Comments: Women in the Episcopate - Archbishops' Amendment - press reports

Peter, as I am sure you know, The Murdoch papers, including the Times are in the process of going behind a 'pay wall'. At the moment one can register for a free trial as I have done (though I have to ask why they want my age, address and request my phone number for this) but before long the links from TA to the Times etc will not work unless one is a subscriber. I certainly won't be subscribing. What will TA be doing?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 21 June 2010 at 8:23pm BST

The spectacle about to play out in the Church of England would be funny if it weren't so sad. Where is Monty Python when we need him?

The capacity of some Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals to demean women never ceases to amaze me.

Threats to leave should be ignored, of course. The ones who do leave rarely are comfortable when they get to Rome and have a bad habit of coming back.

Posted by jnwall at Monday, 21 June 2010 at 8:41pm BST

Well, it's too bad I can't read Our Ruth. Times requires registration, which when filled in with info I'd rather not give them but I want to read Ruth, then requires the "word verification" which even when perfectly duplicated is not accepted. Sigh. So can someone who has read Ruth Gledhill tell me if the headline is right? Has the amendment been rejected?

Posted by Lois Keen at Monday, 21 June 2010 at 9:35pm BST

Ruth Gledhill in The Times: Archbishops’ compromise deal on women bishops is rejected

Which is behind a paywall.

Posted by RPNewark at Monday, 21 June 2010 at 9:51pm BST

Ruth Gledhill in The Times: Archbishops’ compromise deal on women bishops is rejected

Which is behind a paywall.

And I can't find it in the newspaper ..... is it in today's edition?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 21 June 2010 at 11:03pm BST

Ruth Gledhill is not behind a paywall - yet - although you do have to register to gain access. If it's in the printed paper, it will be in Tuesday's edition.

When the headline to her article says that the compromise has been rejected, what it means is that some people on both sides have expressed doubts about what is apparently being proposed.

Actual rejection is something that only General Synod can do, when it debates and votes on the archbishops' amendment(s).

Posted by Peter Owen at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 12:07am BST

Perhpas it's time for a boycott of male bishops in the CofE. We don't need their ministry until they recognise the full ministry which exists in other quarters of the Communion.

No confirmations, no ordinations etc. until the masculine hierarchy is brought to its knees!

Posted by acuteobserver at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 1:13am BST

"Some Anglo-Catholics, who deeply revere Church ceremonies and are close to Roman Catholic practices, believe women are precluded by the Church's teaching from being priests or bishops, and that appointing them will impair relations with Rome" - BBC Report, on Monday -

Well, most of us are already aware of what the Ultra Montane Anglo-Catholics among us think about women's ordination. But there are other, more liberal, Anglo -Catholics around the Anglican Communion who, just as certainly, do believe otherwise.

In view of this fact - and the fact that there are already legitimately ordained women priest in the Church of England - what is to stop the Church from going ahead with what General Synod has already purposed to do, without the need to kowtow to Rome. After all, Rome doesn't admit to our having legitimate catholic orders anyway - whether Anglo-Catholic or Protestant. So what harm could this possibly do to ecumenical relationships?

One sincerely hopes that the 2 English Primates do not seek to overturn the lawful determination of General Synod by the doubtfully-legitimate means of Primatial coercion.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 2:03am BST

Oh. I can't read Ruth Gledhill now without paying (or signing up as someone who may be willing to pay at some future date). I'm sure it's a good column, but I'm not going to read it.

Posted by Graham Ward at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 4:29am BST

"Since the amendments would not divest the diocesan bishop of any jurisdiction, they would involve no change in the Church of England's understanding of the episcopate. But for those seeking ministry under this provision from a nominated male bishop, there would no longer be the difficulty that this authority was derived in law from an act of delegation by an individual diocesan."

This sounds to me very much like casuistry - a form of argument more commonly used in a certain (other) jurisdictional Church situation.

Casuistry, in the Chambers Dictionary, is described thus:
"The science or doctrine of cases concerned with moral conscience, the reason which enables a person to decide in a particular case between apparently conflicting duties; plausible but flawed reasoning.

My question is, why should the Church have to resort to casuistry, when all that is need is an honest to God statement - about the veracity of women's call to leadership ministry in the Church?

A Bishop is a Bishop is a Bishop (or not!)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 5:06am BST

This debacle reminds me of the supposed meeting of the Russian Orthodox Synod at the time when the revolution was going on in Russia who were debating the colour of vestments for different seasons. We are on the brink of economic austerity whilst debating the role of women as bishops, how strange.

Posted by clairejxx at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 6:03am BST

Yes, Ruth is behind a paywall. No - you don't have to pay yet. When you do I shall stop reading the Times completely, as I certainly am not paying for Murdoch papers.

The headline is misleading. The amendment has not been rejected yet, as Synod has not yet met, but the auguries are not good. My guess is that because it is so intellectually sophisticated a proposal no one has rushed to judgement, after all, we are going to have to spend a day or so working out whether we think it is possible to look in two opposite directions at once simultaneously.

Supporters of women in the episcopate will perhaps find the proposal fails on not providing for parishes who have a sexist and/or homophobic bishop to be able to ask for co-ordinate jurisdiction under a sympathetic woman bishop - why shouldn't we be able to do so, if some people can have a different bishop if they don't like the one they have got because she is a woman? So it seems that this does put women in a different category of "not quite as bishopy as male bishops" after all. So-called traditionalists will not like it because, in the end, even their co-ordinate bishops would have to acknowledge that they are co-ordinating (matching Mitres??) with another bishop, and this of course they can't do.

So it won't and shouldn't fly. My prayers are focused on Synod having the guts to get on and do it as per the Revision committee. The Archbishops' amendment is a symptom of their horribly partisan approach to this business: they will do almost anything to not upset so-called traditionalists, but seem blithely indifferent to the hurt and distress they cause to those (perhaps now the majority) who find such gymnastics deeply offensive.

In all this I must say that I am longing for a day when our bishops can be elected by the people of God - not wished on us by some arcane and outmoded system that is a left-over of Christendom. Much more like the Early Church, so it would keep the "traditionalists" happy. And it would spare us all that dreadfully C of E feeling that you sometimes get (and this amendment is another example of), of people in authority that you have not elected or chosen telling you what is good for you.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 8:22am BST

"Trust the process" is a good mantra. The process includes General Synod testing all the nuances, details and implications of the amendment of Co-ordinate Jurisdiction. For this cannot be accepted merely because it is proposed by 2 archbishops.

We should also ask what the process was that led to their proposal. It feels like the Traditional Catholics have been closely involved, partly because the speed of their endorsement indicates prior knowledge, and partly because the amendment focuses yet again on their favourite subject: the foundation of authority. But the Revision Committee which was required to listen patiently and exhaustively to a wider range of voices, came up with a solution that is likely to secure broader respect and support.

Yet Synod may choose to place special value on one aspect of the archbishops' proposal: that the Diocesan "gives permission" to a nominated bishop to minister to certain parishes which request it. This is the language of trust and relationship rather than law and authority. This is what many in Synod have been seeking for so long: that we have a simple change so that women can become bishops, and that traditional parishes can receive the style of ministry which helps them flourish. Synod may interpret the move that the archbishops have made as a step away from the complexity of delegation and transfer and towards a "Single Clause Measure" with a Code to encourage good behaviour. We will need to trust the process.

Posted by Robert Cotton at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 9:35am BST

I very much hope this 'flies'. It should save the bacon of FiF people who don't want to 'pope' (the vast majority, as it becomes increasingly clear). As for liberals, they have to realise you can't impose uniformity. Most people who engage in these debates seem to me to have the feeblest grasp of the huge diversity of opinion within any Church - and within any church. People have to get on. A single example: I have no doubt (please correct me if I'm wrong) that Fathers Ron and Martin are devout believers in the Virgin Birth, which is - after all - a creedal requirement. Lots of practising Christians don't believe in it (I don't), but few indeed nowadays waste their time in interrogating their fellow Christians about this alleged litmus test of 'orthodoxy'. (Nor, of course, do I offend my friends by scoffing.) Time to get real and do deals.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 9:52am BST

The Bishop of Buckingham has an interesting take on this.

"The Spirit has always called the church to a form of ministry that was real within the sociology of the world we serve. Therefore we respond to the Spirit’s call obediently, not half-heartedly. The Puritans used to talk about the “Devil’s Martyrs” — people who lost out all round, because they messed with Mr In-Between, depriving themselves of the advantages of being Puritans, or Libertines. Simply framing the Spirit’s call to ordain women in terms of the problems it raises is boring, weedy and faithless, as well as hypocritical."


Posted by badman at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 9:52am BST

Another very good reason for doing it is that it will administer a well-timed biff on the nose of that frightful old bigot in the Vatican.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 10:04am BST

A few predictions:

1. Synod will reject the Archbishops' amendment.

2. When Synod rejects the amendment, whatever Anglican-Catholic ecumenical dialog remains will come to a halt.

3. Various CofE Anglo-Catholics will announce their departure for Roman ordinariates.

4. These announcements will give the Vatican pleasure that it will be unable to disguise, but will give the English Roman hierarchy fits.

5. The Pope's visit will be a disaster on several levels, because it will illuminate the differences between the Roman Church and the synodical Church of England. The Pope will demonstrate his tin ear, and the Archbishop of Canterbury will be pilloried for making nice with him.

6. A month or two after the Pope's visit, several key members of the Archbishop's staff will quietly resign, on the view that his reign is nothing they want to be part of.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 1:42pm BST

john posted "Most people who engage in these debates seem to me to have the feeblest grasp of the huge diversity of opinion within any Church"
I'm well aware of the diversity of opinion and the politics it engenders in churches--having worked in one at several levels for nearly four decades. The Virgin birth is a theological construct. Equality of women and men is a civil rights issue. Sadly, despite a wide diversity of opinion in churches on a great many issues, there is little grasp or acceptance of civil and human rights inside organized religions, including Anglicanism as a whole. Some people take great glee in dismissing gender equality as the "talk of human rights language", as if that's all that is needed to minimize the conversation in the church. We're much too sanctimonious to worry about such trivial earthly notions apparently. It is, therefore, important, to keep the feet of leadership to the fire with an unyielding effort at consciousness raising. You don't believe in a particular aspect of Christian mythology? I don't care. What I do care about is changing the perception that human and civil rights can be subject to the usual fudging and pussyfooting that passes for decision making in the church.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 3:59pm BST


I entirely agree that 'equality etc.' is a civil rights/justice issue. I am myself 100% in favour of women priests, women bishops, gay priests and gay bishops.

I entirely disagree that you can make this disjunction between 'theological constructs' and civil rights/justice issues. The ordination of women is in the first instance a theological issue. At some point in the theological debate (rather soon, of course, for 'liberals'), you can appeal to - I myself would appeal to - 'justice issues'. But before that you have to consider 'the authority of the Bible', Christian tradition, Jesus' maleness, his disciples' maleness, the constraints of the Incarnation, etc. etc. You know this. Because so many of these things are imponderables in themselves and their relative weighting is also an imponderable, you cannot prove the rightness of the liberal case (although I believe it is right). Nor can you assume the bad faith of those who uphold tradition.

Furthermore, even in the C of E, there are women priests, there will be women bishops. What is being talked about here is minority provision. At the same time, as everybody knows, there are these enormous disagreements about what have traditionally been regarded as make or break theological issues - and yet are no more (in the main). Why is provision of non-women priests/bishops for a minority thinking and acting in good faith (as most of them now are) regarded as this big make or break issue? I think it's wrong.

Like you, no doubt, I know many women priests. Their views on this issue differ. There are certainly some who want continued 'provision' of some sort (enough to keep them happy) for FiF parishes. I bet you know some too.

Posted by john at Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 8:31pm BST

"Simply framing the Spirit’s call to ordain women in terms of the problems it raises is boring, weedy and faithless, as well as hypocritical."

- Bishop Alan's Blog -

This is incontrovertible proof of the intelligence of at least one of the Bishops of the C.of E.

Surely what the Holy Spirit is calling forth from the Church of England at this point in its history is to "Be strong and of good courage" - a very Pauline injunction in situations of doubt - where the ministry of women has already proved itself within the Church. To cut this off at the knees in terms of relegating them to second-class roles as bishops in the Church is just short-sighted and, in the view of other Provinces which have already rejoiced in their episcopal ministry - plain DAFT.

This could be one of those occasions of caution in the C.of E. which has prompted the questioning of hierarchical dominance - "My way or Yahweh!"

The culture of misogyny and homophobia has no place in the Church of God - in whatever way it manifests itself - whether to accommodate an ethos of out-moded tradition, or to a pretended 'unity' - despite theological ineptitude'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 12:40am BST

john posted "I entirely disagree [Rod] that you can make this disjunction between 'theological constructs' and civil rights/justice issues. The ordination of women is in the first instance a theological issue."

john, You have hit the nail right on the head. Gender equality must be seen as a human rights issue a priori in this debate. Issues of theology are a posteriori and can only be discussed, and the tradition interpreted for good or ill, positively or negatively, once this is agreed upon. On this turns the whole nature and substance of the debate. We are to respect the dignity of every human being, as the baptismal covenant (in North America)says-- a covenant statement that in the end owes as much, if not more, to the enlightenment and the struggle for civil rights as it does to the scriptural traditions of the ancient near east--Greek New Covenant included. If we work from the other direction, and angle the debate in terms of bible, Jesus, tradition, and "minority provision" (the trap of segregation in my view) we will never get anywhere fast. I could not disagree with you more, and in so doing I could not disagree more with the approach with which this issue has been discussed within the churches. I offer my own Anglican Church of Canada as an instance.The kind of approach you advocate has left us, after nearly four decades of women's ordination here, with conservative men still insisting that the church is their Alamo in a cruel feminist landscape that just does not understand their special pleading both for themselves and the antiquated patriarchy they advocate. They hold us hostage playing on the notion of unity, by which they mean male hegemony.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 2:43am BST

We're still looking at this one-sidedly. You explain the reasoning for making special provisions and the sad consequences if we don't.

But the idea of making special provisions for people in itself has implications we have not really talked about.
It's not as though the church hadn't debated this issue theologically for decades, the theology has been done. That it doesn't convince everyone is, in itself, not enough reason for special provisions.

You know that I am deeply torn about special provisions. On the one hand, a tolerant church should of course accommodate those it leaves behind when it changes, it shouldn't even need to be said.

On the other hand, every accommodation also creates new sub-groups that also change the church as comprehensively as the "innovation" itself.
I cannot imagine a church where minority groups are still allowed to trade slaves, other small units can refuse blacks, some don't want women priests, others don't want gay anyones.
We know that every structure you create, however temporary we intend it to be, becomes permanent. You only need to look at the still continuing muddle of imperial and metric in Britain. Black equality in this country is not new, yet there is still the BNP. So I would seriously doubt that any of these provisions we’re talking about will be temporary. The current debate is ample proof of this – there are those who genuinely believed the provisions for FiF were temporary, while there are just as clearly those who believed them to be permanent. If you continue to ordain people who require special provision you include the seeds of permanence from the outset.
So we could end up with a church that looks like something designed in set theory classes and the combinations of what each group may or may not require special provisions for could be quite numerous.
It would be more than realistic to project that in a few decade’s time there will have to be special provisions for those anti-women parishes who insist that their male bishop isn’t gay, and we start drawing another few mathematical shapes into our special provisions picture. It would all grind to a shattering halt if the church should ever be faced with a lesbian Archbishop of Canterbury with an Arabic background. And then we’d seriously wonder how we got there.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 7:49am BST

"And then we’d seriously wonder how we got there."

By becoming worshippers of the Zeitgeist, exemplified most clearly on "Rod Gillis'" utterly Erastian posting, and one which would have come just as plausibly 75 years ago from any "Deutsche Christen."

Posted by William Tighe at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 12:21pm BST

regarding W. Tighe, "And then we’d seriously wonder how we got there." followed by "By becoming worshippers of the Zeitgeist, exemplified most clearly on "Rod Gillis'" utterly Erastian posting, and one which would have come just as plausibly 75 years ago from any "Deutsche Christen." I don't offer worship to anyone or anything, not even the church, worship goes to God alone. I consider myself a Christian humanist,interested in common ground with other people of faith, and those of good will with none. If the church wants to be taken seriously with regard to public discourse and social morality in western democratic societies, it must begin to contend more seriously, in scholarship and in practice with human and civil rights. You would think such would not be such a big stretch for a religious tradition that is grounded the the complete abuse of the human rights of its Jewish founder by an imperial power. I find your post highly offensive.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 3:34pm BST

Continuing with gender equality, faith, and the quest for human rights, others will be interested in the article below, just out, covering the Summit of World Religions. Note especially the views of General Romeo Dallaire (ret'd) speaking to faith groups out of his experience in Rwanda.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 7:37pm BST


I can't go into this now. I am tired and rather despondent.


Posted by john at Wednesday, 23 June 2010 at 8:28pm BST

John, take heart! There are others amongst us who feel for your situation. To argue with W.T. can be a little exhausting, but Erika seems to have the energy and tenacity. You and I do not. However, I believe that to afford further leeway for dissenters against the ministry of women in the Church - by providing a fire-proof segregation from female clergy - would be a signal that women are not fit to take office in the Church. That, I adamantly oppose.

en Christo. Fr. Ron

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 June 2010 at 12:05am BST

I hope it wasn't my reply that made you feel despondent.
Best, Erika

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 June 2010 at 8:14am BST


No, it wasn't. Thanks for your concern.

Father Ron,

Your representation of these particular exchanges is naughty. But you know that.


Posted by john at Thursday, 24 June 2010 at 1:08pm BST

Well just to be very explicit: Recognizing call and ministry among women and men equally, according to call-ministry as we open-endedly and prayerfully discern it together - is not one whit indebted to worshiping the Zeitgeist false idol that Mr. T asserts. From a whole lot of angles, worshipping a males first-males only ideology is what looks distorted and mean and mistaken.

As a progressive believer, I run across this idle stuff all the time ... utter lies told about progressive change, usually by somebody from a rightwing-conservative religious position who presumes that any and all change is bad. As if ...the earth really were flat.

Like trying to put theology in one airtight box, and civil rights-justice in another. Has any of these assertion-presupposition-laden folks ever bothered to read the OT prophets?

I'm less and less and less interested in arguing the extreme conservative sides of our many global divides. The best that come from such conversations is that we clarify yet again for the public record, what progressive Anglican believers really believe ... usually as Anglicans have the habit of doing, pointing to common prayer and the witness of service ... as our most adequate, communicative vehicles for following Jesus of Nazareth. Trash talk the Chicago Lambeth Quad all you want: its light still shines nicely along typical global Anglican paths.

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 24 June 2010 at 7:36pm BST
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