Thinking Anglicans

Women as bishops: Close, but no cigar (yet)

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

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Erika BakerMark BennetGeoffHannahFather Ron Smith Recent comment authors
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Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

It is shocking that we can fail to recognise the orders and acts of churches with which we say we are in full communion. Especially when General Synod has already voted to accept the principle of consecrating women, and it is only the detail to be worked out here. There is now no reason in principle to do other than recognise orders in a straightforward and hospitable way. A question for information, if a person has been confirmed a Roman Catholic (which can be done by a priest) and received into the Church of England before being ordained, do they… Read more »

Will Adam
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Will Adam

Attention should be paid to the Opinion of the Church of England’s Legal Advisory Commission in May 2004. This states that as a matter of law episcopal acts (confirmation and ordination) performed by a woman bishop of another Anglican church are, as a matter of law, to be recognised in the Church of England.

Simon Sarmiento
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The document to which Will Adam refers is, I believe, this one

http://www.sarmiento.plus.com/cofe/womenbishopslegalopinion.html

Barbara Moss
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Barbara Moss

Will: But not, apparently, by a woman bishop of a Lutheran church with which we are in full communion under the Porvoo agreement,

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

Remember the card FIF gave it’s members ..”in the event of a serious accident I want a male priest only.” No doubt that will have an added ” or a priest who has not been ordained by a woman bishop!”

If the legal ruling stands..the C of E has women bishops by the back door. Imagine if pro women bishops sent their ordinands to be ordained by women bishops abroad.That would soon get the measure passed in the Church of England.

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Thanks Charles – don’t worry I shout at car radios too …
But on the day when the news+Ebbsfleet is consecrated it is the testimony of the Assistant Bishop of LLandaff that I find most striking. I wish we had heard this before. That the first PEVs chosen were quite deliberately selected from among older men because their ministry was not going to be needed for long is now revealed as the hopelessly misguided approach to the problem but it does make plain that there were no ‘promises’ made in the way so often claimed.

Charles Read
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Charles Read

I don’t know the answer to Mark’s question but I will make enquiry via GS questions – ditto with the legal opinion. I had forgotten about that – thanks to Will for reminding me.

David Runcorn (excellent speaker at our clergy conference by the way – his rates are reasonable…) makes another sobering point. I was quoting the CT report of +Llandaff. A telling comment indeed.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Charles Read correctly draws our attention to the fact that, when the Act of Synod was first drawn up – providing alternative episcopal oversight for dissenters against women’ ministry in the Church of England, it was meant to a ‘an interim measure’ only. However, twenty years later, like the arguments over women’s ordination as clergy, the intention by the Church to further the process – to ordain women as bishops – seems to have bogged down. This may be because of the unwillingness of the Church’s hierarchy to follow through on the prospect of outgrowing the out-dated, and unjust, discriminatory… Read more »

Fr Paul
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Fr Paul

It is May 2014….
I stand to be corrected but would assume the CofE recognises confirmation and ordination by women Bishops in other provinces?

Barbara: The Church of Sweden practices confirmation by priests which is not recognised by the CofE even if Swedish Lutherans are permitted to receive communion in Anglican churches. Anyone: Would a Swedish priest wishing to minister in the CofE need to be reconfirmed?

Hannah
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Hannah

The Church of England does not, at present, license priests who were ordained by women. However, we recognise that they are ordained so do not (re-)ordain them. This, it seems to me, sets up distinctions within orders in other provinces of the Communion (which are, of course, independent) as such is not the case for clergy ordained by male bishops.

Tristan
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Tristan

Mark & Charles, We do not repeat Catholic confirmation or Orthodix chrismation, even when it has been given by a priest. (And so we remain quite strange in being one if the few churches in Christendom which doesn’t allow priests to impart Confirmation.) See this – quite readable – legal opinion: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1562210/ordinands%20requirement%20of%20confirmation.pdf Barbara, I’m confused by your distinction. If we do not licence such priests, do they remain in some sort of ecclesiatical limbo, that we think they are ordained priests, but just that we can’t/won’t recognise the fact? It sounds remarkably similar to +Ratzinger’s statement to Graham Leonard, who… Read more »

Charles Read
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Charles Read

What Hannah said (in response to Fr Paul) but I am not sure we do actually recognise their orders in practice. (A priest ordained by a male bishop in, say, TEC can be licensed in the CofE).

The Archbishops could do the same with clergy ordained by a female bishop. They choose not to. There is now, it seems to me, a strong argument that they should.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Mark,
all I can say is that I was confirmed into the German Lutheran Protestant church by a priest and when I trained for Lay Readership in the CoE they checked and said I did not need to be re-confirmed.

The requirements for Lay Readership include: “All candidates for Reader ministry will need the support of their local parish church, must be, or
become, confirmed and regular communicant members of the Church of England, and will be asked
to provide two additional referees, at least one of whom has knowledge of them outside the church
community.”

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Thank you Tristan, that is very helpful.

Hannah
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Hannah

In reply to Charles @12.16,

But if we don’t recognise their (bishops who happen to be female) orders, why do we not (re-)ordain people whom they have (or have not) ordained? If an Anglican priest goes to Rome, he has to be ordained because the RC church does not recognise Anglican orders. Current policy re the licensing of those ordained by women in other provinces is not saying that: it is saying, you are ordained but we won’t let you minister. At least, that is how I understand it.

robert Ian Williams
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robert Ian Williams

So when the Archbishop of Canterbury invites women to Lambeth Conferences he is recognising they are valid, but will not allow them to function episcopally in the Church of England…that is no ordinations or confirmations. So a cleric ordained by an Anglican woman bishop, male or female is persona non grata in the Church of England! You can just see the Bishop of Chichester asking an American clergyman to prove his untainted lineage from a male bishop. But heres a six million dollar question, what happens if the male bishop who ordained the priest was consecrated by a female presiding… Read more »

IT
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IT

In the US, the Episcopal Church “receives” someone who has been confirmed Catholic, should they choose to participate. When my wife swam the Thames, she was received by our Bishop at Easter, at the same time that other adults were confirmed. The words are different but the overall experience was similar. She is a very ritually-minded person, and the experience made a firm statement of her intention.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

In the midst of all this controversy about the prospect of Women Bishops in the Church of England, it is surely most interesting to note that my Diocesan Bishop, The Rt. Revd. Victoria Matthews, in ACANZP, (and formerly Bishop of Edmonton in the Anglican Church of Canada) is actually a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the Anglican Communion!

What does this have to say about equivocation on the subject of Women in Leadership in the Church?

Hannah
Guest
Hannah

Well, RIW, that rather depends on whether one holds a theology of taint (which, of course, no-one does….). It makes no sense at all.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff

Erika, the Protestant Church of Germany is not an episcopal church and not a member of Porvoo, so reception of its “confirmations” (the English word even translates to different German words for Protestants and Catholics) would be treated differently.

My mother and I were both received into the Anglican Communion, even though I had been confirmed by a bishop and she by a priest using episcopally consecrated chrism. Intriguingly, though, the same would have been the case if we had been confirmed by a presbyter of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which doesn’t generally use chrism in confirmation.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

RIW – the idea of human deficiencies “invalidating the sacrament” rather than divine grace perfecting the sacrament has always mystified me. Also Ordination is not, according to the Church of England, a Sacrament in any sense equivalent to Baptism or the Supper of the Lord (read the XXXIX articles). I guess the legal position referred to by Will Adam is that ordination is an act of the church rather than of the consecrating bishops. So rejecting the act implies the church is defective – except that we are in full communion with it. The playing with evasive language is coming… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Geoff,
that’s an interesting thought, thank you!