Charles Read, Vice-Chair of WATCH, writes: “Close, but no cigar (yet)”.
…In the Church in Wales debate, the assistant bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, reminded people of how he had been John Habgood’s chaplain when the latter, as Archbishop of York, had drafted the Act of Synod. Bishop Wilbourne told the Welsh Governing Body that the first flying bishops had deliberately been chosen from men nearing retirement because the Act of Synod was meant to be a transitional arrangement. As he said, “Yet here we are 20 years later.”
The Welsh church will make provision for those opposed to women bishops by means of a Code of Practice, not by enacting legislation. This has been where the Church of England has got into a tangle. The July General Synod asked for simple legislation to create women bishops precisely because making provision in law for opponents had proved unworkable and was leading to women bishops being second class bishops. If Wales and Ireland can do it, so can England.
In Wales and Ireland, the sky has not fallen in by going about it this way. Perhaps developments in these countries will give us courage to press on with legislation that does not discriminate. Meanwhile, here’s a sobering thought:
It is May 2014 and Kenny has moved from Dunboyne to live in Manchester. He is exploring a call to ordination but has only just been confirmed by bishop Pat – one of her first. However, the English DDO tells him that the Church of England does not recognise bishop Pat’s confirmation as valid because she is a woman. He needs to be confirmed again.
Can we get our house in order on matters like this? It is only going to get worse now – we have a female bishop on our doorstep and we don’t recognise her ministry. If we don’t move ahead quickly, then it won’t be Kenny the ordinand, it will be Sally and Simon the Irish priests, ordained by bishop Pat, who cannot minister in England because we don’t recognise their orders as valid – not because of them but because of her – or more specifically her gender. Theology of taint anyone? Or is it just the Church of England’s inability to welcome the ministry of ordained women – even women who are bishops. Our neighbours show us a better way. Let us walk in it.
Charles Read is a Vice-Chair of WATCH and member of General Synod