Thinking Anglicans

Independent reviewer and the appointment process for Bishop of Blackburn

A report by the Independent Reviewer, Canon Maggie Swinson, on the process leading to the nomination of the Bishop of Blackburn, Philip North, was published yesterday. The report is here.

For two rather different views of the report read

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Wm Arthurs
Wm Arthurs
1 month ago

This report looks like an un-proofread draft to me.

29. A key element of this concern is that, whilst there is ‘generous provision’ for those who do not believe that women should be ordained or who believe that women’s ministry should be restricted, there is no complimentary provision their ministry. The submission, again, invites me to recommend that no nomination of a non-affirming diocesan should take place until the Sheffield Report recommendations have been fully implemented.

Alastair (living in Scotland)
Alastair (living in Scotland)
Reply to  Wm Arthurs
1 month ago

Might I suggest that contributers reflect on real issues? These days the advancement of minutiae does not forward the Kingdom in our land!

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Alastair (living in Scotland)
1 month ago

In your land, Alastair, or where you live at least, women priests do not have to put up with the outrageous discrimination that they suffer in England. For the women priests that I know, their priesthood is the core of their being, and for their diocesan bishop not to recognise their orders is the cruellest of insults, far too much to ask, and not in any way a minutia. Their only way out is to seek a post in another diocese and hope that they do not get saddled with another non-ordaining bishop there, since our benighted leaders show no… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Malcolm Dixon
Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 month ago

Every English diocese has a Vacancy in See Committee. When there is a vacancy it is up to that committee to express a need for a bishop who will ordain women, and the committee also elects six of its members to the Crown Nominations Commission which will nominate to that vacancy. I do not think that a bishop who will not ordain women has been appointed to a diocese that expressed a need for a bishop who would ordain women.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

I agree, Simon, but it does not appear to be mandatory for the ViS committee to consider that question. That was the problem at Sheffield and the decision at Blackburn (with the same candidate in mind) was heavily manipulated by Jill Duff and others, as described in Maggie Swinson’s report. Given a free vote, I doubt that any diocese would vote to have a non-ordaining bishop.

Rosalind R
Rosalind R
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 month ago

Reading this statement (which is not new to me) I find myself wondering why, nearly ten years after women could be bishops, so many of us accept as normal that a diocese still has to specifically state they they want a bishop who will ordain women. Even if there is a “choice”, why is the default not to assume that all bishops will ordain women and men, and any diocese which wants the option of a diocesan bishop who does not ordain women to have to say so?

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Rosalind R
1 month ago

What a great idea! Will the bishops listen? (I doubt it)

Alastair Ogilvie
Alastair Ogilvie
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 month ago

My comment related to the first statement “this report looks like an unproof read draft”. That is the “minutiae”, not the underlying issue!

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Alastair Ogilvie
1 month ago

Oh, sorry that I misunderstood your comment!

Wm Arthurs
Wm Arthurs
Reply to  Alastair (living in Scotland)
1 month ago

Sending out an unproofread draft is a real issue, at least in my profession (Chartered accountant).

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Wm Arthurs
1 month ago

And in mine (former editor). It’s unprofessional and leads to misunderstandings and confusion.

Jane Charman
Jane Charman
1 month ago

Those of us who have followed the issues surrounding the ongoing reception of women’s ordained ministry over a period of time will understand the pressure that the Church of England, and the archbishops personally, were under to ‘deliver’ a non-ordaining diocesan bishop. This pressure was both political (the price of keeping some groups and individuals onboard) and moral (to demonstrate the bona fides of the somewhat rash and under examined assurance in the House of Bishops’ Declaration that ‘all’ expressions of ministry should be open to ‘all’ clergy regardless of their stance on the ordination of women). +Philip being already… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
1 month ago

I know nothing of the case. But the fact that the Independent Reviewer is a Canon might lead one to question of whom she is Independent.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

Independent in the sense of not belonging to a campaigning group or being an ordained woman. The IR post was created to provide someone independent in the debates over the ordination of women, not independent of the Church.

Graham Holmes
Graham Holmes
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

Google seems to indicate that the Independent Reviewer is a Chartered Accountant and Lay Canon of Liverpool, that is, not an ordained woman, so I wonder if your comment is mistaken. (One I have on occasion made myself, alas.)

Simon Butler
Simon Butler
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

Maggie was a key player in the synodical journey towards the ordination of women and is Vice-Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. She is a superb independent choice, especially noting that the previous two post holders had been – prior to retirement – consecutively Secretary General of the Church of England!

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Simon Butler
1 month ago

HI Simon. Can I invite you to comment on Martine Oborne’s critique then?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

In a Facebook comment regarding this report Anthony Archer (if I may quote him) writes, ‘The Independent Reviewer was hamstrung by the scope of her ombudsman role. It’s OK to ensure those whose tender consciences can’t cope with women priests are affirmed and looked after, quite another to support women who are institutionally discriminated against. She was able to do the former, not the latter.’ That is my understanding of what lies behind this outcome and why it is so lacking, as Martine Oborne clearly outlines. It suggests, once again, some opaque legal controls are to be found influencing things.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Good afternoon David. On that basis, how could partitioning of the Church and provision of bishops for conservative evangelicals opposed to gay sex ever be negotiated? It may be one thing to ‘affirm and look after’ those who in conscience can’t accept gay blessings, but wouldn’t it mean that in significant proportions of the country gay and lesbian people would remain ‘institutionally discriminated against’ within the Church of England? Using your argument, which I am not contesting, shouldn’t the same principle afforded to us as women also be afforded to LGBT people too?

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

In a case known well to me, a PCC was quite happy to have women priests (and so had not made a declaration otherwise) and interested in interviewing a particular woman as potential vicar, but the patron insisted on restricting the appointment to a male priest – who was himself against the priestly ministry of women (whose appointment would then effectively have ended all women’s priestly ministry in the parish going forward). To my surprise (at the time) there was apparently no way of referring this to the independent reviewer for investigation, since in this case it was a woman… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Clapham
Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Charles Clapham
1 month ago

My understanding is that (back before the women bishops legislation) it was only the passing of the appropriate resolution (was it A or B? I forget) which gave protection against the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act. If the resolution was not in place then it would have been illegal for a patron not to consider both male and female candidates without discrimination. So in principle recourse might have been had to the civil authorities.

Rosalind R
Rosalind R
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

The Independent Reviewer only comes into the picture after 2014, as s/he is appointed to ensure that the provisions of the House of Bishops’ Declaration are followed (though only if a complaint is made from someone with an interest in the case) . And yes, as the Declaration is written to “protect” those who will not receive the ministry of ordained women, the Independent Reviewer has had to reject several submissions made by those supporting the ministry of women because their case is not covered in the Declaration. Though if the conflict is with a patron, then the parish representatives… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
1 month ago

Do we, as a church, understand the fundamental difference between diocesan bishops and their suffragans? Judging by how often lay and even ordained intercessors bid, “We pray for our bishops Mark, Mary and John”, we don’t. That +Philip is a fine bishop is beside the point, there is something deeply uncatholic when any priest in a diocesan bishop’s college of presbyters has to live under a form of ecclesial apartheid.  

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Allan Sheath
1 month ago

I remember Alan as a past Anglican in the 1970’s and 80’s hearing Bishops in Dioceses prayed for thus in the Diocese of Ely where my late father was a Parish Priest, when praying for Bishops at the Eucharist from the Altar. my father would pray “We pray for Michael our Archbishop, Edward our Bishop (Edward Roberts and Robert our Suffragan Bishop” (Robert Martineau then Suffragan Bishop of Huntingdon and later Bishop of Blackburn). In Corsham Parish Church in Wiltshire in the Diocese of Bristol in the 1970’s I heard a similar thing “We pray for Oliver our Bishop (Oliver… Read more »

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

Over a period in the 1980s when the Archbishop of Sydney was Donald Robinson, the Assistant Bishop for the Northern Region was Donald Cameron. I remember making the remark that ‘two episcopal Donalds’ were prayed for weekly at the church I then belonged to. It is good to be able to add that Don Cameron (born November 1926) is still alive. I think that in Australia as in England someone attaining 100 years of age can expect a message from the King. That is co-ordinated by the Governor-General of Australia, who also sends a message. I earnestly hope that such… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

Thank you, Jonathan. I very much hope you are right about how the working relationship between diocesan bishops and their suffragans has changed over time. However, I was in this context more concerned about the ecclesial relationship between a diocesan bishop and his or her college of presbyters, and how suffragans fit in to that. This was once put by a diocesan to his suffragan thus: “When I am not there, you are me; when I am there, you are nobody.” While few would accuse said bishop of being excessively pastoral, he did at least understand that a diocese can… Read more »

Matthew Tomlinson
Matthew Tomlinson
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

In the past a suffragan was no more than an extra pair of confirming hands and usually held the incumbency of a parish or a canonry at the cathedral. Sometimes deans and provosts were also suffragan bishops.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Matthew Tomlinson
1 month ago

When a suffragan bishop had a parish, that was to provide his stipend. The Church Commissioners and its forerunner the Ecclesiastical Commissioners did not make stipends available for suffragans until about 1955. The Suffragan Bishopric of Burnley was a special case. By an Act of Parliament dating from 1890 it was linked to the post of Rector of St Peter’s Burnley. That continued until the two posts were separated as a result of the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1976.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones
Reply to  Clifford Jones
28 days ago

The below is pasted from Hansard for 19th June 1903. It emphasises the absence of a stipend for a suffragan bishop. By the time of that debate the first Bishop of Burnley, Sir Edwyn Hoskyns, had been in office for just over a year, and his bishopric was by law linked to his parish. MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.) To ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, having regard to the duties of Suffragan Bishops, His Majesty’s Government will advise that in any future appointment of a clergyman to a Suffragan Bishopric it shall be made a condition that such… Read more »

Lottie E Allen
1 month ago

Elephants. When the Methodist Conference made the decision to ordain women as Presbyters they made a second, important, parallel and integral decision. Going forward from that date everyone who was accepted for training as Presbyters had to accept as equally valid the ordination of everyone else. The Church of England is in the mess that it is in on these matters because in 1994 it failed to make the same decision. “Mess” is the short, polite and accurate decision about where we are. How do you put out a fire? Stop throwing fuel on the fire. In time the fire… Read more »

Francis James
Francis James
Reply to  Lottie E Allen
1 month ago

The (Lutheran) Church of Sweden first ordained women as priests way back in 1960, and initially had a conscience opt-out, but that was scrapped in 1982, and they have allowed same sex marriages in 2009. Note that like CofE post reformation it retained apostolic succession & was the state church (though church & state officially parted in 2000), and that unlike CofE its priestly orders have never been condemned by the Pope.
Note that they & CofE are both members of Porvoo communion, whereby priests are effectively interchangeable, except for the matter of “conscience”.

Lottie E Allen
Reply to  Francis James
1 month ago

Thank you. The position of our dear CofE is nothing if not inconsistent.

Ian
Ian
Reply to  Francis James
1 month ago

You say that Cof Sweden priestly orders have never been condemned by the Pope. As a matter of interest , have they actually been recognised as valid by the Pope?

Fr Mats
Fr Mats
Reply to  Ian
1 month ago

No

Francis James
Francis James
Reply to  Ian
1 month ago

Whether not having been condemned means that Swedish orders are still recognised is moot point that both sides politely skate around. However, all recognise that the fact that they have not been condemned undoubtedly means that there is no formal obstacle to their recognition, and all round it makes for easier relations between Church of Sweden & Rome. 

Fr Mats
Fr Mats
Reply to  Francis James
1 month ago

I wouldn’t say our relations with Rome is easy, not since the CofS allows SSM in church.

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Lottie E Allen
1 month ago

There is a fair chance that if that compromise had not been made in 1993/94 then the necessary legislation might not have passed. Parliamentary approval was not a given and parliament insisted that people were not “unchurched”, and also that financial provision was made for clergy who did choose to leave. Even had it wanted to, the Church could not have made the sort of decision that you suggest.

Christine Allsopp
Christine Allsopp
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

But the situation had changed by the time General Synod debated women bishops. The Five Guiding Principles were not necessary for Parliamentary approval and have continued discrimination against ordained women.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

I expect that you are right, Simon, but that was then and this is now, 30 years later. I sense that Parliament has changed significantly in that time and that many of them are now irritated by the CofE’s attitude. The huge mistake then was to provide for dissenters ‘without limit of time’. That unwise promise will need to be broken at some point, or else our women priests will be forced to endure discrimination for ever.

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 month ago

What discrimination do they practically suffer? All posts are open to women clergy except a very small number of parish churches which by my reckoning make up just over 3% of all churches. Is that really the devastating injustice that you imply? On the other hand those who oppose women’s ordination are very much aware that 95% of all jobs in the CofE are completely closed to them. So I’m not sure it’s quite how you describe.

Alwyn Hall
Alwyn Hall
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

There are some churches that are not ‘resolution churches’ where women’s ministry is not allowed. I know of one example where a priest was ejected from her role by the new incumbent because she was female and divorced. He had not said this at interview. The (utterly spineless) diocese supported the incumbent.

This is not the only example. This is why many advertisements now state that churches are either resolution churches or that they support women’s ministry.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

‘What discrimination do they practically suffer?’ Can I suggest you ask one of them?

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

No, seriously. Apart from a few resolution parishes in the least salubrious parts of some northern towns there isn’t a single job they can’t apply for. Whereas the other way round almost every job is out of bounds yet I don’t hear them complaining

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

I am serious too. Have you talked to any?

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

I rest my case

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

There is a great deal more to discrimination than merely which jobs you are eligible to apply for. All sorts of subtle and less subtle forms of discrimination are perpetrated against women priests. As David has said, just ask them.
And if 95% of all jobs are closed to traditionalist priests, that’s by their own choice. I have never seen a job ad which says ‘traditionalist priests need not apply’.

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
29 days ago

As I said, they don’t complain because they know that’s just the price they have to pay. And no, there isn’t a sign which says ‘no traditionalists’, but they simply just aren’t appointed. Women priests have absolutely everything open to them. Women bishops are now even fast-tracked to the Lords. I just think they should be content with the very one-sided victory they scored against the traditionalists and not pursue total annihilation.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
26 days ago

You are right in one respect only – the 2014 settlement was very one-sided. But not in the direction you suggest. The independent adjudicator has confirmed this in her report.

Mitch McLean
Mitch McLean
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon
1 month ago

Those who oppose the ordination of women to the presbyterate are following a 2000-year-long practice of the church and credit their position to the commands of Holy Scripture itself. I don’t understand why people think that somehow we will change our minds in thirty years. If the CofE excludes those who oppose the ordination of women to the episcopate it excludes the vast majority of bishops in its history and tells Christians in England who affirm the historical position that they are not valued in the Church of England. I fear this will be another factor that will push people… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Mitch McLean
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Mitch McLean
1 month ago

Both positions can be held with integrity and devotion, accompanied by lives of grace and love. This is why we should not monster each other. What we should do is pray for one another. To draw on your point, we can hardly accuse two millennia of Christians, who devoted their lives to God, and those still living, of somehow all being misogynists and women-haters. That disrespects their integrity and lives. Some people will be hateful or graceless, but not all. Let us, at least, be kind, caring, prayerful. I personally very much affirm female priesthood, but many people do believe… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

I seem to remember that in the legislation was something to the effect that no one should be ordained who couldn’t accept women’s ordination after 25 years. Perhaps it was an amendment. Bishop David Hope spoke against it from the anglo- Catholic side and Preb Pearce from the Cons Evo. And it failed

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

The 5 Guiding Principles have closed off revisiting this issue by committing the C of E to providing in perpetuity for those who can’t accept women’s ordination. What they don’t exclude, if I understand it rightly, is legislating to exclude bishops who won’t ordain women from being diocesans.

Would such legislation be within the gift of Synod, and if so, would it have any chance of getting the requisite majorities? I suspect not, in which case vacancy-in-see committees might consider paying more attention to the essential bond between a diocese’s college of presbyters and its pastor-in-chief.

Lottie E Allen
Reply to  Allan Sheath
1 month ago

The Five Guiding Principles are anything but principles and, like the original 1994 mess, stand in need of reform. It is not a settlement that cannot be challenged.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Lottie E Allen
1 month ago

I agree – the settlement can be challenged. What I’m far less sanguine about is the chance of any challenge succeeding.

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Perry Butler
1 month ago

The sunset clause was an amendment discussed in e.g WATCH and GS WATCH+ and proposed to GS by, I think, Robert Cotton. It did not pass.

Lottie E Allen
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Given the rumours that abound from that episode, you may well be right. Traditionalists in the CofE threatened to lobby Tory MPs to block it. That doesn’t justify the settlement. Looking back it was a mistake. And it’s a mistake that is long overdue in needing to be addressed. The current ungodly mess (and it is ungodly) is indefensible and unsustainable. Radical reform is essential.

Simon Sarmiento
Admin
1 month ago

Forward in Faith has issued this statement https://www.forwardinfaith.com/fullposts.php?id=303

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Simon Sarmiento
1 month ago

The fact that the current arrangements work so well for FiF that they oppose even the faintest whiff of change suggests that Martine Oborne has valid point about the severe one-sidedness of the 2014 declaration and how that impacts women priests in Blackburn.

Stephen King
Stephen King
1 month ago

Not entirely flippantly, might I suggest that if there are people who object to male bishops not ordaining female priests, then how about having a female bishop who won’t ordain men?

Barrie McKenzie
Barrie McKenzie
Reply to  Stephen King
1 month ago

Because that would suggest that the whole episcopate before 2015 was invalid and that therefore all priests in the CofE, male and female, are also invalid. So a stupid suggestion I fear.

Warwickensis
Warwickensis
Reply to  Barrie McKenzie
1 month ago

Hardly stupid. I think there is a kernel of theoretical merit in Mr King’s thinking. We’re the CofE in the (clearly desirable according to TA) position that 50% of the episcopate were women, having bishops restricted to ordaining priests and deacons of the same sex would at least preserve some unity of your church as there would be no institutional denial of the validity of anyone’s orders and that parishes might be free to prefer strongly a female incumbent over a male in keeping with the tenor of the parish in the same way that a male incumbent is preferred… Read more »

Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Perhaps a key issue in respecting the different consciences on this matter is grace? You can have people both for or against the ‘traditionalist’ belief who behave gracelessly, and others who behave with much love and grace.

rural liberal
rural liberal
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

this, a thousand times over.

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