Thinking Anglicans

Catholic Group in General Synod writes to members

Another letter to General Synod members about the bishops’ amendments to the women bishops legislation is circulating. This time it is from the Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod.

Subject: Women Bishop Legislation

Dear fellow member of General Synod,

Some supporters of women bishops are now urging us to send the draft Women Bishops legislation back to the House of Bishops for them to reconsider their amendments; the same people are advising us to vote against the Measure if the House of Bishops do not withdraw their amendments. We need to reflect very carefully what referring the matter back to the Bishops would do to the Church of England.

What the Bishops have done is entirely reasonable in terms of the synodical process. It is consistent with how the majority of the Synod voted in February: the Southwark motion calling for no amendments at all to be made by the House of Bishop was itself amended by Pete Spiers so as to request that no substantial amendments be made.

The Bishops’ amendments are consistent with the original substance of the Measure; that is the clear advice of the Legal Office (reproduced in the annex to GS 1708-1709ZZ); it is also the decision of the majority of the Group of Six (Archbishops, Prolocutors, Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity). Members of Synod would do well to read the Legal Office’s advice very carefully before forming a view on the amendments.

The House of Bishops’ amendments are consistent with their responsibility to try to hold the Church of England together; their amendments are also consistent with their responsibility to find a way forward that stands a reasonable chance of success at Final Approval. Synod’s voting in May showed that unamended, this Measure was doomed to fail at Final Approval.

The present agitation also provides a warning as to what would lie ahead of us were this Measure to be passed, with or without amendment. The formation of the Code of Practice would become a new battleground. Were the House of Bishops to be forced to retreat over their amendments to the Measure, they would be forced to have the contents of the Code of Practice dictated to them. Even after the Code were initially agreed, it would be open to pressure groups to campaign to whittle away its provisions over time.

A recent survey by Christian Research has found that 69% of CofE members surveyed wanted to see women bishops, and 75% wanted to see proper provision made for opponents so that they are not forced out of the Church of England. We have to ask ourselves: how do we achieve legislation that is faithful to the majority of CofE members? Pressurising the House of Bishops into withdrawing their amendments is most clearly the wrong way. Reliance on a Code of Practice is now looking to be an increasingly shaky and temporary foundation for making provision – which is what the Catholic Group in General Synod and others have consistently said.

The Bishops’ amendments are very modest but welcome steps in the right direction for the Catholic Group, though they do not go far enough. We appreciate the good intentions of the House of Bishops, but we are surprised that even the little they have offered, others are now determined to take away.

With prayers and good wishes,
Simon Killwick.
The Revd. Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester 163)
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

21 comments

  • Laurence Roberts says:

    ‘it is also the decision of the majority of the Group of Six’

    That’s alright then! As along as a majority of The Six said so.

    It may be getting near the time when it will be better to stop trying to hold the C of E together ;and see what happens.

    Btw Some of my posts seem to be going astray. Any sign of them ?

  • Mark Bennet says:

    I want to see proper provision for those opposed to the ordination and consecration of women. Proper provision is a code of practice which keeps the church together.

  • Father David says:

    We are a Church founded upon the tripod of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. At long last with this intervention by the Chairman of the Catholic Group in Synod we hear the voice of Reason coming through loud and clear.

  • Deacon Charlie Perrin says:

    I admit that I’m a Yank and this may be none of my business, but both the Romaphiles and the so-called Evangelicals seem to be proposing something akin to this:

    Let’s say the American South propsed the following in response to Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954. “We must continue to have separate facilties (schools, busses, bathrooms, etc) for those who, in conscience, cannot be in close proximity to those who look different.”

    What childish crap!

  • JCF says:

    “The House of Bishops’ amendments are consistent with their responsibility to try to hold the Church of England together”

    Does a responsibility to, um, who is it, oh, GOD count for nothing then?

    As God has called women to the priesthood of the CofE, so also is GOD calling women to the episcopacy. This is a simple fact. But it’s also the basic Truth.

    I know there’s always a desire for a graceful compromise, but when it comes down to “cutting the baby in half”, sometimes you just have to say No. No compromise. Either women are FULLY Made in the Image of God (including the gifts to discern their calling), or they’re not. Choose!

  • Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer says:

    Pleasantly surprised to see Reason making the cut, David.

  • “What the Bishops have done is entirely reasonable in terms of the synodical process. It is consistent with how the majority of the Synod voted in February” – ‘Catholic Group in Synod’ –

    If ‘what the bishops have done’ were ‘consistent with how the majority of the Synod voted in February’ – then why exactly were it necessary?

    The subtlety of the Amendment to Clause 5, which makes the ‘Delegation’ of a Woman Bishop a matter of regulation, rather than of choice, is a step too far. And that is precisely why Women may not, in conscience, vote for the Amended Draft Measure.

    Another problem – for Anglo-Catholics who are in favour of unfettered jurisdiction for Women Bishops – is the implied assertion that the ‘Catholic Group in General Synod’ might represent the view of all Anglo-Catholics in the Synod, when clearly this is not the case.

    ‘Affirming Catholics’ are not associated with this bid to access ‘special arrangements’ which provide the regrettable climate of a Two-Tier Episcopate – those acceptable to a minority of ‘Anglicans’, as against those who are not acceptable to them.

  • Father David says:

    Well, Lapin, take one of the three legs away and you are left with an unsteady edifice. I say again that as Bishop Alec Graham stated 20 years ago in contradictng the dubious assertion of the then Bishop of Guildford – Michael Adie – that as far as the innovation is concerned in the light of Scripture and Tradition – the answer is “no” or “Not Proven”. So, it is surely good that the Chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod is adding a touch of reason to the discussion.

  • Bob says:

    “A recent survey by Christian Research has found that 69% of CofE members surveyed wanted to see women bishops, and 75% wanted to see proper provision made for opponents so that they are not forced out of the Church of England.”

    I’m not surprised about these percentages…they are truly Anglican (!) – diversity of opinion yet wanting unity. What happens now though….?

  • David Walker says:

    Simon Killwick helpfully advises us to reflect carefully about what referring the matter back to the House of Bishops would do to the Church of England. What he fails to do however is to offer any similar reflection on what NOT referring it back would do.

    In over a month since the House met I have not heard a single voice telling me that because of the amendment to Clause 5 they have moved from opposing the Measure to supporting it, or even that they have decided to abstain rather than vote against. By contrast I have heard many who previously intended to support the Measure say that they can no longer do so. Even before this amendment the Measure was on a knife edge for gaining the necessary majorities. If anyone out there has any evidence to suggest that in its present form it can avoid failure at the Final Approval stage they need to say so quickly and convincingly.

    The choice seems to be a simple one. Adjourn the debate to allow the House another opportunity to think, or accept that the Measure is lost and begin again from the starting line in 2016 or so. It was this stark choice that underpinned the Worcester Diocesan Synod vote of last week.

  • Father David says:

    Those who vehemently oppose the two amendments (especially Clause 5:1c) must surely be of the opinion that rather than fine tuning the Measure the addition of these amendments has significantly altered the whole Measure – although, by majority vote, the Group of Six thought otherwise.
    If the House of Bishops were asked by General Synod to reflect again upon the two amendments which we are told were passed by a large majority – then they could simply reflect and after due prayer and deliberation return the two amendments unaltered to Synod. For surely if the House of Bishops was to alter the amendments there would be a great hue and cry from those who are unhappy about the whole prospect of women bishops.
    Rather than asking the House of Bishops to reflect upon that which many regard to be significant change to the Measure – surely all 44 dioceses should be given an opportunity to discuss again and vote upon a significantly altered Measure.

  • David Williams says:

    “I know there’s always a desire for a graceful compromise, but when it comes down to “cutting the baby in half”, sometimes you just have to say No.”

    Cutting the baby in half sounds more like a disgraceful compromise. Unfortunately one should not expect the wisdom of Solomon to prevail in York – that would be equivalent to the Bishops acknowledging the massive damage currently being incurred to the body of the church and its unity through an unnecessary and unhelpful tampering action. If the measure had been allowed to fail in its original form, that at least could have been seen as the democratic decision of Synod.

  • David Walker says:

    What happens in York will actually have nothing to do with the bishops acknowledging damage done, it will be down to the laity and clergy to either vote for adjournment or to vote down (as they will) the final approval. I imagine that a 2/3 majority of bishops will support final approval in whatever form the Measure comes.

    Father David is right to remind us that the House of Bishops could simply re-affirm the May amendment. But they/we might find another, and better, way forward, especially if they/we listen to and consult with those who have been so appalled at the latest version. It could well be that it should then go back to the 44 dioceses, though if it ends up much closer to the version that the dioceses have approved already then that might be unnecessary.

    By the way, the repeated references to the “large majority” of the House of Bishops who allegedly supported the amendment to Clause 5 puts those of us who were in the room whilst the vote was taken in a very difficult position. We are either pressed to break the confidentiality of the voting procedure (where even those present were not told the count) or by our silence to appear to add credence to a statement that might (for all we know) be highly misleading. But, whatever the actual figures, let’s assume that given a second opportunity the House might come to a different mind.

  • Davis d'Ambly says:

    “”A recent survey by Christian Research has found that 69% of CofE members surveyed wanted to see women bishops, and 75% wanted to see proper provision made for opponents so that they are not forced out of the Church of England.”” Bob

    Well I do not recall polls being taken in the American Church when the decision was made to go ahead with OOW years ago, but the solution was to have the House of Bishops make a statement to the effect that the opponents still had a valued place in the church (sound familiar?) and by and large bishops stood by that until in time most opponents had left anyway. That “Port St Lucie Statement” was rescinded later. Why are the supporters of OOW so insistent that everything must be one way only right away?

  • “then they could simply reflect and after due prayer and deliberation return the two amendments unaltered to Synod.” – Father David –

    Does this not indicate that the ‘due prayer and deliberation’ would have made absolutely no difference to the intent to present the amendments?

    Of what theological value would this have been?

  • Pam Smith says:

    Can anyone provide a link to the Christian Research survey? I’ve tried everywhere I can think of and weirdly Google hasn’t turned up anything recent.

    I’m particularly interested to see if it gave any further information about what the respondents considered

    “proper provision made for opponents so that they are not forced out of the Church of England”

    would be.

    As it stands, ‘proper provision’ could be argued to apply to any proposal that was put forward. And of course any proposed provision could be argued to be forcing those who were unhappy with it out of the Church of England.

    So as it stands, it doesn’t really tell us what specific provisions the respondents wanted, or if everyone who gave this answer wanted the same provision.

  • rose says:

    Do we know who will be chairing the synod debate. A motion to send the legislation back to the bishops can only be moved with the consent of the chair. She or he is not obliged to consent.

  • Peter Owen says:

    For this particular business the chair has to be one of the two archbishops. It has not yet been announced which one it will be.

  • Father David says:

    So it would seem that it is either the Headmaster or the Deputy Head who has to consent to “fling the matter back at the Bishops like a piece of badly done homework with the instruction to do better next time”? But, hang on, surely the Headmaster and the Deputy Head were in part responsible for doing the “homework” in the first place? This thing just gets more and more confusing with each passing day. No wonder Rowan can’t wait fot the End of Term bell to ring.

  • “So it would seem that it is either the Headmaster or the Deputy Head who has to consent to “fling the matter back at the Bishops like a piece of badly done homework with the instruction to do better next time”? – Father David –

    But, dear Father, was not the ‘erring student’ who produced the Draft Measure known by the name of ‘General Synod’? If so, it might really have been that the ‘amendments’ made by the Head Teacher and his fellow Bishops have turned out to be nothing more than ‘a dog’s breakfast’ – thus necessitating its return ‘un-amended’ to General Synod?

  • Father David says:

    I think, dear Father, that what the General Synod may well return to the House of Bishops is not so much the Measure itself but the amendments to the Measure – with the request that the amendments be amended!
    Again – as stated in the full page Church Times leading article – “The most that the Synod can reasonably hope for is for a tinkering with the wording to make the amended Measure more generally acceptable.”

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