on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 at 11.32 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Philip North ViaMedia.News On Conscience
Questions of Conscience (3)
Martin Sewell Surviving Church Why the Bishop of Oxford should be suspended
I think+Philip is guilty of lazy thinking – and poor theology. He fails to differentiate between
– I don’t want to marry or bless same sex couples because it will make ME feel bad
– I want to marry and bless same sex couples because if I don’t THEY will suffer
That distinction IMHO is one of the cornerstones of Jesus’s earthly ministry. How we approach conscience in those two cases ought to be different.
It is also from the basis of a doctrine of challenge-less self-legitimation, which doesn’t hold much water either IMHO!
I found the article by Philip North thoughtful and helpful. I was particularly struck by this comment: Second, we must at all costs avoid weaponizing a culture that does not understand faith in order to advance a theological cause. For example, the sloppy labelling of those who have conscience objections to doctrinal change as ‘homophobic’ or ‘bigoted’ in order to shame them publicly or frighten them into silence breeds resentment rather than reconciliation.
Does that also apply to conservatives who label women seeking abortion or doctors who provide it as “murderers” or GLBT people as “groomers”?
I commented on the article thank you.
“For example, the sloppy labelling of those who have conscience objections to doctrinal change as ‘homophobic’ or ‘bigoted’ ” Should we also reject the sloppy labelling of those who have conscience objections to miscegenation as ‘racist’ or ‘bigoted’? One might very usefully read Anderson, 2020. It’s available here. Sexual anxieties were often to the fore, with one vicar asking whether ‘intermarriage between Black and White is no longer to be regarded as undesirable? If so, I imagine that there will a large body of opinion, both Black and White, which will feel unable to accept this standpoint’. In this context it is perhaps… Read more »
I’ll be honest, is +Philip really saying anything new here from a conservative viewpoint? He believes his views on women in priesthood and sexuality are matters of theological conscience and he demands that those that take different and opposing positions should still defend his views against the attacks of the unfaithful i.e. you might not like my views but you should defend my right to hold them sort of thing. All well and good I suppose, after you +Philip, when I see you leading by example in defending the views of those who believe in female priesthood and gay marriage… Read more »
Interested in the licenses given to retired bishops; are they PTO in nature and diocesan based or are they more licensed to the specific role of ‘assistant bishop’ & therefore less ‘at pleasure’ licenses? Are they issued by the metropolitan? Would this make a difference in the power to suspend?
Assistant Bishops are licensed by the Diocesan in the same way as Suffragans. Section 13 of the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007, sets out the powers and extent of delegation; subsection 16 confirms that the provisions apply to Assistant Bishops. I haven’t researched the ‘power’ to suspend, other than under section 37 of the CDM 2003. We aren’t actually told (so far as I am aware) the exact legal basis of Archbishop Sentamu’s ‘standing back’, but as it was ‘required’ (rather than requested) by the Bishop acting on legal advice, the reasonable inference to be drawn is that his… Read more »
Addendum: I’m unsure about licensing of Assistant bishops: a matter for other more expert opinion. But an undated Opinion of the GS Legal Advisory Commission on delegation of episcopal functions states this: “An assistant bishop’s legal powers are invariably conferred by the diocesan bishop.”
Many thanks; most helpful.
This has been discussed in the comments on the Surviving Church blog. As mentioned there, the nature of Dr Sentamu’s suspension has not been made explicit. As I understand it, stipendiary bishops are “licensed”, retired bishops have PTO. I understand this PTO is given by the Diocesan Bishop. It can be suspended at any time , with no recourse of appeal. From what I understand, it is very hard to suspend a Diocesan Bishop. In the case of Winchester, the Diocesan agreed to “step back” from his role. This “stepping back” was made permanent with his agreement to retire, although… Read more »
That is a fair point, but everybody in the episcopacy seems to rush to explain what they cannot do: where is the leadership? Even if you have no power you can say “ This is wrong” or “ Not in my name”. All we get from most bishops is mute compliance with injustice. Yet curiously with “no power” they routinely opine on politics.
The suspension of the Bishop of Lincoln was highly problematic and arguably irregular, i.e., possibly illegal! It was a case brought under section 37 of the CDM 2003 (“Suspension of bishop or archbishop”). There’s a detailed discussion of it with a factual summary by David Lamming on the two latest threads of ‘Surviving Church’ and, indeed, the subject was fully discussed at the time here on TA. Remarkably that was on 16 May 2019 – now four years ago.
I struggled with the article on conscience. I’m not clear it defends my right to believe differently and also act accordingly in good conscience. I find myself reflecting on one of the Quaker Advice and Queries – 1:17 where we are questioned about respecting that of God in everyone even when we find it hard to discern that presence or when the words someone might use disturb us. It ends saying ‘Think it possible you might be mistaken’ – at least that leaves the door ajar for dialogue on all sides. Truth has to be sought for. I find this… Read more »
Marise, we are featuring a Quaker writer next week in the ‘Conscience’ series and I hope you and others will find that helpful!
I think the real problem is clericalism. The objection to blessing same sex couples essentially is a belief that phrases such as “May the Lord bless you” are instructions to the Lord rather than an entreaty of the form, “Lord, if it is your will, bless this couple”. Seen as entreaties there is no conscience objection.
“It is about placing obedience to revelation ahead of personal popularity, political expedience or cultural conformity” “Second, we must at all costs avoid weaponizing a culture that does not understand faith in order to advance a theological cause. For example, the sloppy labelling of those who have conscience objections to doctrinal change as ‘homophobic’ or ‘bigoted’ in order to shame them publicly or frighten them into silence breeds resentment rather than reconciliation. And third, we need to resolve this within our own structures. For example, for Christians to campaign for the state to use its power to overrule the consciences… Read more »
Very difficult one about abortion – I was once hauled over the coals for suggesting it might be classed as murder at work – no exemption from PC diktat for Christians in the civil service. It is very difficult, because if you believe truly that an embryo is a living, personalised human being from the moment of conception, then, yes, abortion is very close to being the wilful killing of a fellow human being. (Oddly, although our society has, rightly, done away with the death penalty various countries still put individual police officers in the invidious position of being judge,… Read more »
John Davies, Thank you for your thoughtful reply. And it is NOT solely a legal view as to when a fetus becomes a human being. Judaism has a very different answer than those who believe that once a human egg becomes fertilized, a human person exists. Other religions or philosophical or ethical systems do also. So the question becomes how can different people of different consciences be accommodated on this issue in a democratic society? That’s one area, IMO, where the “right-to-life” or “pro-life” movement gets it wrong. No one disputes, so far as I know, that a fertilized human… Read more »
Forgive me if this sounds like a naive – even stupid – question. But why, when the Bishop of Lincoln was suspended for a protracted period (accompanied by a very public upbraiding by the Abp of Canterbury, with more than a hint of prejudgement at the time of his suspension) for a procedural error, why has the same not happened to the Bishop of Oxford? Not only has a determination been made by an independent reviewer about the Bishop of Oxford’s failure to follow safeguarding procedures; but the defensive Diocesan response, with its diminsihig of the survivor, is surely grounds… Read more »
Apologies to Martin Sewell (and others) that I hadn’t read his Surviving Church piece before commenting earlier and, consequently, repeated the very questions he has already asked.