Thinking Anglicans

Women bishops: Clause 5 (1) (c) What are the options?

To start our discussion of how the House of Bishops (HoB) might respond to the action of General Synod in referring the legislation back to them, let’s first look at the range of options that is legally possible.

The first point to note is that under the terms of the referral, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the General Synod, the HoB cannot make changes to any other part of the draft Measure. The only part of the Measure they are now permitted to alter is that which comes between sub-clauses (b) and (d) of Clause 5 (1).

The wording is shown in context below the fold.

There is however nothing to prevent them introducing some additional separate documentation, outside the text of the Measure, including but not limited to some proposed wording for the Code of Practice.

The second point is that the HoB could decide not to make any further change at all, and simply return the existing text to the Synod. Again this might be accompanied by some separate documentation. Those who wish to argue in favour of this course of action need to explain why they think that, despite the clear majority vote for referral, this is what the HoB should do.

The third point is that the HoB could simply withdraw the existing sub-clause altogether, thus restoring this part of the Measure to the wording that existed previously. Again, those who wish to argue for this option, need to explain why they think that, despite a clear lack of a two-thirds majority for referral in the House of Laity, this is what the HoB should now do.

The final point is that the HoB could propose some modifications to the existing wording of sub-clause (c). This would involve the additions of new words or even sentences, or the deletion of existing words or phrases. They might also split the sub-clause even further, for example to make a distinction between what it says about bishops and what it says about priests. They might add words to clarify the meaning of the term “theological convictions”. In all these cases, and any others, it may be helpful if the bishops issue some additional separate documentation, as mentioned above.

Before the General Synod considers any further change, the “Group of Six” has to determine that it is not now so substantial a change from the original draft Measure that it requires further review by all the diocesan synods.

But the purpose of any change now must be to increase the level of support that the Measure will receive in the Synod in November, and subsequently in Parliament. The question we are discussing here is what more can be said in the Measure that will allow those opposed to the underlying principle of it to feel less exposed, whilst still allowing those in favour of the underlying principle to feel able to support the Measure.

Clause 5 (1) (c) in context:

5 (1) The House of Bishops shall draw up, and promulgate, guidance in a Code of Practice as to—

(a) the making of schemes under section 2,

(b) the exercise of episcopal ministry in accordance with the arrangements contained in such schemes,

(c) the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women on grounds of which parochial church councils have issued Letters of Request under section 3,

(d) the exercise by those involved in the making of an appointment of an incumbent and of a priest in charge for the benefice, of their functions in that regard where a Letter of Request is issued under section 3(3),

(e) the matters referred to in section 2(5), and

(f) such other matters as the House of Bishops considers appropriate to give effect to this Measure.

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david rowettJohn WallaceGraeme ButterybadmanGeo Noakes Recent comment authors
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Jane Charman
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Jane Charman

The problematic phrase is ‘consistent with the theological convictions …’. What counts as a ‘theological conviction’? Does it simply mean anything anyone chooses to believe about women’s ministry? As we know there are some pretty strange views out there alongside others which are more orthodox. Personally I never sign blank cheques which is why I voted for an adjournment. I also thought it was the bishops’ role to teach us what the Church believes not to offer to fall in with whatever we want to believe. I hope HoB will think again about these words at least.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

To me, key considerations include (a) what would be necessary instead of just desirable to enable those whose views on women’s ordination are different from those of their bishop, or the C of E’s official view, to remain in the C of E and pursue their (lay or ordained) vocation, (b) how it can be achieved. For instance, while I would ideally like to have a bishop who agreed with me on women’s ordination and all manner of other things (and if I were helping to select a bishop I might be influenced by candidates’ opinions as well as their… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

“The third point is that the HoB could simply withdraw the existing sub-clause altogether, thus restoring this part of the Measure to the wording that existed previously. Again, those who wish to argue for this option, need to explain why they think that, despite a clear lack of a two-thirds majority for referral in the House of Laity, this is what the HoB should now do.” There are lots of good reasons why this is exactly what the HoB should do: 1. The unamended measure received more than two-thirds support in the dioceses. So what the CofE wants is quite… Read more »

Tobias Haller
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Just a word of perspective from the other shore. One thing I noticed at the just past General Convention was work by committees attempting to craft resolutions “that could pass” rather than crafting resolutions that adopted a particular point of view and then leaving it up to the Houses to decide if they wanted to vote up or down. We saw this most clearly in the resolution on the Anglican Covenant, which was ultimately worded as a “we can’t make up our mind” resolution that passed easily. What that accomplished remains an open question. I detect a bit of this… Read more »

Simon Morden
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Simon Morden

A couple of comments:

Jeremy is quite right on his point 3(c), and opponents of women bishops need to factor this into their calculations. If for whatever reason, the measure fails, inevitably another measure with less, not more provision, will eventually succeed.

The compromise reached in the 1992 measure is the real sticking point here, and that it was given no expiry date or cut-off. It might be that it’s this that needs revisiting first, before the women bishops measure can be re-presented.

Simon Kershaw
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We already have precedent over the last 20 years for a scheme that allows parishes to prevent women priests from presiding at the Eucharist, pronouncing the Absolution, or from being appointed as the incumbent. That scheme is enshrined in the 1992 Measure of course. And we have had another scheme (the Act of Synod) that provides for episcopal duties to be carried out by someone other than the diocesan bishop (although the scheme has been pushed much further than that by some of its supporters). This draft measure sweeps those away and replaces them with the requirement for there to… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Did I misunderstand this exercise? I had thought contributors were asked to provide suggested wordings or ways forward that would make it more likely for the Measure to be passed. So rather than asking “what does theological conviction mean”, are we asked to provide a definition that might be acceptable to more people than the current wording? And while I agree that it could be more helpful if a possible cut-off or expiry date of the 1992 Measure could be discussed first, that would postpone the final vote by a long long time and would, therefore, not appear to be… Read more »

Geo Noakes
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Geo Noakes

The point about the priest would be welcome.
However, as Christina Rees pointed out in the GS Adjournment debate, the draft measure agreed by the dioceses already implied the appointment of a theologically sympathetic bishop under the Diocesan Schemes that are to be produced.At the very least this must be spelt out in the Code of Practice or else we have a legislative solution that is worse for traditionalists than that which already exists and Laity in GS will not support a weakening of provision.

badman
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badman

Two thoughts: The Bishops’ amendment (c) is very badly worded. Better wording, without making it better or worse in substance, would be: “(b) the selection of male bishops or male priests whose exercise of ministry is consistent with the theological convictions about the exercise of ministry by female bishops or female priests which led the parochial church council in question to issue a Letter of Request under section 3” This immediately highlights the difficulties with the clause; for example, how are the relevant “theological convictions” to be discerned, and how can it be right to accommodate them, however far fetched… Read more »

Graeme Buttery
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Graeme Buttery

Can I just say, mostly in reply to Jeremy, who I am sure is just saying it as he sees it 1. the fact that dioceses voted one way is not binding on the Synod. They are a necessary step not a binding vote. Anyway, 10 dioceses passed following motions, why are they never mentioned, neither is the actual voting proportions. That is because of the way we operate not as we might like it. The same is true for General Synod, it are not bound by diocesan synods, whose actual representative nature is sometimes not all it is cracked… Read more »

John Wallace
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John Wallace

The problem with the theological convictions statements are that ABC parishes are not monochrome. Some worry about ‘taint’ and sacramental assurance, whereas others are quite happy to accept the ministry of male priests who have worked with and received the sacrament from women. So there is a spectrum which the church is trying to accommodate. Should the legislation try to accommodate the extreme? I think rather we should rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not fall into the legal trap

david rowett
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John Wallace’s observation’s a good one – I’ve certainly ‘helped out’ at an ABC parish, despite my being pro-OW and my having female priest colleagues. The chances are that the rather rarified ecclesiological argument didn’t cut a lot of ice with the parish in question, including the parish priest. There was no question of the diocesan being persona non grata, eithere – they just felt ‘culturally’ comfortable with the Visitor. I wonder how much of our thinking is being driven by ‘purist’ FiF rather than ‘pragmatist’ – and which is the constituency with which we should in the main be… Read more »