Comments: Objectors at consecrations: response from Lambeth Palace

I think it is a shame if services of consecration and dedication to God get damped by verbal objections which are basically a theological argument within the Church. The argument is legitimate, but the consecration services are personal as well as public, and I think it would be decent and orderly if - instead of verbal objections in the service - the opportunity to set out objections in writing, and have them published for all to read if they wish, was provided by Lambeth.

We need to bear in mind that some of our fellow Christians have real and conscientious reasons for objecting. Those deserve to be acknowledged out of respect, and so I think fair treatment is really important, otherwise we end up marginalising and devaluing a group of Christians who are sincere, faithful and part of 'us'.

Of course, the irony that in a sense their views are regarded by some as marginalising and devaluing women is not unnoticed - however, that's what love involves: respecting one another, and caring about one another. And on that same basis, and out of respect for a service that is personal and precious, it seems respectful not to dampen the joy of a service with vocal objections. They could just as well be put in writing to make the same point, and that would be kinder.

Kindness and respect is owed to those who can't accept female bishops too. We should all go the extra mile to respect each other, and really pray for one another's flourishing.

We need to stop dominating one another, and show more respect for people's conscientious beliefs.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 4:14pm BST

I sort of agree with Susannah. A compromise would be requiring objections to be notified to the presiding bishop 24 hours in advance which are then read out by the Bishop (in summary form).

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 5:30pm BST

"We need to stop dominating one another, and show more respect for people's conscientious beliefs."

Wish that I could demonstrate Susannah Clark's charity on this matter, but I feel it is misplaced, and I post this as a member of WATCH. It is good that Lambeth is seeking to engage with these objectors (actually only currently one it seems) with a view to ending these interruptions at consecrations. They are by the way not always consecrations only of women. The mind of the Church is settled on the matter and the legal position is beyond doubt. Provision has been made for those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry of women priests and bishops. That provision does not extend to the right openly to discriminate and campaign as if the law had not been changed. The effect of the objections is publicly to insult and undermine all women, not just those who are the target. The first objector was the Revd Paul Williamson, an ultra conservative priest and in receipt of a CofE stipend, who has form going back years. He appeared at the consecration of Libby Lane but has not been seen since. The High Court has declared him a vexatious litigant (he has tried everything to prevent women being ordained to all three orders). The latest serial objector is, I believe, the Revd Stephen Holland, a minister from an independent church in Lancashire (handy for consecrations in the Province of York). He, therefore, has no locus with the CofE. It is interesting to note that of the four cathedrals where consecrations typically are held, Canterbury, Westminster, St Paul's and York Minster, the one cathedral where the authorities have succeeded in ensuring he does not enter is York, the only cathedral of this group with a woman dean. I attended the consecration at St Paul's of Ric Thorpe (Islington), Anne Hollinghurst (Aston) and Ruth Worsley (Taunton) in September 2015, where he showed up. However he didn't reckon with the Bishop of London (no small frame) drawing alongside him and ushering him away. Nevertheless the damage was done. I am no liturgist, but one issue is why the question ("Is it now your will that they should be ordained?") is even asked. The consecration is not a marriage. It stems from the Royal Mandate. Nor do I think there should be any facility at all for objectors to be able to have published in the margins of the cathedral their statement of objection. The time for objections is long gone. These people are merely drawing attention to themselves. They must be denied access. If necessary the cathedral authorities will need to declare the service 'private' with admission by ticket only. It is wholly unacceptable behaviour.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 8:43pm BST

Do we give voice on Easter to those who don't believe in the physical resurrection? Or vestments or candles on the altar?

Maybe the objectors might create a post at Thinking Anglicans.

Posted by Richard at Tuesday, 9 August 2016 at 10:37pm BST

Can we stop asking when Banns of Marriage are read if anyone has any cause or just impediment why the marriage may not proceed? I've been calling the Banns now for almost 40 years and no one has yet objected. If anyone did - then it would make my day. I also encourage couples soon to be married to have their weddings in the morning - so that if the marriage doesn't work out - then they haven't wasted the whole day!

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 6:27am BST

I'm in agreement with Anthony Archer. There are no legal reasons that the ordinations of bishops who are women should not go ahead and the Church of England has come to the view that there are no other reasons that the ordinations should not go ahead. People, both within and without of the Church of England are welcome to dissent from that view, but this does not mean that they should be allowed to object in this way. The only intent in the objection is, as Anthony says, to undermine, insult and humiliate all women. It is entirely inappropriate behaviour and should not be referenced either in spoken or written form.

So I don't understand Father David's point re. Banns. The objections that can be raised there are only legal ones. It is clear that no legal objection can be raised about the ordination of women as bishops.

Posted by Andrew Godsall at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 9:25am BST

Anthony, the question for me is one of clerical status. Is a bishop imposed upon lay members or do lay members have a role to play in selecting their bishop? The call for objections is the last vestige of the latter and, if removed - even if it is an entirely notional and impotent call - then we revert to the Crown imposing a bishop. That is not the sort of church I want.

If you wish to remove objections at the last moment then we need to dispense with the involvement of the Crown and hold elections for bishops with lay members voting.

There was an article by Andrew Lightbown a few days ago expressing concern about centralisation in CofE. Removing objections for me would be a final flowering of centralisation in episcopal appointments and we should resist that on principle.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 10:21am BST

Anthony, your comments and insights are always valuable.

When you refer to 'the mind of the Church', do you mean 'the majority of the Church'? And if so, shouldn't the minority in this case - those who genuinely can't in conscience accept episcopal oversight by a woman, on either catholic or headship grounds - be afforded ongoing outlet to express dissent in what (to them) remains an open wound in the Church?

I'm referring to members of the Church of England on electoral rolls, and not people from independent churches (although, I suppose, by the nature of Establishment, Stephen Holland might claim a degree of interest in the established Church of his country).

I'm not defending the individuals you have cited, and as I've already said, I think that opportunities for vocal objection in these services might be appropriately redirected to a space for written statements of objection. Nor do I agree with the objectors myself, deeply espousing women's ministry, but I do affirm their right to conscientious disagreement and complaint.

I can see that there are reasonable and sincere grounds for disagreeing with women bishops in all good conscience and faith. Whatever the 'mind' of the dominant majority, I believe we are one Church, with diverse beliefs - and that it is really important to recognise and acknowledge that we still love and care for one another, even in profound disagreement. I realise the Church of England has attempted to do so.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 11:24am BST

If I switch to the issue of human sexuality briefly, as a kind of equivalent... at the moment 'the mind of the Church' as things stand is that gay sex is sinful and falls short of the ideal of heterosexual sex. And that gay priests who get married to their partners should be sanctioned. That too, is the dominant 'mind of the Church'.

And yet, we know that there also exists sincere and conscientious belief in the opposite point of view. At what stage, if any, do we rule out dissent? Does the mind of the majority simply dominate the minority, and crush its conscientious convictions? What if your local Church and PCC and priest decided to go ahead with blessings of gay marriage, regardless of the supposed 'mind of the Church'?

On both issues, we are more diverse than a uniform 'mind of the Church'. And accommodation of conscience works both ways. Yes, I believe the conscientious belief in gay and lesbian marriage should be allowed in our Church. But if the progressives became the new majority and 'mind of the Church', then I should equally champion the right of dissenters to hold to their own conscientious views too.

We need unity in diversity, not uniformity imposed by a majority, or a dominant episcopate. And that means accepting and protecting dissent. The question is how, in decency and kindness, that dissent should be helped to find expression so the Church can see it and hear it, and allow it... whether that is ongoing refusal to accept women bishops, or refusal to deny gay people marriage in church, or refusal to marry them.

I realise we may hold different views on this, but I respect yours and always read your posts with interest.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 11:25am BST

"When you refer to 'the mind of the Church', do you mean 'the majority of the Church'?"

I am not sure the Church of England has necessarily adopted this expression in terms of its ecclesiology (unlike perhaps the Orthodox) but what I meant is what is contained in the Statement of Guiding Principles of the House of Bishops (which incidentally need to be read as one - no picking and choosing between the five!). Inter alia, the CofE is fully and equivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open to all and that anyone who ministers within the Church of England must be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter. These objectors are not acting in accordance with the spirit of the principles. The statement goes on to take care of their own position. A similar situation will prevail on the question of same-sex marriage if and when the church change its canons.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 4:40pm BST

"Anthony, the question for me is one of clerical status"

The reason I refer to the declaration by the congregation is that it is that point in the service which provides the opportunity for these lunatics to stand up. I agree that there would be consequences about dispensing with it. "The practice of seeking the consent of the laity has been traditional at ordinations since the earliest times and is one of the ways in which expression is given to the concept of ordination as the action of the whole Church and not just of the bishop or archbishop who presides" (Liturgical Commission). However, this is not electing the candidate or playing a part in his or her nomination. The laity do play a part in that earlier process. This is the ordination, or consecration as we term it for bishops. I am not actively suggesting the declaration is removed, but its significance is symbolic not legal. A clever liturgist could produce it in a different form where it is not said as the answer to a question, but I think the solutions to the problem lie elsewhere, namely not allowing these objectors to enter the cathedral in the first place.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 4:55pm BST

I think Kate is wrong. The appointment of bishops in the Church of England is a lay matter. That choice is articulated by the Sovereign who issues (on advice, that is from the Prime Minister) a mandate to consecrate, which is read at the consecration service: the assent of the people of England. It is only the re-importation of foreign ecclesiologies in recent years which has introduced the licence to disrupt. Until the superfluous "question" can be removed then I can't understand why the BCP service is not used for all consecrations.

Posted by american piskie at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 5:06pm BST

A consecration is not about the personal comfort of the bishop-elect. It is a public ceremony elevating that person to public office.

The question to the People is part of the service. If the question is sincere, and not simply for show, then the People should be allowed to raise objections. It makes little sense to permit some objections, and not others.

It would also be transparent and fair for objections (if briefly and reasonably stated) to be heard and understood, so that the presider's reasons for disregarding them can be understood.

(If an objection is not stated briefly and reasonably, then the objector's mic gets turned off.)

It's perfectly easy for the CofE to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear. The presider can prepare a simple and brief statement to the effect that the Church of England has decided that it will ordain women as bishops, and that any objection on this point is contrary to doctrine.

It seems to me that this principled point cannot be stated often enough, and that a consecration is an ideal occasion to state it as publicly as possible.

But no. As is too typical, the CofE's first reaction is for authority to stifle dissent. Which may be unfair, and is also usually unhealthy.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 7:47pm BST

I don't think Kate has it right. If there is a place for laymen to object to an ordination, that should come at a time and place prior to the consecration in the church. Isn't all the paperwork "signed and sealed" prior to this point? What would an objection -- even by many -- obtain? Would the consecration come to a halt? Certainly not.

Posted by Richard at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 9:59pm BST

"shouldn't the minority in this case - those who genuinely can't in conscience accept episcopal oversight by a woman, on either catholic or headship grounds - be afforded ongoing outlet to express dissent in what (to them) remains an open wound in the Church?"

Yes, but not in the course of public worship. Disrupting consecration of a bishop is not acceptable. Disrupting ordination of a priest or deacon is not acceptable. Taking hold a chalice of wine consecrated by a female bishop or priest and casting it on the floor (in the belief that it is not in fact consecrated) is not acceptable.

There are ways to dissent and ways to dissent...

Posted by Alastair Newman at Wednesday, 10 August 2016 at 11:34pm BST

"If the question is sincere, and not simply for show, then the People should be allowed to raise objections."

That is a reasonable position.

However, it clearly _is_ for show. If the question were sincere, the only sensible thing that could be done in the event of an objection being raised would be for the ceremony to be suspended sine die, until the objection can be considered by a duly established process. After that process has completed, the consecration can then proceed, or not, as appropriate.

But how is that working in this case? What is the formal process to be followed to consider objections when they are made? Who constitutes the panel? What is the mechanism for appeal? What is the mechanism by which objections which have been settled are prevented from stopping ceremonies again? Who, present on the day, can say "no, that objections has been asked and answered, move on"? What is the appeal process against that?

If people can raise objections but there is no mechanism to adjudicate them, it's theatre. If it's theatre, and it upsets people, then there is no harm in stopping it. If it isn't theatre, then what is the due process by which objections are adjudicated?

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 12:33am BST

Thanks Anthony. Always useful reading your posts. On one statement though:

"the CofE is fully and equivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open to all"

Is it?

(I'm assuming that was a typo and you meant unequivocally... but is ordained ministry and episcopacy open to gay and lesbian Christians in loving, sexual relationships?)

I suppose the answer is that the Church does not exclude people on grounds that they are gay, but on grounds that they practice a version of sex that conflicts with the 'mind of the Church'.

But that presupposes that it is ok to require celibacy of one group of ordinands, but not the heterosexual ones. So in a sense, that still shuts the door to ordained ministry / becoming a bishop, if you happen to be normally sexual and gay.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 9:05am BST

Normally I value Susannah Clark's contributions very much indeed. However for I think the first time I wish to take issue with two of her comments:
"We need to bear in mind that some of our fellow Christians have real and conscientious reasons for objecting. Those deserve to be acknowledged out of respect, and so I think fair treatment is really important, otherwise we end up marginalising and devaluing a group of Christians who are sincere, faithful and part of 'us'."
"Kindness and respect is owed to those who can't accept female bishops too. We should all go the extra mile to respect each other, and really pray for one another's flourishing"
Yes of course what she says is right. BUT having been present at the ordinations where the protester protested, I have another perspective. During the protracted deliberations about the possibility of ordaining women as deacons, priests and finally bishops, those objecting have had every facility offered them for them to flourish except that of preventing women to flourish in ordained ministry. General Synod voted on each of these, culminating in the 2012 decision to ordain women as bishops. As a heterosexual woman who is totally committed to the flourishing of ALL within the church, with no discrimination on any grounds including that of sexuality, I have been more upset than I had expected with the clear discrimination about gender in the ordinations of women to the episcopate. At the ordination of Karen Gorham I wept. I wept for several reasons: 1. that the protester was given a microphone which implied that this was a deliberate action on the part of the organisers 2. that the Archbishop of Canterbury read out an obviously prepared statement which simply stated the legality of the event. 3. that there was no suggestion that women are equally made in the image of Christ, that their contributions have greatly enhanced the church, contributions which men have been unable to make, that the church is a more Christ-like body with women as well as men in leadership. Just that the event was legal. So I wept that once again I (as a woman) had been marginalised and devalued. The rise in clericalism in the church has inevitably had an adverse effect on lay people. Lay women are quite definitely the bottom of the pile. Kindness and respect Susannah are very important as is fair treatment. But I too need kindness and respect and fair treatment. For me this was about the final nail in my coffin where I feel I need to leave the Anglican church. Why should I stay in a church where there is institutional discrimination? I need to know that I am welcomed, valued and respected, even celebrated. That my views are heard and understood. That I am not marginalised and devalued because I am a woman. That I, too, am a follower of Jesus Christ. Please may we have a church where discrimination of any sort has no place. Just imagine if the protester had objected to one of those about to be made Bishop if one of them had been black? I grieve for all those who have in the past been discriminated against because of their race. Please, please, please can we allow the church to celebrate women and not feel that because of 'kindness, respect or fairness' that we have to allow somebody to object about gender in a service which should be one of celebration and joy and the calling of God's people to service, male and female.

Posted by Anne at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 10:15am BST

Thank you Anthony Archer for your very clear and helpful posts. Thank you, too Andrew Godsall. As I said earlier I have been present when the objections have been made. As a woman I felt undermined, devalued and humiliated. Thank you Anthony and Andrew for putting it so well.

Posted by Anne at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 10:25am BST

"If it isn't theatre, then what is the due process by which objections are adjudicated?"

"Due process" begs the question of what process is "due." The answer is surely that it depends on the objection--and that in order to make that determination, the objection must be heard.

At this point, any objection that the Church should not ordain women to the episcopate is of course due no process whatsoever. If that objection is made, then the presider should briefly and very publicly state the Church's position, and then should continue on with the service.

But consider this hypothetical, however unlikely it might seem: Suppose an apparently sane person steps forward to object, and levels new and apparently serious charges of abuse.

In that case, would not the proper response indeed be, as Interested Observer suggests, to suspend proceedings until the charges can be investigated?

If not--in other words, if there is no way at all for any objection during the service to have any effect--then the question to the People truly is theatre, and is simply there to provide a veneer of public participation.

Which is manipulative at best, and dishonest at worst. I don't think symbolic gestures are helpful if they are false.

Perhaps the question should be deleted from the service?

The alternative answer here is that the question is real, and has meaning, but that Rev. Holland in particular should be barred from the cathedral because, at this point, he (and he alone) is simply abusing the right to object. I'm not sure whether the Church of England has the right to bar any particular English person on this basis. But perhaps we are about to find out.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 2:31pm BST

In my diocese we have dealt with the problem, not on the ordination of women, but of gay and lesbian ordinands.

At the first occasion, the objectors had submitted an objection in writing ahead of time. At the appropriate point in the liturgy, they rose and one of them briefly stated the objection. The bishop then took them off into the baptistry for a short conversation, while we sang a hymn (they needed something to prevent dead air on the radio broadcast). The bishop then read a prepared statement, to the effect that there was no legal or doctrinal impediment to the ordination, at which point the cathedral erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation, and the bishop was so surprised that he lost his place and failed to ask the question "Is it your will that N be ordained". None of the protesters walked out, and at least one received communion from the newly ordained deacon. At subsequent ordinations, one would rise and object, the bishop would respond that the issue had been decided and that there was no impediment, and the ordination would continue.
The entire process has been marked by respect on both sides. Respect on the part of the objectors, in stating their objections in terms of their theology, and never attacking the abilities or character of the ordinands or bishop, and on the part of the bishop in listening to and acknowledging the difference in opinion and the objectors' integrity. After a few years (and there has been at least one gay ordinand each year), the objectors have given up.

There should be no place for grandstanding or vitriol in objections, and I think any presiding archbishop or bishop would be right to deny the right to speak to any objector who, by past behaviour, can be expected to engage in that sort of conduct. In Canada, we have a "ne quis" process for diaconal and presbyteral ordinations, whereby notice of the intended ordination is read in the parish(es) to which the ordinand has a connection, with instructions that any reasons that the candidate should not be ordained be communicated with the bishop. Perhaps a similar process may be needed for episcopal ordinations, with no other objections allowed during the liturgy, and those who have objected ahead of time permitted to speak only with the permission of the presider.

Posted by Jim Pratt at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 4:01pm BST

The American Church asks of the congregation
"Is it you will that we ordain N. a bishop?" Thus there might be a few "no's" but nothing disrupting.

Posted by Michael Merriman at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 4:41pm BST

"If it's theatre, and it upsets people, then there is no harm in stopping it."

I agree, Interested Observer. Although since not one of the bishops subjected to are standing up for the rights of LGBT people -- and worse, are complicit in doing a lot worse to them than a brief objection in a consecration -- can't say I'm overly concerned about their feelings. They, after all, don't appear to be overly concerned about the feelings of others.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 11 August 2016 at 8:16pm BST

Indeed, James. Human rights are universal, and you can quite reasonably point out that women bishops are keen that one sort of arbitrary discrimination be ended - that against women - while not particularly caring about another equally arbitrary discrimination - that against gay people - being continued. At least conservatives are consistent in their wish to discriminate. The phrase "pulling the ladder up after them" springs to mind.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 3:21am BST

"It makes little sense to permit some objections, and not others."

It is entirely consistent and sensible to limit the invitation to objections in law. The consecration liturgy is not the time for gripes about the bishop's fashion sense, choice of football club, or what kind of car s/he drives. Legally, objections to gender fall in the same camp.

I thank Fr Jim for sharing our experience with objections. I was one who thought +Barry was entirely too generous with the objectors (most of whom were themselves married, and so their objections, if successful, would have been a bit of an own goal). The last time an objection was noted (but not read or spoken aloud) and overruled--in French, as it was the first language of the ordinand in question--I myself led the applause. That priest is now our associate.

Posted by Geoff McL. at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 4:26am BST

I understand that most Night Clubs worth their salt employ a couple of traditionally built Bouncers clad in black to "man" the door of these establishments. If your name ain't "on the list" then entry is verboten. Surely the same tactic can be employed by the Church of England with sturdy doorkeepers stationed at the portals of Canterbury cathedral and York Minster armed with a list containing a single name "Stephen Holland" who will be denied entry whenever a female is to be presented for consecration? Cut out the cackle and take up my suggestion - problem solved! Holy Scripture, in the form of Psalm 84 verse 10, offers the perfect Biblical backing for such a notion:- "I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God: than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness."

Posted by Father David at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 5:40am BST

I am with Jim Pratt. There is no reason why an objection cannot be handled with dignity on both sides.

I sympathise with Anne but there are two difficulties. The first, and a very big difficulty, is that CofE makes formal provision for people who cannot accept the ordination or consecration of women so the objectors are simply raising a point which remains formal CofE doctrine for some priests and bishops. The second difficulty is that silencing people for voicing this element of accepted doctrine is itself discriminatory.

Incidentally I don't subscribe to the view that is there is no "due process" for handling objections that it is just show. I see it as the church, IN The PRESENCE Of GOD being put on notice that there is an objection. Then on Judgement Day, if the objection was pleasing to the Lord but the presiding bishop continued and doesn't repent then s/he is going to have to answer to the Lord for that choice made in clear knowledge of objection. Somehow I suspect answers like "I was acting legally when I proceeded" would not be ideal. Equally, of course, if a protestor mishandled their objection and makes a false objection in a disruptive way (ie something more than the respectful approach recorded by Jim Pratt) then they too are going to be answering why they disrupted the consecration of one of God's bishops.

For me, if one genuinely believes in the living presence of God at such services, that is very, very far from show.

For those reasons I remain absolutely in favour of continuing to allow objections made respectfully and don't believe that objections regarding the consecration of a woman are out of order while the church continues to formally recognise that doctrine in Forward in Faith parishes. If the basis of objection is not acceptable then those parishes which dissent must also be brought into line.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 7:20am BST

I agree with everything you say in your post, Anne. I really do. This thread of comments has been really enlightening and thought-provoking for me. I'm unclear how the issue of difference and dissent should be handled. I'm unsettled by the complexity of demanding inclusion for all, while not leaving people behind. I definitely believe that dissent should not be voiced in a service where women (and men) are celebrating their lives and service in Christ. That seems to me to breach decency, respect and kindness.

At the same time, as someone on the catholic side of Anglicanism, I truly believe that some people have conscientious convictions about male priesthood and episcopacy, even though I don't hold those beliefs myself. Likewise, I do 'get' and understand, on biblical grounds, why some Reform-type Christians believe in male headship. Again, I strongly disagree with their view, but I think they can be sincere and devoted Christians and still hold those views.

In both cases, I don't think these people are (always) motivated by discrimination (though the consequences of their views, I believe, are discriminatory). The thing is, as fellow Christians, how do we strive not to leave them behind.

With regard to the dignity and ministries of women in the Church: as a woman, as a lesbian, as someone with a transgender narrative... I know first-hand the experience of prejudice and discrimination. But I also believe in the distinctive contribution women can make, the extra we add, the image of Christ we help to complete, the power of God's grace that I see in women, and the importance of our empowerment and flourishing. My views are pretty much expressed by the Catholic, feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson in 'She Who Is'.

In pleading for inclusion of our fellow Christians who oppose female priests or bishops, I do not intend to overlook at the appalling discrimination that can still occur in the Church.

That's why your powerful and heartfelt reminder of the wound and hurt that prejudice causes makes me stop short and remember: we should not suppress people's flourishing simply to placate opposition. It's great that our Church has called for full and equal opportunity in ministry for women. It is grievous when that gets foul-mouthed in a service. In a similar way, it is grievous when lesbian and gay flourishing is denied, simply to placate other groups in our Communion.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 11:05am BST

"Thanks Anthony. Always useful reading your posts. On one statement though: "the CofE is fully and equivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open to all." Is it?"

A few final points to add to what has been an excellent discussion thread. Thanks to Susannah for the typo spot. The first of the five guiding principles states:

"Now that legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England is fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and holds that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;"

It is therefore crafted in such a way as to refer to gender only.

Re the objectors, let's be clear about the nature of the objections and the objectors themselves. These are not rational, sane objections to the consecration of particular episcopal candidates. The situation would be very different if a member of the public got up and said, 'you do realise that this person is .... [less than thirty years of age] ... [or some other objection about that candidate potentially ruling the consecration invalid or inadvised].' These are objections to woman episcopal ordinands solely because they are women.

The Revd Stephen Holland has taken particular delight at giving publicity to his objections. He was present at the ordination of the Rt Revd Alison White in York Minster on 3 July 2015. A few days later Mr Holland posted his objection as a current news item on his church website alongside the posted sermons. He had asked for 10 secs of ++Sentamu's time (and the rest of the congregation) to explain that women bishops were imposters and usurpers and that it was time for the Church of England to return to the Bible, 'and then enjoy your cucumber sandwiches.' He had the temerity to note finally that he was glad 'you've got freedom of speech.' It was a nasty, ignorant and impertinent intervention, one that he has made of further occasions. It is important when commenting on the right of objectors that these facts are known. There might be slightly less charity and deference afforded.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 11:43am BST

(Sorry, just noticed other version of this was over the limit)...

Anthony (sorry, I know you've said you're making a final comment, and I'm not seeking reply - indeed I am really grateful for your various posts, which I have found thought-provoking and helpful):

"These are not rational, sane objections to the consecration of particular episcopal candidates... These are objections to woman episcopal ordinands solely because they are women."

I am not in any way trying to defend the individual you've cited. As I've already said, I am opposed to vocal objections in a service, and would prefer the objection to be publicised in some other way.

However, I cannot agree that objections to episcopal candidates "solely because they are women" are "not rational, sane objections."

I think that catholic objections on the grounds of a male priesthood, and Reform-style objections on the grounds of male headship, can be regarded as rational and sane... even though I personally disagree with both arguments, and fully support equal access to all orders of ministry, whether male, female, lesbian, gay, young or old, and whatever your race or ethnicity.

I'm not sure if you meant it in the way I've interpreted it, and you may have been specifically referring to Mr Holland, and not generalising to catholic Anglicans or more protestant Anglicans who support male-headship. I just wanted to affirm both groups as valued members and fellow Christians in our Church, neither insane nor irrational in their beliefs, and people we should continue to protect (and value) in terms of conscience and faithful lives lived for Christ.

I believe in the value (and benefits) of diversity in our Church. The challenge for each of us is how to love one another. It's the great command. But I believe we can all, in our different ways and our diverse beliefs, live faithful lives for Christ.

Our Anglican tradition is like a tapestry, and part of its distinctive nature is how it contains a variety of views and traditions, and not just a Calvinist monoculture or a Roman catholicity. People who oppose women's ordination or episcopacy may not be insane at all. The question is: can they, and can we, love one another and love our neighbour, with everything that may involve.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 3:00pm BST

Haven't Churchwardens the right to arrest anyone making a disturbance in the churchyard or those interrupting divine worship? It's a shame that cathedrals don't have churchwardens. I'd be more than happy for a small consideration towards the Roof Repair Fund to let any dean borrow my two formidable female churchwardens - I can assure you - they would soon "sort out" any possible objector.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 3:43pm BST

"The situation would be very different if a member of the public got up and said, 'you do realise that this person is .... [less than thirty years of age] ..."

So age discrimination is OK then? Just what is the Scriptural justification of that? I guess it would be OK to object too if a candidate was gay or trans?

I was open-minded but you have just converted me to the side of those who protest.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 4:55pm BST

Thanks Kate, but I was making an oblique reference to Canon C2 Of the consecration of bishops. You need to be at least 30 years of age!!

Re Susannah, I think you are re-opening the debate which we have had and which is now settled.

Over and out.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 7:22pm BST

The question is a liturgical question, not a legal one, and it seeks an affirmation from the congregation, not legal consent. (For a diocesan bishop all the legalities have been settled at the Confirmation of their election, and for both diocesan and suffragan bishops the royal mandate to consecrate is all the legal proof required.) There is no space for lengthy objection -- the archbishop would presumably be entitled to carry on if someone insisted on speaking, just as they might if someone started objecting to any aspect of the service (e.g. during the sermon, or objecting to say the Eucharistic prayer).

Still less is this the place for a dialogue or debate or riposte from the archbishop or someone else, and nor is there any reason for written submissions to be included in the Order of Service. Thus is not stifling debate, any more than is the non-inclusion of Apostolicae Curae to represent the Roman view that we're all just dubiously-baptized lay people play-acting at being bishops, priests and deacons; or perhaps a Pesbyterian denunciation of the very idea of episcopacy. It may be perfectly acceptable to hold such views, but we don't have to give them space at our services.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Friday, 12 August 2016 at 9:53pm BST

Anthony, I fully realised you were making a reference to Canon but it is still age discrimination. Why should a teenager not be a bishop? Jesus taught in the temple at age 12.

Women = can be consecrated but might have to endure thirty seconds of objection

Non-celibate gay men and women = cannot be consecrated

Trans people = nobody even fussed that nobody who has changed gender has been consecrated

Young and elderly Christians = cannot be consecrated

So three massive injustices and one trivial irritation. Obvious really where a campaign is needed and which the archbishop of Canterbury undertakes to fix. And people wonder why church attendance is falling.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 11:13am BST

Simon Kershaw, I agree that the question is liturgical, but to my mind that does not mean that only the prayer-book answer is permitted. (See my hypothetical above.)

Good liturgical order not require the suppression of valid objections.

WATCH's real beef here is with one person. It turns out that there are provisions in English law to handle persistent disruption of religious services.

So I'm hopeful that Lambeth can find a way to resolve this particular problem, while making it clear that any legitimate, good-faith objection to elevating someone to high public office should not be stifled.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 10:09am BST
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