Comments: Women Bishops: latest opinions

Tom Wright bristles at Mr Cameron's injunction to the C of E to 'get with the programme', arguing that the church should not pay any need to discourses that come from outside the world of scripture. However, it would have been nice if the C of E had at least been able to get with its own programme of moving to appoint women as bishops!

But a government also has the right to judge whether the fundamental ethical priciples of an established church are consonant with those of the wider nation, and if they are not, to say so. Previous church / government friction has, for example, arisen over the treatment of the poor, but both sides agree on the fundamental principal that a government has a responsibility to support the weakest in society.

This case is different, though. Enough people in the church do not believe in equal roles for men and women in society to have derailed this legislation. That is fundamentally at odds with ethical norms the society of which the church is an established part. Politicians have every right to hold the church to account for this, or question the establishment of the church. The Prime Minister's suggested 'sharp prod' (whatever that might be) would be an entirely justified intervention, and perhaps an apt and peculiarly English way of cutting this Gordian knot.

Posted by Samuel Denyer at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 6:43pm GMT

John Gladwin's comments - absolutely. No more mish-mash.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 6:50pm GMT

Whilst Dr Wright's article is characteristically cogent and forceful, I find the logic of his argument depressingly circular. The Fulcrum site strikes me as being an hermetic echo chamber for this sort of stuff, and a profoundly alienating one at that.

He makes the tendentious (and mildly nauseating) connection between Nazism, Stalinism, progress and the consecration of women bishops. He suggests that Erastianism might be "angrily resisted if it attempted to block reform" - whereas what he is actually saying is that it should be resisted angrily because of the suggestion by Messrs Bryant, Field, etc., that reform should be forced upon reactionaries within the Church by the state.

Naturally, in the process he forgets that this very reform has the blessing and imprimatur of the great majority of the Church, both ordained and lay, and the majority of the wider population (to whom the Church purports to minister). He wants to make an Aunt Sally out of state intervention in order to distract attention from the scandal of the failed vote. This is a lot of sound and fury, indicating little or nothing.

And, by the way, what on earth is wrong with Erastianism? After all, Dr Wright and his ilk might still be Roman Catholic were it not for the royal and parliamentary fiat that prompted the Reformation in England - a notion that the "open evangelical" obscurantists within Fulcrum might find unedifying.

If this is the feeble best that one of the biggest guns on the "conservative right" of the Church can come up with then it is remarkable that the opponents of women bishops mustered as many votes as they did.

The arguments propounded by FiF and Reform about the leadership of women in the Church remain what they always were: disingenuous tosh.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:11am GMT

I have searched in vain to find what used to be called "respect" for those with whom he disagrees in what might be called John Gladwin's final solution.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 5:50am GMT

If the Church of England were to be legally disestablished, one wonders, would that be such a bad thing. This Church is the only Province of the Anglican Communion that derives its constitution from the secular realm. This is not to say that the Monarch is not a 'good' Anglican. Her Majesty has proved her loyalty to the Church by her upholding of its distinctive traditional roots in the Catholic/Reformed and Evangelical tradition. However, there is more than the monarchy involved in this matter. The Government is also involved!

Where matters of common human justice, such as the equality of women and men in society, is concerned - where the State now upholds this understanding, (which happens to be compatible with the attitude of Jesus towards women in the New Testament) while the Church embraces institutional discrimination against women - there must surely be a 'calling to order' to avoid any seeming dislocation between the rule of civil law and the rule of the Church.

Morally, and theologically; either the Church has to discontinue its ministerial distinction between women and men - in which case it is time to repent of its in-built sexism, OR: the Church is given permission by the State to discriminate against women, in perpetuity, on grounds that may be incompatible with State Law but in some strange way allowed immunity from State Law on grounds that discriminatory behaviour is compatible with the religious ethics espoused by the Church.

In such a case, it would seem disestablishment might somehow allow the enshrining in Civil Law - on religious grounds - of the separate ethical standards that are embraced by the Church.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 7:42am GMT

Fr David - perhaps the "respect" that you are looking for is present in the form of self respect. Those who have compromised repeatedly to keep people 'on board' may finally have decided that no compromise beyond making provision for a parallel church, which holds the brand name, will suffice for those who are opposed to the admission of women to the episcopate. (Or as Reform would have it 'headship'.) So Bishop Gladwin (please note the respectful term of address) has decided that any further concessions render female bishops untenable.
There is also talk of a Reconcilliation Movement, rather like a post apartheid mechanism. But if we start with that we should start with a clean slate and begin from the beginning - a single clause motion. That way further compromise is open to ALL parties.

Posted by Commentator at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 9:47am GMT

Tell you what Father David, I respect the people and abhor their opinions. I love the sinner and hate the sin. I do not have to respect all opinions.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 11:03am GMT

Fr David
I would agree with you. There has been a widespread loss of respect for those who are responsible for Tuesday's fiasco.
It's sad but it is undeniably (and predictably) true.
The landscape for this debate has now changed.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 11:15am GMT

David - don 't you dare use the expression'final solution' like that. Just don't do it, it is an appalling reference to purport to confect.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 4:24pm GMT

Fr David
It is hard to respect those who do not respect the views of their diocesan synods nor the views of their Bishops, despite their avowed emphasis on the importance of headship. Of course I should respect my fellow christians; but it is difficult.

Posted by Tim Budd at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 5:04pm GMT

I once sat and listened to the speeches at an annual meeting of FiF, there wasn't the slightest vestige of respect shown to women priests and their supporters.

A priest I had previously respected hugely, sneered at the bishops of Wales, saying that they were no bishops at all.

The "get that bitch out of my sanctuary" attitude made famous by John Hughes when he was bishop of Kensington seems endemic. Respect needs to be a two way street and I see the failure of respect was a required element at FiF conference.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 5:58pm GMT

It's the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, for whom I have the greatest respect, that I feel greatest sorrow for. What a legacy - a deeply divided Anglican Communion and a national Church in turmoil and chaos.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 6:26pm GMT


Don't understand you. Why, precisely, was it a 'fiasco'? The attitude of my fellow-liberals to Tuesday's vote seems to me deeply Stalinist. I really do not respect this crude 'end-justifies-the means' presumptiveness.

Posted by John at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 7:13pm GMT

Are members of General Synod expected to vote according to their own conscience, or are their votes supposed to somehow reflect the will of the people who elected them? Also, has it been determined what percentage of those voting no did so because it didn't go far enough to protect the minority and what percentage did so because it went too far?

Posted by Paul Powers at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 7:17pm GMT

David -

feel sorriest for Rowan? No - it is all the thousands of women clergy who have put up and shut up for 19 years I feel sorriest for. That vote was the biggest slap in the face for them and their ministry imaginable.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 8:48am GMT

it is "Stalinist" to feel that a vote that ends in the defeat of a draft Measure that was the clear wish of all but a small minority of Laity is a fiasco?
Stalin can't have been all that bad, then.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 9:19am GMT

the vote was a fiasco because the antis and well meaning but completely unrealistic people like you genuinely seemed to believe that there is another compromise just round the corner.

I listened to most of the debate live and I could not believe how many said breezily that an alternative could be found. The impression was that the draft Measure could be voted down and that everyone would then meet up for a nice cup of tea and discuss Plan B.

This is wishful thinking of the highest order.
Did no-one listen to the Bishop of Manchester who in his summing up explained in detail what it had taken to get to this compromise?
They have already discussed Plans A-Y. What was being voted on was Plan Z.

It's not good saying that it's not too much to ask (in your view) that liberals should compromise a little more.
The obvious reality is that it it too much to ask.
You can grumble about that but you really must face that reality.

That is why the vote was a fiasco.
It was the end of the line and it was rejected by people who had their heads in the clouds and who are now all absolutely astonished at the reactions.
For goodness sakes, what did you all expect?
Where were you these last few years?

I have no idea how anything can be saved from this muddle now.
But I know why I'm calling it a fiasco!

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 25 November 2012 at 11:05am GMT

I was under the impression that the complex voting requirements - super majorities in each house - was a way of protecting against the tyrany of the majority; the vote didnt come out the way many wanted, but claiming that the system did anything but work as designed seems wrong-headed. If Synod members were required to reflect the votes of their dioceses, then why not have the diocesan votes settle the matter in the first place? Why bother with the Synod vote at all?

The problem (if there is a problem) is not with those who had the temerity to vote as they saw fit, but with a system which set the bar for approval so very high. If you don't like the system, change it - but please stop complaining about it not giving the result you wanted. Such a vote was always possible, and if it were totally unacceptable then the CofE ought not to have made it possible in the first place.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Monday, 26 November 2012 at 5:46pm GMT
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