helpful than the original draft. I was not surprised. It was inevitable once the bishops decided to put the process in the hands of the Synod rather than controlling it themselves, which they had been doing until May 2008 when they sent a motion to synod recommending a Code of Practice as the best way forward. We have consistently said since then that ‘a Code of Practice will not do’ and there is no reason we should change our minds. It simply will not do – not then and not now.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York made a brave attempt to amend the legislation and while I did not think it would have been able to achieve what some hoped it would achieve it was defeated in the House of Clergy. It is not often, if ever, that two Archbishops have proposed an amendment to such a contentious piece of legislation concerning the future unity of the Church of England; to have done so and not succeeded says a great deal about the problems of our synodical structures. The Draft Measure will now go to the dioceses for further scrutiny though it is highly unlikely that it will not gain the necessary support. It will return to the Synod in 2012 when it will need to gain the necessary two thirds majorities in all three Houses of Laity, Clergy and Bishops.

If the Measure is passed -if it isn’t the issue will not go away-the landscape in the Church of England for traditional Catholics and Evangelicals will be bleak. There will be no resolutions to be passed, no Episcopal Visitors to petition for, the Act of Synod will be abolished and the episcopal ministry of the Bishops of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough will not exist. The process of reception so ably explained by Dame Mary Tanner in New Directions a few months ago has been forgotten. All the promises which were made to us in the early 1990’s about having a permanent honoured place in our Church have been ignored. No doubt many of the supporters of women’s ordination will say there has been compromise on both sides. They will point out they preferred a simple piece of legislation without a statutory Code of Practice. However, from our point of view, this legislation offers us little hope. It addresses none of the issues which are of concern to us and about which we have argued for so long. The only provision will be that a parish can request a male incumbent or the sacramental and pastoral care of a male bishop when needed. It is simply not sufficient for those for whom it is supposed to apply. Far from providing for those who have serious theological objections to the ordination of women the legislation allows parishes to discriminate against women.

I cannot overemphasise how serious this situation is for us. No amount of promises from the Archbishop Canterbury and others that there is more to be done can produce anything which would address the issues of jurisdiction, ecclesiology and sacramental assurance which we require.

Many of our priests signed an open letter before the July Synod of 2008, which began the process which has led to the present draft legislation, in which we said.

It is with sadness that we conclude that, should the Church of England indeed go ahead with the ordination of women to the episcopate, without the same time making provision which offers us real ecclesial integrity and security, many of us will be thinking very hard about the way ahead. We will inevitably be asking whether we can, in conscience, continue to minister as bishops, priests and deacons in the Church of England which has been our home.

The time for such discernment on the part of priests and laity has drawn considerably nearer since last week end. We will all have difficult questions to consider and the answers may depend as much upon our particular circumstances as on our understanding of the Church. What is essential is that we should have a period of calm reflection and prayer before any important decisions are made. Priests and people will need to have serious conversations about the future; we cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope this will go away. The priests in the Richborough Area have been invited, with other clergy from the Province of Canterbury, to a Sacred Synod on the 24th September to take counsel together.

The visit of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to our country in September will give us a good opportunity to meditate on our Lord’s call to Christian unity. The high spot of the visit will be the Beatification of John Henry Newman who himself wrestled with similar issues in his day. This may be a moment when his thoughts and writings can help us to consider the way forward.

May God bless you as you discern his will for you,

+ Keith

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Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

Very smoothly put…but note how he is delaying yet again, any sign of actual defection to Rome.

Its all a bluff.

Number of Anglican clergy who have left in Ireland and Scotland since they voted for women bishops..0

Number of Welsh clergy who have left since bench of bishops refused a flying bishop…..0

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“It was inevitable once the bishops decided to put the process in the hands of the Synod rather than controlling it themselves….”

Oh yes, heaven forfend that the people themselves decide such things! What do they know about what they want or how things can best be handled?

JCF
Guest
JCF

“It was inevitable once the bishops decided to put the process in the hands of the Synod rather than controlling it themselves”

Gosh-darned democracy of the Baptized!

JCF
Guest
JCF

“We have consistently said since then that ‘a Code of Practice will not do’ and there is no reason we should change our minds. It simply will not do – not then and not now.”

What won’t it “do”?

Create a *permanent, independent* Church-(nominally) within-a-Church: the only “honoured place” +Richborough will accept.

chenier1
Guest
chenier1

I think it’s worthwhile to look at Vincent Nichols’s comments last year, to compare and contrast them with those of the Bishop of Richborough above: ‘It must be a positive desire in the heart – not questions of the ordination of women to the episcopate, not questions of sexual ethics – but it must centre round the understanding of the role of the office of the bishop of Rome. “A person must be embracing of that concrete aspect of Catholic life, which is the authority of the Holy See in the person of the pope, if they are going to… Read more »

Deacon Charlie Perrin
Guest
Deacon Charlie Perrin

“The visit of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to our country in September will give us a good opportunity to meditate on our Lord’s call to Christian unity. The high spot of the visit will be the Beatification of John Henry Newman who himself wrestled with similar issues in his day. This may be a moment when his thoughts and writings can help us to consider the way forward.” Ah yes. Let us look to those who have just equated the ordination of women with the raping of children. I think perhaps the CofE may benefit from the departure… Read more »

Lister Tonge
Guest
Lister Tonge

Ah, yes: the ‘Richborough Area’.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“The only provision will be that a parish can request a male incumbent or the sacramental and pastoral care of a male bishop when needed. It is simply not sufficient for those for whom it is supposed to apply. Far from providing for those who have serious theological objections to the ordination of women the legislation allows parishes to discriminate against women.”

I don’t quite follow the logic of the last sentence. Isn’t that the point of these folks? Keeping women out? Have I missed something?

Tobias Haller
Guest

Desiring “a permanent honoured place.” Seems to me someone once said a word or two about those who seek to inhabit places of honour…

Adam Armstrong
Guest
Adam Armstrong

A “Sacred Synod” seems to be holier than an ordinary Synod or general Synod, possibly because it is made up of male Anglo-Catholics and isn’t diluted by women or other undesirables. This statement reeks of condecension and superiority, since it assumes that their rights or wishes are more important than those of others. There is always the sense that they are owed something. Having read a good number of blogs and articles from the conservative Anglo Catholic side, I’m always aware of their sense of having a foot outside the door and heading Romeward, as the end of this letter… Read more »

Hannah
Guest

Cynthia, So far as I understand the logic of that final sentence, it runs something like this (and I’m sure someone will correct me if I’ve got it wrong): The proposed Code of Practice would allow a diocesan to delegate authority to an nominated male bishop. However, because there would not be a Third Province (by that or any other name), there is no guarantee of sacramental assurance. Consequently, all the Code would do would be to discriminate against women to no theological avail, since one couldn’t be sure that the male bishop sent instead was ‘safe’. Therefore, obviously, a… Read more »

David da Silva Cornell
Guest
David da Silva Cornell

Hannah and Cynthia, I think Hannah has it correct, so far as it goes, but allow me to offer a further boiling-down of what His Grace appears to be saying: 1. Excluding women bishops and priests alone = discrimination against women. BUT 2. Excluding all women bishops and priests *plus* any ordained men “tainted” by women bishops or priests (i.e., who have ordained them, or been ordained by them, or been ordained by someone ordained by them, etc.) = a “non-discriminatory” honoring of “serious theological objections to the ordination of women.” In other words, in this view, the problem isn’t… Read more »

Grandmère Mimi
Guest

“For God’s sake, stop this brinkmanship and game-playing. It does no honour to anyone, Anglican or Roman.”

Nor to those in the Episcopal Church in the US who play the same game.

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

The bishops CONTROLLING IT THEMSELVES? That would be an impossibility in the American Episcopal Church!

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“Do I have it right?”

A valient try. Sounds like Cloud Cuckoo Land to me.

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Adam: I think that is an English thing; here in the States the gay men in the Episcopal Church are, I would wager, overwhelmingly supportive of the ordination of women.

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

What everyone forgets is that the jurisdiction ( as distinct from their orders) of every Church of England bishop is derived from the crown of England. Since 1952, that person has been a woman!

Lionel Deimel
Guest

There are many strange elements in this little essay. My favorite phrase, however, is “priests and people.” I really don’t know what to make of that one.

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

I find the position of the Richborough crowd and fellow travellers strange because it seems to me that the Church is our guarantee of the validity of orders, and in this case ‘our’ church is the C-of-E. It is of course only one part of the Church Catholic, like all other Christian churches, including Rome and Constantinople (they too are only partial since they don’t include all Christians), but until that day when we see face to face we have ‘only’ a partial church which we have chosen to trust. If we don’t trust it, there are other ‘partial’ churches… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

I have never understood this talk of “serious theological objections”. And I have repeatedly asked for some, but get nothing. I don’t think they exist.

My tupence!

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

Dear Hannah, I think the real concern is that the male bishop sent could be a male bishop who ordains women,,the regulations specifying only a bishop who is male, not one who is necessarily opposed to the ordination of women.As JCF says above, the only solution that would satisfy Richborough et al would be a quasi-independent church/province. But the Third Province was a non starter as neither the Bishops nor Synod would have it..and all the time the C of E is established nor would the government I imagine. I am grateful to chenier1 for drawing our attention to the… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David “it simply makes it, yes, more intellectually consistent” That depends on what the serious objections are. If they are grounded in the Anglo-Catholic argument that it is ontologically impossible for women to be priests, then it follows that men are ontologically able to be priests. We also know that the validity of the sacraments does not depend on the character of those performing them. The only logical conclusion to this can be that any valdily ordained man can serve any FiF parish because it doesn’t invalidate his ordination of he doesn’t agree with what they believe. If they seriously… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

When one adds to this list of “tainted flesh” those confirmed by a bishop who is on their black list one realises just how profound this schism is. It seems to me that Richborough is perfectly correct, without the creation of a third Province there is little if any hope of preserving an integrity. The Archbishops’ amendment would have come no where near to this, indeed it is hard to see how any of the amendments would have given a firm platform for those with such beliefs. Given the legal status of the CofE, without the creation of the third… Read more »

Hannah
Guest

@David and Perry,

I realise this about male bishops and who they might or might not ordain/ have been ordained by/ etc – that was broadly what I meant by my use of ‘safe’ as a shorthand. The theology tainting this ecclesiological thinking has quite wide reach, it seems.

Rev Sidney Jensen
Guest

The “high-spot” of the Pope’s visit is the beatification of someone who left the Church of England! But they’re not going themselves! When are they going to follow Blessed John’s holy example and leave behind their invalid orders?

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

” … but the Ordinariate is going to be a pretty strange beast: top heavy with retired or near retired bishops and priests and not too many lay folk I would judge.”

But I gather that the Bishop of Richborough would really like it that way. Those pesky lay people and some priests after all can be meddlesome, as he notes in his letter. Maybe the RCs can construct an Ordinariate for ex-CoE bishops only.

Christopher (P.)
Guest
Christopher (P.)

Thanks to all who have educated us in TEC on these things. But I’m still confused by Richborough’s statement: “If the Measure [for women bishops] is passed . . . the episcopal ministry of the Bishops of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough will not exist.” What is this? Do these offices only to serve non-women supporting parishes? The statement really makes no sense to me. Also, in response to Erika, on the Anglo-Cathoic argument, isn’t the issue not just the gender of the aspiring priest, but also the gender of the ordaining bishop? If one of those bishops is a woman,… Read more »

Nat
Guest
Nat

“It was inevitable once the bishops decided to put the process in the hands of the Synod rather than controlling it themselves”

It is very clear that the Holy Spirit cannot work through a democratic process – or at least that seems to be what we are being told. *How* did the primitive church manage without bishops?

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

I’m with GKS, I am still waiting to hear what the serious objections to women in ministry are – without, and this is crucial, the self-confirming closed circular logic which starts off saying female anatomy is some ontological barrier to God at work, and then wanders off through any number of side lines, only to finally come back and close in upon its singular starting position. I grant that all of that closed circle seems exhaustive and compelling, given the mistaken Medieval biology and more, concerning sex, gender, and a range of related human embodiment considerations – formerly all of… Read more »

Fr James
Guest
Fr James

“Do these offices only to serve non-women supporting parishes? The statement really makes no sense to me.”

Umm, yes.

Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley were created as Provincial Episcopal Visitors after the Act of Synod in 1993. They exist to provide pastoral and sacramental care to parishes which cannot in conscience support the ordination of women.

Once the new legislation comes in on women bishops, there will be no more resolutions A, B and C, and so there will be no more PEVs. Perhaps the three posts will be retained simply as suffragans of York and Canterbury, but perhaps not.

David Malloch
Guest
David Malloch

Sidney: You ask when they are going to leave. Watch this space.

Cynthia: Very few bishops in the CofE are as admired, loved & respected by the laity in their parishes as +Richborough and you may be surprised at their response to any announcement he is leaving.

Christopher: Yes, those 3 sees exist to provide for those who have petioned under the Act of Synod – a provison we were promissed was perpetual but which is being taken away after 16 years. I think you are correct in your annalysis re validity.

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

I used to believe all the things that Christopher (P.) describes, but then I began to ask, “Is God really this grudging and niggardly with grace? Are there actually millions of people in the world who believe they’re receiving Christ’s Body and Blood, but they’re not, because their clergy don’t have the right pedigree?” This attitude, it seems to me serves only to diminish God and is a refusal to recognize the expansiveness of God’s grace. It is, as a seminary professor of mine used to say, “sub-Christian.”

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Christopher, I believe they are the “flying bishops” who now cover the dissenting parishes. When the new law goes into effect the “flying bishop” scheme is disbanded and the parishes go back to whichever diocese they are physically in. Those parishes will then have to accept whatever priests etc. that the diocese gives them. If the bishop of the diocese is a woman they will have to ask her for a male priest and hope that she behaves kindly. For people who don’t believe that women can be priests or bishops, that’s a rather galling thought. Since there is no… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

I hope Rome have the sense not to establish an ordinariate where there is no balance of laity and clergy.

The tiny sect, the so called Traditional Anglican Communion in England has hardly any people, and is of course to p heavy with clergy . There are some Episcopi Vagentes who have had larger followings.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Christopher I know that a man ordained by a woman wouldn’t be acceptable, and that makes sense, but isn’t part of the argument that a validly ordained male bishop who himself ordains women is also unacceptable? As John Richardson said in a comment on Nick Baines’s blog: “Another problem, which I think will call for amendment, is that at present no account is being taken of the theology of the bishops who might be used under the Code, only their gender….it will be made clear that the bishops operating via the provisions which are finally in place are themselves theologically… Read more »

Hannah
Guest

Yes Christopher, Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Beverley were established by the 1993 Episcopal Act of Synod, in order to provide alternative episcopal oversight for those parishes which felt they would no longer be able to accept the sacramental ministry of their diocesan bishop (or other suffragan/area bishop in the diocese) because he ordained women as priests. The Measure on the table, and which Synod has committed to dioceses for consideration, contains no such provision, hence the anxiety regarding ‘sacramental assurance’. Further, in response to your question to Erika, the issue is not merely the gender of the ordaining bishop (and, obviously,… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

Hannah, the idea is not ‘taint’ but full communion. The bishop is the principal celebrant of the Eucharist but cannot be there all the time. The presbyterium is formed of those priests who look to a particular bishop and go to his chrism mass, mention his name in the canon, etc. In being a part of his presbyterium, they represent that presbyterium as an whole, who, in turn, represent the bishop. By their membership of that presbyterium, they are saying that everyone in it is equally a priest. In sharing the Eucharist with any community, one is declaring oneself to… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

All of that may be true Richard…but Im not sure you would find that sort of theology expressed explicitly in any of the Church of Englands formularies…

Hannah
Guest

Richard, Thank you for clearing that up for me. I can see that there is a vast difference between the following statements: ‘Communion with my bishop is impaired because he invites a woman to represent him at his (untainted) eucharist.’ and ‘Communion with my bishop is impaired because he ordains women and thus his ministry is tainted.’ I’m interested to know whether the bishop would suddenly become acceptable again were he to move to a diocese where there were no women clergy, and where he never had cause to ordain a woman? If it would, then obviously the situation is… Read more »

chenier1
Guest
chenier1

‘Very few bishops in the CofE are as admired, loved & respected by the laity in their parishes as +Richborough and you may be surprised at their response to any announcement he is leaving.’

The difficulty is that +Richborough shows no signs of complying with the Pope’s requirements as expressed by Vincent Nichols; all that admiration, love and respect is irrelevant to whether the individual has the positive desire of the heart towards the office of the bishop of Rome. You will note that it says the bishop of Rome, not the bishop of Richborough…

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“‘Communion with my bishop is impaired because he ordains women and thus his ministry is tainted.'”

SO, this sounds like the bad female ju-ju travels from the woman priest’s head back to the bishop and contaminates him? This is just too much like fertility cult stuff to me.

I remember during the early stages of the debate about women priests [and deacons and bishops] in TEC reading a comment from a [male of course] priest that “You would never know if a woman celebrant was having her period or not.”

Talk about bad ju-ju!

Richard
Guest
Richard

Hannah

I hadn’t really thought of the hypothetical situation you outline (not least, I suppose, because there are no dioceses in the CofE without female priests – even the “Chichester situation” is odd because whilst +Hind will not admit women to the priesthood, he does license them, of course) but, thinking on the hoof, I don’t see any reason why the Bishop of Birmingham* wouldn’t be able to enjoy full communion with all those in his diocese were he to be translated to, say, the Diocese of the Murray.

* The Bishop of Birmingham was chosen only for alliterative purposes.

Bill Dilworth
Guest

“If one doesn’t think that women can be priests, one would be reluctant to receive from a male member of the Bishop of Birmingham’s presbyterium because one cannot recognise that said presbyterium as being fully such and so one is not in full communion with it.” You know, when you find yourself worrying about stuff like this, and “not in full communion” with the rest of your national Churchto such an extent that you won’t even accept the ministrations of priests you DO think are legally ordained, it’s probably time to move on. The more I learn about “traditionalist” thinking… Read more »

Christopher (P.)
Guest
Christopher (P.)

Thanks for clearing up about the three “flying bishops.” I had known a bit about the scheme, but thought that other diocesans with jurisdiction had been “deputized,” as it were, for the function, not that new diocesans had been created.

On the other topic, I agree with Hannah @12:49. And I do see more clearly that under Richard’s scenario how not accepting women as priests or bishops will make it difficult for “traditonalists” to find what they look for sacramentally. (And finally, other than “tradition” I”m still trying to see what prevents, sacramentally, women from being ordained to the priesthood!)

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

May I point out to Richard that none of the currently approved liturgical texts in the Church of England makes provision for the bishop’s name to be mentioned in the (eucharistic) canon.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Christopher P
No, they are not diocesans, the “provincial episcopal visitors” are technically suffragans of the relevant archbishop, so their see names are of places within either Canterbury diocese or York diocese. But nevertheless, it’s true that three suffragan sees were created just for this purpose.

Hannah
Guest

@Richard, thanks that’s interesting. I had never thought of the hypothetical situation I outlined earlier either, until I was replying to your earlier point.

@cryptogram. In CW Prayer G it is possible to include intercessions in the canon (‘Remember Lord your church in every land….’). you can mention the bishop’s name in there.

Pantycelyn
Guest
Pantycelyn

Next they’ll be denying the validity of Baptist and Methodist worship – and throwing into doubt our other established Church – the Church of Scotland. It is hard to believe in such a god with such acolytes. “Is God really this grudging and niggardly with grace? Are there actually millions of people in the world who believe they’re receiving Christ’s Body and Blood, but they’re not, because their clergy don’t have the right pedigree?” This attitude, it seems to me serves only to diminish God and is a refusal to recognize the expansiveness of God’s grace. It is, as a… Read more »