Thinking Anglicans

Bishop Tom Wright gives interview

The Church of Ireland Gazette has an exclusive story. See Church of England should drop plans for women Bishops if major split would result, Bishop Tom Wright tells Gazette.

Speaking to [Ian Ellis] the Gazette editor in an interview while visiting Ireland, Bishop Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now a Research Professor at the University of St Andrews, has said that the Church of England should not proceed to the consecration of women as Bishops if the move were to create a large division.

He said: “my own position is quite clear on this, that I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church.”

Bishop Wright warned that if the Church of England were not able to resolve the matter “a ‘quick fix’ resolution” would be “a recipe for long-term disaster”…

And asked about the Anglican Covenant, he said this:

Asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said: “I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative.” He said the Communion could not afford to have “the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had”.

Bishop Wright said that the Covenant “doesn’t foreclose on particular issues”. Rather, he explained, it “provides a framework within which you can have the discussion in a way which tries to keep all parties at the table. Obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business, but without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight.”

Asked to comment on what would happen if the Church of England rejected the Covenant proposal, Bishop Wright said: “That is always a possibility, and if that happens, then I suppose the thing would be dead in the water. But that’s a notional possibility which I don’t actually see as realistic.” Bishop Wright was visiting Ireland to give a series of talks to the 18th-21st October Down and Dromore clergy conference, held in Donegal Town.

The entire interview was recorded, and you can listen to the audio file here.

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Chris Smith
Chris Smith
10 years ago

It would be one of the truly great tragedies of Anglicanism if the Church of England does not proceed on a vigorous path for the full inclusion of women in the Episcopate. It is very sad and most disappointing that a Bishop from Ireland should make such a statement to halt women’s ordination because it may threaten UNITY. This argument is bankrupt. It is shameful.

Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

“My own position is quite clear on this, that i have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church” – Bishop Tom Wright, to the C.of Ireland Gazette – It all depends in what you mean by ‘clear’! Obviously, since announcing his ‘retirement’ from Durham, the good bishop has been having other thoughts, which seem to have confused his clarity. To suppose the the Ordination of Women bishops, which… Read more »

JCF
JCF
10 years ago

“I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church.” Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had felt that way about slavery . . . oh wait, he did. And that’s why the United States never had a civil war, and slavery persists there to this day. [Or, y’know, you could actually LEARN from Honest Abe’s experience. Instead of selling out half of the Imago Dei, for an illusory “peace” that… Read more »

MarkBrunson
10 years ago

Talk about irresponsible journalism!

You don’t need Wright to grant an interview; the miracle is getting him to shut up. Now, we’ve got people giving him a platform when he *finally* had retired into well-deserved anonymity?

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
10 years ago

“…without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight.”

This is a bit rich coming from Tom Wright, isn’t it? He’s spent the last umpteen years mouthing off in public wherever possible on a topic (youknowwhatuality) about which he has nothing sensible to say…

Bishop Alan Wilson
10 years ago

I just don’t think this is how the church holds together — having a beefy beer ‘n sandwiches process to keep people at the table. I ask you! When in my parish people fell out seriously (sometimes over crimes one had committed against another) the resource to reconcile wasn’t procedural (like Amanda in Brief Lives saying “Let’s agree that we’ll never have a serious argument because whenever it’s developing we’ll just do this…”) People fell out, for real, big time sometimes, and my role as priest was to open their eyes to the broader realities they may otherwise have missed… Read more »

Spirit of Vatican II
Spirit of Vatican II
10 years ago

What Bp Wright says about the Bible and authority is OK, but somehow stale. Going on about “authoritativeness” is somehow prissy and schoolmasterish. Is this really the issue at the heart of the Anglican Communion? “All of these things seem to be miles away from the people in the pew” objects the interviewer. We are then told that it’s “the plumbing of the Church” and “if the plumbing isn’t working… there’ll be a bad smell”, “things blow up in your face” – The two openly gay US bishops are seen as the ones who broke the rules on which all… Read more »

Laurence
Laurence
10 years ago

“to open their eyes to the broader realities they may otherwise have missed — Jesus breaking down dividing walls and reconciling heaven and earth on the cross, and the reconciliation of all things at the end of time when Christ would be all in all” Bishop Alan Wilson

If those are “realities” can someone give me an example of something surreal?

David Oxley
David Oxley
10 years ago

@ Chris:

Bishop Wright is NOT a bishop “from Ireland”! Speaking in an Irish newspaper, yes. The Church of Ireland permits women bishops, although hasn’t elected one yet.

Bill Moorhead
Bill Moorhead
10 years ago

“…the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had.”

But +Tom, that’s what it means to be Anglican! We’ve always done it that way before! We’re quite good at it!

Nat
Nat
10 years ago

There is always someone willing to step bravely forward and sacrifice other people’s inclusion. Happily, Jesus was not one of these.

Bishops should lead and teach, not give in to pressure. Happily, Jesus did not.

But then, Jesus never made Bishop, did He?

Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
10 years ago

What does it mean to ‘substitute a mannerist alternative’ ?

(And I thought I was able to read English to quite a good level.)

bobinswpa
bobinswpa
10 years ago

Maybe what you need to do is let the diocese elect their own bishops. That would let everyone off the hook. If you want a woman or GLBT candidate as bishop it should be your choice not a group of stodgy govt officials and clerics. Heaven help us if we trust people to make choices for themselves.

Bishop Alan Wilson
10 years ago

Laurence, My apologies for being obscure. If people fall out over something serious they can talk with one another directly. That is how the NT implies we should address such problems, as directly as possible and with a minimum of triangulation. Alternatively, they can set up some intermediary institution to judge the issue. Doing the latter is Mannerist, by analogy, because like Mannerist art it exaggerates for effect, amplifying the importance of the disagreement, providing a grandstand for those who want such a thing, and turning people into issues that can be talked about rather than to. The more direct… Read more »

Bishop Alan Wilson
10 years ago

Laurence, I think I also need to say that for Christians the atoning death of Jesus Christ is a very important reality, as is the hope of his coming in glory. These are the foundational realities of our creed, and we cannot fix “plumbing” without reference to them.

Susannah Clark
10 years ago

The Bishop said: “Obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business…” What happens if parties didn’t choose to ‘walk away from the table’ but happened to hold a different point of view? The concern I have about the covenant, is that it seems to put in place a sort of mechanism, which could, even with good intentions, be used in future to give provinces the choice of “walking away from the table” – eg supposedly self-imposed expulsion – or no other choice but to conform. And I think that is potentially… not necessarily at this… Read more »

Laurence
Laurence
10 years ago

Alan Wilson, thank you for your replies and your politeness. By way of background, I should point out that I’m not a Christian (so I will step aside from any theological discussions!) – but have an interest in the goings-on within the Church of England/Anglican Communion because (a) my partner is ordained in the CofE – and regularly discriminated against by it – and (b) the CofE is the established church with unelected representation in the legislature. Until a couple of years ago, I knew almost nothing about the Church of England – what I have discovered since has horrified… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
10 years ago

Where’s the Bishop of Lewes? Or are his reported remarks so off the wall that even TA won’t report them? I think we should be told. One would laugh if the whole thing wasn’t so tragic.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
10 years ago

Thank you Bishop Alan for your nuanced and careful comments above. I went on a funeral visit earlier this week – wife had died, had been married to widower for 68 years. Children said ‘we don’t know how you did it, our relationships have all fallen apart’. And it was all about how to handle disagreement – “we disagreed, but we didn’t bet the relationship on our disagreements, it was about so much more than that.” – when we talk about covenanted relationships it is the relational context which is fundamental. Is it more important to be right, or to… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
10 years ago

Thanks, Alan.

Susannah Clark
10 years ago

I wasn’t quite happy with my wording towards the end of my previous post. A few phrases seemed harsh and too extreme on re-reading, so I’ll have another ‘go’ here at rounding off my comments: Instead of which, is it asking too much for churches to grow and be led by the Spirit, locally, communally where they are, and for decency and justice not to be always constrained (a terrible witness to the secular world anyway) by the fears and threats of churches in different places who – in their own legitimate space – hold to views that almost offer… Read more »

Chris Smith
Chris Smith
10 years ago

The “top down” model of hierarchy is a failed model in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. It is just not working on so many levels that many lay people are trying to conceive just what model might work. It would be a tragedy if Anglicanism adopted a magesterium similar to Roman Catholicism. Imperial models do not work. Bishops who set themselves “above” the rest of the Church are heading down a dangerous path. Diversity is essential if the institutional Churches expect to survive this century. The top down one size fits all model is a dysfunctional model. The various… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
10 years ago

“We don’t want “top down” Anglicanism which sounds and feels like ecclesial imperialism. It should be sufficient that we find our unity in Christ, and are each, in our own integrity, seeking to serve Jesus Christ in our own communities, not in someone else’s.” – Susannah Clark, on Thursday – This, from Susannah, is reason enough to resist the idea of the proposed Covenant. After all, this is the reality into which we all, as members of the Body of Christ in the received traditions of Anglicanism, have struggled to live out the implications of the Gospel ‘in situ’ so… Read more »

trooper
trooper
10 years ago

I don’t see any evidence that the “hierarchical, top-down” method is working any worse than the national/local polity that TEC has. They both have their problems, but the winner has yet to be determined. In particular, I don’t know that the TEC shepherds have been protecting and serving their sheep any better than their Roman/Orthodox brothers. Take the log out of your own eye, and all that.

Mike
Mike
10 years ago

I totally agree with Bp. Wright. If an action might divide the church, we shouldn’t to it. Paul’s decision to evangelize the Gentiles should be revisited, as should the inclusion of “filioque” in the Nicene Creed. We just can’t do anything that might divide the church. Oh, and the Church of England clearly doesn’t work using Bp. Wright’s criteria. We’d better not do that, either.

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
10 years ago

Chris Smith: “Imperial models do not work. Bishops who set themselves “above” the rest of the Church are heading down a dangerous path. Diversity is essential if the institutional Churches expect to survive this century. The top down one size fits all model is a dysfunctional model.”

Hear, hear. Spot on, Chris.

john
john
10 years ago

Tom Wright’s noisy intervention seems to me incredibly mischievous (and not in a good sense).

Fr Mark
Fr Mark
10 years ago

Trooper: “I don’t see any evidence that the “hierarchical, top-down” method is working any worse than the national/local polity that TEC has.” I’ve posted up evidence aplenty on my blog. The latest survey from Ireland reports 74% of Catholic women saying their Church does not treat them with respect: http://viaintegra.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/ireland-women-the-church/ The mishandling of the clerical child abuse crisis by the RC hierarchy is another very good example: as a result very many people are reported to be leaving the RC Church in its European heartlands. The evidence indicates that the top down churches will not survive another generation in Europe… Read more »

JCF
JCF
10 years ago

“In particular, I don’t know that the TEC shepherds have been protecting and serving their sheep any better than their Roman/Orthodox brothers.”

O_o

In TEC, trooper, the “sheep” have a say in ELECTING their shepherds (who, as I’m sure you know, may be shepherdesses!)

It’s not—nor SHOULD it be—a relationship of “protection”. The laity are NOT actually “sheep”, you know? It is from our democratic polity, that TEC bishops can become what Roman Popes can only claim to be: “servants of the servants of God.”

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