Thinking Anglicans

Women Bishops: Early Day Motion

There are reports today that Frank Field MP has tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons.

Telegraph Church must make women bishops, say MPs

BBC MPs push case for women bishops

Press Association Government urged over women bishops

The full text of the motion is published here:

EDM 1364

WOMEN BISHOPS 27.01.2011

Field, Frank

That this House welcomes the current moves by the General Synod of the Church of England to pass legislation permitting women to be bishops; notes that the Synod is currently engaged in consulting the Dioceses on the Women in the Episcopate: draft bishops and priests (consecration and ordination of women) Measure; further notes that General Synod expects to debate the final approval stage of the Measure in July 2012; encourages the House of Bishops to commend the Measure as currently drafted; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to remove any exemptions pertaining to gender under existing equality legislation, in the event that the Measure has overwhelming support in the dioceses but fails through a technicality to receive final approval in General Synod.


  • John C says:

    If they can do this to lift the discrimination on the grounds of gender – can they also do it on the grounds of sexuality too?

  • Bill Dilworth says:

    Are there members of Parliament who don’t participate in legislating for the CofE out of principle (“I’m a Methodist – what business do I have running the CofE?”)?

  • Adam Armstrong says:

    To those of us across the pond this seems absurd and rather upsetting. Why would women want to be bishops if they feel that they have been legislated into office? How could the Church justify some of its postions that criticise the government if they are made out so clearly to be an arm of the government? If seems as if you are going back to the period before Keble’s Assize sermon. Why would Anglicans want to belong to a Church where the laity and for that matter the clergy and bishops are subject to the will of a parliamentary cabal? What is worse, is that opponents of the Ordination of Women and the Ordinariate crowd are already using this to say that the Church of England has lost its soul and is clearly Erastian. Their main website is calling the CofE “A Church in Bondage”. They will claim that only Rome is truly the Body of Christ and the CofE is at the mercy of any wind that blows. Protestants will be thankful that they are left alone. Since the Ordinariate group is a right wing crowd, they will be saying that the O of W is nothing more than political correctness and now they can prove it. This embarassing for liberally minded people and an insult to women, as well as the Archbishop and the General Synod. This is a way to woo people away from the CofE-by clearly showing that the Body of Christ is run by a group of politicians. It was bad enough when the 1928 Prayer Book failed. And never ever talk about disestablishment.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Bill, not sure about MPs who decline out of principle because they are not CofE, but I understand that both Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) MPs decline on the grounds that they are not English.

  • Robert ian Williams says:

    Bill….The Church of England in the past has had its bishops chosen by a Unitarian, two Baptists , Congregationalist as Prime miinisters. Margaret Thatcher was a Methodist.

  • Hannah says:


    There is nothing particularly absurd, upsetting or unusual about Frank Field’s EDM. It is not the first such EDM to be tabled in Parliament. One of the things about being the established church in this land is that all our synodical legislation is passed through parliament, it’s just that most of it causes no comment or debate. Further, the CofE exists by virtue of parliamentary legislation, and all CofE clergy take an oath of allegiance to the sovereign at our ordinations and licensings. The fact that lots of the (rather small) ‘Ordinariate crowd’ are in favour of disestablishment is hardly news.
    Lastly, there is no particular problem for the church in criticising the government presented by this EDM – Frank Field is not a member of HM Government, but a Labour MP.

    Should the circumstances which the EDM is designed to address arise, then it would be a good thing thus to embarrass Synod: the EDM is to say that if the dioceses support the draft legislation that has been passed by Synod, but that legislation were to fall on a technicality in Synod, Parliament should orverrule Synod. This is a way of saying to Synod that – assuming the dioceses largely support the draft legislation – it would be a really good idea to support it, otherwise what the Church will get will be less favourable to opponents of the ordination of women to the episcopate.

  • Father David says:

    If the Women and the Episcopate meaasure fails on what Mr. Field describes as “a technicality” – then it wouldn’t even reach parliament for approval or not. Early Day Motions are rarely debated or voted upon, especially those which only receive a mere handful of M.Ps. signatures. The whole point of them is simply a way to express an opinion, so I am left wondering why so many are getting hot under the dog collar at Field’s EDM – a paper tiger if ever I saw one.

  • Will Adam says:

    In 1927 and 1928 the proposed revision of the Prayer Book was defeated on two occasions in the House of Commons. Had Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs had not voted it would have passed. A large number of free church MPs also voted against it. These days there is a convention that Parliament does not initiate legislation touching the business of the Church of England; Parliament cannot amend legislation passed to it by the General Synod (it can refer it back, though) and does not legislate on doctrine. However there is nothing to say that it is not proper for any MP to speak or vote on a matter affecting the Church of England – that’s the nature of establishment.

  • “General Synod expects to debate the final approval stage of the Measure in July 2012; encourages the House of Bishops to commend the Measure as currently drafted; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to remove any exemptions pertaining to gender under existing equality legislation” – part of UK Government motion –

    I find this parliamentary motion quite in keeping with the English tradition of Church and State relationship – tempered with the factual reality that most Anglicans – in England at least – are wondering what all the fuss is about. The Queen is female, and she is ‘Head of the Church’. You can’t be more specific than that in your approval of gender equality. Good on the Government!

    I, frankly, don’t see what Adam Armstrong is so huffy about. That’s the way things are done in Her Majesty’s Realm of England. God Bless Her!

    And don’t let RIW get on his high horse about the Church of England not being ‘catholic’. There is still the matter of the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ accruing to the English Sovereign!(unless Benedictus has withdrawn it secretly in conclave)

  • Hilary says:

    If we start from where we are (not where some might like us to be) then Parliament has the final word on allowing women to be bishops, as it does with all major Church of England legislation. All CofE bishops are ‘legislated’ into office, being appointed by the Crown under the law of the land. As I understand it this EDM is pointing out that Parliament takes its responsibilities towards the CofE seriously, and that if the majority wish of Church members is to support the current draft legislation for women bishops, as expressed in Diocesan Synods, and yet the House of Bishops or General Synod goes against that, then Parliament may choose to intervene on behalf of ‘the people’ as it were.

  • Jeremy says:

    Father David, do you really think that if Synod blocked the ordination of women to the bishopric, Parliament would stand idly by?

    Isn’t it far more likely that Members of Parliament would clamor for a legislative solution, and fall over themselves in their haste to vote for something like this EDM?

  • Anglican voice says:


    The Catholic Movement in the Church of England which gives rise to you claiming to be “Catholic” and to use the title “Father” was founded, as I am sure that you are aware, precisely on this matter of the relationship between Church and state in the Assize sermon of 1833.

    The Queen is not in any sense “Head of the Church”, she is the Supreme Governor. You have written several times elsewhere that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the “Head of the Church” which clearly suited you when trying to dismiss the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. You can’t have it both ways Mr Smith!

    You assert that “this parliamentary motion (is) quite in keeping with the English tradition of Church and State relationship”. You are quite wrong! This is not the way things happen in England. There is a due process established by Parliament regulating the relationship between Church and State and they ought to allow that process to progress without interference at this stage. Parliament gets a veto on any proposed measure before it becomes law.

    This attempt to bring closure to a question which is currently out for debate in the Diocesan Synods is a cynical publicity stunt and an attempt to undermine due process.

    Having attended a packed Ordinariate Study Day on Saturday at which Keith Newton came spoke very clearly and with great humility many, like myself, who are unsure about joining the Ordinariate will be encouraged by the clear warmth of welcome on offer from the Catholic Church and the “Sod off” messages which are currently coming from the Church of England and now Parliament are helping to make the decision easier.

    Ron, do you not realise what you are doing? By welcoming Parliamentary interference in this way you are saying that the Church of England is Erastian and, as such, any claim to be Catholic is negated because you are handing decisions on doctrine and dogma to a secular organisation. No Church, worthy of the name, can do that. Re-read the Assize Sermon!

  • Benedict says:

    Having read the threads on this particular story, I now understand why some of them are so supportive of Frank Field and his cronies. Women bishops, at any cost, even when it sidesteps the will of God, as expressed through the Synodical Chamber. If the legislation falls, then so be it. Proponents can not in one breath proclaim that the Holy Spirit has moved the Synod thus far and in the next claim that His work has come to an end, simply because it hasn’t gone their way. If Frank and his colleagues were successful, it would be a very dangerous development indeed. As it is, I am sure their motion will come to nothing, and rightly so.

  • Cynthia Gilliatt says:

    Looking at our newly elected Senate and House, I am profoundly glad TEC is not established. Just think of what the tea-partiers might want to do!

  • Adam Armstrong says:

    Fr Ron Smith and I are usually on the same page and being huffy is not my intention. It just seems to me that this is coming at an awkward time. As a Canadian, women as bishops is a non-issue. But it would seem strange to have been told by Parliament that we had no choice back in the day. My main concern is how this looks. The idea that politicians dictate what the Church must do seems to say that the Church can’t manage its own affairs to their satisfaction, if at all. It also hands a serious weapon to those who say that the CofE really is a Protestant governmental appendage. However, the whole idea that this issue is so contentious in the CofE shows what a different culture exists in England regarding the Church as well as within the Church. I realize that, from a historical perspective, nothing is new.

  • Prior Aelred says:

    IIRC, the Church of Sweden (when by law established) HAD to ordain women since they were civil servants & government employees anti-sex discrimination laws applied to them.

    FWIW, there were non-CofE Lords & MPs who voted FOR the 1928 BCP on the grounds that if that was the way the CofE wanted to pray, it was their business (of course it still failed & Prayer Book revision probably still would – “the language of Shakespeare …”)

  • Richard Grand says:

    Would equality legislation not also affect the Roman Catholic Church if Parliament wishes to apply it to any institution that discriminates against women?

  • RPNewark says:

    Father Ron, this is NOT a UK Government motion it is an Early Day Motion put down by a respected LABOUR MP (a Methodist Local Preacher if memory serves). If it attracts sufficient signatories from all parties, it will send a message to General Synod that parliament expects the GS vote to reflect the majority decisions of the diocesan synods.

    Oh, and BTW, HM The Queen is NOT “Head of the Church (of England)”. That position belongs to our Lord God. She is, however, the Supreme Governor of the CofE.

  • William Tighe says:

    “There is still the matter of the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ accruing to the English Sovereign!(unless Benedictus has withdrawn it secretly in conclave).”

    The papal title “Fidei Defensor” granted to Henry VIII by Leo X in 1521, was personal to Henry alone, who continued to use it even after the break with Rome in 1534. It was An Act of Parliament of 1543 that invested the title in the English Crown, and made it hereditary.

  • Jeremy says:

    Benedict, are you sure that the Holy Spirit does not, on occasion, work through Parliament?

  • Robert ian Williams says:

    In fact the Pope withdrew the title from an excommunicate King and then parliament re-awarded a similar title.

  • “Having attended a packed Ordinariate Study Day on Saturday at which Keith Newton came spoke very clearly and with great humility many, like myself, who are unsure about joining the Ordinariate will be encouraged by the clear warmth of welcome on offer from the Catholic Church” – Anglican Voice on Monday –

    Yes, but whose voice will you be on Tuesday? Sorry about that but it just caught my sense of the ridiculous – that anyone should call themselves – even to make a point by that title.

    You, Sir, are obviously not too securely locked into the Anglican part of the Church Universal at this point in time. Your attendance at the Pope’s special Ordinariate Meeting signals at least a tiny bit of disgruntlement with how the Church of England works through her Constitution and Synods .

    My hope for the Church’s continuing proclamation of the inclusivity of the Christian Gospel – to ALL people lies in our special path of hearing what the Holy spirit is saying to the Church – unhindered by esoteric understandings of how one should interpret that voice.

    Adam, sorry about my divergence, it’s just that I was Baptised, Confirmed and brought up as a Catholic in the Church of England, and still have fond memories of her ministry to the people of that country. They are different from most other branches of the Communion.

  • Benedict says:

    Jeremy, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you seek to justify Frank Field’s motion as a work of the Holy Spirit. Why bother with General Synod at all then? Just let Parliament decide on matters spiritual, theological and ecclesiological, and be done with it. I think not! The truth is that the secular agenda has now crept so far into the life of the nation, as well as the Church of England, that the idea of the spiritual is being cosnsigned to the dustbin of history. Very few of the threads on this website seem to be concerned with tradition, theology or the spiritual and seem more intent on pursuing the same secular agenda as Parliament itself.

  • Father David says:

    Jeremy – Do you really think that our parliamentarians would “clamour” to reverse a decision of the General Synod not to proceed with the ordination of women to the episcopacy? With all the problems and issues that this Tory-led coalition has to deal with I think women bishops would be pretty low down on their list of priorities. Can you really foresee a situation where our Members of Parliament would be hastily falling over themselves to devote precious parliamentary time to this particular issue?

  • The matter of MPs from non- English constituencies has gained a new currency with devolution and the creation of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. The absurdity now exists that a Scottish MP can vote on matters of education policy (for example) that only apply to England, but neither the Scottish MP nor an English MP may vote on matters of education policy in Scotland since education policy is devolved.

    This isn’t (as much of a) problem in Canada, for example, because there are separate legislatures in each of the ten provinces and three territories – although the remit of the territorial legislatures are not as extensive.

    My understanding is that Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru MPs have taken the principled position that they do not vote on matters which pertain only to England due to the devolution of authority to either Edinburgh or Cardiff. I am extrapolating that the same principle would preclude them from voting on matters pertaining to the Church of England.

    Will Adam is, however, correct that there is nothing which PRECLUDES SNP / PC MPs from voting on legislation affecting the Church of England.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Re Defender of the Faith, I seem to recall that Charles (Windsor) mused about changing the title to Defender of Faiths (plural). I also seem to recall that one of the C of E bishops replied, in effect, that its a non-starter because (1)it’s in the coronation service and (2) you can’t defend them all–not that it matters much here in Canada. Although the latter point is worth thinking on. One of the reasons that Hitchens so roundly defeated Tony Blair in the Monk debate is that Blair was trying to defend too much ground (religion) with too few resources.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    C of E erastian ? Shock horror !

  • Erika Baker says:

    “The truth is that the secular agenda has now crept so far into the life of the nation, as well as the Church of England, that the idea of the spiritual is being cosnsigned to the dustbin of history”

    Actually, this has nothing to do with a secular agenda.
    I don’t particularly agree with this EDM, but the purpose of granting religious institutions an exemption to the equality law is to allow them freedom of theology and of religious belief.

    It is abundantly clear that there are no theological difficulties for the CoE as a whole, as General Synod has already affirmed the idea of women bishops. There are only organisational problems and questions of how to accommodate those who still do have theological difficulties.

    So to deny women priests the ability to become bishops is not based on the kind of reasons that the exemption was designed for but on plain old-fashioned political issues that every organisation implementing equality legislation had to face.

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    Time to discontinue the office of bishop in its current failed and failing form ?

    A wee experiment in England.

    A dreadful institution that seems unredeemable – women – all of us – will be better off without it.

    Episcope* can be done many ways -does nt all have to be about power …

    * Taking care

  • Benedict says:

    Erika, how then could Parliament justify putting an end to exemption from Equality Legislation for the Church of England without doing so for Roman Catholics and all the other faiths of this country? That would be to set an extremely dangerous precedent. General Synod is there to act as the mouthpiece of the Church of England, and to frame its laws. Surely it should be free to do that, even if it does mean the unpalatable prospect, for people like yourself, of the current women bishops legislation falling. And from my point of view, and others like myself, denying women priests the office of Bishops is most definitely about the kind reasons the exemptions were originally desingned for. My opposition to women bishops is not at all political but derives from the understanding I have of the Church, the Bible, authority and tradition. In other words, it is most certainly about religious belief. You seem to be admitting that you yourself see this as a political issue, so the case rests: secular ways continue to creep into the life of the Church.

  • Perry Butler says:

    Frank Field MP isnt a methodist lay preacher. he is an anglican communicant formed at St Nicholas Chiswick ,a moderate anglo-catholic parish in west London under Fr Lewis Lloyd

  • Richard Grand says:

    I do get enough of Anglican Romanists who think that the Ordinariate is just so wonderful and Anglicanism is so peculiar and misguided, endlessly telling us how wrong Anglicans are on almost everything. As an Anglo-Catholic myself, it produces in me more respect for the Reformation and respect for Elizabeth I than I would otherwise consider necessary. Why do we keep hearing the same old song about the glories of Rome and the Papacy and what a terrible trial and horror it is to be Anglican? To some like Benedict and RIW, who seem to be thoroughly Roman in the most right-wing doctrinaire way, I ask why you keep baiting Anglicans in this site? Are you trying to convert us? To punish us? You have a right to a voice, but it never has anything to say that hasn’t been said repeatedly. If Anglicans aren’t really Catholics and belong to an “Ecclesial Community”, if the Pope is the only true voice of Christ (God forbid!), you must believe in your heart that we are all but doomed. Your condescending tone and utter conviction of superiority are a trait that makes your words most unappealing.

  • Erika Baker says:

    I don’t know what Frank Field is hoping to achieve and how he is hoping to achieve it.
    But I would have thought that, at least in theory, it should be possible to qualify the exemption clause for all churches so that it is restricted to genuine theological difficulties and religious freedom.

    The minute a discrimmination falls outside those boundaries it becomes subject to standard legislation.
    In this particular case it would be quite simple to show that what is stopping women bishops is no longer a theological problem.

  • Erika Baker says:

    “You seem to be admitting that you yourself see this as a political issue, so the case rests: secular ways continue to creep into the life of the Church”

    General Synod has been debating this issue and has concluded that there is no theological reason against women bishops and that the way for women bishops should be prepared.

    This clearly shows that, provided there are provisions for those for whom it still IS a theological issue, there is no religious reason stopping the CoE from having women bishops.

    That being the case, there is no reason why a religious exemption clause should still be applicable.

    The Roman Catholic church has consistently said that it is theologically impossible for women to be priests, the Magisterium has not decided that women can be priests and bishops. The exemption for the Roman Catholic church is therefore valid.

  • Father David says:

    Well said – Richard Grand. May I direct your attention to Archbishop Cranmer’s Blog where under the C of E logo we find the words:- “THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND – Loving Jesus with a slight air of superiority since A.D. 597”.

  • Benedict says:

    Erika, the Church of England has not yet decided that women can be bishops and at the moment affords a place to the conscience of those who on theological grounds cannot accept the ordination of women as priests. Too often the outcome of the legislation is being preempted. Frank Field did the same but went a stage further and said that if it were to fall, Parliament should ensure that the decision were overturned. To me, that is riding roughshod over the process of Synodical government, whichever wing of the Church you stand on. Furthermore, religious exemption is about the conscience of individuals, not necessarily corporate conscience. To that end, as long as I remain in the Church of England, my conscience dictates that I must refuse to welcome the ministry of women priests and bishops, but not I hasten to add, the individuals themselves. Neither General Synod nor Parliament can force me to do otherwise.

  • Anglican Voice on Tuesday says:

    Yep Ron, still an Anglican Voice, even on Tuesday!

    I note your technique yet again of belittling or poking fun at a comment rather than engaging with the several substantive questions that I raised from your earlier, rather unhelpful post which seemed to welcome political interference in the running of the Church – of course it was interference that suited your particular world view which is presumably why you welcomed it. If the shoe were on the other foot I can imagine your howls of protest and that General Synod must be free to do as it wishes. Echoes there of your arguments against the Anglican Covenant. Yet again I say, you can’t have it both ways!

    I don’t know of anyone in the CofE who wants direct control by Parliament to become the accepted modus operandi. So, may I humbly suggest, that you think of the long term consequences of your comments rather than jumping on a band wagon to make a cheap political point.

  • Jeremy says:

    Benedict said: “Jeremy, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you seek to justify Frank Field’s motion as a work of the Holy Spirit.”

    I say: “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.” For example, was the Elizabethan Settlement not a work of the Holy Spirit? Was the Elizabethan Settlement not, at the same time, the work of government and legislation? See the Act of Supremacy, the Act of Uniformity, etc.

    Of course, from Benedict’s perspective, the Elizabethan Settlement may be even lower in the barrel. But others would likely rank the Elizabethan Settlement as a mighty achievement for the Church.

    Perhaps Wilberforce and abolitionism would be a less controversial example of the work of the Spirit within government.

    Why cabin the Spirit of God within the Church?
    Does the Spirit not move where it wills?
    Do people not act on religious principle beyond church walls?

    Father David said: “With all the problems and issues that this Tory-led coalition has to deal with I think women bishops would be pretty low down on their list of priorities.”

    Father David, you are betraying your political naivete. It’s when a government is in serious trouble that it needs close watching.

    With all the coalition’s problems, from its own sense of self-preservation, it probably would welcome an opportunity to move forward on a politically popular measure that doesn’t cost much.

    Less cynically, the coalition might actually wish to be consistent with its avowed principles. Cameron ran on a platform of inclusion and nondiscrimination. If the established church were to entrench itself in its discrimination, then it would be interesting, at best, for the Tories to stand idly by.

  • Jeremy says:

    It seems to me that some people on this thread are happy to be in an established church, until Parliament gets involved.

    With respect, it is that position that epitomizes having it both ways.

  • Erika Baker says:

    To me, it’s a bit like Germany discussing many years after the war whether it could again have an Army. In the end it was decided that it could, but that a protective space had to be created for conscientious objectors. And ever since then young men had to spend 18 months serving in the Army or 24 months in a caring capacity – a social carers, in hospitals, hospices etc.

    Making space for conscientious objectors, though, is not the same has having objections to being a military power.

    I don’t agree with this EDM but I can see the logic behind it.

  • peterpi - Peter Gross says:

    A tip of this Yank’s hat to Richard Grand on Tuesday, 1 February 2011 at 1:15pm GMT

    With my woeful ignorance of all of the ramifications of an Established church, I find a lot of this thread fascinating and educational. Thank you all. Although, it makes me very glad of the USA Constitution’s First Amendment, first clause thereof.

  • RIW keeps making it up as he goes along.

    Henry Tudor, whatever else he may have been, was never “excommunicate.”

    It is not at all clear that the Pope ever “removed” the title from Henry, but he DID award the same title to Henry’s nephew, the King of Scots.

  • peterpi - Peter Gross says:

    That great font of historical and theological truth, Wikipedia, states that the phrase “Supreme Governor of the Church” was used as a compromise, instead of “Supreme Head”, because some within Elizabeth’s inner circle objected to women being the head of anything.
    plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  • Father David says:

    Jeremy you propose that “It’s when a government is in serious trouble that it needs close watching.” On that basis the current Administration needs watching 24/7 – 365 days in the year. I can hardly believe that a parliamentary move to bring in women bishops would have the general populace dancing in the streets amidst all the current economic difficulties! And you call me naive? On the basis of your proposition do you think that only the introduction of Women mullahs and imams in Egypt could possibly save the Presidency of Hosni Mubarak.

  • MarkBrunson says:

    The charge that this makes this “political” is laughable.

    The church structure *is* political, and the more hierarchy and structure, the more power to those hierarchs and structures, the MORE political it becomes. To believe otherwise is disingenuous.

    Organized religion may be the best we have, but I do not believe it is what Jesus envisioned, and the Holy Spirit acts through it most often *despite* its questionable wisdom and tradition.

    God save us from “good christians.”

  • Antony says:

    This just underlines how “catholic” the CofE is – very, very little….if any?!
    It’s Erastian and protestant, both liberal and puritan – what a mess!

  • Benedict says:

    Erika, thank you for your response. I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. There is nothing logical about seeking to force members of the Church of England to toe the line, whilst allowing their counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church and of other faiths to be exempted under Equality Legislation, irrespective of establishment. It smacks of a mild form of dictatorship! As I suggested earlier, however, no one will dictate to me acceptance of what my conscience will not allow. And no one will persuade me of the rightness of the potential innovation of women bishops.

  • Erika Baker says:

    We are really discussing something that isn’t going to happen anyway, because if I understand Frank Field’s motion correctly, he wants to remove the exemption from the CoE.

    That, I would definitely not agree with.

    But theoretically, it has to be right to ensure that an exemption, any exemption, is only applied to the categories it was granted for.

    And the minute a topic ceases to be theological and becomes purely political, it would be wrong to still claim exemption on the grounds of protecting religious sensibilities.

    That some individuals still see women priests as a theological problem is a different issue.
    The exemption is granted to the church as a whole, not to individual believers.

    And your position and predicament would be the same without this EDM once the church consecrates her first female bishop, as is likely to happen even without parliamentary interference.

    I would sincerely hope that people like you will continue to find a safe place within the church. But that’s a different topic.

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    “As I suggested earlier, however, no one will dictate to me acceptance of what my conscience will not allow. And no one will persuade me of the rightness of the potential innovation of women bishops.”


    Then I suggest that when and if the CoE agrees to the consecration of women as bishops that you seek a new church home. The church discerns what is right through the actions of its synod…if you cannot accept a decision of synod in good conscience, then clearly you and the church have parted ways. To insist that the church continue to accommodate your conscience (to the detriment of the consciences of all those who feel otherwise) is the sheerest hubris.

  • Jeremy says:

    Father David — You are naive indeed if you believe that a government is either in trouble 24/7/365 or it has people dancing in the streets. A government’s relationship to its electorate is not so binary. And a government in trouble will fight for every single percentage point of approval.

    I didn’t say that parliamentary intervention to force the ordination of women as bishops in the C of E would _ensure_ the Tories’ success at the next election. It is unlikely that any particular policy could — to use your term — “save” the coalition electorally; it would require a combination of policies.

    My point is that the coalition might be looking for measures that would make itself more popular. And that among those measures might be requiring the established church to ordain women bishops.

    So the government might try to force the ordination of women bishops. If the government were to try this, then it might make the government more popular.

    But there’s a distinction between those two steps. I’m emphasizing the possibility of the first — the government making the move. You are emphasizing the unlikelihood of the second — the move making a difference in the government’s popularity.

    My response to your unlikelihood point is simple: Desperate governments have been known to do sensible things that turn out to be politically ineffectual. Sometimes that’s all they can do. But they try anyway.

    Your comparison to Egypt is wildly inaccurate. A dictator entrenched for 30 years is unlikely to be as creative as a shaky parliamentary majority in casting about for politically expedient things to do. But even if Mubarak were to look for religious cards to play, according to my understanding of Egypt, if Mubarak were to suggest the ordination of women as imams, this would seal his fate, not save it.

  • Father David says:

    Jeremy – I don’t think you will be approached to write the Conservative Party’s manifesto for the next General Election – “Our Party pledges to make women bishops” – Such a pledge in a political document would be totally risible or naivety incarnate. It would indeed be a foolish and naive government that meddled with the General Synod’s failure to secure a two-thirds majority in each House and thus required the CofE to consecrate women bishops. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”

  • Richard Grand says:

    Antony said “This just underlines how “catholic” the CofE is – very, very little….if any?!
    It’s Erastian and protestant, both liberal and puritan – what a mess!” You should have added Catholic and Apostolic as well. There is nothing new at all in seeing the CofE as any of these things. We have never been otherwise. This may annoy some people, but it has also ensured our survuval and can be seen as part of Anglican ethos or even “genius”. The history of the Church of Rome as a state (Papal States) or a power unto itself with armies waging war, as well as the various permutations of the Roman Church as a “state religion” in “Catholic” countries does not make the Roman Church pure on the score of alliance with secular power. The loss of secular power in Italy is really behind Papal Infalli bility, which was forced through Vatican I in the midst of conflict. Even Franco’s Spain is not that long ago. The Orthodox are especailly embeeded in the political landscape of their various nations, a legacy of Byzantium. There is no taint for he CofE that does not apply to any of them.

  • Benedict says:

    Pat O’Neill, if only life were so straightforward. The point is, as you rightly indicate, IF/WHEN the Church of England agrees to it, then that is the time to reconsider one’s position. As it is, we are not yet at that stage, so my conscience continues to be protected under the terms of the current legislation. I am allowed, with integrity, to hold the views I do. That is why I am still and happily very much involved with a parish church that has passed resoundingly motions A, B and C.

  • Jeremy says:

    Father David says, “Such a pledge in a political document would be totally risible or naivety incarnate.”

    Why so? I mean, it’s a nice assertion, but do you have any evidence to back it up?

    Face the facts. As an established church, the C of E has been both Caesar’s and God’s for centuries.

  • Father David says:

    Jeremy – which political figure once famously said – “We don’t do God!”? I think you’d have to go back a long way in history before you found any political manifesto which mentioned God or religion.

  • Jeremy says:

    Apples and oranges.

    Blair’s spokesperson was trying to stop Blair from speaking openly about his faith. There might have been several good reasons for this, given Blair’s crypto-Catholicism.

    But there’s a large difference between the PM speaking about his or her personal faith, and the government dragging the Church of England into the late 20th century in ordaining women.

    The latter — almost an anti-church stance — could have quite a lot of political appeal, especially to the very sort of secular people who would be turned off by prime ministerial proselytizing.

  • Jerry Hannon says:

    “The history of the Church of Rome as a state (Papal States) or a power unto itself with armies waging war, as well as the various permutations of the Roman Church as a “state religion” in “Catholic” countries does not make the Roman Church pure on the score of alliance with secular power. The loss of secular power in Italy is really behind Papal Infalli bility, which was forced through Vatican I in the midst of conflict. Even Franco’s Spain is not that long ago.”

    I appreciate Richard Grand’s recitation of the temporal bent of the Church of Rome; they have their own flaws, just as do other bodies of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The CofE is no better, and no worse; but at least the CofE and its historical offshoots do not arrogantly claim things for themselves exclusively, or try to intimidate other Christians (or even their own flocks).

  • Father David says:

    Ordaining women “could have quite a lot of political appeal”? I don’t think so!
    Those who argued for the introduction of women to the priesthood stated that the ordination of women would bring people back to church. It simply hasn’t happened as the latest CofE statistics on Church attendance clearly shew. Since 2002 there has been a 2% decline. Not quite so appealing after all.

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    Father David:

    Without the counter-factual knowledge of what the decline might have been if women’s ordination did not exist, we really cannot know.

  • Erika Baker says:

    I’m not sure if I’m allowed to quote a whole letter from The Times, but if I can, Frank Field MP writes:

    ….the Early Day Motion I have tabled on women bishops has no bearing whatsoever on the convention that Parliament only approves or rejects measures sent to it by Synod. I expect the Women Bishops Measure will be overwhelmingly supported by the dioceses and two thirds of each of the three Houses of Synod.
    If this measure is then held back from Parliament by some “clever” procedural wrangling in Synod by a disgruntled small minority, then some MPs will lobby the Government to lift the dispensation that Parliament has given to the Church of England to discriminate against women, as the majority of Anglicans will have made known their wish that such discrimination should cease.
    The memberships of the other faiths have not yet spoken of whether they wish to continue to discriminate against women in this way.

  • A seeker after truth says:

    Pat, you betray a bias by asking “what the decline might have been if women’s ordination did not exist”. Clearly we simply do not know what would have happened. There equally might have been a resurgence and the loss of nearly 500 faithful Priests form the Church of England would not have occurred.

    What we do know is that the promise of growth as a result of the Ordination of Women promised by Archbishop Carey et al in General Synod debates in 1992 certainly has not materialised.

  • JeremyB says:

    Father David, you persist in misreading me.

    I did not say that the Government dragging the church into the late 20th century would cause church attendance to increase.

    My point was about what politicians usually care about — votes.

    Suppose that the ordination-of-women-bishops measure fails, and the established church continues to discriminate against women. Labour would have a field day.

    Frank Field points the way with the idea that Parliament has given the Church of England “dispensation to discriminate against women.”

    Government could be pilloried for allowing that dispensation to discriminate to continue.

  • Pat O'Neill says:


    Church attendance has been declining in all western societies since the end of the First World War…especially in the “mainline” denominations. To suggest that there would instead have been a surge of attendance if the CoE had not ordained women is to ignore that no such surge has occurred in any denomination–such as the American Southern Baptists–that has not only not ordained women but stridently campaigned against it. (I set the Roman Catholics aside for the moment, where other issues are clearly affecting attendance and affiliation.)

    OTOH, to suggest as I do, that absent women’s ordination, church attendance might have declined even faster is merely to ask whether the historical decline was slowed by that event.

    Your suggestion makes the supposition that not doing something would have reversed a clear trend; mine supposes that doing something would have slowed a clear trend. Which of us is showing a bias here?

  • Father David says:

    “Labour would have a field day.” Presumably no pun intended? Field himself rashly presumes that the Measure will receive a two-thirds majority in all three Synodical Houses – I wonder what crystal ball leads him to such a conclusion as he seems to presume a lot of “ifs”. And Synod uses some “clever procedural wrangling” to hold back the measure – only then would “some M.Ps” (not very many judging by those who have signed his EDM) would lobby the government to lift the CofE’s dispensation – in his words, “to discriminate women”. This, to me seems like blatant discrimination against Anglicans in that the same rules would not apply to Roman Catholics or Muslims. One law for some and another law for others. No wonder the Prime Minister felt moved to make an anti-multiculturalism speech in Germany yesterday.

  • A seeker after truth says:

    Pat, thank you for your clarification. I presume therefore that you believe that the Archbishop should have said (for he was in possession of the declining figures that you quote) that the Ordination of Women as priests would have “slowed a clear trend” in the decline of church attendance in the CofE. I realise that this doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the innovation but it would have been more accurate. In reality, of course, the invention of Women Priests in the CofE speeded-up the decline but he was not going to say that…

    I am interested to know what you believe the other issues are relating to the growth in the Catholic Church worldwide such that you can ignore them and use a tiny sect “American Southern Baptists” as a comparator. This wouldn’t be a spot of bias again because the worldwide growth of Catholicism is an inconvenient fact, would it?

  • a tiny sect “American Southern Baptists”


    The Southern Baptist Convention is the world’s largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the US with over 16 million members and more than 42,000 churches.

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    Thank you, Simon, I was about to point that out. And I would note to Seeker that in Europe, the RC church is seeing rapidly declining numbers; the only reason it is holding its own in the US is massive Hispanic immigration. Among the traditionally Roman Catholic ethnicities of the US–the Irish, Italians, and Polish–church attendance is in decline and has been for decades. Go into a typical non-Hispanic neighborhood church in the US and see a congregation made up of people in the 50s and older.

  • Seeker after truth says:

    Simon, I’m delighted to have given you a “giggle” but I’ll have to satisfy myself with just a wry smile at the thought of your idea of relative sizes! Total number of Christians world-wide is roughly 2.2 billion. 16 million Baptists as a percentage of that is 0.72%. That, believe me, is tiny!

    Pat, while it is true that the demographic is changing I, personally, do not discount people over 50 years old or who happen to come from some other parts of the world. There are no first and second class Christians so please let’s not distort the figures and simply count everyone equally.

    In Western Europe there is indeed a decline (not rapid, but a decline) in numbers but it is affecting all denominations and is part of a wider malaise facing Europe. Involvement in politics measured by membership of political parties (and turnout in elections)is at an all-time low too. It is a cause of grave concern to me, the Pope and, more surprisingly Richard Dawkins because the gap left by this non-participation is all too easily filled by something which is anathema to the prevailing secular liberal western democratic ideas. The paradox is, of course, that the very people who most enjoy the freedoms of a liberal, western democracy are often most at risk from the less liberal alternatives to the Christian faith and consensus politics which they so neglect and even disparage! The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    My point, Seeker, is that demographics are working against the church (of all denominations) in the Western world. A parish made up of only over 50s cannot survive more than another two decades. And even among new immigrants, second generations are moving away from church attendance.

    And, based on polling data, it’s not liberalization that’s pushing them out; quite the opposite, it’s the image of the church as hide-bound, refusing to acknowledge a changing world of new knowledge, that makes it unappealing to people under 30.

  • Seeker after truth says:

    Pat, my own experience in a central London Parish (resolutions A and B with Alternative Episcopal Oversight) is that out of a congregation of a little over 100 the age profile has not much changed over the past 20 years and has, if anything, got a little younger. The national demographic pattern is not reflected in Church congregations for a number of reasons. For example, people often come to or return to faith in their 40s and 50s and when they retire so I suspect, and have observed, that there will be new 40 and 50 year olds coming in to replenish the supply.

    (It is worth nothing that the loss of 25-30% of the congregation to the Ordinariate will be a major blow which could have been avoided if the General Synod had been more liberal, inclusive and generous to the minority (7.7%) of Parishes which have chosen to not go along with recent innovations of which the invention of Women Bishops is a symptom. I am just working on some cashflow projections and the Parish will be bankrupt within 6 months as a result of the loss of giving from those joining the Ordinariate. Those who are making the move to the Ordinariate take their Christian life seriously and reflect that in their giving and I fear that those who are left will not be inclined to “step up to the plate”, it’s a real worry.)

    Polling data is one thing and subject to many vagaries but hard cash paid out by the Church Commissioners in compensation to those who left the CofE following the Ordination of Women is more secure data. Over 440 Priests left and took the compensation, others simply left without the compensation. It is liberalisation that pushed out almost 500 priests and 1,000s of laity from the Church of England following the Ordination of Women. There continue to be 1,000 parishes which do not accept the Ordination of Women and a further Exodus will occur over the next two years. My point continues to be that the loss of those faithful members of the Church has not been met with a flood of newcomers to take their place who have been attracted into the pews by the lovely liberal CofE.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    A Woman in B-16’s court, it looks like!

    “Linda Nicholls, suffragan bishop of the diocese of Toronto (Trent-Durham), has been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be one of the 10 Anglican representatives to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC).

    Bishop Nicholls was nominated by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.”

    Full story here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *