Thinking Anglicans

Women bishops: Statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint explanatory statement about the amendments made to the Women Bishops legislation at a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this week. It is online here and here, and copied below.

Women bishops: Statement from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York about the amendments to Clause 5 and Clause 8 of the Draft Measure

Friday 25th May 2012
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint explanatory statement about the amendments made to the Women Bishops legislation at a meeting of the House of Bishops earlier this week.

The Archbishops’ statement follows.

There has already been a lot of discussion about the amendments agreed this week by the House of Bishops to the draft Measure concerning the ordination of women as bishops. Although the senior officers of the Synod (the ‘Group of Six’) have determined by a majority that these amendments do not alter the substance of the proposals embodied in the Measure, much anxiety has been expressed as to their implications, and it may be helpful to set out what the House attempted and intended.

The House fully and wholeheartedly accepts that the draft legislation voted on by the dioceses represents the will of an undoubted and significant majority in the Church of England. They did not intend to make any change in any principle of that legislation or to create any new powers or privileges for anyone. They believed that, if certain clarifications and expansions of the wording were made, the Measure might be carried with more confidence, and, out of that conviction, agreed the new wording, which affects two questions.

To take the simpler one first: we decided to make no change to the provision in the Draft Measure by virtue of which the arrangements made by diocesan bishops under diocesan schemes for the exercise of ministry by a male bishop take effect, as a matter of law, by way of ‘delegation. But we believed that it would help to spell out what is and isn’t meant by the ‘delegation’ of the power to perform acts of episcopal ministry. Bishops are bishops because they are ordained in the name of the whole Church; but they are enabled to act as bishops in this or that particular area in virtue of various legal provisions. For those who are not diocesan bishops, this means that a diocesan gives them the legal authority to act as bishops – as pastors and teachers and people responsible for other ordained ministers.

‘Delegation’ describes the giving of that authority. It does not take anything away from the diocesan bishop who delegates; it just allows another bishop to minister legally in the diocesan’s area of oversight. The amendment simply declares what the law and practice of the Church already is, and what we mean by delegation in other contexts.

The second amendment requires rather more explanation.

The earlier draft of the Measure already allowed parishes to request the diocesan to provide a male bishop to minister to them if their theological convictions were such as to make it impossible in conscience to receive a woman’s ministry in this role. For this to operate effectively, a diocesan would obviously have to do what could be done to find a bishop who could work constructively with such a parish.

The amendment requires the Code of Practice which the bishops will draw up to offer guidance as to how this might be achieved. This was already something the bishops and the Synod would have been able to include in the Code. The change is that they will now have to include such guidance. It does not give parishes the right to ‘choose their own bishop’ or insist that their bishop has a particular set of beliefs. It allows them to ask for episcopal ministry, as spelled out in Clause 2 of the Measure, only on the grounds of theological conviction about women’s ordained ministry. The precise wording in the Code remains something for the Bishops and Synod to determine but it attempts to take seriously the fact that, as has been clear all along, simply providing any male bishop would not do justice to the theological convictions lying behind requests from some parishes.

The bishops have listened to a great many diverse voices in the process of finalising these amendments, and they are aware that their decision to reject some amendments and accept others may be difficult for a good many people on all sides of the argument, for very different reasons. They were painfully aware that whatever decision they came to would surprise or disappoint some, but they believed that some helpful modifications could be made without sacrificing any aspect of the Measure’s main purpose or changing any of its fundamentals, and so allowing the legislation to command a wider degree of support and welcome.

So they hope that the new wording now presented will be considered carefully and dispassionately by the Church at large. We have tried to keep in view what might be for the good of the whole Church’s mission, and we commend these amendments to the Church’s reflection and prayer over the coming weeks as the moment of decision approaches.

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Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
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Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

Shame Rowan has never shown a fraction of the concern for gays, in or out of the ministry, that he continues to show for ingrained, institutionalized misogyny.

Chris Smith
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Chris Smith

It is never for the good of the entire Church if women are devalued. This is another example of the playing with human being’s lives. This shows us just how far the hierarchy will push to accommodate views that discriminate against women. It is quite interesting that the press release by the Archbishops was released today. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot! Women must be elevated to the highest positions of leadership in the Church and no amount of misogyny and narrow-mindedness are going to cover the scars that have been inflicted on women over the two thousand year… Read more »

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

It is obvious that the bishops collectively didn’t intend any major change in the import of the legislation. However, it is not their intentions which will be law, but the text of the Measure. There is a road which is said to be paved with good intentions, and it goes in the opposite direction from where our bishops are supposed to lead us. It is therefore important to read the text and see what it says, and to think through what effect it will have. And I cannot see how the amendment to Clause 5 can possibly be as benign… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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Tobias Haller

So instead of a particular set of beliefs, it is just one belief that the provided bishop must hold? What happens if and when no such bishop is available? How long can one have a church in which bishops sit on a bench or in a house with other bishops whom they do not recognize as bishops? Will these “special” one-issue bishops continue to be among those who lay hands on new bishops — and will they do so joining with bishops who do not share their views on the “one” theological conviction? Or will that render them insufficiently theologically… Read more »

Peter Edwards
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Peter Edwards

A rational explanation of the status quo. None of the PEVs has been in favour of women priests or bishops prior to appointment. All have been nominated as priests, and then ordained as bishops. Some existing suffragans have been given responsibility to serve parishes requesting AEO within their dioceses; and many parishes have accepted the delegated authority of a suffragan from within their own diocese, instead of a PEV. Some suffragans have been nominated as priests, and ordained as bishops in order to fulfil this role (as well as a wider diocesan mandate) in order to keep Resolution C parishes… Read more »

Hannah
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Hannah

Peter, Thank you for the explanation, but there is something I really, genuinely don’t understand. *Why* is it reasonable to want a bishop who shares one’s theological convictions about a particular issue? I’d put pretty good money on that my bishop and I hold rather different theologies of Scripture, the atonement, and the eucharist, but that doesn’t mean I can or should demand someone whose views are in line with mine. Why does this one particular matter of theological conviction get exalted to that place whither no matter of doctrine is gone before? Unless, of course, in the final analysis… Read more »

Peter Edwards
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Peter Edwards

Hannah, I understand your point entirely; and of course gender lies at the heart of this issue. From my point of view it is linked to what the catholics call ‘sacramental assurance’, which I originally included in my post but had to edit out because of excess words. At least Evangelicals have some scripture on their side (though that’s a different can of worms now that we know the world isn’t flat). It is a unique point of view on which to decide the provision of episcopal care; but whilst not agreeing with it in my heart, my head tells… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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perhaps the idea of the ‘Third Province’ would be the best way out of a tricky situation – which has not been made any clearer by the H.o.B. Then the 3rd P. could be a woman-free area for male Christians only. But please don’t call it the ‘Church of England’.

John
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John

I agree with Peter Edwards mostly. As to ‘I don’t believe that ‘anti’ suffragans or PEVs believe that their diocesan or other bishops are ‘invalid’, any more than ‘pro’ bishops think that PEVs and their own suffragans are’, I think the answer is ‘yes and no’ – but that’s good enough and should not be probed.

As for Hannah’s question, why THIS one thing, the answer is that for FiF people it is existentially constitutive.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

John, I thought for FiF people it was existentially constitutive that they had a male bishop who was a ordained deacon, priest and bishop by other male bishops, because it’s all about the Apostolic succession. This does not mean that they could not theologically accept a bishop who fulfilled all those criteria but who also ordained women, for example, or who believed in the valididy of female ordained ministry. Because what matters is the ontological change conferred upon ordination – and that is not dependent on people’s individual theology. Once we get to the idea that it’s all about right… Read more »

commentator
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commentator

Can the amendments be voted down by the General Synod and the Measure returned to its original form, the one that the Dioceses and Deaneries voted upon?

Lindsay Southern
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Lindsay Southern

‘Whilst a generous but sexist tweak may earn a very few votes from those opposed, it will probably earn more votes from those essentially in favour, but who are not happy with what they see as making life untenable for opponents.’ But what gains it makes there it will lose from those who are concerned it makes life untenable for supporters, esp. the future female Bishops. I’m not adverse to growing tulips on dung. I’m slightly less keen on growing them on radio active waste, for example. I suspect this legislation will grow also sorts of mutations that were never… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
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‘Can the amendments be voted down by the General Synod’. I think the answer to that is ‘no’. The HoB has the right and duty to present the final form of the draft for the Final Approval stage. But presumably it might be considered to be in order for the Synod to pass a motion adjourning the debate for Final Approval coupled with a request to the HoB to remove either or both of its amendments. It would then be up to the HoB to decide again whether it wanted to change the form of the draft presented for Final… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“Oh what a tangled web they weave, when at first they do deceive” – and to think: it all started with the false idea of ‘Two Integrities – bolstered by those outlandish creatures ‘Flying Bishops’.

Rose
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Rose

Can someone clarify the situation: Am I right that the original legislation meant that every parish could be cared for by a male bishop (either because he was the diocesan or because of delegation by a female diocesan)? Am I right in thinking that the ammendment means that, where that male bishop is acting by way of delegation from a female bishop, he will be in sympathy with the doctrinal position of the parish requesting his ministry? Am I right in thinking that where the diocesan bishop is male, parishes will not have the right to a bishop who is… Read more »