Thinking Anglicans

Sheffield and the Five Guiding Principles

Martyn Percy has written another article on this topic.

The press release is here: Not a matter of opinion: Discernment, difference and discrimination. The text is copied below the fold.

To read the full article follow the link in the press release.

The Oxford theologian who called for the conservative bishop nominated as the next leader of the Diocese of Sheffield to clarify his position on women’s ministry or decline the nomination has called for ‘a thorough and wholesale review’ of gender-based discrimination in the Church of England.

The Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, has published a follow-up essay in response to criticism of his stance in an article published on the website of Modern Church, a society promoting breadth and depth in Christian theology, of which Prof Percy is a Vice President.

In Not a Matter of Opinion: Discernment, Difference and Discrimination, Professor Percy argues that:

The Sheffield debacle began to unravel some time before I published my original essay on the issue. At the consultation stage of the process to select a new bishop, the women clergy of the diocese were asked, informally, if they would welcome a woman bishop. In what can only be described as an act of gracious magnanimity, they said ‘no’, indicating that the diocese was not ready for this yet… The women at no stage were asked if they would accept a bishop who did not ordain women.

Since no-one consulted on whether the Diocese of Sheffield would welcome a bishop who would not ordain women, he continues:

What happened next was inevitable: the views which should have been gathered by the drafting group could only be voiced once Philip North had been selected. Parishes and clergy duly registered their concerns, in large numbers. The postbag was enormous, and grew daily. This was no organised campaign. It was ordinary people, concerned about the impact of gender-based discrimination in their local parishes. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Percy contrasts research showing that companies where women are strongly represented at board level in the FTSE 100 Index tend to out-perform their male-dominated competitors with the Church of England’s idea of ‘balance’: evening up the number of ‘traditionalist’ bishops with women bishops:

The Church of England consistently sends out mixed signals. It is good to have women clergy, apparently. But please, don’t let us celebrate this too much for fear of upsetting those who still want to engage in gender-based discrimination.

He argues that the Church of England needs ‘a thorough and wholesale review’ of the Five Guiding Principles which the House of Bishops adopted in 2014 as a concession to conservatives who opposed the ordination of women as bishops, since it cannot deliver the the ‘mutual flourishing’ it promises. But he would want to see the review go much further:

Not just of the ‘Five Guiding Principles’, and the question of whether or not a ‘traditionalist’ can ever be a diocesan bishop. These are mere symptoms of the deeper malaise. What the Church of England now needs to review is just one thing: discrimination.

Percy calls the Five Guiding Principles

merely a ‘cease fire’ in the Church of England’s long saga of ‘Gender Wars’. Or a truce, at best. But these ‘Principles’ cannot bring peace. Because a temporary political solution cannot resolve our deep theological divisions. Only deeper theology will bring us lasting peace. Such theology will be founded on equality and inclusion, not dubious ‘equal-but-different’ discriminatory reasoning.

He does not wish to see groups that oppose the ordination of women, whether Anglo-Catholic or Evangelical, cease to be part of the Church of England, as

They are part of the body of Christ and more unites us than divides us.

But he challenges the wisdom of resourcing them to extend their influence in the wider national church while they still believe in and practise gender-based discrimination.

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Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
3 years ago

Can’t read the full article. I get the message ‘unauthorised action to download’.

ED: yes, sorry, this is a quirk of the Modern Church website. Have removed the offending link. Just go to the press release, and follow link from there.

Susannah Clark
3 years ago

I don’t wholly agree with Martyn Percy on this matter, but it is powerfully and persuasively written, and a good contribution to the analysis that Sir Philip Mawer will need to carry out. Where I differ is here: “Bishops are to be a focus of catholic and local unity. Bishop Philip could be neither, through his own choice to be a member of ‘The Society’.” I believe that conscience is not necessarily a ‘choice’. It can be a conviction that overrides the easier way you might otherwise choose. Is being a Christian a ‘choice’? Or is it something that happens… Read more »

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
3 years ago

Now been able to read the article through another route. Thank you Martyn Percy. Please keep stirring the pot. You ask some very pertinent questions.

John-Julian Swanson
John-Julian Swanson
3 years ago

The issue is really quite simple: every person has a thorough right to his/her own beliefs and convictions and he/she should be free to live by and to express those beliefs and convictions —SO LONG AS THEY DO NOT DAMAGE OR HARM OR IMPINGE UPON ANOTHER. And how a person can be a bishop and believe that a third of his/her clergy are not validly ordained, I simply cannot conceive. I suppose it comes down to a simple matter: it is unjust for anyone to use a position of power or authority to demean or debase anyone else. A teacher… Read more »

Tim M
Tim M
3 years ago

I share Martyn Percy’s belief in opening all orders of ministry to women. I’m not a theologian and I won’t attempt to argue his theology, but I will question Martyn Percy’s methodology as I believe he’s doing liberal faith no favours. Why does Percy continue to lay his arguments around the person of Philip North after the bishop has withdrawn from the Sheffield appointment? Why does he pepper his article with “what if..?” hypotheticals when the eventual (or actual) reality could turn out to be quite different? It comes across as quite condescending to me. Most of all, where were… Read more »

Peter S
Peter S
3 years ago

A strong piece with many cogent arguments as to outcomes for the C of E. But I deeply wish the article’s justifications were explicitly theological rather than based in current social attitudes and standards. For Christians, discrimination against identity is wrong because Jesus showed it was wrong, because it goes against the order of God’s creation, and because it goes against the divine invitation to absolutely everyone to participate in the city of God after all is said and done. Christians who believed this 100 years ago were ridiculed because they were at complete odds with contemporary beliefs, both secular… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
3 years ago

An excellent, thoughtful and carefully argued essay. I am relieved that we have theologians like Dr Percy who address issues like this in developed and accessible arguments​ like this and not sound-bites. Moreover, I respect his courage in putting his head above the parapet because he will inevitably be vilified in some circles.

philip o'reilly
philip o'reilly
3 years ago

At several points during the Sheffield debacle Dr. Percy affirmed that he had no problem with the appointment of Traditionalists as Area and Suffragan Bishops in the CofE , it would have been good if he had said so in his latest article. It would also have helped his case if he had reflected that it is not only Traditionalists and Conservative Evangelical diocesans who cannot exercise a completely authentic catholic episcope. Every Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishop is in full and unimpaired communion with all the other bishops in their own Communion. Moreover, all the members of their… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 years ago

What happens when, inevitably, the Dean of Oxford turns his intellect and pen to the other conspicuous aspect of discrimination and shows the contradiction and discrimination inherent in welcoming LGBTIQ people into the Church while insisting that we are only welcome if we leave our God-given identity at the door? For he surely will do so. It no longer matters what the archbishops tell the other princes of the Church in the Anglican Communion. It no longer matters what deals and tactics the House of Bishops tries to impose. It doesn’t even matter what Synod votes for. The pen of… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
3 years ago

Like Susannah, I agree with a broad church on principle.

Even if I didn’t, by showing traditionalists that compromise means surrender, the campaign Percy contributed to has ensured that LGBT Anglicans will be denied equality for years, possibly decades. He’s helped ensure that the only way it can happen is by forcing it through over their objections.

That being so, I look forward to his evangelism strategy, ’cause boy, he’s got a lotta numbers to make up.

Father David
Father David
3 years ago

Talk about kicking a man when he is down! I can’t quite see the necessity of this second essay by the Dean of Christ Church when he has already achieved his aim and objective of preventing Philip North from becoming Bishop of Sheffield. Percy is surely over-egging the pudding and labouring his case. In this second essay he keeps pounding away at discrimination. In all he writes the word discrimination 27 times discriminate 4 times discriminatory 15 times discriminators 2 times discriminated 2 times In all a total of 40 uses of discriminate and associated words! This surely is over-kill?… Read more »

RPNewark
RPNewark
3 years ago

Father David: “Who are the other three?”

Well, +Fulham and +Wakefield for two. That only leaves one more.

Kate
Kate
3 years ago

“A fuller explanation would be welcome as it is plain for all to see that Traditionalist are indeed being discriminated against within the contemporary Church of England.”

Could you please explain how since many of us cannot see it?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
3 years ago

With another clear minded and rigorous article Martyn Percy will once gain suffer the slings and arrows aimed at people in the church who make sense. Someone may wish to warn the current Archbishop of Canterbury that it will take more than 90 seconds to read it ( : Speaking of which, one wonders about mutual flourishing as possibly part of a wee chess game. Is there something at work in all of this to make sure that, when the day comes, there are bishops on the board so as to be sure that only a man, and a conservative,… Read more »

Susannah Clark
3 years ago

James Byron raises the good point of the precedent this creates. Supporters of male priesthood came to a compromised agreement, giving ground, in the belief that they remained welcomed and included at all levels of the Church of England. Now, having given ground, they are learning that wasn’t enough, and they are being further edged out to the margins of Church life. Turning to LGBT+ issues, those who in conscience don’t believe in gay marriage are being appealed to give ground. But will they *really* believe that it ends there? Viewing the priesthood issue as a precedent for what happens… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
3 years ago

Wakefield and Fulham Father David..don’t know the third.

Flora Alexander
Flora Alexander
3 years ago

What Martyn Percy has written is really not an attack on Philip North. If you read it carefully you should see that it is a critique of procedures currently being used in Episcopal appointments, which certainly need to be improved. As I see it, the actions of those concerned with the Sheffield appointment did not take proper account of the needs of the diocese, and also caused harm to Father North himself.

ExRevd
ExRevd
3 years ago

In different ways, both Kate and James Byron have it right. Theology abhorring a vacuum, it is both unsurprising and fitting that Dr Percy is being listened to, though I can see how this could also be counterproductive. Minorities deserve nothing less than love, whether they have faced persecution in the past, or face loss and change in the future (memo to correspondents: I am not *equating* anything here). Our identities, whether sexual or social or otherwise, are mostly “given”, and saying to one identity that “Whatever you thought we all signed up to, it’s actually ‘Game Over’ for you”… Read more »

DBD
DBD
3 years ago

“Most of all, where were Martyn Percy and Modern Church in 2014? If the Five Guiding Principles are so terrible and in dire need of review, why weren’t most liberals decrying them then?” — Tim M., 3 April.

Because we made the compromise we had to make to have justice done. As I said at the time, it would be later generations’ (such as mine) problem to unpick the blasted thing. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

Richard Gillin
Richard Gillin
3 years ago

Father David – I assume that Tony Robinson (Wakefield) won’t; Richard Chartres (London – technically was still diocesan when the essay was written) – not sure who the other might be.

David Runcorn
3 years ago

Father David What Martyn Percy is kicking is the basis on which the Church of England can come to appoint a Traditionalist Bishop and argue this is an expression of mutuality in any meaningful sense of the word. He is not kicking the man at all but unless you engage with his actual arguments you could be read as doing precisely that yourself.

Tim M
Tim M
3 years ago

DBD: ‘Because we made the compromise we had to make to have justice done. As I said at the time, it would be later generations’ (such as mine) problem to unpick the blasted thing. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.’ Being of the same generation as you, DBD, perhaps I ought to be glad it’s some of the very same supporters of the 2014 measure and 5GP – not a future generation – who are doing the work to unpick the mess they rejoiced in creating just three short years ago. Maybe I am being unkind in seeing a certain… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 years ago

“Even if I didn’t, by showing traditionalists that compromise means surrender, the campaign Percy contributed to has ensured that LGBT Anglicans will be denied equality for years, possibly decades. He’s helped ensure that the only way it can happen is by forcing it through over their objections.” As a person in a same sex relationship, I wish to dissociate myself completely from this sentiment expressed in a number of recent comments on this and other threads. I have no interest in same sex marriage bought at the price of failing to defend other disadvantaged groups or minorities. I also struggle… Read more »

DBD
DBD
3 years ago

For those enumerating Anti bishops, it’s mostly pretty simple: Maidstone and Chartres plus the Society’s rogues gallery here: http://www.sswsh.com/bishops.php

Simon Sarmiento
3 years ago

Not quite that simple, in relation to the implementation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests. Para 26 says: “…In all cases the choice should be made from among the male bishops who are members of the House of Bishops of the diocesan synod of that or another diocese of the Church of England.” So I think that now excludes Richard Chartres. And I’m not clear whether one of those pictured on that page DBD just linked to, i.e. Roger Jupp, is eligible. He was a bishop overseas, but now serves as a parish… Read more »

DBD
DBD
3 years ago

Ah yes, an excellent point, Simon. Although diocesan HoBs have included bishops other than the diocesan and suffragans/areas/stipendiary-assistants, i.e. Ian Stuart in Liverpool.

Kate
Kate
3 years ago

I wonder whether Philip North might have been acceptable if he hadn’t been prominent in the Society? Martyn Percy certainly infers a lot from that membership. Rightly I think. http://www.sswsh.com/bishops.php The Society has an explanation why they don’t believe in the ordination of women but why isn’t half the leadership group female? Or more to offset the bias in terms of ordination. Don’t they believe women can be leaders and managers either? I think that link illustrates why many of us have a problem with the Society and with Philip North becoming a diocesan bishop – and it isn’t explained… Read more »

A Person
A Person
3 years ago

Simon that’s right re +Jupp – the Bishop of Derby apparently won’t let him exercise any episcopal authority in his diocese.

And Dan – what’s this about the compromise “we” had to make? Are you lumping yourself in with the liberals in the Synod that Tim mentions? You’ve never been on Synod to my knowledge, and last time I hear you were calling yourself a Progressive and categorically not a Liberal?

Daniel Berry, NYC
Daniel Berry, NYC
3 years ago

Philip O’Reilly has said, above, that “(e)very Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishop is in full and unimpaired communion with all the other bishops in their own Communion. Moreover, all the members of their individual diocesan presbyterates are in full communion with one another and there is a completely interchangeable ministry within the diocesan college of priests. This has not been so for any diocesan bishop in the CofE since the ordination of women and the opening of the debate about human sexuality. In purely catholic terms, the ministry of all diocesan bishops in the CofE is wounded. While in… Read more »

DBD
DBD
3 years ago

My apologies, Comrade Person, and my thanks for your correction. I wouldn’t wish to give an inflated impression of my own agency — I merely stand in solidarity with my comrades who were active at the time: whether we are liberals or progressives, we were & are aiming at the same general goal.

Bernard Randall
Bernard Randall
3 years ago

I wish Martyn Percy had done a bit more theology. we certainly need it, but there’s barely any at all in his essay, which I feel amounts to not much more than “we all know discrimination is wrong, the law says it is wrong, so let’s not allow it.” He may well be right, but let’s have at least a glance at scripture or Tradition please. A thought about Tradition/liturgy would provide a clue to answering his conundrum about Patrick – we have conditional baptism, where there is doubt about the original: “If thou art not already baptized, N, I… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 years ago

Bernard Randall, I’m afraid your argument falls down. To be an exact parallel with the North case, your prospective headmaster would also have to be a board member of an organisation which openly campaigned against women teachers. This organisation would also have to issue ID cards to male teachers, to ensure they had not been appointed by a female head, or appointed a female teacher (I know North would have appointed female clergy, but since teachers don’t have an equivalent of ordination the parallel follows). Thus the parents and staff would be very much aware of his convictions and might… Read more »

Cynthia
Cynthia
3 years ago

Communion with Rome and the Orthodox is wounded because of WO and WB, but not because of married priests and/or divorce? Or because some in CoE don’t believe in the “real presence” in the sacrament… The subjugation of women is the only difference that “wounds” communion?

What about communion with women? Oh yes, we don’t matter.

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